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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 88 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Religion in Roleplaying  (Read 3742 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2002, 01:08:16 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Stories exist externally and therefore religion makes bad stories.


Just like the internal conflicts of Sorceror make bad stories?  I don't think so.  Internal conflicts can be interesting because they drive outside actions and because the players can be aware of them even if many in-game characters are not.

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I've played In Nomine, and had it be about deeply philosophical themes. Without drifting it much. I'm not sure why you'd point to the d666 as somehow disrespectful.


That's not really what I meant.  I meant that having a random dice mechanic for intereacting with an Archangel is a little disrespectful.  Do the gods simply operate randomly?  Does Gabriel care about modifiers or more about the purity of your faith and need?  I'm not saying this doesn't work for In Nomine, but that it wouldn't work for a game that wanted a realistic depiction of how religion is thought to actually operate.  I love In Nomine to death, but it really doesn't come through in this reguard, without significant drift.

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The point is that, even if I do believe in such an entity, I don't have to worship it to portray it effectively, and repectfully.


Again, not quite what I meant.  Say, for instance, you have a Christian-oriented game where the players play believers and the GM takes on the task of protraying Jesus and God.  I doubt this would appeal to many Christians, simply because the GM (a fallible human being) would be putting words into the mouth of Jesus (who many believe to be infallible).  Likewise, any worshiping or praying to God or Jesus that the players did would, in effect, be worshiping and praying to the GM.  Not really acceptable Christian behavior and not very tasteful in general, especially if you want the players to act sincere.  I realize it's just a game, but it still would be rather uncomfortable for me, and I'm not even that strong in my beliefs.

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Worship the DM? An entity that the character presumably does not know exists?


Well, if people can think they "know" that God exists, I don't see why characters couldn't think they "know" the GM exists :)  Perhaps the GM revealed his presence to the people by giving them a copy of the Player's Handbook, telling them how to behave, since He didn't want to wait for them to deduce His existence through Intelligent Design Theory (i.e. "Look at how all the races and occupations on our world are precisely balanced!  It is obvious that our world was designed by a higher power!").

See my new Game Design thread on "PC Worship of the Metagame" if you want to see where I'm going with this.

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Careful design and play can overcome all these potential problems, IMO.


Agreed.  Which is why I created this thread: to discuss ideas for HOW that might be done.  People seem to be getting defensive about my criticism of religion in traditional RPGs (which was not really the point) and ignoring what I was asking.  Hopefully we can get back on topic...
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2002, 01:34:19 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Stories exist externally and therefore religion makes bad stories.


Just like the internal conflicts of Sorceror make bad stories?  I don't think so.  Internal conflicts can be interesting because they drive outside actions and because the players can be aware of them even if many in-game characters are not.
That's just a beter restatement of my point. There has to be two sides to the story is what I meant. Bob goes to church, and prays, and then goes home is not a story. Bob goes to church, questions his belief, decides that it's right in the end, and then goes home is a story. My point it that you have to have some of the sorts of elements that you seemed to be railing against.

But apparently that wasn't your point...

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Which is why I created this thread: to discuss ideas for HOW that might be done.  People seem to be getting defensive about my criticism of religion in traditional RPGs (which was not really the point) and ignoring what I was asking.  Hopefully we can get back on topic...
Well, you ask how we can solve the problem. I'm saying there is no problem for the most part. Nothing that needs solving. Nothing that needs to be done other than what we normally prescribe here for everything.

Or do you want specific design notes as though we were creating an actual specific game? Because if we aren't then there are no general principles that can be applied. Each game will have to address it differently. Each session of play has to address things on their own as well, by enforcing the social contract to be respectful and thoughtful. I can't see that the answer is anything other than I've said; be careful.

Can you ask something more specific, perhaps? Even then, I doubt that there's a good general answer.

Mike
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2002, 03:40:12 PM »

Jonathan,

...having a random dice mechanic for intereacting with an Archangel is a little disrespectful. Do the gods simply operate randomly? Does Gabriel care about modifiers or more about the purity of your faith and need? I'm not saying this doesn't work for In Nomine, but that it wouldn't work for a game that wanted a realistic depiction of how religion is thought to actually operate.

Quite some time ago a guy named Kalev posted a resolution mechanic to the forums at Gaming Outpost. I was going to direct you to the thread where I pursued discussion of that mechanic, because I think it's interesting relative to the disrespect issue you've raised, but it seems that Gaming Outpost has archived their older threads offline. Can you imagine how geeked I was to discover that I'd saved some excerpts from that discussion for personal reference?

Kalev wrote:

The player doesn't roll for success of an action, but instead to see if that action is within their personality. At first this seems a bit odd and not too fun, but I think it could be workable.
In a potential combat situation you (the player) know that your character will lose (you know his score, and you know the enemy's score, and it's a Karma based resolution sytem). So you decide that he shouldn't attack. Then you roll against one of his personalities to find out if he does attack.

In essence the player becomes the guiding hand behind the character, influencing but not controling their actions.


At the time, I'd just recently read Ron's "System Does Matter" essay, and throughout the section on Fortune, I couldn't think of it without wondering "what about Providence?" Maybe me noticing that absence comes from too many college lit courses. At the time I was just used to seeing Fortune and Providence mentioned in the same breath.

And that's why I liked Kalev's idea so much. Fortune is a happening resulting from material/physical causes and effects (perhaps incompletely perceived by those involved), and seemed well represented to me in traditional game resolution mechanics. Providence is a happening resulting from interaction between the material world and spiritual/psychic influences, and seemed to be nicely rendered by Kalev's mechanic. A great calm actually descended on me with the realization that there was nothing about game mechanics that was inherently precluding Providence. This is what I wrote, sentence fragments and all:

When I think of Fortune (as we've been using it in the forums), I think of it as a "looking from the bottom up" method of conflict resolution. The situation in question is unpredictable from the point of view of the character. At that point in Everway you turn over a card from the Fortune deck. In another system you roll the dice. And with that the outcome is determined...all the minute forces in the universe that you couldn't possibly account for as a mere mortal are represented by a randomizing game mechanic. With causality, there is no *chance*. At the atomic level, it's all toppling dominoes. The roll of the dice is just shorthand for more calculus than you can possibly do. That's Fortune (with a capital "F").

Kalev's mechanic is so interesting to me because it's a "looking from the top down" method of conflict resolution. From the point of view of the guiding hand, all conflicts are completely predictable. Everything looks like Karma from the top down. So when conflict is resolved through actions of the guiding hand, through synchronicity with spiritual/psychic influences, that's Providence (with a capital "P"). It still seems to the mortal like the situation in question was unpredictable. It's just the outcome was influenced by something other than atomic-level causality.


What do you think of that respect?

Paul
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Emily Care
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« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2002, 07:58:42 AM »

Going back to the very start of the discussion, Jonathan, the examples you gave struck me as repesenting the bias in role playing towards fantasy indulgence. Fantasy as in daydream, not medieveloid.  Ie how in most games you (vicariously through your character) are given massive powers unavailable to you in your daily life.  Religion just becomes another resource to be drawn on to give the individual that power.  

The funny thing is that there is actually precedent for this--ever read Journey to the West/Monkey?  It is a buddhist  super-hero adventure epic that long pre-dates rpg, no joke.  Norse myth and greek myth also "read" like super-hero fiction if you look at them right.  The miracles of Christ are along the same lines.  

The game Mike mentioned, Enlightenment, doesn't have any super-natural elements to it.  I didn't see why that should be so at first, but looking back at it, it this probably supports its goal of exploring internal and moral conflict rather than the more common tact of making it "just" another magical system.  It's also a narrativist oriented game, as the mechanics show--as opposed to the sim/gamist D&D type games that were probably alluded to in the original post. That could be telling.

--Emily Care
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2002, 08:45:41 AM »

Actually, Paul, my exact view of In Nomine is that the D666 is the exact representative of "God's Ineffable Plan". Why did that happen that way? Because it's part of God's plan. To quote Einstein, "God does not play dice with the universe." Since we cannot know his plan in real life, and the game does not suppose that anyone knows his plans (except perhaps for Yves, and he's not talking), this is best represented as a random roll. What better way to get the players thinking that, perhaps there is no God than to make it all seem random?

Clever, IMO.

Mike
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #20 on: December 05, 2002, 10:59:02 AM »

Hey Mike,

the D666 is the exact representative of "God's Ineffable Plan"....Since we cannot know his plan in real life...this is best represented as a random roll.

And I think that's exactly what Jonathan means by "disrespect." The mechanic you've described is based on small, bitter thinking. No matter how big a sampling you take, randomized rewards and punishment doesn't add up to a plan. Devote your whole life to spirituality and you're never going to catch even a glimpse of the beauty of the plan, because there isn't one.

Kalev's mechanic presupposes a guiding hand that the character could perhaps or may never glimpse. The d666 mechanic insures that there will be no glimpse, ever. They are both inscrutable. It's just that the d666 mechanic brutalizes that which faith knows to be benevolent, and renders the expression of faith pathetic.

Paul
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #21 on: December 05, 2002, 11:58:38 AM »

How is that disrespectful? I really don't get it. It's not the 666 thing, is it? That's perfectly respectful. First off that numerology isn't actually part of many churches doctrines in any way. But where it is, as the "number of the beast" this totally makes sense. What is the most incongruous part of God's ineffable plan? The hardest part to understand? The Problem of Evil. Lucifer. The whole question of sin. If 666 is the devil's number, it, too, is part of the plan. And as that's the entire subject of the game, the mechanic works fine.

And that's a long way to go for a mechanic that was, in fact, designed to be part of a game that did poke fun with a RL religion. Oddly, however, I detect very much the spirit of the Jesuits in this game, and the wisdom of the Jewish sages. In that unquestioning faith is no faith at all.

God's plan, according to the game canon, is absolutely unknowable. This is both reasonable, and follows the dogma of many religions in real life. In fact, in these religions Faith implies that there can never be any proof as such. That, in fact, faith has to come from within, despite what appears to be a random world.

In fact, that's how I was raised, the truth be told, so maybe that's why it attracts me so much (and perhaps why the line editor is named McCoy; just a guess).

Further, it makes for great drama in the game. I daresay it's more balanced in it's pulls than Sorcerer. Now, the rest of the mechanics...

If you want to attack In Nomine as disrespectful on other grounds, there's certainly room. But the dice mechanic isn't one of them, IMO.

Mike
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Andrew Martin
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« Reply #22 on: December 05, 2002, 01:33:39 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
...perhaps why the line editor is named McCoy;


I think it's named after Elizabeth McCoy, the line editor. :)

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Now, the rest of the mechanics...


Those definitely need fixing. I'd love to keep the D666 with the 666 result as the number of the beast and 111 as the number of heaven. The skill and attribute system really, really need to be fixed up. I did some work on this (on my site), but that's not really good enough either.
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Andrew Martin
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