The Journals of a New Game Master: 1 - Mixing Faith with Fantasy

Monday, May 18, 2009 at 9:11 PM
After 3 sessions as a Game Master, I thought it would be a good idea if I were to start writing some entries from the PoV of one. Heck, it just might give me the motivation that I need to keep this blog updated for once! So, GMing. It's an interesting thing. For one, it is pretty much essential to any good RPG campaign. You need a GM who can juggle being a good storyteller, thinking of his feet, who can moderate the type of games he wants to play with that of everyone else, being good with the rules, moderating the other players, keeping the players interests throughout the 3+ hour session, not to mention being good with voices and body motions when he is the NPC, to have a really good gaming session. It's tough work. Not to mention all of the work BEFORE the session. Alternate plot routes, for instance. The creation of the world, the motivation of the characters, making the bad guys evil as well as morally complex and human, and stuff like that. Oh, and let's not forget the actual arranging of the sessions. Where to play, when, is there food, how long do we play for, and if we take breaks. Breaks open up a whole other can of worms, because they are like commercial breaks. When commercials come up in Lost, everyone goes crazy because YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! You need to take the break at the right time, or else the momentum is completely lost. At the end of the day, I kinda appreciate what this guy has to go through.Okay, maybe not THAT much, but you understand my point. Now that we are on the topic of God, it brings me to the topic of this entry: merging Faith and Fantasy in a modern era game. For my first campaign, my group (which was, at the time, me and my best friend Pete) decided on Mage: The Awakening. Considering that we were a Christian group, and had the intent of using the RPG Group as a sort of Christian Ministry (is that the right term?), this was a very interesting choice. I mean, Christians playing RPGs (Ohnosatandemonsblahblahblah!), an RPG game that deals with people casting spells and summoning spirits and the like. If we were the standard RPG Group, one would have to wonder what an irregular group was! But hey, who said I had to be sterotypical? You are talking to someone that wants substance over style with his movies and video games. I hate Halo for God's sake. Yes, you read that right. H-A-L-O. The one with Master Chief. Oh, did I mention I think Harry Potter is boring as heck? And yes, I did read all of the books. I am anything but typical. Anyways, I like my stories to be deep - or as my pastor put it, profound. I like for them to have themes, messages, moral passages, and social commentary. I think that stuff is fun. I love it when a game gives me a variety of moral choices, and NONE of them can be simply put into right or wrong. I like it when stories makes me think. And so, when I working on the campaign for my group's Mage game, I want them to ask themselves: "Is this the right thing to do? Is this what I would do in this situation?" as much as possible. I don't like black and white. I love gray, because that is what we are. Not even Hitler was evil - heck, he gave millions to a family he barely knew, because they needed it. He put gays in concentration camps because the father of that same family left them for his gay partner. No one is evil, but neither are they good too. JFK cheated on his wife. Churchill was a drunk. We humans are stuck in the middle. Anyways, I like themes. I like moral lessons. So, when designing this campaign, I wanted three moral lessons (or themes) that would underlayer the entire thing. They would support one and another, and enrichen the game as a whole. Besides, it gives me a really good excuse to rent out philosophy books at the library. Anyways, for the campaign, I choose three categories: moral, political, and faith. Three pretty important things to think about, if you ask me. Political was the easiest. "America has the potential to become it's very worst enemy. Its worst enemy is tyranny - look at the Red Scare, and the Patriot Act, as well as all of the measures to remove the right to bear arms. We are using fear to back these unconstitutional acts." Of course, this is just my opinion, but that is somewhat unavoidable. Now, fear of what? Easy - death, and death's distant cousins, fate and destiny. We have now reached the moral: "The only way to conquer death is to embrace it. To know that your end will come, and to make the most out of what time you have. You can't escape your fate. " We can't change what we must do. If a man feels he must do something, he must. This is our nature. Changing fate brings only disaster. We are so scared of that fact that we will do anything to change it. We will even go so far as to turn America into a pseudo-dictatorship. Now, gratefully, we have not reached that point, but if we keep on going down this road we will. However, faith is where I am having the most trouble. In what way can I tie in the first two lessons with a pro-Christian one - but also in such a way that is not propaganda like (Narnia?). I wanted to use a lesson that will make the players ask questions about their spiritual walk, but not force them to come to one definite answer. I do have an idea of "People who choose to become greater than God just end up becoming lower than dirt" but that feels too...condescending I suppose is the right word. It just doesn't feel right. It's not the type of lesson I would want to hear in a movie or book. Why would I do that to my players? Besides, it doesn't even fit with the other two themes! Faith just added three buckets full of worms on top of everything else. I considered for a fraction of a moment to take out the faith theme all together, but I rejected that. If I am going to do this, I am going to do all three. The great holy trinity of RPG Themes - faith, moral, and political. That is what each and every one of my Campaigns would have, or they will be just a grand old adventuring romp. Which isn't bad mind you, but I wanted to start off with a grand start. I had been toying with the idea of the PC's (that's Player Characters to you RPG newbies) meeting with a God, a god of Death in particular, but then I started to wonder where these gods would fall in the Christian cosmotology. Would they be between God and the Devil? Would God be just the God of OUR universe, and each universe has its own pantheon? Or maybe they would be the last of the stock, with God and the Devil being above them. Also, I want to use Planescape with Mage. Planescape is essentially a multiverse that can be used with fantasy settings. It is rich, imaginative, uniquely fantastic, and full of so much plot hooks I would be insane not to use it. But how do I make sense of that with Christian faith? Should I even bother? As one can sense, I am absolutley insane. First time Game Master, trying to make my campaign deep (profound), three themes that make the players think, fitting Fantasy pantheons into Christian doctrine - mein gott! What did I get myself into?!

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