At last year’s Texicon, I ran a Mission St. Mary game where each player controlled a group of explorers whose objective was to explore each section of the board. The table was divided into nine sections and in the center of each section was a themed encounter. One of the sections had a village with that age old Pulp adventure story plot, the damsel in distress.
What happened in one of the game sessions has bothered me to this day. So, I’ve decided to share it with you dear reader and hope you will share your thoughts with me. The Texicon home page theme that year was “Gaming is Educational.” I’m not sure what I learned.
Mission St. Mary from Two Hour Wargames is an immersive game or what is often called “RPG-lite.” The characters are pre-generated and the player assumes the role of a character. One of the things a player quickly learns in this game is that being able cause damage at a distance is good. Most natives do not have ranged weapons and those that do are terrible shots. You certainly do not want to be in a situation where you have to melee often. The natives may not be able to hit the broadside of a barn, but are quite lethal when up close and personal. So the rifles in a part of explorers is worth their weight in gold.
The explorers arrive in the village during a feast and the king invites them to join the festivities. The villagers have created a large bed of hot coals. A witch doctor emerges from a hut along with his entourage, which include men carrying a naked woman suspended from a pole. The pole is placed on the spit and the woman screams as she feels the heat of the coals. Through an interpreter, the explorers learn the natives are convinced the woman is a sorceress of great power. She worked much magic when she arrived. The witch doctor has convinced the villagers the woman has too much unnatural power for one person. Therefore, if they eat the woman, everyone will gain some of her power.
Seeing the distress this causes to the explorers, the chief offers to free the woman in exchange for four rifles.
Now, this is the place in the game for the player to make decisions. Does he pay the price, free the woman by force, or bargain with the chief? One player made a decision I didn’t expect.
The player was a young man in his late teens, blonde, with an athletic build. He decided to leave the woman to her fate and move on to the next objective. He wanted to win the game. He did win the game, he visited all nine sections of the board. But I wonder if he enjoyed the game?
Of course, it has left me puzzled over the last year as to why anyone wouldn’t want to save the woman. I suppose on one level it was ok because he did win the game. But it also asks the question, did he role play? Would his character have left a fellow human being to be roasted alive?
Was I gullible to believe that people want to help others in their times of need? Maybe I should have foreseen this kind of decision and added a game penalty. If I had added a game penalty, I would have enforced my ethical view into the game, but would that have been the right thing to do?
I guess that is the heart of the matter. Did I miss an opportunity to teach an ethical view that the player may not have been aware of? Or is that asking to much of a game?
I hate to envision the young man going off to college to enjoy a beer at a party knowing that a couple fraternity brothers are raping a drunken coed in the next room. Would he be the type of person to walk by a robbery in progress and not call 911? Would he be the kind of person to vote to uphold the rights of others or just his own self interests?
Well, that’s enough of that. Either he was playing a game just to win, or he is self-centered.
If he had rescued the woman, he would have added a girl genius to his party with a very lethal broad spectrum death-ray! Of course her battery is wonky (how else would the natives have captured her?) and requires rolling a success (1,2 or 3) on a D6.
In hindsight, when the player marched his band of explorers out of the village, the chief should have felt slighted. Either the explorer could have bargained for the woman, or he could have enjoyed a slice of one of the haunches. The chief should have attacked the rude band of explorers. Besides, he might have gotten the rifles by prying them from cold dead hands.
The victim on a spit figure is from Reaper’s Dark Heaven Legends line: 3408 Victim on Spit
The girl genius figure is from Reaper’s Savage Worlds line: 59009 Mad Scientist (Female)
All of the other figures are from Wargames Foundry’s Darkest Africa range: Darkest Africa
The huts are from Old Glory the trees & bushes are made from plastic plants found at Michaels and Woodland Scenics tree kits.