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Heroes

Part 7: Laying Heroes To Rest

by Sean Hillman
Jun 10,2003

 

Part 7: Laying Heroes To Rest

A moment of Thanks

Well this is the last Column on the Topic of Heroes, as presented by me. I wanted to take a moment to thank RPGnet for putting up with my poor grammar and deadline skills. I also wanted to thank all those who read and or commented on the Columns. I did not always agree with your assessments but I appreciate that you did make an effort to comment.

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

So where does all the proceeding thought have us standing now? Where are the Heroes here in our Role Playing Games? Can we even define Hero as a word beyond what the dictionary gives us?

Many of you have asked, why this column at all? What purpose does it server other then to trot out political agendas and personal opinions? How is it relevant to role-playing? Well, believe it or not we have been discussing Role Playing the entire time. Sure I have not mentioned Gary Gygax or Exalted or any slew of possible RPG related terms and words. Why? Well the individual games are not what we are discussing here. Who we play in our games, both as GMs and PCs depends greatly on who we admire in the real world. Who we fantasize about or who we wish to emulate, these are very important to our gaming. A game system that lets Jackie Chan fans be Jackie Chan is going to have an enormous amount of popularity, assuming Jackie Chan has a large number of people wanting to emulate him in role-playing. Remember, much of the inspiration for this column came from a statement the author saw here on RPGnet. To paraphrase: "The 1st Level Heroes went to a town..." First Level heroes? What could they have possibly done as people before the game started to have earned the name Hero?

In mythology, we find that Heroes tend to be very flawed individuals who do great things despite their personal drawbacks or humble beginnings. This would certainly qualify most characters as I believe most players want to see their character grow from ignorance to enlightenment. Character growth is important but what about Heroic growth? IS every PC in every game a Hero?

The simple answer is: no.

Of course it is more complex then that because simply saying no does not really show how close the answer came to being: yes.

Back to the Equation

Hero = Action2 * (Unconventional Wisdom) * Performance

I believe that's as close to a mathematical formula for being a Hero as I can get. A Hero is made through actions that are performed often against conventional wisdom. Well that rules out everyone who saved a village from rampaging Kobalds because well everyone does that.

Its true. If we looked there might be five or six rites of initiation into the hobby of role-playing and most of us have probably performed at least half. That's the macro view. Going down into individual worlds and games, we still find that simply doing your job as an adventurer or as someone who knows about the existence of Cthulu is not necessarily Heroic. I believe there is a difference between responsibility and Heroics. If you find a grand conspiracy threatening the Human race, you had better let someone know. It does not necessarily make you a Hero.

Heroes are not Inherently Good

Again, many of the arguments and even the authors own comments, seemed to come from the philosophy that Heroes are the Good Guys. Heroes do not always do the right thing and in fact, Heroes can be downright villainous. We judge the people who perform larger then life actions as either Heroes i.e. on our side or Villains i.e. those who stand against us. They really are one and the same. Villains are Heroes of the Darker Path, though even that is sometimes a but misleading.

When a receiver catches the winning touchdown for the other team, who vilify them but in reality what we have done is elevated him to the ranks of Hero. Sure a Hero who stood against us but a Hero (assuming he fits the other criteria) none the less.

So where does that leave our beloved PCs? Simply put, not every PC who has ever been played in every game is a Hero.

Certainly some of them were and are and will be. Some will act outside of conventional wisdom (Maybe negotiate with Cthulu before he scoops you up and eats you?) and perform the great acts that are hallmarks of being a Hero. This even includes the unsung Hero. We praise him or her but no one wants to really be them. They eschew the limelight for the greater good (even if they are evil, you know what I mean) and perform the mundane acts that keep a group going. Of course these are the acts no one else wants to do and so the Unsung One is still a Hero.

A Final Word

Hero is a dangerous word because when used, it conjures up pictures that are not necessarily accurate. Well, not completely so. In many ways its assumed that all PCs are Heroes, regardless of the game or the attitude the character portrays but this is simply not the case. Characters are the protagonists of their own stories but lets make them work a little harder before we call them Heroes.

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What do you think?

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