RPGs in the Grunky Cyberspace

"The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits." - G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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Truth is not always historical, but it is always a story

If there's one element that I can highlight as central to my philosophical view of the world is that everything is a story, some are told about our world (the "primary" world), others are told to us but happen in the "secondary" world (which we often call the "imaginary world"), but it's not about unreal things, but about things that happen in a reality with a minor "ontological grandeur", because they do not have the same subsistence as our reality because we do not think of them all the time and do not have the ability to give them a life independent of us (they exist while we think of them but their characters do not think for themselves, only through us). Tolkien partially explained already how this relation works, for he created from what he was created, from the capacity given by the Creator himself (He who is the Lord of Time and Space and who constantly sustains reality with his Will, because He is always thinking of us). So God is the great storyteller, who tells the story of the world, but different from a book/film that was pre-produced and by reading/watching no matter how many times you come back and pass it again it's always the same, God created the world with beings capable of creating and living independently of Him (like the example of the theater actor playing his own role I described on the homepage). I used the expression "ontological grandeur" to differentiate the primary world from the secondary, this is an idea of St. Alselm of Canterbury, that closely resembles the fourth way of St. Thomas Aquino to prove the existence of God, and Tolkien knew this idea because it was one of his sources as a Catholic.

In no way this should be considered an attack on historical science, on the contrary, it is a complement to mere historical facts about truths that they cannot say for themselves, because most of the time the information we have is fragmented and dependent on the narrator's understanding, just as assuming an agnostic position only says that the person lives by the principle of not thinking, because dogma is a starting point for any thought, some simply chose to refuse to choose a starting point, which kills the activity of thinking. At some point I need to trust that a starting point will take me to an arrival point(a conclusion), and from there follows the movement of life in which we tell our story by living this story. It's not for nothing that the Church understands the family as a "chain of generations" (it's not an exact term, but the idea is that we all participate in this history of humanity united by the family ties that are formed within this which must be a community of love, mirrored in the very image of the Trinity) in which only the family nucleus is described as "father, mother and children".

RPG and the personalization of the story

Humanity always had artistic representations of human life, from cave paintings, through the theaters of antiquity, medieval tropes, cinema, to more modern electronic games (which are increasingly immersive), as well as literature, music and other forms of art from all eras. The imaginative exercise has always been part of human life and some even claim that it's part of the ability to create empathy, because many stories allow us to put ourselves in other people's shoes and experience things that would otherwise be impossible (or too risky) or that it's a way to create social connections from the same symbolic source (like making friends by common interests). We share this creative nature and can create connections with people, expressing our own personality and coming into contact with the personality of others, touching everything that is common and at the same time discovering that there are unique things in each one. Introverted people know how difficult it can be to create deeper bonds with someone, or to create any bond (depending on the case), because relationships takes a lot of work, and work says a lot about personality because it shows how we face situations of life that require an attitude from us, sometimes without much possibility of making a long discernment or when it's about no going back decisions.

Although we are in an era that our ways of telling stories are considered (and generally used) only as entertainment, I believe that when someone engages in a task that is not their duty the person manages to make it really personal. Given the video games that arrive ready for us to play, where we only experience the stories that are told there (more or less accurately, since there are games with different choices and open world features), a person that chooses to play a game like the table top RPG (Role Playing Game) is often misinterpreted exactly because it is a commitment made, together with other people, to live a story shared between their characters (which requires a lot of time and dedication, that's why it's not "just a game"). Even if we resort to official materials (with a ready to use story) it will be unique for each group of friends and adventurers who dare to go through it, and like many things in life, after we go through certain events they change us (for better or worse). But the point is that imagination serves as a guide, not only in the symbolic sense, it actually teaches something real when used wisely, and a personal commitment in the world of imagination can make us better people in the real world.

I've always liked RPGs and i've had contact with some systems (D&D, Vampire, Call of Ctulhu...) in addition to RPGs for computers and consoles, I know that there are many "homebrew systems" (adaptations of official systems or even systems created without the help of another system, although they may have inspirations), and I also know that there are many attempts to adapt games to have their content more focused on explicitly Christian themes (such as the "Bible Games", for example). Generally these adaptations do not bring an educational entertainment or a healthy fun, they end up becoming only games with a very poor quality, although their content is based on the Word of God (or the 3 pillars of Revelation: Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium), there are millions of questionable and condemnable things on them, from graphic design, through programming errors that can make the game unplayable, or even completely losing the sense of being a game or to meet the proposed goal (a great challenge for developers who want to evangelize in this environment).

Catholic RPG: Christendom

Since playing a character in a story messes with our own story, I believe it is possible to make this relationship between the RPG and real life, maybe I have my difficulties of social interaction and can learn more playing, maybe I have difficulties in living certain virtues, in having courage in certain situations, but if I go through this "training" of imagination, I can learn to replicate it in my own life. It's not about living in the fantasy world, but recognizing how fantastic the real world is in itself, even if I don't talk to an elf, I can find someone who reminds me of one, even if i don't cast a spell to defend an ally from a demonic attack, I can cast a friendly word to someone who is facing their inner demons, if it's possible to do evil with my character, it's because I recognize that I'm able to do also in real life and so I can humbly avoid that evil, and also recognize the one who did a real evil is someone who can also do a real good (but perhaps he lacked the imagination for this possibility).

I met a priest who developed an initial idea for an RPG adaptation with an explicitly Christian theme (certainly not the first attempt in the world, but it was the first one I met), because he also had a great passion for RPG and saw it as an opportunity for evangelization, that's how I met Christendom (this is the original name, but it may change). It delighted me, and I decided I wanted to develop more from what he had started, so I went on to review the system that was simple at first (the approach was for people who had no contact with any RPG) and started making my own adaptations, but without excluding anything he had done. This is still an early stage project, with the need to go through many changes and balances, I also discovered other adaptations of RPG with explicitly Christian theme, from which I have learned some interesting things. Possibly I may need to keep 2 different versions, one with the most simplified rules without making too many changes to keep the game accessible to beginners in RPG, and one with all the extra content I've been developing for those who like and want to devote themselves to more complex systems.