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.
Quick shout out before I get on with the rest of the blog post: in keeping with my resolution to get out and play games in meat space more often, I made it to Commander night at my local FLGS this evening. Troy and DJ – it was great gaming with you guys. You really made me feel welcome and I had a ton of fun. -Peter
I’m about 3 years late to the Diablo III party. I’m about 16 years late to the Dresden Files party. Ah well. Better late than never. In starting to consume both at the same time, however, I noticed something: Diablo III has a fair bit to say about Paladins, and I think some of it is really useful for making an oft-maligned class actually fun and interesting in games.
First some quick background, though. The self-righteous, overly-zealous, utterly inflexible, or otherwise just plain insufferable paladin is a stereotype as old as the proverbial hills in gaming. A lot of the time, paladins in fantasy games act a bit like Space Marines in the Warhammer 40k universe: violent, loud, and constantly spouting terms like “heretic,” “smite,” and “cleanse.” While this can be fun for a certain type of game, the perception has crept in that this is the “right” or even only way to play holy warriors, and, well, that’s just not true.
Diablo III, of all things, quietly hangs a lampshade on this. I played my first run through the game as a Crusader, the “Paladin” class of the game – a big brawny guy encased in armor and using a shield and an enormous weapon. Early in the game, you recruit a Templar as a companion – and at that point, the contrasts become evident. The crusader comes from an order that revolves around mentoring a single apprentice who takes everything from the mentor – including their name – when they die. In addition, the Crusader is a fairly calm, soft-spoken, and even-handed sort. The Templar, on the other hand, is more the Space Marine archetype. Loud, wrathful, zealous, and a little unstable. Where the Crusader seems to look at all the fighting he has to do with a kind of patient resignation, the Templar revels in violence and seems to be constantly chomping at the bit to get back into the fight. And his order took him as a criminal and basically tortured him until he forgot his past life, then rebuilt him as they saw fit. The Crusader is audibly disturbed by this and tells the Templar “they left you empty, friend.” And then there’s Michael Carpenter, the Knight of the Cross from The Dresden Files. Michael is a family man – a married father of several children – who still goes out and risks his life fighting supernatural evil because it’s the right thing to do. He is kind, patient, and when tries to correct the behavior of others (particularly Harry) it’s done in such a way that makes it obvious that he’s saying something because he cares – not just about the ambient moral purity of the world, but about the life of his friend and the quality thereof. He prompts Harry to be a better person at least in part to make Harry’s life fuller and more meaningful.
Two other fictional characters also go well into the mix: Nick Valentine, the detective from Fallout 4, who in the middle of a pitched battle will shout things like “Are you sure this is the last mug you want to see?” and “This doesn’t have to be the day you die!” even as he’s ducking for cover and returning fire (and so many other things that I won’t spoil), and the Paragon variant of Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect trilogy, who despite being a person with an unbelievable amount of responsibility piled on him, still finds time to talk a distraught former slave down from hurting herself, comfort a grieving mother in a lawless slum, and heal a criminal dying of a terminal disease who just seconds before had cursed him and waved a gun in his face. These kinds of multi-faceted good people who actually embody the description of love Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 not only are more tolerable for other players at the table, but they’re ultimately more interesting characters. They’re also much more authentic and believable paragons of virtue than a lot of people play paladins as.
I’ve kind of taken a break from playing outright holy warriors for a bit – but some of these new examples make me want to pick the archetype back up again. In the meantime, if you’ve seen any particularly good or bad paladins in your gaming history ad want to share, please comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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!
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!
Mike Perna of Innroads Ministries and Game Store Prophets joins us to talk about a complex problem in both faith communities and geek communities: Gatekeeping. Mike’s joined us before for Episode 33 (“Our Origin Stories”), and he was a perfect fit for this topic in many ways. He previously wrote an excellent article on gatekeeping, and has a lot of wisdom and experience to share with us. We hit on a lot of small details—’controllers’ vs. ‘facilitators’; gatekeeping in church and in geek culture; comments on “pastoral customs” by Pope Francis; and others—but our focus is on solving the problem when you encounter it, not just documenting it. It’s a rather thoughtful episode, so enjoy, and tell us what you think in the comments!
It’s only Grant and Peter this episode, as we head into the final pair in our Virtues & Vices series! First, we talk about our ongoing (and quickly wrapping up) fundraiser for The Bodhana Group, and give Innroads Ministries some much-deserved plugs as well. Then we explore what C.S. Lewis called “the complete anti-God state of mind”—Pride. Some theological and practical definitions of pride get discussed before we explore pride as a character trait, and its manifestation at the gaming table.
Also mentioned in this episode: Episode 33 of Saving the Game, “Our Origin Stories (with Mike Perna)”; Peter’s Evil Overlord Guide.
Our Virtues & Vices series picks up again with a particularly difficult topic: Lust. We briefly plug Sojourn again, and then dive headlong into a discussion about this capital sin. We explain what lust is (and isn’t), why it’s a capital sin, and why it’s so pervasive and accepted. Then we talk about the problems (and storytelling opportunities) that the sin of lust can create in your game, discuss the problems lust can cause at the gaming table, and wrap up with some thoughts on how lust in particular bleeds across that in-game/out-of-game boundary.
We’re back with a lot of news and a great topic: Romance! We’re proud to announce that Peter was published in Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction, a collection recently released by Fear the Boot. We’re also proud of composer Ryan Humphrey, an old friend of Grant’s who kindly gave us our intro and outtro music and who had a small part in the production of the music for Disney’s Frozen. Our sincere and delighted congratulations to both of them!
We also talked about a rather complex topic: Romance and romantic relationships in games and stories. We touched on its value as a plot or subplot, the reasons it’s often an uncomfortable and avoided element in games, good fictional examples, and how to make it work in your game. Enjoy!
Grant, Peter, and Branden continue our Virtues & Vices series with a look at Temperance! We talk over the usual news, and thank those who’ve commented on past episodes (that’s always nice.) Then we dive into our Temperance discussion: How it’s commonly used in Scripture; its prevalence as a virtue in many moral codes; how Christians treat it, and contrast it with Gluttony; and as usual, how to use Temperance in-game and how to promote it out-of-game.
Our first guest host is an awfully good one: Dan Repperger from Fear the Boot! After we plug our fundraiser for PEG Partners, Grant, Peter, Branden, and Dan discuss the intersection of faith and fantasy. We talk about why they’re not mutually exclusive, the major fantasy works which have impacted us spiritually, running games within a Christian frame, and some concerns and benefits of doing so. Thanks again, Dan!