Game to Grow – Episode 4 – Spirituality & Roleplaying Games

Hey, listeners & readers! We recently hosted the fourth Game to Grow episode, on spirituality in roleplaying games. Two panelists should be familiar to long-time listeners—Rev. Derek White and Jack Berkenstock—and two are people we hope to have on as guests eventually, Dr. Sarah Lynne Bowman and Shivam Bhatt. Enjoy!


Episode 98 – The Second Commandment (Ten Commandments, Part 2)


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Grant and Peter continue our ongoing Ten Commandments series with a look at the Second Commandment! First, though, Grant has a fair bit to say about InSpectres and Pugmire, and some lessons he’s learned from those games lately. Then we tackle a question from an anonymous Patreon backer, about transitioning into the game master role, and briefly discuss potential Patreon changes and our upcoming holiday charity drive. We also reiterate our call for your stories of harassment and ‘othering’ in the gaming hobby and industry. After all that, we finally get down to the Second Commandment (as well as a bit about how different Christian and Jewish traditions actually arrange and enumerate these ten commandments.)

Scripture: Exodus 20:4-6, Isaiah 55:8, Hosea 3:1, Revelation 9:20-21


A Call to Greater Fellowship 1

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. – Acts 10:34-35

Gaming, as we have stated many times before, has the potential to be a powerful tool for good. You need look no further than our dear friends at The Bodhana Group to see that.

It also has a dark side.

If you’re unfamiliar with Saving the Game, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. My name is Peter, and along with my co-host Grant, I do a biweekly podcast about tabletop roleplaying games and collaborative storytelling from an explicitly Christian perspective. We agree that part of the responsibility of speaking about gaming from a Christian perspective is helping the gaming community be friendly, welcoming and most importantly safe for everyone, Christian or not.

Grant and I have been progressively more disturbed by a steady trickle of stories of people who aren’t like us (white, middle-class, middle-aged men) being given the cold shoulder, mocked, and even intimidated or abused by gamers, sometimes to the point where they leave the hobby or never even give it a chance. There was a time when I didn’t really know this problem was there – to the point where I got into at least one argument about the extent of the problem a few years back.

Sadly, I’ve been shown just how limited my perspective was, and what I saw during that process grieved me deeply and made me not a little angry.

We spoke about this with Mike Perna back in Episode 66 when we addressed the topic of gatekeeping, but unfortunately, in that episode, I think we wound up mostly preaching to the choir – our listeners, when we’ve met them in person and talked to them online, have been kind, gracious folks (actually, we’re kind of counting on that, but more about that later) and not predisposed to gatekeeping.

Which is why we want to listen to and share your stories.

If you have been treated badly by gamers, or someone else in the larger hobby, we want to hear what you have to say. In hearing your story, passing it on to our listeners, and talking about it, we hope to equip our listenership to notice the warning signs of gamer abuse and intimidation and stop it before it really gets started or just plain stop it if it’s started already. And frankly, the less you’re like Grant and me, the better. We want to hear from people of different ethnic backgrounds, women, people with non-traditional sexual orientations and identities, people with disabilities, people who aren’t neurotypical, people with differing worldviews, and anyone else who has a relevant story to tell. And, if you’ll let us, we’d like to share your experiences with our community in an episode (or maybe two) we’re chomping at the bit to record as soon as we’ve got some stories to share and your permission to do so.

We’re doing this because we sincerely believe that our listeners are a good place to start changing the community from the inside out. If you want us to keep your story anonymous when we record, but still share it stripped of names and locations, we will. If you want to come on the aforementioned episode and actually talk to us about your experiences, we’d be humbled and grateful. After all, God wants everyone brought into community, and that starts with love, acceptance, and a willingness to defend those who are being mistreated or oppressed.

To contact us, you can use any of the following options. Please let us know if you don’t want us to share your story on the podcast or on social media, or if you want to remain anonymous when we do so; and if either of those are true, please use one of our more private channels.

  • The comments section below
  • Our “Contact Us” page
  • Email us at hosts [at] stgcast [dot] org
  • Twitter
  • Facebook (either as a message or on our page directly)
  • Google+

If some other means or format is better for you, of course, let us know. We want your story, and we’ll happily work with you to help you get it to us.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13

If you are one of our many beloved gamer doppelgangers out there, we’d like some help from you too:

1. First and foremost: If you have a friend or family member who has been through this phenomenon we’re describing, please put them in touch with us.

2. Second and only slightly less important: Start doing some research of your own into this problem. If you’ve been blessed as I have been to game with a diverse group of people since day one and then your primary internet gaming “family” is the oasis of love and compassion that is the greater Fear the Boot community, you may find it hard to believe that the problem exists, so steel yourself and start looking.

Our goal in this project is to shine some light into the darker corners of our hobby until, well, frankly, the light is normal.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28


Render Unto Caesar 1

“Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him.” -Mark 12:17 (ESV)

As this post goes live, it will be election day here in the US.

Thank. Goodness.

The last election cycle has been draining my sanity like someone wants to make syrup out of it. As person who doesn’t identify as strong liberal OR conservative, I’ve often logged into one of my social media feeds and felt like I’ve stepped into a war, and I have friends on both sides of the battle lines. Nothing stirs Americans up like an election cycle, and I’ve witnessed a fair amount of flaming, blocking, and deleting of people from friends lists over the last few months.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9 (ESV)

As a Christian, that makes me sad, because while there’s certainly some wisdom in paying attention to politics, caring about them, praying about them, and participating in the democratic process if it’s available to us, what we as Christians are supposed to do doesn’t change regardless of how the election turns out. The standing orders for the body of Christ are the same in places where the church is culturally dominant and places where it’s been forced underground by persecution, in places of great prosperity and in places of crushing poverty.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8 (ESV)

It is fine to differ, and debate, and even argue. It’s fine to be concerned or even horrified by what goes on in the political sphere. But at the end of the day, even if we consider someone our enemy, we have to love them anyway. We might as well stop before it goes that far.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” -Romans 12:18 (ESV)

So by all means –  render your vote unto Caesar. I certainly intend to. Just don’t forget the rest.

Regardless of who wins, there will be injustice in the world, so:
Regardless of who wins, act with justice and fairness.

Regardless of who wins, there will be poverty, so:
Regardless of who wins, help the less fortunate.

Regardless of who wins, there will be suffering so:
Regardless of who wins, be kind to the hurting.

Regardless of who wins, bitterness and vengeance will tempt the human heart, so:
Regardless of who wins, forgive and work toward peace.

And remember:
Regardless of who wins, remember that God is ultimately in charge of it all.

Remember, take hope, and follow the best example we will ever and could ever have: Jesus. We have a lot to do regardless of what happens in the political sphere.


Episode 97 – Religious Villains


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We’re back to talk about religious villains in your game! First, Grant discusses a successful Pugmire one-shot and his upcoming InSpectres game. Then, Grant and Peter put out a call for your stories of ‘othering’ in the hobby (which you can submit by email or through our contact page.) We spend a fair bit of time answering a very interesting question from Patreon backer Jim about rewarding good player behavior. And finally, we get to our main topic: Religious villains. We discuss creating religious, and even specifically Christian villains, as well as what makes those villains powerful and effective in our stories.

Mentioned in this episode: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Ep. 48, “Prophets of Doom”; and—

Scripture: Isaiah 29:13-16, Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 23:13-15


Some Light in the Dungeon

Jack Chick died this past weekend. For those too young to remember, back in 1984, Jack Chick published his now-infamous “Dark Dungeons” tract, and as we discussed with Chris Ode in episode 88, 32 years later we as gamers are still dealing with the fallout.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, -Matthew 5:44

Forgiving the dead is a strange and tricky thing, especially when they hurt you or those you care about without even knowing you exist like Jack Chick did to so many gamers. So how do we go about forgiving one of the key figure in the “Satanic panic” of the 80s and 90s? Because as Christians, that’s what we are commanded to do. The thing I like about Matthew 5:44 is that it comes directly from Jesus. There’s no room for hedging because “that’s the Old Testament” or “well, that’s one of Paul’s letters.” Nope. Jesus himself said that. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Paul and The Old Testament differed on this one. That confluence of scripture doesn’t leave much room for alternative interpretations.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. -Romans 12:14

I would suggest the “how” of forgiving is going to vary from person to person, but keep in mind a few things as you contemplate that for yourself: first, as wrong as he was about a lot of things, Chick seemed motivated primarily by a sincere desire to save people from Hell. His theology was that of an angry, pitiless God and speaking as a person who has to wrestle with some of those ideas himself from time to time, that kind of theology is often borne out of guilt and feelings of having missed the mark. As I often say on the podcast: remember Hanlon’s Razor (which can be restated as “assume good faith”).

If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it. -Exodus 23:4-5

However, forgiving Jack may be a fulfillment of one of our duties of Christians, but it still leaves us with the troubling problem of his legacy, and I think the best way to address that is to keep using our hobby for good. Donate time or money to things like Extra Life, which our friends at Innroads Ministries are doing for the fourth year straight, use simple roleplaying exercises as a way of enhancing teaching in your church and other charitable efforts, and probably most importantly, don’t let gaming become an “idol” that takes over more of your life than it should. Let your light shine so brightly that as Jack looks on from a Heaven that is more full than he’d dared to hope, even he can see that it reaches even into the dungeon.

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. -Revelation 21:6-7

Rest in peace, Mr. Chick.


Episode 96 – The First Commandment (The Ten Commandments, Part 1)


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Grant and Peter kick off a new, more theologically-oriented series this week! We’ll be looking at each of the Ten Commandments, and so of course we’re starting with the First Commandment. First, though, we answer a question from Patreon backer Richard Lorenz about other podcasts in the “geeky faith” genre (and specifically faith and roleplaying games—see the show notes for a full list of everything we mentioned!) We also spend a little time talking about Game to Grow. For our main topic, we talk about the importance and theological implications of the First Commandment, as well as some of its gaming implications.

Mentioned in this episode:

Scripture: Exodus 3:15, Exodus 20:1-3Matthew 22:37-38Matthew 6:24


Campaign Report: Player Perspective, Part 1

Grant has written a number of very well-thought-out reports on our D&D game from a GM’s perspective, but so far, aside from mentioning it on the show, I’ve been a little quiet on the game, other than stating repeatedly what a blast I’m having. I’d like to take some time to explain why I’m enjoying the campaign so much, and I’d also like to point out some things that are going particularly well that I think are worth mentioning. As you can see by the “part 1” in the title, I intend to check in here at least occasionally about the game.

Threats without horror

A lot of the time when GMs are running fantasy games, there is an all-too-seductive temptation to lean heavily on supernatural or horrific cruelty to create a sense of stakes in the game, impressing on the players how important their mission is with demons, undead, or mangled remains of innocent victims almost from the jump. While this can be effective in certain games, it is an overused trope, so it’s been refreshing that Grant has used supernatural horror elements very sparingly and has instead focused mostly on natural threats. The first encounter of the game was with sahuagin, who basically act like a nasty school of predatory fish – they attacked and dragged prey into the water, but didn’t curse people with foul magic or ritually sacrifice them on the beach. The biggest, nastiest threat currently on the island (at least, that we know of) is a wyvern, which is a massive, venomous beast, but isn’t demonic or evil – just big and hungry. There have been some supernatural threats sprinkled in – a spectral undead and what we think is probably a hag – but for the most part, the difficulties and adversaries we’ve faced have been very grounded – taking care of the lower tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and trying to establish good relationships with the other people we’ve met on the island – the kenku.

It’s not all about alignment

Speaking of the kenku, one of the things I find cool about the game is that I have no idea what alignment Rishi is. I am similarly ignorant about the colony governor, Hester Warwick, and in fact about every single other character in the entire game except the other two player characters, whose alignments I know through metagame knowlege only. In addition, there is literally no way for Lambert to find out, despite the fact that he’s a cleric, because the “Detect Evil and Good” spell now simply alerts you to the presence of supernatural entities or magically consecrated or desecrated areas rather than letting you see where every sapient creature around you falls on a 3×3 alignment bingo card if you cast it enough times. That means that, in the game as in life, we have to figure out who is trustworthy and who isn’t by observing behavior and interacting with characters rather than simply scanning them. This is a change in the D&D system proper from previous editions rather than something Grant is explicitly doing, but after playing a number of sessions with it in place, I can say without reservation that I think that was an exceptionally good design decision.

Things that are interesting without being epic

The kenku look like walking, wingless crows, but they also have aspects of lyrebirds in that they can mimic all sorts of sounds around them and even pass these sounds down to descendants, which is why the party can communicate with them at all. The old mystery cult monastery we cleared out as our first dungeon was full of implied story and interesting bits of world history, but there was nothing world-shattering in there, just an old building that had some history.

The desire to make things epic or jaw-dropping is another pitfall a lot of campaigns can fall into, and having a world that is interesting and feels grounded and lived-in has helped me to stay interested and engaged in the game. It seems to be pushing our group to actually live in the world a lot as well – there has been a lot more focus and a lot more in-character time in this campaign than anything we’ve done since the Shadowrun game.

Limited violence

There has been combat, certainly, but the entire game is not a string of fights connected with flimsy plot. Some of the best moments in the game have been role playing ones, and that has been consistent. Grant has done an admirable job of keeping the challenges of setting up a society and interacting with a new one front and center, and I will admit that I (and my PC) have much more anxiety about the colonists going all conquistador on the kenku than I do about the monsters on the island.

Grant would probably ask me to balance this out with criticism, but I honestly don’t have any, and in any case he has done so in his own posts already. So there.

Personal Goals

One of the things I’ve been trying to work on is my tendency to hog the spotlight. Fortunately, the other players made deeper and more complex characters than I did, so they’ve actually been helping with that quite a bit just by being awesome. Lambert is a very busy PC, but he is certainly not the toughest member of the party (that is unquestionably Garm, especially now that he’s gotten access to some magic) and he’s not the most skillful or intelligent member either (that would be Aster, the unbelievably competent rogue).

I am also trying to use this game to practice what we preach on the show. Lambert is a very deliberate attempt at breaking away from some of the more violent and self-righteous characters I’ve played in the past. What I’ve been trying to do with him is make him into “glue.” While he’s not a pacifist, I want him to be a peacemaker, and I also want his influence to be at least one reason why the members of the colony live in harmony with the natives of the island rather than conquering or disregarding them. Lambert was designed to be the kind of person who doesn’t get a lot of recognition, but helps society be better, more empathetic, and more compassionate, hopefully due to his example. I want to use him to practice humility, charity, and kindness rather than just righteous fury and decisiveness. I want him to help the other PCs become the epic, noble heroes they can clearly become. And most importantly, I am hoping that his story will point toward the life that really is life, that he will be a good example of how to be authentically human and a servant of God (despite the fact that he’s in a polytheistic setting and a cleric of a member of the pantheon therin). Time will tell how successful I am in that.


Campaign Report 4: Into The Witch’s House

Hey, folks. Grant again, and … what’s this? A bonus play report? Delicious! My recap from a few days ago was pretty negative—and rightly so, because I screwed up hard. In these last two sessions, though, I think we collectively made up for that. Character development, problem solving without violence, some great roleplaying, and a couple of nasty combats. Oh, and the rogue set a needle blight on fire and robbed a witch. Good times.

(A personal note: This blog post was supposed to go up last Friday. However, between a nasty head cold and some other issues, that didn’t happen. I apologize for not getting this out in a timely manner.)

Session 6

I’m going to try something a little different for this post. Since these two sessions were pretty action-packed, I’m going to recap each session and then immediately talk about it from a GM’s perspective, rather than packing all the GM notes at the bottom.

Recap

Kenku WitchI left the party on a cliffhanger: Rishi (the wacky old kenku loremaster) was juuuuust about to tell the party something they could do to earn the trust of Kondou (head of the kenku village) and the other kenku. (I’m going to talk about that cliffhanger in the “GM’s Notes” section below.) Well, Rishi’s task was simple, on the face of it. He wanted them to retrieve a stone tablet, about 8″x12″x1″, with a kenku carved into it. It had “gone missing”, he said, and he’d just learned where it went: It was in Auntie Bloat’s house.

“Auntie Bloat”, it turned out, was an ancient kenku witch—much older even than Rishi—who lurked in a bog at the far western end of the island, living in a fish’s skull. She and Rishi apparently were in a bit of a standoff, and the PCs offered the opportunity to shake things up. So the next morning—after waking up to the sound of Rishi shouting a story off his balcony to passing kenku—the party set off to find Auntie Bloat.

The kenku village was just a bit uphill of the small lake the party had spotted the day before, and the witch’s swamp was (naturally) at the end of the small river flowing out of that lake. Finding her was therefore just a matter of traveling down-river. This occasioned an interesting debate, however: Aster (the scrappy, urban rogue with a … limited … grasp of the concept of personal property) was strongly in favor of taking a fishing boat, even if there wasn’t anyone around to ask about that. (Her player—my wife—invoked her “It’s not stealing if I need it more” flaw, and earned an Inspiration point for doing so.) The party argued this for a bit, and eventually nixed the idea on both moral and practical grounds, but it was a good (and 100% player-created) moment. (more…)


Episode 95 – Hospitality 1


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It’s a relatively light episode for news, so Grant and Peter have more time for the Patreon question and the main topic. It turns out they need it. Hospitality is a big, old-school StG topic and the hosts look at it from a number of angles and discuss how it applies in games, in the world around us, and at our gaming tables.

Scripture: Leviticus 19:34, Luke 14:12-14, 1 Peter 4:8-10

Links:
Episode 5: Charity
Jean Veljean and the Bishop of Digne
Would You Hide a Jew From the Nazis?
Denver church planning to build tiny homes