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.
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
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.
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
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 short time ago someone writing to thank the Christian Gamers Guild for this Faith and Gaming series asked a question which had not been addressed, and which perhaps should have been recognized and addressed long before this, given the thoughts in our Preliminaries: how, in practical terms, do we integrate our faith into our gaming? That is, when we are in the middle of playing a game, how do we bring our faith to bear? I have addressed the question briefly elsewhere before, but if we’re speaking of integrating faith and gaming, this would seem to be close to the heart of the matter. So we will consider some ideas of how to bring faith into games. 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
More than two decades ago now, before I’d ever heard of role playing games or Dungeons & Dragons™ or the hobby game industry, I took an undergraduate course in creative writing, specifically writing fiction. I suppose I had some distant dream of retiring and writing the next great fantasy novel, and I thought this would help. It was a wonderful class, and I gained much from it.
Periodically we were required to write short pieces which would be as fragments of a story—descriptions of scenes, action sequences, and similar bits. One of these was an internal character sketch. To explain, when we read books there is always a perspective from which we are told the story. It can be an external perspective, as we would have watching a play or film, seeing everyone’s actions from the outside. But books permit us to come to the story from the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of one of the characters, to know not only what happened, but how it affected this individual. So it is possible to describe a character externally, telling what he looks like, how he dresses and moves and what he does; but it is possible to describe a character internally, considering how he sees himself, how he reacts and what goes through his mind that leads him to the choices he makes. Read more