I’m a big fan of the Fantasy genre. It’s just brilliant for its epic quests, deep characters (and dungeons), and twisting plot lines. Regardless of all of this sometimes you can’t help but wonder why our beloved characters do some of the things they do. There is a line, possibly a fine one, but still a line between utterly heroic and downright insane. Equally, quite a few of these quests are based on someone doing something royally stupid and in many cases that someone happens to be you. With all of this being said my partner in crime Will Georgiadis and I would like to present our top ten list of things that Fantasy characters should really probably have learned by now and likely never will.
Please bear in mind that this list is in no particular order. Feel free to rearrange the entries as you see fit. Also as with all top 10 lists this is a bit of fun and it’s our list so let’s not take anything too seriously. Or preferably seriously at all.
10. It’s a dragon, dummy!
You can actually insert pretty much any massive, bad tempered beasty here but enormous scaly lizards are an excellent example. These things are never in a good mood and will eat you rather than look at you. Taking this logic into account (unless you live in the world of Skyrim, of course), it doesn’t matter what they’ve done or how evil they’re being; you don’t want to go and hunt them on your own. Actually if you’re hunting them on your own there’s a really good reason why you’re doing it and it’s because nobody else is stupid enough to try. We know it’s a brilliant reason to start a quest but if you happen to have any interest in your own continued existence it’s probably better to just forget the whole thing and stay in bed.
This is NOT a puppy.
9. Keep your hands off other people’s things!
How many of these things have started because someone has taken something they shouldn’t have? We don’t care if the rightful owner happens to be dead. If something is hidden somewhere full of monsters and traps it’s probably there for a very good reason and should stay put. Taking these items always unleashes curses or wakes up evil overlords. If you don’t touch them in the first place you aren’t going to set off the end of the world and won’t have to then go out and fix it. Also if you’re in a location full of traps and monsters and have no reason other than being on the rob for being there you need to think long and hard about your life. Actually even better, just read the next point.
They aren’t yours, step away and keep some friends.
8. Stop looking for trouble!
Now this one could cover a lot of things but one of the biggest ones is the masochistic desire to go to places teeming with creatures that can kill you. The only things in graveyards, for instance, should be dead, burying the dead or visiting the dead. You aren’t doing any of the above, are you? No you’re there disturbing the dead to see what you can put into your pockets. This is tying in nicely to being somewhere stupid and taking what isn’t yours but on top of this you already know that the dead aren’t staying that way. You think, “What should I do today? I know! I’ll go to that place that’s full of brainless, homicidal corpses! Maybe they’ll have something I can steal! Yeah that sounds like fun.” It’s not fun, it’s ridiculous. Stop it.
Seriously? Haven’t you got anything better to do?
7. Read the damn map!
Now this should probably be a no-brainer but try and take a hint. If a place name reflects what that place is and it isn’t good (they never are), just don’t go there. If any of the titles have the words dead, demon or actually anything else weird or creepy in them then you can comfortably be elsewhere. Nobody deliberately takes a holiday to “The Swamp of Drowned Men;” it isn’t “The Swamp of Fluffy Animals,” there are some pretty big red flags there. Just because you’re an adventurer doesn’t mean you can’t read or take a hint. Actually … this brings me on very neatly to the next point.
Devil’s Pit is a great holiday destination.
6. Stop putting “Adventurer” in your job description.
As we have probably already figured out by now “Adventurer” is just another way of saying you’re a gullible, thieving psychopath. If you don’t want to be sent out on quests that are going to end your life just stop advertising the fact. It’s not hard. If the king of the land doesn’t think you’re deranged he isn’t going to send you out to do something that he or literally anyone else in the kingdom isn’t willing to. Thinking about it … if you need to massage your own ego that badly maybe you deserve to be eaten.
5. The ‘short cut’ is never actually the short cut.
So you’re off to see the Greybeards, huh. Travelling around a vast landscape can be snore-inducing work for even the most excitable adventurer, so it comes as no surprise that the notorious ‘short cut’ has made the list. Doesn’t matter if it’s through a suspiciously-named patch of swampland, across an unpaved section of forest, or even directly up the side of a mountain: if it means that our intrepid explorer can reach his destination a little faster, it’s an inevitability.
Except, of course, these things are either deadly – as Alex has so succinctly pointed out – or simply un-traversable. You thought that jumping endlessly would work? That simply skirting around the high-level griffin was going to be achievable? I pity you.
There are these things called roads …
4. Inaction is just as bad as the wrong action.
Engendering regret and mistrust by making the wrong choice is part and parcel of any good fantasy romp. Deciding to steal a healing ring that he finds inside a barrel on day 1 of his adventure, the good elf finds himself feared and loathed by the sweet waterside community, and admired by the foreign thief whose life he has inadvertently made a whole lot easier.
There is, unfortunately, a fate far worse. For if actions have consequences, then inaction has decidedly worse consequences; I’m thinking of those moments when the choices are too difficult to even bother making. As a wise man once said: “If I’m to choose between one evil and another, I’d rather not choose at all.” What this wise man couldn’t have known is that not pursuing a quest to its bitter end may result in an unforeseen catastrophe that renders you outcast and vilified.
3. Never stop to admire the scenery.
You’ve just survived a close encounter with an unruly band of hollow soldiers, and you’re feeling a remarkable passion for life. What do you do next? Do you:
A) Press forward into the abyss, swallowing your adrenaline and allowing unbridled fear to seep back into every pore of your body, or…
B) Stop. Lower your guard, scan the horizon with an eye filled with inexplicable wonder, and inhale the glorious stench of freshly-dismembered corpses like the naïve tourist that you are.
Pausing to admire the view is a fantastic way to get yourself killed. I don’t care if you’ve just overcome a significant obstacle on your journey to become the fiercest adventurer this side of Cyrodiil; if you let your guard down for even one measly second, a vicious pack of wolves or suspiciously-noiseless giant will send you flying into next week.
Resting costs lives, people. Spread the word.
Well, isn’t that nice? Oh look, I’m dead.
2. Your companion hates your guts.
On the surface, companions are more trouble than they’re worth. They refuse to leap the most basic of obstacles, find fault with each of your decisions, and spend more time bleeding out on the floor than they do fighting by your side. Their inadequacies, it seems, have no bounds.
But maybe that’s just because you look down at them from a veritable monolith of superiority.
As any good adventurer will know, a partner with whom to share an adventure soon becomes a slave with whom to unequally share the burden of carrying vast amounts of loot. You clip them with your war-ax more often than you hit your intended target; you demand that they wait for you as you descend into the bowels of a great dwarven city, then leave them to starve as you forget they exist.
So watch out: for one day, you might find yourself fleeing a roomful of the undead, only to find your exit blocked. And as you fall beneath the weight of reanimated flesh, the last thing you’ll see will be your companion, standing with eyes aflame in the arch of the door.
It pays to be nice.
1.Being the Chosen One is NOT a compliment.
Congratulations, you’re the Dragonborn. Or the Child of the Elder Blood. Or the Ashen One. At the end of the day, you might as well be called The Work-Horse: the moment it becomes apparent that you’re more than a mere adventurer, it all begins to tumble downhill. In an instant, you’re distracted from the simple joys of questing and exploring by a heavy and unwieldy responsibility; save the world, from dragons/heavy snow, or die trying.
But surely, you might say, it feels great to be so important. You’d be wrong. Like an A-list Hollywood celebrity, the role you play becomes more significant than the salt-of-the-earth adventurer that you have always been. Kings and Queens, Sorcerers and High Elves, people you’ve never met in your life: everyone wants a piece of the Chosen One, and not just to take a self-portrait with you.
This isn’t a compliment, it’s a death sentence.
So if you find yourself accidentally absorbing the soul of a slain dragon, or bumping once too often into Lords of Cinder, heed my advice: pack your bags, change your name, and move to another world.
Thus concludes our cautionary tale, the gripes we have with the adventurers we love to roll our eyes at. We hope that you’ve taken on board our salient advice, and that next time you find yourself strolling through a pleasantly fantastic world, you remember these words. They might just save you from certain death.
Or, at least, from minor embarrassment.