Monday, September 27, 2010

The Dragon

I got home on Friday and noticed this picture on the kitchen table. It's drawn by my youngest daughter who just turned seven. I love the fact that the dragon has an Asian feel to it. I think this look is influenced by Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Nickelodeon television series (specifically, the Firebending Masters episode). That the dragon lives in a cave at the top of a mountain bears this out. The braziers halfway up the stairs confused me, though, so I asked her what they were for.

"They're for sacrifices," she said. Now, she may have gotten this from the Avatar episode, but that would be a bit of a leap. Spoiler Alert: In that episode, two characters climb the stairs to make an offering of flame to the firebending masters, and find that the masters are, in fact, dragons. If the offering is not accepted, the dragons will eat the characters. So I figured this is the kind of sacrifice she meant. Not so.

"Did you get this from Avatar?" I asked.


"Well then, where did you get it from?"

"If they don't sacrifice to the dragon, the dragon will attack the village," she said.

"And where did you learn that?" I pressed.

"I just made it up."

I intend to probe further to find out if this is supposed to be a human sacrifice. I would love to know where she gets this stuff. I can tell you we haven't had any sacrifices at our game table. I suppose it's not outside the realm of possibility that she got it from Aztec history. While I think that sacrifices of various kinds are consistent with the pulp-fantasy literary roots of the game, they're not the kind of happenings I bring to the kids' game. Nephrym's Claw is as close as I've come to that kind of thing, and I won't be doing it again. The kids themselves appear to have forgotten it exists, and I'm not sure my youngest was even in the room when that whole episode went down.

I'm not sure why I suddenly feel the need to defend RPGs now, but for some reason I do. My kids' sense of the macabre pre-dates their role-playing days. I remember my oldest daughter, back when she was five, playing with her Polly Pockets and Fischer-Price toys, and the victors hung the defeated from the gallows. Very shocking, that, and I suspect we have Disney's Tarzan to blame. That daughter is a loving, empathetic child, albeit one with a dark streak when it comes to the dramatic. Many of her short stories involve people being devoured. So I'm not too worried about the influence of D&D on my kids: there's plenty of darker material out there doing the job already. The best I can do it keep our topics fairly mild and talk about those things they do get from popular culture sources.

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