"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. "
– Joseph Campbell

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. In many other countries, it is known as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day. In commemoration, there will be parades, ceremonies, and even free meals and drinks (albeit non-alcoholic).

It hasn’t always been this way, but veterans and serving soldiers (including airmen, marines, sailors, coast guard, etc) are considered heroes.

Why is this? What makes a hero?

It has been said that nearly every soldier has written a blank check to their country, not knowing if or when that check will be cashed, and for how much.

Heroes aren’t people with supernatural abilities, or clever one-liners, or a spiffy set of tights. Heroes aren’t even defined by a uniform. Heroes risk everything for something bigger than themselves. A soldier who fights for his buddies (more). A lady who refuses to sit at the back of the bus. A man who literally embraces death rather than see it tear into his village.

Heroes take risks.

That makes sense, you say, but what does this have to do with RPGs and GMing? 

Glad you asked. Not to minimize the very real heroism on display every day around the world, but the relationship between risk and heroism is something to remember as we game. Without risk, our games are not truly heroic.

Pressure makes diamonds.

A reward not truly earned is not truly a reward.

So when the fight turns ugly, and the heroes begin to fall, do not let up. The small risks we take in gaming (imaginary cataclysms, rolling up new characters, etc) are nothing when compared with those taken by real heroes. Remove the risk, and you reduce the hero to little more than an actor in a sit-com.

Agree? Disagree? Got any other stories of heroes to share? Sound off in the comments and let us know!