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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

 


You Must be This Treacherous to Ride the Story 1

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers for Wolfenstein: The New Order and Spec Ops: The Line.

I ran into an interesting roadblock recently while playing Wolfenstein: The New Order. At the end of the first chapter of the game, you’re presented with a sadistic choice by the villain and the game is pretty insistent that you actually make it. Failing to choose gets your entire squad killed and when you reload the save, you’re right back at the decision point. I watched that scene where you stare down the villain and he kills your squad a half-dozen times and almost stopped playing entirely at that point. I was ultimately talked out of that decision by some of the other folks on the Gamers With Jobs forums, and while the material that follows is surprisingly rich for a FPS game, there’s still a nagging metaphorical splinter in my brain about how I really shouldn’t have betrayed that squad member just to continue the story. It seems that playing Spec Ops: The Line back in the day had more of a lasting impact on me than I’d given it credit for.

Spec Ops: The Line escalates the misfortune, chaos, and suffering caused by its hard-charging, hot-tempered protagonist steadily over the course of its story and eventually (mostly via loading screens) starts telling the player that they can make the awful things stop happening if they quit playing the game. That idea resurfaced in my mind as I was looking at the sadistic choice sequence in Wolfenstein.

I have a hard time with stories that require me to be treacherous or duplicitous to move forward. I actually stopped playing Fallout 4 before the end because I could see that was the way the story was headed, and I don’t like betraying the trust of even really bad people. I don’t like having to compromise morally to get to the rest of a story.

Yet even the stories central to my Christian faith include some treachery and betrayal. The infamous example is Judas Iscariot, of course, but the Biblical figure my parents named me after certainly had his share of less-than-stellar moments where loyalty was concerned. From trying to escalate Jesus’s mostly-peaceful arrest (that Jesus was cooperating with) into violence in John 18:10 over Jesus’s objections to his denial that he even knew Jesus in Luke 22, he demonstrated that, under enough stress, even his loyalty could crack.

And here’s the thing: Jesus forgave him. In John 21, Jesus not only forgives Peter, but also puts him to work. Once again, God shows his ability to work through and with human frailty to accomplish his purposes. Peter’s story continued beyond the act of betrayal.

And that brings me to a realization that I had only after I started writing this blog post. A lot of my supposed virtue in games (and in life, if I’m going to be at all honest) comes from a well of pride. “I’ll defy the villain even if he kills an entire squad instead of just one of them. My integrity is worth more than those lives.” No, actually, it’s not. And it’s further not necessarily doing anyone any good to insist on always playing the good guy in everything. Now, it may not be harming anything either, and certainly playing upstanding characters can be a lot of fun, but when my internal narrative is such that I’ve convinced myself that I can’t play someone with major character flaws in a fictional context because that would reflect poorly on me, then perhaps it’s time to stretch a bit, especially because I have a nasty streak that I sometimes subconsciously feel I can let out as long as it’s fueled by “a good cause.” Like a lot of people of faith over the years, I have a problem with wanting to cultivate an image of outward purity when the truth is that on some essential level, I have the potential to be absolutely monstrous.

Fortunately, at times like this, I have my co-host. Grant has been running a Rogue Trader game for us, and as many of you are no doubt aware, the Warhammer 40k universe is a little thin on people of flawless virtue. My aloof, toaster-obsessed, pipe-smoking Explorator may be a humorous and strange character, but he’s not anyone’s role model. In fact, he’s even a poor example by the warped standards of his own society. But he’s also not a channel for sadism and cruelty – he’s just a self-interested, socially inept guy who is also a little weird. And while playing him isn’t as comfortable as playing some of my previous characters, at least he’s getting me to remove at least a few inches of the self-righteous stick I have lodged in my hindquarters, or to put it another way, it’s allowing me to start sawing off parts of the log I have in my eye so I can start getting rid of it. Unfortunately, that’s a long log. I have a feeling I’m going to be sawing for quite some time.


Episode 83 – Personal Horror (with Greg Stolze) 1


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Author and game designer Greg Stolze joins Grant and Peter to talk about Unknown Armies 3rd Edition, its Kickstarter, some of his other work, and personal-scale horror stories! We spend a lot of time talking about Unknown Armies—practically the whole episode, really—and Greg had plenty to say about personal horror and how Unknown Armies reflects that. In particular, we talk about how this sort of horror differs from the “cosmic horror” currently in vogue; how relationships can matter more in personal horror; stress and horror; and more. Enjoy!

Mentioned in this episode:

Scripture: Job 38:4-7John 15:13Colossians 3:23-25Romans 3:10


Episode 82 – Diaspora 1


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Not much in the way of news this week, so Grant and Peter get almost straight into the topic: Diaspora, the scattering of a people from a common homeland and their desire to return. We discuss what, exactly makes a diaspora and how it can be used for world and character building.

Links:

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 36:20, Psalm 147:2-4, John 7:33-36, 1 Peter 1:1-2


Episode 81 – Fear 1


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Grant’s second child is here and everybody is doing well!

Grant and Peter discuss some recent news, including Gamerati’s taking over of RPGpodcasts.com (a very good thing) and the upcoming Tavern Con and Electric City Comic Con, then get down to discussing the main topic: fear in RPGs. A lot of gaming groups have trouble handling fear in-game. Grant and Peter discuss some common reasons for the trouble and offer a number of potential solutions.

Links:
Tavern Con (no official link yet)
Episode 45 – Unity vs. Uniformity (With Ed Healy)
Stardew Valley
Electric City Comic Con
Gameable Pixar Podcast, Bonus episode 33: The Corpse Bride
Games Store Prophets Bonus Content: Darkest Dungeon

Scripture: Proverbs 9:10, Matthew 10:26-31, John 16:33, Luke 2:10


Episode 70 – Adoptionism and Ebionism (Historical Heresies, Part 1) 1


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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.

Scripture: Isaiah 56:6-8, John 1:1-5, John 10:16


Episode 51 – Non-Violent Conflict Resolution (with Devon Kelley)


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Devon Kelley from the Shark Bone Podcast joins Grant, Peter and Branden in a discussion of one of Devon’s favorite RPG topics: Non-violent conflict resolution! Devon plugs a game of his own—Threshold: Tragic Superheroes, available through DriveThruRPG—and we plug our ongoing holiday fundraiser for The Bodhana Group. Then we dive (har har—you’re welcome, Devon) into our scripture and our topic. We discuss why non-combat conflict resolution is often overlooked in RPGs; why it’s important; how to encourage it, as a player and as a GM; and plenty of real-world examples of this sort of play.

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:7, Matthew 26:47-54, John 13:34-35, and 1 Peter 3:9-11


Episode 43 – Unity vs. Uniformity (with Ed Healy) 1


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Peter was at Fear the Con 7 when we recorded this one, but that’s okay—Ed Healy, founder of Gamerati and co-host of Atomic Array, joined Grant and Branden as a guest host this episode! After a few preliminaries we got into a fairly broad topic that Ed wanted to talk about: Unity vs. uniformity, or handling a table (and other social groups) full of different people without squashing individuality. It turned into a lot of fun and covered a wide range of examples and issues! We also talked briefly about Stephen Weese’s excellent book God Loves The Freaks. Thanks for joining us, Ed; we appreciate it!

Scripture: Psalm 133John 13:34-35Philippians 4:4-7


Episode 35 – Resurrection


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In a thematic continuation from our previous episode on death, Grant, Peter and Branden talk about resurrection! We first address the question of whether a game that features any resurrection other than the resurrection of the body through Christ can be played by Christians; then, we discuss how the details of resurrection can have a significant impact on your game and its story. We cover numerous fictional resurrection stories, from Highlander to To Your Scattered Bodies Go, and wrap up with a recommendation from Peter: Rev. Adam Hamilton’s Jan. 26th sermon, “The Meaning of Christ’s Death”.

Scripture: Daniel 12:2Luke 24:1-12John 11:1-44


Episode 33 – Our Origin Stories (with Mike Perna) 1


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We welcome guest host Mike Perna from Innroads Ministries and Game Store Prophets! Mike introduces our listeners to Innroads, and we talk a bit about “geek ministries” before settling in with our scripture and our topic: Our own origin stories. This episode ended up being a sequence of fairly personal discussions of our roads to both gaming and faith — about as close to testimony as we can probably get. A lot of things we haven’t mentioned before came out in this episode, and we hope you enjoy it!

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2, John 1:1-5, Matthew 13:3-9