Faith and Gaming: Answers

I must credit James V. West for inspiring this column. On a game-related forum elsewhere on the world wide web, he raised a question, and then he answered it. Between when I read the question and when I read his answer, I had provided my own answer, which proved to be somewhat distinct from his, and yet to fit with his quite well. Reading his thoughts, I saw in them something of value for this column, and determined to convey them here, combined with my own.

The question concerned why people would be interested in playing a role playing game that wrestled with the meaning of life, of moral and ethical questions and problems. Read more

Circuit Breakers—a Primetime Adventures play report and review

GREY, in his powered armor, grapples with the huge Guardian robot, keeping its grenade launcher aimed away from CONNOR and TANG, who continue to exchange fire with a dozen smaller robots. Meanwhile, the android ELLA is hacking into the mainframe as quickly as she can, hoping that once she’s in, she can defeat the government’s despotic artificial intelligence on its home turf…

My regular RPG group recently wrapped up a season of Primetime Adventures (PTA). Our campaign is called Circuit Breakers, and it focuses on a group of lunatics who are the world’s only hope against an artificial intelligence that has taken over several world governments. As busy adults, we can only play every three weeks, and many of our games have been preempted for various reasons, so it took us ten months to play just nine sessions. That got us through an entire season, though, and the group is ready for more, so I count it a tremendous success. If you’re interested in the play-by-play, feel free to drop by the campaign website at Obsidian Portal, where I’ve posted up each episode in screenplay format, as befits the game. In this article, though, I’d like to talk a little about how PTA plays, what I like about it, and what I don’t. Read more

Faith and Gaming: Admonition

For three years this column has been presenting thoughts on our Christian faith and how it relates to our games. In that time we have considered some of the essential aspects of play, looked at how to express our faith through our games, our relationships with other players, some of the difficult issues that are raised, and the objections others have made to our hobby. We have covered a lot of ground and made a lot of progress, revealing at every turn that fantasy, science fiction, role playing games, and other hobby games are legitimate and even praiseworthy pursuits for Christians.

Yet there are still many Christians out there who do not understand, and who have become entrenched in their positions. Further, there are still gamers who reject Christianity without discussion. We are still more the outcasts of these two groups than the bridge between them. Read more

The Battle of the Muddy Fields

Michael Garcia returns with another tale from his Exploration of Isenwald campaign.


BACKGROUND:

Having defeated the Eaters-of-the-Dead after an extended campaign, the party then won control of the Cloister Mine by legal means, namely by out-producing their rival Varyag claimants (envision Russians) in the span of one month. During that time, a third party of claimants attacked, but the party defeated them too. Finally, now in control of the mine, the party learned that the leader of the Varyag claimants was none other than the corrupt Orthodox Bishop of the nearby town of Arianport. Unwilling to yield the mine, but always eager to keep his hands clean, this bishop, or Yepiskop, dispatched a group of mounted thugs, the Oprichniki, to take the mine by force.

FROM THE DM:

This was our largest battle to date in this campaign (roughly 60 to 30). It was also the first time that the party saw specific spells that they often used cast against them. The PCs had to develop larger-scale battle tactics while contending with rain and challenging terrain (a muddy field surrounded by hills, plus the mine entrance). I also learned that a carefully crafted NPC might perish with a single roll of the dice. Creating that NPC was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back, but it made the player feel like a demigod. Lastly, the fate of the party’s spell caster at the end gave us a good laugh (the player role-played it perfectly too). The following write-up also gave one character (Sir Tomo) his nickname for the rest of the campaign. Don’t underestimate the effect of a decent write-up.

Read more

Faith and Gaming: Friends

As I write this, my wife is off rescuing one of her friends. This particular friend has lately found herself stranded in various places far from home; we aren’t quite clear how she gets to these places, but on more than one occasion of late, my wife has given her money to get busses or buy gas or otherwise arrange to get back to her currently somewhat distant home at the shore. Tonight she is stranded in a bar, about half an hour from us and an hour or so from her home if she had a car, which she does not. She expected to meet someone there who did not show; with such money as we can’t really spare but have in hand, my wife has headed out to rescue her, uncertain whether she is going to drive the added distance to the shore, put her on an expensive bus, or bring her back here. Read more

Dungeons & Dragons—a Sermon

Cover of Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, 5th Edition. Dungeons & Dragons is owned by Wizards of the Coast.

The following is a sermon originally posted on CGG Vice President David Mattingly’s own website. It is reposted here with permission. The layout has been adjusted to suit this format, and images have been replaced where necessary to comply with licensing agreements.


I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

At ConGlomeration 2016, I preached about dungeons and dragons (the ones in the Bible, not the roleplaying game itself).

Dungeons

There are several references to dungeons in the Bible. Here is one of the most famous:

“Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.” (Genesis 39:20)

Photo provided by Flikr user Nic McPhee under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Joseph (of “Technicolor Dreamcoat” fame) was sold into slavery by his own family, then wrongly accused by his owner’s wife. Despite his obvious integrity and quick rise through the ranks, he was thrown into prison (which might have been a dungeon, or a holding facility until he did go into the dungeon). Read more

Faith and Gaming: Slavery

Role playing games take us to other worlds, other times and places, some which were, some which might have been, some which yet might be, and even some that could not, as far as we understand, be. Because of this, they also challenge us at times to wrestle with answers to questions of morality that are not our own. In an age in which it was common, was polygamy wrong in the eyes of God? Would it be wrong for a human to eat an intelligent creature who is not human, given that it was as intelligent as a human but truly not related in any way that would make that cannibalism? Issues are raised in our games at times that don’t come up in our lives, because we don’t live in those worlds; yet we manage to find answers to these questions, and so come better to understand our own moral values.

Slavery is one of the more difficult and more common issues that arise in our games. Read more

Chaplain’s Bible Study: Revelation a.k.a. Apocalypse

Having completed the last of the epistles, the Chaplain’s Bible Study will be beginning a study of the Revelation, or Apocalypse, of John—the last and most controversial book in the New Testament.  The preliminaries post will go out sometime on Sunday, May 7th, 2017, and thereafter the study will progress at the rate of one thoroughly-examined verse per day, five days per week.  You can join the study by sending an email to cgg_review-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or through the Yahoo!Groups interface as cgg_review.

Mark Joseph Young, “MJ” to much of the gamer community, has been Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild for nearing two decades, and has been teaching this Bible Study since beginning with Romans in 2006.  He hold degrees in Biblical Studies from Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts (formerly in Teaneck, NJ) and Gordon College (Wenham, MA), received a Juris Doctore with honors from Widener University School of Law, and is Mensa qualified.  He is the author of our Faith and Gaming series, and of quite a few books and many online articles on quite a variety of subjects.  Some of his articles have been republished in French and German.  His online presence is maintained largely by support through Patreon and PayPal.me.

The study, officially sponsored by the Christian Gamers Guild, is open to all, has participants including ministers from a wide variety of denominations, and is focused on an analytical and exegetical study of the text.  We look forward to your participation.

Languages of Northumbria

CGG member Mike Garcia offers some of his copious campaign world documents for the continent of Northumbria.


ALCHEMISTS’ TONGUE, THE

This was the language created by alchemists in the ancient Aquilonian Empire, over a dozen centuries ago. The alchemical concepts are far older, dating back many millennia, but Aquilonian alchemists codified a set of unique and mystical runes to allow them to record and share their knowledge in some secrecy. No alchemist will teach the concepts or the runes to a non-alchemist.

AQUILONIAN

This was the common language of the ancient Aquilonian Empire, once located across the sea, but now in ruins. The Aquilonians used a sound-based system of letters, and this alphabet is now used for writing both Frangian and Zeelander.

FRANGIAN

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Frangia and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Frangian is a sister language to Zeelander. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Frangians use the Aquilonian alphabet.

HIGH TONGUE, THE

This is the language of the Frangian nobility, derived from the peculiar dialect of one of the Frangian ruling tribes from centuries ago. Those that understand Frangian have a 10% chance of understanding the High Tongue and vice versa. The High Tongue uses the Aquilonian alphabet.
Though the High Tongue is widely available in books and thus familiar to many scholars, few understand how to speak it fluently. Frangian nobles have carefully guarded the precise verbal nuances of their language—a practice that allows them to recognize one another and to distinguish their own from imposters.

KENIENKA

This is the language of the Kenianka, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. They call it the ‘Flint Tongue’, as the Kenienka call themselves the ‘Flint People’ or the ‘People of the Flint Place’.

NORSK

This is the common language of the Varangians, who once ruled the mighty Northern Realm in Northumbria. Though that kingdom is now in ruins, the Varangian people spread throughout Northumbria, keeping alive their native tongue. Norsk and Old Frangian both come from an ancient northern language, now forgotten. Those that can understand Frangian or Zeelander have a 05% chance to understand Norsk and vice versa. Varangians use a sound-based system of runes, derived from those of the dwarves and elves.

PICTISH

This is the common language of the Picts in Northumbria. It is entirely different from all other known languages in the region. Picts use a sound-based system of runes, possibly derived from those of the Varangians, but many scholars argue that any similarities are coincidence.

WENDAT

This is the language of the Wendat, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. Its origins are unknown.

ZEELANDER

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Zeeland and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Zeelander is a sister language to Frangian. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Zeelanders use the Aquilonian alphabet.

ELVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the fey folk. They call it the ‘ancient song’, or vanha laulu. It is entirely different from all other non-elven languages.
The elves use a sound-based system of runes, which later became the inspiration for other runic systems, such as that of the dwarves and that of the Varangians. The elves actually use two sets of runes, one for common writing (called sanat, meaning ‘words’) and another (called voimat, meaning ‘powers’) for important concepts like magic and law.  All elves know the former, and all elders know the latter as well.

DWARVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the mountain folk. Dwarves refer to their tongue as the ‘song of stone and fire’.
The dwarves use two sound-based systems of runes, both derived from those of the elves. They use the first set of runes, which they simply call ‘carvings’, for common writing. These runes undoubtedly had some influence on development of Varangian runes. The second set of runes, which they call ‘smithing marks’, they use for important concepts like magic and manufacturing secrets.  Most dwarves know the ‘carvings’, but only proven dwarven smiths know the ‘smithing marks’.

GNOMISH

This is the soft language of the reclusive forest-dwelling gnomes. Gnomes do not teach their tongue to non-gnomes so the languages remains a mystery to most.
The gnomes use a sound-based system of runes, possibly influenced by those of the elves, but aso similar in some ways to those used by Picts. Some scholars suggest that the early Picts learned their runes from gnomes.

DM’S NOTE ON NUMBER OF LANGUAGES KNOWN

A PC’s intelligence determines how many languages he or she can learn, but the PC does not begin with his potential fully achieved.

  1. Each PC should start out with a primary human language, plus any suitable racial language.
  2. Frangian nobles raised as such will also know the High Tongue (the family should be wealthy though—DM’s call).
  3. Thieves will also know Thieves’ Cant, which is not really a full language.
  4. Each magic user, illusionist, or cleric may start with one additional language that is open to him or her.
  5. Thereafter, if intelligence allows, each PC may know one additional language that is open to him or her.
  6. A PC must learn anything beyond this starting number of languages during the game, taking active steps to learn from an NPC. It will take time.

For example, a Frangian knight with a 16 intelligence (maximum of 5 additional languages) would know Frangian as his base language, plus the High Tongue. As he could start with one more, he might choose Zeelander. That means that he starts with three languages and can learn three more in the course of play.

Another example: A Zeelander ranger with a 16 intelligence (maximum of five additional languages) would know Zeelander as his base language. His back story explains that he has been on the frontier for many years, so he can chose Kenienka or Wendat or Varangian as a second tongue. he starts with two languages and would be able to learn four more.

Another example: A Frangian cleric from a noble family has a 14 intelligence (four additional languages). He starts with Frangian as his base language, and, having been raised in a noble family, he knows the High Tongue as well. As a cleric, he then chooses Zeelander. Lastly, he selects ancient Aquilonian as his bonus language, having studied it for years before arriving in Northumbria. He therefore starts with four languages and can learn one more during play.

DM’S NOTE ON LANGUAGE RESTRICTIONS

The guiding principle is that a PC’s knowledge of a language must make sense. Languages are not flippantly learned. One must spend a great deal of time and energy both learning and practicing a language.

Some basic rules for a Blackwater Campaign:

  1. No PC, save under very rare circumstances, will know the Alchemist’s Tongue. Only alchemists learn this carefully guarded code.
  2. Only Frangian nobles, raised in such a household, will know the High Tongue.
  3. Anyone wishing to know Kenienka or Wendat must have spent a good deal of time in eastern Northumbria among the native speakers. It cannot be learned through books, and it cannot be learned quickly through casual conversation.
  4. No PC can know Pictish. It is very different, but more importantly, the Picts are utterly hostile to other peoples, and they do not value intellectual pursuits so their literature is almost non-existent.
  5. Save under rare circumstances, no human PC should know the elven tongue as the elves do not readily teach it to others. If a PC knows elven runes, they will always be the ones for common writing (sanat).
  6. Dwarves are less guarded in teaching their language, though any PC that knows dwarves runes will know only the ‘carvings’ for common writing—not the smithing marks.

Faith and Gaming: Losing

We’ve heard all the pithy sayings, aphorisms, witticisms, and proverbs that have been expounded on this subject. You can’t win them all. If anything can go wrong, it will. You can’t win for losing. There’s no sense worrying about it, nothing’s going to turn out all right. These are bits of the wisdom of this age. They have a certain appeal in them, reaching to that side of us that is tired of the struggle. As someone has written, the three rules of the game of life are one, you can’t win; two, you can’t even break even; and three, you can’t get out of the game.
31defeat
Yet I, at least, hesitate at these. It’s not that they don’t strike a chord somewhere within me. It’s that I think the pessimism they reflect is not Read more