When Emotion Affects Role-Play At The Table
Would you protect an animal companion on the battlefield at any cost?
I just watched episode 8 of Dimension 20: The Unsleeping city on CollegeHumor’s Dropout yesterday night and an odd bit happened that I want to share with you.
Spoiler Alert: Beyond this point, I’m talking about episodes 8 or earlier of The Unsleeping City. This is your only warning!
So, if you watched the episodes, you know that Ricky has a dalmatian dog companion called Ox, now. You also know it is made of light.
During that battle, Ox appeared and fought alongside Ricky against the shadow cops and Epona.
What was curious to me was how much the cast cared when a Shadow Cop hit Ox. To remind those that missed the bit (understandable in almost 2 hours of battle):
If a Shadow Cop hits you, you need to make a Constitution saving throw. If you fail to save — your HP max decreases by the amount of HP you lost. Meaning you can’t heal for the duration of the battle.
Ox failed its constitution saving throw when the Shadow Cop attacked.
Immediately as it happened, the entire cast turned to yell and scorn Brennan, the Dungeon Master. “You’re the bad guy!” was basically what they were saying. They couldn’t believe they saw a dog get hurt and almost die in front of their eyes.
I did love Brennan’s response to their scorn: “I’m all the bad guys!” and took it in stride.
But the thing is that the next few turns focused on protecting Ox instead of Protecting Nod. I felt the most emotional role-play coming from Emily’s character — Sofia. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but Sofia is mighty, and she stood between Ox and the bad guys. For a short while, the reason for this fight was forgotten — Saving Nod’s life and returning them to the Dream Realm.
That exemplary human behavior got me thinking.
How many of our decisions day in and day out do we make based on emotion and not necessarily based on logic?
Ox survived this fight but Kingston — who is one of the most powerful characters this season — made death saving throws at some point.
Aside from that, there was an open wound between two characters on the table: Pete and Kingston.
On the previous episode, the group did a secret meeting involving Pete without inviting him. During that meeting, Kingston declared that if he were asked to choose between the people of New York City and Pete — he would choose New York’s people. He also said something along the lines of “If he becomes a problem — we put him down.”
At the end of the previous episode, Robert, the supposed villain (though I don’t know yet — I only speculate. What do you think?) revealed this to Pete. Somehow he got a hold of security footage from the secret meeting and showed it to Pete.
During the start of the battle, Pete used a bonus action to open a mind-link with Kingston and tell him: “I saw a recording of you saying you’ll kill me.”
That threw Kingston off, and he hadn’t spoken the entire battle except for some minor occasions.
In both cases, Sofia trying to protect Ox — an animal made of light that can be summoned again if it dies, and the supposed battle between Kingston and Pete — affected how the players played their turns.
For example, the mind-link bonus action could have been given to Alejandro for the summoning spell. And Ox, as terrible as it sounds, could have been killed and summoned again.
So why do we do it? Why do we give such a weight to emotion over logic?
The answer — I suspect — lies with immersiveness. Do we really care to be in a totally technical fight, let alone watch one?
If the fight was technical, and if the players were doing whatever necessary, each turn to win the battle to the best of their ability, it wouldn’t be interesting. We could have skipped it and just found out the result — win or lose.
But it was interesting. It was immersive. In fact, it was so gripping that I couldn’t stop watching. I’m rooting for you, Kingston Brown. I like Pete, but I identify far more with the lawful good that helps people and do what needs to be done to protect them.
So, what happens when emotion affects role-play at the table?
Beautiful, immersive storytelling.
And we — humans — are storytelling creatures above all else.
Can’t wait for the next episode!