For some people decisions can be very difficult to make. The thought of branching long term consequences for every tiny decision made is enough anxiety and stress to leave some of us dilapidated. In life and in D&D your actions will almost always have a cause and effect, be it good or bad. Killing a slave trading bad guy could cause a faction of assassins to come after you just like not paying your taxes can lead to fines and jail time.
After making some bad choices when I was younger I was left with a near phobia to any form of decision making. For years I found myself incapable of making choices for fear of who I would hurt; until I found D&D. For my first few campaigns I felt comfortable just taking a back seat and following whatever choices the team made. Then came my Ranger, a wildling, tiefling, that was raised by wolves (don’t look down on me for my tropes, it’s a fun backstory). We wrote previously on Rangers during our Ranger week; where we discussed multi-classing, personal experiences, exploration, and much more.
At first it was easy to follow the group’s decisions until I learned that the campaign would have a lot of traveling and exploration; which is amazing because it meant I would be able to play my Ranger to her fullest extent. But what I didn’t realize was that a lot of decision making came with that role. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by people who were looking to me and my character to guide them. I was now the de facto leader, at least when it came to choices in traveling and wildlife. Luckily I have a DM that helped with this process. But one day I found myself staring down a powerful entity that was trapped in the middle of the forest who was asking me to set him free. In that moment I found myself paralyzed with fear as I thought of all the possible outcomes if I chose to free him or not; if I chose to go right or left. Would he go on a rampage of destruction and kill all living things? Was this the big bad? Was he friendly? What if he killed the whole party if I set him free? I was frozen, unable to make a choice, and literally unable to speak. Until someone else in the party made the choice for me; turns out the entity was helpful and would later even become a potential ally. That party member got a cool reward and I was left sort of just standing there.
I realized two things that day; one, that wasn’t my character that refused to make a choice because of the fears of the possible future, it was me. And two, not making a choice was still making a choice; I realized that I was giving up my ability to choose and letting someone else decide my fate and that just didn’t sit right with me. After that, in that campaign whenever a choice would come up, I would set myself aside and look through the lens of my character in order to decide on a path. There were times where I didnt know if my decisions would lead us to treasure or ruin but I knew that my character would weigh her options and trust her instincts. And it all led up to one big decision last week.
In the last session we had a difficult choice to make. One of our allies was cursed, there was an Npc we knew could help, who we were chasing. That’s when the Adult Red Dragon that had been chasing us for weeks flew overhead in search of us. If you know anything about Red Dragons its that they are incredibly dangerous, if you like to know how to Run a Red Dragon check out our other article in our series; How to Run: Red Dragons. We were about 7 levels under this creature’s CR. We had a choice to make; try to out stealth a dragon as it slowly followed our scent, or make a mad dash across the desert on horseback to a mountain pass we have never been to. With our ally suffering, the group looked to me for a choice and once again I could see the two outstretched paths before me, riddled with all the horrible consequences that could happen. My anxiety began building again. What if I made the wrong call? What if someone’s character died because of me? Endless outcomes played out in my head. But I had prepared an entire campaign for this. I closed my eyes and calmed down.
I was brought back to that first dilemma once more, only this time I wasn’t going to let someone decide for me. My character opened her eyes, she could see the treeline leading to the safety of the coast, the longer path on the left, and the direct path across the desert with open skies and nowhere to hide, the shorter path on the right. She knew the dragon was about 20 minutes behind us and if we ran, it would hear us and come chasing. She also knew that it meant someone might get hurt and die. The long way was technically safer, but it meant the dragon would be on our trail the entire time, but we could potentially keep ahead of it. The wind picked up sand and drifted by, a choice had to be made. With a deep sigh she said “Get on your horses, we don’t have time to waste. We are running.” Most were in agreement but an npc ally questioned if it was a smart idea, making her doubt her decision. But she trusted her instincts, she trusted her team to have her back and she would have theirs. After telling the npc to quiet his nerves, she looked to the team as they mounted their horses and said “No matter what happens, don’t look back. Focus on the objective, only look forward.” The decision was made.
Being able to make decisions in games like this has taught me how to do so in real life. In that particular circumstance whether it ended horribly or stupendously makes no difference. What matters is that I was able to make it, even without knowing how it would end. Now in life when I have to make a choice, I take a moment to breathe, I quiet down all the anxiety, weigh my options, and just make a choice. Because we have no way of knowing what will happen at the end. All we can do is make those choices and see where the path takes us. So, when you are in the same position what choice will you make? Will you go…
left or right?
Have you ever had to make a difficult decision? follow us on our social media or leave us a message in our forums! Tell us all about the experience. Has D&D helped you in your life? Tell us all about that as well, we would love to hear it.