It is not often that a person or creature of the trade 'Adventurer' will pause to think about the places or people that they destroy or kill in their questing. But an increasily vocal minority is clamoring for an ethics oversight committee, to ensure that only truly evil monsters are the target of indiscriminate slaughter by well-wishing adventurers.
An important part of this campaign is to illustrate to our heroes and heroines that not all types of creatures are evil, that many have perfectly understandable requirements or are merely making the best they can of their situation. For this month's Hack'n'Slash interview feature we are joined by "Rattles", a humanoid skeleton from the Molag Amur region of Vvardenfel in Morrowind province.
HnS: Thanks for taking time from your schedule to be with us today, Rattles
Rattles: It did not trouble me
HnS: Can you first give us some idea of your personal history? How long have you been a skeleton, where are you from?
Rattles: Time grows more difficult to realize, after one has been raised. Perhaps... 80 years have passed since I joined the service of my first master. I believe I was a basket maker. Or a weaver. I somewhat recall a kind of activity like that. Where, I could not say. Such things dissolve quickly during the twilight.
HnS: The twilight? Death?
Rattles: One assumes that's what it was. I remember... blackness, a formless void. I couldn't move, but I stopped trying before very long. And then suddenly I was being pulled, yanked. There was still nothing to see, but I could feel it. Then there was light, and terrible pain, and a voice demanding that I serve for eternity. And I was, as you see, an undead skeleton.
HnS: You've said, "my first master". How many have you had?
Rattles: Only one. He was... I do not remember the name. He was slain, and my binding of service was ended. I became a free agent, my own master.
HnS: What did he do, what sort of person was he?
Rattles: Introspective. Quiet, but quick to anger. He was a necromancer, obviously. He spent long hours in his study. There were many servants, raised to do his bidding and as his experiments. Some, not so fortunate as I in their condition. I do not think that he was an evil man, just greedy for knowledge. Self-centered.
HnS: What were your duties for the necromancer?
Rattles: My duties were three: To defend his dungeons against intrusion. To fetch, move, and tend the mundane workings like the furnace or the gardens. And to assist in his experiments.
HnS: 'Defend' the dungeons. So you were never ordered outside?
Rattles: No. There were others that left our home when required. With more flesh, that could pass for mortal when concealed with armor and cloak. They were given more power, and more duties, than the skeletons. They were to acquire things like ironwork, candles, spices. And arrange the delivery of fuel and meat. The master himself went for anything more important, especially books.
HnS: Then you were never ordered to attack a village, or to steal, or to terrorize.
Rattles: No, never.
HnS: So now you've had to find your own way in unlife. What options were open for you?
Rattles: At first I tried to do what my own master had done. Find a secluded place and research the mystic arts. But I could not do business with anybody: they saw the outline of my old bones and heard the creaking of my dry joints, and were frightened or angry. And that made it impossible too, to find any sort of craftsman's trade. The only thing I could find to do was ally myself with the cause of another master. But now I am paid for my service.
HnS: And your duties now?
Rattles: They remain as before. I am instructed to defend, to maintain, and to assist. This does not trouble me. I do not tire, I do not sleep, or require food.
HnS: Then once again, your assigned tasks do not require you to take any form of offensive action against the mortal citizens of the region?
Rattles: They do not.
HnS: If you require none of the trappings of mortality, then why do you need to do anything at all? Do you not which to return to the twilight? What compells you to endure?
Rattles: The twilight is stagnation. It is nothing. If I am free to walk as an undead creation, that is a thousand times easier to bear. I can see and learn new things, go to new places. I will not cease at the end of any normal lifespan: instead, I will be able to observe history until my destruction. Which would you choose?
HnS: Would you say that this is the reason that most necromancers do what they do? To seek power over death, and become immortal?
Rattles: For some, I think this is true. But there is no shortage of those who seek power for the sake of power. They seek mastery of death because through it, they can force the living to do their will.
HnS: So some necromancers could be said to be evil, seeking control, while others merely seek to know and understand, to avoid their own end.
Rattles: That is fair to say.
HnS: And what of their creations?
Rattles: The question's meaning is unclear...
HnS: I mean, would it also be accurate to say that undead can be either good or evil, or some combination.
Rattles: A creature raised has no freedom. One cannot disobey the commands given by one's master. It is... unpleasant. All submit eventually. If the master is evil, then he will order his creations to do evil things, but this in itself I think does not make the undead itself evil. Merely a tool of evil. It is only after one's service is ended, when there are no compulsions, that you could really determine whether they are a force for good or evil through the choices their free will leads them to make. Most undead creations will not have this chance because they are raised in such a way that their power is ended when their creator dies. My master was generous.
HnS: It sounds like a complex issue, then.
Rattles: Morality is one of the most complex issues of a sentient creature.
HnS: I'd like to thank you again, Mr. Rattles, for answering our questions. Your responses have been most illuminating. It is plain to see that not all undead, or in this case skeletons, are simply mindless drones that rend and tear at the bidding of evil necromancers.
Rattles: It is I who should thank you. For this oppourtunity to perhaps lessen the prejudices against my kind. Some day, far in the future, there may be a place and time where the undead are not universally and automatically despised. We have time, and patience. It is up to the mortals of the world to accept our offer of understanding.
Questions? Comments? Contact information for Hack'n'Slash magazine can be found in the circulation section. Be sure to contact your local government representative or guildmaster if you feel your town should be doing something positive in regards to the issue of adventuring ethics and equal oppourtunity for the undead.