This article by Charles Franklin originally appeared in The Way, the Truth & the Dice issue 1 in the spring of 1999. It is reposted here with permission from the author.
I was watching a classic science fiction film this weekend with my four-year-old son and one scene in particular emphasized the way combat is portrayed in movies and in our games. In this particular scene an alien, accompanied by a starship pilot and a teenager, wander into a detention zone where a firefight erupts with the evil military police. Now granted, the threesome had the element of surprise, but when the shooting starts they calmly go about their business, zapping security cameras and bad guys with amazing accuracy. Meanwhile the trained military police cant seem to hit anything. Common sense tells us that this is a less than accurate portrayal of how this firefight would occur, and I think everyone realizes that Hollywood takes great liberty with reality in their action movies. This cinematic liberty carries over into RPGs that for the most part seek to model movies, not reality.
The purpose of this series of articles is not to open a debate about the glorification of violence in popular movies and role playing games. I do believe, however, that adding a dose or two of reality to our game mechanics will reduce the quantity of violence and increase the quality of role playing. I see this as a win-win adjustment.
I was recently re-reading my article Faith and Gaming: Christian Games (I often re-read my old material, and sometimes it gets me thinking afresh about issues previously addressed, so I write new ones like this one, usually posted over at the mark Joseph “young” web log). I think every time I read that article, which explains why I am not a big fan of “Christian” games, I remember something I created decades back in college which I called a “game” and which I “played” with a number of my more intelligent and/or educated Christian friends. I always think of writing it up to pass on to you, and I always nix the idea because some would say it’s not a game—but I think we had something like fun, certainly enjoyment, from playing it, or whatever we were doing. So here it is. I never named it. I suppose you could call it M. J. Young’s Bible Verse Game, if you need a name for it, or just The Bible Verse Game if you think it arrogant of me to put my name in it. (I only put my name in it because I’m sure there are scores, if not thousands, of other Bible verse games out there, but this is the only one I’ve played.)
As I noted in that article, I am not generally a fan of Christian games, for several reasons. I think this game, though, avoids most of the problems I’ve had with such games, and is particularly valuable for Christians to play with each other. Read more
In ages past, when the Harbingers made landfall at Cloudhead, they brought the GIFTS with them. Since that day, people in the solar system have discovered special abilities given to them. The GIFTS were to help the people thrive together and to fight against the evils which had implanted themselves into the solar system. People bearing similar GIFTS gathered together and formed what now are referred to as Houses. These Houses are not geographical distinctions, but rather talent distinctions. There are 12 Great Houses representing the most prominent GIFTS. There are unrepresented GIFTS, but they are exceedingly rare.
The Houses function like churches. The Houses are most like religious organizations and all share the same faith but pursue the tenets through the GIFTS they have. There are different sects within each House but they largely share the same principles and work towards the same goals. Read more
Now that we have good players, heroes, and villains, we have to put them to work. A campaign is an ongoing series of adventures in a game world, made up of several ingredients. First, the campaign’s premise must be sound. Good campaigns are consistent with the world you adventure in and have clear and worthy objectives. A good campaign is built from a good premise. “What if” questions are good starting points for finding a good premise. What if aliens secretly contacted Earth governments during the Wild West era? What if superheroes were all created by a single time-traveler? What if the barriers between dimensions begin to break down? Take the basic premise, and follow it through in as much detail as desired. Read more
SPIRIT is a new stat in LitC. Spirit reflects a character’s growth and presence in the spirit world. SPIRIT works much like CONSTITUTION except it applies to SPIRIT damage, which adds STRESS to a character. SPIRIT attacks seek to break a character (see FLIPPED OUT under STRESS). At that point the character is susceptible to manipulation and/or compulsion. A functional spiritual entity may be content enough to drive a character away. Malevolences will often seek to possess or consume a compromised character. A character with a high SPIRIT score has a hardness versus SPIRIT damage according to their bonus.
Similarly a character adds a bonus to SPIRIT damage dealt to spiritual entities.
Losing SPIRIT can happen through inaction in adventures. A critical event that a character chooses to avoid, most often having moral or ethical implications, will cause a loss of 1 point of SPIRIT. Much like an alignment shift in other games, it should be made clear to the player that a loss of SPIRIT will occur if they choose inaction in an important moment.
Playing good characters is another important aspect of role-playing games. Although a good GM and good players can have a good game with bad characters, it’s much easier to have a good game when the characters are good. When players create heroes, it is far easier to have fun and eliminate many of the conflicts that often arise as a result of good role-playing. A group should be well rounded with well thought out backgrounds and personalities.
Experience Talks, Part I (WT&D Issue 1) discussed the contribution of the GM to a good gaming experience. Part II discusses the role of the players, characters, and campaigns in creating a better gaming experience for everyone.
Good Players are essential to any game, especially any role-playing game. A player’s attitude, willingness to adapt, and attentiveness can make the game more enjoyable for everyone involved. Several characteristics that are common to all good players will be addressed in this article. First and foremost is the player’s attitude, from which all their other qualities derive. Other traits that excellent gamers possess include adaptability, attentiveness, and a desire to help out wherever he or she can.
Over the past few weeks, Dave has talked about six roles the GM plays—Director, Writer, Referee, Host, Actor, and Tactician—and how each of those roles helps to make a fun and memorable game.
During the Game Summary
A good GM runs a smooth game by making his players comfortable immersing themselves in the game, by running a game that his players want to play in, and by making quick, appropriate decisions relating to his game world.
Away from the Game
Another aspect of running a smooth game is to make sure everything that needs to be prepared ahead of time is already taken care of. Read more
A GM also has to be the tactician for the NPCs. There are various ways for GMs to run the opposition in battle.
The opposition can react based on what the players characters do. If the hero brick squares off against the villain mentalist, the villain speedster could intervene. If the hero swordsman prepares to attack the enemy wizard, the enemy archer could attack the swordsman first, or else attack another hero who may be a more dangerous threat.
Not too long ago, I was asked whether there were any games which I thought were Satanic, which Christians should avoid. If you’ve read this series to date, you know my answer; but perhaps this time I have a different answer, a surprising answer. For from my personal experience, I can suggest that there is a game which Satan uses against me, to tear me down and pull me away from God. And so from my own experience I would be justified in saying that this is a game which Christians should not play, or at least should give careful consideration to the dangers before doing so.
The game is Solitaire.
Before you turn away, hear me out. There are dangers to this game that you have never considered. It has nothing to do with cards or games of chance per se, but with something deeper, something which Satan can use to undermine your faith if you are not careful. Read more