matthew


One Foot in Front of the Other

It has been a rough couple of weeks, no two ways about it. Those who follow me on social media may have seen a blog post from my personal blog memorializing the passing of the first pet my wife and I had together: our beloved cat Storm. His death and the loneliness and emptiness that left behind in our apartment was heartbreaking. I remember at one point looking at my wife and saying “I am tired of being sad, and I am tired from being sad.” But as hard as it was on me, for my wife it was worse, and her grief was as difficult for me as my own was. At times, more so.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. -Romans 12:15

Grief and sadness are exhausting, and I’ve had a lot more rough, half-asleep mornings in the last couple of weeks that I’ve had in the last couple of year. And yet even when the loss is crushing, such as in the case of the loss of a parent or, worse, a child, society doesn’t long excuse the grief-stricken from their daily duties. Work must be done, obligations must be attended to.

And that goes triple for those who, paradoxically, are going to experience grief-triggering events the most often – soldiers, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, firefighters, and so on.

You know: player characters.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. -Matthew 5:4

Your average PC probably sees a lot of death, destruction, chaos, and carnage just in their first adventure, to say nothing of their entire career. And they generally press on through it with nary a complaint. This is a genre trope in a lot of cases; superheroes, pulp adventurers, crack special forces troops and so on are often portrayed as “psychologically indestructible” or at least sufficiently hardened, trained, and/or outfitted with coping mechanisms to handle the stress and tragedy of what they deal with. That can be great for lighter, more cinematic, and/or high-adventure campaigns and is certainly a valid way of playing. It’s not the only valid way, though. Some games choose to tackle the stressful, painful, exhausting side of adventuring and the emergent content from those systems is fascinating. (Two properties that explore these themes that probably don’t need any more plugging from me, but are going to get it anyway are This War of Mine and Unknown Armies.)

I’ll admit to a certain level of bias; as a gamer, I’ve begun to feel a bit of what I could term “violence fatigue” in relation to my entertainment. So much of the gaming experience seems to revolve around killing things, and after a while (perhaps as a function of getting older) one starts to tire of all the cleaving and smashing and shooting. In fact, I’d say that exposure to so much violent entertainment over the course of my adolescence and adult life has actually sensitized be to it rather than de-sensitizing like concerned folks often worry will. I’ve allowed some of this to consciously bleed into Lambert in the D&D game. He’s still perfectly capable of fighting and killing if need be (ask the phase spider that scared the living daylights out of us a few sessions back) but he’d really rather not; Lambert knows that violence and death (especially with sapient beings) often leads to grief and suffering. He also recognizes that sometimes, it’s necessary. Lambert lives in a fantasy world with evil things that exist pretty much solely to cause the misery he wants to prevent. That dichotomy (and the high quality of the rest of the gaming group) has allowed for some very interesting character interactions.

A reluctance to wade into battle isn’t the only application for more emotionally vulnerable (or even just emotionally complex) PCs, though. Allowing PCs to feel things and react appropriately is an underutilized trick in a lot of mainstream gaming. One needn’t be all melodramatic and angsty about it. Lambert certainly isn’t an “emo” character, but he’s very much a “Protestant work ethic” kind of guy who pushes himself very hard. In his particular case, he tends to cope with that stress by bantering with the other two PCs, whom he trusts even if not everyone else in the colony does. It takes the edge off and lets him keep going without getting overwhelmed. It’s not a front-and-center part of his character on every adventure, but it does add a bit of texture. And that texture helps keep the game fun, at least for me.

Which can be good when the game is one of the ways I, as a player, manage some small measure of the stress in the real world. Sometimes, knowing how my PC keeps putting one foot in front of the other can help me do the same.

 

This week’s featured image is from Brent Newhall used under Creative Commons.


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


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


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


Episode 87 – Healing and Injury


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Grant and Peter take a few moments to catch up on-air, and then discuss two exciting upcoming projects: Game to Grow and our upcoming Patreon campaign, before discussing a surprisingly meaty topic: Healing and Injury. The discussion that follows touches on both the gaming-related and spiritual aspects of healing and injury and also discusses why you should be sure to remember that hospitals exist as more than just hit point dispensers in your games.

Links:
Game to Grow
Gameable Pixar Podcast
John Q
Spoon Theory

Scripture: Isaiah 58:11, Matthew 11:2-6, Luke 14:1-6


Episode 86 – Callings and Changes


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Grant and Peter discuss Peter’s new job, Grant’s new hobby, and the impact those sorts of life changes and callings can change the inner lives of your characters, how they can be reflected (or not) mechanically, and how they can affect the way your game progresses.

Links:
One Shot’s Tenra Bansho Zero (episode 1)
Tenra Bansho Zero
Bob Ross Official YouTube Channel

Scripture: 2 Samuel 5:5-8, Matthew 4:18-22

 


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 76 – Manichaeism (Historical Heresies, Part 3)


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Grant and Peter are back at it with part three of our Historical Heresies series. This time, we introduce a major competitor to Christianity in the Western Roman Empire, and a particularly interesting (read: complex and imaginative) Gnostic tradition: Manichaeism! We also provide one last plug for this year’s fundraiser for The Bodhana Group, and remind everyone to rate and review us on iTunes, Stitcher, and anywhere else you listen to our podcast on.

Scripture: Psalm 119:25-27Matthew 28:19-20


Episode 69 – Holy Sites


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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.

Scripture: Exodus 3:5Matthew 28:1-6


Episode 67 – Breaking Canon (with Kris Newton & Katrina Ehrnman-Newton)


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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.

Also mentioned in this episode: Electric City ComiCon; StoryWonk’s Dusted podcast; and an awful lot of superheroes.

Scripture: Isaiah 55:8-11, Jeremiah 23:28-30, Matthew 23:13-15, Romans 15:4