it's a LIST, you ignorant bastards like a list don't you? well this is a list AND a bandwagon
a trend, a trend of lists you mindless drones
suckle upon my teat
1. GOOD AS FUCK
Fuck evil. Adopt those orc babies and raise them to be good. Fuck treasure. Fuck XP. Fuck unlicensed murder. Give the gold back to those orphans. Kill the devil, turn the dragon vegetarian save the world and keep your goddamn armour shiny while you do it.
In a game based on craftily gained material advantage where stealing gold literally gives you super powers, where a huge torrent of the motive force of play is imagining yourself as a super-powerful badass with no limits on your actions, the most important lesson you can learn is to _play against the game_
You have to make the game mean what you want it to mean. Its not the job of a bunch of rules to imbue your imagined world with meaning, its your fucking job.
Caring too much about the shit the game tells you to care about is a mistake. To be outside things teaches purpose and the hardest, strangest problem you can set yourself is being really good in a D&D world.
(Unless its some wiener-fiction like Dragonlance or whatever, in which case, disregard this rule.)
The deepest paradox of D&D is that characters who have enough wierd shit going on in their head that they will actively do stuff that does not get them XP, for reasons of reasons, are the best characters.
That is, you have to make a character whose reason for being, whose anima, is greater than any of the written rules used to provide a reason for them to exist and grow.
You can't really teach intellectual or imaginative independence. The more instruction you give people telling them "Hey fucko, be more independent!" the less independent they become. You can't _make_ people think for themselves, once you've told them to do it it's too late, the motive force has already come from outside their head.
The only way to teach independence and imagination is to provide areas of silence and darkness which MUST, perforce, be illuminated by the self-generated creative thought of the player. Teaching by paradox is a good way to do that. The paradox creates a zone of silence or cognitive incoherence which can only be resolved by the player taking independent action.
Will Sir Stabbington really return that treasure to those Gnolls just becasue they have legal right to it? You bet your fucking ASS he will because he is GOOD AS FUCK.
To play D&D well you have to be able to say "Fuck D&D! Fuck everything! I'm doing this MY WAY, even if I don't know what that is yet!"
2. GOOD BUT CRAFTY
Once you have mastered the central paradox of D&D, you are ready to begin the lesser, but still vital lesson of not being shit at it.
It's still important for you to be broadly, or at least nominally, good. It gives you a point of view and sets you in moral conflict against the world
(Unless its fucking Dragonlance or whatever)
But now we have told the game to go fuck itself we can re-assess our concept of 'good' into something slightly less insanely retarded. Now it can mean 'pro-social' or just 'not a massive rapist'.
Craft is the heart of the thing. Once you have learnt to oppose the very concept of the game itself, now you must translate that same lesson into material logic.
There is no weapon so powerful as the world itself. To one versed in the way (and I can't say 'Tao' because that guy fucked it up), the entire procedure of a world is a tool.
A trap is not a trap, it exists to be found, but more than that, it exists to be found, disarmed, moved and used decapitate those guards as they run out of their room.
A castle is not a castle, it is a handy wrapper for treasure and XP, thoughtfully containing everything you need in one convenient place.
A monster is never a monster, it is food, an ally, a gullible mark, an organic trap, a divertable piece of combat power.
A dungeon is not a dungeon, far from being unknown it is the most-knowable place, a knotwork of closely nested choices which can be understood, un-knotted and re-created to your purpose. Corridors exist to channel your foes, not you, locked doors keep them in, not you out. As a key transforms a gate into a tool, so does the Player Character transform the dungeon into a place of work and play.
3. A DOG
A dog becasue it will teach you to relate to the world in a totally different way. Now you can't use tools, or even communicate easily, plus you are small.
But you have a sense of smell. Now you have to learn to put together a picture of the world through a different sensorium, and irritate the DM by asking exactly what everything smells like.
You are vital to the group, part of it, yet silent and subservient to it. A decision process you formerly tried to influence through words and action, you can now only observe as a dog that is happy to help.
Curious isn't it? The fear and madness and rage for order. All those personalities clashing and combining. All those complex thoughts and feelings intermeshing across dual levels of reality. Now, finally, you see it from the outside, were you really like these people? So loud and anxious and desperate for control? Before you were a dog.
Now there is only sensing, action, and response.
There is nothing for you to worry about and no way for you to rule, you see yourself from the outside as well. The wordless mind of an imaginary dog can encompass more than that of a thought-addled man.
Remember the lesson of the dog. The lesson of the idiot mute.
Now we have dealt with basic concepts we must turn to the lessons of social justice and diversity.
The lesson of social justice is be as totally fucking wierd as you can to the maximum extent always. The lesson of diversity is that if you can fit your identity on a graph, its not an identity, its a group.
(I'm not going to make this 'playing the opposite gender' becasue everyone can do that.
(Unless you are in the deep south or bible camp or something and everyone can't do this, in which case you may replace being gender-weird with just playing the opposite gender.))
You are not a _group_, you are not a _type_. You are yourself alone.
You have to be so fucking _odd_ that people don't even know how to fuck with you. You must terrorise the imagined world into submission, yet you must do this by understanding its rules and placing yourself outside them.
The true hero is a twisted figure of burning majesty and alienated awe, a CRIPPLED GOD.
If we have already learnt to play against the game, to make the world a tool and to place our-self both outside and within the social world of the Players, now we must learn to respect and understand the social reality of the imagined world in the same way. We must be both within and without it.
You can't be deeply, distressingly wierd in a society without understanding that society. You must make yourself a maligned figure of terror and awe. You must feel the eyes of the world upon you.
This is out of respect. Only this figure can imbue this imagined society, this purely fictional population made up of random tables and DM accents, with any of the numinous power of a real society.
And believe me it must have numinous power. Society is the greatest monster.
As worship of a totem imbues it with power, so to does creation of the CRIPPLED GOD imbue the imagined world with power. Like a wound creating flesh. Power enough to harm.
And your imagination must be capable of doing harm, of hurting your, and others, or what is the point of playing with it?
It's not that harm is good, but that nothing of great beauty can be created or experienced without power and there can be no true power without the capacity to harm.
5. TWO GOBLINS IN A BIG COAT PRETENDING TO BE THE SAME PERSON
I did this once and it was HILARIOUS.