It’s Part 2 of the ongoing crossover between The Handbook of Heroes and the redoubtable Rusty and Co. Unfortunately, it looks like a few wires got crossed in the matchmaking department. I guess putting a causality manipulator in the same room with a bad-luck magnet wasn’t such a hot idea after all.

While Madeline the Paladin sorts out her spot in The Evil Party’s marching order, why don’t we focus our attention on the second-cutest character in today’s comic? Just look at Poor Patches the Unkicked there. Poor little fella. He has once again been pressed into service as a big fat moral dilemma. And while there are worse jobs for an adorable puppy, there are few that I find more irritating.

To my way of thinking, moral dilemmas are at their best when they rise naturally out of narrative. You must choose whether to help the ungrateful villagers or leave them to their fate. Whether to use that last genie wish for unselfish purposes. Or decide how much of your humanity you can afford to sacrifice in pursuit of power. These are general situations with lots of moving parts. There are Gordian knots to be cut and character-specific actions to be taken, and to me that’s interesting.

In contrast, there’s something that rubs me the wrong way when these sorts of moral questions get stuffed into canned encounters. I’m thinking of the orphaned goblin scenario. All those “gotcha” paladin traps. The slave-taking fiend who rolls up to combat with eight victims tethered to each of the eight squares around him on the combat grid.

“Pitiful fools! To get to me, you must cut through my wall of innocent flesh! See how you are bound by your hypocrisy? Sinister laugh!”

I mean sure. I guess we can hash out some ethical business during game night. We can invoke Kant and utilitarianism and have a proper Moral Philosophy 101 seminar. Or we can just stab a few dragons and make off their loot. I know which one I signed up for.

Of course, this is just one man’s opinion. When I tried to draw the distinction between types of moral conundrum, my lovely illustrator shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t really see the difference. But remember that Exalted campaign you ran where the Mask of Winters had my love interest strung up and ready to sacrifice? He was all like, ‘Join me, or this one dies?’ And I was all conflicted? That was great!”

Suffice it to say that there are differing schools of thought on the subject. So how about it, gang? If you stood in Madeline’s place, faced with an innocent creature defending the forces of evil, would you stay your hand? Or would the divine Rake of Justice reap its bloody harvest? And more importantly, would you enjoy being faced with that choice in a game? Let’s hear how you deal with moral dilemmas down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.