Content of the article: "The Cross-Cultural Ethics of Mercy Killing: How Our DM Derailed an Entire Session (and nearly broke us) by Committing to a Joke"
tl;dr- the DM tortured us with a fake moral quandary and we loved it.
Our weekly 5e campaign is going great. Fantastic DM, wonderful players, killer setting. It’s the star of the quarantine for us and we look forward to each week. The DM works our backstories in beautifully and is really making the published adventure his own with unique NPCs, such as the one on which this story centers.
Recently our heroes made contact with an outpost of a primitive culture. Though initially hostile, we came to an understanding with their intelligent leader to work against mutual enemies. We decided to rest in their outpost before moving on.
The leader had his “court jester,” a deformed one-eyed accordion player named Wheezy, take us to our quarters. Wheezy couldn’t speak and it was clear he wasn’t all there. Still, he could tell he had a special role in this culture. Occasionally Wheezy would play music on his accordion, which the DM piped in through Discord.
When we were settled in our quarters, Wheezy attempted to communicate. First with wheezes and gestures, and then more violently with pantomiming. Soon it was clear what he wanted.
Wheezy was old and deformed, the subject of ridicule and abuse, and wanted it to end.
More specifically, he wanted us to kill him. Right now.
What follows was a massive party debate about the morality, ethics, and cultural implications of mercy killing. The discussion covered possible curses that might fall on us for breaking guest-host relations, how each of our characters might feel about it, and diversions into our real-life stances on end-of-life rights.
The cleric wasn’t morally against it, but didn’t want to do it personal. The barbarian and my character were out of the room, so we did not directly debate but added out of character reminders about guest rights and responsibilities in the setting. The rogue used sending stones to call a potion-selling NPC she’d been flirting with to ask for advice, nearly breaking down in tears in the process. We later likened it to calling your weed dealer at 3 am to ask if you should put down your sick dog.
The DM kept stone-faced throughout. Wheezy wouldn’t be talked out of it and he wanted to die here and now.
Finally, after hours of debate, the rogue made the decision. It was time. Looking in Wheezy’s good eye, she whispered a prayer that his next life be happier, and slit his throat.
There was silence. We commended the rogue for doing what had to be done. We’d agreed this was the right thing to do, then why did we all feel so bad about it? The mood was grim.
Then we noticed the accordion music was back on in Discord. The DM posted Wheezy’s only ability into theRoll20 chat.
“Reversal of Fortune: when this character would take damage, he can use a Reaction reduce the damage to 0 and heal 1d8.” Wheezy hopped up, healthier than before, laughed about his little prank, and walked away playing his accordion.
DMs have left me happy, angry, entertained, or speechless before, but was the first time I felt all of those at the same time. We were shocked by his sheer commitment to a fake moral quandary: we debated and argued and fretted for HOURS, and all the while there were no actual stakes. The DM could have ended it at any time, but he let it play out naturally, never hinting that things weren't exactly what they seemed. The outcome of the situation was precisely as infuriating as it was hilarious.
We’ll fight dragons and monsters, save princesses and cities, do all sorts of things before the campaign is over. But in the years to come, it’s Wheezy we’ll remember.
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