Archive for the Philosophy Category

Knights of The Hidden Sun January 2013 Update – Reverence To The Lady In Black

Posted in Game Design, Knights of the Hidden Sun, Philosophy, Publishing, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on January 12, 2013 by Chall

Given Christmas/New Years I didn’t get too much done on KoTHS. That being said there was some progress.

Giving Reverence Where Reverence Is Due

In my November 2012 update I stated I needed to ‘tweak the Knights chapter. The current one is a little disjointed so a cleaning up and clarifying is in order. This will take a moderate amount of work.’ This is no longer the case.

The lion’s share of KoTHS background is written in IC. The first four chapters are nothing but history, news, personal experiences and advertisements from the game world. I found this cut down on dryness and made KoTHS hella fun to write.

The Knights Chapter was written as senior Knights handing down history and tradition to new recruits. I wrote it in a casual tone.

When Malcolm developed it, he changed the tone. The Knights became less casual and more reverent to their cause and Goddess. This irked me on first reading so I made a note to fix it. I reread the chapter again over the holidays and decided to leave it as is, here’s why;

My first rpg character was a 2nd Edition AD&D Cleric named Thohammer Folly. I chose a cleric because I wanted to A) kick ass and B) cast spells. I actually rolled a non-cheating 18 for one of his stats and I put that into Strength rather than Wisdom, because ass-kicking was Thohammer’s top priority, spells taking second place. As for exploring what it meant to be a disciple of Tamora, such a thing wasn’t even on my radar.

In my experience that’s how Clerics are played. They’re ass-kicker, healers and spell-slingers who give lip service to a deity.  The closest to displaying reverence these worshipers get is calling out the name of their God before smiting an Orc or sanctifying an area so pesky undead don’t rise. Some players don’t even pick a deity, they worship Lord Generic of the Coin and Hammer.

You know what? That’s is absolutely fine. My friends and I have had much fun running clerics in this fashion.

That being said, over time I found that I wanted to explore aspects of faith in my rpgs.

  • Why did my character choose his religion?
  • What’s her stance on her church’s dogma?
  • How does this faith manifest?
  • Is his Deity infallible?

So I wrote up  doctrine for each Cleric and occasionally  got into theological arguments with other PCs. Still, despite this, my Clerics never met their deities or even walked into one of their temples. There were no holy quests, no one seeking guidance, no machinations within the faith. The focus of these games were always killing monsters and treasure hunting.

Still fun but I wanted more.

I’d like to clarify this isn’t the material’s fault. I primarily played Forgotten Realms which has a TON of information on in game religions and cultures. I don’t think it was the fault of my DMs either; while I tried to throw in a rich, theological tapestries, I only did so IC and did not run any of these ideas past the people running the games.

Back to Hidden Sun. In Hidden Sun you play a Knight who serves a Goddess; the Lady In Black. The pact you’ve made involves trust as opposed to dogma, you can use her gifts for anything you want but your soul goes to her when you die. Both sides trust each other to do the right thing.

While this relationship is casual the major conflict in Hidden Sun stems from this Goddess acting against her brother, the God of War. Also, I specifically mention that meeting the Goddess is a BIG event that changes a character forever AND the Goddess, this ancient being of wisdom and power, regularly visits her followers throughout their lives.

So OF COURSE the Knights would speak about their faith and cause with reverence. Having contact with one who existed at the creation of the universe is something to be reverent about. Malcolm simply picked up on this and changed the Knights chapter to match.

This doesn’t mean all PCs in Hidden Sun are zealots. The Goddess demands nothing, not even worship, one can even have grown hate her and she’ll still lend her strength. What it does mean is that the GM is encouraged to make her important; to throw at the feet of the PCs Gnostic quests, audiences with higher powers and crises of faith. All the things I had hoped for long ago.

Hence I’m not changing a thing with the Knights Chapter.

That being said if your group just wants to run Hidden Sun as ass-kickers with divine powers, please feel free to do so; it can be most fun.

The Headaches of Star Travel

From an OOC prospective getting from planet A to planet B in Hidden Sun is easy: The GM says ‘It takes x amount of time, now onward to more interesting stuff.’ There’s no botching a navigation roll and having your ship collide with a rogue star. Granted, such things would happen in any Sci Fi/Fantasy universe but, at least as a player, I find such things annoying so didn’t include the possibility in my game.

That being said I needed to describe, in IC, how interstellar travel works. In Hidden Sun space travel is chaotic and hard to describe therefore Malcolm left it as a hurdle to tackle later. I’ve ended up tackling it.

Long story short I added a page and a half on Jump Gate theory and travel time to Chapter Three. I’ve tried to keep it short and descriptive so folks know how gate travel works, what it looks, sounds and feels like and how long it will take to get to the major worlds. I don’t think it drags on but the proof will be in the pudding when you lovely folks buy the book. 🙂

What’s Next?

I’m going to meld my character creation tweeks and further playtesting discoveries in the rules and GM chapters. After this it’s just some minor double-checks, one more read through, and it’s off to the editor.

Wish me luck.

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Inquisition the Torturing

Posted in Philosophy, Roleplaying Games, RPG with tags on February 16, 2011 by Chall

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in most of the games I’ve played.

Here’s the drill; the PCs are in a pitched battle, killing off baddies like Han Solo at a storm trooper convention, when a mook gets KOed or maimed rather than murdalized. One PC shouts “Keep him alive, we’ll need to question him!” and the party acquiesces.

After combat the miscreant is bound, awake and ready to be interrogated. At this stage, in practically every group I’ve ever played with, the PCs break out the knives. It doesn’t matter the system, the setting or the characters, the first tool the party uses to get information from every enemy combatant is torture. That’s right, even in Care Bears the Caring Tender Heart will heat up the branding iron in order to make Beasly squeal.

Kill the wabbit indeed.

I don’t want to blame the players for these shenanigans. I want to believe we do this because the rules encourage us to do so.

Nope.

Well at least not in a quick D20 search.There are bonueses for being bigger than your enemy and that’s about it.

Also, intimidation is based off charisma so even with the Muppet dog this man is damn terrifying.

It does not appear then that Big RPG is trying to vindicate the Bush/Cheney years.

Still it’s odd. I’ve played games with Paladins in the group and they don’t bat an eye when their fellow PCs start competing to see who can be the best ‘Dr. Pain’.

What’s really weird is that even players who are strongly against such tactics in real life will let their characters become ‘Jack Bauer’ when these situations pop up.

Why?

I believe the answer is popular fiction. The GURPS crowd will hate me for this but RPGs simulate fiction; nearly every piece of fiction depicts torture as a valid way to get information. Whenever someone is on the rack they will tell the truth, always, at least in popular media.

In some cases this isn’t so horrifying. After all if you’re playing 24, 007 or Jason Bounre the RPG then this convention is expected. Also, I suppose if your group believes that sometimes ‘enhanced interrogation’ is necessary then this can work.

In some realities this man is mentally stable.

However, if you’re as horrified about this as I am I’d recommend taking a more complex approach to interrogation. While torture may work on the cowardly and stupid (in which case just the threat of it will get results) on everyone else will make it harder to get to the truth. The NPC (gawd I hope you’re not doing this to a PC) will get a bonus because he’s very motivated to tell you a story he believes you want to hear, this will, more than likely, not be the truth.

Thanks for listening to my diatribe.

Carry on.

Note: First picture in this blog was by nome63 at Worth1000.com

The Alignment Game — Lawful Good: Wong Fie Hung as Seen In Once Upon a Time In China

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Philosophy, Roleplaying Games, RPG, The Alignment Game with tags on January 1, 2011 by Chall

The “Once Upon a Time In China” part is important. According to Wikipedia: “Wong Fei-hung (July 9, 1847-May 24, 1924)[2] was a Chinese martial artist, a traditional Chinese medicine physician, acupuncturist and revolutionary . . . ” a revolutionary does not a lawful person make. However, Jet Li’s rendition of him in Once Upon a Time In China paints Wong Fie Hung as a man who is a righteous defender of order; in my opinion he’s ‘the Chinese answer to Captain America.’

We need to go back in time and freeze this man in ice so he can battle Dr. Doom

The Lawful Part

In Once Upon a Time In China Wong Fie Hung, a doctor of both medicine and the exquisite art of kicking your ass, is entrusted to train the young men of his city how to fight off the greedy foreign devils. Being a glowing beacon of everything that is good Wong Fie Hung agrees. However, the evil Shaho gang and the foreigners are up to shenanigans. They cause shit, Wong Fie Hung has to put it down. In the process there is a slight altercation with the guards. When the Governor has Wong Fie Hung arrested his followers ask him not to go. He glances at them like their idiots and declares something along the lines of “China is a land of laws!” and lets himself get arrested.

Later, while he’s in jail, he’s told the woman loves is about to be sold as a sex slave to the Americans.

Now at this point even Superman would be like:

Fuck this shit.

Not Wong Fie Hung. He stayed put; it sucked but it’s the law and there is no “Wong Fie Hung” in the word hypocrite. At this stage the guards decided to let him go because the vileness of the sex slave trade outweighed the slim benefits of keeping a paragon of justice in jail.

The Good Part

Wong Fie Hung’s primary motivation is the people. His fellow countrymen first but anyone else who’s not a douche a close second. If hungry Wong Fie Hung will feed you, if wounded Wong Fie Hung will heal you, if being chased by Cobra he’ll open up some old school kung fu on the terrorists. He won’t charge either. Well maybe his usual doctor’s fee but if you can’t afford it something can be worked out.

In Closing

IMO Wong Fie Hung, as played by Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China, is a Lawful Good avatar. He’s bound by a strict code of justice and he’ll lend a hand to anyone in trouble. Furthermore he’s humble about it. He’s no arrogant paladin. He’s great due to virtue and skill and this needs no promotion. He doesn’t need to say he’s THE Good Guy, people just figure it out thanks to his manner and actions.

That and he has a totally awesome theme song.

The Alignment Game Introduction

Posted in Dungeons and Dragons, Philosophy, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Satire, The Alignment Game with tags on November 23, 2010 by Chall

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition was a BIG part of my childhood. From grade school to high school it was the RPG of choice period. Some weirdos, like me, dabbled in GURPS and West End’s Star Wars but all the hard core, Salt of the Earth, gamers played AD&D or Shadowrun and that was that.

You know. . .come to think of it, I’m playing in two 3rd Ed. games and a Pathfinder Game and nothing else right now so I suppose things haven’t changed.

Huh.

Going to have to shake things up with Knights of the Hidden Sun.

Anyways. . . I’m dedicating a series of posts to this game I have loved and do love so much. I call these posts the Alignment Game.

All incarnations of D&D I’m familiar with make use of Alignments. The purpose of an Alignment is to tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys. This is important in a game about Epic Fantasy. After all you need to know who is worthy to wield the holy sword and who will be the go-to guy of the Dark Lord Amuck. Alignments are also a handy tool for crafting pre-made adventures. It’s nice know before hand that the PCs will want to save the orphanage rather than burn it down for shits and giggles.

An Alignment places a character on a point between Law and Chaos and Good and Evil.

Lawful Characters: Respect order and follow the rules. They stand against Chaos.

Chaotic Characters: Respect change and freedom. They stand against Order.

Good Characters: Hold others as more important than themselves. They stand against Evil.

Evil Characters: Are supremely selfish. They stand against Good.

Neutral Characters: Balance these extremes.

Every D&D character has two of the above elements which means the possible Alignments are: Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Evil. This Alignment dictates how a character acts and how certain magics affect them. There are some spells that protect exclusively against evil characters. There are some weapons that do good characters harm. There are some places that inflict pain to chaotic types, there are others that will drive a lawful person insane.

The beautiful problem about this is there are may differing views on how alignments should work. Some say a Lawful Good character can’t jay-walk to save a damsel form getting run over by a maniticore. Others say that a True Neutral type will not pick his nose for fear of disturbing the cosmic balance. Others say a Chaotic Evil character must eat a puppy a day to be true to himself. The risk of course is if a character falls out of his Alignment his player will be teased by his friends for not being a good roleplayer and/or have his character lose a level or two due to ‘moral dilemma’.

These are serious problems but don’t worry, in this series of posts I will enlighten you with pure examples of characters from every type of Alignment. Read this and become wise. It goes without saying that my word outweighs that of even the creators of the D&D realm (Ed. Greenwood you’re not reading this are you?) for. . .

I AM CHALL!!!

 

 

Note: I am not being 100% serious for this series of posts so please don’t flame me bro.

Knights of the Hidden Sun Souls of Our Ancestors Episode 3

Posted in Knights of the Hidden Sun, Philosophy, Radio Show, Roleplaying Games, RPG with tags , , , on October 25, 2010 by Chall

Here it is.

In this Episode Rixel makes a deal with a Golem and his two cronies to find the soul of their ancestor which is lost somewhere on Croe’s surface. In return they will give Rixel a ride on their starship so she can eventually confront Director Smythe.

This Episode deals strongly with Crow’s Nail at its conclusion. This brings to mind something I find odd about RPGs in general:

Often our characters are defined by their equipment: A particular class combo isn’t as good without that key magic item, a street samurai is the sum of his cyberware, in MMORPGs finding the right gear will drive folks to play the same adventure over and over again until they get that oh so juicy drop.

This bothers me.

I know King Arther and Excalibur are linked, I understand that the Thor’s hammer is a big part of him and Luke Skywalker wouldn’t be the same without his lightsaber but come on, these characters are more than their items. Arther had to be worthy to draw the sword, Thor is the only one who can wield his hammer, Luke’s lightsaber will do him no good in that cave.

Then again, we live in a material world and all that rot. Perhaps we’ll be defined by our iPods but I hope not.

Why Tao?

Posted in Philosophy on July 5, 2010 by Chall

I had a good Catholic upbringing.

There is no sarcasm in the good part, I am very satisfied with the way I was brought up.

I attended the most liberal Catholic high school in the Universe: We had a comparative religion class. The students went on strike so they wouldn’t have to wear uniforms and the facility listened because it was a good exercise in social studies. A roleplaying club was allowed. We had speakers forums that at one point featured  Sin Fien and the Ulster Unionist Party (No, they didn’t show up at the same time). Our history teacher read from such works as the Egyptian Books of the Dead.

For the unaware we were also taught good science and even (gasp) evolution. In fact we viewed much of the Bible as metaphor. However, the existence of Christ and his miracles were taught as fact. We also had daily prayer, spiritual assemblies and even religious retreats.

Given this I thought I had a pretty wide world view, in University I discovered I was WRONG.

It was here I met my very first atheists. I was shocked. I had never met anyone, ANYONE who doubted the existance of God. Sure I knew some who simply knew God under another name but the very concept of a godless cosmos scared me to death. I also met my first Evangelical Christians. I had never met anyone, ANYONE who took every single word of the Bible as the literal truth. This scared me as well.

My classes also joyfully ripped open my world view: I learned about Zorasterism, the Greek classics, Berkly, Blake, ratoionalism, romantasisim and so on and so on. My ego curled into a little ball and cried.

Then I found Taoism.

It was not a screaming philosophy. It was philosophy that stat beside my exhausted spirit and said ‘Hey kid, take a drink.’ I devoured the Tao Te Ching in one night.

What I liked about it:

  • The idea that anyone, ANYONE who brags they know all about Taoism knows nothing at all. Here was a belief that encouraged silence, contemplation and did not punish mistakes.  Being a fool was perfectly fine. In fact it was better than being a blabbermouth who believes he isn’t a fool.
  • The idea that the world is good. This can be illustrated by the painting of the Vinegar Tasters. Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tzu are tasting the vinegar of life. Confucius has a sour look on his face, Buddha has a bitter look on his face, Lao Tzu (the founder of Taoism) has a pleasant smile. This affirmed a secret inkling of mine; the World is awesome, God does not make crap (well he does make crap but it’s okay cause the crap’s supposed to be there).
  • Oneness with God is inside the soul and there’s no need for fancy words, esoteric practices or world travel. It does take effort. A little effort but constant. Sort of like walking down a beech and leaving your footprints in the sand.

Taoism gave me the grounding I needed and I was able to get into the ‘real world’ with my spirituality intact. In fact to this day Lao Tzu’s teachings still color how I think and act (to a degree, I’m not a very good Taoist). Does that mean I’ve given up my Catholic Faith? Well I don’t go to Church but I still pray to God in the way I used too. I still hold Christmas and Easter as holy. I still believe my father (both spiritual and natural)  is in Heaven.  I just take everything else in a yin yang perspective.

I ‘m richer for it.