Well, all right, fictional killing.
I find it very tiresome when 'heroes' in television shows get their morality on by whining endlessly about their refusal to kill people, even incredibly bad people who clearly have no morality at all. Particularly in shows where the villain's lack of morality is ramped to fetish levels.
This invariably makes the hero look like a moron.
If the hero were an ordinary soul, like you or I, then obviously this character would not be putting on a mask, chasing bad guys through the streets, initiating fights, smashing criminals, breaking bones, drawing blood or any of the hundred other things that 'heroes' do. This character would be having their 'moral dilemma' as you or I have it, in the sense of, "I am extremely ambivalent about causing any pain at all, so I pay taxes supporting a legal entity that manages this stuff for society as a whole."
You or I are not vigilantes.
However, were we to become vigilantes, it would be sheer idiocy to pretend that we could do it without having to occasionally - and practicably - apply deadly force to the equation. The cops have to do this, occasionally, despite having the option of jails, courtrooms and ultimate prison. As a vigilante, we would have none of these options.
Moreover, if we were to target a specific enemy, over and over, repeatedly, at some point I should hope that - having had some measure of success - we would recognize that we were now in a fucking war. In war, killing becomes a necessity. Pretending that we could start one and then fight it without having to accept the principles of war, that is, that there are too many enemies in war to take everyone prisoner, especially in situations where we are a solitary participant without back-up, is sheer lunacy.
Yet television keeps fostering characters who argue that this is rational. Because, hey, killing is bad.
What else is bad for a fictional presentation? Disbelief. Piles and piles of frustrating, ignorant disbelief. All this disbelief makes it hard to watch.
Monday, I began watching Daredevil, the TV series. I'm seven episodes in. It began brilliantly. The fight scene at the end of the second show is stunning.
But seven shows in, where we introduce Stick, what are we talking about? "You have to grow up and kill people." "That's not my way." "That's a coward's way." "It's my way."
ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .
We can acknowledge the idiocy on television, but we can't change it. Why? Because people are morons.
Yes, that is the equation. All the things I've said in this blog so far? Not believed. Not in the least. We can fight a war, insists the general public, without having to be 'evil.' That is, without having to bring force to bear in order to win.
Thankfully, no one actually fighting a war believes this. Else those people who did bring force would have won.
We cannot 'win' against evil if we won't dig in and fight full-on.
But television . . . sigh. I must point out that in quite a number of movies, it is perfectly acceptable for the hero to joyfully slaughter everything that moves, even without much provocation, even without all the bad-guy-I'm-an-incredible-villain pornography. In a movie, it is okay to kill the bad guy if he's standing outside the back door having a cigarette.
That's because if you pay $12, human life has less value.
Interesting, isn't it? Our morality is founded on whether or not you're willing to pay the equivalent of an hour's wage. You can own that lowered morality on DVD for even less. You can buy it in the bargain bin.
The reason is clear. $12 is what separates us from people who are too moronic to accept deadly force as a reality.
Actually, since my Netflix costs $8, the difference is only four. This world is whacked.
Earlier this week I fell into a short twitter flash-fight with a few other DMs who I'd rather weren't following me. Well, they probably aren't, now.
Short version, they were all proud of themselves for being the sort of DM's who give experience for talking . . . er, hm, "solving problems without having to resort to fighting."
I've talked about that before - about how experience increases combat ability and little else. If the character doesn't use the sword, doesn't gain experience by the sword, then it is safe to say that no improvement is the order of the day.
I can only presume that this is the same kind of wishful thinking that bans television heroes from killing the bad guys. Killing is wrong. Oh, sure, we've invented a game based on killing, where the rules promote killing, where all the benefits are designed to come from killing in order to enable killing more effectively in the future. But killing is wrong.
Therefore, whenever possible, my character won't kill.
Oh, but I still want my character to go up levels. Oh yes. That's absolutely necessary. What good is it to play if I don't improve?
Here, we're not seeing players gaming. We're seeing a very different kind of fantasy being played out.
A big reason why the television audience prefers a Daredevil who doesn't kill - or a Batman or a Superman - is that people want to pretend to be these characters. Yet they don't have the temperament to imagine getting their hands dirty. Killing is squicky, even when the villain is very bad . . . and the ordinary person can't pretend to be Daredevil if part of the program is getting squicky.
But that's okay, because the magic writer dust of television will keep Daredevil alive, come what may.
Much of the D&D audience - role-playing games in general - have trouble with the same level of squickiness. Oh, they want the magic and the swords and the keen-o power toys, but actually playing the game to kill opponents, well, that makes them queasy. Ew. But boy oh boy, is this sword with the notches ever kewl!
And it's okay, because the magic campaign dust of DMing is there to make sure the character becomes the toughest master in the universe with that sword.
Because D&D is about role-playing, not roll-playing.
I am happy that these people do not play in my campaign - because frankly, I think it might be a bit too real for them. I think they'd lose their cookies.
Unless, perhaps, I made them pay me $4.