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How (Not) to Roleplay a Christian Character, Part II

Here are a few ideas for bringing Christianity into gaming.

Play a Christian character when the setting allows. If you’re in setting with the spiritual left undefined, especially if it’s Earth, you’re in pretty good shape. Keep my caveats from yesterday in mind, play the character with some faith and conviction, and it could be great. Be sure to decide in advance: how will my character react to the supernatural? And how will they act in a combat-heavy game?

Play a character with Christian character. While He walked on Earth, Jesus showed us what courage, love, humility, wisdom, and grace really look like. Your character can follow His example, no matter the setting. Play someone self-sacrificial, forgiving, and dedicated to truth.

Play a character that reflects truth. Give your character a chronic temptation. Take a moment to consider their moral choices. Or perhaps just play them in a believable, true-to-life way. Let your character illustrate humanity the way you know us to be.

Play to bless your fellow players. Sometimes, the game isn’t even about the characters. I love to get immersed in a game, but it’s often more important for me to care for my fellow players. Maybe that means stepping back and letting them take the spotlight. Maybe it means making in-game choices that are more enjoyable for the party than for you personally. Shoot, maybe you volunteer to get drinks and snacks for everyone when you get a chance. Be a servant. Make it about someone else.

Those are some of my thoughts. What about you? How do your real-life beliefs affect your characters?

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How (Not) to Roleplay a Christian Character, Part I

I played my first game of D&D just before I became a Christian. As I explored my new faith and began to grow, the thought crossed my mind: why not play a cleric of Jesus? Yeah! His domains could be Good and… uh, Light, maybe. And I could convert all the trolls and goblins to Christianity!

I never ended up trying it. And I’m glad. Here’s why.

Most roleplaying settings describe their own cosmology. Dungeons & Dragons has a large fictional pantheon. Exalted has a grand mythological setting, along with gods, spirits, and reincarnation. Even the World of Darkness has multiple planes of existence based on science fiction, Native American folklore, etc.

None of these settings lines up with the Bible. Thus, if you want Yahweh in any of them, you have to sort of cram Him in unceremoniously. He’s too big, too world-defining to fit. He’s not really God if He’s only as powerful as Pelor, or if He didn’t happen to create the world.

Similarly, the Gamemaster controls the roleplaying universe. What your GM says goes, from an individual die roll to the layout of the spiritual realms. Who made the game world? Is there an in-game God or gods? It’s all up to the GM.

Between the game setting’s built-in cosmology and the GM’s final say, God may not have room to be God. Prayer, for example, may not work for a Christian character the way it does in real life. Especially if God’s not there.

And even if you try to put God into the game, He may end up as a caricature. It’s difficult to mimic His voice well. He’s constantly good and loving, but He’s also full of surprises. Iguess that’s what happens when can perceive all of time and space at once: you end up making decisions that catch us mortals off guard.

Okay, so there are some difficulties in playing a Christian character, especially in fantasy settings. So what’s a Christian player to do if she wants to get the Holy Spirit in on the action?

I have some thoughts I’ll share tomorrow.

Why I Chuck Dice

I love pen-and-paper roleplaying.

It’s a creative outlet. Especially creating characters. I’d be making up fictional characters with or without roleplaying games; RPGs just give me a chance to let them interact with my friends’ made-up characters. It’s a unique form in that way. And as creative as it is to be a player, it’s orders of magnitude more so to be a gamemaster.

I enjoy performing. A lot of the time, roleplaying is hilarious. Get a bunch of creative people around a table, having fun together, and it often behaves like improv comedy. My friends and I have catch phrases we still use – and laugh at – that came out of games from years gone by. I love getting the laugh. I also love a good dramatic moment too, and roleplaying can provide those just as well. Roleplaying games are basically a venue for amateur (wannabe?) stand-up comics and actors.

I like my friends. Go figure. Getting together for a game gets us all together. I appreciate that, now more than ever. Life has gotten busy, and it helps to have an event on the calendar, an excuse to see each other.

I’ve talked about why I game at length with my friends. What about you? What brings you to the table?

Mutants Are People Too: D&D Gamma World

Years ago, my friend Nick came into the room all excited, holding a copy of Polyhedron. He flipped the magazine open and told us about Omega World, a post-apocalyptic roleplaying system where you randomly generated your character, and would probably die really quickly.

We played, and it was hilarious.

Wizards of the Coast did a very smart thing by releasing the D&D Gamma World box set. You get the same wonderful randomness of the original Omega World supplement, only amped up.

The story goes that the Large Hadron Collider finally worked, and when it did, it collapsed the multiverse. Now, facets of a bazillion dimensions are smashed together in our own, resulting in a bizarre, fluctuating reality that your characters call home.

In ends up very much like Max Max plus Ninja Turtles.

You roll dice to determine your powers, stats, and even equipment. You can then pick what size weapon and armor you get, then – the best part – what it is. For example, I took a one-handed light melee weapon, and decided it was half of a pair of pruning shears. I also chose heavy armor, which I determined was made fr0m a melted car hood.

My character – randomly generated – had very similar psychic abilities to my friend Cody’s character, so we decided we were twins. We palled around with a highly radioactive fellow who shot lasers from his eyes, fighting mutant pig-men and monsters from the wasteland.

Just before I had to go, a couple of our other friends showed up, and we made them characters. They ended up with a giant electric bear and a sentient swarm of clams.

Gamma World is delightfully silly sci-fi fun. As Nick observed, it’s made for the kind of roleplaying you started with, if you were anything like my group: goofy, violent slapstick. It’s a great excuse to kick back with some friends and play out some improv comedy.

The rules system is based on D&D 4th Edition, which I’m not as familiar with. Even so, everything from character generation to combat is easy to pick up, once you figure out the math for all your bonuses. Is it just me, or are there more numbers to add together than in 3.5/Pathfinder?

Many thanks to Nick for running the game. Can’t wait until the next one.

On Pretending to be Evil

Distant Silence is a bad, bad man. And so are his friends.

A Deathknight in the service of the First and Forsaken Lion, he was ordered to overthrow and corrupt one of the great cities of the world. He gladly accepted the mission.

He groomed an elderly couple of  miners to lead a revolution against their oppressors. He then quietly assassinated them, blamed their deaths on the local government, and whipped the rest of the miners into a bloodthirsty mob.

He kidnapped people for his co-conspirators to turn into undead monsters. Or just to eat.

He’s a roleplaying character. Played by me.

I debated with myself when my friend offered me a spot in the game. We’d be playing as Abyssal Exalted — arguably the worst kind of people in the Exalted setting. They’re beings with a corrupted essence. Evil by nature, driven to destroy Creation. Not for pastors, right?

I decided to play for a few reasons.

One, I have a clear boundary in my head between fantasy and reality. I can play a character with horrid motivations without living vicariously through him. Side note: if it’s hard for you to separate yourself from your character, it’s probably a bad idea for you to play an evil character.

There’s a certain comedy to fake evil. We can laugh at how awful pretend people are, especially when it’s ridiculously over-the-top (as it was in this game). I can’t laugh like that at the real thing. My conscience was paying attention to this game, but wasn’t offended at the idea.

Snidely Whiplash vs. Stalin and Hitler

Above: Bad guys and their moustaches

Two, I hadn’t spent much time with that group of friends in far too long. Mind you, if it weren’t for reason one, this reason wouldn’t be valid.

Third, I wanted to try something. It’s easy to think of an evil character as a cackling madman, bent on doing every bad thing he can think of doing. Burn down the orphanage. Kick a puppy. Have a light snack, then overthrow the government. Mwahahaha.

I wanted to try a more realistic route. I wanted to demonstrate how evil actually works.

So, I tried to play Distant Silence thus: I had him operate solely on his own agenda. I never let him question the morality of his choices; I didn’t let him care.

If he appeared humble and loyal, it was to avoid punishment. If he appeared self-sacrificing, it was because it suited his desires. And if he told the truth, it was only because lying would be less convenient.

I think it worked.

As I think about it, one of my real struggles slipped into the character. Distant Silence loved proving he was better than someone else. He did it by manipulating them. I often do it with scorn.

The difference between him and me is that I’m fighting that pride. He revels in it. I pray it will always be so.

Gamers, do you ever play evil characters? How do you play them? Do you ever stray across that line between fantasy and reality?

Gamers and non-gamers alike, what do you think of my take on portraying evil?