Episode 90: The First Council of Nicaea (Historical Heresies 5)


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After answering a short, fun, and humorous Patreon backer question, Grant and Peter dig into one of the most fascinating, important, and gameable events in all of church history: the First Council of Nicaea. In addition to establishing a lot of church orthodoxy that has lasted to the present day, it also gave us the Nicene Creed, and it was a unique and fascinating event in the history of the world.

Note: Listeners wanting full context for this episode should listen to Episode 89, “Arianism” first, as it provides a lot of the background for the events we cover in this episode.

Links:
The Nicene Creed
The Elenium, by David Eddings
Our Patreon

Scripture: Isaiah 40:12, John 1:1-5

 


A Quick Note on Episode 91’s Audio Quality

You’ll probably notice that I sound a little tinnier and more distant in episode 91 than I normally do. Audacity picked up my webcam instead of my much-nicer normal microphone and we didn’t catch it until the show was being edited.

The good news is that since this was a more scholarly show, Grant’s track, which is fine, takes up more of the minutes than mine.

I have since unplugged the offending webcam, so this shouldn’t be something you (or we) will have to worry about in the future. Sorry folks!


Go Time

I have a confession to make, one that could potentially cost me my nerd card: I have zero personal interest in Pokemon Go. I’ve never gotten into the series in any form; I think I’m probably just too much of an old man and I also find virtually every anime or anime-influenced thing that’s targeted at children to be grating (the single, and noteworthy, exception being Avatar: The Last Airbender). Then again, I felt the same way about Power Rangers when I was the demographic. I have always been a little stiff in my entertainment choices, I suppose.

So it may come as something of a surprise that I wholeheartedly support the existence of Pokemon Go and I’m happy it was released. It’s giving couch potatoes a fun way to get some exercise. It’s giving lonely people an excuse to go out in public and a convenient icebreaker to engage with strangers (other players). I saw it used as an icebreaker at the M:tG “Eldritch Moon” prerelease last weekend. Young gamers and old gamers and gamers of all seriousness levels and demographic groups are discovering they have something in common, and that’s all absolutely magnificent. Heck, people who were never gamers are becoming them, which is great!

But it’s also doing something else important: it’s basically giving the church a do-over for the Satanic panic of the 80s and 90s, at least where gamers are concerned. And to my surprise and delight, the church is actually embracing the opportunity.  Churches are setting up charging stations and putting out water for people playing the game. It’s not a huge thing, just some simple acts of hospitality and kindness, but for those who grew up dealing with what must have felt like monolithic disapproval of their hobbies and interests, it’s a fantastic first step. I even saw a meme (that I can’t find, frustratingly) of Jesus’s “I will make you fishers of men” converted to “I will teach you to catch people,” which might seem a bit irreverent…  …until you think about it a bit and realize it really is just a modern re-skinning of the same message (applied to leisure rather than work, but otherwise basically the same).

So in light of all of that, I can’t help but be happy about the existence of Pokemon Go, and I think if you’re at all interested, it’s definitely a good thing to participate in. Anything that helps us humanize our fellow humans is especially welcome in our divisive age, and that’s roughly a thousand times truer in a US election year. Anything that gives us a harmless cultural touchstone and another bunch of analogies to talk about God with is also a good thing.

And yes, I know there has been some backlash from some churches and Christian media figures, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the whole “Dark Dungeons” era, and as we discussed with Chris Ode in Episode 88, there’s always going  to be some of that. There have always been those that felt that whatever The Bible/Christianity/their particular denomination doesn’t explicitly permit, it forbids, and I seriously doubt we’ll ever see the end of that particular mindset completely. I also know that there have been a few isolated tragedies where something bad happened to a player, but on the whole, the experience has been a good one for both the individuals and society.

So even though it’s not my thing, I’m really, actively, and legitimately happy the game is out there. I can’t understand Grant’s love of craft beer, either, but that didn’t stop me and my wife from picking up an assortment of regional craft beers from our part of the country to take with us when we visited him and his wife last fall. If you, unlike me, enjoy the aesthetic, I think it’s wonderful that it’s (Pokemon) Go time.

(Featured image courtesy of mobipicker.com.)

Episode 89 – Arianism (Historical Heresies 4)


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Grant and Peter Tackle an interesting Patreon supporter question about sandbox games and then move in to the very meaty and historically-important topic of Arianianism, a Christological heresy named after a guy who didn’t come up with it, and also responsible for the first council of Nicea.

Links: Our Patreon page, Episode 70: Adoptionism and Ebionism

Scirpture: Proverbs 8:22-23, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6


The Classics are Classic for a Reason 2

For the first time ever with the particular gaming group I’m in, we’re doing Dungeons & Dragons. Grant has been wanting to try out the 5e rules and it didn’t take any arm-twisting to the get the remaining three of us on board. This is going to be the colonization game that Grant has alluded to on the show, which is a neat idea to begin with, and we’re going to be doing a more Renaissance-era game than a medieval one to go with the idea of exploration and colonization, but it’s still going to be D&D.

There’s a reason why D&D and its progeny such as Pathfinder, 13th Age and the entire OSR movement continue to have staying power – the basic gameplay feedback loop of dungeon crawling, fantasy (whatever its level), and leveling up is so much fun that it’s spawned entire genres of digital representations. Everything from roguelikes, to various types of traditional cRPG, to Diablo and the Dark Souls games have their roots in various flavors of D&D. There’s a lot of fun and excitement to be gained from battling monsters and collecting treasure.

But there’s also something else that’s cool about this type of game: Character creation is front-loaded. Because you pick a class (or two) and then follow it from there, the possibility exists to define more about who your PC is and who they will become in a D&D style game than in something more open-ended like GURPS or Savage Worlds. A class gives you a predefined role to play and as such, it gives you a lot of room to think about how you’ll go about coloring that particular archetype in the campaign. And because of that, I’ve been sitting here entertaining a number of possibilities.

I’ve been thinking about a tiefling paladin/rogue that’s basically an investigator and advocate for the religion he serves and looks like Judge Frolo but acts much more like the bishop in Les Miserables. I’ve been thinking about a wizard, ranger, or wizard/ranger that’s basically the benevolent hermit that lives in the woods and keeps an eye out for the safety of the town(s) he lives near. I’ve been thinking about a wizened, kindly old Celtic-style druid, about a tough old man-at-arms (fighter) who will train the colonists in how to keep bandits and wild beasts at bay with spear and palisade, about the cleric of a sea god on the ship as a hedge against the dangers of the long voyage, and that was just TODAY. (Grant floated the D&D idea on Saturday evening when we wrapped up our Rogue Trader micro-campaign.)

The classics are classics for a reason. Gygax and Arneson definitely managed to bottle lightning when they made D&D, and while it has benefitted from refinement over the years, it’s telling that most of the successful refinements have been ways to make it more like itself. I love all kinds of different RPGs, but I never want to reach the point where I sneer at D&D and turn my nose up at it. Much like cheesecake, I don’t want nothing BUT it all the time, but if I never got a chance to have it again, I would definitely be sad.


Episode 88 – Dark Dungeons and Lingering Pain (with Rev. Chris Ode) 1


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Rev. Chris Ode joins Peter and Grant in a very personal episode this week! Chris is a Lutheran pastor, and an actor and religious consultant for Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. We cover a lot of ground in this discussion, including: Zombie Orpheus’s new project, “Attacking the Darkness” (Kickstarting now!); ZOE’s “Dark Dungeons” movie (an adaptation of the original anti-D&D Chick tract); the lingering effects of Dark Dungeons and other anti-RPG material on the Church, gamers, and gaming; scapegoating; and our own Patreon campaign. (We’re on Patreon now—check out the video for more information!)

Also mentioned in passing:

Scripture: Isaiah 44:22, 2 Corinthians 3:17, Ephesians 4:31-32


Patreon and a Change of Heart

As you read this, our Patreon is live! If you’re interested in backing us, we’d love for you to do so, but I need to stress this up front: If we don’t get a single penny of Patreon backing, the show will continue to come out every two weeks like it has been for the last four years. We’ll continue to maintain our social media presence, and these bi-weekly blog posts will also continue. We are not in need of funds to maintain the status quo, and if all you can do to help us out is listen – that’s awesome, we thank you, and that is more than enough. Your listening support and the occasional bit of contact via our website or social media presences is plenty to keep us going indefinitely.

However, if you are so inclined, you can now support us financially, too. “But Peter,” you might say, “you at Saving the Game have always resisted taking money from listeners. Why now? What’s changed?” The short answer to that is “my mind.” You see I, Peter, have been the major road block on the road to taking donations.

(more…)


Episode 87 – Healing and Injury


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Grant and Peter take a few moments to catch up on-air, and then discuss two exciting upcoming projects: Game to Grow and our upcoming Patreon campaign, before discussing a surprisingly meaty topic: Healing and Injury. The discussion that follows touches on both the gaming-related and spiritual aspects of healing and injury and also discusses why you should be sure to remember that hospitals exist as more than just hit point dispensers in your games.

Links:
Game to Grow
Gameable Pixar Podcast
John Q
Spoon Theory

Scripture: Isaiah 58:11, Matthew 11:2-6, Luke 14:1-6


Impostor Syndrome and Angry God Theology 3

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Mark 9:24 (KJV)

As we mentioned recently on the podcast, I started a new job a little under a month ago. And as often happens to me in new situations, that newness brought a fair bit of anxiety with it. One day in particular felt especially bad after a bunch of random things went wrong (in retrospect, most of them completely out of my control) and had me seriously questioning whether I should have made the transition at all. The next day, I casually asked my new boss if I was doing okay, and the swiftness and enthusiasm of his assurance that I was was a huge relief.

I suffer from “Impostor Syndrome,” a fairly common mental/emotional problem that isn’t an actual mental illness, but nonetheless manages to keep me up at night on occasion. (For those unfamiliar with it, this page veers close to being “too true to be funny.”) My particular flavor of it comes with a little extra wariness of authority figures and a strong inclination to disavow my expertise on virtually anything. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ll probably come to notice that I pepper both my writing and speech with a lot of qualifiers. Some of this is a desire to be clear in my communication, but oftentimes the message I’m trying to be clear about is “I don’t claim to know more than I do, please don’t be angry with me.” It has led to feeling intimidated by exceptionally kind, decent people like some of the folks we’re participating in Game to Grow with – and that is completely absurd. But this is a normal part of my life. I manage it, I try to leaven it with self-awareness, I get encouragement from good friends, and I try to work around it. And credit where credit is due – during my latest and most intense bout with impostor syndrome, Grant was the one with the fastest and most valuable advice for me. I never really considered it in a theological context.

At least, I didn’t until a couple of my friends on Facebook shared an article called The Faceless White Giant that dealt with, among other things, the writing of none other than Jack Chick of Dark Dungeons fame. That, combined with me catching up on my COR sermon listening, particularly the one from April 17, and the concept of Christ as a colander, resulted in something that may or may not have actually been an epiphany, but it sure felt like one.

At times in my life, I have done what can be described as “clinging to my faith with bloody fingernails.” My faith is not something I want to give up, but even as a practicing Christian, sometimes I can find it hard to believe. Love and forgiveness for me – knowing what I’ve done in my life and just how it has hurt people – seems a little “out there.” (Although the concept of Hell can be all too easy to accept in my darker moments, in those same moments, the very concept of Heaven can seem absurd.) At least some of the “Angry God Theology” out there (and certainly my own struggles with it) is at least partially a form of spiritual impostor syndrome.  Just as I sometimes find it hard to believe that my boss at work is satisfied with or even willing to tolerate my performance, I can run into a similar trap with God. It is hard to imagine (for me) a God who is willing to forgive and embrace, but in Jesus’s character, that’s exactly what we see.

Which is, somewhat ironically, one of the things that enables me to hold onto my faith. The God I believe in is every bit as alien and unknowable in His nature as some of the creations of people like H.P. Lovecraft (stay with me!) – it is so easy for us as humans to envision cosmic forces as being malevolent or callously indifferent to us. God as He is described in scripture is vast and cosmic beyond our ability to perceive or conceptualize. When Moses asked the burning bush who was sending him, God’s reply was to tell them that “I AM” was. One interpretation of that statement is “I am existence itself.” Not everything, not the universe, but the very concept of existence. Talk about cosmic and incomprehensible.

And yet the essential nature of this incomprehensibly vast, powerful being is one of tender love and compassion for the lowly and the broken. We as humans tend to imagine powerful and vast things as nasty and dangerous. Lovecraft and his ilk are popular in part because even though what they write about is awful and terrifying, it feels like it’s probably accurate on some level. The idea that the primal cosmic force out there not only cares about us, but is willing to sacrifice so deeply to show it – that strains the limits of believability. It seems far-fetched, too good to be true. And the fact that it’s so hard to believe is one of many things that convinces me that it’s worth believing. It is not something we humans would come up with – it is outside of our frame of reference.

This will not, I’m sure, convince anyone who has lost their faith to take it up again, and I’m even more certain that it won’t convince those who never had it in the first place to develop it now. But if you’ve struggled to hang onto a faith that can be hard to grasp at times like I have, and particularly if your own guilt has been making your grip falter, it’s my sincere hope that this gives you another handle. We need to accept the good, despite how unlikely it seems.

Truth, as they say, can be stranger than fiction.


Episode 86 – Callings and Changes


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Grant and Peter discuss Peter’s new job, Grant’s new hobby, and the impact those sorts of life changes and callings can change the inner lives of your characters, how they can be reflected (or not) mechanically, and how they can affect the way your game progresses.

Links:
One Shot’s Tenra Bansho Zero (episode 1)
Tenra Bansho Zero
Bob Ross Official YouTube Channel

Scripture: 2 Samuel 5:5-8, Matthew 4:18-22