"Every moment you have is a victory against death, and it is a treasure. Even when the moment is painful and regrettable, it is greater than the absence of life. Celebrate the victories and honor the treasures. Live fully. Live well."
I was uncertain why I was initially drawn to the Order of the Veil in Fifth Gate. When I was a freshman in college, I died my hair black and indulged heavily in the late 80's Goth scene. I grew out of it for it seemed hypocritical and pretentious. It seemed easy to become infatuated with death while young. I did not blame those who where drawn into the curious morbidity. Death is a primary motivator in life, and something worth contemplation and fascination. It was more that I did not connect with it. Not really.
So why now, on the cusp of my 46th birthday, did I take on a role that is the refined extract of my mope-tastic late 80's playlists?
It is hard for me to say precisely. The Egyptian themes do tie in with the environment from Shadows of Amun, but that is hardly enough. I am not a huge Egyptologist, despite my character's name (REN - the soul's name). Initially, I was considering the possibility of an exception to the order, a well-adjusted member. But with the order background, that wasn't an option, and still I was intrigued and determined to play this character. I thought, perhaps, I would be reliving some of my youthful fascination.
On the other side of the first event, it was much more. Dwelling in loss, in the absence of life and joy, existing as a ghost looking in on the waking world... ...there is mourning I must do. I mourn the loss of myself, and it is something I needed space to do.
I understand that I am not yet truly aged, but I feel as though I am approaching the threshold of my winter years. I think in our society we have difficulty acknowledging this transition. We celebrate and idolize youth. We cater to it and preserve it within ourselves. We compliment people on their ability to remain ageless. We try to deny our advancing years. It is a form of insanity. It is also something I have internalized.
I was young and I lived well. I loved deeply. I laughed loudly. I played with enthusiasm. I felt deeply. I contemplated with sincerity. Much of that life has passed. By my estimation, at best, I have lived half my life. It has been good, bad, dull, glorious, painful, charitable, mirthful... ...so many things, and it is largely past. The world I walk through today is not the many times I have lived before. Friends are gone - passed elsewhere to other lives, changed by circumstance, or dead. The pillars of my past are the acquaintances of today, and a once fond acquaintance is my bedrock, my wife. I have passed through many versions of my life and cannot be those lives again. Time eats it all.
Part of me is much like Ren. I look outward and past a Veil looking back at life and knowing it is all gone and more will be gone. Strangely enough, this game allows me to dwell in that space - that observation - in a way I do not allow myself in life. Renfield has died - given up everything and become a tool to ensure the life of others. He feels nothing, but looks out on life and knows it is worth the loss. He is in a constant mourning, and all too familiar with everything that he can no longer have. The aspects of my youth that are further from my reach, or simply not possible for him.
And he celebrates this. To him the life he looks on is not a loss, but a validation of everything that has been and everything he is. He became what he is to defend life itself. Frequently other characters talked about how beautiful the day was, or the area, in a way of consolation for the emotional difficulties presented in the game. Looking out on the most beautiful spring day imaginable (we had such blessed weather) I knew Ren could not actually feel it - he was beyond such appreciation. He recognized warmth and sun and trees... ...but all of it was alien to him as he was alien to life. I did not immediately know how Ren would respond. Finally, after grappling with this on several instances I came to this decision. "It is beautiful. I do not understand this beauty, but it is life, and I know that life is worth everything."
This odd focus on life from beyond life is why I chose this role, I think. I had a panic moment in game because I made a chump mistake. I got a magic item from the kickstarter and we were able to chose which one we wanted. Beyond a nifty small bonus power, each item also carried some personal plot identifier with it. I looked them over and decided to take the undead-sounding one from the corpse-born without double checking the background information. In game, it suddenly hit me, the corpse-born hate the undead. How the heck was I going to explain that?
Well, the group hates the undead because (at least on the surface) they believe that existence is a process of earning life. Philosophically, my character is in live with them. While he does not despise his order of heroic undead, he does loathe the way he must exist - the constant self-horror. He does not blame them for loathing him. Some part of him feels he, and his order, deserves this. So, in my mind I created the scene;
During the war, Ren was fighting with a number of the Veiled against the Ebon Order, and the Corpse-Born ridiculed them from the distance while the Veiled were losing ground and getting cut down. Then, having felled the Veiled, the Ebon Order turned their attention to the Corpse-born and began destroying them. Renfield managed to revive himself and healed those of his Order still in existence and rallied them to save the corpse-born who has treated them with jeers and loathing. He personally healed, many of the corpse-born. He and the other Veiled made sure they and could retreat before the unstoppable force.
But this heroism was not the reason Ren earned their respect. When one of the oler corpse-born asked Ren why he had done such a thing, Ren replied, "I exist purely to serve life. You do not respect us, but you are alive and worth preserving. I would rather cease to be than see life die." It was with this answer that he was given the token of respect from the corpse-born.
Ironically, a simple mistake that caused a bit of confusion helped me define him. Ren is first and foremost a healer. He chose to give up life that it might be preserved. He can not experience the thing he cherishes most, and all other joys - love, delight, indulgence, decadence, humor - these too have been banned. He sits past his life... and he is old, as this game allows players to be capable and physically sprightly despite their age.
Being there, being ancient, and past life... it is something I need to celebrate as I stand on the threshold to my Autumn years and Winter. I am not a young man. I will be an old man. I have seen a lot of life. Life is the cause for itself.
Already, this game is emotionally challenging and deeply philosophic. I am sincerely looking forward to where this game is headed.