I’ve talked a lot about the things that set apart an adventurer from the rest of the crowd, and what makes a hero “different” from, uh, whatever the in-universe equivalent of a “muggle” is. When you consume a lot of media borne from the Heroic Fantasy genre, it’s amusing how inured you can be to daily acts of heroism.

Heroism lies in determination and pursuing a goal that isn’t necessarily your own. You can always take the goal upon yourself, as your own, but it has to exist in some form outside of you. Maybe no one else takes up the cause you become the hero of, and maybe you’re wrong, but the motivation must be both internal and external.

Creating causes for characters to follow in a roleplaying game can be difficult, because a majority of the game’s reward systems are based around individual achievements. Because you slew the dragon, you are privy to its hoard of gold. Characters strive primarily to achieve short-term, personal goals.

Which isn’t to say that heroism can’t be short-term, except maybe this is to say that it can’t be. Heroism, it seems, must be a habit. Whether we’re talking about heroes who champion those causes which are considered good, those that are considered self-serving, or those heroes, termed “villains,” who champion causes of evil.

Through thoughts and actions, one takes on a cause that is greater than oneself (ignoring Yoda’s commentary on the greatness of warriors and assume we’re talking about scope rather than validity). I think this is a great way to bring up game design concepts, like Arkham Horror’s Doom Track and Terror Level.

Each of these things represents the abstract forces of internal and external conflict. The Doom Track is the inevitable doom lurking on the boundaries of all society, like the Martian invasion from War of the Worlds, or the Black Death from history. The Terror Level represents both the individual’s and society’s struggles against itself.

Should the investigators survive their ordeals, they must then choose whether to continue pursuing the battle, or retire to relative obscurity.