“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.” —Randall Garrett, Too Many Magicians
Most role-playing games (RPGs) include some kind of magic or occult phenomena as part of the game. This fact makes some people uncomfortable. Some Christians go so far as to insist that any activity—games, movies, whatever—including the portrayal of magic must be avoided in order to maintain a right relationship with God and to follow His moral guidance. On careful examination, however, the arguments used to support this stand are weak, both from a logical and Scriptural perspective.
There are two aspects to this controversy: 1) what is actually happening when magic appears in an RPG, and 2) what does Scripture have to say about this? In this essay I address the issue of fact rather than the application of Scripture—not because Scripture is less important, but because it is impossible to apply Scripture properly without knowing the factual truth about any situation barring direct divine inspiration, which lies outside the realm of the merely rational mind. Read more
Three months ago, in Deals, I suggested something that flies in the face of much of the common wisdom about what is acceptable in gaming: I suggested that a game that focused on making deals with the devil was a very Christian game, which taught a very important Christian lesson to its players. Some have probably wondered since then whether I think there is anything at all that goes too far in role playing.
That would be at least a bit unfair. I have often said that there are things that go too far for me, and things of which others should at least be wary. Admittedly, I’ve never (that I recall) stated that any particular concept was inappropriate per se for all players, but I have said there were things that concern me, and two months back when we addressed Sex I suggested a few that were inappropriate for me (although not for everyone).
This month, there is something that concerns me. It is appropriate that it should fall in October, the month in which this column has traditionally addressed issues related to magic, because it is a matter concerning magic that has come to my attention of which I write. Read more
I see the world as a vast battlefield on which the supernatural armies of God and Satan struggle for the souls of men. Magic is rampant in this world. Every time a believer sins or a sinner repents, these are events of spiritual significance. To quote from the movie Ladyhawke, “I believe in miracles; it’s part of my job.” As I walk by faith or seek divine guidance, I’m tapping into power and knowledge from the supernatural realm—in short, magic.
I was first drawn to fantasy role play because of its magic. The worlds of those earliest games shared something in common with ours: the spiritual battle was manifest in the material realm. I played no game more Christian than this. While others criticized Dungeons & Dragons for its magic, demons, and deities, those were exactly the things for which I most praised it. Magic was alive and well in the fantasy world, and men were deeply involved in the immortal struggle.
Often you will get advice from Christians suggesting that if you want to play role playing games as a Christian you need to remove the magic from the games. Don’t play the wizards, whatever you do; and if you have the choice, stick to science fiction games, or espionage or western or other settings in which there isn’t any magic. Magic, we are told, is a terrible thing which should be removed from our games as much as possible.
I’m going to go against the grain. One of the best ways I know to bring your faith to bear on the games you play is to infuse those games with magic. Read more
Most gamers call them psionics, a term coined in the middle of the last century for the idea that we could use our minds to change the world around us directly. But to many, they are just another form of magic, and therefore a danger to the saved and the lost alike. To believe in mental powers, we are told, is to believe in evil Satanic powers of darkness. No Christian should ever believe in such things, or promote such beliefs, or even entertain the possibility that they might be a subject for conversation, let alone for something so frivolous as game play.
But I do believe in mental powers. I believe that we have them, that we have powers and abilities we have not tapped. I don’t see anything anti-Christian about believing such a thing. In fact, I think I can prove it. Read more
Last month as we concluded our consideration of Magic, we raised a bigger issue: is it appropriate for characters in a fictional world to call upon any deity?
It is not a simple question. At every turn God has commanded that we have no regard for other gods; it is top of the list in the Ten Commandments, the concept behind many of the prohibitions (from sorcery to cutting the corners of your beard), and the reason why Israel and Judah were conquered by foreign nations. You shall have no other gods before Me.
But at the same time, you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
We are caught between the proverbial two horns. Read more
It was inevitable that this subject would eventually surface in this series. After all, the supernatural elements in many role playing games are the ones most feared and criticized by those who oppose them, and eventually something would have to be said about them.
But it is just ironic coincidence that the issue has come up in October, the month in which issues of pagan magic and supernaturalism are most debated in the church, the month in which most Americans, at least, celebrate what some still think is the ancient and mystical pagan Druidic festival of the New Year, Samhain, thinly veiled under the pseudonym Halloween.
So what is it about imaginary magic which gets so many people so upset? Read more
Most of the arguments which are raised against role playing games have by now been answered. They no more involve consorting with demons than reading The Screwtape Letters or That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. The magic in them is about as like witchcraft as that of Penn and Teller. They are less violent than most action movies and television shows, and more likely to present the negative consequences of such violence. And in very few games do characters actually get away with evil.
But still, we are told that we should refrain from playing such games out of respect for the weaker brother. Read more
First, let me address the matter of the question. When talking about a designing a role-playing game and the role that magic in the role-playing game will take, we must first decide on what questions we are asking ourselves. Several questions come to my mind. First, what is magic? What is it, not only in fantasy and reality, but also in the role-playing sub-culture? What will it be in my game world or system? The second question is “Why do I want it in the game system?” Why do I need or want magic in the game I’m designing? Third, how does it work in my game system? How do I want it to work in my game? Read more
I’m going to challenge you today with a question that maybe you have never asked yourself, and yet you have probably answered—and further, that you have probably answered both yes and no in different situations.
Is it wrong for us as Christians to imagine a world that is different from the one God created for us?
I suspect that you have probably just now reacted with, “No, of course not,” maybe even so strong as “That’s ridiculous.” Yet I also wonder if that’s what you really think. But perhaps you don’t see the problem Read more