In my 30 days of D&D blog challenge, today’s topic is:
*in Dungeons & Dragons
As a Christian who grew up in America in the 80s, there’s this sense that it’s wrong and EVIL™ to answer such a question. Clearly, D&D is a tool of the devil.
D&D is (usually) framed in a fantasy setting. Well, multiple settings, actually. As such, there are dozens and dozens of made-up deities, and sometimes historical pantheons are also included. If one of the fifty (or five hundred) existing divine beings doesn’t suit the needs of a campaign, just make up another!
(There’s an atheist joke in there somewhere, but I won’t make it for them.)
So, the answer for today depends on the rigidity of my options. If I have to choose from a published work, Lolth is what got my campaign-writing (and thus novel-writing) started. If I can be a little more liberal, I’ll choose my main homebrew villain, An’Khel, who is a sort of Lolth 2.0.
When the core rulebooks for 4th Edition released, I started devising a long-term story arc for my players. I delved into the details provided about the setting, including the deities described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. It didn’t dawn on me that the first books contained a bare minimum to run a game, instead of an exhaustive list of all possible options.
The wonderfully charming or chilling actor Christoph Waltz is quoted as saying, “Well, you need the villain. If you don’t have a villain, the hero can stay at home.”
More specifically, I needed a Big Bad Evil Guy… or God… or Goddess.
Of the options presented, two were listed as Chaotic Evil. Not simply “take over the world” bad, but “burn it all down” bad. Oddly enough, they seemed night-and-day different in how they approached that goal.
Lolth, a spider-goddess of deception, used elaborate plots and intrigue to draw her victims into her web. Gruumsh, the god worshipped by orcs, seemed more like an out of control wildfire, sending forth his minions to “Raid. Kill. Conquer.”
Surely, over the course of millennia, they had to develop some kind of rivalry, right? A bit of “Anything you can do, I can do better” sparring or one-upmanship? “My way’s better than your way” and all that.
Originally, my idea of Gruumsh was very much Lord of the Rings style orcs. “Burn. Crush! KILL!” and mindless rage along with some unhealthy pyromaniacal tendencies. Then I watched The Dark Knight and realized what a chaotic evil villain could look like.
Naturally, in my homebrew settings and novels, what started as the destructive god of rampaging orcs has taken a much stronger turn toward the chaotic side of the alignment.
With Lolth, I started reading the Drizzt books by R. A. Salvatore, trying to get a feel for a proper D&D setting as well as for this main villain. I love the schemer, the killer you don’t know is bearing down on you until the spider’s fangs have already dug into your flesh and the venom is taking its effects on your innards… and yet, with a Joker twist on my Gruumsh, I knew his objection to my Lolth would be all those plans of hers.
By definition, plans aren’t chaos, and even mind-games have rules.
…unless the plan is to flip the table and scatter the pieces.
Thus, my version of Lolth grew beyond mere deception or a “mua-ha-ha,” mustache-twirling sense of evil bent upon destroying the empires of the goodly races. (She’s already done that anyway.)
When there are established and fairly balanced dichotomies of good and evil, life and death, light and dark, order and chaos, and so on, it’s not enough to tip the scales one way or another.
The truly chaotic thing to do would be to toss a rock in the gears and bring the whole system crashing down into nothingness.
Rocks fall. Everything dies…
…unless those pesky players can stop her.