Weekend Reading 29

Our Weekend Reading series (brought to you by our Patreon backers) continues with a curated selection of articles—and a few other things—from around the Internet that interested us this week! We’re currently on an every-other-week schedule.


I don’t normally provide straight-up plugs here, but Andrew Harmon, creator of the now-Kickstarting Christian board game Portals and Prophets, personally reached out to me about his game. If you’re interested in a game of Biblical time travel and set collection, you might want to check this out!

Most long-time listeners likely remember our Historical Heresies series. It didn’t really gain a lot of traction, and was extremely difficult (if interesting) to research, so we gave it up. However, a recent discovery brought it to mind again for me. Biblical scholars at the University of Texas at Austin found fragments of the Gnostic text “The First Apocalypse of James” in the original Greek in the Oxford University archives. Previously, this work was only known from Coptic translations, so this is a pretty cool find.

With its neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables, the original manuscript was probably a teacher’s model used to help students learn to read and write, Smith and Landau said.

“The scribe has divided most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts,” said Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies.

The teacher who produced this manuscript must have “had a particular affinity for the text,” Landau said. It does not appear to be a brief excerpt from the text, as was common in school exercises, but rather a complete copy of this forbidden ancient writing.

Our old friend The Mad Cleric is back with a really interesting take on “The challenge and beauty of AD&D modules“, and how to use them properly:

We’ve all played in forgettable settings that left us with forgettable adventures.  But what we all want is a rich, engaging setting that players enjoy–one that gives them a desire to continue in that world.  Meanwhile, I’m convinced that AD&D modules cultivate “living” settings that players can expand and own.  So pick one out that you’re interested in and give it a shot!  Either use that module as a basis or an inspiration for your next adventure.  See if your players have the same experience that mine did.

Finally—by now, most fans of our show know that I’m sort of fascinated by conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. The amount of effort that goes into arguing nonsense, and the psychology of such belief, interests me greatly. These off-the-wall beliefs also tend to produce really interesting gaming material; sometimes for psychological horror games, sometimes for cyberpunk, and sometimes for fantasy. Forbes recently published an article on “Five Impossible Facts That Would Have to Be True If the Earth Were Flat“, and it’s useful in two ways. First, it’s genuinely interesting science, encompassing climatology, orbital mechanics, and more. Second, it’s a great primer on things to change if you’re setting your game in a flat fantasy world!



After some time away from Richard Beck’s Experimental Theology blog in the Weekend Reading, it’s time to bring it back. His latest series of posts on religious experiences is doing a good job of describing something I’ve been feeling for a bit but couldn’t quite put words to.

And if you cut yourself off from religious experiences, you cut yourself off from what makes faith vital, energized and passionate.

For many Christians–and especially post-evangelicals going through a season of deconstruction–faith is being increasingly reduced to political activism and ethics. And while politics and ethics are really important things, we need to bump into God from time to time if we want to sustain faith across the long haul.

Mysterious ruins can be a really cool addition to a gaming setting, but they needn’t even be super old for that to work – the Bayer’s Lake Mystery Walls are theorized to be only about a century or two old, but it’s still unknown what’s going on with them. In fact, in a lot of ways, newer ruins are more mysterious in a “how did that get built, used, and fall into ruin that recently, RIGHT OVER THERE and nobody noticed?” sort of way.

Constructed with flat-surfaced ironstone slate rocks, the Bayer’s Lake Mystery Walls have been protected under Nova Scotia’s Special Places Act since 1991, after they were discovered during development of the area. Various archaeological groups have since studied the structures, but the artifacts uncovered have been deemed too young to offer clues about their origins.

Finally – researchers have been trying for ages to come up with a way to mass-produce spider silk. It looks like the solution involves… …yeast? Wired has the details. I think this is especially cool because spider silk armor has been a staple in a lot of RPGs for ages and now spider silk clothing (if not armor) is looking like a real possibility!

Five years ago that would’ve been unthinkable. Spider silk is an ace of a material. It’s soft, flexible, and strong as steel. But it’s also a terror to produce en mass. Spiders, no surprise, tend to cannibalize each other before they crank out enough silk to be useful. Scientists tried BioSteel goats, animals that are genetically modified to produce the filament of a Golden Orb spider, but that proved untenable, too.


Happy Advent, friends! Another new church year awaits us!
I know that a fair number of denominations don’t pay much attention to the old Church holidays as they aren’t marked on most calendars, but my church (as most Anglican churches I know) is throwing itself into a hectic month of celebration and preparation.
I learned recently of a set of Advent prayers called the O Antiphons. The reason they’re called that? All the prayers start with “O.” These prayers also happen to be the base for the Christmas carol “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” There are a couple other interesting poetic tricks hidden in these prayers as well.

The O Antiphons refer to the seven antiphons that are prayed immediately before the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours (or the Divine Office). Each antiphon begins with the exclamation “O”, thus earning their popular name of the “O Antiphons.” They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, from Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Vespers of the Christmas Vigil.

I’m having difficulty coming up with a preamble for this article, so check out this cool RPG I found out about called Weave! It’s a card and dice-based RPG that interacts with an app. I also think that the cards and dice could be used in a similar way to Rory’s Story Cubes, kind of like an ink blot test.

Weave is a small box packed full of surprises. When I first opened it up, I was confused. There sat a deck of tarot sized cards and a set of dice. That’s it. No instructions. No rule books. No character sheets. Kyle explained the game to me as “A roleplaying platform.” The game is run by a free app available on iOS and the Android App Store. The only physical objects you need are the cards and dice contained in the box.

I remember what it was like to try to learn to knit. It’s one of my fonder memories in fact, even though I absolutely hated knitting. The frustration of having to learn to both knit AND purl is apparently one common enough that someone wrote an article about how spooky knitting is.

I’ll just put it right out there: Knitting is spooky. It’s obviously impossible to do, and yet you see people doing it all the time. These people clearly are a superior life-form. If you doubt this, spend a day with a dozen of your friends. At the end of the evening, have a look around: Eleven of you will have cookie crumbs in your laps, and the knitter will have an entire sweater.

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