What Was Really Going On

Abraham is dreaming beneath the willow tree.

He dreams that he visits the house of a mysterious woman who tells his fortune. She does this by posing a series of questions that force him to choose between two virtues. Secretly, this is the process by which Ultima IV will determine Abraham’s class and starting town after a portal sucks him into Britannia.

The woman says,

“The LORD appears to you and says, “I am the Almighty God.” He offers to form an everlasting covenant with you if you willingly discard your foreskin.

Do you

(a) SACRIFICE your foreskin in order to build a stronger covenant with God, or
(b) Show HUMILITY by refusing, saying that your foreskin isn’t good enough for the Almighty God?”

Abraham looks down at his pants. He looks up. He thinks.

He selects (a).

The woman continues, saying,

“The LORD suggests to you that he will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, because the people there are wicked.

Do you

(a) Demand JUSTICE for any righteous men and women that the cities contain, or
(b) Marshal your VALOR and challenge God to a duel for the fate of the twin cities — and the world?”

Abraham does not want anyone associating him with places like that! He picks (a).

The woman continues, saying,

“You take your wife Sarah with you into a new land. The people there think your wife is pretty hot.

Do you

(a) HONESTLY confess that she’s your wife and that if anybody touches her God will make their wives barren and curse their family to everlasting sorrow, or

(b) Recognize that SPIRITUALLY all people are brothers and sisters and tell people that she’s your sister, not your wife?”

Abraham wants to be a ranger so he picks (b).

The woman nods sagely, and says,

“The King takes Sarah to wife, so naturally God makes his other wives barren, keeps him from touching her, and curses his family. The King comes to you, saying, ‘Gah!’ and flailing his arms around a lot. Do you:

(a) COMPASSIONATELY release him from the curse, or
(b) HONOR your wife by punching him in the nose and saying, “See, you should ask women before kidnapping them for your harem!” ?”

Abraham considers this. “It never hurts to help,” he points out.

“That’s true,” the woman says.

Abraham selects (a).

The woman looks into her crystal ball. She stares into the future. She says,

“You never expected that Sarah would bear you a son, so you slept with your slave Hagar and got a son on her. Then, bang, Sarah’s all fertile and you’ve got an heir and Sarah demands that you send Hagar and her son out into the desert to die.

Do you

(a) Treat Hagar and her son with JUSTICE, and tell Sarah, “No! Sending people off into the desert to die is mean!” or

(b) Listen to the voice of SPIRITUALITY, and send Hagar off to meet the reward God has planned for her?”

“That’s not even hard!” Abraham replies. “(b)!”

The woman says, “The future is becoming clear. There are two questions remaining. The King who had stolen your wife shows up. He wants a treaty. Do you

(a) SACRIFICE seven ewes to seal the deal, or
(b) Show COMPASSION and offer him seven ewes from your herd?”

Abraham pauses.

The woman looks at him.

“Those are the same answer,” Abraham says.

“It’s all about which virtue is in your heart,” says the woman.

“But it’s seven ewes!”

“Consequentialist,” sulks the woman.

“What if I’m showing both virtues?”

“You can only have one virtue at a time,” the woman says. “You’re not some kind of parallel virtue machine!

She’s a little peeved now.

Abraham grits his teeth. “Fine. (b).”

The woman gestures angrily over the crystal ball. She searches for a really nasty question to ask. Finally, she says, “God calls on you to take your son into the mountains and sacrifice him there.

Do you

(a) Heed the call of SPIRITUALITY and place your son upon the altar, or
(b) Show COMPASSION to your young son and substitute a large chunk of soap cunningly graven into your son’s image?”

Abraham thinks.

“I wanna be a ranger,” he says.

“Picking spirituality’ll get you ranger,” the woman concedes. “But compassion’ll get you bard!”

Abraham just looks at her.

“Bard?” he asks.

“Bards can frolic merrily,” she says.

“I see.”

Abraham’s hand hovers over the keyboard. He prepares to make his fateful choice. But what will it be?

Chirps the woman, “And sing jingles!

11 thoughts on “What Was Really Going On

  1. I just want you to know this made me laugh immoderately. It probably helps that I won Ultima IV, once upon a time.

  2. Don’t be a bard, Abraham! Iolo kicks ass. You definitely want him in your party.

    But then, so does [insert name of ranger NPC, which I have forgotten, here”>.

    Abraham should’ve gone for shepherd instead. (What peculiar alternate Judaism would result from that? Anyone who can envision it [I can’t, alas”>, please post it to an Audience thread!)

  3. This is really funny. And it allows me to immodestly imagine that it was partially inspired by my reincarnation-as-RPG-character-creation audience entry.

  4. There’s something about the feedback loop between author and audience that fills me with enormous joy, and this is a prime example… :)

  5. This story made me laugh so hard I almost spewed drinks all over my keyboard and monitor. An admittedly unpleasant image, but I greatly enjoyed this story :)

  6. This is just unspeakably perfect.

    (a) HONESTLY confess that she’s your wife and that if anybody touches her God will make their wives barren and curse their family to everlasting sorrow, or

    (b) Recognize that SPIRITUALLY all people are brothers and sisters and tell people that she’s your sister, not your wife?”

    Abraham wants to be a ranger so he picks (b).

    Hee hee! I always wanted to be a druid, which usually required giving some dubious answers too. The character creation sequence is one time when Richard didn’t exactly succeed in his stated aim of encouraging virtue.

  7. Well, White Wolf stole it for the Ordo Dracul supplement for Vampire: the Requiem, but other than that, I don’t think so.

    (The White Wolf version, interestingly, has a separate panel of questions used to rank the seven vices, as well as questions for the virtues.)

  8. Another entry in the already far-too-long list of favourites. I lol’ed (literally — I’m old-fashioned like that) at “Abraham wants to be a ranger so he picks (b).”

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