RPG-ology #16: Creatures

This is RPG-ology #16:  Creatures, for March 2019.


In seeking a topic for this month, I kept coming back to one covered in Game Ideas Unlimited, August 3rd, 2001, which discussed envisioning and describing fantastic creatures.  I thought of rewriting the idea for this column, but as I reviewed it I was more and more persuaded that I couldn’t improve on the original.  Thus I offer here a republication of

Game Ideas Unlimited:

Empiricism

Empiricist philosopher David Hume espoused the opinion that we can’t imagine anything we’ve never experienced.

To support his position, he adduced evidence from the descriptions of mythical creatures.  The Gryphon, for instance, has the body and legs of a lion with the head and wings of an eagle.  Pegasus similarly is just a horse with bird wings attached.  This is a small that, that a large this.  Even the dragon proved to be nothing other than a giant lizard or snake with the wings of a bird or bat.

He did concede one point:  he thought it might be possible to imagine a color that was a shade between two other colors.

I don’t want to suggest that I’m smarter than David Hume; let’s say I had the advantage of a century of technological advances.  It seemed to me almost immediately that that exception was a crack in the wall which would ultimately admit the flood.  Read more

The Battle of Heinrich’s Horn

Another tale in the saga of the Beckett Family’s adventures in Northumbria! These events follow Trial by Combat


Background

The session began with the PCs at the foot of Heinrich’s Horn, a steep and rocky hill about two leagues east of Blackwater Lake. Lord Balin Blackwater had just awarded the Beckett family the whole of Hickory Mountain, a rugged wilderness area of roughly a hundred square miles! Heinrich’s Horn sits at the southeast corner of that mountain. Lord Balin’s first command to his Beckett vassals was to clear the Horn of a band of wicked robber knights, who had recently established a camp there. They were to bring the brigands, especially the two leaders, Sir Raynald of Setmoor and Sir Aglovale of Kolkirk, back to Blackwater Keep, dead or alive. Two days ago, Lord Roger Beckett led a force of fifteen kinsmen and friends, bolstered by eight mercenaries, to the foot of the Horn. The winding path up the side of the hill—the only approach available to most—was treacherous, but they had a plan. Read more

Faith in Play #16: Mourning

This is Faith in Play #16:  Mourning, for March 2019.


Dearly beloved, we gather today to mourn the passing of our companion Ralph, a bold adventurer who met his fate defending his friends and companions.  Although we are greatly saddened at this loss, we can take some comfort in the knowledge that Ralph was a non-player character, and his loss of little consequence to the ongoing game as he will be replaced by a new recruit during the party’s next visit to town.

I once commented in Game Ideas Unlimited that game characters often died with very little recognition of their deaths within the game world.  At the time I had just helped my sons bury a family cat, and noted that the life, and the death, of this small animal mattered to them, impacted them.  I wondered that in so many of the games I had played, the deaths of character party members were of less consequence to the other characters in the party.  It was as if death did not matter to them.

I have run many hours of Multiverser, and in that game we have what Ron Edwards said was an excellent answer to character death:  when a player character dies, he starts again in another universe in a new adventure.  However, I have also run many hours of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and played in several other role playing games.  I remember when a beloved Gamma World character was killed I was in such shock that I played the rest of the night from the couch across the room (the living room end of a long living room-dining room), despite the fact that I had two characters in the game and the one who was still alive was the leader of the group.  Even in Multiverser, non-player characters who matter sometimes die.  Yet player characters somehow fail to mourn them.

Mourning is something of a sticky issue in Christendom.  I am at an age at which I sometimes hear that people I have not seen for decades, such as college friends, have died.  My reaction is often that they were always more fortunate than I, and now they get to go home first.  There are churches in which funerals are if not upbeat at least positive.  One woman who had reached the age of one hundred and five and still got someone to transport her from the nursing home to church every weekend commented to her pastor that she’d better die soon or the family was likely to think that she’s not coming.  We speak of the joy of the afterlife, but find ourselves mourning when those we love have entered it.

Of course, the best explanation is that we are not really sad for them, but for ourselves.  I lost my father a few years back, and I still miss him.  Our best man and the girl who sang at our wedding have both succumbed to cancer, and many times I had wished I could see them again.  We have lost opportunities to connect again in this life with people who mattered to us.  We should be glad for them, but still we are sad for ourselves, for our loss.  I am not sorry that they died, really; I am sorry that I have lost them.  For now.

Yet what do our characters believe?  How do they regard the deaths of their comrades and companions and acquaintances?  Do they even have friends, and if so will they miss them when they’re gone?

If so, why is it that I don’t recall ever having a game character attend a funeral?

It seems that our imaginary characters fail to be human in this critical way.  We fail to feel the pain of loss when one of our number dies.  It is a real pain which we feel in our ordinary lives, and to be human in this way, to have our imagined characters care about each other, communicates something about love to others in the game.  It says that we care about them, that people like them matter to us, reflected in the fact that people like their characters matter to our character.  It is a sad moment when someone dies, and it should be so for game characters—even for those non-player characters whose loss doesn’t really impact the players.


Previous article:  Gamism.
Next article:  Narrativism.

Blackwater Lake

This document is another piece of the Compendium of Lands Surrounding Blackwater Lake, compiled for Lord Beckett by Talvion Tulossa of Clan Cormallen. The Compendium is thus far incomplete, for the Becketts arrived at Blackwater before a full survey could be performed.


BLACKWATER LAKE

Nestled between several ranges of hills, Blackwater Lake is a narrow body of water that stretches for about 30 miles from north to south. The cold, deep waters of the lake, though only a few miles wide, allow for easy transportation of valuable goods. The lake drains northward and forms the source of the Blackrun River, which flows northward about 100 miles to the ruined capital of the old Northern Realm of the Varangians. Just south of Blackwater Lake are the headwaters to the Blackwater River, which flows southward for roughly 250 miles and leads to the chief Frangian city in Northumbria, the port of Yarrvik.

Lying directly between these two great waterways is the tiny hamlet of Lakesend. Realizing long ago that the site was perfectly suited to control the waterways, royal agents established a keep at the southern tip of the lake, not far from the hamlet.

Blackwater Gobalds

Legends say that a clan of gnomes left the forests around Blackwater Lake centuries ago, and its members have survived as waterborne scavengers ever since. Known to lake region residents as gobalds, they supposedly organize themselves into egalitarian communes in the form of armored warships. Each such “turtle ship” is a large, sail-powered, slow-moving vehicle with multiple decks, auxiliary oars, and armor plating. The ship is large by human standards, making it downright spacious for the three-foot-tall gobalds. This ship provides them with shelter, transportation, and defense—all in one.

Based on all accounts, gobalds are essentially pirates, but their small stature places limits on their ventures. They do not attack large or well-manned ships, choosing instead to prey on small craft or lone travelers. They ply the waters of the lake almost exclusively at night, for their night vision allows them to travel undetected, to avoid confrontations, and to ambush small craft. Gobalds do not limit themselves to the water, but they are never far from their turtle ship. Often, they will dock their ship and venture a mile or so inland, organized into small raiding parties, looking to ambush lone hunters, trappers, miners, pilgrims, and other travelers. Though they will not exclusively do so, they prefer to ambush at night, as their night vision makes their night attacks just as effective as those in the daylight, while enemies suffer significant disadvantages in battle.

In their depredations, they seldom aim to kill, for their main interest is plunder. Whether they get their loot on land or sea, they aim to sell it at bargain prices to the scattered residents around the lake. They are competent leatherworkers and blacksmiths, able to repair tools, basic armor, and basic weapons—at least enough for sale. According to guards that have patrolled the lake for years, the gobalds have also developed a symbiotic relationship with the many human pirates that operate in these waters, purchasing excess weapons, armor, and equipment that the pirates do not want for half its standard value. In return, they are often exempt from pirate hostility, the pirates seeing them as useful ‘fences’. Gobalds usually sell their wares for standard rates, and since rates for most goods in the lake region are inflated to three times the standard rates, many communities deal with the gobalds despite an inherent disapproval of their methods.

A band of travelling gnomes shared with me that gobalds live almost entirely on various forms of mushrooms that grow all about the lake. In some places, they have hidden mushroom patches in the forest, which they harvest every few weeks. They drink mainly water, and even stagnant water does not seem to bother them or make them sick. Gobalds are reportedly highly resistant to magic and poison.

Gobalds dress in rough-spun, gray-green monastic-style robes, over which they have leather bandoliers. Though all work for the enrichment of the commune, they effectively embrace personal poverty, which explains their meager dress. Quite often, their clothing is dirty and musty-smelling. Though they bathe often enough, their preference for the interiors of their dark and gloomy ships, as well as their habit of nighttime travel, means that their clothing is often fouled by mold. Yet, they seem to have developed immunity to both its smell and its effects. In fact, gobalds are known for their hardy health, despite their foul food and dank living conditions. When in a natural setting, such as woods or hills, gobalds move very quietly and blend into vegetation so well that they are nearly invisible.

Gobalds try to avoid open battle, but their ambushes do carry a degree of risk so they sometimes wear light leather armor beneath their robes. As for weapons, they favor light crossbows, javelins, and half-spears, but their primary weapon is a paralytic substance that they obtain from a rare mushroom and then concentrate. They put this substance on all of their weapons, and they presumably carry an ample supply of antidotes. It takes only one minute to take effect and then renders a human victim helpless for several minutes. This is usually long enough for the gobalds to rob or to capture the victim.

Gobalds can largely speak the language of the forest gnomes, though their own language has significant variations. They also speak Frangian, albeit with a choppy dialect that makes it almost incomprehensible. Hand signals greatly aid communication. Their speech is fast and choppy.

Gobalds seem to have lost their ancestors’ inherent mining skills, but instead they have developed inherent navigation and mariner skills. They never seem to become lost, and they seem undeterred by fog or darkness. As for seafaring skills, they can sense coming storms. Ironically, at such times they rarely dock, but rather take to the open waters of the lake, perhaps because the turtle ships are incredibly well built and buoyant. Though one may pitch and roll, it will seldom take damage at while on the lake, whereas pounding waves may smash to bit any ship near the shore.

Little is known about gobald society. Rumors indicate that most females and children dwell in underground lairs near the lake. Upon reaching adulthood, male gobalds take up service in the turtle ship. There is a legend that female shamans oversee gobald society, and that males hold all other positions of importance.

Rumors Related to the Lake

  1. Blackwater Lake is bottomless. Its waters run down deep into the earth, far below the sight of mortal man.
  2. A giant sea monster dwells in the depths of the lake. Over two-dozen witnesses have seen it at one time or another. Most describe it as a pale serpent, longer than a carrack. There the agreement between their descriptions ends. Some mention worm-like tentacles, dripping with slime, and others mention six or more heads with black beady eyes.
  3. A giant dragon—pale as a grave worm—dwells in a burrow near the lake’s edge.
  4. Barbarian legends say that a meteor strike formed this lake centuries ago. Its impact left a giant scar on the land that later filled with water. Over time, the meteor’s energies somehow changed the waters, giving them their distinctive black hue.
  5. The lake’s waters bring strange powers when enough are imbibed.
  6. The lake’s waters are poisonous.
  7. The vile goblyns that swarm the mountainsides of Northumbria have their origins in black underground waters. They are not natural creatures. They do not breed or eat or sleep. Instead, they spawn from black subterranean waters at the will of their dark god, Maglubiyet. Blackwater Lake is a rare spot where those dark subterranean waters touch the surface.
  8. Blackwater Lake contains a strange blackish metal that is worth many times its weight in gold. It is so hard that no normal fire can smelt it. It must be cold-wrought, requiring weeks to craft a single blade. Smiths must use special techniques to give such a blade an edge, but it will punch through normal iron with relative ease.
  9. The strange blackish metal found in Blackwater Lake is somehow deadly against unnatural creatures such as demons, restless spirits, and werewolves.

Points of Interest

Smaller Bodies of Water

Long Pond

Streams descending from Settlers Mountain gather in this narrow basin about a league in length. From there the water runs past Lakesend on its way to form the headwaters of the mighty Blackwater River. During heavy rains and the spring thaw, the water rises high enough to overspill its banks just upstream of the village. The overflow cascades down to the Narrows below the Keep. Occasionally the river threatens to divert entirely to this secondary channel, but the Baron pays to have the main bed dredged in order to preserve the income from tolls on the East Bridge.

Martin’s Cove

The Narrows

This narrow body of water is the extreme southern tip of Blackwater Lake, extending in a crescent from the site of Blackwater Keep southward to the Blackmoor. The waters of the Narrows are shallow, so merchants do not send large ships to dock at the Keep, instead sending smaller boats to unload cargo.

Rockteeth Cove

Silvercrest Cove

Steffan’s Spring

Stillwater Pond

Whitehart Lake

Caves and Caverns

Drucker’s Den

The Pens

Hills, Peaks and Passes

Baldface Peak

Baldwin’s Bluff

Belford’s Ridge

Black Bear Mountain

Boulder Hill

In 604 FR, Duke Leopold of Ostmark arrived in the lake region with 1000 well-armed men and countless mercenaries to drive out the goblyns. They crushed an army at Boulder Hill, though the noble Duke died of his wounds. This defeat set the goblyns back, but it was the last effort made by men. Just a few years after the battle, goblyn numbers began swelling once again.

Brigands Rock

Burke’s Hill

Craig’s Peak

Falcons Eyrie

Foster’s Ridge

Hammond’s Hill

Hanover’s Hill

Hickory Mountain

The Horns

Lonewolf Mountain

Rumor has it that a werewolf haunts this rugged mountain. At the very least, a large black wolf is often sighted prowling by itself in the forests here or baying at the moon on the mountaintop. A few dozen settlers live independently in small wooden huts on the sides of this mountain. Baronial tax collectors have had little luck getting taxes or fealty from these settlers. Most are woodsmen and hunters.

Luthor’s Leap

Mount Melias

Mount Smestad

Parisi Point

Legend says, long before the naming of the lands, a star fell from the skies and sheared off the north face of the mount now known as Parisi Point. The event created a crater at the base of the hill that filled with water and since has been known as Moon Lake. The lake’s waters are rumored to be poisonous, and periodically its heated waters bubble to super-heated levels and release noxious gases that keep the area entrenched in a sickening fog. The lowland areas between the lake and mount have become wetlands, and the small swamp is always filled with mist and fog that tends to disorient travelers through the area. People often become lost when passing through, and many have disappeared entirely, with growing rumors of a magic fog, creature, or mystical forces blamed for the disappearances.

Another feature of lore is a suspected vein of an unknown metal that was exposed, or introduced, to the landscape in the sheared face of the hill. The substance, again according to legend, has been used in the magical conjuring and religious rites of the ancient peoples of the area. It is unknown what methods were used to explore the area, or locate and collect the material. Many have searched for the ore only to end in failure and folly.

An Aquilonian lord, a ranger by the name of Gregorius Parisius, took up residence in the area and became intrigued by the rumors. Despite decades of searching, growing a consuming obsession, and witnessing strange happenings, Gregor didn’t locate a vein, but he was able to find a small amount of some strange ore. He used the metal to forge a small axe that is reportedly indestructible and holds magical properties that helped the ranger defeat and drive back the goblyns in the realm.

The method and means used to forge the axe blade, along with Gregor and the axe itself, have been long-lost in history. It is rumored that Gregor disappeared on or around Parisi Point, in search of more ore, possibly overrun by the goblyns he fought hard to drive away. Others claim the axe possessed the ranger and granted him an extended life, and that it is he that ambushes passers-by, hoping to keep them from his find. Several bits of terrain surrounding the hill have taken the name of this mostly unknown figure, including Parisi Point for the hill, Gregor’s Grotto to the poisoned lake and its surrounds, and Gregor’s Swamp for the surrounding wetlands.

The swamp is also known as the Walking Wood, as it propensity to disorient travelers has led some to say the trees move to change and obscure trails. Some have even said there are dangerous plants and flora that poison or attack infiltrators. Other claim to have witnessed—or been attacked by—goblyns when passing through the region.

Pilgrims’ Mountain

Over three decades ago, clerics of St. Cuthbert erected a small shrine on the top of this rocky peak, but a small earthquake caused it to collapse, and it has never been rebuilt.

Runestone Peak

An ancient black monolith, made from some unknown stone and carved with indecipherable runes, sits atop this lofty peak, one of the highest in the region. Travelers weave many strange tales about the monolith and the peak on which it sits. Some tales tell of diabolic gatherings, human sacrifices, and witches’ covens.

Russel’s Pass

Saint’s Peak

Settlers Mountain

Traders Pass

William’s Pass

Wyverns Peak

Islands

Berel’s Island

Carlon’s Prize

This small island received its name in 506 FR, after a Frangian expedition crushed the Cruthni Picts. The leader of the expedition, Count Carlon, had many enemies in the provincial court at Yarrvik, and rather than receiving a large swath of territory as a reward, he received only this tiny island.

Eric’s Island

Hunters’ Island

This small island features a safe haven of the Huntsmen. They maintain a sizable lodge there.

Sanctuary Rock

About this large rocky island near the center of the lake swirl strange currents that defy all explanation. Swimming in these strong and unpredictable currents has proven deadly on several occasions. A very rich merchant named Jehan of St.-Martin donated a large sum of coin to build several structures on the island, including a large hospital, for he had a young sister that required special care. A small but dedicated staff attends to the unfortunates here.

The island’s geography makes access extremely difficult. Aside from the strange currents, only one area is suitable for mooring, and only during a specific part of the day, when the weather is fair. The inmates never leave so there is seldom a problem. These factors led the Baron to construct a special prison there for a few noble prisoners that he spared from the axe but dared not release. The island also features a lighthouse to warn off passing ships.

A small, select Baronial garrison patrols the island constantly to keep out the curious and to keep in the condemned. All guardsmen answer to the caretaker of the Island, who attends to prisoners and lunatics alike. The guardsmen, almost all of who have committed some serious crime and received a life sentence, live well on Sanctuary Rock and have no desire to leave.

Rushes Island

Wycliffe Island

DRY DOCK FACILITY

The Guild maintains a small dry-dock facility on a sandy shore of the island. This facility is adjacent to a rather placid, deepwater bay. The facility consists of a stone wall surrounding a stone building or two, as well as a number of wooden outbuildings.
Something, believed to be a force of goblyns, recently overran this facility and slew almost all of the staff. We found their charred remains in a pit.

BATTLE RIDGE

CEMETERY RIDGE

CHAPEL HILL

This grassy hill sits on the southern edge of the island, overlooking the lake. At its crest is Wycliffe Chapel.

GALLOWS HILL

TOWER OF MANATHANMOCH

As it has for untold centuries, a towering column of giant basalt seems to protrude from the sides of the limestone cliffs on Wycliffe Island. Measured from its base, it rises over 1100 feet, though its rises only about 800’ above the surface of the lake. Called Manathanmoch’s Tower, the eerie structure obtained its current name from a bloodthirsty Pictish king, who ruled this island and terrorized the denizens of the lake region some three hundred years ago. It is largely believed that he lived in this strange and formidable tower, its size and grandeur reflecting his power, and its dark and foreboding architecture reflecting the fear he engendered. After his unexplained disappearance, his fierce Cruthni clansmen dominated the region for decades more, using their primitive longships to raid and plunder surrounding settlements. The only known scroll that mentions Cruthni civilization, the incomplete Chronicle of Painted Kings, written by an anonymous Varangian sage, recalls that the Cruthni fell from power because of some mysterious disaster that suddenly befell them. It is clear that not all perished, for years later, when Frangian knights first explored the lake region, they clashed repeatedly with Cruthni warriors. Yet those Picts, easily swept aside, were but shadows of their former kinsmen.

WYCLIFFE CHAPEL

This multi-denominational chapel, built in a neo-Frangian style, features buttresses, flying buttresses, and large stained-glass windows with pointed arches. Inside are four separate chapels, dedicated respectively to Pholtus of the Blinding Light, Celestian the Far Wanderer, Saint Cuthbert, and Boccob the Uncaring. There are also two separate crypts for notable servants of the Blackwater family, while a third crypt is reserved for members of the family. A force of goblyns recently overran this facility, desecrating some of the chapels.

Landings and Moorings

Belcastro’s Landing

Trappers Landing

Man-Made Structures

Ash Hollow Camp

Fort Angus

Horik’s Tower

The Moat House

Pine Ridge Camp

Shrine to Celestian

Shrine to Fhalanghan

Temple of Pholtus

Zeelander Trading Post

Peninsulas

Beacon Point

Watchtower Point

White Birch Point

Widow’s Point

Swamps

The Blackmoor

Stillwater Swamp

 

RPG-ology #15: Vivid

This is RPG-ology #15:  Vivid, for February 2019.


Last month I told a story of a real-life adventure on a canoe trip from which I have vivid memories.  I promised that this month I would tell of another adventure.

There were six of us.  We had been traveling with a larger group through some underground caves when a collapse separated us from our guides.  However, we had reason to believe that there would be another exit through the caverns, and we had food and water for several days.  We began looking.

Within a couple days we had by process of elimination established that we were going to have to cross a chasm.  It was at least a hundred meters wide, and there was a visible exit from a ledge on the far side.  The good news was that the dim light in the cavern revealed pillars of rock rising to our level, as if carved islands in an ancient river, so we could in theory move from one to another.  The bad news was that this dim light came from a river of magma perhaps a hundred meters below, making the space oppressively hot and promising a swift end to anyone who missed a step.

We went to work, using our equipment and skills to scavenge materials from the caves, building a pair of primitive catwalk bridges and supplementing our ropes with some woven vine-like growths.  We doused ourselves and our gear with most of our remaining water, and lassoed stalactites on the ceiling for safety ropes, also tying ropes around our waists to anchor us as we crossed, and in short hops we moved our selves, our bridges, and our ropes across the open space, only too aware of the danger below.  It was a tense couple of hours, and we lost a rope to a breaking stalactite, caught a man who slipped off a bridge, dropped a bridge into the depths below, and made the last hop swinging Tarzan-style across the final gap.  We collapsed on the ledge, hot, sweaty, breathless, spent, and yet happy that we had gotten all six of us across.

As we had hoped, the passage we had viewed across the canyon led swiftly to an exit, and we were out of the caves.

It is probably obvious to most readers that this is not a real occurrence.  It becomes less real when I mention that I was dralasite, and my companions included a yazarian, a human, two vrusk, and another dralasite, and the caves were underground on a planet known as Volturnus.  The entire adventure occurred in the imaginations of three players and a referee.

Yet some of my memories of that adventure are as vivid in my mind as those of shooting the rapids in Skinner’s Falls at flood stage.  There is some truth to the notion in Total Recall that once you come home from the vacation all you really have is the memories and maybe a few souvenirs whose value lies in their ability to trigger the memories.  Sometimes our role playing games create memories, some of them vivid, some of them tense, some of them funny, and all of them fun.  Whether they are bare knuckles success stories like this one, or hysterical failures like Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships, poignant moments or exciting adventures, they become memories, sometimes vivid memories, transporting us to fantastic worlds not only when we’re playing but years, even decades, later when we remember what we only imagined doing as if we had done it.

That is one of the amazing things about this hobby.  It brings worlds alive, and puts us in them, perhaps in ways no other medium has yet managed.


Previous article:  Shock.
Next article:  Creatures.

Trial by Combat

We return to the frontier of Northumbria for another Beckett Family adventure. 


Background

See the Blackwater Keep article for a key to this map.

The session began with the PCs newly returned from a foray to the ruined temple of Pholtus on nearby Settlers Mountain. They made it back to Blackwater Keep just in time to keep a dinner appointment with Lord Balin Blackwater. Several members of the party were still sorely wounded from the recent encounter with the indescribable ‘terror in the tower.’ Just before departing for the Keep, some Beckett kinsmen learned that the hated Mandrakes, their archenemies, some of whom had recently arrived in the Barony, had been active in their absence. The leader of the Mandrake party here was Sir Mallory, the second son to the cunning and twisted Mandrake patriarch, Lord Terrick. Several Becketts spotted Sir Mallory hunting and hawking with Lord Balin on the previous day, and many feared that he was poisoning Balin’s mind toward them. They were anxious about the impending dinner engagement.

Read more

Faith in Play #15: Gamism

This is Faith in Play #15:  Gamism, for February 2019.


Glancing back over previous articles, I am often reminded that although I did an article on DFK—Drama, Fortune, and Karma, Faith and Gaming:  Mechanics—I never addressed the more controversial three-letter set found in Ron Edwards’ Big Model, GNS.  After all, what we get out of playing our games is a significant part of how our faith is involved, and ought to be considered.

If you don’t know what GNS is, or have never heard of “Creative Agenda”, or simply aren’t sure of the meanings of these frequently-bantered terms from previous decades, my own summary is available at Places to Go, People to Be as Theory 101:  Creative Agenda (or on their French site as Théorie 101 – 3e partie : Les propositions créatives).  The short version is that a creative agenda is what any given player enjoys and seeks to maximize when he plays a game.  Ron hates short versions; he does not think them accurate, and he’s probably right.  Meanwhile, players hate to be labeled, categorized, pigeonholed, so if you tell someone he’s gamist, he’s likely to challenge you.

There’s a joke there.  Never mind.

Gamism has a particular stigma, because it is the agenda of munchkins and rules lawyers, and these are regarded by many as among the most irksome players in the games.  However, despite the fact that such players usually are gamist, they don’t define gamism.  Read more

Our Friends and Allies

The Christian Gamers Guild is not alone in our efforts to build faith communities among the geek sub-cultures. Numerous other organizations, ministries, and individuals are also doing valuable and powerful work among Trekkies, roleplayers, cosplayers, video gamers, and many other segments. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few people we think you should get to know!

Editor’s note: Where possible I’ve paraphrased what each group has to say about itself, replacing all the “we” language with “they.” I don’t know why I’m putting this in an Editor’s note, since the author and the editor are the same person, but whatever…

And some errata: Geekdom House has split off their publishing arm into Mythos & Ink in order to comply with Canadian non-profit law. GH itself is retooling a bit, and we’ll know more about what they’re becoming in a few weeks, I guess. I am also adding some other groups that I overlooked initially. They’re all at the top of the article, so if you’re just looking for the updates, start here!

Although several of these organizations produce (or are) products, the Christian Gamers Guild does not endorse any of them, in accordance with our policy to neither condemn nor endorse any particular game product.


The Christians Discord group is a safe place for humor, fellowship, praise, prayer and active mobile, console, and PC gaming. Not a gamer? No problem; join for the fellowship.

Camping Grounds is a game studio ministry that focuses on making fast pace visual novels of praise and worship.

Cactus Game Design publishes a variety of Christian-themed games and toys, including Solomon’s Temple and the Redemption Collectible Card Game.

The Bridge is a Facebook group for those who bridge Christianity and Fandom. It took over from where Fans for Christ left off a couple of years ago.

God Loves the Freaks is a book that points to a serious issue facing the church today – reaching out to subcultures and those who are considered the freaks of society. Stephen Weese paints a vision of a church living by grace, in unity; without the legalism that divides and causes us to shun others based on outward appearance. God looks at the heart and he loves everyone, including the freaks. If God loves the freaks, shouldn’t the church as well?

City on a Hill Gaming is a 5th edition D&D actual play podcast. They looked in vain for a family-friendly actual play and couldn’t find one, so they made their own!

Deliverance is an epic “Christian Fantasy” Boardgame Adventure that features Angels vs Demons in a cooperative tactical dungeon crawler for 1-4 players. And yes, it 100% fits within the Biblical narrative while being a fantasy game! It’s not available yet (as of 2/4/2019), but there’s a Kickstarter campaign starting up soon, and there’s a Facebook group to follow for news and playtesting opportunities.

Costumers for Christ: Mild-mannered minister by day, Scott Bayles and his family are active costumers and comic-collectors who share the message of Christ through comics and cosplay. There’s also a Facebook page and associated group and Scott has written a book entitled Holy Heroes: The Gospel According to DC and Marvel.

Dungeon Master Pastor is a blog where Pastor meets Dungeon Master, and following Jesus meets tabletop fantasy role playing. As baptized children of God, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. One of those things happens to be: Play Dungeons & Dragons like a boss. They run an annual Pastors & Dungeons Retreat where, with a mixture of gaming, learning, and Sabbath rest, ministers will explore the connections between life, ministry, and the world’s greatest roleplaying game.

Chara Games designs and publishes innovative and fun tabletop games with Christian themes. They want to help you, your family, and your friends find joy through the relationships built around the games they publish.

Geeks Under Grace wants to Educate Christians on how to safely consume pop culture, Evangelize geeks with the message of the Gospel, Equip Christians and churches to reach geeks with the Gospel, and Encourage Christians as they grow into a deeper relationship with Christ. They have articles and reviews about video games, board games, rpgs, television, movies, comics, music, anime, and Christian life.

Geekdom House exists to love and serve nerds and geeks by making a creative contribution to the culture and encouraging, fostering, and facilitating deeper community through discussion and support. They also desire to provide the space and opportunity for those seeking excellence within those sub-cultures to hone and perfect their craft and to give them the tools and encouragement needed to graft their love of geekery into all aspects of their life.

The Aetherlight is a swashbuckling steampunk action-adventure game based on the greatest story ever told! Astute players will recognise echoes with the epic story of the Bible at key points: characters, major plot shifts, life lessons, and personal encounters. The Aetherlight is a story as old as time, reimagined for a digital age.

Mighty Grace Positive Gaming reaches out to video gamers through various media, shares the message of Jesus Christ, creates a positive encouraging community, facilitates spiritual growth and wellness with people. They have a very exciting personal support and counseling service for gamers available in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese. That is in addition to convention and local game store ministry, streaming, and game reviews.

The Holy Lands RPG is an expressly Christian high-fantasy tabletop RPG.  Real Christianity is the fundamental faith of the character, not some allegorical fantasy faith in a polytheistic (multi-god) world. The character believes in, proclaims, and fights for God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the real message of eternal salvation.

The Christian Game Developers Conference is a unique event, focused around encouraging and edifying those who are interested in both making games and glorifying God. The conference is three days of talks, workshops, and fellowship, fellowship, fellowship. Come prepared to show what you are working on, and to encourage others in their projects and be inspired.

Mythos & Ink is a small press with a passion for publishing great stories and the community built around them. Keep an eye on them for their upcoming podcast The Wayfarer’s Guide to Worldbuilding.

Innroads Ministries is the umbrella organization for the Game Store Prophets and Bard and Bible podcasts. They have a number of articles about ministering through tabletop games, both roleplaying and board games, and how to bring your faith to bear on your hobby. Check out their Facebook group The Tavern to interact with them. That’s not the whole of their efforts, though! Check out their What We Do page for more information.

Saving the Game is a podcast at the intersection of faith in Christ, tabletop roleplaying games, and collaborative storytelling. They provide resources for Christian gamers, and in their own way they aim to close the gap between non-gaming Christians and non-Christian gamers. They have a Discord channel, where you can chat with them and their other listeners.

Love Thy Nerd wants to speak redemption, hope, truth, and love into the parts of nerd culture that have often been alienated, demonized, dismissed, or simply ignored by Christians. They also want to educate Christians on the value of nerd culture and how we can love our nerdy neighbors better. They minister at conventions; host articles on comics, video games, roleplaying, film, and more; and host three pocasts: Humans of GamingFree Play, and The Pull List. Interact with them in their Facebook community.

Geek@Arms is a podcast at the crossroads of geek culture and Christian faith. Your humble editor is one of the hosts. We discuss comics, sci-fi, fantasy, historical swordsmanship, video games, medieval reenactment, tabletop gaming, and more.

The Geekpreacher, Derek White, is a United Methodist pastor who not only serves his own church, but also ministers at several gaming conventions, including serving as the chaplain for Gary Con. He realizes that geeks need a pastor too and tries his best to share faith and spirituality in a way that complements geek culture.

On the Min/Max Podcast, two seminarians and a photographer explore the intersection of gaming, nerd culture, and theology.

Cardboard Koinonia brings people together in fellowship to foster relationships, and build community across cultural, social, and generational divides using games. They run Family Game Nights in which they invite people from all walks of life around a board game table. They have a Facebook group.

Redeemed Otaku is a podcast about anime for the Christian consumer. Reviews, discussion, recommendations on old and new and rarely covered anime from a Christian worldview.

Wild East Games makes board games and is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Brian and Jill Bollinger. Brian is a pastor, and his personal testimony is prominent on the company web-site. Geeky polymaths, they also operate Bollinger Edgerly Scale Trains, which sells model train kits and building supplies, and tickcomics.com, a guide to collecting Tick comic books.

The purpose for Gaming and God is to bridge the gap between the pastime that is playing video games to scripture, biblical values and life lessons that we can use daily.

The podcast 1 Geek 411 is the brain child of friends Cameron Franklin and Chris Nicolay. Cameron and Chris met at Oklahoma Christian where they bonded over ultimate, video games, and Magic: The Gathering. They began discussing social norms and questioning why it’s okay to watch sports for hours a day but then geeks and nerds are questioned about playing video games or their other activities for hours. As a result 1 Geek 411 was born.

The Nerd Chapel is committed to being a bridge between the Body of Christ and nerds/geeks/gamers who are interested in exploring the Bible and Jesus. We also want to be a resource for Christian nerds of all sizes.

Gamechurch is a non-profit dedicated to bringing the message of Jesus’ love, hope, and acceptance into the culture of video games.

One Cross Radio is a podcast, and 2099 One Cross Street is a website, exploring Christianity and pop culture.

Theology of Games hosts board game news, reviews, and interviews. They also feature three boardgame podcasts: Theology of Games, That’s How I Roll, and Boardgames Daily.

Faith & Fandom is a book series of devotional essays on faith & geek culture. There are 5 volumes out now, plus a kids edition! They also do podcasts, art, panels, apparel, memes, and Comic Con life in general. They travel to roughly 28 comicons a year in the south east and also have a podcast series and a video series.

Games For All is a blog by Stephen Taylor, who wants to help you discover your character and skills for life through gaming.  And give you pointers to help your children/partners/friends do so to.  For parents in particular he hopes this blog will give you an insight into what on Earth your children are talking about when they discuss their gaming hobby, and perhaps give you some alternative games to suggest when they want one that makes you feel uncomfortable to buy them.

ScreenFish is where faith and film are intertwined, creating a place for dialogue and discussion on the latest in film, tv and movies.

Open Table Ministries puts on strategy game nights three Saturdays per month in Kettering, Ohio.

Christian Geek Central exists to equip, encourage and inspire Christian geeks of all kinds to live more and more for Christ. To this end, they’ve made it their goal to be both a gateway to, and creator of, the highest quality entertainment and resources on the web that they believe will be of special interest to Christian geeks. In addition, Christian Geek Central is an active and growing community of Christian geeks who come together to both celebrate and examine their favorite hobbies from a biblical perspective. They host a podcast network, including: Christian Geek Central, Untold, Strangers and Aliens, Theology Gaming, POS TOS, Helix Reviews, and Retro Rewind. And if that weren’t enough, they also have a forum!

The Pop Culture Coream Deo Podcast examines the artifacts of pop culture in light of God’s self-revelation.

Phew! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can find your sisters and brothers in Christ all over the place, at conventions, in games, and on Twitter. And whoever you meet and game with, whether they’re a believer or not, remember to extend the love of Christ to everyone!

Blackwater Keep

Part two of the Compendium of Lands Around Blackwater Lake, the gazetteer for the Northumbria campaign.


Strategic Location of the Keep

The Keep is a large stone fortress—one of the largest in Northumbria. Situated on the shores of Blackwater Lake, it commands the Narrows at the southern tip of the lake, as well as the wide stream called the Norbeck, which flows down from the hills and spills northwards into the Narrows and southwards into the Blackwater River. This means that the garrison at the Keep can control river traffic flowing between former Varangian lands in the north to the Frangian port of Yarrvik. Any power that wishes to control Northumbria needs to control the river traffic and thus the keep. At present, no single known state is in a position to do so. Thus, the Baron of Blackwater remains independent and highly desirable as an ally. Read more

RPG-ology #14: Shock

This is RPG-ology #14:  Shock, for January 2019.


About a year ago a discussion in the Christian Gamers Guild group reminded me of a couple articles I’d published in the Game Ideas Unlimited series that were lost but worth reviving.  This is a recreation of the first of those.

I’m pretty sure it was 1973.  I was a Boy Scout and a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster in my last year as a scout before continuing as an adult leader.  My father was troop committee chairman and often active in our outings, and Mr. Winkler was the Scoutmaster at the time.  Rick Trover and Bob Hamer, who are both part of this story, were a year or two younger than I, and respectively Junior Assistant Scoutmaster and Senior Patrol Leader.  It was the troop’s first excursion down the Delaware River, although quite a few of us had logged several hundred miles of canoeing through the Adirondacks.  We knew that the river had flooded, and that the day before we arrived on the banks at Skinner’s Falls to begin our trek Cochecton, New York, a short distance upstream, had been under four feet of water.  We did not know that there was a whirlpool under the Narrowsburg Bridge one day south of us.  However, never having seen this part of the river before, we were unaware just how far above flood stage it was.  Still, we sat in camp on the bank for two days waiting for the water to drop before someone decided that if we were actually going to canoe this river in the week we’d planned, maybe we should get moving downstream.

Ricky and Bob took a canoe and headed up above the falls.  I’m not sure whether someone had authorized this.  I first became aware of it when people were shouting and I joined the race to the shore to watch them coming down fast from the waters above the falls into the worst possible spot.

Let me describe what we saw Read more