As a dungeon master for an ever changing set of characters in a continuously evolving story line, set in a home-brew campaign in the Dungeons and Dragons (4th edition) setting, I’ve watched anxiously, patiently, and with great anticipation as my players would crawl through dungeons, save the princess, purchase homes, escape death, and continue the pursuit of their endeavors. What an exciting time for most of my players’ characters, but a tragically terrible demise for others; not every character would live past the fictional tales of their player’s actions. The decisions that my friends would make, watching their characters either flourish or faint, would keep me entertained for weeks on end, like a never ending movie. I liked that about the entire endeavor of being a DM. It was as if I had the rare opportunity of being part of a great story that no one else in the world has ever heard, and I got to write it with my friends. What an awesome collaboration to be part of. There were times when I realized that I needed to influence the game with my own design, and sometimes my own characters. Certain moments of the story would only develop and mature correctly with non-player characters that I would use and dictate to help the story move along, or to help the players in a time of need, or to dispatch them from their mortality, when necessary. It was anything but brutal and beautiful, all at once. The one character I never ended up using in a game was Aeries. At first, he had become a maligned image of myself, in some respects. I twisted him into a dark character that would only be hell-bent on the retribution and revenge because of the loss of his only son. When I realized his loose association with my own dark feelings and emotions I realized I needed to cut the cord of the character I had birthed through pen and paper. From here, Aeries collected dust for some time before I even thought about him again. Eventually, he found his place under my pen, his story continued again, his pursuit renewed, his vigor restored, and he was more angry and pissed off than ever. It was an unstoppable gravitational pull toward my anger and fear that began to feed his own character elements, his decisions, his reactions, his tears, and his strength. I decided that I couldn’t make an evil character, but a lawful good character with an inner darkness would suffice. Something that pulled his strings tightly, keeping him on his toes and always looking over his shoulders and around corners for the answers to the questions he would constantly ask himself.
One of the key elements of Aeries’ story is his pursuit of self-justice, not to be confused with justification of his actions or decisions, which he never feels he has to justify anything because of his inner lawfulness. Born with an innate ability to perceive the justifications of his peers and adversaries he draws upon this inner voice that calls out to him as he listens to conversations, and at a young age, decides to use this information as basis for his own actions.
I guess he has a little bit of justification, but not in the traditional sense.
This inner voice had always eluded my own understanding. I tend to side towards logic and black-white hard lines when it comes decision making and natural understanding of the world around me. I rarely allowed myself to think that there could be a metaphysical side to the world I lived in. Recently I’ve been aware that there are some aspects of life that do in fact influence our perception of life from the metaphysical realm. I have always had an inner voice, telling me what’s right, helping me decide what’s right and wrong, not that I’ve always listened to the voice. I drew from this experience to create Aeries’ perception of discernment that would help him to win great battles with ease, speak easily with people of great power such as kings and queens and even the sages, influence crowds of his opinion, but most importantly to see the truth in others when they would lie to him. It was this discernment that he would rely on for many conversations with adversaries and even his so-called friends that would betray him from early on in his life, although he sometimes regrets calling on the truth from his friends when he would point out their lies because if he had just lived with the lies his friends would tell him he would at least have had people around instead of living alone. It becomes easy to fear everything around you when you find yourself alone, in the dead of night when lying to sleep, or even under the noon day sun in a crowd.
Sometimes fear is fueled by emotions beyond our control: rejection and abandonment to name a few. Once fear has taken hold of a heart it becomes the driving force behind all decisions and grows from a nuisance to become a gargantuan monster that can kill, maim, destroy, from the inside. This is Aeries’ greatest battle. His fear becomes his greatest enemy, but an ally that he must learn from in order to prevent the destruction of the world around him. Unfortunately this dance with the devil could become Aeries’ destruction. As they say in the kitchen “play with fire you’re bound to get burned.”