Taken from a Grade One story, for six year old children.
So, one day, a lion caught a mouse…
He lifted her by the tail.
He swung her slowly through the air.
“An afternoon snack,” Lion said.
Mouse felt his hot breath on her fur.
She was so scared.
Her voice was just a squeak.
“Spare me,” she cried, “and one day I will help you in return.”
Lion laughed loudly.
“You, help me?” he laughed.
“You are a funny little one.”
Still, he let mouse go.
He soon dozed off again under the hot sun.
Mouse dashed home.
She was happy to be alive.
The PCs should get that same feeling, every so often. But to get that feeling, they should remember that some fish are bigger than they are.
Most PCs would be the mouse: but people who own starships and guns are lions in some settings, including much of the Imperial Empty Quarter.
The day came when the lion stepped into the hunter’s net.
He was trapped.
The net pulled tighter.
Travellers, by their very nature, don’t always know the lay of the land. And in some lands, ignorance kills.
The more exotic and unknown the culture, the more uncharted the land, the easier it is to get into serious trouble.
Moreover: while the Traveller may not understand the environment, he may well have enemies who do.
Lion roared in anger.
Then he roared in fear.
A good Referee can set up an entire campaign on the above two sentences.
A great Referee can lead a PC group through those two sentences, in a single encounter.
His loud roar carried in every direction.
Many animals heard him.
None came to help.
This could be due to
- “Reality ensures”: anything that can take down a lion is not to be challenged, if you value your life.
- “Indirect vengeance”: when a hated ruler cries out for help, the people may well decide that its time to suffer unexpected hearing loss.
- “Crying wolf”: too many false alarms can lead to deafness, as well.
None dared to free Lion, except Mouse.
Mouse ran to Lion’s side.
She found him in the trap.
Mouse chewed away the net with her sharp little teeth.
Sharp little knives can work well too, in certain situations.
Or even sharp little words, when the conflict is more social and less kinetic.
The story advises the strong to be gentle/just to the weak, as they will have need of their services someday.
Well…. unlikely, but possible. It’s a tough world, so I’m not going to turn my nose up on “goodness as insurance policy.”
Still: it would be wiser for a ruler to be just, simply because righteousness is a more enduring, profitable, and spiritually satisfying foundation for power than evil is.
Assuming – like the standard Imperial Noble – that you want your family to rule forever, and so you want profitable, happy subjects who both respect your authority and even prefer your rule, rather than entertain the pretensions of your worthless competitors and challengers.
“Legitimacy is the coin of the realm,” keeping power is far more costly, if your subjects loathe you are are always inflicting costs on your administration, directly and indirectly. Unprofitable fiefs weaken your power, and weakness is to be shunned.
(Of course, you can always just kill them all… resulting in the quiet mockery of your peers, especially the Solomani ones. “Good luck extracting tax revenues from radioactive craters and mass graves!”
<Insert: Vilani nobles, gritting their teeth.> )
This is in contrast to the standard dictator, who merely wished to rape the nation to extract maximum benefits for yourself, personally, immediately.
(If you’re lucky, he is merely for pleasuring himself, instead of grinding down the nation for some collectivist cause. Personal lust and greed can be satiated, but there is no end to the demand for earthly perfection.)
Or – as per the standard democrat – you merely want to get re-elected, and you really don’t care much what happens after you’re out of office. “That’s someone elses’ problem.”