Let’s just get this out of the way right from the start: this is not an attempt to write something ‘sensationalist’ or otherwise capitalize on a tragedy. However a weird thing happened this past (13th) anniversary. That Thursday night I was playing Pathfinder with my weekly group, currently being run by fellow columnist Darkwarren. And over the course of a 4ish hour D&D session, I don’t remember the September 11th attacks being mentioned. I wasn’t necessarily expecting that we’d do anything formal, like pause for a moment of silence before the dice start rolling. But thinking back, I just found it…weird…that the subject didn’t come up at all. Which made me wonder if other gaming groups went through a similar situation, & then later on, if there was a way to respectfully incorporate aspects of what horribly happened on that tragic day into roleplaying games.
And after much back & forth, then forth & back, I honestly still don’t know if there is a way to do that latter part. This piece that you’re reading is admittedly an attempt that is more of thinking aloud onto a white screen with a keyboard. And despite coming in at the end of the month, I didn’t want to be completely absent of the topic this year, as we have in year’s past.
When I was traveling after 2001 & people asked where I was from, (I have one of those faces that everyone seems to think is someone else) answering ‘New York’ inevitably brought the question, “Where were you when the Towers fell?” I explained that I was teaching high school, & that our classes watched what happened as it was unfolding on TV. Cue the ‘Couldn’t-you-see-it-out-the-window’ question, followed by my explaining how I lived in the part of New York state that has more cows than skyscrapers. Also a local delicacy appropriately known as garbage plates.
Yet as the years went by, the NY/NYC confusion gradually diminished less & less until it’s stopped coming up at all. Which got me wondering this week about humans & how we remember or don’t remember historical occurrences. And this memory fading of ours compared to how Elves/Dwarves/Dragons would most likely recall almost everything. So in the context of 09-11, if there was a fantasy equivalent, at some point the humans of that world might still recognize that event. But as the years pass- and more and more of the Humans who were alive then pass on, the remembrance shifts from part of the collective psyche to historians. A good example would be Pearl Harbor, which had only 50 survivors attend last year’s memorial ceremony. Days which will live in infamy eventually- perhaps inevitably- become just another day. Go far enough into the future & they can be forgotten entirely, as a civilization falls with others rising to take it’s place.
However other longer-living races would still vividly recall a monumental event decades or possibly centuries afterward. While they might not literally say, “Why, I remember that comet crash like it was yesterday,” when they’re describing it, the level of detail should suggest that in fact they sort of do. And they would probably resent how human characters did not still share that or have the same amount of respect. If you live hundreds or thousands of years, certain disasters like earthquakes or fires could blend together; one icestorm can be much like the other. Yet it’s unlikely that they’d ever truly forget when the Drow tried to block out the sun or the time a Tarrasque came to town. Particularly when the past isn’t that ‘past’ at all.
I don’t know. This is obviously a touchy subject & although D&D has it’s share of controversy (I remember an old adventure that had mind-controlled townspeople taking Delayed Blast Fireball Gems into town) I was wary of delving too deep here. Certainly you could include such elements as a kingdom rushing to war, conspiracy/False Flag theories, civil liberties being curtailed, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ etc. Or that might simply be too much reality intruding in on your fantasy. Big reason I go to a different world every week is to take a much-needed break from this one. So I’ll definitely respect anyone who doesn’t want to use any of this at all.
But at the very least, please consider having your gaming group mark the occasion of September, 11th. Thank you for reading.