RPG-ology #3: History of Hit Points

This is RPG-ology #3: History of Hit Points, for February 2018.


Some time ago the Christian Gamers Guild republished the excellent article by Charles Franklin, Hitting Them Where It Hurts. Charles Franklin is the nom de plume of a marine who testifies as an expert witness on issues like that, and a long-time gamer. He was not the first to take issue with the notion of “hit points” as a determinant of character survival, but his was the first effort I saw to address it based on real-world combat statistics (back when it was originally published in 1999 in The Way, the Truth, and the Dice). Since that time many systems have devised ways of dealing with damage and death that avoid some of the criticism of hit points, but it is still a popular mechanic used in many games and adopted to computer and console role playing games (properly “CRPGs” but frequently confused as “RPGs”).

The criticism is that it is unrealistic: people do not take so much damage and then die. Some people are killed sometimes instantly by a single hit to a vital organ; others are riddled with bullets or cuts and stabs and bruises but continue fighting or make incredible escapes. The notion that a character can look at the weapon in the hand of an attacker and think, that can’t possibly kill me without him getting several lucky strikes is really not consistent with the reality of mortal combat. It’s only a knife, but in the spleen it will be fatal, and in the jugular very quickly so. Hit points do not represent that at all. Everybody knows it—and indeed, everyone has always known it. So why do we use them?

Part of it is the history of the game. Read more

House of Beyan (Earth)

The House of Beyan, along with the other three houses that deal with the classical elements, are numerous compared to other houses and have more mundane purposes. The House of Beyan, while associated strongly with earth, more accurate deals with all physical materials. Another way to look at it is that they have affinity and understanding of things in the solid state. They are farmers, gardeners and arborists but also stone masons, machinists and architects. Eapon is a hard planet to live on, and people seek out Beyans to build their homes, establish their orchards and quarry precious metals. Their temples and churches are found in every setting and of every manner. More often than not, they are a form of regulatory authority and labor agency, particularly if an area lacks other forms of government. On a spiritual level they tend towards family-like atmospheres, supplementing and supporting existing communities rather than forming a core. They number second only to the House of Keen.

Granted Power: Beyan’s ignore terrain penalties to movement while on foot and once per game session can double the damage dealt to anything they sunder.

  1. Shillelagh: Cudgel or quarterstaff becomes +1 weapon and deals damage as if two sizes larger.
  2. Soften Earth and Stone: Turns stone to clay or dirt to sand or mud.
  3. Stone Shape: Sculpts stone into any shape.
  4. Spike Stones: Creatures in area take 1d8 damage, may be lowed.
  5. Wall of Stone: Creates a stone wall that can be shaped.
  6. Stoneskin: Ignore 10 points of damage per attack.
  7. Earthquake: Intense tremor shakes 80-ft.-radius.
  8. Repel Metal or Stone: Pushes away metal and stone.
  9. Iron Body: Your body becomes living iron.

Faith in Play #3: Javan’s Feast

This is Faith in Play #3: Javan’s Feast, for February 2018.


Have you ever been in a game in which a character in the game did something that impacted all the players at the table? It happened to me once.

Well, it probably has happened to many of us. It happens sometimes when one player crosses a line, bringing something into a game that makes everyone uncomfortable, such as a rape or graphic slaughter scene; or when a player gets the idea that because his character is a thief the other characters are not going to be offended if he cheats them and steals from them, and they realize this. However, have you ever been in a game where the action of a character had a positive impact on the gaming group?

I have such a story. Read more

What Does God Think About Hacking?

Sometimes I look at the search queries that lead people to this website, and I see something interesting. One day last year, I saw that someone had asked Bing “is hacking a sin in christanity” (sic). I have no idea what that person actually had on their mind—if they were wondering about software piracy, or cheating in a video game, rooting their phone, or penetrating the computer systems at NORAD. All I know is that they were interested in God’s view of hacking. Now, bear in mind that I’m no theologian nor a professional minister. I am just someone with a platform who thinks he has something to say. Maybe it will help somebody.  Read more

Con Chapel: Beginnings

Over on the CGG listerserver (click on Join the Guild!) there was a question about chapel services at cons. I thought it would be a great idea if someone were to gather that information from not only the CGG members, but other Christian groups, and post it here. As you might guess the person who makes those great suggestions is the first one to be asked to do it. So I’ve got the job.

I’m just getting started, and despite my desire to get the list and all the details perfect before posting anything, I quickly realized that what little I’d gathered so far had cons coming up pretty soon. So I’m taking the approach that perfection is the enemy of good enough and presenting what I have through March now. It’s basic info right now. The cons information should all come up in a search. The rest, well, it’s a work in progress. Depending on the con website you might be able to find it there.

Date

Con

Sponsor/Contact

Organization

Location

Type

4-Feb

Statesville Comiccon

Hector Miray

Faith & Fandom

Statesville, NC

Booth

16-Feb

RadCon

Rodney Barnes

CGG

Pasco,WA

Panel Guest

17-Mar

NC Comicon

Hector Miray

Faith & Fandom

Oak City, NC

Chapel

30-Mar

ConGlomeration

Dave Mattingly

CGG

Louisville, KY

Chapel

If you’re associated with a Christian group that holds events at cons, let me know through the comments below.

Cultures of Northumbria: Zeelanders

In this series of articles, Michael Garcia shares various custom rules and handouts related to his worldbuilding for his ongoing Northumbria campaign. 


The Zeelanders hail from lands to the northeast, across the great sea. Centuries ago, Zeelanders (called Frislanders in older texts) established several coastal city-states. A few centuries ago, one city crowned a king and conquered the rest. However, the cities soon revolted against the king’s designs on power. After a few years of war, they agreed to retain a king, whose power was limited.

The king at the time realized that his only chance of maintaining his throne was to channel his people’s energies outward. He therefore initiated a wave of seaborne exploration and expansion. This brought the Zeelanders into fierce competition with their distant kinsmen and neighbors in the powerful Kingdom of Frangia. The Zeelanders maintained the upper hand at sea and grew rich through trade, keeping pace with their Frangian rivals. However, the discovery of the new world changed the balance of power. The Frangii quickly established many settlements in a fertile coastal region that they dubbed Southumbria. Despite frequent frontier wars, Frangian power continued to grow there. When the Frangian Crown turned its attention to the vast region that lies north of Southumbria, a region called Northumbria, the Zeelanders resolved to deny it to them. Read more

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