Wandering monsters are a conservative force for good in tabletop gaming.
Once a staple of the gold filled dank holes in the earth that adventurers use as happy playgrounds-cum-abattoirs, the humble wandering monster table seems to have fallen out of fashion in today’s modern sensitive and sensitized world. It’s a shame, really, given the important role that wandering monsters play in a game.
However, there is another factor that none of those D&D luminaries cover, and that’s the mindset of taking the world as it is, taking the punches as they come, knowing that sometimes luck just doesn’t go your way. A conservative knows that sometimes the going gets rough and so the rough have to get going. A conservative accepts this as a part of the fun, a part of the adventure, and a part of life. A liberal refuses to accept this and strives, not to overcome the adversity, but to ensure that the adversity never occurs. They think when the going gets rough, somebody needs to smooth out the path for them.
Don’t take my word for it, take that of the irrational atheist and infamous liberal, Sam Harris:
“For better or worse, dispelling the illusion of free will has political implications — because liberals and conservatives are not equally in thrall to it. Liberals tend to understand that a person can be lucky or unlucky in all matters relevant to his success. Conservatives, however, often make a religious fetish of individualism.
Many seem to have absolutely no awareness of how fortunate one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, physically healthy, and not bankrupted in middle age by the illness of a spouse.
How much credit does a person deserve for not being lazy? None at all. [Editor’s Note: There isn’t a facepalm big enough.] Laziness, like diligence, is a neurological condition.
Of course, conservatives are right to think that we must encourage people to work to the best of their abilities and discourage free riders wherever we can. And it is wise to hold people responsible for their actions when doing so influences their behavior and brings benefit to society.”
On the one hand, what an idiot. Of course conservatives understand that luck plays a role in success. On that they completely agree with liberals. But – and you have to ask yourself this every time a liberal says something that makes sense – therefore what? To a dolt like Sam Harris the follow-up is as plain as the rectal tissue shining on his face – luck exists, therefore Something Must Be Done, and that something must be government action outlawing the law of entropy. Conservatives disagree that the powers that be should step in and correct Lady Luck’s bad judgement. Maybe individuals should help each other sometimes. Maybe those who did less to swing the odds in their favor deserve less bailing out. (Hello, Goldman-Sachs and professional welfare mother alike.)
Back at the table, the liberal says that having beat the dungeon, dying to a random wandering kobold strike is cheap and unfair. The DM has to chuck the whole wandering monster table. The conservative says he should have drank that healing potion after the boss fight to be prepared for the walk back to the front door. Don’t worry, liberals, Sam Harris has your back – your laziness and inability to plan for the future is all genetic, so you can accuse me of dismissing your plaintive cries of woe as discrimination.
On the other side of the screen, you’ve got the same competing mindsets. A liberal DM, so in love with the loving and beneficial grave of an expert and all-controlling entity, especially if they control that entity, they reject the chaotic mess of unplanned encounters. A conservative DM embraces a little chaos, and understands that accepting some input from the laws of nature can be a positive thing. It’s hard, but it encourages creativity, flexibility, and improves the outcome of the game – even if it doesn’t improve the outcome for individual characters.
Either way, whatever side of the screen you face, you should welcome the wandering monster as a game enhancing tool. Sure, your characters should welcome them with all things pointy, blunt, fiery, and magic. But you, my friend, you should understand that unplanned things happen every day, and it’s your responsibility to face them. While it might melt your character’s face, it will make you as a player better, smarter, and – if my convention going experience is any indicator – hopefully, more hygienic.
*Hey, believe me, the irony of me calling somebody a pompous ass is not lost on me. Let’s chalk that one up to takes-a-crook-to-catch-a-crook, mkay?