Grant and Peter take a large tangent in our discussion about heresies in the early Church, and turn it into its own episode on creeds! We discuss the uses of creeds in the early Church (and in other organizations), with plenty of historical examples, and then break down some uses of player-made and GM-made creeds at the gaming table. Don’t forget to check the full show notes for a complete list of all the creeds, confessions, and fictional examples we mentioned in this episode!
“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” – C.S. Lewis
I was really intense as a younger gamer. I collected gaming books at a dizzying speed – enough to fill two bookcases, and I read them voraciously. My characters tended to be hard-as-nails, steely-eyed crusading types, often slightly ruthless and utterly inflexible. I wouldn’t dream of playing any alignment except Lawful Good (or maybe Lawful Neutral if I really wanted to give the bad guys what-for). My systems of choice were extremely crunchy and had lots of room for optimization, and I hung out on RPG forums a lot – first the old Pyramid boards, then the D&D forums over at Wizards of the Coast. Gaming consumed my life and defined me a great deal. Similarly, I was also a very intense and sadly very self-righteous Christian despite the knowledge of the planks in my own eye. I was quick to condemn the actions of others without context and without sympathy. My young man’s eyes flicked around constantly for some evil to smite whether I was in a fictional world or the real one, and it seemed like I never had to look far. With pretty much the singular exception of geekiness, I lived almost entirely in the “Christian bubble” and it’s not hard to picture my younger self standing there, arms crossed, scowling out at the outside world.
I was a pharisee. Truth be told, I still struggle with that aspect of myself. There is a part of me that wants to pass judgment and dispense justice. And while I now know that the Christian life is a call to compassion and mercy, there is a little part of me that would have probably been a distressingly-zealous Templar if I’d been born a few centuries ago. God (and other Christians) continue to work on me and I continue to get better little by little, though I still have a long way to go before I get even close to catching up to my role models.
Gaming, on the other hand, has been a much easier transition. I’ve discovered that black-and-white morality and hack-and-slash game play, while fun in moderate amounts, can make a game stale if that’s all it is, and my involvement in the larger community of gamers has introduced me to a lot of new systems and concepts that I’ve really come to enjoy. Back in my youth, I think I’d have balked at a system like Savage Worlds, because it doesn’t have the granularity and detail that my system of choice at the time, GURPS, has. I still like GURPS as a resource, by the way – my old GURPS books are some of the most frequently-referenced volumes on my gaming bookshelves, but I’ve also come to realize that the system definitely has some limits to it in play. Some of those limitations are accentuated by my adult life – I have a full-time job, a wife, and an assortment of other responsibilities (including this blog post) to fulfill, and I also have a broader range of interests than I had when I was younger, so not having to dump quite so much time into the prep work of gaming is really nice. Similarly, faster, less-granular systems with fewer fiddly bits actually get out of the way creatively and allow for more interesting decisions at the table rather than just in character creation. Gaming with other adults is also wonderful, if less-frequent and shorter in session length. As I’ve gotten older it’s also become more apparent how gaming and faith compliment and inform each other.
I think it’s funny that sometimes there’s a pressure to “grow out of” hobbies like gaming, because I think tabletop RPGs, more than any other hobby I have, have previously had, or can imagine having, benefit from the mellowing that comes with age and the the relationships adults make with each other. If you’re just starting out on your journey – in faith or in gaming – know that you have a lot to look forward to on the road ahead. Some things really do get better with age.
Grant and Peter kick off a new Historical Heresies series, analyzing heresies from the early Church! Without much additional news, we dive right into our Scripture and topic, starting with Adoptionism and Ebionism. Along the way, we explain what we hope our listeners can learn from this new series and what we hope they can use in their games. As always, feedback is appreciated—especially for a new series—so let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear in future episodes in the comments!
Also mentioned in this episode: Richard Beck’s book Unclean.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18
I did something new for me this past weekend: I went to a prerelease event for the new Magic: The Gathering set. Because I’m an introvert and a bit of a homebody besides, I went in with a little trepidation and got there fairly early so I could check with the owner of the hosting store about any etiquette or procedures I needed to observe. (In the event that you’re wondering, there’s not much – you need a DCI number, which is very easy to get signed up for at the store, and then you’ll play four best-of-three matches with a deck you make from six packs of the new set. Buy in was $20.) I went 2-2 overall, blowing out my first opponent, being blown out by my next two, and finally winning 2-1 against my final opponent. Folks were fairly nice, and I really enjoyed the experience, but I was nervous going in, and I’ve experienced a similar phenomenon at cons and when I’ve joined a new gaming group, so here’s what I’ve learned about making yourself a welcome presence in an unfamiliar gaming environment, whether it’s a CCG event, a con game, or the first few sessions with a new gaming group.
- Be helpful: I carry a multitool and a couple of good-quality ballpoint pens with me, primarily out of habit (I use both at work on at least a semi-regular basis) so when we got the prerelease kits handed out and people were fighting with the shrinkwrap, I opened the knife in the multitool and passed it around to folks near me. I did similar things with the pens all day. Whenever somebody near me asked if somebody had one, I lent them one of mine. I brought a lot more dice than I needed for tokens and counters and cheerfully lent them to my opponents if they needed them.
- Be prepared: It’s definitely easier to be helpful if you’ve got the tools to be. Bring writing utensils, dice, and scratch paper when you go to an unfamiliar gaming event and be ready to share them.
- Ask questions: If you’re at an unfamiliar event, ask the other participants if they’re more familiar with the goings-on than you, and if the answer is “yes” and they don’t seem eager to break off the conversation, ask them for advice. Most people like to demonstrate and share their knowledge, and most folks will be happy to assist in matters of gaming you if you ask. I find it’s best to start this early on before things really get rolling, but it’s generally better to ask than guess and do something that can cause problems if you’re unsure.
- Be humble: If you make a mistake, apologize and correct it, but also try to let it go as fast as possible. Getting gunshy after an accidental faux pas or play error is going to ruin the experience for you and will probably make others feel bad.
- Be presentable: Show up clean and groomed in clothes that are clean and in good condition. (And if you’ve got a cool geeky t-shirt you want to show off, this is most definitely the time!)
- Be a good sport: If what you’re playing is competitive, it is highly unlikely you’re going to win more than half the time. If it’s cooperative or collaborative like most RPGs, something will probably go wrong in the game. You’re going to blow an important die roll, miss a clue, etc. Taking setbacks graciously immediately makes you less threatening and more pleasant to game with. Likewise, if somebody else does something really good, acknowledge it and congratulate them! If you’re at a CCG event and somebody gets something really expensive or powerful in their pulls, suppress your envy and congratulate them, too. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep up a constant stream of conversation or be charming, but being gracious and polite goes a long way.
- Remember who you’re representing: If you’re a Christian, this has obvious implications: you want to model love, grace, and charity in an appropriate way at the event, but even if you’re not a person of faith, it’s worth remembering that your behavior helps contribute to the overall perception of gamers inside the community itself and potentially outside it.
- Have as much fun as you can wring out of the event without ruining anybody else’s: Regardless of the reason you’re there, whether you sought it out on your own or went with a friend, it’d be silly not to do all you can to enjoy yourself. If a hobby’s no fun, it’s not much of a hobby.
- And finally: Don’t talk yourself out of something you’ll enjoy just because you’re nervous!
Good luck out there folks! As always, I’d be interested in additions to this list, supporting or conflicting anecdotes, etc. I love reading your comments, so please, don’t hesitate to post them!
It’s a short episode this week—Grant was fighting a very unpleasant cold—but that didn’t stop Grant and Peter from discussing holy ground! First, reminders about The MacGuffin Factory and our upcoming casual listener Hearthstone tournament (post in the comments if you’re interested, and we’ll send you an invite—it starts September 28th), and some awesome news from Grant. Then we’re on to our Scripture and main topic, about what makes holy sites special and how to use them in your games. Also mentioned: Our third episode ever, on crusaders and Templars; and our show on iTunes, for those of you wanting to write reviews.
I was out working at a craft show with my wife all weekend and was up early for a 7am meeting at work today, so I’m a little beat, which means that I don’t have a lot of gas in the tank for a more contemplative blog post. however, that doesn’t mean I have nothing for you this week. Rather, I figured this would be a good time to list off some reference websites I’ve used in the past that can help with gaming.
Wikipedia: This one is so obvious that I almost didn’t include it on the list, but it’s also so useful that I felt like leaving it off the list would leave the list incomplete. WIkipedia has at least a little bit of information on just about everything, and is a solid jumping-off point for any sort of research you feel like doing. While it’s not always the most accurate source for serious research, that’s less of a concern for gaming purposes. If the author(s) of a given article have, for example, decided to print the legend rather than the history, as it were, that may even be better for gaming purposes. The other thing that’s great about Wikipedia is that it’s cross-linked, which means that following up on specific aspects of whatever it is that you’re researching is really easy.
Tvtropes: When Branden was still on the podcast, he would reference this website a lot, and with good reason. It’s a collection of tropes (defined on the site as: “devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations”) that is organized in a similar way to Wikipedia – cross-linked and separated by subject. Unlike Wikipedia, the tone of the writing is much less formal, but that doesn’t make the site any less wonderful as a resource. Simply looking up a favorite work (TV show, movie, or video game) from the front age will usually yield an entertaining firehose of content to drink from.
SCP Foundation: A site of fictional batches of weirdness, sort of similar to the old Warehouse 23 basement site that Steve Jackson Games used to have back in the day, but much, much larger. If you’re running any sort of campaign that needs weirdness of any sort and find yourself short on inspiration, it’s worth wandering over to SCP and browsing around for a bit. I have to give Grant credit for this one; he was the one who pointed me to the site in the first place.
Google Maps: If you’re running a game set in the modern world (+/- 50 years or so) Google Maps is your friend. The street view and satellite view options in particular are handy for finding interesting adventure locations and it’s useful to be able to find things like airports, natural wonders, major historical sites and so on when you’re running a modern game. Heck, it can even be handy to know where the railways are if you’ve got PCs who like to sneak onto trains in an urban fantasy game.
Online retailers: A lot of the time in modern or near-future games, I find that I want specific things that aren’t in the game books. Specialized tools, clothing, and electronics all have specs and costs associated with them, and place where you can buy those things will generally have that information in an easy-to reference format. Amazon is the big kahuna, but don’t overlook Galls (a company that supplies emergency services), American Science and Surplus (a company that sells little bits of everything and whose item descriptions are among the most delightfully-readable on the web) and Maker Shed (a site aimed at the Maker movement) for neat stuff PCs (particularly gadgetteers) will want.
System Resource Documents: The SRDs for Pathfinder, D&D 3.5, D20 Modern, and FATE are available online for your perusal. The Pathfinder and FATE ones in particular are really well-laid-out and easy to navigate.
And that’s it for this week’s reference library update. If you’ve got resources of your own that you use in your gaming, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Kyle Rudge of Geekdom House joins Grant and Peter to talk about a host of small, interesting, and interrelated topics! Geekdom House has a Kickstarter wrapping up for their lovely “Area of Effect” print magazine, which we completely neglected to plug until the very end of the show. Kyle’s not just here for that, though—he brought lots of fascinating things to talk about, like: Creating a geeky, mission-forward small group in his church; introducing that group to Dungeons & Dragons; his appearance on the “Faith and Gaming” panel at GenCon 2015 (which Mike Perna recorded and released over at Game Store Prophets); a Firefly-themed Bible study; taking a full amateur choir to Winnipeg’s Central Canada Comic Con; the tight-knit communities of fandom; Done the Impossible and The Guild; and characters who reflect ourselves. Plus, a quick plug for our Hearthstone listener tournament—let us know if you’re interested!
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:4
“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” -Wesley, The Princess Bride
It’s often said that the two certainties in life are death and taxes, but I’d humbly suggest that we’ll all become acquainted with pain long before we’re aware of the tax man. Pain is varied, it is all too common, and it is all too often ignored in our gaming experiences.
So much of the pain that colors our lives is relatively undramatic. A stubbed toe, a small disappointment, even the crushing blow of the sudden loss of a loved one or the nagging ache as you realize that your life will never be quite what you’d hoped – very few of these moments turn up in heroic fiction, and when they do, they are often tangential to the plot. This is not, however, true in our lives. A staggering number of us come from broken families,we all have regrets, disappointments, and illnesses. It is a part of the human condition that we will suffer in a multitude of ways, great and small, between the time when we enter this world and the time when we leave it, and often that pain changes us and shapes us in a variety of ways, and as with so many things, what defines us (and our characters) is not so much that we have pain, but what we do with it.
Some folks are crushed by their pain, retreating into bitterness or madness to escape it – in fact, this is a semi-canonical explanation for where The Joker came from. Crushed beneath the weight of “one bad day” he becomes a sadistic, insane madman, anxious and eager to share his pain with others. Others retreat from the world entirely, becoming hermits or even catatonic.
Others deny it or brush it off with exaggerated indifference. “It’s nothing to me.” Oftentimes this is a trap the immature fall into – seeing the very experience of pain as a weakness to be excised, or if that is impossible, at least denied or ignored. The problem with this approach is that pain is very persistent. It will eventually make itself known, and will reach a point where it can no longer be ignored.
Still others wallow in their pain, allowing it to define their experience. A lot of really good art gets made this way (everything from paintings to poetry to music) but being defined by misery and suffering this way robs people of happiness they could otherwise experience and strains relationships.
Finally, there are some who acknowledge their pain, but push through it. This is one of the better responses, and covers everything from working out to the artist pushing through rejection, to forging new relationships after the loss of a loved one. People treating their pain this way will often seek help with it, which is also healthy and can lead to a lot of growth. (For an interesting treatment of this concept, check out this TED Talk by Jane Mcgonigal.) It should probably go without saying that this last approach (and helping others with their pain) is the way we’re ideally expected to behave as Christians. The Apostle Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” in Romans (Romans 12:15) and scripture is thick with admonitions to help the poor, the sick, the needy, and those suffering (and there’s that word again: suffering) from all sorts of trouble.
Narratively, I think we leave a lot on the table when we boil our adventures down to a series of tactical puzzles (and this from somebody who would be unamimously voted “most tactically-minded” by at least his current gaming group and probably several previous ones). One of the things that made Grant’s successful Shadowrun game so great was that the PC group was very empathetic (at least by the standards of shadowrunners) – they were careful about the amount of pain they caused to innocent people, and seeing those same people in bad situations moved them to do something about it. Now in fairness – they also caused a fair amount of pain to those they felt deserved it, which was often the in-game manifestation of one of my real-world character flaws: a streak of viciousness that can pop out when I’ve conned myself into thinking it’s justified.
Pain, and our response to it, defines our character and our stories, and it should define our characters and their stories as well. The next time you sit down to make a character or play one, give some thought to how they respond to the hurt in their life and the lives around them, why they feel and act that way, and how that affects the story. And, if you’re anything like me, it may also be a good idea to repeat that exercise with yourself in the real world from time to time.
Kris and Katrina, hosts of the Gameable Pixar Podcast (formerly the Gameable Disney Podcast) join Grant and Peter in a special crossover episode on breaking established setting canon! Gameable Pixar just released a pair of episodes discussing The Prince of Egypt, and they invited Peter and Grant to join them in the second episode. They return the favor in this episode, where we discuss how to break canon in settings with high player investment—from Tolkien’s Middle-Earth to Biblical Egypt, Israel and Caanan.
If you want to give the Gameable Podcast a try, we suggest picking your favorite Disney or Pixar film and listening to Kris and Katrina discuss it in the relevant episode! They also particularly recommend their episodes on The Black Cauldron and The Nightmare Before Christmas as introductory episodes for interested gamers. To pick up with The Prince of Egypt, start with GPP’s Bonus Episode 9: The Prince of Egypt and follow up with Bonus Episode 10: The Prince of Egypt Discussion. They’re also on Twitter and iTunes.
I have a couple of disparate topics for this week’s blog.
First and foremost, we just recently wrapped up an exciting project with Kris and Katrina over at the Gameable Disney/Gameable Pixar podcast. We’ve crossed over with other podcasts before, but those have typically taken the form of a pair of one-episode “host loans” where one of us (usually Grant) does an episode of another podcast and one of them does an episode with us. Our most recent collaboration with the gameable podcast folks went a bit more in-depth than that. For starters, all four of us appeared on both of the crossover episodes, and the discussion centers around The Prince of Egypt by Dreamworks. The episodes of both podcasts are intended as companion pieces to each other and reference each other a bit. Be sure to catch both! As an additional aside, Kris and Katrina are both a pleasure to work with and just to associate with. We had Katrina on to talk about prophecy back in Episode 58, and we hit it off with her well. The interaction with both her and Kris was, if anything, even better. They’re both really great folks – friendly, smart, and full of both insights and humor. I’ve recommended their work so much by this point that some of you are probably tired of hearing it from me, but – tough. They do a really fantastic podcast, and especially if you like our tight, topical focus, you are doing yourself a legitimate disservice if you’re not listening to them, too.
CCGs and a Possible Event:
After our episode last week on collectible card games, we were contacted by a listener named Justin Lowmaster who expressed interest in setting up a StG community Hearthstone tournament. If you’re unfamiliar with Hearthstone, it’s Blizzard’s free-to-play digital CCG, available on most non-console platforms (including mobile devices.) More information on it is available here. Since Justin has done the work of coming up with the idea in the first place (something that neither Grant nor I did) I thought it was only fair to use the blog to gauge interest. So, how about it folks? Anybody interested in claiming a bracket slot in a Hearthstone tournament? I can promise that anyone who plays me will probably have a very easy go of it. I’m neither very good, nor very experienced, nor do I have much of a card collection in Hearthstone. Grant, on the other hand, is a very different story. Watch out for him, no matter how much he downplays his skill and resources. He’s humble, but he is also wily.
In other CCG-related topics – is anyone else out there excited for any of the upcoming Magic: the Gathering releases? I know I’m pretty stoked about both the Battle for Zendikar set coming out in October and the new Commander decks being launched in November. I talk about Magic fairly regularly on Facebook and have even entertained the idea of doing a series of posts about it over on my personal blog, so keep an eye out for news of that if I ever manage to get it started.
And that’s all I’ve got this week. As usual, please comment on this if anything strikes your interest, especialy that Hearthstone tournament. If we can get a decent-sized group of folks together to do that, it would be a fun community bonding exercise.