Friday, May 22, 2015

AD&D, Super Heroes, and the Death Penalty

After watching an episode from The Flash a few weeks ago, it occurred to me.  The traditional super hero comics give one of the best arguments in favor of the death penalty.  I am not saying that the death penalty is right or wrong.  In fantasy worlds, you are dealing with entities that have super powers rather than typical human abilities.  With that said, the storylines of super heroes is such that it provides a compelling reason to for a person to be in favor of it, at least in cases of super powers.  To put it another way, perhaps AD&D handles villains better.  Let me explain why.

In many of the traditional super hero storylines, you have iconic villains.  Those villains will be sent to prison, or locked up in an atom collider.  At a certain point in time, those villains escape.  They are then recaptured and locked up again.  Then, at another point in time, they will escape again.  At least some of these villains have killed people.  On their release, they will kill people again.  The evidence is clear that the regular police have difficultly capturing them.  When these criminals are locked up, they will always find a way out.  Would it be better for the world if they were killed?  In fact, shouldn’t the super hero be held morally responsible for not killing the villain?  By sparing the life of a villain, who will only escape, he is enabling more death and carnage in the future.  I do not see what is so super or heroic about that! 

Let us now consider AD&D.  I do not know about your adventures, but generally, the group does not take prisoners.  You fight and kill the monsters.  You try to prevent their escape.  Why?  Because they will warn other monsters or come to attack you later.  Certainly it might be a situation where they surrender, but that is likely rare.  Such situations can pose both alignment issues and practical issues.  You ae 3 days inside of a dungeon and a group of orcs surrenders.  Can you really risk taking them out of the dungeon and turning them over to authorities?  Would the authorities even bother locking them up?  At the same time, can a good alignment character kill defenseless creatures that surrendered, even if they are evil?  The solution I suppose is to always have at least one evil character in your party to deal with the situation. 

Now, imagine how messed up your AD&D world would be if your Lawful Good Paladin acted like a super hero!  You have battled your way through the fortress.  The evil cleric is in the process of summoning an evil demon or god to the world.  The entire world could be destroyed or at least enslaved.   He is responsible for the deaths of hundreds already.  Your party kills all of the guards and defeats the cleric.  However, instead of killing the cleric, he is taken prisoner.  The prisoner is then taken to a prison.  He will later escape from the prison and the party will have to go after him again.  It seems to me this will only lead to a world where the evil cleric will eventually win. 

Isn’t the AD&D of method of simply killing the cleric and then destroying the body to prevent resurrection a much better way to deal with really powerful villains?  I know I would certainly feel better living in a world with lawful good paladin slaughtering evil villains than one where every few months another super villain finds his way out to cause harm to the public.   In the fantasy worlds, perhaps we should be looking at AD&D instead of super heroes for moral guidance.  Or at the very least, a common sense solution to the problem of how to handle super power villains.

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