Sick Days for the Gaming Group

It’s one of the unfortunate facts of life that where there are young children, there also will be illness, especially once those children start heading off to places where other young children are. Church nurseries, preschools, and elementary schools are, despite the best efforts of the adults working at them, going to be excellent places for children to share new and exciting varieties of the flu, the common cold, ear and sinus infections and a whole host of other ways that children get sick. And then, because children are often on the cutting edge of the whole getting sick scene, they often bring their illnesses home to share with their families, who, having antibodies that are really altogether passé, do the fashionable thing and get sick too. I mean you have to keep up with the times, right? The coughing, sneezing, nauseous, fever-running, rash-covered, achy-jointed times. Only the most modern germs will do for the young family that was on the go until the illness du jour laid them all out.

Yeeeeaaaah. Good times. Oh wait, the exact opposite of that.

In case it wasn’t obvious, Grant, his wife, and their kids have been sick for the last couple of weeks, which quite understandably has meant we haven’t been gaming. We did, however, do something last Saturday night. This is going to be another one of those practical posts about gaming as an adult which those of you who are in high school or college probably won’t get a whole lot of mileage out of – yet – but it will be good to store away for future usage.

The first week of the illness, we just straight-up canceled. Everyone was completely wiped out, and the Woodwards just needed to rest. Last Saturday, though, despite the persisting illness, Grant reached out to the rest of us and we had a short call at the same time our game normally would have been, it was just over much faster. We did this partly just to say hello and to allow the other player and me to hear that the Woodwards were still alive, but we also wanted to maintain our momentum as much as we could without actually doing a full session, and we also wanted to set ourselves up for success as much as possible next week. It worth mentioning beforehand that this sort of thing is often seen as the death knell of a game and it really needn’t be. Illness is going to happen, particularly if anyone in the families of your gaming group is under 16 or over 60, and just like work or school, you’ll occasionally need to take a sick day, but also like work or school, it should be somewhat expected and there should be plans in place, though you’ll obviously never be thrilled to implement them.

Here’s how the specifics of that broke down:

First of all, we did give ourselves a few minutes to just let the sick people get some sympathy and catch up a little as friends. There is definitely at least a minor thread of thinking in the gaming community that all gaming time must be about the game. I don’t subscribe to that thinking and furthermore, I don’t even try to. You obviously want to get to the game in relatively short order, but if you’re fortunate enough to be gaming with friends, go ahead and catch up a bit before gaming or in a meeting like this one. It’ll help you focus better later, and you’ll deepen your friendships too.

Once we finished with that (which only took about 10 minutes because, hey, sick people) we came to a consensus as to what we wanted to do next week when the session starts back up. Grant left us with one minor and two major adventure hooks hanging out there:

We’d just arrived on an island populated by cautious, but not hostile, lizard people. They have a couple of wounded (the minor hook) that aren’t healing properly because…
The island has ancient, mysterious ruins on it that apparently have things that make sure you STAY hurt when they hurt you but there’s also…
A couple of Kenku (a group we’re already sympathetic to) that have been captured by nasty frog people slavers the next island over.

We put our heads together as a group and determined that my cleric, Lambert (who is the informal leader of the group as far as the group is concerned and the formal, established leader of the group as far as the colonial leadership is concerned) would want to heal the wounded and then save the enslaved Kenku before checking out the ruins. The other PCs might want to do things in a different order if it was up to them, but they tend to follow Lambert’s lead when it comes to these sorts of things. When then determined that we had our plan and would stick to it next week, thereby cutting down substantially on the list of things Grant has to prepare for.

By having that conversation in advance, we also skipped the entire first part of the session that often happens in games where the players, about half in-character and half out-of-character, sit around and deliberate for roughly eighteen times longer than the decision merits about which way to go while the GM, vibrating with frustrated anticipation, looks at their notes full of awesome stuff for the party to encounter once they JUST PICK SOMETHING ALREADY.

So while we didn’t get a full gaming session in, taking a few minutes to meet anyway and plan where it’ll go will allow us to hit the ground at a full sprint next week, and that should serve us well in making up lost time.

This week’s featured image is from Yuki Shimazu, used under Creative Commons.

Episode 106 – Limiting Evil

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After over two years as a two-person show, Saving the Game is proud to announce our new permanent host Jenny Dickson! This is her first episode, and she’ll be joining us going forward.

The episode starts off with an introduction of Jenny and then moves into our Patreon question about hacks and drifts, and then the three of us dig into our main topic: limiting the evil of villains in games. We cover why to do it, how to do it, and what effects it has on the story you’re telling.

Scripture: Exodus 5:6-8, Judges 3:13-14Revelation 3:14-19

High-Heel-Face Turn on tvtropes.org
Star Wars in Traveller
The Fugitive
Episode 17: Lines and Veils


Turbulence at the Light End of the Gray Scale

In the upcoming Episode 106 there is some mention of “shades of gray” not just meaning the darker end of the spectrum. And then today I ran across an article titled Democracy and the Demonization of the Good by Richard Beck. While the article is primarily inspired by thoughts about political discourse, the combination of the “light end of the spectrum” and that article has gotten me thinking about virtue and the ways in which good people can come into conflict.

Sometimes conflict happens because one side is evil, or both of them are. The classic examples of fighting Nazis, hunting serial killers, and tracking down thieves and crooked businessmen or politicians all apply, as do the ones of war in the underworld, either figuratively (as you’d see in a campaign with rival gangs fighting) or, heck, even literally in some games. But oftentimes, it’s not because one party or the other is monstrous. Some of the most awful and brutal conflicts in all of history were fought, not because of cruelty or wanton malice, but because of obligations, bad information, and poor communications. World War One, arguably the most horrific and brutal conflict in all of human history, was fought not over clear-cut moral grounds, but because of obligations, strategic calculations, poor communication technology, and a host of other factors that had nothing to do with evil at the start. There would be plenty of evil after it started, but aside from a single assassination that started the dominoes falling, there’s not a lot one can look at in the lead-up to the war with a terribly condemning eye if one is at all interested in being fair, especially with the distance that history provides. (Hardcore History and Extra History each did their own excellent muti-part series on WWI. I recommend consuming both.)

A bit closer to home, the Church in the US in particular is divided on a number of contentious issues, which has left sincere people of faith on both sides struggling to reconcile some of the differences that have come to the fore, and in fact if you look at Church history, this is nothing new. Religious schisms and conflicts are littered throughout the history of the church. We touched on one of the more dramatic events stemming from this in out Historical Heresies series when we talked about the First Council of Nicaea.

This is a contentious topic and one that gets people angry in a hurry. It can be difficult just to talk about in a civil way. Why would anyone want to game about this?


The value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity. -C.S. Lewis

Okay, so C.S. Lewis has provided the “why” but what about the “how?”

It isn’t hard to imagine how evil winds up in fights. Caring either only for itself or for some sinister goal, evil has nothing to lose from conflict and is perfectly happy to escalate matters as far as is necessary for it to triumph, consequences be hanged. Good, on the other hand, usually only gets mixed up in fights when something important is threatened, but that’s not usually the entirety of it. If you want to bring two good people or groups into conflict, here’s at least one way it can start.

  1. Good, as previously-mentioned, only tends to get involved in conflicts to protect or preserve something important. For example: in our D&D game, the party is planning to confront a hag who has struck a bargain that will cost a young couple their firstborn. This is a major threat to innocent life, something that’s definitely worth preserving. So to have a seed of conflict at all, you need to create a situation that threatens something one of your good sides cares about.
  2. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’re going to need to set it up so the only solution that the side feeling threatened can see to their problem will imperil something important to another good group. Side note: using Moral Foundations Theory can help keep this from feeling too forced or cheesy. If one side’s Care actions threaten another side’s Purity ones or vice versa… …you’ll have a conflict that will feel very familiar to anyone who pays attention to politics.
  3. At some point, someone is going to have to assume the worst in someone on the other side, and then they’re going to have to do something that makes the other side assume the worst too.
  4. Someone needs to escalate.
  5. Congratulations, you have a conflict.

And this is about the point at which the player characters should probably come in. To use this type of conflict to its fullest potential, it’s probably best to make the sides roughly equal in how sympathetic they are. The conflict will probably be thorny, resistant to easy solutions, and exhausting to resolve if the GM has done their homework, but if the PC group manages to pull it off, the resolution will be extremely satisfying. It is worth noting that all of these same traits mean this is probably best as a sometimes thing rather than a constant theme in your games, but if what we’ve said for four-plus years about games being good moral practice is at all something you agree with, this seems like a particularly good type of practice to be getting these days.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Matthew 5:9

This week’s featured image is from Agelshaxe and is used under Creative Commons.

Episode 105 – Exploration

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Grant and Peter are back to talk about exploration as a major feature in RPGs! First, a bit of sad news from Peter; then, we spend a bit of time talking about Grant’s Fellowship game, and how strange the system feels to him. We also answer a fun question from Patreon backer Jim, who asks what little, almost insignificant feature factors into our decision-making when we buy cars.

After our Scripture readings, we delve deep into our main topic, discussing why exploration is fun and why it matters; what sorts of characters might be motivated to explore unknown territory; how to set up random or incidental encounters so that they don’t feel artificial; a brief discussion of hex crawls; and sources of inspiration for wilderness and exploration encounters.

This episode topic was selected by our Patreon supporters, who bring you this show every two weeks and help us make the show better. If you’d like to help support us on Patreon, you can do so here. Thanks, folks—we really appreciate your support!

Mentioned in this episode: The /r/ImaginaryLandscapes subreddit; Ball’s Pyramid; the SCP Foundation wiki; and Cordyceps fungi.

Scripture: Genesis 13:14-15Mark 16:15

Episode 104 – Naming and Renaming

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In this episode, Grant and Peter discuss naming characters and renaming characters! We kick things off with a conversation about the games Grant’s playing right now—Pugmire, Fellowship, and No Thank You, Evil!—and attempt to answer a question from Patreon backer Rich about play-by-post gaming. Then after quite a lot of Scripture (and really, it’s a small sampling of what could have been used for this particular topic) we start in on the difficult art of naming your character: Why it’s so difficult, what goes into a character’s name, and different ways to come up with the right name. Then, we discuss renaming characters—an underutilized dramatic tool for both players and game-masters. That segues into additional names for characters, and when these new names might be added. Finally, we wrap up with a brief discussion on the weight of a name.

The sermon Grant mentioned as inspiring this topic—and a much weightier topic to come—can be found here. Again, we strongly recommend listening to it! Special thanks to Rev. Justin Cazel.

Scripture: Genesis 17:3-6, Genesis 41:50-52, Isaiah 62:1-2, Matthew 1:20-21, Matthew 16:17-18, Acts 13:6-11, Revelation 2:17

STG 103 – Fitness for Gamers, Part 2 (with Kimi, Chris, and Krissi)

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We’ve got THREE guests crowding around the mics this week to continue with part two of a special episode on personal fitness! Kimi (cosplayer, tabletop gaming podcaster, weightlifter, gym owner, and former personal trainer), Chris (media professional, tabletop gaming podcaster, filmmaker, and former personal trainer) and Krissi (gamer, stay-at-home mom, and licensed Zumba instructor) all join us to put personal fitness into a gamer-friendly context. They (along with Grant and Peter) discuss nutrition, sleep, stress reduction, willpower, and more!

Be sure to catch the first half of this episode if you missed it, where we talked about our own fitness journeys, why exercise and physical health matter, unfocused and focused exercise, and setting goals.

Special thanks to all our guests for joining us for a long recording session and providing so much helpful information. For more information about our guests and their projects, as well as where to find them online:

Scripture: Proverbs 16:3, Isaiah 40:31, Colossians 3:23, Philippians 2:1-4

Episode 103 – Fitness for Gamers, Part 1 (with Kimi, Chris, and Krissi)

Download this episode (right click and save)

We’ve got THREE guests crowding around the mics this week for part one of a special episode on personal fitness! Kimi (cosplayer, tabletop gaming podcaster, weightlifter, gym owner, and former personal trainer), Chris (media professional, tabletop gaming podcaster, filmmaker, and former personal trainer) and Krissi (gamer, stay-at-home mom, and licensed Zumba instructor) all join us to put personal fitness into a gamer-friendly context. They (along with Grant and Peter) discuss their own fitness journeys, why exercise and physical health matter, unfocused and focused exercise, and setting goals. Plus, Grant and Peter slip through time and answer a question from Patreon backer Doug Hagler, who asks what system we’d use to run a post-apocalyptic campaign.

Be sure to catch the second half of this episode as well, when we’ll talk about nutrition, sleep, stress reduction, willpower, and more!

Special thanks to all our guests for joining us for a long recording session and providing so much helpful information. For more information about our guests and their projects, as well as where to find them online:

Also mentioned in this episode: Red Markets by Caleb Stokes; FTB 180, “Gamer Health (Part 1)” and FTB 181, “Gamer Health (Part 2)”.

Scripture: Proverbs 16:3, Isaiah 40:31, Colossians 3:23, Philippians 2:1-4

Episode 102 – Adapting to the Dice 4

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Happy New Year! Grant and Peter are back to talk about … dice?! After a couple of minor announcements and housekeeping notes, we list off some of the games we’d really like to try to play in 2017. We also tackle a Patreon question from Jim, who asks us about handling combat in theatre-of-the-mind games (or for visually-impaired gamers, like the Going In Blind podcast.) Our main topic isn’t so much about dice as reacting to the dice, and handling the unexpected results they can give us while keeping a consistent narration—even if it leads campaigns in strange and unexpected directions.

Games we mentioned wanting to play in 2017: Unknown Armies, 3rd Edition; Pillar of Fire; A Scoundrel in the Deep; Feng Shui, 2nd Edition; Dogs in the Vineyard; DramaSystem; GUMSHOE. Also mentioned: The One Shot Podcast and the Party of One Podcast.

Scripture: Proverbs 16:9, Leviticus 16:6-10, Romans 8:28

Episode 101 – Playing Supernatural Creatures

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Grant and Peter sit down to tackle a topic selected by our voting Patreon supporters: Playing supernatural creatures! First, though, we spend quite a lot of time on a serious problem that cropped up in Grant’s Pugmire game—a case where a player had a very bad reaction to the previous session’s events. Then we tackle a question from Patreon supporter (and host of the Retro Rewind Podcast) Francisco Ruiz, who asks about games centered around specific holidays. Finally, it’s our main topic: How to play supernatural creatures, We talk briefly about whether Christians should do so at all; then we discuss ways to make that more interesting, especially regarding the traditional weaknesses such creatures typically have.

Mentioned in this episode: GullahPugmire.

Scripture: Isaiah 9:13, Romans 14:1-4

Bonus Episode 9 – “The Centurion” (by Rev. Bob Lawrence)

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Grant presents a very special Christmas bonus episode: A reading of a unique sermon given on Christmas Day, 1983, by Rev. Bob Lawrence of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.

Merry Christmas, from all of us to all of you.

Music:Greensleeves” and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence“, performed by Andrew Remillard.

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20