In order to enjoy any sort of fiction, but especially fantasy and science fiction, one must be able to set aside one’s knowledge of what is possible and what is not. An intentional blindness, where you know that people cannot fly, and yet you are able to watch Superman without being overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of a man flying.
Or an alien, in this case, which stretches our incredulity even further. It stretches, but it does not rip, because we have, as a group, agreed to accept the fiction.
Some cannot participate in this group self-delusion, or choose not to. We will not see any of those people at ComicCon. Nor will we miss them, unimaginative dullards that they must be.
For others though, even those who want to disbelieve, even then, there can come a point at which the fantasy being presented goes too far, the shroud of incredulity ripped and tattered, and the whole experience is soured.
For me, those moments most often come in the theater. When I go to a movie I want to be carried away. I want to be engrossed and absorbed. I hate it when a movie does something so spectacularly out of the bounds of the expected that it yanks me out of the vision and reminds me that, oh yeah, I am in a theater along with dozens of other (probably annoying) people, and now that I am thinking about it, my butt is going numb from the crappy seat I am inhabiting.
The very worst of all, for me, was the first Transformers movie. I was trying, I really was, even though this was a movie about toys. But there I was, gamely disbelieving along with everyone, cheering for Bumblebee, laughing along with Optimus Prime’s unintentional humor.
But then we got a closeup of one of the robots talking. It had lips.
The face was solid and unmoving, no muscles of course, just a rigid slab of steel. With ridiculous steel lips that vibrated up and down rapidly with each spoken syllable.
Why? Why would robots have lips? They don’t even have mouths! What the hell? That looks totally asinine.
And suddenly, there I was, back in the movie theater, numb butt and all. I was never able to get back into it, the failure was just too egregious.
“Oh really”, you might be saying, “you were okay with robots from outer space that can turn into cars and planes?” Yes, yes I was. “But the lips were too unbelievable for you? In a movie about alien robots that turn into cars and planes?”
Yes. It was just an awful idea. Lips. I didn’t choose to be repelled by the lips, I just was, and so (I would like to believe) was every other right-thinking moviegoer who was exposed to them.
Except the Transformers franchise just had their fourth sequel and have made several gazillion dollars, so maybe it was just me after all.
Lips! On robots! That didn’t even have mouths!
Which brings me to the point of this article.* I recently had cause to run the raid The Fall of Truth. And unexpectedly, I had one of those jarring unable-to-disbelieve moments that ruined the mood for me.
* And it’s about time, isn’t it? 500 words so far and no point? That’s worse than lips on a robot
Look at this picture of the Truthful One. You may note, or know from other sources, that he is a DracoLich, meaning he is a dragon that has transformed itself into an undead creature; a lich, and a dragon, together in one fearsome package.
It sounds quite intimidating, doesn’t it? Liches are hard enough, and dragons are even harder. Put them together and you have something truly terrifying.
Note that The Truthful One still has blobby bits of flesh here and there, even though he became a dracolich some 10,000 years ago. Okay. I can handle that. Undead are weird and magic and who knows how long it will be before he is nothing but bones? I am still in the realm of willing disbelief.
Then The Truthful One flies up into the air. And that was it for me. Not because he can fly; we can too, at least when we get the Fly spell from the Stormreaver; but because he is flying by flapping his wings. And hovering.
I don’t think even the healthiest dragon can hover. It makes no sense. All that mass? Lazily flapping it’s wings and maintaining altitude and location? Few things in nature can hover and all of them have to really, really work at it.
I can live with hovering dragons. I have to avoid thinking about it too hard, but I can do that.
But how does a dracolich with only tattered remnants of his wing surface generate any lift? Clearly, he cannot. Clearly he is magically flying, like we do in the Reaver’s Refuge. Except … he is flapping his wings? He thinks he is flying with his wings, but he doesn’t have them any more!
It is too much for me. It just is.
And yet, wing flapping. Click here to see for yourself. This is not a regular GIF, it is stitched-together still shots, but you will get the point.
I don’t know what i would have wanted Turbine’s artists to do differently. I guess have the dragonlich fly like a gigantic paperweight? Wings tightly held to its sides?
I know that it is silly to expect realism in a fantasy game. Gary Gygax warned us about this:
D&D is a make-believe game. It is designed, however, to facilitate close personal involvement in all aspects of play; this makes suspension of disbelief easier for those who can initially accept a game form which does not relate to any reality except a few tenuous areas… It is a game for the imaginative and fanciful, and perhaps for those who dream of adventure and derring-do in a world all too mundane. As a game must first and foremost be fun, it needs no claim to “realism” to justify its existence.
But I can’t help it. Wing-flapping bone dragons are too much for me. They are lips on a robot. I can never again run that raid the same; I will always be jarred by the discontinuity.
What about you? Is there anything in DDO that breaks your willingness to disbelieve?
Your own version of the robot lip moment?
🙂 😀 🙂