Well, now some comments - please excuse my exuberance, but I'm still high from the release of pressure at the end of the quarter! :-)
Re your comment to Michael Lavoie about the timing of responses on PBEM games: I think it really depends on who you've got in the game. I've been in a few PBEMs now, and I've found I tend to PBEM the same way I game face-to-face. Lots of enthusiasm, lots of responses, lots of desire for immediate gratification! However, I also recall the GM of one game that had both PBEM parts and FTF parts commenting wryly that he'd really wanted more written stuff, but that I seemed to be the only one that was really into that... that, in fact, I had written more in response to his posts than all the other 5 players added together! Unsurprisingly, all 5 of the players were rather quiet in the FTF also.
I agree with you about bi-weekly communications possibly being a little slow. I don't have any problem with gaming FTF only once or twice a week, but that's a concentrated dose of fun - usually anywhere from 2 to god-knows-how-many hours at a single time. Having a single chunk of posts, once every week or so just wouldn't satisfy my rampaging appetite for gaming, I'm afraid. :-)
You were uncomfortable with my comments on the line between fantasy and reality? Interesting... could you tell me what bothered you? You ask what I look for in a game. Hmm... that's a tough one, since much of it is a sort of gestalt feeling I receive. I'll give it a stab, though...
First of all I don't GM. I've tried it, but I find it an unpleasant energy drain. This doesn't mean I can't do it -- I've got a few players that still want to know what was going to happen in a particular world I ran for a couple of years, and they won't let me just tell them because they know that means I'll never run it again. However, when I'm GM I can't do any exploring of the world or the characters of the NPCs, since I created them and already know them. That type of exploration is one of my greatest joys in gaming, and something I can do only while a player.
Secondly, I have to trust the GM and the players. By trust I mean knowing the different people involved have somewhat similar interests to mine. If (for example) I'm asked to join a game where I know ahead of time that one of the players is an immature jerk, I'm going to make polite excuses and decline. If I know one of the players is a really nice guy, but finds my somewhat... exuberant style of gaming intimidating then I'm afraid courtesy to both him and the other people involved would compel me to decline here also.
Thirdly, the GM should spend time with me figuring out my character - who she is, who she knows, how she connects to the game world. Even better is if the different players are gotten together to figure out how their characters are connected to each other. I've been in far, far too many games where I'm asked to 'just make up an average kinda guy' (BIG warning flag to quit here!) or in games where none of the PCs have any connection to anyone else... and unsurprisingly, after the first story arc there's no real reason for this disparate group of peculiar individuals to stay together.
As a close friend put it, he doesn't understand why some groups are together except for the "PC" painted metaphorically on their foreheads. He mentioned that he always imagines two old guys in rocking chairs on a porch in a sleepy Western town, watching a small group of folks slowly heading into town - an Eskimo hunter in fur parka and mukluks; a tall, wispy Tolkein elf; a Zulu warrior in full war paint and regalia; a mobster in a pinstriped suit and a tommy gun; and a big, hairy Neanderthal with a huge club over one shoulder - and one of the old guys turns to the other and mutters, "Ay-up... damn player characters're hittin' town agin. There goes all the peace 'n' quiet... " :-)
Hmm, what else... aside from that, there are a few things I like to find in games, although I don't consider them essential. I like teamwork amongst the characters, and a GM that doesn't consider him or herself to be our enemy; I like some combat on occasion, so things stay exciting, but I like lots of character development, both for the PCs and the NPCs...
I think at this point I'm getting into just preferences, rather than things that let me know I should quit this game. As a final comment, though, I'd have to add that unless a game is really, really bad I'm unlikely to drop it "in the first 10 minutes of a session," as you put it. I'm more likely to give it a handful of runs, so I'm sure this wasn't a fluke, or that I wasn't simply in a cranky mood that night. Does this help any?
Re your comment to Dale Meier as to what constitutes a Christian role-playing game, I found that an interesting speculation. Are we speaking of the organized Christian religion, or the religious beliefs Jesus was supposed to have held? To me, at least, those are two dramatically different things. Also, in some ways I think the tendency of role-playing games to always have good triumph is directly traceable to the strong influence of Christianity on our culture.Michael Lavoie
Re your comment to Joseph Teller & Kiralee McCauley: yes, I find the goths a little tiresome also. However, what I dislike is their apparent philosophy, rather than their somewhat affected clothing styles. I like visually interesting things. It's the assumption that they were the first to figure out that the world is all shit and we're all going to die that bores me. What unspeakable arrogance on their part. Obviously they've never read Ecclesiastes, which pretty much gives the same message, but with far more literary beauty and style. I pretty much mentally class them in the 'intellectually tedious and shallow' category. I'm willing to learn from them (I do know a few supposed goths that are both interesting to talk to and willing to change their minds when faced with facts contrary to their opinions), but on the whole I find the goth life-style a little affected -- and ultimately, silly.
I found your comment about Xena and Hercules being fun, if mindless, diversions interesting. Perhaps I'm attributing too much to them, but I think they frequently have good, game-swipeable ideas in their plots. Let me quote one of my roomies, from the net (if you'll indulge me... :-):
From: Bob Simpson
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 1996 16:17:56 -0700
Subject: Re: Adventure Creation
"How do you get the ideas for plot developments in your game?"
I was asked this once by a player and absolutely horrified him with my response. I told him that, every week, a book full of plot ideas was dropped on my doorstep.
Going to the television, I picked up the program listing and proceeded to read the "one line" synopsis of movies playing that week. After finding one that "felt right" I proceeded to warp the description by substituting characters and events in the game for the stars and elements of the movie.
For example, for the Superhero game I was running at the time:
STAR WARS: Old wise man tells young farmer he is heir of fallen hero. The boy joins the rebellion and helps beautiful rebel princess attack overwhelming Imperial battle-station.
Hmmm... Let's start with the "new weapon" for the bad guys. Maybe someone discovers Soulweaver's old base on the moon. Someone that knows enough to use what they find, but not enough to be too subtle. Sounds like a job for Ravenwing.
Now we need a "fallen hero," preferably one connected to Liberty (the PC hero group), that has "gone bad," since we know what happened to the fallen hero in STAR WARS. How about this "Lion" guy from the Rhodesian Super-SWAT team?. Oops, no, he's dead. Hmmm... Double Hmmm... even better. We can turn the "father of farm boy" into "mentor of young super" and make Thunderbird (PC and member of Liberty, ex-member of the Rhodesian Super-SWAT team) central to this plot.
We need someone to find out about Ravenwing and bring the information to Liberty. Perhaps a daughter or grand-daughter of one of the Rhodesians. Ur... Teufulhund (Note: Need to look up "Devil Dog" in German or whatever it is they speak in South Africa) a beautiful young girl that knows of Thunderbird.
OK, how's this. Ravenwing and Co. find Soulweaver's lair on the Moon. They discover something that makes them Too Powerful and they start trouncing their enemies, possibly including Liberty. (Scenario #1: Ravenwing attacks)
Teufulhund brings information about the source of Ravenwing's new abilities to our heroes, perhaps Ravenwing is "mopping up" her mother's super-team and she comes to Thunderbird for help. I wonder what TBird's wife will say, not only about the beautiful young girl that has attached herself to TBird, but about his... unseemly... past? (Scenario #2: Ugly past and Untimely Angst)
Eventually, our heroes will contact enough folks and dig up enough Power or Subtlety to confront Ravenwing. (Scenario #3 & #4: Figuring out what is going on and beating up the bad guys.)
Sometime during these last two, Liberty discovers that Ravenwing is being helped by Daedalus, the Master Planner, who is actually TBird's old leader, Lion. (The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.) Oh! The Horror! :-)
There are at least six sessions (six to eight weeks) of gaming in this, and all the gross plotting was just done off the top of my head, and took about fifteen minutes. Pick another movie and do the same, weave the plots around each other, and you have almost six months of general plot line ready.
While this is a superhero scenario, I could have just as easily started with any other movie in the book and warped the story elements into a science fiction game. I've done it before, and you can too. And it Really, Really works... :-)
An amusing aside - the person who played TBird was Scott Ruggels, who was also the person who asked the question. The look of pure horror on his face as Bob described the incipient angst his character might face was priceless! Needless to say, Bob didn't implement it in the game... though Scott secretly would have loved it! :-)George Phillies
Re my following the references to the goths in the previous ish - unfortunately yes, I understood them far too well. See my comment to Michael Lavoie for my opinions on them. You see a lot of goths at universities and university towns, even in as liberal a one as Santa Cruz.Timothy Emrick
Yes, I've read Mark Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve. I thought it was rather sweet, especially Eve's epitaph, as written by Adam: "Wherever she was, there was Eden."
Thanks for the congratulations on my RPG explanation! Feel free to swipe it and use it yourself - I used to teach similar modes of explanation to all the employees at the store I managed. Amusingly enough, we used to make sure they could handle that kind of customer by role-playing the encounters out!
It's my personal opinion that we need more calm, rational explanations concerning role-playing, in order to offset the silliness printed by the press. One ludicrous example: in Italy, recently, there was a furor over whether fantasy role-playing games should be outlawed throughout the entire country, because one hysterical mother asserted they'd caused her son to kill himself. *sigh* I don't know how it turned out, but to me it was just another example of how exciting nonsense is far more printable than rational commentary.David Dickie
Re my "INSANELY long" comments... er... thanks? :-) I agree with you about "interaction between authors is the entire purpose behind an APA," although I'd have to add a proviso about the theme of the APA being important too. As an example, I do tend to write and/or print stuff about a wide variety of subjects in Interregnum, but I try to make sure I have at least an intellectual thread leading back to the subject of gaming. Hopefully it's working so far...
Well, if I can't persuade you to put your comments in at least 10 pt. type, so be it. Can't say I didn't try! :-)Joseph Teller & Kiralee McCauley
Wow, comments from both of you! Thanks - it's tremendously encouraging to know one's words are of interest to others. You're both very kind!
Joseph, glad you liked the Terry Windling quotes. I admit, when I first read them it felt like someone had concisely and beautifully verbalized something I'd imprecisely realized in the back of my head for a long time... kind of a relief, in a way, to find my vague beliefs justified in a scholarly fashion.
If you're interested in papers associated with feminism and the bible, I can recommend some fascinating readings. I had the good fortune to stumble across an excellent series of classes in my community college. They covered the bible from a historical and literary perspective, rather than simply taking the whole thing on blind faith. This is not to say that they negated any religious value the bible might have, but that they were able to collate other points of view as well. They were really excellent, highly enjoyable, intellectually demanding classes - I owe most of my current knowledge of the bible to them.
The classes also raised an amusing point - it's amazing how little of the bible most people (not just Christians!) know! A single, entertaining example: the 10 commandments are generally felt by most people to be a good basis for moral modern living. Okay... so if they're so good for moral decision making... name them all!
Most people can't... although just about everyone remembers the commandment about not committing adultery! Furthermore, most people don't realize that the commandments are repeated on three separate occasions in the Old Testament - and each time they're slightly different, and in none of the instances are there strictly and only 10 commandments! I'll forbear the obvious feeble attempts at humor concerning mathematical ability in the Old Testament... :-)
Sorry folks, I can't list the answers later in my zine, since we've just recently moved - please note the new address and phone number! -- and all my books are still packed, due to the rigors of end-of-quarter demands on my time! However, if anyone's interested and either asks in a zine or drops me an e-mail note, I'd be happy to include the information in my next zine.
Regarding the net, I tend to let others make recommendations to me, so I don't waste time with mis-hits. I envy you your library just down the block! The nearest one we have is lamentably out-dated and rather narrowly targeted at being more a community gathering center more than anything else. Even with inter-library loan they're discouragingly slow.
Kiralee, I wish we could speak face to face. All the things you've written in your zines either ring quite true to me or are thoughtfully presented. I also wish we could try playing in the same game, even if it was a short-term one - it sounds like it might be fun! Alas, geography impedes... hmm. Do you guys do PBEM? *laugh* Oh, just what I need right now - another addiction! :-)
Re your comments to Timothy Emrick, describing your religious beliefs: I'd guess I'm a relaxed agnostic. After all, there may be a deity or deities, but I've no way of knowing... but I'm sure I'll find out eventually, and I'm willing to wait and see! In the interim, I intend to live as moral a life as I'm capable of, basing my morality on Alastair Crowley's comment, "Do as thou wilt - and thou harmest none [italics mine]." I'm always open to hearing other people's interpretations of morality and how they live their lives, since if I can find a better way I'll certainly change to that philosophy. However, for me currently, this one seems to cover the bases the best.
Amusingly enough, a close friend once described me as a "happily born again pagan!" Don't ask me what that's supposed to mean! :-)
You're too kind in your comments on my zine about "The Line" - I'm going to blush if you keep this up! I agree with you concerning the difference between insanity and fantasy. Hope you find my paper of some interest, since it's partially relevant to this. Let's face it, they really are two entirely different subjects. However, I'm not sure I completely understand your last sentence, and it sounded rather thought-provoking. Could you explain that a little more, please? Did you mean that taking games too seriously is a problem that's likely caused by the interactive nature of the games?
Hmm... explaining role-playing to one's parents can be... problematic, to put it mildly. Good luck with your mom! Here's a comment that hopefully might be helpful, from Firestarter #2:
I think "Host a Mystery" games are an excellent way to introduce new people to role-playing. I've been trying for years to successfully explain my gaming to my family. There's always been that, "Isn't that like D&D or something?" kind of feeling for them -- you know, "steam tunnels" stuff. Then one day they described to me the thrill they had going to a "dinner and a murder". After they happily enthused about their roles, their costumes, their acting, and how they'd each solved the mystery (some correctly, some incorrectly!), I asked them how they'd enjoyed their first role-playing experience. When they got over their moment of stunned silence, they became much more sympathetic to my hobby!
I must be an unusual gamer - I love having different cultures in a game. Having to slowly learn about some new and interesting society, and how a particular NPC represents it, adds to the complexity and wonder of the game to me. Alternatively, if there isn't an NPC to characterize a culture, it doesn't really exist within the game for me. I need that NPC; someone to talk to, to learn from, to work with. Otherwise neat cultures are merely 'out there' somewhere, and don't really affect the PCs.
I can't abide the old 'they're [X], so they must be evil and we should kill them all' type of cultural characterization. For me that is simply cardboard, and I'll leave that type of game as soon as possible if I can't persuade the GM to try more diversity.
Re your comments about original sin, I have a quote you might find amusing:
Man rarely, if ever, manages to dream up a God superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners of a spoiled child. --R. Heinlein
Or from one of the more obstreperous medieval troublemakers:
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use. --Galileo Galilei
...and this, from one of my favorite religious authors:
[W]e realize that we have all assumed a biblical literalism in the construction of our theological understandings of God, Jesus, and salvation. Unless theological truth can be separated from pre-scientific understandings and rethought in ways consistent with our understanding of reality, the Christian faith will be reduced to one more ancient mythology that will take its place alongside the religions of Mount Olympus. --Bishop John Shelby Spong
It was the Sunday school minister asserting that those that had not been baptized would go to hell, or at best purgatory, that first started to shatter my faith in the christian mythos. I could not believe a truly merciful and just deity would condemn someone to purgatory simply because of the error of having been born previous to Jesus - especially when that was an error only the deity could correct!
No, the U of Penn study was mentioned in passing in another book. Someday (in my copious free time) I'll look it up and see.
I'm glad you enjoy my papers. A small correction: I'm only now starting the 4 year college, but I'm starting as a junior - the A.A. transferred nicely, thank you very much! :-)
In regards to STR and CON differences for females and males in real life, apparently women are better at certain types of hand-eye coordination also. This is the basis of the medieval Japanese tendency to teach women the naginata, if I'm remembering correctly. The strongest strike in naginata (which is basically a long pole with a sword blade fastened to the end) is a short downwards blow, and women apparently can make it faster than men can.
Um, actually I define the "Big Lie" slightly differently than I think you're reading. I agree with you that cities do bring benefits to their inhabitants that they couldn't get elsewhere. The "Big Lie," per se, is when someone in the upper hierarchies (the top dog) convinces the inhabitants of the cities that it is in their best interests to spend their time and money building monuments to the glory of the top dog. That, to me, is an unforgivable crime against the people the upper hierarchies purport to be protecting. I don't care if the upper hierarchies are military, political, religious, or some combination thereof. If they really had the best interests of their people to heart, they wouldn't be wasting time crowing about how wonderful they were - with other people's time and money!
The natural response most people have to my assertions is, of course, to say that cities need to be protected by [fill in the blank hierarchy members] or other cities would over-run them. I can only point to some of the prehistoric cities as a reply. The only one I know the name of off the top of my head is Catal Huyuk, which stood as a thriving crossroads of industry - without defensive walls - for approximately two thousand years. That means a technologically advanced (for the times) city existed peacefully, with no wasteful public works or self-glorifying autocratic upper hierarchies, for more years than any extant civilization today! To me, that's a pretty powerful argument against the "Big Lie."
Interestingly enough, we're seeing a vaguely similar situation in primate behavior today. The "traditional" view of primates was that the biggest male defeated all his opponents, and got to mate with all the passive females. Increasingly we're finding this just isn't so. A few instances: there exists a test called DNA fingerprinting that allows one to determine who is the father of an infant. This test was performed on all the males and infants for one birthing season, in a free-ranging troop of rhesus macaques (organ-grinder monkeys). The results were startling. The top 2 males each fathered 4 children apiece. Four other infants were fathered by males from a neighboring troop - the females had sneaked off to mate specifically with them. The final 4 infants were sired by the lowest ranking male in the group - the male that the researchers had initially not even bothered DNA fingerprinting, because they'd never seen him mating!
A few qualifiers - this is only one study done for one year. The statistics might change over time. It would take more extensive studies to say without a shadow of a doubt that rank does not correlate automatically to reproductive success.
Another interesting example: my professor mentioned being part of a study of vervet monkeys in Africa. Vervet monkeys live in multiple female, single male groups. The professor was showing slides, and one of them was of the then dominant male, named Charlie by the observers. He was up high in a tree, and the professor talked about how initially it was thought that dominant males did this to spot predators and transgressing males more quickly. However, continued study revealed that the males didn't keep watch for predators - it was the females that did so, and it was the females and juveniles that did most of the attacking and driving away of intruders that could be intimidated. The males were apparently concerned solely with maintaining their status as only male in the multi-female troop of vervets.
The professor went on to explain (and show with slides) the females, all in positions of extreme attention, all staring in the same direction, all completely silent. The researchers were quite puzzled as to what would cause this behavior. They discovered the answer that evening. Apparently a single male had been creeping slowly closer and closer all afternoon. The females knew it, but didn't call the alarm, and Charlie simply hadn't noticed. Late that evening, just before the researchers had to stop observations due to lack of sunlight, there was a terrific fight between Charlie and the interloper male.
The next morning Charlie was gone and the interloper male was being happily groomed by several females. As the professor put it, had the females given the alarm call Charlie could probably have beaten off the new male. But the females didn't... they chose to remain silent. They chose another male.
So what does all this have to do with gaming, or the "Big Lie"? Good question... my roomie facetiously asked me what would happen to most of the primates if all the males disappeared. I had to struggle to answer -- because the main purpose of males seems, amongst the primates, to be making babies and fighting other males!
So... is this a naturalist "Big Lie"? Assuming some way of creation of infants, what would a society without males be like? Would there be less fighting? More? More territoriality, perhaps, or less? Would tool use be more prevalent, or perhaps sociability, or what? As with humans, the 'what if' possibilities of such speculated societies are fascinating to play with.
And now for the requisite reassurance: this is just mental playing, in a gaming vein. It doesn't mean I hate males, or think females should all band together and beat males up, or think females should all live in harems for the reproductive pleasure of a single privileged male. Gosh, folks, some of my best friends are males! Boy, that subject discussion by me went waaay off course...:-)
*laugh* Oh, you tease! How could you tell me you had two full blown essays on interesting subjects, and then edit them out?! I don't know if I can handle all this disappointment!
Regarding your "In Response: When the Sacred Promotes the Profane," I had to read this twice, to make sure I understood it... Well, I think I understand it. In the hopes that it will both clarify my position and demonstrate an appreciation for yours, I'd like to describe something that happened in my own life. For those that might be offended by frank discussion of contemporary religions, feel free to skip to the next zine - I won't mind. :-)
I was (I think) raised a methodist but, because I lived in a wide variety of places, I got a large dose of conservative catholicism as well. From an early age I remember feeling confused that men got to make all the rules and women were just breeders and housekeepers. I later learned that every one just knew women were somehow tainted by "Eve's original sin," myself included. This was the first of a long list of nonsense (based on the bible) that was used to assure me that women shouldn't have control over their own lives. So sit down, shut up and do what you're told. We know what's best for you.
On the other hand, I was told that "god" was forgiving, benevolent, just, merciful and loved everyone - that "he" exemplified all the traits that my society believed to be good. However, I was also told that "he" had strict rules that had to be followed - frequently rules that made little or no sense to me and (Surprise!) always favored the little boys. These two concepts did not match up in my head.
What kind of entity would create glories as vast and majestic as galaxies, and as minute and complex as mitochondria - and then get huffy with me personally -- because I had sex before some priest had fired the starting gun, or because I'd had sex with someone of the same gender? Doesn't that seem tremendously petty?
Why is it that every religious role-model offered up by the christian church has gone to a gruesome, bloody, horrific, torturous death that anybody with half a brain could have avoided? What kind of deity would sacrifice its only child so that its worshipers could avoid the horrific tortures of the afterlife, which were ordained by that self-same deity! Who are they kidding?
What kind of vindictive deity, knowing that Eve would believe the serpent's story and disobey, would still let it happen -- condemning the human race to an endless cycle of subjugation and exploitation? This master/slave relationship isn't healthy for men, either.
It is these troubling questions, and many more that led me to decide the christian version of god was definitely not for me. This anti-apotheosis took years. During that same time, I came to appreciate classical art and music. To this day I consider many pieces of classical music breath-takingly beautiful. The choral part of Beethoven's 9th symphony can still bring me to tears. Imagine my shock when it belatedly dawned on me that the music I loved so much was written to glorify a philosophy that embodied most of the things I considered wrong with the world!
I had to come to grips with this difficult choice: should I be a hypocrite and listen to music I loved but ran strongly against my beliefs? Or should I stand by my convictions and no longer listen to something I found such joy in? Was the music indeed the message or was the message the music?
It took me a while to work out this dilemma. I came to the conclusion that, while the catholic church may have been looming over the artists and creators of the time, it didn't mean the art itself was destitute of personal inspiration. Thus, while the music was a glorification of ideals I could not countenance, it was also lovely in and of itself. I suspect there are still those who would call this hypocrisy, but I now appreciate the art while refusing the ideology.
I hope this adequately demonstrates both some understanding of your religious point-of-view, and how I handled something in a similar vein that happened in my own life.
Last Updated: Sat May 17 1997