On Beholders, and personal and communal responsibility

18 Aug

Back in 1981, I played a game of Dungeons and Dragons where a member of our party was bewitched by a Beholder.

The monster had bobbed out from behind a large rock while we were trekking across the countryside. Shortly after we approached it, the Dungeon Master rolled some dice, then leaned over and whispered into a player’s ear. Suddenly that player’s character announced that the Beholder was his best friend, and that he was going to leave the party and go off with it.

What we obviously should have done was attack the Beholder and free our companion from its evil spell. What we actually did was ask our friend whether this was really his choice. Because who were we to judge? Sure, maybe we thought that going off with an evil monster who can control minds was foolhardy and dangerous; but you can’t make life decisions for other people, right?

Our companion said that yes, he was sure he wanted to go off with the Beholder. He even became prickly over the matter and insulted us. Fine, we said. Go off with the monster. See if we care.

Our companion followed the Beholder to the other side of the large rock. A few seconds later we heard him scream. When we ran to help him we found him on the ground, near death, with a Beholder-size bite taken out of his side.

We sheepishly healed him, and resumed our journey.

The incident still troubles me. Why, even in a fantasy game, did we lack the courage to stand up for what we knew was right and help a friend who was in trouble?

Were there times when I could have helped someone avoid certain trouble, but didn’t because I was afraid to rock the boat?

I don’t know. Anyway, once, about 30 years ago, I and a bunch of other guys let someone go off with a Beholder; and we felt pretty stupid about it.

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