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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: Astrivian on April 19, 2004, 10:55:58 AM



Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: Astrivian on April 19, 2004, 10:55:58 AM
I am new to this forum so forgive me if i seem to miss a great deal of past conversation and/or misuse terms.  

I have been working on a game, WindSpeaker, for near a decade now and have slowly developed it according to my studies in theology and religion.  (NOTE: when i use "religion" i am refering to comparative religion, not just Christianity or Occidental religions).  While i was still in school, i did a few searches on RPG's, and games and simulations in general and found very little.  So, if my idea is not new, please inform me:

I developed what i call an Ecclesiastical Role Playing Game (EPG).  The name comes from the Greek word "ecclesia" roughly meaning "a group of people who come together to make decisions about something."  In the New Testament it is translated as 'church,' and so takes on a spiritual meaning in the name EPG.

While it works like other RPG's (dice, GM [called a Speaker], players, etc.), the overt purpose is to teach psychological and spiritual development.  To do so, it employs the use of psudeo-religions (called 'mystics') that guide players according to a set of rules associated with the mystic.  A good example of one such rule for the 'mystics' of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the Old Testament 10 Commandments.  

The idea is not to override the fun of playing and just messing around--beating up "bad guys" or whatever people want to do--but to give a general suggestion or guidance to the game play.  Psychological and spiritual development cannot be taught in the traditional ways, it must be learned.  

Indeed psychological development is an unavoidable benefit of just about any RPG (if played with that in mind) and an EPG is certainly no different in that respect.  However, where the EPG and RPG tend to differ more is at the degree to which they make psycho and spiritual development their primary purpose versus entertaining.

Thoughts? comments?

for more info check http://www.astrivianism.com.  This site is bad, i know, and many links don't work, but it will give you a basic idea.[/url]


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: lumpley on April 19, 2004, 11:15:26 AM
How's the game work?  When you say that it teaches spiritual development, do you mean spiritual development in the moral sense - it teaches the players to make sound moral judgements - or in the mystical, supernatural sense - it teaches the players to heed Divine Guidance or contact the Dead or revisit past lives or trust their own Inner Wisdom or whatever?  Most importantly, what does WindSpeaker have in it, rules-wise, that does the teaching?  How does it encourage the teaching to happen?

Welcome to the Forge!  Some of us are more interested in religion + roleplaying than others but that's cool.  What's your name?

-Vincent


Title: Welcome
Post by: BPetroff93 on April 19, 2004, 11:34:46 AM
Hi Astrivian and welcome to the Forge.  Sounds like an interesting, albiet risky concept.  The way I see it you can go three different ways with this.

One way is for there to be some degree or indicator of a character's "progress" I think this is risky because if you establish some universal criteria for all religions you are deciding on the "universal truth". If you are okay with this, great, but you will have "spirituality by Astrivian".  [ unless these two are synonymous, ie: univeral truth=spirituality by Astrivian, which is rediculous because universal truth=spirituality by Me :) ] If you attempt to set the criteria separatly, as the dogma of each "religion," you are essentially saying that spritual progress depends on holding to your convictions, whatever they may be.  Once again, that's fine, if you're okay with it.

The second way is for this to be a essentially a teaching sim making no value calls and just allowing an exploration of religious setting.  I propose that this is harder than it seems.  Building a RPG based on religion with no value calls built in seems impossible to me.

The third way, and the one I would prefer, is to build a game around simply the exploration of the theme, "what is truth" or "what is spirituality"  the game would not provide any answers or teach anything but it would ask questions and encourge the players to find the answers.

I like your concept alot.  I was a philosophy major during my brief college career.  I'm just curious how you want to work out the details.  

P.S.: Damn it all!  Did I just GNS this thing!  I feel like a one trick pony!
Aaaarghh! Damn you Ron Edwards, give me back my mind! ;)


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: Dav on April 19, 2004, 01:36:36 PM
I may be a bit off here... but what, exactly, is the point of your game?  I understand psycho-religio-developmental aid, which may be a nifty sideline... but that's not a reason to play a game, that's a reason to take a class, or listen to someone drone for a bit.

Playing a game inherently means fun, and to do that, you need a premise, and mechanics, and all that good stuff that hops into a game.  I see a metaeffect of participating in your game-circle-thing, but I am missing a reason to come to the G-C-T in the first place.

Give me a game, then give me the benefits of playing the game later.  Cart before the horse problem.

Dav


Title: Re: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: John Kim on April 19, 2004, 02:29:53 PM
Windspeaker seems like an interesting idea, but there doesn't seem to be much available about game design, and I don't understand the charts.  I have two links for you.  The first is a list of earlier threads here at the Forge of using RPGs for psychological self-exploration or examination.  
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/theforge/topics.html#psychology

The second is a Swedish RPG called "The Way" which is explicitly a tool for use in youth confirmation courses as part of the Church of Sweden.  
http://www.rollspel.com/engelsk/theway.htm

A stock phrase here at the Forge is to question how the mechanics help to achieve the design goals.  So, I see the Strength Damage Chart, for example.  How are choices like the levels, attack, defense, and die-rolling stuff that I see influenced by your goal of spiritual exploration?


Title: Re: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: chadu on April 19, 2004, 07:41:05 PM
Quote from: Astrivian
I have been working on a game, WindSpeaker, for near a decade now and have slowly developed it according to my studies in theology and religion.  (NOTE: when i use "religion" i am refering to comparative religion, not just Christianity or Occidental religions).  While i was still in school, i did a few searches on RPG's, and games and simulations in general and found very little.  So, if my idea is not new, please inform me:

I developed what i call an Ecclesiastical Role Playing Game (EPG).  The name comes from the Greek word "ecclesia" roughly meaning "a group of people who come together to make decisions about something."  In the New Testament it is translated as 'church,' and so takes on a spiritual meaning in the name EPG.

While it works like other RPG's (dice, GM [called a Speaker], players, etc.), the overt purpose is to teach psychological and spiritual development.  

[snip]

The idea is not to override the fun of playing and just messing around--beating up "bad guys" or whatever people want to do--but to give a general suggestion or guidance to the game play.  Psychological and spiritual development cannot be taught in the traditional ways, it must be learned.  


Hey, Astrivan!

You game sounds interesting. I tried to do much the same thing you're attempting here with Dead Inside: the Roleplaying Game of Loss & Redemption (http://www.atomicsockmonkey.com/products/di.asp), which I published earlier this year.

It deals with the PC's loss of "soul" and how they approach recovering it.

(By the bye, I'm running a special coupon sale (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=116647) on DI until Thursday ($10 for the PDF); I announced it over at RPG.net, but didn't think it'd be appropriate to simply post about it here; there doesn't seem to be a Promo forum at the Forge.)

I spent a lot of time trying to boil down what I've learned about religion, morality, spirituality, philosophy, and psychology into something that was fun -- and challenging -- to game out. Did you find that aspect easy or hard?

Also, I found Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning a vital component of formulating what DI calls "Soul Cultivation" and "Soul Decay." What are the basics for your games' "mystics" (how did you boil down, say, Hinduism)?

Curious,

CU


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: Ben Lehman on April 20, 2004, 12:12:56 AM
AFAIK, this has been done only in homebrew, isolated instances (I've been lucky enough to play several games with a GM who was interested in spiritual development.)

It seems like a cool idea.

Now, if I may ask, how may we help you?  What questions do you have about your design?  What system bits aren't coming out right?  Etc.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S. And I will say that I think that spiritual development *is* fun, otherwise it isn't really spiritual development, so this is a perfectly valid game topic as-is.  (Getting there might not be fun, but the end result is.)


Title: Lots of stuff to respond to
Post by: Astrivian on April 22, 2004, 08:37:42 AM
First of all, thank you all for the comments.  And, sorry it took me a while to hop back on here; i thought i would get an email notice of a reply to my posts.

I hope i cover all the ground here:

The "point" of WindSpeaker is much like other RPGs' "points."  I have to use quotes around the "point of a game" because i find it hard to swallow the idea that an RPG has a defined endpoint.  If the GM's quest or adventure has a specific goal (i.e. bust up so-and-so's evil imperialistic empire) one could argue this final goal as being the "point" of the game.  However, the RPG as a whole does not have a goal or endpoint where the game is over and players must start anew from the beginning (like board games).  

So, i must answer you question with a question: what do you mean by point?  If you mean what do player's do in the game, my answer is very similar to most RPG's.  Players do whatever they want really, but it is more fun following the GM's (Speaker's) quest or adventure than doing nothing.  

Second, you all are right about the problem of "boiling down" religious faiths into their basics.  I do not seriously believe such a thing can be done.  A religious faith system is so incredibly complex i doubt one person could define it into a few simplified lessons.  As you mentioned, how does one boil down hinduism...or alchemy, or christianity, or kabbalah?  No one has succeeded yet and i certainly don't have the talent to do it.

The other idea is to take "all" religions and find some common moral threads.  The problem with this how one defines "all."  Most people think of the five major world religions when they say "all": Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hiduism.  However, there are thousands of other religious both present and past that are very different than these five.  And, as i told my hippy roommate, it is simply not possible to analyze all the religions of the world.

So, WindSpeaker seems to stand no chance on this point and i have to admit i might have been a bit too bold in my first post.  WindSpeaker (WS) does neither of these two things, although i have to admit i lean toward trying the second.  Instead it uses Religious Spiritualism (also on the site, and more well-defined; sorry about the windspeaker part, i haven't had much time to work on it).  

The basic idea is to take a pervasive religious principle, charity or zakat for example, and remove it from religious context.  You loose the rich mythology surrounding the priciple if you do this, however.  

So, what the hell does windspeaker do then?  Well, in my humility i tried to use the traditions of Religious Spiritualism and incorporate them into the game somehow. I decided on two ways to do this without overwhelming the players in religious symbolism and ethics:

1) use the mystics (various forms of magic) as the religions of the land (called Astrivia, hence my handle).  Each mystic in then loosly based on a collection of religious faiths incorporating their morality, mythology and mysticism.

2) the language used to write the game itself must encourage this sort of thinking.

Astrivian


Title: Re: Lots of stuff to respond to
Post by: chadu on April 22, 2004, 09:05:21 AM
Quote from: Astrivian
Second, you all are right about the problem of "boiling down" religious faiths into their basics.  I do not seriously believe such a thing can be done.  A religious faith system is so incredibly complex i doubt one person could define it into a few simplified lessons.  As you mentioned, how does one boil down hinduism...or alchemy, or christianity, or kabbalah?  No one has succeeded yet and i certainly don't have the talent to do it.

The other idea is to take "all" religions and find some common moral threads.  The problem with this how one defines "all."  Most people think of the five major world religions when they say "all": Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hiduism.  
(snip)

The basic idea is to take a pervasive religious principle, charity or zakat for example, and remove it from religious context.  You loose the rich mythology surrounding the priciple if you do this, however.  


That's essentially what I did when I came up with Dead Inside's Virtues and Vices -- looked for common threads, stripped them of as much baggage as I could, and then hybridized them together.

It can be done; whether it's been done well (in my game or any other game) is a question for the audience.

Good luck with your game, and keep us updated!

CU


Title: Re: Lots of stuff to respond to
Post by: greyorm on April 22, 2004, 06:35:30 PM
Quote from: Astrivian
The "point" of WindSpeaker is much like other RPGs' "points."  I have to use quotes around the "point of a game" because i find it hard to swallow the idea that an RPG has a defined endpoint.

Perhaps not an "endpoint," though that's certainly a possibility, but a "goal of play" -- not so much a tangible reward or event (ie: "slay the evil baron") as an experience looked for by the players at the table. You'll definitely want to read "System Does Matter" then move on to the GNS essay, for starters.

Quote
If you mean what do player's do in the game, my answer is very similar to most RPG's.  Players do whatever they want really, but it is more fun following the GM's (Speaker's) quest or adventure than doing nothing.

Hrm, following the GM's quest/adventure doesn't sound very fun to me. Regarding both this, and the above, do a search on the terms "Participationism" and "Illusionism," and for the former quote (above) "Incoherence." Those terms are also detailed in the longer GNS essays you can find in the "Articles" section of the Forge.

Both points you raise are ones that have been extensively discussed on the Forge, and relate quite strongly to the core philosophy of design most of us follow: that games need more focus, that their mechanics need to support the sorts of play they were designed to encourage, and that "you just do whatever" leads to poor design and more easily to frustrating play.
(I'd provide some links to threads on the topic of "do whatever" so you know where I'm coming from, but my Search-fu has unfortunately failed me)

That's why you've been asked if Windspeaker's mechanics support the central theme of the game you've presented us -- the reason you wrote it: the idea of religious/spiritual exploration. Does it actually provide the means to do what it talks about, rather than, say, being a D&D clone where everyone is a cleric.

Hence, what mechanics of the game specifically deal with the idea of teaching psychological and spiritual development?

For example, when you say:
Quote
use the mystics (various forms of magic) as the religions of the land (called Astrivia, hence my handle).  Each mystic in then loosly based on a collection of religious faiths incorporating their morality, mythology and mysticism.

How does this affect the character mechanically? Or in play? What does the magic actually "do"?

As an example answer of how this works/what I mean, The Riddle of Steel uses Spiritual Attributes -- things like Passion, Conscience, etc -- to support the play of the character and drive them towards their own goals. It does this by providing character advancement when the player deals with those SA's in play, and by providing bonuses to character performance when the SA's are triggered by actions (either active or reactive).

Hence, what do the "mystics" actually do for the character mechanically and how?


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: Astrivian on April 23, 2004, 07:54:01 AM
oh greyorm i think i see what you were asking now.  Sorry, i am still trying to sift through all the various discussions.  Can you provide me with some links to specific discussions (is that what you mean by "articles"?) about these issues.  

I think i have an answer but i will read up a bit first.

thanks

astrivian


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: Nathan P. on April 23, 2004, 09:35:00 AM
Heya

The articles he mentioned are found here:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/

Lots o' good stuff.


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: greyorm on April 23, 2004, 09:44:19 AM
Heya,

The articles I mentioned can be found in the Articles (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/) link listed under The Internet Home for Independent Role-Playing Games tag line way up at the very top of each page.

System Does Matter (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/system_does_matter.html) is the basic, though outdated, paper to start with.
GNS and Other Matters of Role-Playing Theory (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/1/) can be followed up with.

There are also the three longer papers which each deal with a specific mode of GNS -- Simulationism: the Right to Dream, Gamism: Step On Up, and Narrativism: Story Now. But that's a lot to digest right off, so I'm not suggesting all that for reading right away.

From the Sim essay
Illusionism is a mode of story creation by the GM in which his or her decisions carry more weight than those of the players, in which he or she has authority over rules-outcomes, and in which the players willingly or unwillingly do not recognize these features. See Illusionism: a new look and a new approach and Illusionism and GNS for a more complete definition and associated discussions.

Participationism is Illusionism's close cousin -- coined for Illusionist play where the players are aware of the Illusion and playing along with it.

Incoherence is basically game design that fails to focus on mode, switching between them for different tasks to the detriment of play or promising one experience while supporting and delivering another.

You'll have to use our Search feature to find references the various terms for a more in-depth explanation of each, though if anyone could provide definitive threads on the latter two terms for Astrivian, that would be cool.


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: TerroX on April 24, 2004, 09:34:17 PM
Maybe it would also work with 1 player and the rest as GMs. Just incase the entire group doesn't want to be controlled by the one GMs rulings.


Title: The introduction of a new genere (hopefully)
Post by: clehrich on April 25, 2004, 06:43:42 AM
If I can make a pitch for my own approach, you might take a look at my article on ritual (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/26/).  Having studied comparative religions, I don't think you'll find it difficult to understand -- that's the discipline I was trained in myself.

Basically what I'd do is to set up the game session as a ritual process.  You are trying to produce a specific effect, in terms of spiritual experience, and I think an overt move to designate RPG play as ritual space would go some way toward achieving this.

You might take a look at the works of Ron Grimes and Richard Schechner, whose theories of ritual I find unhelpful for analytical purposes but who are specifically interested in ritual as a performative process in which we can engage deliberately.  Jerzy Grotowski's Poor Theater might also be helpful to you.

I would also eliminate any and all rules that do not specifically serve your spiritual-experiential goals.  They will tend to distract from exploration of the issues and ideas you want to focus on.

If I were designing something with this aim in mind, I would want to delineate the gaming space and time very formally, marking a strong separation between the "normal" and the game.  Then, during play, I would want to challenge and break down the residues of the normal or profane world: challenge identity, sex, appearance, age, and everything else.  You want to throw your players into an experiential sense of liminality, "betwixt and between" as Victor Turner put it, neither this nor that.  Then, if you want it to be open-ended (i.e. not promote one particular religious perspective), you need the players and GM to produce the sacra, the extreme and even monstrous images and conceptions that force them to reconstruct and reinvent themselves.  Eventually, you move to reaggregate, encouraging the players to combine the selves they have reinvented together with the selves they must "play" in the real world.  Next time, you focus the taking-apart process on the reaggregated versions, so that you make progress from encounter to encounter.  The hope would be that by the time many sessions have passed, your players have found themselves in a radically new state, more attuned to the symbolic and meaningful nature of the ordinary.  Which might lead to spiritual experience -- if you're lucky!

Sounds interesting.  Let us know how it progresses!


Title: The 5th Hour
Post by: Palaskar on April 25, 2004, 02:27:35 PM
Astrivian (sp?), I've been trying to do something similar with my setting The Fifth Hour. It's basically an attempt to do a metaphorical wonder story a la Tolkein or C.S. Lewis, but based more on Daoism and Millenial Judiaism than modern Christianity.

I've been taking a "Philosophy of Religion" class this semester, which broke down relgions into three major types: Pagan (the Divine is part of the Universe), Pantheist (the Divine incorporates everything) and Bilblical (the Divine is seperate from the Universe.) You've probably run into something similar in your research, so I'll leave it at that

Anyway, I did a search for 'The Meaning of Life' awhile back, and came up with a very cool humanistic psych document that I will summarize here. Basically, they found several major views of what the meaning of life is:

Life is a test,
To enjoy or experience life.Enjoy the “moment,” the “journey.”
To love,help,or serve others.
To show or experience compassion.
Life is a mystery.
Life is meaningless.
To serve or worship God and/or prepare for the next (or after-)life.
Life is a struggle.
To contribute to something that is greater than ourselves.
To become self-actualized.To develop or “evolve ” as a person or as
a species.To pursue truth(s),wisdom,or a higher level of being.
To create your own meaning .
Life is absurd or a joke .

I then assigned a race to each of these viewpoints.

I also learned last semester that the four major divisions of ethics are Kantian ethics (absolute, inviolate standards) Social Contract ethics (ethics arrived by rational group consent) Utalitarian ethics (ethics are what produces the greatest good for the greatest number) and Virtue ethics (ethics involves following and emulating specific virtues.)

I then assigned a society to each of these viewpoints. Paladins (who BTW, don't really resemble other fantasy paladins much) follow Kantian-style ethics, for example.

I'm still learning, so please feel free to correct me, people.

As for the Fifth Hour, it's still pretty rough, consisting of typed brainstorming notes. Still, I'll post what I have if you're interested.

BTW, I can't seem to download anything from your site.