Depending on the researcher and the particular analysis used, the incidence of sociopathy in the general population is estimated between two and five percent. In the real world, a whole lot of these go into politics. For some reason, a lot of people whose behaviour in real life indicates the presence of a degree of empathy seem nonetheless irresistibly drawn to the opportunity to become sociopaths when they play adventurers in D&D.
I read the group the ‘Opening Module’ from this book—click the link to buy it; that chapter alone is worth the price—which expresses the idea that PCs, once created, are utterly free to engage in any sort of campaign they wish, and presents a few ideas to get them started. It only took the party a few minutes to decide. They asked some questions about rumours around the starting settlement of Vathypetro and determined to become pirate hunters. To raise the necessary funds to accomplish this end, they discussed some options, including legitimate jobs, playing music for cash, and forging documents, and in the end decided to mug people.
It’s not what I tend to do when offered to play in a sandbox campaign, but it’s not without historical precedent. A dear friend with whom I’ve been entangled in a protracted long-distance debate about the necessity of religion and politics once sent me the book Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. The novel is based on the documented story of a band of American brigands hired by the government to kill Indians but who, because they got paid by the scalp, illegally massacred plenty of Mexicans as well to bring up their scalp count, and mugged and killed numerous others for fun and profit. Again, not the sort of thing that would appeal to me, but then the captivating allure of violence, drug abuse and profanity encapsulated in a film such as Pulp Fiction eternally eludes me, while just about everyone in my acquaintance has nothing but praise for it. To each his own. As the DM, it was my duty to offer the chance to pass a bleak and dismal Sunday afternoon with a chance to emulate the antics of the Glanton Gang.
This is what we were drinking:
T-Money’s Original Hot Toddy
l One part lemon juice
l One part honey
l Two parts dark rum
l Four parts hot water
l Dash of nutmeg
l Dash of cloves
The game was cut short because one of us who remained sober had to leave for an evening engagement, but after last night’s session I have a much clearer idea of the type and degree of preparation I ought to make to provide a good game.
I still have on my shelf a ton of mini- and full-scale adventures toward which I have provided hooks and hints, but which players failed to pursue due to lack of interest, or persistence, or both. I won’t be able to use most of them, of course—at least not right away—but as I prepare more I have at least heard enough from the players, based on their opening discussion, to get a better idea of what their goals and interests are and how I can prepare to meet those. I’m still not able to predict all the courses of action the party might take, but I’m better equipped now than I ever was before.
Some awkwardness resulted from the conversion to the character classes and weapons available in this world from those in a more medieval setting. These differences will be explored in greater detail in subsequent posts for the benefit of the players.