Always Go Left
June 16, 2014

Always Go Left

An interesting gamer tradition/superstition I have recently taken note of, at least in my groups, is a certain logic for exploring that I cannot deny I find greatly amusing. Simply, it is the idea that if presented with multiple paths, such as in a dungeon, to always take the left-most path first. As I am often the Gamemaster, I have little say in which direction the players take when I offer them such a dilemma – as if I did, it would not be a cooperative story – and so I have watched the group time and time again traverse the left path first.

Now, I cannot deny that there is some semblance of logic in this process. By having it predetermined which direction you are going to go given having no greater knowledge about where you are or what you are doing, such as being in a maze or dungeon, then what this does is eliminate any tedious discussion regarding which path to take upon finding such a crossroads. It comes down to “if in doubt, go left.” After all, there is no reason NOT to go left. As far as the characters — and often the players — know, the left path has just as great a potential for both risk and reward as the right, so why not?

Recently though, this tendency came to stand out in the forefront of my mind while playing Dungeons & Dragons Online with a friend. We were using the logic of “always go left” while we explore the various dungeons and catacombs of the game — that is, until one particular dungeon in the Waterworks of Stormreach. Laughing about the whole “go left” idea, we went right instead. Soon, our characters found themselves surrounded by kobolds and grey slimes and we were both promptly killed, forcing us to restart the dungeon. So we did and, this time, when we arrived at that same point once more, we went left instead of right. That was when we found a rest shrine, an optional boss with a bountiful treasure chest ripe for the plundering, and the final objective for the current quest we were on.

Never again have we ever doubted the “always go left” policy.

Players create these sorts of in-game rules for themselves in order to overcome challenges that they know they will not have the answer for. By knowing that they will always go left first, they are dealing with the potential deliberations of which way to go before they actually get there. They are planning ahead for something most people would not think to plan for. Now, given, the “go left” rule only applies when no other factors are present. If one direction has some clear indication of danger, that will influence their decision, as will them having a map to look at and many other potential possibilities, but it remains a fairly solid standby.

Exploring dungeons is an iconic experience of fantasy role-playing games, and it is one that I find my players often seem to enjoy. There is just something about it that inspires wonder and excitement in gamers, and that is something I always enjoy bringing to the game table. So, the next time you find your character stuck at a crossroads, be sure to remember that one simple rule: always go left.

As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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