|Thinking about kicking your ass.|
[she often complains to me (these days) that she lost the "skinny man" she met so many years ago (seventeen), but she's never suggested I get back into it. She prefers me to be at home...just wishes I'd do some sit-ups or something...]
Anyway, even so, I was never a "dangerous man." At least, not what I think of as "dangerous." I could do some neat things, and would certainly hold up better in a fight than people who have never trained in any sort of fighting (this I know from some MINOR experiences). I used to enjoy competition, even. But enjoying a sport, even a "fighting" sport, doesn't make someone dangerous in my book.
Dangerous people are guys (and gals) who are spoiling for a fight. Individuals who are looking to mix it up. For a dangerous person, it's not about competition, or displaying prowess, and it certainly isn't about exercise. It's about wanting to hurt someone, pure and simple.
Fortunately for everyone, there aren't a whole lot of people that fit that description. I'd imagine that even among professional fighters there are those who aren't especially "dangerous" outside the ring. Outside of psychopaths who lack empathy for their fellow humans (these tend to be the people who become murderers), most of us are fairly conditioned NOT to hurt others. And it starts from a young age...I am constantly telling my child not to punch, not to hit, not to push others (especially his sister), explaining how it's not nice to hurt, it's not good to hurt people. And he's fairly good about it (except when he gets excited and punches papa in the crotch)...on the playground he's been very good about not retaliating after altercations, and he's helpful to other children who get knocked down.
I was taught in the same way by my parents. Having a younger brother who enjoyed tormenting me, I would take great pains to beat the hell out of him, and would often suffer the consequences. It was a mantra that I learned (eventually)...that you just don't hurt folks. It's ingrained in my psyche. And I imagine it is for most folks these days. I've heard that the military has to do a lot of re-conditioning to get soldiers trained up to fight, because so much of their lives they've been taught (by parents, schools) that hurting people is a bad thing. Without this training, it's hard to get people to fight to kill.
For those of us who aren't psychopaths and who haven't received the conditioning to kill, there's only two things I can think of that can get folks to enter mortal combat; things that can drive a normal, empathetic person to attempt the slaying of a sentient being: fear and rage. People can be driven to extreme actions by these emotions, even the act of taking another person's life. Fear doesn't have to be for one's own self-preservation...it can be for the lives of one's family or loved ones, as well. And rage, likewise, need not be a personal affront (though it usually is, at least in the mind of the enraged)...it only need be directed, to enable a person to attack to kill.
I've been reading up on the lives of famous Native Americans this morning: Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph (of the Nez Perce), Cochise, Geronimo. For the most part, their fame comes from their fights against soldiers and settlers who were bent on creating a new type of American continent. For the most part, their wars against the "new Americans" were fueled by rage, rage at atrocities committed against their peoples and families. And there was probably fear there as well. Their rage, which led to the killing of many people in raids of murder, is the kind that most people can understand. If you come home one day and find your wife, three children, and mother slain (as happened to Geronimo), wouldn't you be angry enough to go kill some people?
|Like The Punisher|
Now consider your average adventuring party in D&D, and just what the hell they're doing.
What is it that drives a group of adventurers into mortal combat, time and again, most often with thinking, feeling sentient beings. A dragon may not be humanoid, but it's certainly sapient...it has thoughts, can be spoken to, bargained with. It probably has stern objections to being hunted like an elk. "I am not a piñata to be beaten until gold coins fall out!" I'm sure this sentiment could be shared by other sentient creatures of the Underdark: goblins, Drow, giants, troglodytes, aboleths, yuan-ti, etc.
Sure, fighters have probably have the discipline and conditioning to kill in the most expedient fashion possible...they are, after all, "veterans" from level 1. And I suppose that at least some of the player characters (certainly the ones of "evil" alignment) fall in the category of unfeeling psychopath: individuals willing to slay whomever stands in their way of a fat payday. But what about the others? What drives adventurers into mortal combat? What drives them to kill?
Is it fear? They weren't expecting to run into any opposition and now that they have they are forced to defend themselves so they aren't killed? Is it rage? They're invading this dungeon environment with the objective of getting some payback for all the hurt its denizens have visited on their kinfolk?
I am suddenly reminded of a scene from the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy is getting ready to go off on another adventure, and as he packs his weapons (a whip and a handgun) he remarks to his amigo, "You know what a cautious guy I am." Indy is not looking for trouble, but he's grown to expect the unexpected incident of danger, and he's prepared for it. I suppose D&D adventurers might be prepared (with their weapons and armor) in the same fashion.
Except that I don't recall Indy ever initiating a fight. When he gets the drop on the Nazis in Marion's bar, he covers them with a pistol and asks them to let her go. When he does use his gun, it's in self-defense (after the bad guys have started shooting at him). For the most part, D&D characters ain't like that. "We attack!" is usually the first words that come out of their mouths upon happening upon a group of bugbears, preferably bushwhacking 'em (with surprise). When you get right down to it, it's the PCs who are doing the trespassing/home invasion...it's the monsters who should be filled with rage and fear and justified in defending themselves.
[not that any sane person wouldn't fear a brain-eating mind flayer, and strike to kill it as quickly and viciously as possible...I sure would!]
Maybe, it really comes down to that terrible human trait of dehumanizing the "other" with whom we have conflict. They are not like us, they are different, they are wrong. Killing them is okay, because they don't think and feel and act like us (even though they are thinking, tool-using creatures and therefore must at least have some capability for reasoning). The slaughter of such "others" is justified in the way they don't represent the lawful, civilized society from which the adventurers hail...the typical imperialistic perspective we've seen historically. But does a half-orc feel the same way about orcs encountered that the other party members do? They might be distant relations!
|Stone Cold Killer|
I'm just thinking about it, that's all. My base inclination these days is to treat Chaotic-type creatures as "profoundly evil" (like a plague that needs to be stamped out). But then, my games don't feature monster races (like half-orcs or "tieflings" or whatever) as player character races. If they did, I'd think there'd need to be some serious questions asked about the nature of evil and murder.