D&D: The Last Straw

6 minutes

In our Sunday D&D game set in the Fighting Fantasy Titan universe, I’ve been playing a neutral evil woodling Ranger called Daraja Dreyer. He is a bit of an eco-terrorist and sees himself as Galana’s (good-aligned nature goddess) agent, doing the things she can’t and wont do in order to see through the ultimate glory of nature.

He has a deep-seated hatred for humans and orcs, thanks to his woodland home being destroyed by bandits. Ultimately, he doesn’t blame the bandits themselves, but civilisation and modern society, for the atrocities they committed. The civilised world is one of greed and excess. There is no harmony, no balance, just corruption and self-interest. He learned one thing though from his ordeal, something that made him embrace his role as Galana’s agent. The strong devour the weak. Survival of the fittest. By his twisted set of ethics, everything is permitted. Nothing is too foul, too depraved, too evil if it ultimately serves the greater good of Galana and helps him achieve his goal - the total reversion of modern civilisation back to a harmonious living with nature.

He has to save these fools from themselves.

Over the course of the campaign, Daraja has done unspeakable things to secure his power-base and influence. Ever since coming to the city of Toregarde, he has worked to become an important and revered figure. He has helped get rid of shady war-profiteers (he sold a man who double-crossed them as a sacrifice to a evil cult operating underneath the city), got rid of a massive undead threat (he made back room deals with local necromancers to have them raise the dead before the other group of necromancers attacking the city could, so they would have the army instead for their campaign against their enemies elsewhere), cleared the streets of vagrants (he rounded up and sold them as sacrifices), renovated several buildings around the city and donated some to religious institutions and peasants (brought from shady people using his sacrifice-profits), given hundreds of peasants jobs (and thus providing him with alibis and informants all over he city), renewed and expanded the public parks and open spaces of the city (furthering his encroachment of nature across the city), rid the city of necromancers (by making deals with them for power and items, then betraying them to good people to further his own reputation amongst good people)…

And so on. In all of this he has never been caught doing anything wrong, never has there ever been a shred of evidence against him. He is friends with the Captain of the City Watch. He is an honorary Templar of the Church of Pelor, he is well known around the city as a generous philanthropist and entrepreneur, both by the merchant elite and by the little-folk. However, there have been some things he has admitted to, when he has had good reasons, in order to maintain trust. His explanations are always reasonable, if sometimes questionable, but the results can not be argued with.

Despite this, most of the band of adventurers he is with do not fully trust him or otherwise have their doubts. The few times his shadier side has been revealed, they’ve found it difficult to ignore, even in the face of the large amount of good he has done, and continues to do. The strongest doubts come from Alphonse Richter, a human fighter who works for the City Watch and is played by my brother.

At every turn, every opportunity, Alphonse has decried Daraja’s actions as manipulations, dastardly plans and evil plots. He is convinced Daraja is a monster and is constantly astonished that no-one else can see it. That he is right makes little difference. On multiple occasions he has taken opportunities to attack Daraja or accuse him, but in all cases he has lacked evidence. Daraja hates humans, but having one work closely with him serves as good cover, and having one that is openly hostile to him, yet he ignores, only furthers his goals of looking like he is above such pettiness and puts the needs of the city first.

However, in our latest mission, Daraja was tricked (well, he expected something was amiss the whole time, but went along with it anyway) into pursuing an ancient artifact of evil with the goal of destroying it. Apparently it was corrupting the connection to nature in the city, something he’d work very hard to strengthen. He would not see his work go to waste - this would not stand!

Together the party, with the archaeologist that had discovered the location of the artifact, went to retrieve it. Fighting their way through skeletons and avoiding traps, they made it, only to have the archaeologist turn on them and scoop up the evil iron crown of a Prophet of Vecna. Seeing this happen and not wanting to let it get any further, Daraja tried to wrest it from his grasp and yelled for the others to kill the man. One character, Elowen, a urbanised woodling also of the City Watch, attacked him but Alphonse decided to attack Daraja instead, landing a terrible blow with his +2 Greataxe of Lightning. Luckily, Daraja survived (lucky rangers have a lot of HP!) and fled with the crown, decrying Alphonse as possessed/insane.

That was the last straw for Daraja. The constant insults, slights, accusations, threats. Those could be dealt with, in fact they only served to make Alphonse look less and less credible and gave Daraja a sort of sympathy vote as the unjustly accused. An outright attack though, one that was clearly aimed at taking his life?

That can not be excused.

Daraja fled to the Church of Pelor and the high priest (by whom he is well respected, both as a benefactor of the city and the Church, and as a Templar) destroyed the artifact for him, and healed him of his wound. Immediately, Daraja began to put plans into motion. He was going to destroy Alphonse utterly. His reputation, his freedom, his loved ones, his life. Everything Alphonse cared about, he would ruin, every one who once called Alphonse friend would spit at his name. It wasn’t enough to merely kill Alphonse - Daraja would erase him from memory as anything other than a monster, a crazed murderer too dangerous to let out in public, a man so vile mothers would tell tales about him to scare their children. He would use every connection he had made, every favoured owed to him to see the man burned to ashes, his name made anathema to even the foulest of tongues.

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