Cultures of Northumbria: The Frangians

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


The Frangii are relative newcomers to Northumbria, hailing from lands to the northeast, across the great sea. Centuries ago, the Frangii were a divided people, with their petty kings fighting fratricidal wars for hegemony. In recent centuries, they united and expanded, absorbing a few neighboring cultures and forming the mighty Kingdom of Frangia, one of the most powerful kingdoms ever seen across the sea.  Fierce competition between Frangia and its neighboring kingdoms led to a wave of exploration and the discovery of the new world.

The Frangii quickly established many settlements in that new world, focusing on a fertile coastal region that they dubbed Southumbria. Despite frequent frontier wars with natives and other colonizing powers, Frangian power continued to grow there. The Frangian Crown then turned its attention to the vast region to the north of Southumbria, a region that they logically dubbed Northumbria. Read more

Faith in Play #4: Bad Friends

This is Faith in Play #4: Bad Friends, for March 2018.


This started with a bit of silliness that over the course of a few hours became considerably more serious.

It was a morning drive, and on the radio someone was talking about how Jesus had saved her marriage. She said that now her husband was her “best friend”.

I know it was sincere, and it was undoubtedly truly meaningful, but I’m afraid it is so cliché that I immediately noted to my wife, “You know, no one ever talks about their worst friend.” We laughed. I said that there must be a way I can use that for something, and we pondered how you would identify your “worst friend.”

A few hours later I shared the joke with my youngest son, who did not laugh but instead said that he knew exactly who his worst friend was.

There is something of an attitude in gaming groups that says we must be friends because we’re all gamers who get together to play. It’s like thinking that you must be friends with everyone who goes to the same bowling matches or bridge games or cocktail parties. I have talked about that before, in Faith and Gaming: Friends. I have also written in mark Joseph “young” web log post #93: What is a Friend? about two distinct concepts of friendship. I hold the word to a rather high bar. I think most of the people who think themselves my friends probably are only acquaintances who like playing games with me. That’s fine; it’s good to have acquaintances of that sort. You could even call them friends.

My son’s choice for “worst friend,” though, was enlightening. He named the high school friend who, after serving in Afghanistan, became a homeless drug addict. This boy seems impossible to help—give him shelter and food, and he takes advantage of the situation to steal from the house to buy drugs.

We have a short list of people who are not allowed inside the house. They are welcome to sit on the front deck and talk with people, and we will help them as we can, but the doorway is the boundary. I always explain it to them very simply: People who live here believe that you have stolen from them and that you will do so again. As long as you are never inside the house, no one can accuse you of having stolen anything from inside the house. Thus the rule protects you from being accused. It happens that it also protects them from the temptation of stealing from us. This friend is on that list.

As I considered this, I realized that there have been many people whom we treated as friends over the years who abused that status. More than once we had to discontinue having gaming groups play in our home because someone, never identified, stole things from us, and rebuilding a gaming group after something like that is not simple. If the people we entertain in our home are our friends, we have had some bad friends. What do we do about these people?

Love your enemies, and pray for those who mistreat you, so that you may become sons of your Father in heaven. For He makes His sun shine on the good and the bad, and gives the blessing of rain to the righteous and the unrighteous.

Let me be clear. I do not mean that you necessarily have to give your bad friends free rein of your home; I do not mean that you do not report theft or other crimes to the police. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is put someone in jail—if indeed you are doing it as the best way to help them. We have had to do that at least once. What is expected, though, is that we continue to love the bad friends, even the worst friend, and to look for the best way to help them. We were never promised that showing love wouldn’t result in pain or injury to ourselves. We were promised that God would recognize His own image in us when we did so.

There is a footnote to this story. This was written about a year before it was published here, and in the intervening months my wife and I were both hospitalized and released with some severe restrictions on our activities. During this time that “worst friend” appeared, clean and sober, and stayed with us for an extended time, cooking and cleaning and otherwise making life possible for us while we were recuperating. No one is irredeemable, and a little love and grace and kindness can go a long way.

So show love to your friends, even the worst friend.


Previous article: Javan’s Feast.
Next article: Fear.

Ants in the Darkness

Another memorable play session from Michael Garcia, this one from his more recent Northumbria campaign. Mike is running two groups in the same campaign. “Screams in Store” followed the Winchester family; this story is about the Becketts. 


Background:

The session began with the PCs in a narrow tunnel, which is part of a series of natural limestone caverns that run throughout Wycliffe Island, located in Blackwater Lake. The party had stumbled upon a secret door inside an unmarked crypt on the island, and they started to explore the tunnel beneath it. The group is rather large and the tunnel very tight so they were in a long line, strung out.

From the DM:

Sometimes your players do innovative and bold things at the table, reflecting years of gaming experience. Other times, they shock you by doing silly things or NOT doing the obvious. The following game session began with a casual moment of stupidity that almost killed the entire party, but there were some heroics too. The monsters were not terribly interesting, but stock monsters can sometimes prove surprisingly tough when one small detail escapes your notice at first. In this case, the party (second level on average) ended up slugging it out with over sixty-three HD2 monsters that effectively had platemail! When I realized their plight, just before the battle began, I gave them a short piece of advice: “It’s time to get creative and pull out the heavy artillery or become food!” Read more

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 Magazine), 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.