RPG-ology #2: Socializing

This is RPG-ology #2:  Socializing, for January 2018.


Gamers have, or at least not so long ago had, an image of being socially inept.  Many are thought to suffer from high-functioning autistism or Aspergerger Syndrome, to be highly intelligent but have difficulty identifying and expressing feelings, entering into relationships with other people.  The “unwashed masses” once referred to immigrants coming to Ellis Island; now it perhaps describes GenCon.

I have written a fair amount about role playing game theory.  I participated in discussions with (Sorcerer author) Ron Edwards, (Dogs in the Vineyard author) Vincent Baker, and others, in the late 1990s at Gaming Outpost and later at The Forge, as what began as “GNS” (for “Gamism, Narrativism, Simulationism”) expanded into something Ron calls “The Big Model”.  My own explanations of that are still at Places to Go, People to Be as Theory 101:  System and the Shared Imagined Space, The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast, and Creative Agenda (also appearing in translation on the French version of the site and in print in Jeu de Rôle), and I would like to think I contributed at least a little to the development of that theory.

What The Big Model had at its root was the recognition of something that is in one sense completely obvious and in another completely overlooked:  game playing is a social activity.  It is a way in which people interact with each other within a structured setting, and thus we can reasonably say that it is a structured social situation.

This intrigues me, because I have recognized about myself that I do not do well in unstructured social situations—parties in which people mingle and eat and drink and chat, for example, or that social hour that’s really only about fifteen minutes after the church service.  I don’t know what to do, how to interact, in a sense what my role is.  I do well in classrooms, whether teacher or student, because I understand the roles and play my part.  I similarly do well in worship services, in discussion groups—any situation in which the roles are generally structured and everyone knows what to do, how to act and interact.

What is more interesting, though, is that a role playing game is itself a structured social situation, that is, a gathering of people interacting with each other following an agreed set of rules for that interaction, which itself is about creating a social situation—the interactions of the imagined characters within the game.  Thus people like us, people who have trouble relating to other people in unstructured social situations, enter into a structured social situation in which we are cooperating in the creation of a story about people interacting with each other in an unstructured social situation.  We are, in a sense, teaching ourselves how it’s done by simulating such situations and relationships and interactions between imaginary characters.  We learn how to socialize by creating characters who do that, and we do so by social interactions.

Thus as we come away from our games into the real world, we bring with us this picture of how people converse, how they relate, how they interact, from having attempted to reproduce that kind of conversation, relationship, interaction, in microcosm.  We then begin to become more like our characters, more able to be like other people, to socialize in unstructured situations.

I still have trouble with multi-party conversations—I never know when it’s my turn to speak, whether to hold on to that thing I was going to say and say it later when it’s no longer apropos, or drop it and hope that whenever it’s my turn to talk I will know it and have something to say.  I never have that problem during the game, because the rules, the fundamentally social rules, provide the structure that informs those questions.  But gradually what I have learned about character interactions has worked its way back into my life, into human social interactions.

We the geeks of the world have created our own therapy, a social activity that teaches social interaction.

Who would have guessed.


For what it’s worth, I have written about social interaction in games before, notably in Faith and Gaming:  Fundamentals and other articles in that series.

Previous article: Near Redundancy.
Next article:  History of Hit Points.

House of Arocon (Knowledge)

The House of Arocon is concerned with the preservation of knowledge from the past age and cataloguing the present age. Unsurprising their temples and building often serve as a type of library, while many who are part of the House run actual libraries or deal in information. While some may view them as purely academic,there are a significant numbers who scour all the globe in search of lost knowledge or to discover new knowledge. As would be expected a large number of Wardens belong to the House of Arocon.

Granted Power: Autodidact: Once per game session the player may substitute their levels in the House for a bonus to ANY skill roll, even if they do not have ranks in a trained skill.

  1. Detect Secret Doors: Reveals hidden doors within 60 ft.
  2. Detect Thoughts: Allows “listening” to surface thoughts.
  3. Clairaudience/Clairvoyance: Hear or see at a distance for 1 min./level.
  4. Divination : Provides useful advice for specific proposed actions.
  5. True Seeing : Lets you see all things as they really are.
  6. Find the Path: Shows most direct way to a location.
  7. Legend Lore : Lets you learn tales about a person, place, or thing.
  8. Discern Location: Reveals exact location of creature or object.
  9. Foresight: “Sixth sense” warns of impending danger.

Faith in Play #2: Portals

This is Faith in Play #2: Portals, for January 2018.


I’m going to begin this with a bit of a theology lesson, continue with a some words from a song I wrote a few years ago, and then tie it back to our fantasy and science fiction stories and games.

One of the things that is confusing for many Christians is the idea of being saved, in the ongoing sense. After all, the Bible sometimes suggests that we were saved, at some past moment when we repented and turned to Christ, and then sometimes that we will be saved, at some future moment when either we die or the world comes to an end and we land in heaven with God, but sometimes that we are being saved, right now, in the present as an ongoing process. We might justly ask which is true, but we can see in that case that it is not at all unreasonable for all three of those statements to be equally true: at a moment in the past we were rescued, and God’s continuing work is moving us from lost to saved, so that in the future we will be among those rescued.

What really confuses, though, is the notion that we are already in heaven. That’s a bit of eschatology (that is, the study of last things) which a lot of people just say isn’t so, and yet the fact is that we are new creations, and thus part of the new creation, which is the thing that comes into existence to replace the old creation, and that’s why it’s confusing—until we get the eschatology straight. Read more

Screams in Store

BACKGROUND:

Sir Garrett and his retinue have traveled through the northern wilderness called Northumbria, seeking the Winchester family estate that was lost a few generations earlier. After a brief stop at the tiny village of Lakesend and nearby Blackwater Keep, Sir Garrett offered his services to Lord Blackwater. Blackwater Keep was preparing for a goblyn siege so the garrison could not spare any men when the local guildsmen needed aid. It seems that they just lost all contact with the staff of their dry dock facility, located on a large island in Blackwater Lake. The PCs rowed to Wycliffe Island, crossed the island on foot, and finally came to the dry dock facility, which seemed abandoned. After some searching, they found many charred corpses and many tiny tracks of some kind. The PCs had never faced goblyns before, and their knowledge was limited to rumors (such as you might find in the Monster Manual). While looking around the dry dock compound, the PC thief slipped into one of the warehouse to investigate. The rest then heard screams from that direction. The following session began with everyone running toward the warehouse door. Read more

RPG-ology #1: Near Redundancy

This is RPG-ology #1: Near Redundancy, for December 2017.


If it seems to you like I just launched a new article series two weeks ago, congratulate yourself on your astute observation: Faith in Play #1: Reintroduction just appeared. That series is in a real sense a continuation of the Faith and Gaming series of a decade ago, dealing with the relationship between our leisure activities and our Christian faith. However, it was suggested that that series could also include articles on game theory and game play, drawing on the now lost Game Ideas Unlimited series I wrote for Gaming Outpost around the same time. That to my mind did not really fit the vision of the Faith in Play series, and I discovered that I had more to write for that series than I anticipated, and much more that could be written if these other areas were opened. Thus I suggested that I might write two distinct series of articles, this one covering the aspects of designing and running games that are less directly involved with issues of faith. Of course, as that series observes, everything in our life is related to our faith; it’s just that some parts of life are easier to discuss separately. Thus here is “RPG-ology”, the study of role playing games, presenting aspects of the hobby that are more practical, nuts-and-bolts concepts.

I said two weeks ago that when I introduce a new series I try to explain what the series is about and why I should be qualified to write it. Of course, I just did that for the other series, and a lot of this is redundant, because you can read there about my background as a gamer, my introduction to role playing games, my involvement in writing Multiverser, and my long-time defense of role playing games against critics. Much of that qualifies me for this as well, but there is more. Certainly I have been running role playing games since 1980 and spent the better part of the 90s creating one (and I am not alone in thinking that it is a particularly good one). I also became involved in discussions of role playing game theory and design in around 1997, with such well-known independent game designers as Ron Edwards and Vincent Baker, first at Gaming Outpost and later at The Forge. I have written articles on quite a few role playing web sites including RPGnet and RoleplayingTips.com; my article Applied Theory is at The Forge, I have six articles at Places to Go, People to Be (a series on Law and Enforcement in Imaginary Realms and another on Theory 101). My column at Gaming Outpost ran weekly for four years. Quite a few of these have been translated into French, republished at the French version of Places to Go, People to Be and some in print in Jeu de Rôle.

I have also corresponded with quite a few of those in the industry. Gary Gygax and I discussed alignment; I have a couple of stories told me by Dave Arneson. I won’t embarrass anyone else (either by inclusion or exclusion) by listing more names. Suffice it that I have a substantial curriculum vitae in the gaming world.

Further, as mentioned, I wrote over two hundred articles on the subject which have vanished with the demise of Gaming Outpost—but I have titles and descriptive blurbs for well over half of them, and memories of some of the others. There is good material in that—tricks to use in scenario design and play, secrets of good game masters, theory behind play, and more. So a lot of that lost material is likely to be recycled here as found new material. That might also be redundant—but as the recent successful run of the republication of Faith and Gaming demonstrates, even material that is still somewhere on the web is unknown to many who would enjoy it, and that would be all the more true of material that has vanished and is being re-written.

So I hope you’ll join me mid-month into the future as we discuss aspects of role playing games that offer ideas for play and design you might not have considered. I look forward to recovering some of these ideas.


No previous article.
Next article: Socializing.

House of Wren (Renewal)

The House of Wren is one focused on reprieve. The world is hard and demanding and this House is here to bolster the weary. Their temples are most often hot springs, beautiful gardens or other environments that are often associated with rest and relaxation. Some temples are quiet and serene while others are loud and boisterous. While fun and games may be part of their mission, they are drawn to the downtrodden and grief stricken. One travels to the House of Holma to mend the flesh, but the House of Wren is where you go to mend the heart and mind.

Granted Power: Once per game session the character may temporarily relieve all stress penalties of everyone within 30ft for 5 minutes per point of SPIRIT

  1. Remove Fear: Suppresses fear or gives +4 on saves against fear for one subject + one per four levels.
  2. Restoration, Lesser: Dispels magical ability penalty or repairs 1d4 ability damage.
  3. Remove Curse: Frees object or person from curse.
  4. Restoration : Restores level and ability score drains.
  5. Atonement : Removes burden of misdeeds from subject.
  6. Break Enchantment: Frees subjects from enchantments, alterations, curses, and petrification.
  7. Restoration, Greater : As restoration, plus restores all levels and ability scores.
  8. Holy Aura: +4 to AC, +4 resistance, and SR 25 against evil spells.
  9. Refuge: Alters item to transport its possessor to you. (Given very rarely and only to those traveling to the sealed lands. Travel takes from a blink of an eye up to one week and can be by various means but all are dramatic but unstoppable)

Faith in Play #1: Reintroduction

This is Faith in Play #1: Reintroduction, for December 2017.


There is a sense in which this is the continuation of the Faith and Gaming series. I began writing that in April, 2001, and continued doing so every month for four years—and then stopped. It seemed to end abruptly to me, but as I looked back at it the final installment was an excellent last article, and it has stood the test of time as such, as the series was published first independently by me and then in an expanded book by Blackwyrm. The end seemed abrupt to me because it was occasioned by a computer crash at my end that took all my notes for future series articles (it ended the Game Ideas Unlimited series at Gaming Outpost as well), and at the time I could not see how to get back up to speed. However, it has been more than a decade—thirteen years this past April—since the series ended, and I am often asked, and often consider for myself, whether I am going to continue it. Part of my answer has always been a question: what remains for me to write? Yet there is always more to write; I just have to identify it and tackle it.

And thus there is another sense in which this is a new series—thus the new name, Faith in Play. Part of that is because I noticed from the vantage of years of hindsight that much that I had been writing specifically about role playing games applied much more broadly to all of life, and especially to all of our leisure activities. So with that in mind, I am again putting the fingers to the keys and producing more thoughts on how we integrate faith with life, and particularly with those parts of life that in some sense seem the least religious, the times when we are playing. C. S. Lewis more than once cited a conversation from Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Bingley was explaining a ball, that is, a festival dance, to Miss Bingley, who had never attended one. Miss Bingley asked, “Would not conversation be much more rational than dancing?”, and Mr. Bingley replies, “Much more rational, but much less like a ball.” And that is the challenge we often face in our leisure activities: that they are what they are, not the least bit rational, and yet not for that reason unimportant. In some ways, how we spend our leisure time, what we do when we are having fun or relaxing, may be the most important part of our Christianity, because it is the one thing over which we have the most control, the one part of our lives in which we most express who and what we are, and usually the time when we are interacting with others most naturally.

This is not the first time I have begun a new series of articles, and I generally begin with an introductory post. That post usually explains what it is I hope to write, and who I am that I feel qualified to write any such thing. Having explained the former, that leaves me with the awkward part of presenting my credentials. Read more

Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website

Over the past eighteen months, our diligent and dedicated webmaster Bryan has been republishing much of the material generated by and for the Christian Gamers Guild over the previous two decades in a new web format which is thought to be more accessible and is certainly better looking.  That has included material from our e-zine The Way, the Truth, and the Dice, a couple of articles from elsewhere, some new material, and of course my own Faith and Gaming series.  The upside of this is that many readers have discovered these articles for the first time.  The downside, from my perspective, is that it became just a bit tougher for me to refer people to the articles—not individually, but as a collection.  The old site had a single “Chaplain’s Corner” index that described and linked the entire series plus quite a few other articles on and off the site, and when people had questions about role playing or other hobby games I could (in addition to addressing the specific questions) refer them to that page for more information than they perhaps would have wanted.  That page still has some valuable links, but Bryan agreed with me that now that the entire series has been relocated there ought to be a page that indexes it all at the new locations.

Several thoughts occurred to me as I undertook this.  One was that there were a few articles I wrote which are excellent pieces not originally part of the Faith and Gaming series, and they should be included here.  The second was that it would seem particularly arrogant of me to index my own contributions and ignore those excellent articles by everyone else, so I am going to attempt in essence to map the entire site—not in the old directory tree mapping style, but in something more useful. Read more

Faith and Gaming: Miscarriage

Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil.

These words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:16 are cause enough for us to tell the world that role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons™ are a good thing which Christians can and perhaps should embrace, enjoy, and use to the glory of God, and to answer the calumnious misinformation spread by others. Yet the question is still asked why it matters if fantasy role playing games are wrongly accused of being evil. What harm is there in this mistake? Shouldn’t we be taking our stand on more important issues, and just letting the people who fear and condemn role playing games live with their error? It isn’t that important, is it? It won’t really make a difference in anyone’s life if a few pin-headed Christians are confused on a matter of a silly game and no one bothers to put things right, will it? Read more

House of Holma (Healing)

The House of Holma is the branch tasked with healing. Despite what would be expected, Holma is one of the most highly criticized Houses. Naturally, their abilities are in high demand which has often made them the targets of extortion, kidnapping and bribery. Due to those realities they are secretive and mostly nomadic. Their own temples are unmarked, located in difficult to reach areas or out of sight in dark alleys. These serve as reprieves and safe houses for them. Everywhere they go they are in high demand if their GIFT is discovered. Instead, they work with the other Houses and travel to where they are needed for a few days before moving onto the next.

GM Note: Holma is intended to be a difficult House to play. If the PC’s identity is discovered they will be pursued. Sometimes the need is legitimate and sometimes it is born out of greed. The player should feel cautious any time they reveal their GIFT

Granted Power: Once per game session the character can use any talent they have without fuel or tokens.

  1. Cure Light Wounds: Cures 1d8 damage +1/level (max +5).
  2. Neutralize Poison: Immunizes subject against poison, detoxifies venom in or on subject.
  3. Cure Moderate Wounds: Cures 2d8 damage +1/level (max +10).
  4. Remove Blindness/Deafness: Cures normal or magical conditions.
  5. Cure Serious Wounds: Cures 3d8 damage +1/level (max +15).
  6. Remove Disease: Cures all diseases affecting subject.
  7. Cure Light Wounds, Mass: Cures 1d8 damage +1/level (max +25) for many creatures.
  8. Heal: Cures 10 points/level of damage, all diseases and mental conditions.
  9. Regenerate: Subject’s severed limbs grow back, cures 4d8 damage +1/level (max +35).