Category: The D&Degenerate

2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed

The year 2020 surprised all of us, as we scrambled to make life work under entirely different conditions.  However, the viral impact on our web site was minimal, as although we slowed down a bit we continued providing what we hope are valuable quality articles on gaming and faith.  Last December we published 2019 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, in which I attempted to index everything that had been posted to the site in the previous year and so maintaining a continuous index of sorts working back through the previous Thirteen Months in Review covering a bit more than all of 2018 and Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website covering 2016 and most of 2017.  I am now attempting once again to summarize another a calendar year of material, for those who missed something or want to find something they remember.

Again January opened with a new Faith in Play article, and we got a full year from the series:

  1. #26:  Fields to Harvest January 7, 2020, noting that Christian ministries to the “geek” community still have work to do.
  2. #27:  Believing Balance February 4, 2020 continues the miniseries on Dungeons & Dragons alignment with a consideration of neutrality.
  3. #28:  Vampires March 3, 2020 considers the metaphorical value of the undead.
  4. #29:  Victims April 7, 2020, explores what it is to be a dependent character, and the importance of such characters not only in our games but in our lives.
  5. #30:  Conflict May 5, 2020, looks at Dungeons & Dragons as a metaphor for spiritual warfare.
  6. #31:  Magic Roads June 2, 2020 discusses the notion of roads that don’t go where you expect unless you go the right way, and connects it to divine guidance.
  7. #32:  Zealots July 7, 2020 continues the alignment miniseries with a look at the side alignments.
  8. #33:  Psionics August 4, 2020 reopens the issue of mind powers in fiction in response to questions and comments from a reader.
  9. #34:  Guidance and the Machine September 1, 2020 looks at the show Person of Interest as instruction about how God guides us.
  10. #35:  Seekers October 6, 2020 considers what to do about friends who are looking for “real” magic.
  11. #36:  Thanks November 3, 2020 talks about thanksgiving celebration and thanks the readers for their ongoing support and encouragement.
  12. #37:  Balancing on the Corner December 1, 2020, finishes the alignment series with a look at how those with corner alignments have to juggle two values.

Two weeks behind that the RPG-ology series also continued:

  1. #26:  Monster Design January 21, 2020 reprints a Game Ideas Unlimited article about what makes a good monster.
  2. #27:  Cures for Dropping Dice February 18, 2020 gives some practical suggestions for keeping the dice on the table.
  3. #28:  Character Death March 17, 2020 talks about the death of the player character and how to handle it.
  4. #29:  Political Correction April 21, 2020 argues that in fiction and games particularly we need to have freedom of speech.
  5. #30:  Story-based Mapping May 19, 2020 suggests that the best way to start a map for a game is to begin where the characters are and work out as needed.
  6. #31:  Screen Wrap June 16, 2020 reposts the Game Ideas Unlimited article about using teleportation to create confusing map sections.
  7. #32:  Doing Something July 21, 2020 suggests how to use odd objects to enhance story by figuring out what they are later.
  8. #33:  Flirting August 18, 2020 recalls a lost article about using role playing to learn about ourselves.
  9. #34:  Invisible Coins September 15, 2020 reproduces a slightly edited version of the Game Ideas Unlimited article, about a valuable illusionist technique.
  10. #35:  Believable Nonsense October 20, 2020 recalls the ideas from a Game Ideas Unlimited article about superstitions and how to work them into play.
  11. #36:  Phionics November 17, 2020 suggesting a category of special abilities that are neither magical nor mental, but reflect the extraordinary body skills of the contortionist.
  12. #37:  It’s Greek to Me December 15, 2020 talks about inscriptions and decorations on magic items.

Although it hardly counts as an article, I also posted Worship Service at Gen Con 2020 Game Fair, announcing the online virtual event which Dave Mattingly organized and hosted on our behalf.

Michael Garcia opened the year on January 14, 2020, with a wonderfully detailed study of Sewers and Such, everything you could need to know to run an adventure in these urban dungeons.  COVID suspended his gaming, so we didn’t get tales of the adventures for a while.  However, he did give us a four-part tutorial in how to design one-shot adventures:

  1. Designing Single-Session Adventures Part 1 on July 14, 2020, in which he explores the basic starting point for the task;
  2. Designing Single-Session Adventures Part 2 on August 11, 2020, in which he talks about detailing the adventure;
  3. Prep for Single-Session Adventures on September 8, 2020, in which he talks about final preparations;
  4. Running the Single-Session Adventure on September 22, 2020, in which he covers actual game play matters.

He followed this with Tough Choices Make for a Good Game, on October 13, with a holiday-themed adventure, Spreading Yuletide Fear:  A Dark Holiday-themed Adventure, on November 24, and some adventure design advice to finish the year in Designing Deeper Adventures.

Matthew Butler returned with Tales of a D&Degenerate: Volume 2, on June 9, 2020, and The First Line of Offense, August 25, 2020, continuing his humorous look at his gaming experience.

We were honored to be permitted to reprint “Geek Preacher” Derek White‘s article from Knights of the Dinner Table, Quiet in the Convention Center, about gaming conventions providing facilities and services for handicapped and autistic attendees.

Grade school religion teacher Nikolaj Bourguignon brings his experience using games in the classroom to a new series, Roll for Teaching, beginning with:

  1. Hi class. Nice to meet you all! on July 28, 2020, in which he introduces himself and a few of the games he finds best for use with grade school students.
  2. Goals on December 8, 2020, in which he discusses why we are playing, and how to keep that in focus.

Guild President Rodney Barnes brought us Complex Firearms for D20 Games on September 29, 2020, followed a month later on October 27 with Starfinder Stuff for Pathfinder Second Edition.

Lance McClintock approached us to introduce a Christian game he was designing, and we invited him to explain to us what makes a game Christian.  He gave us Christian Game-ism in response, published November 10.

Over a decade ago Scott Bennie drafted an article for us entitled Christianity and Role-Playing Games:  Toward Reconciliation, which slipped through the cracks until late this year when our webmaster found it and published it as Christianity and Role-Playing Games, on December 29.

We expect to follow at least some of these authors into the new year.  In fact, already we have Faith and Gaming and RPG-ology articles standing by.

—M. J. Young

Chaplain, Christian Gamers Guild

The First Line of Offense

For the first time, I left the evening of D&D feeling accomplished. This time, things seemed to click. The DM drew us further into our character development, and I felt more connected to the character I had essentially created as a joke, as well as a game that was still extremely foreign to me. My character now breathed. There was a specificity to the spells that he cast that resonated with me in a way they wouldn’t have if the DM would’ve continued to explain every attack and action for us. He had stopped holding our hands and telling our stories, to allow us to start cultivating our own facets to the overarching narrative. I cast fire bolt from my right arm, and it wells up from my chest, down through my veins, boiling hot, welling up on my pointer finger until it propels toward its target.

Simple, I know. Rudimentary, even. Yet, allowing me to describe my attacks has enriched what was, up to this point, a difficult play style to get into. After the DM handed the reins over to the players to think quicker and to be more decisive, the game comes across much more alive. It’s as if we’re racing a clock that doesn’t keep time, but does push the passing of time and the narrative forward. Once we took too long deliberating over our next move and, all of the sudden, incredibly jerky kobolds start chucking rocks at our heads. As *plonk* annoying *bump* as *boof* being pelted by rocks is, it is equally refreshing to feel the narrative being pushed, to have that sense of urgency and purpose. Time didn’t stand still, there is no pause button, and I deeply appreciated that!

Read more

Tales of a D&Degenerate: Volume 2

Volume 2: I Can’t Do Accents.

For our second session, two new members joined our party. One permanent addition, and the other dropped in for the evening. The temporary character, my brother, was given the role of guard and a pre-made character sheet. My brother is fairly inept with D&D, not unlike myself, so there was a mite of comfort having him along for the ride. We had snacks on the table, introduced the new players, and we were quickly on our way to continue the campaign.

Having met with the leader of the town, we were tasked with liberating a group of people from a religious building that was occupied by some kobolds and cultists. D&D has a funny way about creature traits. A cultist is essentially a crazed follower. At least, that is what we have gleaned from our encounters and from the info the DM passed on to us. It has been mentioned that this is the common understanding in the D&D world. Also; kobolds are nitwits. Either way, cultists will invariably go out of their way to harm someone, even if it means their own imminent demise, and likewise kobolds rush in fairly foolishly to fights they obviously have no stake in. I guess this has to do with some sort of devotion they claim, but I will have to take the DM’s word on it.

In the cloak of night, we came upon the religious building of worship that was surrounded by a patrolling group of kobolds making rounds every 30 or so minutes, a large party of a mix of cultists and kobolds in the front of the building, and finally a few cultists guarding the rear entryway. All of this while fire was being set to the building, and townspeople were trapped within. We took our time, covertly sending in a messenger, who craftily made their way up to the roof and inside to let the people know we were coming. We also devised a plan to wipe out the back door guards as quickly as possible by throwing open the doors, surprising them, and pummeling them from both sides, all while being cognizant of the patrolling kobolds. Being successful in that task, we pressed on. Later that evening, we found ourselves at a mill with several cultists who would drop down from high above to attack us, hurting themselves in the process, which I was not expecting. Unarmed cultists were trying to harm armored party members, essentially the D&D version of tapping on someone’s right shoulder from behind, only to lean left and wait for them to look right to strike. To put it politely, it was ineffective.

Small lesson here: cultists are dumb. Don’t join a cult, especially a D&D cult. Perhaps this is a well known facet of D&D, but let’s just remind ourselves of the fact that this was my second foray into D&D, and I felt a little bit like I was swimming for a lot of the time. I was acquaintances with the DM, but we didn’t know each other well, and I never considered how getting used to his style and flavor would inhibit my ability to simply immerse myself in the fantasy role. Additionally, there was the fact that I had barely nicked the surface of what D&D could be, so I was overwhelmed by the amount of lore I didn’t bring to the table. I felt more as though I was thrust into the realm than grew up in it, and my game play proved it.

Even Mario is embarrassed by my accent.

Amidst hours of play, the DM abruptly derailed what was happening to ask me who was speaking, and I was caught in the brights. To bring you up to speed, my friend plays a bard. He is also Deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. I am his interpreter in game, which has made for some interesting interactions (one involving a dragon) and some early on confusion, as I used my normal speaking voice for both characters. So, when the DM inquired as to who was speaking, I knew right away that I had erred. The mantle of creating a voice for the bard was set squarely upon me. The bard’s last name is Tempesté so I thought an Italian American “accent” would be suitable. To be transparent, my Italian American accent may or may not have strong semblances to Mario and Luigi from the Mario Bros games. I have learned that I am not good at the aforementioned accent (or probably any accent, for that matter), and to top it off, a few times it seems to slip into an obnoxiously stereotypical French accent a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So, with that in mind, “I faht en your general direction. Now go a-way, or I shall taunt you a second time-eh.”

See you all-eh en Tales of a D&Degenerate-uh, Volume-eh uh-three-uh!

2019 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed

Last December we published Thirteen Months in Review, in which I attempted to index everything that had been posted to the site in the previous thirteen months–the time from when our previous index, Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website, had been published.  I am now attempting once again to summarize, this time a calendar year of material, for those who missed something or want to find something they remember. Read more

Tales of a D&Degenerate: Volume 1

Volume 1: Are you sure you don’t want to be a Bard?

Did you know that the soldiers at Jesus crucifixion were avid anglers? Yep, they spent their time casting lots. I know, I know. Please, slowly remove your palm from your forehead and forgive me for that one. Generally, I can’t help myself but to make puns, jokes, and groaners. Before I was married, I was joking with my wife (girlfriend at the time) and she commented that I was funny. I responded, “I’m sorry to hear you say that. This is my ‘A’ material, it doesn’t get any better.” Perhaps she thought I was still joking back then, but after 8 years of marriage, I think she has long since realized I was not. All that to say, I love dad jokes.

Even before I knew they were called dad jokes I was hooked on them! Puns, long form jokes, stories, short 1-2 punch-line Rodney Dangerfield style jokes—love them all! I’ll never forget Dangerfield’s “I own a two story house. Before I bought the house, the realtor gave me one story. After I bought it she gave me another story.” Even at church, I would inevitably get off task every time the pastor said, “Lettuce pray.” I couldn’t help myself; I heard puns all the time. I was pun-intentionally making things into puns, and I’m pretty unapologetic when it comes to groaners.

So, when my friend mentioned interest in Dungeons & Dragons, I said I had created a skateboarding wizard (which I was told was “technically” possible using levitation and sundry other workarounds to simulate riding a plank of wood) on an app called Role, and we began to develop D&D specific characters. My friend’s roommate had experience as a Dungeon Master and was more than elated to initiate a new crew of fledgling, um, D&Der’s? Dungeoneers? Adventurers? Engaged story inter-actors? Choose-your-own-adventurers? I never thought about what a D&D player calls themselves, but whatever it is, I am that. Or, I am, at best, a ghost of that right now. See, I love the concept of D&D, but… I am a miserable player. Read more

Scrabble, Risk and Why I Haven’t a Clue

I’m coming to realize that I don’t reflect on the past enough.

If I stop and take a minute to reminisce, I do remember my grandfather—Roy—fondly. He lived what seemed like forever away to a young boy, but his home always smelled warm, inviting, and scented with whatever potpourris my grandmother had laid out, often times with a fire going in a small nook fireplace, annexed to his dining room. My grandfather would greet our family, but I always felt like I was the one he was waiting for, and he would take me onto his knee, bony as it was, and we would talk about everything my younger self found important. Though many specific conversations have faded, there are still a few memories that remain vivid: watching him work on his fully functioning model train set that took up half of the basement, playing Lode Runner, Jack Sprat, and Olympics on his Apple (with the huge floppy disks), and, lastly, board games.

My grandfather loved words and language, which has played a significant role in who I’ve become. I can recall reading the dictionary for leisure while learning and applying new words, and even today I work as an American Sign Language Interpreter. So, in a way, I’m in the word business. The lazy-Susan Scrabble game with the plastic gridded board was his game of choice, and a Scrabble dictionary was always handy. I’m sure I was constantly and soundly beaten, but I don’t remember ever losing, as the steady rolling of the well-worn ball bearings kept me entertained from turn to turn. Wssh wssh! However, I DO recall Grandpa having a “newer” computer that had a Scrabble game and a computer opponent named Mavin. Mavin was a word wiz, and would constantly challenge Grandpa’s mettle. Even so, he would sit me on his lap, and we would work together to beat Mavin, often times looking up his words to hopefully use them against him at a later time. Thinking back on Mavin, I still feel heat rising up in my chest, while consternation is starting to knit my brows into a full on furrow. MAAAVIN! Phew, okay… Breathe in, breathe out… Read more