Saturday, 15 February 2014

Roleplaying Games as Theological Analogy (Part 3)

I wasn’t actually planning on there being a third part of this series, but based on recent events, I’ve decided to add an extra little bit.  I should hasten to say that this makes use of a very similar analogy to one used by CS Lewis, but I think illustrates the point better.

I am running a game for some friends from university, done over the internet and playing by text on a private internet chatroom.  This game has been going now for about five years, with a couple of longish breaks.  Several player characters have been killed along the way, until only 2 of the original 5 who started the campaign were still alive, although other characters had joined to replace those who had fallen (played by the same players).

This week, one of these two survivors finally fell, but not in a particularly satisfactory way.  The player had some stuff going on at home that meant that his attention was only intermittently on the game, and so I was controlling his character, and making his dice rolls when he couldn’t come to the computer.  The characters had got into a fight, and the character in question was badly injured, and quickly bled to death.  The player returned to the computer to find that the character he’s been playing for the last 5 years had died in his absence, something that I felt badly about, and so I offered him the option of me using my GMly omnipotence to undo events, and say that his character had survived after all.

However, the player was happy to go along with whatever I decided, and so I erred on letting events run their course, with the result that the player is now taking over control of a recurring NPC.

Now, I could have reached into my created world, and worked a Lazarene miracle, indeed not only bringing a dead character back to life but making it so that they had never died in the first place.  The only reason I even considered this was due to the unusual circumstances involved.  I’m glad that the player didn’t insist that I bring his character back to life, not that I expected him to, because once you break the laws of a universe once, it becomes easier and easier to do so, and for worse and worse reasons.  Other players start complaining if one person is seen to be immune to the universal laws that they are bound by.

Nonetheless, miracles can and do occur, but only very occasionally, and we do indeed hear people complaining that only certain people seem to get miracles.  “Why doesn’t God heal the amputees?” is a common (albeit often somewhat mocking) question.  I think the game illustrates this very well.  After all, if The Great GM in the Sky reached into this created world and broke the game rules frequently, then not only would they not be miracles, but they would not be rules.   The game would break down completely and that would be no fun at all, either for the players, or for the GM.

Sometimes it’s best not to insist on receiving miracles when things go badly wrong, but simply to accept the decision of the GM and play with what you have.  Although the character within the created world may not see it as such, ultimately the player knows that it is the best thing, both for themselves, for the other players, and for the Game itself.

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