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Author Topic: Three games about religion  (Read 31305 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2011, 01:05:44 AM »

Ron, I don't think I was forcing a definition that doesn't commonly occur. On the other hand I'm looking through Ophite and the more the direct references to the word 'religion' become a peripheral in the text, the more the effect I mentioned becomes peripheral. It seems pretty peripheral so far in the Ophite text, so perhaps me going into the details wont benefit the design process much. So I'll leave it at that.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2011, 05:54:32 AM »

Hi Callan,

Yeah. Meaning, yes, I'm with you on that definition or at least that phrasing of religion being commonly, frequently used. And I'll agree further in observing that many overtly-religious people (most observant, most sociologically committed) identify their personal faith with the details of their practice, although whether this is regional or religion-specific I can't say.

The construction I presented in my first post and in the video is definitely not the most common view. I didn't intend to correct you in terms of what's said or how it's said, and I don't think I chose my wording toward you personally quite right. Doing that is tough with this topic. All I ask is that my own phrasing be considered, as a contrast to the way your post put it.

Best, Ron
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Marshall Burns
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« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2011, 09:10:54 AM »

This is highly interesting. Like, seriously. Man.

Ok. I was raised in an evangelical Christian household. Primarily Pentecostal (I grew up seeing people dance in the aisles and "speak in tongues" and thought nothing odd about it), but there were times when a Pentecostal church my parents were OK with wasn't available and we went to a different (but still evangelical) church. Just about everyone on my father's side of the family is religious. My grandfather writes gospel songs, and evangelizes at prisons and in foreign countries. My great grandfather has played guitar in the church band at my hometown's First Assembly of God for decades. I attended church every Sunday unless ill until my teens, when I was allowed the choice and gradually stopped going because I didn't find it fulfilling in any sense.

Frankly, I was sheltered to a great degree, particularly from things that smacked of the occult (something which evangelicals hold a great fear of, in my experience). For instance, I wasn't allowed to watch the Smurfs because what's-his-face, the bad guy, had a pentacle (misidentified by my parents and everyone else I know as a pentagram) on his floor. That's probably the most absurd restriction that was placed on me, but there were plenty of others regarding what I was allowed to watch, do, and read.

I remember once playing pretend as a child and drawing material from a fantasy videogame, involving magic and whatnot, and my parents becoming upset. From that point, such videogames (Final Fantasy, etc.) were no longer played in our house. That restriction later vanished without comment or ceremony. When Magic: the Gathering got big when I was 10 or so, I was forbidden from playing it, and my mom treated me to a story of how my dad used to play D&D and found out it was evil, so he burned all his D&D materials and skulls formed in the smoke (I shit you not, she really told me that).

On the other hand, it was my dad who introduced me to RPGs with a game of Boot Hill (which went nowhere because I was 8 years old; it was beyond me at the time).

I can't pretend that being brought up in that environment had no effect on me. It's had plenty of them, both positive (I took to heart notions like mercy and patience that got bandied about), and negative -- coming to terms with my sexuality (heterosexual but decidedly non-vanilla, and that's enough info about that) was something of an adventure, and I distinctly remember being viscerally wracked with guilt and irrational fear after feeling up my girlfriend for the first time at the age of 15 (an incident which pretty much scuttled our relationship as well). I was in and of a particular subculture, and although I'm not part of it anymore, it's still part of me. It's also very much entangled with my (tangly) relationship with my father, and that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

I got into RPGs in my teens, around the same time I was granted freedom to abstain from attending church. It was also around this time that I became literate (I had been a reader since as long as I could remember, but I didn't start being literate until then). It struck me as odd that my dad showed no interest in any of the RPG stuff (I was designing games even then) despite having introduced me to it in the first place, but I didn't call much attention to it either, and pretty much actively hid evidence of other games I was involved in (which involved religion-related content pervasively -- interestingly, these games were designed by friends of mine who didn't grow up in religious households). But my dad's disinterest wasn't entirely unwelcome either; I lived with a pretty much constant anxiety of being judged negatively by my father, a fact exacerbated by the fact that you cannot debate anything with the man due to an infuriating ability on his part to dismiss any dissenting argument from the floor (and it doesn't matter if he does it fallaciously; you're still not going anywhere with it). But that's getting into the relationship-with-my-dad thing, which isn't the same as the religion & RPGs thing.

It's interesting to me to look at the games I've designed and notice that none of them really deal with religion. My teen designs featured the D&D powerz list kind of non-religions, and that was as close as I got. Even the Rustbelt with its Faith rules doesn't really deal with religion; it deals with faith from a pop-psychological standpoint, and remains systematically unconcerned with actual religion in terms of observance, doctrine, and institutions. They can be there, sure, but the game itself doesn't particularly care if they are or not. It's more about belief and how the character feels about that belief.
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contracycle
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« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2011, 09:16:15 AM »

Not sure where to start; if you just find bio data valuable, I' guess I'll start there, although it's probably not very useful for your purposes.

My social context as a kid was quite religious, and being religious was generally considered to be coterminus with being a Good Person, but my family was not particularly involved.  I couldn't actually tell you whether my mother takes religion seriously, for example, but for all that I was christened and sent to sunday school etc, that was just the normal stuff that people did.  But when I wanted to stop going, there was no fuss.  I guess I considered myself a believer in a fairly passive and informal way until the age of about 12 or 13, although it was actually after that point that I got involved with an actual religious group, primarily for social reasons.  In some respects I was looking for a convincing argument, but in the end it only confirmed my developing atheism.  I didn't really experience RPG as rebellious, because there was no pre-existing hostility as such, certainly not one I was aware of anyway, and I only encountered it after I'd been gaming for 4 or 5 years.  The result was that I thought the whole saga was absurd and if anything it hardened my stance on what nonsense people were willing to believe simply because a preacher said it.  But for some of the people I played with in those days, I think what you suggest is quite true, that it served as a medium of rebellion, although I associate that more strongly with black/death metal and sundry affectations to being a satanist.

At any rate, what I wanted to mention is that I think a potential 5th aspect to consider is simply data.  That is, the structure of a social religious practice that carries some kind of authority can carry within it data of practical utility, even if it doesn't have sufficient information with which to logically justify the position it takes.  For example, your classic Hollywood natives trying to appease and "angry mountain"; storing the information that the mountain can enter an "angry" state may be factually wrong, but if it carries from generation to generation the information that the mountain can be dangerous then it can gave social utility anyway. I suppose this might be folded into Culture, but it's not culture of the general establishment of right and proper behaviour sort; it is embedding an intuitively understood insight into the practical world without fully understanding it and relying on the continuity of practice to keep that data alive.  Religiously mandated forms of ritual purity can be seen in the same light, in that although many of them are wrong, many of them are not and did probably contribute to hygiene and cleanliness.

I certainly agree that a huge amount of discussion about right and proper social structure, personal behaviour and morality etc, is conducted in a religious context.  On the other hand I'm not really so convinced that the Abrahamic texts are much use in this regard, because they are all infused with a programamatic doctrine to establish monotheism specifically, and thus much of their content is aimed at a quite different purpose.  But that quibble aside, I certainly see the value in exploring nominally religious texts for the information they contain on cosmology as understood by those people, for example.  That element, the cultural one I guess, is that one that draws most of my interest, and where my frustration with RPG's to date arises.  My problem with them is that they basically treat the characters as psychologically modern.  Religion is thus not a perception of cosmology or right living, but specifically magical practices and anachronistic personal belief.  The very distinctions between "magicians" and "clerics" is basically flawed, as is the idea people generally engage with a specific deity rather the pantheon as a whole (note: I know this isn't strictly true.  People did attach themselves to particular cults; but the idea that someone was a worshipper of this god or that god in isolation seems pretty weird to me).

I guess a good example of the kind of things I would like from an greater exploration is exemplified in the scene from the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves movie in which Morgan Freeman's Moorish character has a brief rant about how he can't determine where east is in England so as to pray to Mecca. The sort of thing where religious practice is personally important to characters, where it prompts demonstrative and expressive play, rather than gods as patron or power sources.

As a note, another text you might find useful is the History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours.  Although obviously intended as a work of history, Gregory was himself a bishop who also wrote several tracts on the lives of the saints.  The text is thus full of matters of primarily religious interest, such as the doings of church figures, signs and wonders observed, his doctrinal arguments with Visigothic Arians, etc.  As such, while not a primary source for the matters of human reflection you mention, it is an interesting window on the practical life and views of an active agent of the church in a period significantly different to ours (the 500's). Like the instance he recounts where a particularly pious monk prays for a miracle which is granted by god, and all his fellow monks immediately beat the shit out of him so that he doesn't becomes puffed up with sinful pride at this achievement.

I also wanted to mention something about the Call of Cthulhu things said above.  The trope of "defending civilisation against the barbarians" is a powerful and seductive one, and although often, indeed usually, infused with racist overtones, that doesn't necessarily have to be the case.  The Romans weren't particularly racist, and it would be difficult to see the effort to preserve the empire against hordes of human-sacrificing barbarians as other than heroic.  I know it's dodgy and often exploited territory, but it is so because because it is so evocative.  
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2011, 11:28:31 AM »

I'm liking this thread very much. I had no real idea of where to go with it except to see where it goes, and my current notion is that everyone's various posted details - analytical, scholarly, personal - are accumulating into a mine for each new reader. Who knows which piece will be inspirational in terms of later design and play, and along what vector? It's the richness of the mine itself which seems to be the thread's main asset.

More thoughts on the three texts themselves would be helpful too. I know most of my presentation so far has been a little standoffish about that, because they really aren't in either the textual or design shape which would benefit from ordinary critique. But I am interested in what they make people think about, if anything, as a couple of posts have done. Or who knows, any thoughts on the source material or the combinations I've chosen. It is my first set of RPG work that invokes the Grateful Dead throughout, for instance, and band-specific music of any kind has never been a major inspiration for me before.

Best, Ron
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Hans Chung-Otterson
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« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2011, 09:02:14 PM »

Essentially, I want responses straight from the heart. Whether it's your reading of the current write-ups, any attempt at playing them, your thoughts on religion in RPG settings, your personal accounts and admissions regarding religion and role-playing, all I care about is your honesty. As long as that's there, whatever you toss into this thread for those topics will help me a lot, and I hope to be able to provide interesting feedback that shows more about where I'm coming from with these ... well, not games yet, "things."

Hey Ron,

I was raised in the mid-80's and 90's in the Conservative Evangelical Christian traditions of those times. I specifically remember, as a kid, watching a commercial for D&D with my mom in the room, and expressing nothing approaching interest. My mom, however, declared "that's evil" at the TV. Fast-forward to my college days (early to mid 2000s) and I finally feel daring enough to buy 3.5 D&D books.

For my first year or so playing roleplaying games (2007ish), I was plagued by a kind of anxiety that reared its head every so often. For example, when I went to my first convention, by myself, the sense of this being a foreign community was palpable to me, and I did feel a real anxiety that maybe this is actually wrong in some way, or demonic, and my mom was right. My faith had changed a lot by then, and I had rejected the conservatism of my upbringing, but at this point hadn't (yet) come to the conclusion that there were deeply destructive elements to it still clinging to me.

Not sure where I'm going with this. I suppose it's just to say: yes, roleplaying was one of the most (safe) rebellious things I could do as a kid, but I didn't do it until I grew up, for fear that they actually were evil. Sounds ridiculous to me now, and probably to you, but it's the plain truth. It took me a while to shake that feeling, and as I get older, I'm beginning to really resent the faith (people, that is) of my childhood from barring me from something that I enjoy so much, and brings such life to me. In fact, my positive journey with roleplaying has happened (or maybe more than happened?) to coincide with a journey of faith where Doubt has come to be more and more important.


I want to stress that none of them are about religious belief, which as I see it, is a huge non-issue which tends to blot out all the relevant issues about religion through its very non-ness. It's kind of the opposite of the elephant in the room that no one will talk about; instead, it's the elephant which is not in the room but which no one will shut up about.

I think you hit the nail on the head here. When I talk about my doubt I mean not an uncertainty about intellectual assent to a religious dogma, but rather that doubt is a part of the structure of faith. I know I'm going esoteric here, and I'll stop. I've been reading Paul Tillich lately, and I won't be able to fully articulate his thoughts on Faith & Doubt here, nor is it pertinent to the discussion. I suppose I just want to say: Hear, hear! I am excited to see your games about religion, but not about religious belief.

Just last week I wrote a draft for a game about doubt, and the importance of it, which is also not about the importance or non-importance of belief.

Thanks for the venue, Ron, and the thread. Always insightful.
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Hans Chung-Otterson
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« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2011, 11:57:25 PM »

I want to add a little bit more of personal history, because when it comes to religious/church stuff, I think I assume a lot that people outside of that culture don't.

Here's this: In college, when I was first exploring RPGs, I was also part of a campus Christian fellowship (Intervarsity, if anyone cares), and spent a great deal of time leading Bible studies and organizing events and meetings and generally being a part of the leadership. All of my close friends still are Christians, and none of them play roleplaying games.

My wife is currently in Seminary, studying for her Masters of Divinity. I still self-identify as a Christian, but I think the whole conversation about the existence of God (or non-existence) is meaningless*. Also, I don't know what to think about the historical Jesus these days, which puts me on shaky ground with pretty much every Christian I know (including my wife, to some extent). If that sounds a little 'religious wacko' or 'don't you know about Science?' to you, I point you to Erik's quote:

kids see few cracks in the view of the world presented to them.

This quote (and the larger part that surrounds it) seems so obvious now that I've read it, but I've never had that thought before. Of course! I had no alternatives growing up! So now I'm 27, and questioning whether Jesus rose from the dead and whatnot (and, more importantly I think: whether it matters to my faith whether Jesus rose from the dead, or was a real person, etc.), and it feels so difficult to get at any sort of historical truth about it: because all sides are throwing polemic, all sides, Christian apologists and New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc.) alike whip me up into a frenzy and make me bewildered but don't help me see anything. Which I think is pretty much why I've discarded them and as well as all my stock in the "belief vs. nonbelief" issue.

Wow, am I going too far afield here? Obviously this topic has cracked something open in me. I think I'll leave my personal story and issues there, unless anyone has questions.

*in that it's literally meaningless babble to discuss the concept of God as a being beholden to the category of existence, one way or the other.
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2011, 01:00:44 PM »

I'll take a crack at the topic.

I suspect that we don't deal with religion much in RPGs because we don't talk about religion much in the US. We talk past one another about religion but money politics and religion are great ways to start a fight. This is so because we've always been a country of great religious diversity. The only way we get along is if we pretend to all be the same. As Mormon history shows, when we stop pretending people get shot. When you're in the minority you learn how to not bug people with your differences.

When Ron mentioned removing belief from the discussion of religion I saw an evangelical land mine right under foot. Belief in Evangelical Protestantism IS the religion. This is an example of how religious language can lead people to not communicate. The other one I see is the idea of people choosing their religion. That is a very Protestant idea. I love the Anababist idea but these are fighting words with other religions. Promising to raise your children Muslim, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, various flavors of Jewish, Hindu etc. No choice is involved at all - possibly lots of guilt - but no choice. So using religious language event in an analytical way is bound to be thorny. Exclude something and you step on a land mine, include something and you step on another land mine. Martin Luther found tons of pagan holdovers in the 16th Century after a thousand years of Christianity in that part of the world. So not talking and ignoring differences is maybe the best example of Old Time Religion (Punctuated with periods of extreme violence and forced conformity).

At least in the US religion is still very important. It is serious business. Jefferson championed the free market of religion as a democratic ideal. So here we've never had religious uniformity. One of my ancestors was an early circuit rider (ca 1810). Others were German Catholic who didn't learn English for 70 years after coming to the US. I'm a Muslim convert. My brother's are Taoist and Neo-Pagan. Getting a handle on this in a simulation game is daunting.

I was reading a book about the Ohio frontier a month ago and was especially interested in the chapter on religion. It was a perfect example of the hetrodoxy I described above. Methodist circuit riders, Calvinist Presbyterians and Social Progress Presbyterians right there in the same church, Quakers who got along well with everyone by keeping to themselves, and Shakers who where sometimes attacked because they lured men's wives into communistic celebacy. Throw in Catholic enclaves and the occasional Jewish tinker and it was a mess.

My oldest brother once summed it up nicely when he observed that Neo Pagens tended to recreate their childhood religion in their neo-paganess. I sum it up in a rule "You should never kill anyone over theology." It all comes down to the same - a big no talk rule.

ALL THAT BEING SAID...

I've got no problem with people trying to make sense out of religion in games. I just hope they see that the simulation/rationalization that they come up with is their own understanding of what it means and that generalizing it very far is gong to run them straight back into the mine field.

For instance: Dogs in the Vinyard: I voted for it to be the game of the year when it came up even though I gave the fedback that if the game was about role playing the religious police in Saudi Arabia doing the same thing would raise the hackles of a lot of people. They would get all anti-terroristie. When I project my emotional self into Pre-Statehood Utah I get the idea that the first Dog I saw would shoot me real fast, which kind of kills the empathy needed to get into the character.

I remember Ron telling me about working on a game set in Lebanon last year, a place where the land mines are real! It's a bigger mess than here (religiously I mean). I personally think that Islam is in the middle of a "Protestant Reformation" experience and is still in the late 16th Century in terms of how resolved it is. The European experience was 120 years of really violent war. Then people stopped talking about theology and moved into the Enlightenment (sort of). I can see gaming the initial rush of emotion and rigid belief and evangelistic zeal, The head crashing arguments with other religions that seldom change anyone's beliefs, the bloody massacres, and then the stunned realization that maybe they had better learn tolerance. I can certainly see games of humor looking at the silly inconsistencies of religion (very post modern). I can see games about cynicism, which are not very religious. I can't see a game where people start getting heart felt about their practices, institutions, and customs that doesn't slide into rancor. Simulation religious tension by experiencing religious tension doesn't sound fun but it does sound very American. We've been doing this live action role play game for centuries.

Hummm...

What about a role play game set at a Revival meeting in Kentucy around 1805? They got all the religious groups together then, along with the drunks, hecklers, and criminals. It would be a free for all. God only know what would come of it.

These are the thoughts the topic brought up. I've got no idea if they lead anywhere useful.


Chris Engle

 
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Chris Engle
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ejh
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« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2011, 09:13:29 AM »

In case people find it useful let me contribute a couple terms to the discussion:

ORTHODOXY: correct religious belief (for some definition of "correct")

ORTHOPRAXY: correct religious practice (ditto).

Many religions define themselves much more by orthopraxy than orthodoxy.  Even Catholic Christianity, which came up with the word "Orthdox," defines who is and isn't a member not by what they believe, but by whether they were baptized, period. From the point of view of Catholic (including Eastern Orthodox) theology, you are a member if you were baptized a member, no matter what you currently believe, because of the historical fact of your orthoprax baptism.  (You may be a very *bad* Catholic, but you are still a Catholic, and excommunication does not make you not a Catholic, it makes you a Catholic who was very bad and is being punished.)

Catholic Christianity concerned itself more with Orthodoxy than most previous Western religion, including Judaism, and Protestant Christianity made Orthodoxy absolutely supreme.

In other words, Ron's insistence that we look at religion in terms other than correct belief is absolutely something that any anthropologist of religion would heartily endorse; defining religion by belief is a very provincial affair, at best a facet of a greater whole, even within an Abrahamic context.

Just droppin' a little science here, and completely failing for now to do what Ron actually asked for, which is give a response straight from the heart.
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2011, 01:49:00 PM »

This is an interesting and for me very complex issue. I am going to do my best not to ramble on too much and to make my points as succinctly as I can. No promises though and you have been warned. Oh and you will likely be offended.

First, my bio with regards to the question: I was raised Catholic, got a good education in a Catholic School for my first six years where I learned that I hated the idea of authority without wisdom or intellect. I am a fan of John Paul II who I think, was a visionary Pope as much as one can be visionary and still hold onto the old timers. I was fortunate enough to be a part open minded groups who favored mixing intellect with their religion and with a health dose of mysticism. I was an Altar Boy and never touched or approached inappropriately nor were any of the kids in my Parish that I know of. However, I do despise how the Church and ALL GROUPS from other religions to schools handle this subject. I was or I suppose am a Knight of Columbus. While I no longer consider myself Catholic or religious, I do not blame religion for all the evils of the world. I do admit I tend to cut the Catholic Church more slack than I do any other member of the J-C-M triumverate.

Anyway after Catholicism I went to a weak form of spiritualism and paganism before I got to my current state of beliefs. I think that religion is a form of science and science can be as dogmatic as any religion. I do not think they are mutually exclusive and I think the current crop of anti-theism is mainly a lot of people who are angry that Churches get tax free status and Santa Claus is not real. That is to say that humans lash out at the things of their childhood that they find may not have been true once they become adults. I think religion and science are both trying to explain the universe but I think that the method of religion tends to be very poor science. Thus its stuck with doctrines that are out of date or simply incomprehensible feel good nonsense. I will say that not once in a dark time have I ever said "Thank physics E-MC(squared)." Science is a cold doctrine that provides wonder and honesty but no comfort. So it is a matter of taste. I will say that science, as stated previously, can be very dogmatic and for something supposedly grounded in reality you can find a great many varying and contradictory theories... just like religion. I am one of the few that I know of who will admit 1) That Intelligent design and Evolution/Big Bang are not mutually exclusive and 2) That the question of whether there is a god-like being out there is still very much in question. We really have no evidence either way.

Growing up, my early role playing was encourage by a quiet intellectual father and not at all discouraged by my school or any priest. Mom disapproved but since I respected dad's intellect more, I was also okay with it. It was in no rebellion against religious beliefs. I formed my own opinion on both and was never bothered by the paganism of fantasy rpgs. I gamed primarily with Christians through HS and College. Since that time it has been a mixed bag. One of my best friends is an Episcopal Priest and yes, we still game. I will admit there was childish joy and something kind of rebellious when we gamed in his rectory.

I think you do see a great many people using RPGs as one of the tools of social rebellion. I also think as a youth and in some peoples minds its still a pure kind of rebellion. All the sex and killing is just talk, regardless of those who try to make a connection between school shootings and RPGs. However, as I got older and became a member of the RPGA and was going to Cons regularly I realized that gamers are a bunch of sexual freaks. I will include myself in this. The perception of the unwashed stinky fat gamer, while true in some cases, went right out the window. In fact, I find gamers to be much less conscious of body issues in their partners. Suffice to say there was a lot of fucking going on. It was almost hedonistic to be honest and I do not have enough data to make any reasonable cause and effect statement.

All the games sound interesting especially the "Red" game and using the idea of beauty.  I also like the idea of madness, as I think that mental illness and mental breakdowns, while being debilitating for living in the "real" world, do offer those afflicted insight beyond what we consider to be concrete and normal. I also think or it has been my recent experience that those who have strong religious belief are often marginalized the way the mentally ill or mentally immature are marginalized. "Ophite" seems more like a thinking exercise, which is not a bad thing and it feels like it would be a great "Convention" game where people, away from their normal groups, might be more willing to open up to strangers. (or maybe not, who knows). "Relic" I have to say interests me the least. It sounds like an interesting historical delve for folks who did not live through it, but I lived through debate over relics and the inclusion of Mary in the Trinity and all sorts of weird Catholic stuff (no regrets) and so I do not need to explore it as such. Of course I may be missing the point of it.

Last point for now, I promise. The problem with religion in fantasy gaming is that The Church either plays the role of hero or villain and sometimes both. It is so locked into our Western idea of fantasy construction that its hard to imagine a world without religion. Who would do the healing if there are no clerics?! lol. In fact in those games religion becomes science, because the physics of the universe are entwined with these super powerful beings. I am not sure what a more humanist or naturalist approach to a fantasy setting might be but I would be fascinated to see it attempted.

Okay I did ramble lol but I hope it was useful.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: July 11, 2011, 02:05:17 PM »

Hi everyone,

As before, I appreciate all the comments, and their sort-of-unconstructed nature is serving me well as the designer of these three ... "things," so that's OK even if it is a little atypical of what I try to encourage at the Forge.

I'd like to remind folks that my personal take on belief as a non-issue is merely a designer's point of view and isn't really subject to debate, so it's not like anyone has to make a case for it as central, or refute that case, or anything of the sort. I didn't raise that issue to argue about it but instead to explain or at least acknowledge the fact that that particular issue didn't show up during a very intuitive, very driven creative surge.

Perhaps over the next year or so I might look forward to some new game designs which do bring that particular issue to the table in a new and more effective way.

For the record, nothing stated so far has been offensive to me or within light-years of that ballpark.

Best, Ron
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graypawn
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« Reply #26 on: July 11, 2011, 07:40:35 PM »

I've known about the Forge for a few years now, and i've followed a couple of links to this site in the past.  But i registered today so i could reply to this thread.

Because you listed a few things that 'defined' the people you see, the people you're talking about.  That list was pretty quieting for me to read.  (hell, i got here because i followed a link from Vincent Baker's blog...)  I don't think they all describe me for reasons you assume, but…i have to admit, in the end, they are all accurate labels for me.  A Christian Gamer.

So, from the heart:
I read the list and at first i thought i was so completely totally different, because i wanted to (it's unfair when others describe us better than we know ourselves).  What i'm going to respond to is the 'need to say how much i am not of that old religion anymore.' 

At first i said to myself, 'well, there's one thing that's NOT got my number.'  But then i started to think about it.  I realized that, if i went home, to my old church, to my family, to the places i grew up...i would not fit in.  What i say, what i believe...they don't work for those people.  But, more importantly, they never did.

My churchlife as a child is defined the most by not fitting in.  The church i grew up in was amazing.  Wonderful.  The kids there were all attractive.  The parents there were a healthy mix of struggling, honest, laughing, wise and flawed people.  There were the perfect families that stood side-by-side with the broken people that couldn't live a 'church life' more than a weekend.  We were accepting.  We were loving.  We were really big, too.  And i never, ever in my life felt comfortable there.  Accepted?  Hell yes.  Those people went out of their way to invite me to play basketball, or sing fellowship songs with them, or have a night were we watch TV and cook Chilli.  They all enjoyed each others company, they wanted me there, too.  That church and it's youth group was amazingly accepting.  But i never, ever felt like i belonged.  Never judged, never rejected.  Hell, i felt like they were really trying to fit me into the picture.

There was no speaking in tongues, there was no definitive opinion on miracles.  There were a lot of different takes on Jesus.  And more than once i heard 'i just don't know' as the answer to my questions.  *These were good people.*  But they...were not like me.

Then, still trying to get it, still trying to understand, i wandered off, deeper into the south, and went to a religious college.  And there, running under the nose of the old-world religious monarchy that ruled with all the fear and manipulation that i'd heard of in bad fantasy text, i found out what was lacking.

I found a group of guys playing *Stormbringer* in the dorm where i was staying.  I found a group of people willing to play Nerf War after dark on a campus with a strict curfew.  I found people like me.  They believed in God in ways that did not always run smooth between us (more than once i was argued into admitting Homosexuality was a sin, more than once i was temporarily convinces Marriage and Child-rearing to be the path i HAD to take).  And a lot of this worked because we found the stereotypical religion that used fear, behavior modification, and ancient text to lord over us...and we ...rebelled?  Maybe.  Or maybe we just…really liked Role-Playing Games, Anime, Comic Books, and dressing up in suits to see movie premieres.

I don't go to church any more.  I am afraid of Hell, until i really think about it, and remember that i don't believe in it any more.  I don't pray like i used to.  But i believe in God, and i'm willing to put money down on Jesus.  I've got a bible, and i read it when i'm sad or lonely.  I talk to God, if it feels right, or my heart shouts.  I don't have a 'fuzzy-wuzzy' church that i feel better about going to.  And i don't have any real bad stories about the religious regime that i was forced to break away from.

But, yeah…i don't…i don't belong at the church, i guess.

But i know now what the church really is, partially because of all the words on a thread like this.  And i know that i don't belong there.  Overall, no matter how much i want to say that list you used to describe the people you've met, i've go to say...that's me.  You're right.

I don't know what you're going to do with it.  I don't know who you're going to help or hurt by speaking to lots of people on the internet, at conventions, or over dinner somewhere.  But i hope you're as accurate through the whole thing as you were when you described me and so many others that i know.  Because it's a mirror.  And it helps.  I may not like what i see, but it's given me pause.  It's quieting.
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Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« Reply #27 on: July 12, 2011, 05:41:45 AM »

...To them and to the ministry there, personal belief matters greatly, it's at the center of all the observance and all the church activities. For instance, the baptism ritual was about nothing else. But to her, personal belief is kind of a minor and not especially interesting part of her desire to have church and observances be part of her routine. The discontinuity was strong enough to reduce her interest in participating in those observances and activities, quite a bit in fact, compared to her initial enthusiasm when we moved to the area. Our kids no longer attend the Sunday school there, for instance. By contrast, our third child was baptized in the thousand-plus-years-old church in Norrkoping, which includes the graves of my wife's grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great ... you get the idea. And that ceremony, steeped in concrete tradition unimaginable to most Americans, did not involve advocations of belief at all.

If I might jump in, just on this point- I can certainly agree that certain forms of ritual observance might be historically or culturally associated with particular religious institutions, but I'm not certain how this can be (A) separated from any other form of traditionalised behaviour-pattern, like the order in which one is supposed to place cutlery or dress for an interview, and (B) whether such observances are likely to persist much beyond the disappearance of underlying belief within the population at large (which seems to be borne out statistically, over the past century or so.)  I mean, this all sounds like harmless granfaloonery in the style of a japanese tea ceremony, but I don't see how this kind of repetition for repetition's sake is exclusive to religious circles.

In response to Callan's original point, which might have been kind of deflected here- sure, I guess you could describe an RPG as a 'question', in the sense of an investigation or exploration of particular subject matter.  But I don't feel this is any different from the 'rational' simulationist role-play of an 'irrational' character-  The question is:  How would a person who does not question his/her religious beliefs react in various situations- including situations that should logically cause him/her to question his/her beliefs?  The character might be described as a fully-qualified hardline fanatic (at least initially,) but that doesn't stop the player being party to prodding and poking at the underlying metaphysical assumptions.  I mean, regardless of whether you consider faith/belief/conviction to be integral to religious experience, to me that seems a perfectly valid premise for play.

Just my two cents.
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ADGBoss
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Posts: 415


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« Reply #28 on: July 12, 2011, 06:14:40 AM »

[quote author=Alfryd link=topic=31578.msg286866#msg286866 date=1310478105

If I might jump in, just on this point- I can certainly agree that certain forms of ritual observance might be historically or culturally associated with particular religious institutions, but I'm not certain how this can be (A) separated from any other form of traditionalised behaviour-pattern, like the order in which one is supposed to place cutlery or dress for an interview, and (B) whether such observances are likely to persist much beyond the disappearance of underlying belief within the population at large (which seems to be borne out statistically, over the past century or so.)  I mean, this all sounds like harmless granfaloonery in the style of a japanese tea ceremony, but I don't see how this kind of repetition for repetition's sake is exclusive to religious circles.[/quote]

In my mind this also brings up the idea of cause and effect. Gender roles are important in most religions and with only a surface glance at the phenomena, one might conclude that religion, somewhat dominated by males, created the gender situation we have today around the world. When it could easily be argued that the same gender inequity existed prior to the modern religions (not everywhere but in many places) . So which was the chicken and which the egg?  Will that inequality go away with the continued downplay of the importance of religion, at least in America? Gender roles are just one concept where religion may have been the instrument of a more secular belief.

[quote author=Alfryd link=topic=31578.msg286866#msg286866 date=1310478105
In response to Callan's original point, which might have been kind of deflected here- sure, I guess you could describe an RPG as a 'question', in the sense of an investigation or exploration of particular subject matter.  But I don't feel this is any different from the 'rational' simulationist role-play of an 'irrational' character-  The question is:  How would a person who does not question his/her religious beliefs react in various situations- including situations that should logically cause him/her to question his/her beliefs?  The character might be described as a fully-qualified hardline fanatic (at least initially,) but that doesn't stop the player being party to prodding and poking at the underlying metaphysical assumptions.  I mean, regardless of whether you consider faith/belief/conviction to be integral to religious experience, to me that seems a perfectly valid premise for play.

[/quote]

I hope I am staying relevant and on-topic here, at least I am trying to. The first thing I will point out is the use of "irrational character". I am not saying that I disagree with that description of such a person, but the kind of person who sticks by their beliefs even in the face of some evidence is not always... well irrational. They may be relying on the science of metaphysics and one could argue that religious belief, if not institutions, are scientific in their own way.  Do we call scientists who cling to old theories irrational? Sometimes I guess we do so perhaps the word does fit properly. It concerns me though that I may not and as a whole we may not have the language to properly and objectively look at a subject that everyone likely has an opinion on.

Lastly, and I apologize for what may seem like a side-step here, when I was reading the above the movie Erik The Viking came to mind. A character in the movie is a Christian, where everyone else is a pagan, and when the party getsi to Valhalla, he can't see anything because he is not a believer in their religion. Without spoiling, this situation ultimately has a hand in the resolution of the movie.  I think that rules like that in a game might make for an interesting dynamic in play between competing religions.
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #29 on: July 12, 2011, 06:19:15 AM »

My apologies for the very badly formatted response... yinged when I should have yanged
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