Posts Tagged With: Gygaxian Naturalism

Death and the Player Character (5E DnD)

So, as I study for the EPPP, part of my brain recovery (or cushioning more likely) has been watching Matthew Colville’s Running the Game series and the odd video or three from Web DM. I strongly recommend both sets of videos, for a variety of reasons – you can decide on your own. Now, that said, this has more to do with the recent release of Matt Mercer’s Resurrection rules from Critical Whatever. I don’t watch it, but the rules came across my feed.

It force me to think about this in my game, as well as reflecting on some of the differences between 1E and 5E. In the old 1E games, things were much more lethal, and characters were a bit more careful as result. In 5E, healing is much more available, dying is much harder (mechanically), and there are none of the limitations or costs on Raising that previously existed (System Shocks, Con loss, racial limitations). We are finally at the level where Raise Dead is available (or will be soon) and while I like the idea of Matt Mercer’s rules they are just way to fiddly in some ways. 5E DnD has done a lot to get rid of fiddly in some ways and his rules actually seem more fiddly than 1E AD&D was.

I’ve also been thinking about simply how easy it is to bring back people from death or it’s brink in 5E. I like this flavor to tell the truth, but the Gentle Repose and Revivify combo is a, um, “killer” on top of the normal magical curing, healing kits, and Spare the Dying cantrip. It is really pretty darn hard to die and they’ve made it pretty darn easy to come back from it…

Perhaps too easy for my evolved campaign setting.

Now, one suggestion is to make diamonds (the material component for Revivify, Raise Dead, Resurrection, and True Resurrection) much less common and very difficult to find. Truthfully, I already know exactly had rare they are and they already aren’t that common. But I also don’t exactly mind Revivify given the time limitations involved. I do miss the System Shock rolls of the old Raise Dead spells, as well as the racial limitations – these are huge social and cultural limiting factors in my campaign.

Note, this is also all in my search to re-humanize my world a bit. It is intended to be humanocentric world, and there is no mechanical reason for this in 5E unlike the reasons why this would be in 1E.

So, normal rules of dealing with near death still apply. Dropping to 0HP is just like the rules. Healing from that works as normal and Revivify works as normal. A Saving Throw on the part of the character being brought back from death is required for Gentle Repose + Revivify, Raise Dead, and Resurrection. There is no Saving Throw needed for True Resurrection or Reincarnate. For purposes of effects, any time you are Revivified outside of the base timing of the spell because of some other spell or magic item in the mix, you need to make the Ability Check.

The ability that the Ability Check is rolled on is chosen by the player of the character being brought back as long as they can justify it. The Ability Check is Medium (15), using Bywater-grade diamonds (basically industrial quality) incurs Disadvantage, while 1st Water diamonds grant Advantage. For what it is worth, Bywater is pretty much all that is available in Towns (and probably only enough for one casting of Revivify) while 2nd and 3rd Water are available Cities, and 1st Water diamonds are generally only available (at normal price) in Great Cities.

Things that normally affect Ability Checks will also affect this one – meaning that a group of companions pleading with their deities, cleansing the area spiritually, calling out psychically to help the spirit find it’s way to the body, whatever, can potentially help this roll (see p175 “Working Together” in the Player’s Handbook).

Jewelry with an appropriately-sized diamond in it is very “fashionable” for many adventurers and usually able to be found in most cities.

In the realm of verisimilitude and Gygaxian Naturalism, these sorts of spells also incurs a significant bit of interest in a divine caster’s deity, even if unconscious. So bringing character back from death that do not worship the same deity, are of significant different alignments, etc., etc., etc. can have significant repercussions for everyone involved. Geasa, religious conversion, spell refusal/failure, and the like are all possible and should be expected. This is beyond how some cultures and races view and deal with death. For example, Dwarves can be Raised, but culturally are loath to come back and see it as a curse rather than a blessing. There is also, invariably, some other cost to coming back from the dead – ability score penalty, insanity, whatever. It really depends upon the situation and context – hacked to death by swords is a bit more traumatic than a quiet backstab that killed someone instantly, but assume that dying is troubling to the emotional well-being of a character and even their spiritual health.

I’m slowly updating the write-ups of the character races with their relationship with death.

TTFN!

D.

Categories: Game Design, Game Play, House Rules, Magic Spell | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How could I forget buttons?

This weekend we went to the Field Museum of Chicago to see the Vodou and the Vikings exhibits (plus I managed to catch the Bunky Echo-Hawk exhibit as well). We really went for the Vodou exhibit (and it was amazing!) but the Viking had some nice pieces and had me thinking about jewelry and loot in my fantasy game.

And I realized that I had forgotten buttons, of all things, on my chart – one of the easiest and most ubiquitous ways to display wealth and ostentation! I use a system of my own design for this sort of thing – one that rates items by “coin equivalent” (based very, very roughly on metal mass) but then pegs the value of that coin to the social class the item comes from. So, for example, Commoner items are rated in Copper while Royal items are rated in Platinum. It also gives a rough idea of the metals that said items are made from – I do the same thing with clothing.

For what it is worth, I do a very similar thing for gems – and then rate them according to both quality and size. I also have a rating system for woods so that I can figure the value of wood carved objects.

This whole process, along with the valuation of raw/trade goods, lets me come up loot that is more than just a mound of coins. It can be kind of a pain for the players (all together now, “Awwwwww….”), but makes a ton more sense as far as I’m concerned.

It also represents a world where people tended to wear their wealth as much as (or more than) they would store it as coins or trade bars – and where clothing would often get reused, and handed down, eventually becoming rags to be worn by beggars. But adventurers, unless in full “loot the city” mode with the supply train to support it are going to simply miss out on a certain, perhaps majority, portion of the potential loot in a location.

TTFN!

D.

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Ouch! So that’s not going to work…

Well, the term “palace revolt” isn’t quite the right term but boy howdy, the gaming group really didn’t like the different experience point system. Fundamentally, the complaints boiled down to the sense that it wasn’t fair. Tying XP to personal damage done and taken, even with group awards based on overall totals and creatures defeated had various players feeling as if characters who primarily buffed, hexed, or healed were being penalized for choosing to do something other than fighting and doing damage.

So, back to the drawing board – and by that I mean the CR Chart.

Fundamentally, even more so in 5E than even in 1E, the D&D experience system is essentially blood magic. I kill it (or defeat it), and I steal it’s power, and I get stronger (at least in 1E you also got XP for cash and magical items) – little creatures have less of the élan vital, powerful creatures have more. I was totally willing to grant an increase in XP if it was tied to damage (and seriously, I think the “damage taken” is really elegant idea and solution to a couple of problems that come from the actual game mechanics of how combat works in the game), but the moment we try to tie XP to “things my character does” any hope of creating a balanced system that scales to the characters levels and abilities is flushed right down the porcelain altar (and, fundamentally, gets away from the basic underpinning of the D&D experience system).

Or at least, I’m an utterly uninterested in doing the statistical analysis of spells, class abilities, and skills as matrixed to proficiency bonus and/or mechanic equally matrixed to either monster combat rating or, again, damage done and damage taken.

Ugh, just thinking about the multivariate stats involved makes my head hurt…

So, I took a long hard look at the CR evaluation rules in the DMG and figure I’ll just run with the first, very basic system they suggest for figuring out a monster based on the CR you want it to be. I’ll basically reverse the process, and just run with it. It’s kludgy, it is really, really rough – but it’s not like the CR system is any paragon of elegance or even mediocre game design in the first place (it’s actually more like some vestigial remnant left from 3E or 3.5E as best I figure).

But I’ll be able to figure out the CR, and thus the XP for any monster I make. The slightly modified chart (to account for my change in the Dexterity & Armor Class rules, plus the full range of possible attack bonuses – both of which merely tweak the progression in the CR20 to CR30 range) fits on a single printed page.

C’est la vie!

D.

 

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Ok, this is an experience system that works ok…

After examining Alexis’ system (as mentioned last post) and crunching some numbers in 5e I have a surprising conclusion. I actually have to reduce the XP award to bring it from a 1e based game and into the realm of 5e.

I was originally thinking that I might have to boost the award for the “big creatures” but based on Deva (CR10) and a Solar (CR20) the XP reward based on damage dealt and damage received (plus bonuses for defeating the creature and total party damage, both to be split evenly across characters) the 10XP/20XP award came to just over double the CR10 XP for the Deva and just under triple the CR20 XP for the Solar.

So, I’m cutting the awards in half – which also make the awards for low CR creatures less egregiously high compared to their nominal CR XP value. Characters get 5XP per point of damage that they deal in combat (spell-casters get the “best ” result from area effect spells, but not XP for every creature damaged), and then if the party defeats the creature there is a bonus split amongst the participating characters equal to 5XP per HP of the creature. Similarly, characters gain 10XP per point of damage that they take, and at the end of combat the total damage that the party has taken is totaled and multiplied by 10XP with all the characters who participated in the combat splitting that total as well.

Yes, this generally awards more experience than normal for 5e system. But it has the benefit that it is more closely tied to character risk and actually experience. Quick fights where the players outclass a target or mob it with little damage to themselves result in less experience while fights where characters are brought near death (even when fighting “little monsters”) while slaying mobs of creatures result in more experience. It also closely links character XP  to character behavior – while still providing a group bonus for those characters who hang back. Characters which prefer to play support and avoid getting “skin in the game” still advance, but slower than those who are “stuck in” while hitting and getting hit.

And, frankly, I don’t care if the players are advancing “quicker” than normal 5e – I’m confident of my ability to give my players a good game, and I tend to load my games with “lower CR” creatures in 5e terms. I’m guessing that, looking at the XP tables, characters will naturally slow down a bit around 5th or 6th level unless they start seeking out “higher CR” creatures – and in my game those are pretty nasty in combat. I’d expect to start seeing characters dropping if that was the plan.

In normal 5e I have to start “stocking the dungeons” with higher and higher CR creatures to building those “average adventuring day” encounters. Now, I just have to make encounters that make sense in terms of Gygaxian Naturalism, trust that I can run them in an enjoyable way, and let the players decide what an “average adventuring day” looks like.

Plus, I can run NPC’s with character classes as opponents now and don’t have to try and figure out what their CR is!

TTFN!

D.

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About those Points of Darkness

So, three years ago I wrote about Points of Light and Points of Darkness as campaign styles. In running Lost Mine of Phandelver I’ve realized just how present I find the issue in the Starter Set as written (and, by assumption, within the 5E Forgotten Realms setting).

Many people have made the observation of how LMoP is set up like a Western – frontier mining town, bullying bandits, lost treasure mines, hostile natives, people to rescue from said hostile natives, etc. But there are problems in translating a “wild west” setting to both a somewhat generic fantasy Europe as well as the Forgotten Realms.

For one, just as simple size comparison, think about “Ye Merry Old England” and the time and trouble it took to travel around, as well as the concept of distance in that setting. Now understand that England is about the size of Illinois. On a standard hexmap sheet with each hex set at 30 miles (ala the old Greyhawk scale), it covers less than a quarter of a page.

The issues of scale between Europe and the societies that developed there and America simply cannot be understated. To this day I have had friends come visit from Europe who simply don’t get the sheer size and scope of the United States/North America until they get here. They fly into NYC and then talk about catching a train out to Chicago while they are in the States to have dinner (like you reasonably could, and do, in Great Britain)  and having to explain to them that that would be like taking the train to Berlin for dinner (from London). That the driving distance from New York to Chicago is roughly the longest distance between two points in the whole of the United Kingdom…

But I digress.

In LMOP I am supposed to believe that Thundertree is a day’s journey from Neverwinter (vying with Waterdeep for the status of the “New York” of the Forgotten Realms), maybe two if we want to be a stickler on terrain difficulty, and is still in the shape that it is. Similarly, that Phandalin, clearly three days from Neverwinter but is a hardscabble frontier town, and that this wonderful Forge of Spells was utterly and completely lost after the goblins trashed the countryside.

This makes no sense.

Just to support the population of Neverwinter (be it 20,000 or 5,000 inhabitants) the whole area would have to be cultivated – certainly based on the setting map provided. It’s the only non-forested areas around. A decent rule of thumb for modern agriculture in the United States is to assume 1 acre of land can feed one person for a year. There are 640 acres per square mile, so figure… lets say 8 square miles if it’s 5000 people in Neverwinter or 32 square miles of solid crops if it is 20,000 inhabitants.

Except of course that this doesn’t cover the food needed for all the people growing the food itself (same, 1 acre per person), nor does it cover space needed for grazing livestock (a very complicated question but, again, modern systems could safely call it 4 acres per cow, or 6ish sheep), nor does it cover the amount of land needed for proper crop rotation (either double it or increase it by a third), or…

About now is where I plug Pendragon for having the absolutely best domain level game out there in my opinion. Detailed where it is fun, abstracted where you need it to be. In that system (which is essentially supported in spirit if not the exact numbers by all my other research on this over the years) every town (or city) will have three, yes three, people living in small villages and hamlets around it for every one person living in that town (and manor). It’s also worth noting that a “small town” is between 120-360 people in size. A large town taps out at 1440 people, after which you are talking about small cities (which are no larger than 2400 people at most) and in a days travel you’d probably pass through a handful of these towns, plus their associated villages – and all of the knights and men-at-arms protecting them!

For another take on this, with equally as “that’s not what the Forgotten Realms looks like” numbers there is Medieval Demographics Made Easy by S. John Ross as well (and free!). In either case, there are still large amounts of “wasted space” simply because, well, that is what population density looked like.

The problem with making this a “Points of Light” setting is that the “wasted land” is “wasted” for a reason – it simply won’t support more people (that means goblins too!). Yes, it dangerous because of wolves and bears (and some level of fantasy analogues), even the odd bandit gang (or humanoid band) – but it’s mostly dangerous because of the lack of food, medical care if injured, and foul weather. Not to mention the risk of simply getting lost -it’s not romantic, or particularly heroic, but it has a fair sight  more verisimilitude.

I am kind of lost in my rant. I guess that I’m saying that if you want “Points of Light” then you really have to question your base assumptions on how urban populations are supported. Similarly, the “Sea of Darkness” isn’t there because of hordes of monsters it’s because it pretty much won’t support a population. Alternately, if it can for some reason support all those monsters, then civilization needs to be capable of protecting itself (certainly not the case in Phandalin).

Oh well, it’s late and I should get to bed.

TTFN!

D.

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Run you clever boys…

So, via Trollsmyth I made my way to Strange Magic where I am once again convinced that something went seriously, seriously wrong with 3.0+ D&D, including the current 5E with it’s clearly misbegotten CR tables and encounter construction rules…

So, as might be imagined, yes – I used those tables (and might be again for that matter) and nobody complained. I never found there to be a problem with the characters know that there were “things out there” that were more powerful than they were. I should really post an old encounter table or two, simply to explain my style of DMing.

They found out by role-playing – looking for the well-worn sword hilt, or the stance that betrayed an experienced warrior, or a mage with a powerful aura, or the beggar with a couple too-many daggers on their person. Of course I have a game world where “politeness matters” and being seen or known as a dishonorable sort has significant social ramifications.

The game-play benefit of this is actually somewhat paradoxical, as is the whole of the 1E style of encounters. When encounters are built on a budget, it places the DM and the players in an actively adversarial stance towards each other. The DM is specifically matching things to combat the players at whatever level of deadliness that they have chosen. The players know this, and all negative results are either “bad rolls” or “the DM’s fault” because “they made the encounter too hard.” Plus there is the conscious or unconscious expectation that all encounters are “beatable” because they are all constructed using a scale that makes this implicit.

In a random encounter world, the players know that what they meet is a matter of luck. They also know that things “in the wild” are also likely to be in the same boat. In the Gygaxian Naturalism of 1E when you roll “goblins” you don’t meet a goblin, you meet large number of them – because they might be running into a dragon as well and would like to be prepared!

All in all, this also demanded DM’s and players that thrived on more than a diet of pabulum. You could simply have the PC’s encounter a dragon out in the wilderness (I’ve certainly done it), or you could have them run across signs of dragon, or have the dragon merely fly over head and give them the chance to hide. In the city, have the thieves flashing gang sign back and forth, or the mages noting the sigils on the auras of other spellcasters, the fighters can be aware of the local mercenary companies and their devices, or the names of the local duelists and bravos.

Again, this is dependent upon both the DM and the players being willing to role-play. The DM has to do something other than plop opponents down in front of the characters to kill, and the players have to be willing to do something other than killing everything that they interact with. It means that DM’s need to run NPC’s and monsters like something other than Daleks, and the players will have to make like the Doctor and learn how to “run like clever boys” and not simply stand and fight everything to the death because that death could easily be theirs!

I am very glad to see that 5E wants people to do this – but they are going to have a devil of a time weaning people off the CR nonsense that has invaded the game.

TTFN!

D.

 

Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Economics, Equipment, and Availability

I’ll be posting some rules for weapons and armor made from a selection of metals, most (but not all) of them also considered “enchanted” when and if such a thing would matter. The list includes not just a description of effects, but also refers to my “availability codes” for equipment.

Years ago now I took a page from the Pendragon RPG which has separate equipment lists for “Standard” areas and another for  “Great Cities” (essentially London and Camelot), essentially forcing the characters to certain areas if and when they wanted certain items because that is the only place they were available. I experimented with a variety of systems over the years, but when I really sat down and hammered out an economy I drew deeply from the Pendragon well, along with looking at systems such as Harn for other inspiration.

The first thing I did was do research living expenses and wages across a number of eras, and eventually decided to peg the daily wage of a standard mercenary (aka “an adventurer”) at 1 Silver per day, the cost of a standard (long)sword at 30 Silver (a full month’s wages), a Laborer’s wage a 2 Copper per day, a bottle of table wine at 5 Copper, and a days worth of Bread at 1 Copper (a day’s worth of Dried Meat is also a Copper, Dried Vegetables is 1 Bronze). All other prices were essentially figured out using pegging things to these prices either using real world analogies, or simply eyeballing it, keeping in mind the difference between ancient and modern economies.

Using this system, a laborer can eke out a very poor existence assuming that they keep working and are supplied someplace to sleep by their employer – if not then space in a field or a stable is usually 1 Copper, the Common Room of an Inn or Tavern is 2 Copper a night, and a Private Room is 5 Copper ( a Private Suite is 1 Silver, sans any other amenities). Interestingly it took very little work to adapt the 5E “Living Expenses” to this system.

Given the “Wild West Mining Town” trope that Lost Mine of Phandelver has been running with, I decided that it is also working under semi-typical inflated prices. In this case merely doubling prices, with some slightly tweaked availability of mining related  equipment from the normal “Town” gear.

In any case, a large part of what I wanted was to have a relatively exhaustive list of equipment, but also make it clear that some things were rarer than others. As a result, on my equipment list (and associated documents) items are noted as being available in Villages (generally less than a hundred people), Towns (anywhere from couple of hundred people to upwards of 1500 people, usually 600-800 inhabitants), Cities (smaller cities ranging from 1500 to 2500 people, larger cities from 2500 to 5000 inhabitants), Great Cities (10,000 or more inhabitants), or as Exotic. You can always find things from a smaller population available in a larger population center, but the reverse is not true (and such items are invariably inflated in price considerably when they can be found).

Exotic items are exactly that, treasures from the Shadowlands or Faerie, especially hard to craft items, especially rare herbs or spices, etc. These are technically available anywhere that you can find a seller – but that is much more likely in a City or Great City.

It sounds like this was a great deal of work to set up, and in some ways it was, but is was also just the sort of world-building detail-work that I enjoy researching and chewing on. It also starts to build up a certain Gygaxian Naturalism into the campaign world.

TTFN!

D.

Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Yup! Psionics were dangerous!

Rick over at Don’t Split the Party has a great post breaking down the dangers of psionics in 1E.

This essentially sums up why I didn’t think that psionics were overpowered – or really that common beyond some very basic abilities.

D.

Categories: Game Design, OSR | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

CR = Combat Rating = Training Wheels = Fleeing From Gygaxian Naturalism

I was commenting on the Rambling Roleplayer’s “The Temple of Elemental Challenge Rating Calculation Evil” post when I realized my big problem with CR numbers.

It’s a set training wheels that I don’t need or want.

I’m used to playing 1e – there were no CR’s. I had to learn how to build adventures based on roughly equating Hit Dice to Level – sort of. Alternately, we could look at the old “Random Monster” tables for dungeon levels, which had a roughly accelerated version of that idea. Going one step further there was the old Wilderness Random Encounter tables which were Gygaxian Naturalism red-in-tooth-and-claw and had no correlation whatsoever to level, it was simply what you could run into “out there in the wild” (or in the city).

This might be because it is a game based on a wargame that predates the vast majority of “point build systems” that are so common today (the Citadel games, Ground Zero Games, etc.) It was rooted more in systems that replicated scenarios that were often less about “balance” and more about “interesting”. Could you survive as the British at Roarke’s Drift? Could you sink the Bismark? How would you handle Pearl Harbor? Can you do as well as Caesar at Alesia?

Instead of trying to build a “balanced scenario” players and DM’s really did engage in a least a little bit of “who can outwit the other” – in the same spirit as wargamers did. In fact, some of the joy of the DM was not so much in building a scenario that killed the players but in watching the players win against odds that were stacked against them.

That’s what made adventures like D3 so great – the idea isn’t to wipe out the entire city of Drow, it’s to sneak in and “win” by achieving the victory conditions. There is nothing “balanced” about the module at all in most respects. One of the most memorable adventures I played in as a players was similar, it was for essentially name level characters (9th-10th level) and was based on Stephen King’s novel Salems Lot – yes, it was a remote village that had been taken over by vampires. By “CR” standards it was utterly over the top and a level-draining, undeath-generating deathtrap, there was nothing “balanced” about it – but we still beat something like two-hundred vampires, along with the utterly evil vampiric version of Rutger Hauer’s character Étienne from Ladyhawke with the bastard sword that acted as a Ring of Vampiric Regeneration. Twenty-plus years later and I still remember that adventure, we had a great time, by finding and enlisting allies, some combination of Captain Kronus, Vampire Hunter and Vampire Hunter D by my recollection, plus finding a vampire-mesmerizing magical item (the Bloodstone) and then fighting smarter not harder.

There are some echoes of this concept in Rise of Tiamat, and that’s actually kind of cool. But it still talks about reducing Tiamat down from a CR30 threat to a more manageable CR18 for the supposedly ~15th level adventurers. I wish it simply talked about ways to allow a group of hopelessly outmatched 15th level adventurers to handle a CR30 threat. It bad gamer speak that robs, I think, the players of any real pride in the accomplishment of taking down Tiamat. “Sorry, that wasn’t the real Tiamat, it was the CR18 version – come back and brag when you vanquish the real one.”

As a long-term DM I don’t need the training wheels of a CR to tell me how to balance an encounter or adventure. Ultimately I’m not trying to build a balanced adventure. I’m trying to build a fun adventure, a challenging adventure, a memorable adventure, hopefully an adventure that my players will be talking about 20+ years from now.

I think the other potential problem with CR ratings is that it doesn’t actually account very well for exceptional players or “unbalanced groups” – I think I just witnessed that with the Cragmaw Hideout session. Three lightly armoured, high-magic characters essentially walked through the entire section by using stealth rather than what was clearly designed for a more “frontal assault” from the descriptions in the module.

The players job is to break the module, to shred any semblance of balance, and reap the rewards.

CR is a third and unnecessary wheel in that process.

TTFN!

D.

 

Categories: Game Design | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Rambling thoughts on religion in RPG’s

So, this is in response (in some ways) to Gregory’s post Gods, Demigods, & Heroes – itself a response to a couple of recent things he’d read and seen. Myself, I was underwhelmed by Monte Cook’s presentation – it seemed like a rehash of very basic theology from an anthropological standpoint. Now, as a bit of a disclosure on my part – I was raised in a utterly non-religious household, have studied and practiced various forms of paganism and the occult since my early teens, joined the Unitarian-Universalist church (and was the youngest member of my congregation to, as a teenager, take the “Build Your Own Theology” adult religious education course offered) and quite seriously contemplated becoming a minister for a number of years. I’ve even contributed a forward to a book about pagan shamanistic practice (no, I’m not saying which one here). I do have and practice a deeply spiritual life, but not one that I generally talk about here because it isn’t the focus of the blog.

Playing RPG’s for me was a galvanizing process to study history, religion, anthropology, occultism and all sorts of related issues. One of my fondest memories I being told at the Catholic university I did my B.A. at that I was one of the only people they had seen who probably could have tested out of the mandatory “western civ” classes they had with a focus on Catholic history – including the emphasis on Church history and related theological matters.

I tend to look at all of my gaming in terms of “big questions” – my science fiction game is/was about “what does it mean to be human?” and for my fantasy game I always tended to think of it in terms of a morality play, “what is the nature of evil?” I always found a nominal AD&D universe an excellent model for this (in much the same way as I expect Tolkien and Lewis did – both theologically minded writers) – there is clear “good” and “evil” and things can have a inherently evil nature or alternately natural valence for evil that is ultimately different from what modern Christian theology tends to talk about (aside from some fundamentalist sects). That’s before you add in something like Lovecraftian Outer Gods or Great Old Ones, where are manifestly not “evil” by the author’s definition merely  the ultimate “Other”. This issue is inherent within the boundaries of whatever version of Gygaxian Naturalism your game world is run.

So religion in RPG’s, in D&D in specific, has to contend with both ontological as well as epistemological evil, and evil as praxis – all within a setting that echoes the mythopoetic origins of the players understanding of good and evil. It’s a rich setting that can force a player and  DM to confront the social biases inherent in cultural constructions of morality and ethics. I think that it is the job of the DM to do this justice if that is the sort of game they want to run and that their players are ok playing in – most players probably don’t care or won’t notice depending on how the DM chooses to go about doing this.

TTFN!

D.

 

Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, Game Play | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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