15 August, 2009

Roleplaying is of the Devil

I grew up in a strong Christian household, my dad worked for the Anglican church for many years...especially during my formative years when I was in school. Our family had many friends who were church-going families, our regular social outlet was sundays at Church, friday nights at Bible study and I was encouraged to go to the church youth group when I was in my mid-teens.

For several years I even attended Christian schools.

When Bible study nights were being held at the house of a friend's family, I was introduced to the Palladium game "TMNT and Other Strangeness", I was in my mid-teens at the time. It was roleplaying, but it wasn't that satanic game "Dungeons and Dragons", so my friends parents had allowed it into the house. There was even a saturday morning cartoon about these strange mutant animals and their adventures, so we could just tell our parents that we were playing make believe in the cartoon world.

Our parents thought that it was a bit immature, but those nights of three hours sessions with a single player and a single GM became one of the core formative experiences of my roleplaying life. Wr could get away from the everyday boring world and become ninja cats, shotgun wielding horses, cigarette smoking camels, or whatever other stereotypes we wanted to purge from our psyche through intensely character driven play, and some cathartic violence.

I probably would have done the same thing a few years earlier in my life, using action figures and smashing together toy cars...but my parents weren't fond of these toys either. Writing stories or drawing up plans for games could be masqueraded as homework, so it was a subversive little endeavour that became my major creative outlet. After a couple of years playing these games, other members of my social groups also started playing RPGs, and thus my hobby was validated. Years of prewritten adventures were collated and sorted. The good ones were played out, the poor ones were filed away and reworked until they met a level of expectation that I had determined.

My parents occasionally praised my creativity, my drawing skills, my way with words...meanwhile, my friends parents read an article about the dangers of roleplaying, and had heard inflammatory rumours from other members of the church (...the typical stuff that many close-minded christians feel about the topic of role-playing and that "satanic game Dungeons and Dragons"). Reminiscent of the nazis, my friends parents purged his room of all roleplaying books and sacrificed them on a fire. Perhaps if they had really considered the symbology of their actions, they might have treated the situation differently.

Burning the physical objects merely embedded the notion of their ideas more strongly into our minds. My friend's siblings had let slip that the raid was on its way, he smuggled out a few of his prized books and hid them in a bag under a neighbours house. The contraband was transported across town to my place, and many of those surviving books have become prized possessions (even if only for their personal nostalgia value), a first edition "Cyberpunk", some early Palladium, some early edition "White Dwarf" magazines from the days when Games Workshop still advertised other company's products.

In my mind, roleplaying was now a truly subversive activity. It was a way of rebelling against "moral and upright christian values", we didn't mention the devil in our games, we didn't know why it could have been considered such an evil pursuit....but it obviously was.

Thinking back on it, and having studied a bit of religious history (from various cultures), I can now see that most religious power structures gain their strength from a narrow unified belief system. Any attempt to think beyond the core creed is labelled as "heresy", and those who practice such a pattern of thought are proclaimed heretics, witches, "antichrists" or similar such terms (depending on the religions making the claims).

Roleplaying helps someone to take on an alternative persona, it allows people to think outside their narrow confines. This is anathema to a power structure that thrives on narrow mindedness. My ideas are reinforced by the antics of Jack Chick with his propaganda pamphlets, or sacrificial burning of roleplaying books.

I guess the stories that Mark Rein*Hagan (one of the original authors of the game Ars Magica and the creator of White Wolf's World of Darkness) had a father who was a preacher, were kind of comforting. Here was a pair of games using magicians and vampires as heroes and protagonists, written by someone who probably had a very similar upbringing.



Now that I've gotten a bit of history out of my system...

I've just found Empire of Satanis and Satanis Unbound Lulu. I found them while looking up paranormal and occult photography on a google images search.

Why would I be looking up such things if my belief structure says that roleplaying isn't inherently evil?

If you really need to ask that question then you're mind is too narrow for my answer to have any relevance to you. If your mind is open enough to realise that roleplaying can encompass anything and everything, and if you are willing to accept that anything can teach us useful lessons, then you won't need to ask that question in the first place.

...but enough rhetoric...

I'm fascinated by a game that seems to have been written purely to get the evil and debauchery out of one's system. OK, it's not so much a game, it's more of a setting addendum for an existing game (and has been written in such a way that it can be added to many other games with a little modification).

The game delves into the mythos of Lovecraft, Satanism and the very nature of evil. The players take on the role of demons, unbound by the mere morality of mortals. It doesn't try to be the game for everyone, and a lot of people won't like it, but I admire the author for being upfront about this.

Players are encouraged to let out their evil through this game, perhaps using it as a release valve to prevent them from commiting atrocities in real life, perhaps using it as a practising ground. There are no moral decisions to make regarding the comparison of game events and real world events...what happens in one is distinct from the other. Personally I think it could be dangerous to play a game like this as a Lve-Action event, but that might just be my residual Christian ethics in the back of my mind (...yeah, yeah...I know...this is probably a bit hypocritical coming from a person who spent over a grand hiring a pair of strippers for a Live-Action roleplaying game about inhumane freedom-worshipping vampires).

I certainly wouldn't advertise this game to anti-RPG Christian firebrands...
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