A Simple Mathematical Model

Cover for The Minstrel's Song

After having made an exquisitely complex mathematical model, I am trying to make something simple that will take a back seat to role play, and not confuse new players. It is modelled after White Wolf, and in another sense after the computer language Smalltalk; I am trying to make a rule sheet that is very short and sweet.

In this model, you have four attributes: Physical, Mental, Social, and Other. Each of those attributes is rated 1 to 5: 1 is below average, 2 is normal, 3 is typical for adventurers, and 5 is highest possible. The value of these attributes is determined by you and the game master, at whatever most appropriately represents your character. The Other attribute is one you specify: could be charisma, or understanding of other people, or dexterity, or knowledge. It should be chosen in an area that tells more about your character than just Physical, Mental, and Social would have. You also have skills/abilities, each rated at between 0 and 5; skills can be anything appropriate; a suggested list is as follows:

Acrobatics/Tumbling, Acting, Animal Handling, Animal Training, Anatomy, Anthropology, Appraisal, Artistic Ability, Attack, Balance, Biology, Blacksmith, Blind Action, Bowyer/Fletcher, Brewing, Building, Carving, Carpentry, Catch, Ceremonies, Charioteering, Chemistry, Climbing, Clockwork Device Craftsmanship/Engineering, Cobbling, Cooking, Cold Tolerance, Cultures, Dancing, Dodge, Endurance, Engineering, Etiquette, Farmer, Fencing, Fire-Building, Fisher, Gambling, Gardening, Geography, Guess Actions, Haggling, Hear Noises, Heat Tolerance, Heraldry, Herbalism, Hide, History, Hunting, Illusionism, Improvisation, Incense, Janra-Ball, Jewelry, Juggling, Jumping, Jury-Rigging, Languages, Leadership, Leatherworking, Literature, Mapmaking, Massage, Mathematics, Mediation, Medicine, Mining, Move, Musical Composition, Musical Instruments, Navigation, Open Locks, Persuasion, Philosophy, Physics, Poetry, Pole Vaulting, Pottery, Public Speaking, Pyrotechnics, Reading/Writing, Read Emotion, Repair, Riding, Rope Handling, Sailing, Search, Shouting, Singing, Smell Creature, Sports, Stonemasonry, Storytelling, Strategy Games, Swimming, Symbolic Lore, Tactics, Tailoring, Technology, Technology, Theology, Throw, Tightrope Walking, Tracking, Trivia, Ventriloquism, Weather Sense, Weaving, Wilderness Survival, Withdrawing, Woodlore, Wrestling

You start with a total of 10 points to distribute between all your skills; you will earn from 1 to 3 experience points between sessions, depending on how well you role play. It takes 1 experience point to raise a skill from 0 to 1 points, 2 experience points to raise a skill from 1 to 2 points, and so on, 5 points being necessary to raise a skill from 4 to 5 points.

When you attempt to do something, the game master will assess a difficulty level from 1 (easiest) up to 10 (most difficult). You will add up the relevant attribute plus skill level (-1 if you have no skill points for that skill), and then add a die roll (divided by 2 and rounded down) to your sum, making your total; the game master will add a die roll (divided by 2 and rounded down) to the difficulty, making the difficulty total. If your total is greater than or equal to the difficulty total, you succeed at the action.

Injury is intentionally left out of this model. It is intended to be role played — if you fall when climbing the wall, the consequence is not that you’re three hit points lower; the consequence is that you’ve got a broken leg. The point of this model is not to govern role play; it is to support it, not representing in full so much as evoking just enough chance to lend uncertainty to events in role play.

Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World Not Touched by Evil

Stephanos

Two Decisive Moments

Player’s Introduction

Cover for The Minstrel's Song

Section I: What is role play?

What is role play?

When you read a book, your imagination transports you to the long ago, the far away, the fantastic. You are there with the characters, listening and feeling with them, watching as the story unfolds.

Role play takes another step. You are still imagining goings on in a fantasy world, but not just as a passive observer: you are an active participant whose actions affect the twists and turns of the story. You aren’t just pretending to be with the great explorer, the brave adventurer, the charming minstrel; you are pretending to be that character, and he does what you decide.

The essential premise is that you have a made up character, with his own personality, likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, skills, abilities, attributes, etc. You are playing that character: you are told what your character sees and hears, what happens around him, and you choose what he does.

Your character is in a party of other player characters; these are companions and fellow adventurers who are working together towards a common goal. There is also a game master, whose role is not so much like that of one character as of the author: to serve as a referee as to events in the external world, telling what happens, what non-player characters do, and so on. (When the party walks into a town and starts looking for a tavern, an inn, a supply shop, etc., I’m the one who tells if/when they find it, who they meet on the street, what the bartender/innkeeper/shopkeeper does, and so on and so forth.)

The character should be a person, an entity, within the game world: a member of one of the seven races (Nor’krin, Tuz, Urvanovestilli, Yedidia, Jec, Shal, Janra). (A part of the character design is that it be from within one of the peoples there: a Nor’krin archer would be far more appropriate than a New York City cop who happens to have the body of a Tuz. (That’s a part of the fun of role play.)) He should also, as well as a race, have a role within the game: an adventuring related profession. (For example, archer.)

What you will do in setting up a character for my game is decide what kind of person you want her to be. To this end, I am furnishing a list of personal questions about her, and a list of skills, attributes, and virtues. In the interest of not intimidating you, let me say that they are given, not to tie you down, but to help you. I don’t expect a 500 word essay in response to every single question; my intention is rather that the questions help you think about your character — that they will spark an “Aha! I want to play a character who …”. Likewise with the skills and attributes — if you don’t need it, you’re more than welcome to play without it.

Section II: What do I need to do to start?

To start playing Hero’s Quest, you need to define a character. After the character is defined, role play can begin.

Here is roughly what should be defined in setting up a character.

  • Personality. Identity. A sense of who the character is. To help define characters, there is a list of questions to that end, and a list of virtues. A personal history is also an important and helpful part of the character’s identity.
  • Race. This is an important part of who the characters are; players should read at least the description of the race that your character is a member of, to understand part of the character’s identity.
  • Role and abilities. What skills the character has; what he can do. The list of roles and the list of skills is intended to help define this part of a character.
  • Attributes: what the character is naturally gifted at, and naturally not so gifted at. An idea of how strong or weak the character is in the listed attributes.
  • Other miscellanea:
    • Physical appearance.
    • Possessions.
    • Name.

Section III: Sample roles

The following roles are samples of what a character might build himself into. They are meant not to be a definitive limit, but illustrative of possibilities. If a particular race is especially appropriate to a role, it will follow the race. (Of course, other races could learn as well; it’s just that the particular races are especially well suited).

When a character’s role/selection of skills is being determined, one dimension worthy of consideration is whether the character will be a generalist or a specialist. On his own, a generalist is likely to be the most effective character; with a party, it is probably more useful to have specialized characters who excel at diverse skills.

The Acrobatic Scout (Janra) If you’re a Janra, you’re an acrobat. The scout in particular can roll down the passages of a cavern and maze, keeping a good sense of how to get out; he can climb walls and trees, pick locks, disappear into the shadows.

The Archer The archer can handle a bow with a virtuoso level of skill. An Urvanovestilli crossbowman has no trouble with parlor tricks such as whipping out a one-handed crossbow and shooting a coin off a child’s ear.

The Bard (Yedidia) The bard knows tunes to soothe the savage beast. He knows legends and lore, the tales of heroes; he has a decent chance of knowing at least a hint about where lost treasures might be. From extensive travel, he knows the lay of the land and pieces of local color, which inns will give you a night’s lodging if you sing for their visitors and which taverns have the best beer. The bard is an excellent storyteller and a master of words; to him, mediation is easy, and he has a most persuasive tongue.

The Hunter (Nor’krin, Tuz) The hunter is good at providing food for a whole party, and a decent woodsman to bat — can track, knows how to handle a bow (Nor’krin) or a dagger (Tuz), and knows the tricks of the wood.

The Interpreter In a world full of different languages and cultures, a party which does not all speak a common language or which is going to go to different lands will benefit immensely from having an interpreter. The interpreter will be a student of the different languages, know enough of etiquette and customs to avoid offense, and likely be a good general party mouthpiece: know how to secure provisions and a night’s roof, how much to haggle for, how to persuade people to do favors…

The Jack-of-All-Trades (Janra) The jack-of-all-trades is a dabbler who knows a little of this, a little of that — what would come in handy for an adventurer. He can track, hunt, smell creatures, move silently, hide, dodge, and handle a bow; he can pick locks, search, climb, use ropes, jump, function tolerably well in the dark… He’s in decent shape; he doesn’t wear out that quickly. He can guess what others are going to do, haggle, and knows a smattering of all the languages. He can survive in the wilderness, build fires, knows first aid, and can repair broken equipment (or at least jury-rig it to work for the moment). None of this he can do spectacularly — he is a jack of all trades and master of none — but he’s pretty good on his own and is likely to be able to do at least tolerably what nobody else in the party knows how to do.

MacGyver ’nuff said.

The Scholar (Urvanovestilli) The scholar is a very literate person who knows a lot about history and geography. He can read and write, and given time can decipher at least some of each language (and is conversant with the different literatures). It is often sages that Nor’krin seek out for advice in fulfilling their quests; they have sharp minds and extensive knowledge, which can help guide any party.

The Wayfarer The wayfarer is somewhat the jack-of-all-trades adventurer, somewhat the interpreter, somewhat the bard… He has travelled to many places and knows the different lands extensively; he’s made friends across races and has a lot of open doors.

The Woodsman (Yedidia) The woodsman knows the secrets of the wood. He knows which plants are edible, can find water without difficulty, knows which animals have passed by and which are nearby, knows a decent bit of mountaineering… He is able to track and hunt, of course, but is more than just that. He can calm animals, and enjoys having them eat out of his hand. He is at peace with the wood, and sees a great deal of beauty in it.

Section IV: The Spirit, and its Gifts

All characters are believers. As such, they have the ear of an omnipotent Father; Christ Jesus dwells in their heart; they possess the Spirit as the structure of obedience and as a power in their lives. Prayer and the motion of the Spirit are to be manifest in play; this is not included in the mathematical model, not because it is not important enough to model, but because it is too big and too important to model. (See model, section III)

The one Spirit that is present gives different gifts to specific believers; Paul, after laying out the teaching of one body whose different parts serve to a higher and necessary unity, writes (I Cor. 12:27-28, NIV):

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

For game purposes, a character (if so desired) may pray, asking for a specific gift or gift(s), which may or may not be given. (If something else is given, the character/player has not been bad or anything like that; it’s just that a different gift has been given.) One, or occasionally two or three gifts should be given. The gift should be appropriate to the character — his whole personality and identity — if there is one which is fitting. Gifts should not necessarily center around what is *useful* to play; it is unbelievably vulgar to think of the Spirit as a power source which is useful to characters. It is fine for not all — for that matter, none — of the characters to have gifts that happen to be useful to play. Gifts may also have different strengths, and/or different frequencies of operation, in different characters.

The gifts mentioned in the Scriptures may be given; other appropriate ones may also be given (for example, the touch given Curdie in _The_Princess_and_ _Curdie_). I’m not sure exactly how to define appropriate, but one obvious point is no imitation magic: no incantations and material components, no items with strange properties. In general, Spirit-given gifts which are consistent with how God has revealed himself in Scripture.

Specific gifts:

  • Administration:
    A Spirit-given leadership ability.Note that it is possible to have natural leadership talents without this gift of the Spirit; like several other gifts, it may not be obvious whether a person is exercising a gift of the Spirit or natural talent. (Some gifts, such as faith and helping others, are Spirit-given strong measures of qualities that all believers should have.)
  • Apostleship:
    Paul stated that he was the last of the apostles, so this gift is different from the others in only applying to a very small group of people at a very specific time. For the sake of simplicity, I will assume that player characters are not apostles.
  • Discernment of Spirits:
    As this gift applies to the discernment between angels and demons, it will not appear in its current form in the game. It will appear, however, as an ability to sense — perhaps even see, in a person in whom the gift is strong — angels.
  • Evangelism:
    A Spirit-given gift to effectively evangelize. This would not appear in a sinless world.
  • Faith:
    Someone with the gift of faith possesses a great measure of faith, and unusually powerful prayers.
  • Healing:
    The Spirit-given power to heal people.
  • Helping Others:
    A special Spirit-given ability and energy to help others, flowing out of an endowment of love.
  • Interpretation of Tongues:
    The Spirit-given ability to interpret what is spoken in tongues.
  • Knowledge:
    This gift appears in two forms.The first is a knowledge of sound doctrine — a gift that is at times not clearly distinguishable from prophecy, preaching, and teaching.

    The second, “logos gnosis” (word of knowledge), is a Spirit-given insight into facts about the external world, about other people’s needs. (This is also not always clearly distinguished from prophecy)

  • Miraculous Powers:
    Look to the Old Testament narratives surrounding Elijah for a picture of a person in whom the gift is strong.
  • Pastors:
    The gift of overseeing and caring for and nurturing the spiritual conditions of others.
  • Preaching:
    The Spirit-given ability to preach the truth in a way that is powerful and shows its relevance to believers’ lives.
  • Prophecy:
    Prophecy, Biblically speaking, is somewhat broader than the contemporary understanding of “Spirit-inspired prediction of the future.”The first and foremost meaning, of chief ecclesiastical importance, is a Spirit-inspired telling of the truth. In this aspect, I am not sure how to clearly distinguish prophecy from preaching and teaching.

    The second part of it is things such as dreams, visions, the voice of the Spirit speaking.

    The specific form the gift of prophecy takes when given to a character will take some form like this.

  • Speaking in Tongues:
    Spirit-given (moment-by-moment) speech in the tongues of men and angels.
  • Teaching:
    The Spirit-given ability to teach and impart the truth.

ONE FINAL NOTE ON THIS POINT: I am placing the Spirit in play, with greatest reverence, as someone too important to leave out. The Spirit is too big and too important to reduce to just another kind of power or just another element of play. Do not do it. Give the Spirit in play a treatment that is nothing short of worship.

I cannot give a rule to make this happen. Walk in the Spirit, and it will give you the power to do so.

Section V: A Sample of Play.

Here is a sample of play. The characters are Kendall Lightfoot, a Janra scout given prophecy, Qualinesti (regional name), an Urvanovestilli scholar given knowledge in the first sense, Pirt, a Jec wayfarer given faith, ‘Limna, a Yedidia interpreter given healing, and Torv, a Tuz hunter given the gift of help. They are currently in a Tuz village on the Urvanovestilli border. As they have been together for a while, they have all studied a common language (specifically Jec), which they have by now learned to speak with a reasonable proficiency.

I would like to emphasize that this is only one of many, many possible kinds of situations.

[…]

Pirt: “What did the riddle say, again?”

Qualinesti: “As tall as a house, as round as a cup; people drink from me without lifting me up.”

Pirt: “Hmm… [pauses in thought for a minute] I wonder if it was talking about a well. Why don’t we split up, search the village for a well, and meet back here in half an hour, and go to the well if we find one?”

Qualinesti, Kendall, ‘Limna, Torv: “Sounds good to me.”

Game Master: In half an hour’s searching, you find that the village has one well, next to the miller’s house. From the looks of it, it has been dry for quite some time. Pirt found, from a brewer, that the village now gets water from a valley about half a mile away.

Kendall: I’m going to climb down the well and search for any signs of anything interesting.

Pirt: “Would you like to borrow my lantern?”

Kendall: “Yes, thank you.”

Game Master: The well is approximately 25 feet deep; after fifteen minutes of climbing and searching, you find that one of the stones has letters chiseled into it in some script, apparently Urvanovestilli, which doesn’t spell out letters that you can read.

Kendall: “Pirt, may I also borrow your rope?”

Pirt: “Certainly.”

Kendall: I’m going to climb up, take the rope, tie a Swami seat on Qualinesti, and body belay him down into the well.

Qualinesti: “Wait a minute. How am I supposed to get back up? I can’t climb the way you can.”

Kendall: “Relax. I can belay you, and if you really can’t climb, I can pull you up. But climbing’s so easy!”

Qualinesti: “I am not a Janra.”

Kendall: I’m going to wink as I say, “We all have our problems.”

Torv: I’m going to pick Kendall up and throw him over my head.

Game Master: Kendall, are you going to try to dodge?

Kendall: Given an opportunity to fly through the air? No way!

Game Master (to himself): Why did I even ask? (to Kendall) Sure enough, you find yourself flying through the air, and land in a couple of somersaults.

Kendall: I’m going to saunter back. (to Qualinesti): “So, how about heading down to read the inscription?”

Qualinesti: Ok, I’ll head down.

Kendall: Once he’s down safely, I’ll climb down as well.

Game Master: After a little while of identifying the script — it comes from some weird dialect — you are able to decipher the message. It reads, “Do the opposite of usual to what is opposite me.”

Kendall: Hmm… no buttons to push this time. I’m going to inspect the stone again.

Game Master: You don’t find anything new.

Qualinesti: Are the stones arranged in any kind of orderly pattern?

Game Master: Yes; as a matter of fact, they are. There are thirty-two in a circle.

Qualinesti: I’m going to see if I can do anything to the opposite stone — especially pull it out.

Game Master: You can’t budge it.

Kendall: I’m going to give it a try.

Game Master: You are able to pull it out one inch, at which point you hear a sound of some kind of stonework moving. After a few seconds, the base of the well beneath you begins to tremble, and slide to the left.

Kendall: I’m going to jump up and shoot my feet out to the sides so that they catch on a foothold, and shoot an arm around Qualinesti’s waist to hold him up.

Torv: I’m going to grab the rope and brace myself so that I can pull up Qualinesti and Kendall, if need be.

Game Master: Ok. (To Qualinesti and Kendall) The stone beneath you slide out to the side, revealing stone steps receding into the darkness.

Kendall: I’m going to shift Qualinesti to my back, and climb down to the stairs, and head down.

Game Master: At the end of the stairwell is a closed door, with twenty buttons and what appears Qualinesti to be a cryptogram. It says, [hands sheet to players]

Up pqfo uif eppxbz, qsftt jo cvuupot uxp, uisff, gjwf, ojof, boe pof npsf cvuupo. Uijt pof npsf cvuupo dpoujouft uif qbuufso.

Qualinesti: [looks at it] “Both ‘uif’ and ‘pof’ are repeated; I’d be willing to guess that one of them is ‘the’. (‘nspf’ and ‘cvuupo’ are repeated, but I don’t know any four or six letter words as probable as ‘the’.) For ‘t’ to go to ‘p’ is back four; ‘h’ going to ‘o’ is forward seven; ‘e’ to ‘f’ is forward one. That doesn’t help us any. ‘t’ to ‘u’ is forward one, ‘i’ to ‘h’ is… T-o o-p-e-n… Got it!

“To open the doorway, press in buttons two, three, five, nine, and one more button. This one more button continues the pattern.

“Hmm. Two plus three is five; five plus three is eight. No, that’s not it. Two plus three is five; two plus three plus five is ten. Now if we could only find a happy medium.”

Pirt: “Two times two minus one is three; two times three minus one is five; two times five minus one is nine. Hey! I think I’ve got it. Who’s for pushing buttons two, three, five, nine, and seventeen?”

Qualinesti: “Hmm, that’s a little complicated. If we add, two plus one is three, three plus two is five, five plus four is nine… it doubles, so nine plus eight is seventeen.”

Kendall: “I think you agree. How about if we try it?”

Others: “Ok.” Game Master: Gears begin to turn, and the door hinges squeak as the door turns back.

[The party enters the underground, and after a while of puzzles and exploits, locates the map which they had been in search of. Coming out after a couple of days, they go to an inn.]

Game Master: Jim, could you come with me for a second? [pulls Kendall’s player, Jim, out of earshot of the rest of the players.] During the night, you have a dream in which an angel appears and tells you to go the cave of Munra, a great prophet and sage, which is indicated by the notched circle on the map. He tells you to examine carefully and heed the information on the map, and says that on the way you will meet three trials, which must be overcome.

Kendall: I’m going to ask the angel what the trials are.

Game Master: “That is for you to discover.” [They return to the players.]

Kendall: “Last night, I had a dream. An angel told me that we must seek out the cavern where Munra lives, which is marked by a notched circle on the map. Munra is a great prophet and sage. We need to try to understand and pay attention to the map on the way there. We will meet three trials on the way, which we must overcome before arriving.”

Qualinesti: Are there any caravans or other wayfarers travelling in that direction from the village?

Game Master: No.

Torv: “How ’bout if we all buy five days’ provisions and set out?”

Others: “Ok.”

Qualinesti: Is there a path to the cave indicated on the map?

Game Master: Yes, there is.

Qualinesti: “I suggest we follow the path.”

Others: “Ok.”

Game Master: You begin to follow the path. Along the way, Torv finds an adequate supply of rabbits, boars, and so on to keep you fed, as well as springs and streams sufficient to always have at least some water in your waterskins. After fifteen days’ travel, you come to the place indicated on the map as Riddler’s Pass. There are two ridges coming together, forcing any travellers to pass between them, and between the mountains lies a yawning chasm.

The weather is an intense thunderstorm.

Kendall: Can we climb the ledges?

Game Master: There is only sheer rock, and the top seems to be angled so that there’s nothing for a grappling hook to catch on to.

Kendall: Is there anything to secure a rope to?

Game Master: Yes; there are trees on both sides.

Kendall: I’m going to toss my grappling hook and attempt to secure a rope on the other side, then tie a noose on the other end around the rope, and attach another rope through the loop of the noose so that I can pull the rope back from the other side.

Game Master: Done.

Kendall: “How about if I shuttle across giving you each a piggyback ride, and then carry across our gear?”

Others: “Ok. We’ll wait by the edge for you to get back”

Game Master: You get Torv, Pirt, and Qualinesti over; while you are carrying ‘Limna over, a bolt of lightning strikes the tree on the far side. The electrical spasm causes Kendall with ‘Limna to jump off the rope, and the thunder blast knocks Torv, Pirt, and Qualinesti over the edge. You fall seventy five feet onto rock.

Qualinesti has a fractured femur.

Torv has a tibia/fibula fracture, and some broken ribs.

Pirt has unknown injuries; he is knocked out by the impact.

‘Limna has two broken arms.

Kendall is able to roll and reduce the damage, but he will have some severe abrasions.

Limna: I’m going to pray over myself, and then lay hands on Qualinesti, Pirt, Torv, and Kendall.

Game Master: You feel a lessening of pain as the bones begin to slide into place.

Kendall: I’m going to search around the sides for a route up.

Game Master: The sides are sheer rock and slippery rock; you can see almost nothing now. It’s unclear whether you’d be able to find a route up on a sunny day; you can’t climb out now.

Kendall, Torv, Pirt: We’re going to search for a way out.

Game Master: You don’t find anything.

Pirt: I am going to pray that a way out may be found.

Game Master: The rain begins to grow less intense, and, after about an hour, the sun begins to shine. You notice that the walls have streaks of talc reaching up to the top.

Kendall: Are there any visible climbing routes?

Game Master: No.

Kendall: “Torv, may I borrow your dagger?”

Torv: “Here you go.”

Kendall: I’m going to start seeing if I can carve holds in the the talc, hoping to find a way to the top.

Game Master: In about three hours, you get about two thirds of the way up, before coming to the end of a streak which is not within any reasonable distance of any other.

Kendall: I’m going to climb down and rest for a while.

Torv: What’s the status of the rope?

Game Master: It’s lying coiled at the edge.

Torv: Are there any small rocks around?

Game Master: Yes, there are.

Torv: I’m going to throw rocks at it to knock it down.

Game Master: You can’t throw any rocks higher than about thirty feet.

Kendall: I’m going to stuff rocks in my pockets, and climb up the talc trail to throw rocks at the rope.

Game Master: You get about halfway through before knocking it down. It falls about ten feet to your right, and goes down about twenty feet.

Kendall: “Geronimo!!!”

Game Master: You barely manage to stop yourself sliding before you reach the tip.

Kendall: I’m going to climb up, scare away any animals, and ferry the gear across, then from the other end, pull across and reanchor the rope, and help the people up. [pause] Wait. I’m going to rapell down the side and carve handholds.

Game Master: There are a couple of raccoons who have helped themselves to your food, but no other animals. You manage to do what you wanted to.

Kendall: “Thanks for letting me use your dagger, Torv. Here it is.”

Torv: “You’re welcome.”

Game Master: You continue on, and early the next day come to a fork in the path.

Pirt: What does the map say?

Game Master: The map shows only one path.

Pirt: Is one side more sharply angled, or wider, or more worn?

Game Master: Both are equally angled, equally wide, and equally worn.

Pirt: I’m going to study the map to see if I can find any hints.

Game Master: [pauses] You don’t find any.

Qualinesti: I’m going to do the same.

Game Master: You don’t find any, either.

Kendall: I’m going to pray for a word on which path to choose.

Game Master: You remember the words of an author:

And I said to him, “Sir, give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he said to me, “Put thy hand into the hand of God. That will be better to thee than a light, and safer than a known way.”

Kendall: Do I receive anything else?

Game Master: No.

Pirt: “God has sent us on this quest, and I am sure that he desires that we succeed. I think we should just pick a path, and trust God that it will be the right one. Which one do you suggest?”

Kendall: “Say, left.”

Torv: “How do you know? Did you receive a word from God?”

Kendall: “I don’t. I didn’t. But I’m trusting in him.”

‘Limna: “Is that okay for everyone?”

Others: “Sounds fine.”

Pirt: “Well, let’s go, then.”

Game Master: You go along, and as you go the hunting becomes more difficult. You come to the last village before the cave, where you purchase five days’ worth of provisions, and go along… four days later, you’re almost out of water, having just enough to get back, and haven’t been able to find any along the way. It looks like another good week’s journey until you get to the cave.

Pirt: Has there been any rain or any indication of rain?

Game Master: No. You’ve come across a couple of dry creeks.

Pirt: “I say that we go along and pray to find water.”

Qualinesti: “We could go back to the village and ask about water sources.”

‘Limna: “Yes, we could, but that would mean taking a few days’ recovery from dehydration. It would mean a long delay.”

Kendall: “Point.”

Pirt: “I think that this is the third test.”

[After a continuation of deliberation, they decide to continue.]

Game Master: Two days later, you come across an abandoned well which, while tbe wood holdings, the rope and the bucket are hopelessly rotted, Kendall is able to climb down into to replenish your waterskins. Four days later, you come across a cavern twisting into the earth.

Pirt: I’m going to light my lantern, hold my breath, and walk in.

Game Master: It takes your eyes a little while to adjust to the semidarkness, and then you see an old man with a flowing, white beard, wearing a coarse woolen cloak, sitting in a chair. There is a fire in the corner of the cave.

He stands up, raises his hand in benediction, and then says something in his tongue. [pulls Jane, ‘Limna’s player, aside.] He said, “Greetings, travellers. I have been waiting for you.”

‘Limna: Unless I indicate that I’m having a private conversation with Munra, I’m going to interpret so that you can just speak for him. [to others] “He said, ‘Greetings, travellers. I have been waiting for you.'”

[‘Limna interprets for the interaction.]

Section VI: Character definition.

Here is a battery of questions designed to help players think about who the character they are designing is:

Who is he? Does Jesus sit enthroned in his heart? How does he try to imitate Christ? How does he see the world? Where do his loyalty and his love lie? How does he use his talents? What virtues does he embody? Is he temperate, controlled, balanced? What does he search for in other people? How deep are his friendships? How deep is he? How strongly does he embody the qualities he holds? What community is he a part of? What is his family, his liege, his birthplace? What inhabits his thoughts? How does he embody what is truly masculine (she embody what is truly feminine)? What fruit does he let the Spirit work in his life? What is his name?

What is his story? What interests, goals, and desires does he have? What does he cherish? What special twist does he put on things? How does he pray? What is his role in the Church? What does he create? Of what would his friends look and say, “That is him?” What is his story? What (if any) visions has he had [this question is more the focus of the DM than the player]? If he were an animal, what animal would he be, and why? What are his hobbies? What is his favorite story? What does he like to present to other people? What is he afraid of other people knowing about him? What memories does he cherish? How old is he? How has he changed over the years? How has he remained the same? What are his loyalties? Who lies closest to his heart? Who does he exist in relationship to? What communities is he a member of? How does he spend his time? What are his hopes and dreams?

What is he naturally gifted at? What skills has he developped? What would traditional game systems attribute to him? What gifts has he received in the Spirit [again, this question is more for the DM]? Prophecy? Faith? Wisdom? Knowledge? Healing? Miraculous powers? Leadership? What are his weaknesses? Does he have any handicaps? What can and can’t he do?

What does he look like? What is his manner?

What are his relationships to other characters?

Here is a listing of skills/areas of knowledge/abilities. It is meant to be illustrative rather than exclusive. (Partially borrowed from AD&D)

(A following parenthesized letter indicates that a skill is common to all members of a race: (N)or’krin, (T)uz, (Yedidia), (U)rvanovestilli, Je(C), (S)hal, (J)anra. Other parenthesized information may follow.)

  • Acrobatics/Tumbling (J)
  • Acting
  • Ambidexterity
  • Animal Handling (Y)
  • Animal Lore
  • Animal Training
  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology
  • Appraisal
  • Archery
  • Artistic Skill (Specific Medium)
  • Balance (J)
  • Biology
  • Blacksmith
  • Blind Action (S)
  • Bowyer/Fletcher
  • Brewing
  • Building
  • Carving
  • Carpentry
  • Catch
  • Ceremonies (U)
  • Charioteering
  • Chemistry
  • Climbing (J)
  • Clockwork Device Craftsmanship (U)
  • Cobbling
  • Cooking
  • Cold Tolerance (N)
  • Cultures (specific culture)
  • Dancing (Y)
  • Dodge (J)
  • Doublejointedness
  • Endurance
  • Engineering
  • Etiquette
  • Farmer (C)
  • Fire-Building
  • Fisher
  • Gambling
  • Gardening (Y)
  • Gem Cutting
  • Geography
  • Guess Actions — guess from looking at a person what he will do next.
  • Haggling
  • Hear Noise — hear almost silent noises.
  • Heat Tolerance (T,S)
  • Heraldry (U)
  • Herbalism (Y)
  • Hide
  • History (U)
  • Hunting (N,T)
  • Illusionism
  • Improvisation (Musical)
  • Incense Making
  • Janra-Ball (J) — incomprehensible to members of other races.
  • Jewelry Work
  • Juggling
  • Jumping (J)
  • Jury-Rigging
  • Keen Eyesight
  • Languages (Specific Language(s))
  • Leadership
  • Leather Working
  • Literature (U)
  • Mapmaking
  • Massage
  • Mathematics (U)
  • Mediation
  • Medicine
  • Mining
  • Move Silently
  • Mountaineering
  • Musical Composition
  • Musical Instrument (Specific Instrument)
  • Navigation
  • Open Locks
  • Painting
  • Persuasion
  • Philosophy (U)
  • Poetry Composition
  • Pole Vault (J)
  • Pottery Making
  • Public Speaking
  • Pyrotechnics
  • Reading/Writing (U)
  • Read Emotion (Y)
  • Repair
  • Riding
  • Rope Use
  • Sailing
  • Search
  • Shouting — shout loudly and prolongedly without tiring vocal chords.
  • Singing (Y)
  • Smell Creature (Y) — smell what creatures are around and have passed by.
  • Sports
  • Stonemasonry
  • Storytelling
  • Strategy Games
  • Swimming (J)
  • Symbolic Lore (N,C)
  • Tailoring
  • Technology Use (U)
  • Theology (U)
  • Tightrope Walking (J)
  • Tracking
  • Trivia
  • Ventriloquism
  • Weather Sense (Y)
  • Weaving
  • Wilderness Survival (N,T,Y)
  • Withdrawing/Meditation (S)
  • Woodlore (Y)
  • Wrestling (J,T)

Here is a list of some attributes, to think about how strong or weak a character might be:

  • Ability to Learn
  • Agility
  • Charisma
  • Constitution
  • Dexterity
  • Intelligence
  • Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Speed
  • Strength
  • Wisdom

Possible virtues to think about how a character embodies goodness:

  • Balance
  • Chastity
  • Compassion
  • Contrainte
  • Courage
  • Faith
  • Faithfulness
  • Forgiveness
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Honesty
  • Honor
  • Hope
  • Humility
  • Joy
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Mercy
  • Moderation
  • Love
  • Obedience
  • Patience
  • Peace
  • Penitence
  • Purity
  • Self-Control
  • Simplicity
  • Submission
  • Wisdom

A Dream of Light

Espiriticthus: cultures of a fantasy world not touched by evil

The Sign of the Grail

Unashamed

Homemade Pinball Machine HOWTO

A view of the whole pinball machine.

A slightly tilted view of the base of the playing surface.

A closeup of one of the pinball board's features.

A closeup of the 'forest of nails' among the pinball board's features.

Larger photos courtesy of Paul Shukin.

  1. The parts/supplies and tools we will need are:

    Parts

    • A board roughly 2’x3′ or 12″x18″, having a height / width ratio of about 1.5. The board pictured is slightly smaller than 2’x3′.
    • A box of 1″ roofing nails.
    • A small, roughly 1″x2″, preferably hardwood, board from which to make the flippers.
    • If the flippers are near or above 1″ in depth, two longer nails for the flippers.
    • A roll of matte desktop tape.
    • A regular marble to use as the pinball (or, if you prefer, a ball bearing of the same rough size or smaller).

    Tools

    • A pencil to sketch and plan placement of features on the pinball machine. I used a large marker so that my marks would be more visible; ordinarily you want subtle pencil markings for where to put stuff.
    • A hammer to pound nails in. The hatchet shown has a notch to remove nails, and it would have worked, although the work was done with a regular clawhammer.
    • A ruler or measuring stick, barely used apart from the flippers.

    A view of parts and tools that will be used.

  2. Now, or after the features start to be set up, you can decorate the board to suit your taste. For these purposes I have not demonstrated artistic decoration of the board, but you can apply decoration now or at any later point where it would make sense.
  3. This is my first pass at making the flippers. I measured, marked, and drilled a small hole through where I wanted the joint to be, but large enough to accommodate their nails.I wanted to have some slack to let the flippers protrude beyond the outside, and I gave too much slack. The flippers touch each other, making for insufficient challenge.

    A view of the first pass at making the flippers.

  4. I cut a little less than half an inch off of the edge of the flippers.A second pass at making the flippers, and one we stick with.
  5. I sketch dots for where the perimeter will be. The top right area is a little more complicated than the dots show, because that’s also where we will have the marble enter the game, but that will come later.Black dots where we will be placing the exterior.
  6. We add nails where we want to anchor an endpoint of part of the perimeter wall. The nails should only be pounded partway in, with enough sticking out the top to wrap an unbent strip of tape around.A view of the pinball machine with exterior nails in place.
  7. Here we have tape between every pair of nails but the top right. I would like to comment that there are two basic approaches to a joint: one of them to have one nail for each side, and another to have one nail with tape placed so as to be taut and therefore elastic. I will follow the first approach for all but the last features added, but both approaches are valid.A view with tape in place for the perimeter, except on the top right.
  8. Before we finish the top right part of the perimeter, we set in place something to let us put the ball in play.Putting in place facilities for the ball to be set in play.
  9. Having put in place a mechanism for the ball to roll into play, we finish putting in place the upper right part of the perimeter.Closing up the top right border in places not needed to set a ball in play.
  10. Up to this point we have been addressing things that are, relatively speaking, necessary and less negotiable. There may be other ways to handle the perimeter (we could, for instance, have made the top of the perimeter a dip down rather than a bulge up), but apart from artistic adornment (not shown in this example), there hasn’t been much call for creativity.From this point on things are different. I will give examples of what can be done, but only examples of what can be done. There is much more room for creativity in filling the interior of the machine with features and space.

    Here we have a forest of nails for the ball to tumble down when it first comes into play, and when it is launched into the forest of nails in play.

    Adding the feature the ball will be put into when it enters into play.

  11. Many pinball machines have bottom flippers that don’t come near meeting, but have something to deflect a ball that rolls down the center. Here we have added a wedge between the flippers. If this makes things too easy for an experienced player, we can take the tape off, leaving just the nails.Adding a wedge between the flippers to make it less likely the ball will just slip between them.
  12. Here we add a single feature to the left, a place for the ball to tumble down. This specific feature is both large and simple; it could be replaced by a larger number of smaller geometric shapes, for instance.Adding a feature to the left for the ball to tumble down in.
  13. Here we add the last features we will add to the pinball surface: a diamond to the lower right, with a nail below it to prevent the flipper from smashing the marble into the side, a narrow triangle at the top (up at the top, available space is precious), and something to deflect a straight shot up from the left flipper into the tumble area to the left.Adding features to the lower right and center top to fill up some of the emptier areas.
  14. Lastly, but most importantly, we go to a frame shop or harware store to put a transparent hard plastic sheet over the surface to reduce the risk of eye injury (and to protect our delicate pinball surface and make the pinball machine last longer).

The machine as built can be propped up by books and the like, reaching the desired height. At times in the past I have built pinball machines with rear legs a few inches long.

Happy playing!

I have made several pinball machines vaguely like this, and this pinball is more intended as a proof of concept illustrating a broader concept. It is not intended as a straightjacket or a flavor of Kool-Aid, as the best or only way to make this kind of pinball machine. You want a different aspect ratio? Sure, why not? You want to add artwork? Please do. You want to make your own design on the main play area? Good; I tried to make a good design but perhaps you can do better (or just touch it with your own design). You want to make four flippers? Go for it. You have a way to make the flippers spring-loaded? Cool. You want to make a base of Lego surface for part of the playing area, maybe rotated to a 45 degree angle and inset? I would remind you that Legos are inelastic where most parts are deliberately elastic, but there are still things you can do with inelastic parts. You want to add a Lego Mindstorms robot to be more interactive? Go for it, and send me a video. Are you a maker who makes a spinoff on a 3D printer? I’d love to see your writeup. I’m not trying to show THE correct way to do something, only illustrate the possibilities. But if you want to imitate my example to the letter, you are welcome to do that, too.

A view of the pinball machine from the bottom.

A closeup of the base of the playing surface.

A Voyage in Espiriticthus

Cover for The Minstrel's Song

I was running a play by e-mail adventure in the world Espiriticthus. Basic documents for The Minstrel’s Song (the game) are on its page. The campaign is closed.

Character descriptions:

The characters are Caroline, Hood, Jeff, Xingu, and Zakhs online.

Turns:

A First Meeting
A Contest
Seeking Rozimald’s Keys
A Hermit
An Encounter
A Bear
Continuing On


Name: Caroline Leof’degn
Race: Nor’krin
Age: 24
Gender: Female

Physical Appearance:

Caroline is 5’10” and 160 pounds. A little tall even for one of the ‘northern giants’. Her sun bleached blond hair is kept in a neat and tidy braid down her back, reaching down to the small of her back. Her clothing tends to be practical and designed to hold up in all kinds of weather. Her eyes are blue and in times of deep emotion yellow flecks seem to rise and burst upon the surface. She travels very light with a backpack of various healing tools and herbs, a bow, and a long sword. Her iron cross given at becoming an adult at first appears very plain and only with close inspection do the tiny designs show.

Personality:

Started out her life, very concerned with the law and facts. Things of practical use. Used to consider thing that were not of obvious practical use as wasteful. She was all the more shocked when at 16 her challenge for becoming an adult turned out to be learning to sing. She left to go live with the Yedidia people, since logically they would be the best ones to show someone how to sing. It was not that simple. Yedidia sing because they enjoy life, and to show Caroline how they sing, she needed to learn about enjoying life. Not enjoying a particular activity or helping someone, but life and living itself. By the time Caroline left, five years had pasted and Caroline was starting down the path to understanding and enjoying life. She had finally learned how to sing.

Profession/talents/skills:

Healing is her first vocation. The taking care of wounded and sick. She is fairly skilled and tended of the physical wounds, and is slowly learning to identify those hurt in other ways. Protecting and taking care of other physical needs is the use she puts her weapons skill too. Singing…. singing she does for joy of life, in answer to the beauty of a sunrise or rose.

Miscellaneous:

Caroline has an true enjoyment of herbal teas. While she still enjoys crisp cold water that her race normally favours, during her five years with the Yedidia one of the pleasures of the senses she learned to enjoy was tea. She has tea either hot or chilled, enjoying not only the taste but the smell as well. She remembers her time spend learning with the Yedidia with every cup.

A quote:

“Sometimes we become so consumed with what we believe we should be rushing to do, we forget to listen in silence to the voice of God.”


Name: Hood Natheel
Race: Tuz
Age: 25
Gender: Male

Occupation:

Blacksmith

Appearance:

Hood is a shorth stocky fellow. He is bald but do have a large jetblack beard. He usally wears a pair of short grey trousers and buff coloured sleeveless leather vest with a sort of flap hanging down on the knees( it a kind of blacksmith protection wear that is quite common among the Tuz, also known a “Tuulth”)

Personality:

Hood Natheel got a personality similar to the iron he usally work with. He is strong willed, cold in the face of danger and if someone heats up his heart it will melt and the somewhat cold front will disappear and show the true Hood. Usally his temper is very balanced, but on occasions he will emotional outburst( either of joy or if he is really displeased with something)

Hood is a curious fellow always eager to seek answer to the questions he is confronted with. An ability that might put him in jeopardy sometimes. Usally he sort these things out.

He is also looking for solutions to his community, so his curiosity is not at all self centered. If a problem occur among the his friends neighbors or someone else he usally seek out to find an answer to the question at hand.

He is perhaps not the most intelligent being in the creation, but since he is a patient man he usally ends up with the answers in the long run.

The solutions that Hood comes up with are usally based on simplicity and he often hard to understand more complex reason. Therefor he might feel a bit uneasy with the company of scholar and highly educated men an women. As usual he tries to compensate this weakness with the usual patience. Cooperation comes before confrontaion so Hood would probably not start a confrontaion with people who does not share he way thinking.

Hood usally speaks in a laconic way. He seldom expresses more than absolutely needed. That makes him a rather bad preacher and he is not the type of person that tries to impose his ideas on others.

A typical Hood quote:

“Eeh..Wait…I think I got it!!..eeh.or perhaps not”

Background:

Hood is born in a small Tuz village called Haahem. He has very seldom left it when he entered the game. On occasions he has visited other villages. He is the eldest son of a Tuz blacksmith named Holth Natheel. Just like his father(and numerous generations before him) Hood is a blacksmith. The silent steady nature of the Natheel family has given them a good reputation in the home village and the surrounding area. For the moment the Natheel family consist of 15 persons, grandpa Oothol Natheel, Holtlh and his wife Holthina and their 12 children( among them you can find Hood).

Inventory:

  • sledge( used as a protection weapon)
  • knife
  • tinderbox
  • rope 50′
  • lantern
  • leather protection

Name: Chimera Antonio Pbrush Petra Mistrelli Charleston Jeffery Mirrorman
Race: Urvanovestilli
Age: 35
Gender: Male

Physical appearance:

Chimera is 5’3″ and weighs 101 pounds. He has clear white skin and long jet-black hair pulled back in a ponytail. When he is out in the sun, he will have a wicker hat on with a long brim that hides his face, and wears a pair of dark sunglasses. He wears all white satin clothes and carries his tools in a backpack along with several blankets that he uses when there is no place to lodge. He walks with a long metal walking stick that is wrapped with a leather strap. His shoes are made of a cotton black clothe with very thick leather souls. He has emerald green eyes and claw scar across his left forearm.

Personality:

Chimera is very quiet, but a very hard worker. When he does talk, it is with a very soft and tender voice. His love for God can be seen deep within his eyes and in the fact that he spends much time in prayer and study each day. Once you get to know Jeff, he is very friendly and very willing to offer his hand to assist others.

Profession/talents/skills:

Like his father, Jeff will one day take over the maintenance and construction of the labyrinth of the city Mistrelli. He has been brought up on the studies of Ceremonies, Clockwork Device Craftsmanship, Heraldry, History, Literature, Mathematics, Philosophy, Reading/Writing, Technology Use, and Theology. Jeff is also Proficient at Illusionism, and Moderately Skilled at Opening Locks and is more than just a Dabbler when it comes to Jury-Rigging.

Background:

My name is, Chimera Antonio Pbrush Petra Mistrelli Charleston Jeffery Mirrorman. My friends call me Jeff. I am an Urvanovestilli from the city of Mistrelli. Christ is the center of my life, for I try to live as He would have by giving all that I have and all that I am to helping others. The world is a great place, with many mysteries and wonders. I am but a young adult at the age of 35. I have been on many journeys to see the world and to meet the other cultures that God has created. In this part of my life, I am still filled with the wanderlust that is engraved upon my soul, but I find greater fulfillment when I can help others as I see the world. My family has been apart of the creation of Mistrelli, therefore, I have grown up creating many unusual devices for traps and secret passages. Some of the devices that I have personally developed were the search light for wandering around in the tunnels, and a mirroring device that allows one’s image to be projected at a distance, but my most fun device was a box with a button on it, that when pressed, entangles the holder of the box with strong wires that could not be broken, not even by a Nor’krin. Since I have been on many journeys, I have also been able to help others with minor problems such as water irrigation and food storage. Some of the virtues that I embody would be Contrainte, Faith, Forgiveness, Generosity, Gentleness, Honesty, Honor, Humility, Joy, Love, Patience, Peace, Self-Control, and Wisdom.

I search for Honesty in other people. I have only a few relationships with others, but the are very deep. I think that quality counts much more that quantity. In my spare time, I love to think about the mysteries of God and the universe. How He has created such a symphony of life with as much diversity.

I am my father’s first born, and will return one day to become his assistant, and eventually, take over for him. Even though I might look helpless, I would have to disagree. In my travels, I have been able to study and master the Martial Art form Akido, which is a very soft a non aggressive form. Although non aggressive, it is very useful when being attacked. The attacker when only get hurt accordingly to how much force he put into the attack.

I enjoy life very much. One of my favorite games is Imperial Kingdoms, a more complex version of Chess. My other hobby is creating a machine that will allow me to fly. My favorite story is about Eistinia, one of the great inventors from my town. He created a balloon that could carry a basket into the sky with several people. After his first attempt, he landed in a far away place, because he forgot to setup a way to go down. Anyway, he came across a small village that knows nothing of God and was able to share the God news with them. How exciting. I too, want to be able to help others, both physically and spiritually. I like to present others with my gifts of service, to help them in their needs.

I cherish the memory of my great grand father, because it was he how taught me that God and Science are the same, for we would not have Knowledge if it were not God’s will. I have grown much since that time, and I have helped many people because of that. But one thing has not changed, I have always wanted to know why I believe what I believe, and never just accept anything as that was how it has always been.

There is a girl back home that has also left following her wanderlust, her name is Tia Carolina Pamelita. It would be my desire to win her heart and to ask her to marry me. But before I do, I must find out who I am.

I am a typical Urvanovestilli standing at 5’3″ and weighing in at 101 pounds. I might seem very quiet, but I am really very bright and well cultured. I have studied Ceremonies, Clockwork Device Craftsmanship, Heraldry, History, Literature, Mathematics, Philosophy, Reading/Writing , Technology Use, and Theology. But I have also studied Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Cooking, Herbalism, Illusionism, Improvisation, Jury-Rigging, Languages, Massage, Mediation, Medicine, Musical Composition, Piano, Open Locks, Poetry Composition, Pyrotechnics, Strategy Games, and Trivia.

Ability to Learn – Good
Agility – Fair
Charisma – Fair
Constitution – Fair
Dexterity – Fair
Intelligence – Good
Knowledge – Good
Memory – Good
Perception – Good
Speed – Poor
Strength – Poor
Wisdom – Good

A Quote:

“To study what God has created and how it works is to understand who God is just a little bit more”


Name: Xingu
Race: Shal
Gender: Male
Age: 232
Weight: 135 lbs
Height: 5’5″

Xingu is, for a Shal, of medium height and weight, with soft, penetrating blue eyes. If one wished to know his age, one would be confused by the contrast of his frame – that of middle age, with well-defined muscles in his upper forearms – and his skin whose aging has been accelerated by the salt breeze of the sea; yet Xingu possesses an air of timelessness that makes even thinking of age superficial. He wears a dark green cloak and carries a walking stick of gnarled wood.

Xingu doesn’t have as much a personality as he has a presence. One can be with him, and not a word need be spoken before his presence – a feeling of warmth, compassion, love, serenity, peace, and timelessness – is felt.

Xingu lives in the Shal port village of Vis. There he was a sailor and fisherman. Like all Shal, he lives his life in serene mysticism, possessing a timeless wisdom – not exactly logic, not exactly intelligence, but a wisdom much like the Tao masters. As per his trade, he is skilled at fishing, sailing, rope handling, and navigation, the latter based more on intuition than calculation.

Like most sailors, Xingu is passable at some musical instruments, singing, and sea lore. Traditional Shal music is less outwardly joyous; it is more peaceful, serene, and inspiring of meditation.

The Shal sail largely by intuition, by becoming at peace with the ocean. While one certainly should not sail with a Shal if speed is the end goal, there’s no person better to be with should the seas get rough. Many a Shal has been known to survive storms which should have cracked a boat to bits, by holding the helm in one calloused hand, the main sheet cutting into the flesh of the other hand, muscles straining to keep the ship under control, and yet maintaining a look of utmost peace and tranquility, a lack of fear, and a faith strong enough to move mountains. The Shal sail, and weather storms, simply by staying in harmony with the sea and remaining at peace. Xingu is certainly no exception.

Xingu will always welcome a stranger into his house, or sail a foreigner to any destination. Long days and nights on a ship with guests, repeated for nearly two centuries, combined with seemingly infinite patience have made Xingu quite well-versed in the languages, customs and ways of the other cultures, and he has come to appreciate the different races greatly.

One day when withdrawing from his community and the rest of the world, Xingu felt a calling to leave his boat and travel away from Vis, which he had never before left by land. It was then that he happened upon the city of Mistrelli.

Xingu carries just enough possessions to survive – a hunting knife, a tinder box and flints, and a canteen of water. At his home in Vis is moored his simple 16 foot yawl-rigged boat with tan bark sails, his ropes and net.

Quote:

“I feel, I sense, and I live. I am, and He is, hence I know.”


Name: Xingu
Race: Shal
Gender: Male
Age: 232
Weight: 135 lbs
Height: 5’5″

Xingu is, for a Shal, of medium height and weight, with soft, penetrating blue eyes. If one wished to know his age, one would be confused by the contrast of his frame – that of middle age, with well-defined muscles in his upper forearms – and his skin whose aging has been accelerated by the salt breeze of the sea; yet Xingu possesses an air of timelessness that makes even thinking of age superficial. He wears a dark green cloak and carries a walking stick of gnarled wood.

Xingu doesn’t have as much a personality as he has a presence. One can be with him, and not a word need be spoken before his presence – a feeling of warmth, compassion, love, serenity, peace, and timelessness – is felt.

Xingu lives in the Shal port village of Vis. There he was a sailor and fisherman. Like all Shal, he lives his life in serene mysticism, possessing a timeless wisdom – not exactly logic, not exactly intelligence, but a wisdom much like the Tao masters. As per his trade, he is skilled at fishing, sailing, rope handling, and navigation, the latter based more on intuition than calculation.

Like most sailors, Xingu is passable at some musical instruments, singing, and sea lore. Traditional Shal music is less outwardly joyous; it is more peaceful, serene, and inspiring of meditation.

The Shal sail largely by intuition, by becoming at peace with the ocean. While one certainly should not sail with a Shal if speed is the end goal, there’s no person better to be with should the seas get rough. Many a Shal has been known to survive storms which should have cracked a boat to bits, by holding the helm in one calloused hand, the main sheet cutting into the flesh of the other hand, muscles straining to keep the ship under control, and yet maintaining a look of utmost peace and tranquility, a lack of fear, and a faith strong enough to move mountains. The Shal sail, and weather storms, simply by staying in harmony with the sea and remaining at peace. Xingu is certainly no exception.

Xingu will always welcome a stranger into his house, or sail a foreigner to any destination. Long days and nights on a ship with guests, repeated for nearly two centuries, combined with seemingly infinite patience have made Xingu quite well-versed in the languages, customs and ways of the other cultures, and he has come to appreciate the different races greatly.

One day when withdrawing from his community and the rest of the world, Xingu felt a calling to leave his boat and travel away from Vis, which he had never before left by land. It was then that he happened upon the city of Mistrelli.

Xingu carries just enough possessions to survive – a hunting knife, a tinder box and flints, and a canteen of water. At his home in Vis is moored his simple 16 foot yawl-rigged boat with tan bark sails, his ropes and net.

Quote:

“I feel, I sense, and I live. I am, and He is, hence I know.”


Name: Zakhs
Race: Tuz
Age: 28
Gender: Male

Physical appearance:

Zachs is of medium height and stocky build. His broad grin (his usual expression) is nestled in his thick black beard, and his eyes have a humorous twinkle. When he laughs, it is long and loud. He carries a stour walking stick made of a dark-colored wood, and his clothes are well-worn and comfortable looking.

Personality:

He is not naive, for he has seen much of the world, but he is a basically trusting person. He gives people the benefit of the doubt until they prove him wrong. He greets everyone he meets as a friend until proven otherwise, and he is a hearty and enjoyable person. His special gift is the ability to help others, and he takes great joy in this. When he comes across someone working in his travels, he pitches in and helps them finish a job. In this way he can raise goodwill as well as food and a place to sleep for the night.

Profession/talents/skills:

He is a wanderer and a pilgrim, seeking through the world in order to broaden his experience. He has the standard skills of a Tuz; Heat Tolerance, Hunting, Wilderness Survival, and Wrestling. He is also skilled in Animal Lore, Brewing, and Endurance. He is good with his hands and likes to Build and Carve.

A quote:

“Greetings, Friend! Care for some help with that?”


Mistrelli lies in the heart of the Fog Valley; a shroud of mist cloaks the ground, out of which rise trees and tall buildings with spires and towers. Inside the buildings are all manner of tunnels of tunnels, secret passages, and trapdoors; there are clockwork devices in each one. Throughout the city are spread a handful of entrances to a vast underground labyrinth, of which the better part is unknown; there are all manner of doors and puzzles inside.

The city is full of rose bushes, climbing up the sides of the buildings, over and around gates; most are yellow, but there are some of every color.

The people take a long time to get to know, and their personalities always have hidden gems. Their study of theology emphasizes mystery and the incomprehensible nature of God; Connaissance, a theologian from Mistrelli, began and ended his magnum opus with the words, “I do not know.”

Inside this city, which you have all come to for your various reasons, you are each hailed by a young Janra. He is wirily built, with deep, twinkling blue eyes and a shimmering midnight blue robe. He greets you according to your people’s way and tells you in your native tongue, “Greetings. My name is Nimbus. I would like to request the honor of your presence tomorrow, in the third hour of the afternoon, at a meeting in the public square.”

Nimbus is apparently an adventurer of some renown. He is said to have gone on many quests, although exactly what is not clearly known; no two stories are alike. He is also said to have a massive vehicle known as the Juggernaut, Nimbus’s Roving Citadel, etc.

The following day, in the public square, Nimbus divides those assembled into teams, and announces, “I have hidden three eggs, one gold and two silver, in the labyrinth. A team which returns with a silver egg I will give forty gold sovereigns and a tour of my fortress. The team which returns with the golden egg will receive a hundred gold sovereigns, and I will take them in the citadel anywhere within a month’s journey they wish to go.”


Hood belched a loud belch, and chuckled. He had had little difficulty finding something to do — it seemed that people everywhere had heavy things to carry around — but the dainty little portions he had been served were a surprise. Very cute, the strips of meat arranged across layers of cheese and a flaky bread, but not terribly filling. No wonder all the Urvanovestilli were thin as a beanpole, he mused. He tried to eat with the silver instruments he was given, but the strips of meat kept falling off of the pointy thing. At least the tiny knife was sharp — it cut with a refreshing lightness as compared to the much larger knives he was accustomed to, which assumed that you had a bit of strength.

The chef must have seen him staring in disbelief at the food; he turned the faintest shade red, quickly walked back in the kitchen, and came back holding a pot, by wooden pads, and followed by a little girl holding a miniature bowl and spoon. “I’m sorry; I am used to serving for Urvanovestilli, and forgot for a moment that you were a Tuz,” he said through a thick accent. It took Hood a little while to grasp the long sentences, but when he understood them, he smiled. In Urvanovestilli, he tried to say, “Thank you,” and took the pot, guzzling the soup from it. The warmth of the steel pot was comforting to his calloused hands, and the steaming soup filled his stomach with a pleasant heat. There was a somewhat awkward moment of silence — the cook staring in disbelief that anybody could touch the pot with bare hands, let alone drink from it, Hood realizing that they had actually intended him to eat the soup with the tiny bowl and spoon. Finally, Hood set the pot down, smiling and again saying, “Thank you,” and the cook picked it up, and said, “I hope you liked it.”

The soup had had a taste Hood had never tasted before — subtly spiced, with a gentleness to its meaty flavor and salt — and Hood leaned back and belched to express his gratitude. There was a moment of silence, as people turned to him, and the little girl giggled; Hood remembered that the Urvanovestilli had a rather odd attitude about belching. A young man said something rather loudly in Urvanovestilli, and then fluent Tuz: “Aah, yes, I have heard of how the Tuz express their appreciation for a good meal by a good, hearty belch. It sounds like our hard working friend here is quite pleased with the fare!” The cook looked as if he understood, and then tipped his head, walking away with the pot, bowl, and spoon.

Now that the situation had ended, it was far easier to see its humor. Having spent a few days in the forest, hunting his food, Hood had been out of Urvanovestilli culture, and lived much as if he were in a Tuz forest — though even then, he missed some of the tough and rowdy monsters to be found. Have a little patience, he thought, and you’ll adjust to a culture, learn to do things their way, while still remaining you — little moments like the one about the meal brought a bit of spice and amusement.

Hood had left his home village Haheem for the first time in his life. The reason was simple. 12 kids could not inhherite a single blacksmith workshop. The Tuz living around Haheem has not devloped the idea that the eldest son is the obvious heir to his fathers possesions. Ther were actually no clear rules at all regarding this matter. After a short dicussion Hood suggested that they all should solve the matter i one big wrestling match – Hood did not winn, so ther was nothing more to do for Hood than to leave his vilage and to seek his fortune somewhere else. Maybe he could start a new workshop in a nearby village one day.

Now you’re a somewhat young Tuz blacksmith and you need to get a job, what do you do? Well maybe seek employment in some of the Urvanovestilli cities. The strange inhabitants in these cities sometimes have a need for Tuz artisans. Hood had heard stories about the marvelous city of Mistrelli. A city packed with weird mazes, buildings and other strange thins…..maybe the Misterellians needed help with some new constructions.

A couple of weeks later Hood has just entred the the city of Misterelli. He has been drifting around a while studying the sites and landmark of the city when he sees a young Janra. Hood thought for himself…..

“Ahh..a Janra!…. well as we say in Haheem..where there is a Janra there is something going on….”

So now he was at the square, eagerly waiting for things to begin.

There were a few people who stopped to talk with him along the way; the most interesting was an old woman, wearing a black robe with a loose cowl and golden threads woven into its edges, who spoke entirely in questions. She didn’t speak any Tuz, but she spoke slowly, loudly, and with simple words, and repeated her questions a few times. It was very difficult to see the person behind those questions, but Hood thought that there was something there, if only he could give it enough time. There was just enough there, for Hood to know for sure that something was eluding him… As Nimbus climbed a tree and cleared his throat to speak, she handed him a piece of paper, and said, “Here’s my address; do come by.”

The first thing that the young Janra said was, “Brothers and sisters, there are people of many languages here. Please have patience as I explain things in everyone’s tongue, and please remain here until I have divided people into groups.” He said this, of course, in several languages, but it was not too long before those gathered heard in their own native tongue: that he had hidden three eggs, two silver and one gold, that a team returning with a silver egg would gain forty gold sovereigns and a tour of his Juggernaut, and the team returning with the golden egg would win not only one hundred gold sovereigns, but a trip inside the Juggernaut to anywhere within a month’s journey.

It seemed but a moment before Hood was brought together with a team, and then people began to quickly scatter into nooks and crannies. The others assembled and brought into the team were:

Zakhs, another Tuz, a stocky fellow with a broad grin, twinkling eyes, and a thick black beard. His clothing was well-worn, and he carried a thick, dark walking stick.

Xingu, a young Shal with a very peaceful gaze.

Caroline, a young Nor’krin bearing a sharp sword, a bow, and a box, with braided hair running down her back. She bears with her a slight fragrance of roses; when asked, she explained that she was savoring the roses at the rose garden, and held out her hands; her fingertips were a shade of dark pink, the color of the roses having rubbed off on them.

Hood pulled out his lantern and tinderbox, and with nimble fingers, quickly struck the wick afire. “Shall we go a lookin’?”

The square was already still, the people having departed; only Nimbus remained, perched in the tree, and a few people passing here and there.

As the group began to walk about, Hood’s sharp eyes looked in a public square and spotted a statue with a large pedestal, with a rectangular block on one side slightly recessed. He kneeled down, and felt around the edges. The block gave a little when he pressed on it, but beyond a short distance seemed to catch on something. It moved more at the bottom, where it moved back, than the top, where it scarcely moved at all. “This seems to give, but I can’t tell how to trigger it.” The statue was a statue of a thin, despairing man, clothed in rags, with hands stretched up towards Heaven.

Zakhs looked around and said, “There’s an inscription on the other side. Can anybody read it?”

Hood walked around. The script was long, flowing, and carved in the stone, overlaid with gold leaf. “Pretty letters.” He paused for a moment, and then read, “I am [pause] tall. Who will [pause] me receive something for [pause] to drink?” He paused for a second and said, “Understanding these people talking is hard; reading them… I am tall. Who will receive me something to drink? I have at least one word wrong.”

Zakhs said, “Pronounce the ‘tall’ word.”

Hood pronounced it, and Zakhs said it a few times to himself, then changed one sound, and laughed. “I am thirsty. Who will give me something to drink?”

Zakhs looked around, and saw a fountain. He cupped his hands, taking water, and stepped up onto the pedestal (with a little help from Hood), opening his hands over the statue’s mouth. There was a gurgling sound for a moment, then a click, and a sound of clockwork gears turning. The stone rectangle turned inward and upward, on hinges, revealing a shaft with an iron ladder descending into the darkness.

Xingu opened a hand, and then said, “Shall we?”

Hood hefted his massive sledge hammer, and then said, “I think I’d best go down first, in case there are any nasty critters in there.” Xingu paused in thought a moment, considering questioning that — but, given the determination in Hood’s words, decided not to. He loosened the girdle of his leather protector somewhat, slid in the sledge, took the lantern in hand, and began descending the iron rungs.

At the bottom of the pit was a short passageway, ending in an abrupt stone wall. It was dusty, with recent tracks that led under the stone wall — and there disappeared. As the other people came down, they began to inspect the wall and the surrounding areas for some indication as to how one would open the doorway.

After a time, Xingu began to say, “‘Tis said that people often pay too much attention to time and the order of things in time. I wonder…” He began to climb the ladder.

“Where are you going?”, Caroline asked.

“Wait a moment. I’m checking to see something.” He disappeared into the shaft, ascending noiselessly.

There was soon a sound of shifting stone, of gears turning and chains moving, and the stone door glided into the walls of the passageway.

Xingu calmly said, “Shall we go on?”

The passageway came to a T-shaped junction; the tracks went off one way. There was general concurrence to go the other way. As they walked through the long and twisty passageway, Hood’s heavy step brought not only the ring of his iron boot, but a slightly different thud than usual. “That stone,” said Zakhs, “is different from the others.” He knelt down, felt around a little, and then struck one of the stones with his staff. There was a faint echo, a hollow sound. “What are y—”, began Caroline, as Hood’s heavy hammer came down and slammed into the floor. There was a loud ringing sound, and the stone had several cracks.

Hood began to pull out pieces of stone, then reached into what was a hole, and pulled out a small, shiny steel box. “This shouldn’t be too hard to open,” he said, setting it on its side.

Caroline quickly snatched the box, looked him in the eyes, and said, “No.” in clearly enunciated Tuz.

“But it’ll be faster than —,” Hood began.

“No.”

“But why not?”

“Maybe fragile. Break. Shatter.”

“I don’t think —”

“No.”

Hood looked her in the eyes, to stare her down, and saw a will equal to his own. Zakhs put his hand on Hood’s shoulder and said, “Brother, it’s probably safe to open, but there’s just a slight chance that it has something fragile, that is not broken. Why don’t we be safe and wait a little while before opening it, just in case?” With that, Hood relaxed.

They went on; the passageway came to a seven way intersection.

The first path led to a circular room with a small, shallow pool in it. The water in the pool was murky, and had a stagnant smell to it.

The second path was long and twisty, but only came to a dead end.

The third path led to a dead end, but coming back, they found a secret door to a long, rectangular room with bas-relief sculpture on the walls.

The fourth lead to a winding circular staircase, heading upwards. As they ascended, they began to hear music. It came to a narrow doorway; opening it, they saw the relatively bright light of dusk, a crimson sunset slowly ebbing away. As they adjusted to the light, the music stopped; Nimbus, holding a lute, came walking up. They were at a hidden door, opening outwards, in the corner of a building in the public square.

“Greetings. How was your time in the dungeon?” He listened with interest, and then said, “I’m sorry to say that all three eggs have been located. But let me look at that box. I think I can open it, if nothing else.”

Nimbus pulled out some metal tools, and in a short time the lid came open.

Inside were several things. There was a tiny porcelain figurine of a deer, a silver bracelet, a rock with some paint on it, a small crystal phial on a necklace, and lastly, a small, curved fragment of parchment with what appeared to be part of a bard’s song:

To Rozimald’s chambers the keys are three,
They all upon the triangle mountains be.A blue sapphire key beneath a great blue sapphire set,
A black onyx key, by black onyx is met.
An emerald key among hanging emeralds does rest.

Nimbus muttered, “Rozimald, Rozimald, Rozimald… Where have I heard that name before… Aah, Rozimald. He was a wealthy Urvanovestilli eccentric long ago, with — never mind that, the tale has probably grown a lot in the telling. Some people know where his abode was, but I haven’t heard of anybody being able to get in.

“One thing I will say, though. He is thought to have had a store of a very potent fuel, made of powdered rust mixed with powdered aluminum. I don’t remember exactly how much there is, but I can find that out. At any rate, if you bring that to me, I will be glad to train you; I am currently taking a break from adventuring, to train other adventurers.

“Oh, and I almost forgot. I would like to give you something.” He reached into the folds of his robes, and produced a white candle with carvings on the sides. “Keep this with you, and may its light remind you of the hour of our meeting.”

Nimbus bowed deeply and disappeared into the shadows.


Hood said, “My UCLA Zogah always told me and my brothers never to interfere with rich mens secrets….but I am very curious about these Rozimalds chambers…..and Uncle Zogah cannot always be right…….any ideas where to start looking…eh?”

Caroline stopped her exploration of the sight and textures of the various objects including the box itself, and said to Hood “We are not interfering with Rozimald’s secrets but answering his invitation. For that is what this riddle-song is, an invitation for those who can solve it. As for were to start, the song says triangle mountains. I guess there are where his home was, so if we ask about the location of Rozimald’s home perhaps what the triangle mountains are will be obvious. Nor’krin teaches using stories and remembering the stories help me remember the lessons the stories contained. The Yedidia teach with song. The Urvanovestilli build physical puzzles and riddles as part of their teaching. Rozimald’s invitation is to learn from him, and the works he created during his life. He has even left the riddle-song with other gifts so that we know we are welcome.”

Caroline also discovered that tapping the metal box with a flicked finger can cause an interesting bell like sound.

Hood continued, “….guess your right……sounds simple enough…..although I must say that the Urvanovestilli are a bit weird…not doing this the Tuz way…much better….can’t he just tell his secret with a few simple words….does anyone have any knowledge where to find these triangle mountains?”

Caroline smiled and says “Different things work for different people. Some people lack the wisdom or faith to accept a few simple words and need to learn through trial and experience. These lessons can take a long time to learn, yet in the end the wisdom can be said in a few simple words.”

Zachs also smiled at Hood’s comments. Then he added,”I have travelled far and wide, and visited many places. I have never heard of these triangle mountains. Perhaps someone here in the city knows of it?”

Hood was a bit unsure about the next step in the research. As usual he started to set his somewhat slowstarted mind of his into motion….. It’s easy to see when Hood thinks since the skin on his forehead gets all wrinkled. He also started to pull his hand through his long beard. He was about to say something when he suddenly stopped himself from doing so. It seemed that he was awaiting the the reaction from the other team members to the newly found puzzle.

Caroline suggested “Since it is information that we need, we should ask.” She goes and tries to catch a passer by’s eye, smiles and inquired, “I am trying to locate Rozimald’s home, do you know where it is or who I should ask?”

The passerby, an old man with a white beard, said, “Rozimald. Let me think; I haven’t heard that name for several hundred years.” He closed his eyes, and a couple of minutes passed. “I’m sorry, I don’t know where his mansion is or was. At least not any more; I’ve long since forgotten it. But if you go to the library’s archives — probably here, if not here, at Capitello — and talk with the history librarian, who should be in tomorrow evening, he can look up what is available, and will know whom to talk with.

“The library is under the cathedral, in the center of the city.

“Is there anything else I can tell you about?”

Hood said, “Excuse me Sir! Sorry for my simple Tuz ways and for bothering you with my questions, but may I ask a few questions about the city surroundings?”

The man gently smiled and said, “You need not apologize for your simple Tuz ways, dear friend. The beauty of Urvanovestilli ways lies in their refinement and complexity; those of the Tuz, in their power and strength. Enjoy the blessing that God has created you as a Tuz. Now what is your question?”

“Do you know where the Triangle Mountains are, or where or how we could find out about them?”

“The Triangle Mountains are about six weeks’ walk east of north. I don’t remember the exact location, but the mapmaker can tell you.” He gave the group directions to the mapmaker. “If that is all you have to ask, I’ll be going on.”

The last rays of the dying sun painted the cathedral as the group reached it. It was intricate, dark, majestic — carved out of black marble.

Inside the cathedral, everything was cool, still, and pitch black. There were a few sounds of walking; there was a faint smell of dust.

Then, suddenly, the building was shaken by a thunderous blast of music from the organ. The sound was deep, rich, majestic; a turgid fugue of four voices played. The party could feel the vibrations in their bones.

Walking along in the darkness, they found a dry wooden door, and, opening it, descended down a circular staircase until they came to a large, open, dusty room.

Most cathedrals had crypts beneath, a reminder of the community and presence of those departed. This one had row upon row of shelves of books. It was filled by an ageless silence, and lit by the glow of candles.

Almost fearing to break the silence, they moved along until they found a librarian, sitting next to a candle, reading from the pages of an ancient volume. He slowly turned, and raised his hand in greeting, asking what he could do for them.

Rozimald, he said, was a man who had lived in the East Ridge Mountains, near the Silouni River. He produced a map which showed the region, and indicated where his mansion had been said to be located. “I think I can spare you a trip to the mapmaker, if you can memorize a map”, and showed a map of a road, with a trail branching off to a small village, beyond which lay the three mountains where the keys had been said to be located.

They went to an inn to sleep, and the next day set out early. It was good hunting, with deer or boar usually only a couple of hours’ hunting, and a pleasant trip to reach the village. Once arrived, they spent a couple of days resting, selling pelts and buying supplies, before going on.

The second day out, the day’s hunting was met by a long rainstorm which seemed to grow more and less intense. Hood, moving first, was about to strike a hedgehog, when he stepped and the ground beneath him gave.

Hood, very heavily weighed down, is sinking in quicksand.


Hood takes some dried fruit and eats…..while he is eating he starts to asking questions to the hermit, without thinking about what his mother said to him about what non-Tuz people thinks about eating and speaking at the same time:

“I very grateful for the food……You sure seem..mauwauawmm(Hood is chewing) to be a wise fellow….you see we are in need of some information….humrph(he swallows the food)…you see we are looking for a chap…a certain Rozimald…….ancient fellow….Urvanovestilli I believe….and the triangle mountains….he is supposed to have some kind of chambers there…”

Xingu, seeing Hood talking and chewing at the same time, cracks a slight grin. He hugs Hood. Slowly, Xingu says, “One cannot appreciate what one has, till one sees that it may be gone in a moment. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. Hood, you are a light among us, and we must thank Him that you are still with us.” Xingu bows his head in silence.

Time passes. Or rather, time stands still.

Xingu looks up, and his eyes meet the hermit’s. He takes some food, bows his head deeply in what is taken as a sign of sincere gratitude, and eats.

Xingu then addresses the hermit: “All of us are made in His image, and like a diamond with many sparkling facets, each culture reflects a different aspect of Him. We are on a quest in search of the answer to an Urvanovestilli riddle. My mind does not think as an Urvanovestilli, and I confess that many of their logic puzzles escape me. Perhaps you can help us solve the riddle.” Xingu turns to speak to the group, “May I see the box?”

Caroline who seems to have found the box in her presence, if only because she was carrying the lightest load and liked the noise it made responds “Of course.” Her eyes seems to twinkle with an inner happiness and she enjoys the company and the food. Offering as well to the table, herbal teas if anyone wishes to try a blend, as well as any food she carries that they wish to share.

Xingu slowly opens the box, and places on the table the porcelain figurine of a deer, a silver bracelet, a rock with some paint on it, a small crystal phial on a necklace, and reads from the parchment:

To Rozimald’s chambers the keys are three, They all upon the triangle mountains be.

A blue sapphire key beneath a great blue sapphire set, A black onyx key, by black onyx is met. An emerald key among hanging emeralds does rest.

“These are the clues to our quest. What can we make of them?”

He pauses….

“What strikes me first is a feeling that this is the trinket box of a little girl. Bracelet, necklace, little odds and ends, and a poem; all things that one would expect to find. Yet the poem is a puzzle. It could possibly be a puzzle a small child kept in a trinket box.

“Where was it found? In a labyrinth, a large puzzle. Finding the paper in the labyrinth, one would think it a puzzle. Finding the metal box in a labyrinth, one would think the box a puzzle. Finding the same metal box in the room of a young girl, one would find the box as normal, but the paper a puzzle.

“What are the keys? Something we must find on the three mountains? Are they already found, stashed in this metal box by a past adventurer and hidden in the labyrinth? Are they symbols, or metaphors, found by an interpretation of the poem, or the items within the box? Are the items in the box there by chance? Are they needed to find the keys? Are they a part of the puzzle, if not the keys themselves?

“Puzzle within puzzle within puzzle….”

He pauses.

“I also see a similarity in both the poem and the items; I sense a strong feeling of nature. Deer, stone, crystal, mountains, gems….

Xingu picks up each item, including the box itself, and slowly examines them, looking not only for clues to the mystery, but also admiring the beauty of each object. He passes them around the room to the others.

The hermit looks at the poem, thinks for a time, and then says, “Oh, so you’ve finally found a good-looking clue to Rozimald’s chambers. Let me think.”

He leans back, and then closes his eyes for a moment. “Aah, yes. One moment; I’ll be back.”

He goes into a corner, and returns with a black, frosted glass bottle with a seal on the front. “I had almost forgotten,” he says. “A Porto would be quite appropriate to this discussion.”

After serving everyone a glass, he leans back, and says, “There are many poets that I have heard of, and some of them spend a great deal of attention on drawing out the wonder in the world around. They are working to open people’s eyes, to fight off the ever threatening grey murk which threatens to cloud vision and make even the sun look dull and drab.

“Some of that group evokes the things that we most regard as precious — gold and silver, diamonds and rubies, wines and delicacies. Those things, perhaps in part because they are rare, are not so often looked at as dull and drab.

“There was one poet — I have forgotten his name — who spoke of gems, describing the world as if it were composed entirely of gems. And the fragment of song which you describe appears to be some of his work.”

He opens his mouth to say something, but you cannot hear his words due to a loud growl and sounds of a scuffle coming from outside.

Outside, as soon as your eyes can adjust to the brightness, you see a young Urvanovestilli being attacked by a bear. He is masterfully dodging, but the bear seems to be very determined in its attack.

They are both about a hundred feet away.


Hood takes some dried fruit and eats…..while he he eating he starts to asking questions to the hermit, without thinking about what his mother said to him about what non-Tuz people thinks about eating and speaking at the same time:

“I very grateful for the food……You sure seem..mauwauawmm(Hood is chewing) to be a wise fellow….you see we are in need of some information….humrph(he swallows the food)…you see we are looking for a chap…a certain Rozimald…….ancient fellow….Urvanovestilli I believe….and the triangle mountains….he is supposed to have some kind of chambers there…”

Xingu, seeing Hood talking and chewing at the same time, cracks a slight grin. He hugs Hood. Slowly, Xingu says, “One cannot appreciate what one has, till one sees that it may be gone in a moment. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. Hood, you are a light among us, and we must thank Him that you are still with us.” Xingu bows his head in silence.

Time passes. Or rather, time stands still.

Xingu looks up, and his eyes meet the hermit’s. He takes some food, bows his head deeply in what is taken as a sign of sincere gratitude, and eats.

Xingu then addresses the hermit: “All of us are made in His image, and like a diamond with many sparkling facets, each culture reflects a different aspect of Him. We are on a quest in search of the answer to an Urvanovestilli riddle. My mind does not think as an Urvanovestilli, and I confess that many of their logic puzzles escape me. Perhaps you can help us solve the riddle.” Xingu turns to speak to the group, “May I see the box?”

Caroline who seems to have found the box in her presence, if only because she was carrying the lightest load and liked the noise it made responds “Of course.” Her eyes seems to twinkle with an inner happiness and she enjoys the company and the food. Offering as well to the table, herbal teas if anyone wishes to try a blend, as well as any food she carries that they wish to share.

Xingu slowly opens the box, and places on the table the porcelain figurine of a deer, a silver bracelet, a rock with some paint on it, a small crystal phial on a necklace, and reads from the parchment:

To Rozimald’s chambers the keys are three, They all upon the triangle mountains be.

A blue sapphire key beneath a great blue sapphire set, A black onyx key, by black onyx is met. An emerald key among hanging emeralds does rest.

“These are the clues to our quest. What can we make of them?”

He pauses….

“What strikes me first is a feeling that this is the trinket box of a little girl. Bracelet, necklace, little odds and ends, and a poem; all things that one would expect to find. Yet the poem is a puzzle. It could possibly be a puzzle a small child kept in a trinket box.

“Where was it found? In a labyrinth, a large puzzle. Finding the paper in the labyrinth, one would think it a puzzle. Finding the metal box in a labyrinth, one would think the box a puzzle. Finding the same metal box in the room of a young girl, one would find the box as normal, but the paper a puzzle.

“What are the keys? Something we must find on the three mountains? Are they already found, stashed in this metal box by a past adventurer and hidden in the labyrinth? Are they symbols, or metaphors, found by an interpretation of the poem, or the items within the box? Are the items in the box there by chance? Are they needed to find the keys? Are they a part of the puzzle, if not the keys themselves?

“Puzzle within puzzle within puzzle….”

He pauses.

“I also see a similarity in both the poem and the items; I sense a strong feeling of nature. Deer, stone, crystal, mountains, gems….

Xingu picks up each item, including the box itself, and slowly examines them, looking not only for clues to the mystery, but also admiring the beauty of each object. He passes them around the room to the others.

The hermit looks at the poem, thinks for a time, and then says, “Oh, so you’ve finally found a good-looking clue to Rozimald’s chambers. Let me think.”

He leans back, and then closes his eyes for a moment. “Aah, yes. One moment; I’ll be back.”

He goes into a corner, and returns with a black, frosted glass bottle with a seal on the front. “I had almost forgotten,” he says. “A Porto would be quite appropriate to this discussion.”

After serving everyone a glass, he leans back, and says, “There are many poets that I have heard of, and some of them spend a great deal of attention on drawing out the wonder in the world around. They are working to open people’s eyes, to fight off the ever threatening grey murk which threatens to cloud vision and make even the sun look dull and drab.

“Some of that group evokes the things that we most regard as precious — gold and silver, diamonds and rubies, wines and delicacies. Those things, perhaps in part because they are rare, are not so often looked at as dull and drab.

“There was one poet — I have forgotten his name — who spoke of gems, describing the world as if it were composed entirely of gems. And the fragment of song which you describe appears to be some of his work.”

He opens his mouth to say something, but you cannot hear his words due to a loud growl and sounds of a scuffle coming from outside.

Outside, as soon as your eyes can adjust to the brightness, you see a young Urvanovestilli being attacked by a bear. He is masterfully dodging, but the bear seems to be very determined in its attack.

They are both about a hundred feet away.


Xingu starts singing, and the bear seems to be beginning to slow down — but it is not clear how quickly it will slow down. As people pour out of the cave and begin to fan out, the bear’s paw comes down on the young Urvanovestilli’s arm. He winces, and jumps back.

As he jumps back, Caroline manages a fair shot into the bear’s heavy bulk. It rears, and begins to sniff around.

Hood’s heavy armored steps ring as he runs forward. He swings a heavy blow at the bear’s chest; it connects solidly. The bear crouches down to dodge; Hood’s sledgehammer slides down a side.

Zakhs has by now run up, and swings his staff, hitting the bear on the head. The staff vibrates in his hands.

The bear swings at Hood, and hits solidly, his claws scraping across his armored chest. Hood is knocked on his back.

Caroline hits the bear again, and hits solidly.

The bear lunges at Hood, who has by now prepared with a blow of the sledgehammer, and has his ironshod feet up in the air. The sledgehammer hits the side of the bear’s head, and glances away. His knees buckle into his chest, winding him.

Zakhs swings his staff again, and hits the bear, distracting him from Hood.

Hood is gasping and struggling to breathe, but even so begins to roll towards his feet, sledgehammer in hand. He hits the bear in the back, winding it in turn.

Caroline shoots at the bear again, but misses.

Zakhs swings at the bear, and also misses.

Hood, weakening in his struggle to breathe, swings at the bear, but only grazes it.

The bear swings at Zakhs, but does not move quite quickly enough to hit it.

Hood, beginning to turn blue, swings again, and hits.

Zakhs lifts his staff from below, hitting the bear in the mouth.

Caroline shoots another arrow solidly, hitting the bear in the back of the neck. It immediately falls over.

Hood, turned a deeper shade of blue, finally manages to inhale. He drinks the air in deep gulps; slowly his breathing and his skin color return to normal.

After a little while, your attention returns to the young Urvanovestilli, who was mauled by the bear. He introduces himself.


Zakhs steps over to the young Urvanovestilli, after pounding Hood solidly on the back (to help him regain his breath). He will examine the young man’s arm and see if there is anything he can do for the boy.

“What could have riled that creature up so much?” he will wonder aloud as he examines the Urvanovestilli’s arm.

Hood cleans his sledge by rubbing it to the ground….then he comments the whole thing……..

” Tough bear….”

He turns towards the the young Urvanovestilli.

“…..you are still alive…glad to see it…..it was a close thing…..”

Caroline introduces her self to the young Urvanovestilli. She the proceeds to tell him a story about a brave young person from her tribe, while she tends his wounds. She seems to have more than herbs for tea in her pack. The story and the treatment end at the same time.

Hood brushes off some dirt from his clothes…and continues to adress the young Urvanovestilli……

“I haven’t introduced myself…..I am Hood”

Hood reaches out a hand……

“I know not what riled it up, but the poor fellow will make quite a delicious meal. Of course, we may not have enough to go around, with only one bear and two Tuz.”

Xingu, with a wide grin, gives Zakhs a friendly punch in the gut.

Xingu then walks toward the Urvanovestilli, and greets him with a raised hand and three kisses, as is the way of Urvanovestilli culture, and speaks to him in his native tongue.

“Hello, my name is Xingu. I thank the Lord that you survived this encounter without greater injury. We are a band of adventurers, following clues to discover Rosimald’s chambers. Please stay, eat, and join us; we welcome your insight in solving this puzzle.”

The little man looks as if he was coming out of his daze for the previous brush with death, then he stands up to introduce himself, but then sits back down, and says, “Greetings and salutations, you may call by the name that my friends call me, which is Jeff. I am still a little bit shaken by the whole ordeal, so I feel that I would be unable to fully express who I am in an intelligent manner, therefore, could you tell me a little bit about who you are? Just in case if you were wondering, I was sent to help you on your quest.”

The hermit walks around and begins collecting branches to make a fire; in a couple of hours, there is roast bear for all to eat their fill of (even the Tuz). Caroline has bound the wounds; the young man’s arm is set and healing, and Hood doesn’t seem to have taken any grave injury (although his chest will have some nasty bruises).

As you eat, the young man begins to introduce himself.

“Hello, my name is Chimera Antonio Pbrush Petra Mistrelli Charleston Jeffery Mirrorman, but you can call me Jeff. I am from the city of Mistrelli, sent to help you on your quest. I believe that my understanding of Illusions can help you on your journey.

“I am my father’s first born, and will return one day to become his assistant, and eventually, take over for him. But for now, I want to continue to see the world, and meet the different races and creatures that inhabit it.

“I also love to play, Imperial Kingdoms, which is a complex version of Chess. I am also working on a flying machine, although it is far from being able to work, it is a hobby that I enjoy.”

The hermit asks for the rest of the bear’s carcass (after you have taken a good chunk as food for the journey), to make jerky and a rug out of. “I’d heard from other people that there was a rather cantankerous bear around here, and I’d seen a few tracks, but I’d never met it…

“Come with me. Let’s stand in a circle around Chimera, and lay hands on him.”

As you do so, the pain in Chimera’s face begins to ease, and he sits back.

The hermit sits back, after the meal, and begins to talk about the local geography; he describes a few paths, and landmarks for you to find your way on. “Do stop back here after you have looked around, and I wouldn’t mind hearing how you mean to set about finding the keys in the forests. See you later.” After a night’s rest for all, he sees you off again.

A Dream of Light

Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World Not Touched by Evil

The Sign of the Grail

Within the Steel Orb

Further Notes

Cover for The Minstrel's Song

The Minstrel’s Song:
Further Notes and Musings

A note on magic…

Most people reading this have probably noticed the absence of anything magic.

This absence is quite intentional, and of it I would like to say a couple of things.

First of all, magic is sin. It’s that simple.

But, you may say, playing a character who uses magic does not mean that the player is tracing runes in the air, drawing chalk circles, and so on.

If you mean in the hands, granted. But there is something more to say.

One of the themes in the Sermon on the Mount is that purity belongs not only in the hands, but is to penetrate to the heart. Listen to how this precept is applied to sexual purity: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

That is to say, sin does not begin with the full act of sexual intercourse (outside of marriage); it is sinful to use the imagination to commit adultery in the heart — and a man who so much as casts one glance in lust has already done so.

The application to magic means that sin does not begin with chanting the words in a spellbook; it is wrong to use the imagination to use magic in the heart… and, just as lust does not begin after spending several minutes imagining every last instant and detail of foreplay and intercourse, pretending to use magic does not begin after imagining every last detail of casting a spell.

Role playing games provide a way to pretend, to use the imagination to become the great explorer who voyages into the unknown, the romantic bard whose tales spin beauty and wonder. Nobody wants to play a scullery maid or a cobbler who makes shoes day in and day out; a character who is played for enjoyment is someone whom it would be enjoyable to be. To play is to pretend; to have fun by playing a magical character is to have fun by committing the sin of sorcery in the heart. (The same also goes for violence, deceit, theievery, etc.)

The second thing to say is this: God creates. Satan only mocks. forming counterfeit substitutes.

Lust is not a wonderful creative flair which Satan came up with. Marriage, including sex, is God’s good creation; it is sacred, so much so that the Song of Songs (a Hebrew superlative meaning the greatest and most beautiful of songs) is devoted to eroticism. Lust is a cheap substitute, a cold prickly where God intends warm fuzzies. It can only be appealing because of the goodness of sex.

If the analogy is extended to magic, several useful things can be drawn from the analysis.

The question, “Why do people derive pleasure from pretending to use magic?” has two answers which I can immediately see.

The first is “Power.” Magical powers enable characters to do amazing things.

Power is certainly not innately evil — God is all-powerful, and the believer who walks in the Spirit grows in power — but Satan often twists it to do what it was never meant to; function as a substitute for love. Totalitarian dictators and despots are rarely described by psychologists as having spent childhood surrounded by warm and compassionate friends; they are rather described as having been picked on and bullied. Power has a place in life, but role play is not enhanced by making characters into demigods. The terms ‘munchkin’ and ‘Monty Haul’ do not describe a solid campaign. Perhaps a character is less powerful in some ways if he does not have a cloak which turns him invisible, but that does not make him a boring and pointless character.

The second, and in my estimation far more informative, answer to the question is, “Wonder.”

In common speech and in literature, words such as ‘magical’ and ‘enchanted’ are used to describe things that are spectacular, awe inspiring, breathtaking.

God created people to be filled with wonder. Wonder fills pious living, and one of the many evils of looking to magic is that it has a grievous potential to blind people to the wonder God wants to fill them with.

There is wonder in little things that often go unnoticed; in the dance of a candle’s flame and the feel of a gentle breeze. The created order — from the deep majesty of the starry vault, to the height of the mountains, to the depth of the oceans — is, as the human body, fearfully and wonderfully made.

There is also wonder in music, in art, in dance, in the form of ideas. It lies in personality, in the beauty of the human spirit. Finally, above and beyond these and many other things, is a source of wonder greater still.

The final and greatest source of wonder is God himself.

It is the motion of the Spirit which animates worship; indeed, Spirit-filled worship is probably the most wondrous element of human experience. It is the motion of the Spirit which enables men to speak in the tongues of men and angels; it is the motion of the Spirit which transported Philip from the Ethiopian eunuch to Azoth.

One need only read the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al to catch a little of this. Elijah summoned the four hundred and fifty prophets of Ba’al, and asked the people of Israel, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, worship him, but if Ba’al is God, worship him.” He proposed a contest: each would have a bull to offer in sacrifice; the hundreds of prophets of Ba’al would ask Ba’al to send fire to their sacrifice, and Elijah would ask Yahweh to send fire to his sacrifice, and the one who answers with fire — he is God.

The prophets of Ba’al went about for hours dancing and gashing themselves, taunted by Elijah: “Surely Ba’al is god! Why don’t you cry a little louder? He could be asleep, or traveling. Who knows? Maybe he’s sitting on his porcelain throne.”

After a while, it was Elijah’s turn. He told the people, “I don’t want to bore Yahweh. This is too easy.” So, after preparing the sacrifice, he made the people thoroughly drench it in water, and drench it again, and then drench it again. Then he prayed, and fire came down from Heaven, consuming the bull, the wood, and all of the water.

It is not in magic, but in the Spirit — always faithful and never predictable — that the believer finds wonder.


One more note on magic:

There are certain elements of magic which seem to recurrently appear in Christian-designed fantasy role playing games.

I am referring in particular to magic in which the Bible or some book of liturgy becomes a spellbook, and verses/prayers/quotations become runes, incantations, etc.

If I may provide an analogy…

Creating a pornographic film is wrong.

Creating a pornographic film which has as its characters the characters of the Gospel (ergo, where it is Jesus, his disciples, Mary Magdala, the prostitutes and tax collectors whom Jesus said were entering the Kingdom of Heaven ahead of the Pharisees and so on who have an orgy, instead of random 20th century people having an orgy), is still wrong.

What is wrong with the latter mentioned pornographic film is not that it contains characters from the Gospel. What is wrong is that it is a pornographic film. Using Gospel characters within the context of a pornographic film does not make everything OK. The context of a pornographic film is wrong, even if the characters who appear in it are perfectly fine.

Now, to extend the analogy to gaming…

It is wrong to play a character who spends time studying dusty spellbooks, from which he learns a magical incantation which, once per day, will cause a fireball to explode in the midst of the enemy, or enable him to fly, or create a magical shield about him.

That stated, let me quote the LightRaider Net fanzine, for the Christian DragonRaid game, (c) 1996 Jill Oviatt (oviattws@alaska.net) and Charlie Banders (charlie@mat.net).

An important WordRune that I think goes hand in hand with #55 Purge Evil WordRune (covered in issue #5) is #49, No Sweat WordRune.NIV Romans 8:31b “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This simple and easily memorized scripture (especially if you know the D+K song) is good by itself, but also a good balance to #55. Whereas #55 helps with the offensive strategy of the LightRaider, #49 helps with the defensive side of a battle. The No Sweat WordRune will allow you to raise your LightRaiders ‘Shield of Faith rating by 3 for the duration of one encounter’. This Wordrune may only be used once per day so use it wisely.

Even in an allegorical situation… This is still magical. It does not involve prayer which rests on faith and which God grants, but memorization, recitation, words which bear power in and of themselves, and in terms of description and game mechanical effects is indistinguishable from a wizard’s spell in Dungeons and Dragons.

Prayer is powerful, and memorization of Scripture is good. But the essence of prayer does not stem from the words in which it is spoken: when Jesus gave a model prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, he chastened people who babble because they believe they will be heard for the many words, and reminded his disciples that their Heavenly Father knew what they needed before they began to ask. When the Samaritan woman asked Jesus which place was the true place to worship, on this mountain or on that mountain, Jesus answered that the true place to worship was in Spirit and in truth. Does one do justice to these teachings of Jesus by saying that specific words spoken in prayer have a power in and of themselves, residing the words, that would not be found in any other words? No. The New Testament teaching is that the power resides in the prayer and in the faith of the believer, to which God responds as a loving father, which is anything but governed by mechanistic rules as given in such games.

This kind of thing is, just like taking characters from the Gospel and incorporating them into a pornographic film, taking words from Scripture and incorporating them into a system of magic.

This is not how God works and answers prayer.


A note on stories (note: this falls into the category of half-baked musings and suggestions rather than moral compulsions, and I may well be speaking of the impossible)

There was one professor of music who said of worship song that, rather than thinking “Here is the song on paper; we start it at time X and finish it at time Y”, it might be better to think of one neverending song that always has been and always will be rising in the presence of the Eternal; people who sing step, for a while, into this song.

My story is like a thread being woven into a great tapestry; beautiful in and of itself, it is being led into contact with other threads, and slowly woven into a magnificent whole. It is not the Story before which there was no world; it is a story which is rather included in a beauty it could never attain on its own. It is not really that God is a part of what I am doing, so much as that I am a part of what God is doing.

Something of this might be brought into play; rather than one party in the world which acts upon a static situation (and in which other events occasionally happen as needed as plot devices for the story of the one party), there might be a Copernican revolution to the point where the world is full of interconnected stories which are parts of the one great Story; the characters and the party are dancing the great Dance.

I’m not entirely sure how to implement this — I’m netter at designing worlds than telling stories; my mind is more shaped around what is, than what happens — but the following seem to be at least promising:

  • Just try. In the absence of detailed instructions, simply attempting and keeping it in mind may do a lot.
  • Russian author solution. Chez les e’crivains russes, characters, plots, and subplots abound. It may be a lot of work/a headache for the game master, and having several round, many flat, and numerous functionary non-player characters may be a feat not to be attempted by non-Russians, but at least a little hint of this might add a bit of color.
  • Multiple parties/numerous characters. This is probably the most promising, and the most capable of generating a nightmare. There are a couple of things that I’ve observed as tendencies in existing game play:
    • The shortage is of game masters, not players. If there is a reasonable way for a game master to deal with more than one party (2-7 characters), it’s probably worth exploring.
    • The basic unit of play is either the whole party, or one player (solo).In real life, I enjoy time spent with a group of friends and time spent in solitude — and, very much, time spent in a smaller group, and, especially, time spent alone with one person.

      If the characters have a strictly professional relationship — I’ll keep track of where we are, deal with organization, and talk with the locals; you’ll take care of food and other supplies; Jim will work on puzzles and jury-rigging something to do the trick when we’re up against a brick wall, etc. — then that may be feasible. Indeed, working together to solve a puzzle is a quite enjoyable experience. I think, however, that rich role play should have friendship as well, which will work out to personal relationships more complex than individual/group.

    I think that email may be able to bear *some* of the load. Letters from one character to another/others (cc’d to the game master) are a substantial tool for character development and role play. They can carry some interpersonal conversations very well, and are wonderful, to speak in a timewise manner: each player sends his character’s words when he is free, and the additional strain on the game master is negligible.

    This should not supplant the traditional mode of play. Face to face interaction, the general social environment, munchies and something to drink — this is an enjoyable atmosphere, and a part of why the game is enjoyable.


A note on puzzles…

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out.”

Proverbs 25:2

After role play, an orientation towards puzzles should be an important constituent of enjoyable play. There is a certain pleasure that comes of a challenge mastered, and that pleasure is particularly sweet when it comes from the mastery of a puzzle. (The balance which should constitute play, as I envision it, would consist of role play, exploration, wonder (motion of the Spirit and detail in the world), and problem solving)

The following are suggested examples of puzzles:

Riddles: These could be posed by a gatekeeper as a requisite to crossing a bridge etc.; alternately, a door could have a riddle engraved on it, the answer to which would tell where the key may be found, or what button to press, or…

Logic puzzles: See Raymond Smullyan, _The_Lady_or_the_Tiger?;_ a good library, in that section, should have other books with other appropriate puzzles.

Mazes: twisty passages, secret doors…

Cryptogram: On this point, I would issue a strong warning, from personal nbobi experience, that the objective is *not* to protect information, but to es”Ni provide a puzzle which can be solved in a reasonable amount of time. er”nt Ergo, simple and relatively easy: substitution ciphers, something where eeytl the direction is reversed and the vowels are deleted, a creative ntofe rearrangement where “Ninety nine bottles of beer” becomes the contents of the square to the right, a text where the first letter of each word spells out the message, etc. It is very easy to make something which is too hard and frustrating to the players, but care and moderation should make something enjoyable.

Word game: Give a text with one rather bizarre feature — a void to perceive, or an odd pattern — which, when noticed, will be helpful to the party.

Strategy games: Something simple, but different. Examples of such games may be found among mathematical puzzle books in a library.

Spatial/three dimensional puzzles: Sokoban, various disassembly/reassembly puzzles which may be found in shops, Towers of Hanoi… if these can not be acquired, it’s not the end of the world, but they should add something.

Guess the rules: A very simple strategy game, with a (non-optimal) algorithm to play against… but the rules are not initially given, beyond a yes/no answer to the question of, “Is this legal?”

Tesselation puzzles: Fit the pieces in place and/or assemble to make a certain form.

(Explicit) mathematical problems: If there’s a good way to put them in play, math contest problems of the sort that can be found in books are a lot of fun to solve.


Charles Baudelaire, in “La Morale du Joujou”, made some very interesting observations about children’s play and toys… the most notable was that children, when they play with toys, are not really playing with toys.

There are some, to be sure, that, in all of their flash and snazzle, leave nothing to the imagination… but many, perhaps most children’s toys as played with mean a manner of play that uses toys as a springboard to play with imagination.

He commented, with a degree of sadness, that many adults who attend theater do not realize that it is possible to faithfully play Shakespeare with a very simple stage and costume setup. I think that something similar is to be seen in our culture’s intolerance of puppetry as a serious adult form of drama; only trivia that is small enough to relegate to children may be permitted to leave pieces to be filled in in the viewer’s mind. Hollywood in its present form spends who knows how many million dollars (probably enough to feed and clothe a small third world country) per movie on special effects and computer graphics. The result leaves nothing to the imagination but the plot.

Role playing games are, in a sense, a manner of play which does not directly fall prey to this tendency. Play sometimes involves the use of miniatures, many game books have vivid pictures, and game masters normally generate maps, but the general nature of play finds it entirely feasible to play in a space that exists within the imagination.

I would suggest, however, that this takes a second order form as comes to technical rules and game models. Bad players attempt to use game mechanics as a substitute for playing properly, and proper play — though characters may have attributes and skills to tell the game master what die roll is necessary to successfully swat a mosquito — does not really consist of it. Just as children use their toys but do not really play with them, good players use game rules but do not really play with them. To role play a believable and rounded character is too complex to reduce to dice and charts.

The one point where it is disanalogous, is strategic complexity. Complex and well-designed rule systems facilitate a high level of mathematical problem solving; I would describe the problem solving side of fantasy and science fiction battles as the intersection between mathematics and military strategy.

I think, however, that that challenge can come into through play through proper choice of puzzles.

Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World Not Touched by Evil

Exotic golden ages and restoring harmony with nature: Anatomy of a passion

The Spectacles

Unashamed

A Four-Dimensional Maze

The maze is a hypercube; in the same sense that a diagram might represent a three dimensional structure by showing some two dimensional slices one above the other, this maze represents a four dimensional structure by a grid of two dimensional slices.

In eighth grade, when I first wrote this, I was very interested in higher dimensions, and I tried to learn to visualize in four dimensions; I never really succeeded, but I did learn to visualize the shifting three dimensional cross sections of hypercubes passing through three-space at a couple of different angles. Visualizing higher-dimensional objects is hard (impossible, by some sources), but doing math or programming in higher dimensions is not by nature more difficult than doing things in two dimemsions.

Does the maze look flat? Is it really four-dimensional? Let me ask you a question. What can you see that doesn’t look flat? All the images you see are two-dimensional. A movie or a 3D game doesn’t look flat because it represents a three-dimensional area in a two-dimensional way, and you learned as a child to perceive that as three dimensional. This maze also represents a four dimensional maze, just like a flat schematic diagram represents something three-dimensional. The picture on your screen is two dimensional, just like every other picture on the web, but the maze that’s represented is four-dimensional.

An author’s musing memoirs about his work: retrospective reflections, retracings, and retractions

The labyrinth

Technonomicon: Technology, Nature, Ascesis

Within the Steel Orb


Game Master’s Introduction

Cover for The Minstrel's Song

Section I: Initial comments.

The game master should know and understand the material in the general player’s section, and in addition the material in the game master’s section.

The game master is the referee and the “everyone else”, the one who designs adventures and governs the pretend world play occurs in.

Section II: Designing play

There are several components which should shape play. A proper mixture and balance of these different elements, like a balanced diet, provides the most enjoyable passage of time.

Role play, personal interaction, acting — this is (especially) when characters talk and do things in a way that shows their personality. This is perhaps the most central part of play; it is at least the one which this genre of game is named after. This lies more with the players than with the game master in that it is something the players do; the game master’s role here is just to encourage and to provide opportunities conducive to good role play. (Ergo, a quest more robust than two riddles, a logic puzzle, three locked doors, and a maze leading to a chest of gold.)

Challenge, problem solving, puzzles — bring situations where players have to think. The key to keep in mind here is that it is not the game master versus the players, but rather the game master providing puzzles that are difficult but not insurmountable — puzzles which will yield to thought and effort. More information is provided in section III, puzzles.

Skill use — situations which bring into play the characters’ skills. Locks for a scout to pick. A wilderness trek for a woodsman’s wilderness survival skills. A maze to map out. Hidden doors to discover. A quest which brings characters into other lands and requires them to use an interpreter. Et cetera.

Word pictures and stories — role playing is, in a sense, a narrative in the second person, and one attribute of good literature is skillful and beautiful use of words. A description of situations which is beautiful and moving is preferable to one which is dull and mechanical.

Divine action and intervention — points where characters come into contact with God. Gifts of the Spirit at work. A dream in which a character is warned that he will be badly needed by far away friends. A moving worship service. An angel’s appearance to give a party a quest.

Exploration and wonder — a sense of penetration and discovery, venturing out into the unknown, and a sense of surprise, is another color on the game master’s palette which is necessary to a good painting.

Rewards — rewards of various sort can be worked in for good and successful playing, and set after significant accomplishments. Good role playing, and puzzle solving, are in a sense their own rewards. Other rewards include experience (the characters becoming better at some skill or skills, or learning new ones), Urvanovestilli devices, friendships and alliances, information, the discovery of wonders…

Faith and morality — Espiriticthus is a world where faith is a part of life and life is a part of faith. Sometimes the motion of God is plainly visible; sometimes it takes more subtle forms, as in the book of Esther, where God is not explicitly mentioned even once. But God moves. Faith, and moral virtue, should be a part of the campaign — the setting in which the adventurers move.

Section III: Puzzles

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out.”

Proverbs 25:2

The following are suggested examples of puzzles:

Riddles: These could be posed by a gatekeeper as a requisite to crossing a bridge etc.; alternately, a door could have a riddle engraved on it, the answer to which would tell where the key may be found, or what button to press, or…

Logic puzzles: See Raymond Smullyan, _The_Lady_or_the_Tiger?;_ a good library, in that section, should have other books with other appropriate puzzles.

Mazes: twisty passages, secret doors…

Cryptogram: On this point, I would issue a strong warning, from personal nbobi experience, that the objective is *not* to protect information, but to es”Ni provide a puzzle which can be solved in a reasonable amount of time. er”nt Ergo, simple and relatively easy: substitution ciphers, something where eeytl the direction is reversed and the vowels are deleted, a creative ntofe rearrangement where “Ninety nine bottles of beer” becomes the contents of the square to the right, a text where the first letter of each word spells out the message, etc. It is very easy to make something which is too hard and frustrating to the players, but care and moderation should make something enjoyable.

Word game: Give a text with one rather bizarre feature — a void to perceive, or an odd pattern — which, when noticed, will be helpful to the party.

Strategy games: Something simple, but different. Examples of such games may be found among mathematical puzzle books in a library.

Spatial/three dimensional puzzles: Sokoban, various disassembly/reassembly puzzles which may be found in shops, Towers of Hanoi… if these can not be acquired, it’s not the end of the world, but they should add something.

Guess the rules: A very simple strategy game, with a (non-optimal) algorithm to play against… but the rules are not initially given, beyond a yes/no answer to the question of, “Is this legal?”

Tesselation puzzles: Fit the pieces in place and/or assemble to make a certain form.

(Explicit) mathematical problems: If there’s a good way to put them in play, math contest problems of the sort that can be found in books are a lot of fun to solve.

Section IV: Urvanovestilli devices, etc.

Urvanovestilli devices may be very useful to players. Devices may include anything which could plausibly be made given a mind like that of Leonardo da Vinci, finely machined gears, levers, springs, etc., and the dexterity of a microsurgeon. (Be creative.) The price of devices should take into account materials cost and amount of skill and labor; in general, they should be rather expensive.

Sample devices include a sewing machine, a Swiss Army Knife, a hang glider, a device which (when pulled along on a leash) leaves an ink trail on a floor to indicate where players have been, a Babbage-style analytical engine, a collapsible ladder, a spring loaded automatic belaying device which (once the springs are pumped up) will shoot up a grappling hook and then automatically pull in slack in a rope (until a certain button is pushed and held, at which it will feed out rope at a slow rate (given over 50 pounds pull — well below the weight of any adventurer) and reset the springs)…

(Unacceptable devices would include a mechanical thinking person, a machine to turn lead into gold, or something else which could not plausibly be made under the technology parameters given.)

The Urvanovestilli also have a knowledge of chemistry which allows the creation of many chemicals — pyrotechnics, glues, acids, chemical (phosphorescent) lights, and drugs being among the more useful to adventurers. (Drugs, if combined with the fruits of Yedidia herbalism, would be rougly on par with what exists in the modern world — for example, medicinal drugs would include antibiotics, antishock drugs, etc., but would not include something to make a third degree burn instantly heal — only the gift of healing can do that). Chemicals in general are expensive. Hormones exist, but are prohibitively expensive, as they can only be gathered in minute amounts each day at butchers’ shops, and require a degree of skill and labor to extract. Much of the more powerful drugs and hormones, as well as being extremely expensive, have side effects or potential to backfire — ergo, anabolic steroids having the same problems as in real life, adrenaline speeding up reflexes, increasing strength greatly, etc., but unpredictably causing either a fight or flight reaction — so a calm and controlled adventurer injected with adrenaline could start running as fast as possible away from all danger.

A Dream of Light

Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World Not Touched by Evil

The Sign of the Grail

The Spectacles

Generica: A Free “Do-It-Yourself” Board Game

Generica
the ultimate in generic board games!

For ages Qf to R3!

Generica is not just a board game like any other. Generica is the board game like any other.

Not only is it a generic board game, but it is also a generic ice breaker; when you are playing it, you will laugh and perhaps get to know the other players better. It will blur the line between silly and serious!

The Board

A picture of the mazelike board for the board game Generica.

This is the board I use now; I encourage you to design your own. Basically, you get a sheet of posterboard, a marker, brainstorm a little, and draw something that will let people move around and give them lots of opportunities to draw cards. Print out the printer-friendly version, so you’ll have the rules and can cut apart the cards. That’s all there is to it!

Rules

  1. Each player is to bring his own game piece — a small object of a size of approximately one inch or less — to use during play. The personal significance, if any, of the piece, may be explained.
  2. Sit down around the board. The person with the loudest socks moves first.
  3. When it’s your turn, roll the die and move as many spaces as are indicated. You start at the antechamber and want to get to the inner room.
  4. On a space with a diagonal picture of a card (“card space”), draw a card and do what it says or answer what it asks.
  5. Colored spaces are secret passage spaces. If you are on a secret passage space, you may move to the other secret passage space of the same color and pattern as the space you are on. This counts as moving one space.
  6. Play Generica as a generic board game. I’m not going to bore you by describing further.
  7. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah foo blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blorg blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blorf blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. You didn’t have to read all this.

Cards

Go back two squares.
Move one square.
Switch places with someone you’re fond of.
Bonus — get three candies.
Poke someone ticklish.
Tell who you are trying to become.
Tell of one literary character whom you identify with, and why.
Tell of one TV show which you find to be boring and predictable, and why.
Give a friend a hug.
Tell of a book you enjoyed reading.
What was the house of your childhood fantasies?
This card intentionally left blank.
If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you like to be?
Move your game piece to the square most directly to its left.
Get a pencil and an index card, and add another card to the stack.
Mention one childhood memory of a kludge involving bailing wire or duct tape.
Give a left-handed handshake to the person to your left.
Grab the nose of the person opposite you.
Tell of one ice breaker you like. If there is general agreement that the described ice breaker is better than Generica, put this aside and start that game.
State one nickname you would like to be called, and why.
If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you like to be? Why?
What do you think of these cards? Why?
Move someone else’s game piece one space.
Tell about one culture, past or present, which you would like to visit, and what about it interests you.
Tell about one fantastic place which you would like to visit, and how you’d fit in.
Name one thing that you are really looking forward to, and what the hope is like.
Tell of one cherished memory.
Share one musing you have had lately.
Tell of one way in which a close friend challenges your tacit assumptions.
Is this a stupid question?
State one quality you admire in the person opposite you.
What do you most wish that others understood about you?
What does your name mean?
What kind of animal would you like to have as a pet?
Are you bored?
Tell of one way in which Mammon has poisoned you.
Is your belly button an innie or an outie?
What is your favorite kind of weather?
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite drink?
And now, for something completely different. Each player should move to the space previously occupied by the player to the left.
Draw two cards.
Take two ashtrays, and call me in the morning.
Jump in the air.
Give one cent to the player to your left.
Reverse. Players take turns in the opposite direction.
Thumbwrestle the player to your right. Winner moves forward two spaces.
Give one adjective which you would like to you.
Give one adjective which describes the player opposite you.
Give one adjective which describes your left thumbnail.
Take off your shoes and socks.
Tell what color is your favorite, and what about it you like.
Tell the story behind one of the objects in your bedroom.
Tell your favorite Bible story.
Describe a virtue you would like to embody.
Describe your favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.
Of these three art movements — neoclassicism, impressionism, and cubism — which do you find to be the most representative? Why?
Share something from your daydreams.
Share an epistemological musing.
Share an ontological musing.
Share an aesthetic musing.
Share an ethical musing.
Tell of one thing which happened today that you are grateful for.
Tell of something you learned from another culture.
Tell a joke.
Improvise on the nearest available musical instrument.
What is your favorite book in the Bible? Why?
Evaluate the causes and effects of a major historical event.
Scripture excluded, name one theological classic which has influenced you.
Tell one lesson which you learned from a little child.
Describe one way in which you have changed over the past five years.
Do a push up.
Describe one way in which you would like to change over the next five years.
Using three or four works, analyze the essential characteristics of an artist you appreciate.
Give your reactions to the previous given response.
Say one sentence in a foreign language.
Give your opinion of the OJ media circus. For additional challenge, try to do so without using any four letter words.
Tell where your mind has most recently wandered.
Name one TV commercial even more generic than this game.
You’re off the hook. You don’t have to do anything now.
Use words to paint a picture.
Share one religious experience in the past year.
Describe a small personal possession which holds no emotional significance to you.
Tell of one time when you found a big treasure hidden in a small package.
Describe one attribute of a character whom you admire.
What is your favorite food?
Share one thing about yourself which you wish others understood.
Insert this card in the middle of the stack.
Shuffle the stack of cards.
Sing a song you like.
Tell of one thing in your life which is important and which you take too seriously not to take lightly.
Describe one moment when you knew that somebody loved you.
Lose a turn.
Describe one facet of virtue which you have thought about and try to live.
Share one thought about time as viewed by different individuals and cultures.
Write your own card, using one of the blank cards provided.
Share one of the things you are living for.
What do you fear?
Flip a friend over your shoulder.
Tell your favorite joke.
Tell about your favorite website.
Imagine that you grew up speaking, not the language of the people around you, but one that you yourself formed. What would that language be like?
What do you value of the worlds you have visited?
If a fantasy author were to base his hero on you, what would that hero be like?
What failures haunt you?
What card do you wish was in this stack? Answer it.
What’s your favorite Dilbert strip?
Think about how you have changed over the past five years. What have you lost?
Think about how you have changed over the past five years. What have you gained?
What do you have to be thankful for?
What struggle do you wish people to understand?
Tell about a person who has influenced you.
What is your dream pet?
What is your favorite musical instrument?
If you could shave one friend’s head, who would it be? Why?
Would you rather play with a cat, dog, monkey, or dolphin?
Would you rather have no options in a choice, or have no options in a choice?
What is your favorite hymn?
Try not to think of a glowing pink bear jumping up and down on a pogo stick, making more craters on the moon.
What is your favorite artistic medium?
What sense would you most like to lose for a day?
If you could change places with any one person in history, for one day, who would it be?
Speak in the voice of a character from your favorite story.
What treasure in you are you afraid to share with others?
What was an embarrassing moment from your childhood?
What element of beauty would you like to share with others, of all that you have seen?
Move across the nearest secret passage.
What would you like to lecture on?
Put your socks on your ears.
What was your worst cooking experiment?
What is one way in which you are trying to mature?
What books are you reading?
What book would you most like to read, of those you don’t?
What would you like to be better at?
Describe how you’re feeling today… from the persepective of your favorite comic strip character.
If you could be one egg in a carton of twelve, which one would you be?
Which is different: a book of Derridadaist essays, or a slow-moving barge?
What is your favorite computer horror story?
See how long you can balance on your toes.
How can the rest of us better love you?

Catch the Furball (Demo)

The Horn of Joy: A Meditation on Eternity and Time, Kairos and Chronos

The Minstrel’s Song

The Spectacles

General Comments and Theological Groundings

Cover for The Minstrel's Song

I’m going to attempt to explain a reworked concept of role playing games.

Let me preface this by saying that:

  • I’m toying around with ideas; the best that I can offer now is unpolished and half-baked.
  • Explaining this in terms of extant role playing systems will be something like explaining non-verbal communication in terms of the logical reasoning of geometry.
  • If, by God’s grace, I manage an explanation that is not too clumsy to understand, and lay out a system which is not too incomplete to use, it will still be very challenging and require much thought to play.

I have played AD&D extensively, and Star Wars a fair amount. In addition, I am marginally familiar with GURPS, Shadow Run , Amber, and a couple of home brewed systems. I am most familiar with AD&D as the grandfather (technically, basic D&D, but it doesn’t matter for what I will be speaking of), and will speak of it as the basis.

I have enjoyed many hours of rich role play; I believe it to be immensely valuable. Not only is it enjoyable, but it develops and strengthens imagination, emotion, and reason. That alone is a needed flash of light at a time when imagination and reason are dying, and emotion is reduced to a tool to influence your choice of shampoo.

When I find problems in existing role playing games, therefore, I am not saying, “Role play is evil. Destroy it.” Instead, I am saying, “Fix it. Heal it. Complete what is lacking, restore what is askew, remove what is baneful.” The basic principle — a game master creates a world, players create characters, and they play out — is very good.

That being stated, there are two basic things that need a major overhaul.

  • Philosophical groundings.Gnosticism, which is perhaps the heresy plaguing Christendom, holds many things, including the following:

    The final measure and achievement is power. You, a member of the elite, will achieve the final end by making yourself more and more powerful, penetrating successive ranks until you become like a god.

    Good and evil are equal and opposite, balancing forces which together make a higher order unity.

    If this is beginning to sound uncomfortably familiar, it should. The philosophical groundings of AD&D are Gnostic. Another point of Gnosticism is a morality that is, to put it politely, revised. In AD&D, what are the four classes? Fighter. One whose training is in combat, and kills all the time. Thief. One whose training is in thievery. Mage. One whose training is in sorcery. Aah, but we have a relief in the cleric, right? No. Clerics are religious knights who take a vow never to shed blood — and then learn to use blunt weapons with a proficiency far beyond that of most professional soldiers. It is entirely possible for a character to lie, worship false gods, use magical talismans and cast magic spells, wade through blood — and be a hero.

    Now to contrast with Christian orthodoxy:

    Identity consists not in power or the deified Self, but in Christ. In Christ, after you humble yourself, God will lift you up, by his grace. He will forgive your sins, give you a place in the community of his saints, and call you his son. The Christian’s identity is first of all in Christ (hence the term ‘Christian’), and second of all in the Church; in that context he is the wonderful new creation.

    What then of power? It has no place in identity. Paul, at the end of his life, could have written, “I have written letters outlining the faith, planted churches, served as the Apostle to the Gentiles, cured the lame, raised the dead, and converted more people than Jesus Christ;” in short, “I achieved in power.” Instead he wrote, “I have run the race; I have fought the good fight; I have kept the faith,” in short, “I obeyed.”

    Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit. God has chosen the weak to shame the strong, the poor to shame the rich, the foolish to shame the wise. Look at the disciples Jesus chose — fishermen, a tax collector, one terrorist even! It was a very foolish choice, but it was divine foolishness. God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom, and that is why the Church that Christ started with these men is rocking the world.

    There is a place for the use of talent, but the talent is empowered by being given over to God and consecrated by him; anything else is but dust and ashes. And it is clear that God has no need of human power to accomplish anything.

    Good and evil are not equal forces; evil is an absence or a twisting of good. Satan cannot create; he can only mock. God creates worship; Satan mocks with idolatry. God creates sex; Satan mocks with adultery. God creates truth; Satan mocks with lies. Evil has no substance or creation of its own; it exists in terms of good, twisted, distorted, absent. Good exists on its own terms; it existed long before evil, and it will exist long after evil has no existence save torment in the lake of fire. But then why do good and evil fight? Evil fights good because it stands in rebellion against good. Good has its own purposes, and, because evil stands in the way, fights evil as an obstruction. It is not defined by this fight, and will not lose anything of itself when the last battle is over; in the New Jerusalem, we will see good in its truest and purest form.

    And what of the teaching that great men are not bound by the “mere” constraints of traditional morality? I can only say that fulfilling the “mere” requirements of morality was a major part of the accomplishment of Jesus Christ, the greatest man who ever lived.

    A little leaven leavens the whole lump, which is why every thought must be taken captive to the Lordship of Christ. The system must be built from the beginning, not on heresy, but on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

  • Mathematical modeling.Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, the grandfather of all role playing games, established a detailed mathematical model; the process of generating a character is set according to a system of rules, in a manner that can be accomplished by an algorithm; indeed, it has been accomplished in algorithms, and I have seen several computer programs capable of generating and describing everything but the personality. I might add that the First Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide had an appendix which contained an algorithm to randomly determine non-player character personalities as well.

    Play follows in which players make choices according to an algorithmic set of rules, and dice rolls are used according to charts and rules to decide what happens of attempts to do this, that, and the other thing. This is the way that events’ outcomes are usually determined, and, again, computer programs can do this quite effectively. This basic premise has been imitated in every RPG I know of; in this sense, AD&D still IS the de facto standard. Amber diceless role play made a big splash — by introducing an algorithmic set of rules which used player bids instead of dice to operate. The question asked of a new game system is not “How does it handle things? Does it use a mathematical model?”, but “How exactly does its mathematical model operate?”

    I would like to draw this mode of thought into the light for a minute. First of all, I would like to draw attention to DikuMUDs and the various computer games such as The Eye of the Beholder, The Curse of the Azure Bonds, etc. They have all of the stats and THAC0s and ACs and damage ratings that anybody could possibly want. Yet they pale in comparison with true role play.

    The reason is that the heart of role play consists in what can not remotely be reduced to rules. It has something to do with an imaginative world, characters who are realistic, and a plot. To technically administer rules is easy; to have good role play requires experience and calls for thought. What author ever began to weave a tale by using charts, rules, and dice to determine that the main character would have a strength of 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, a 43% chance of successfully picking a lock, and could quickly tie any one of 21 different knots?

    “Christianity is not a statistical view of life.”

    -G.K. Chesterton

    If we look to Scripture, we see that there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one filthy sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous men who do not need to repent. We see that a day and a thousand years are the same in the sight of the Lord. We see that many wealthy men made ostentatious and showy gifts out of their excess, and a poor widow dropped two pennies, all that she had to live on, and surpassed them all. I could go on for pages, but eloquence does not consist in a multitude of examples.One is required to conclude from these things that either God is an incompetent mathematician, or that the measure by which he sees the world is something greater than mathematics.

    Therefore, in establishing a system to play with, we should seek not so much to imitate mathematical models and computer programs, as something else: I would (loosely) propose children’s games of make-believe and books.

Having stated what I believe is necessary, let me attempt to lay it out.

It begins with prayer. This is not a question of a waste of power, or annoying God by interrupting him with something trivial. He wants to be involved with the most intimate details of our lives. If we, who are evil, know how to give good things to those whom we care about, how much more will God, who is good, know how to give good things to his own children, for whom he did not spare his only Son? So let us begin by asking his blessing.

Father, bless us in this endeavor, bless it, and bless its fruit.

The divine name is Yahweh; “HE IS.” God is spirit, profound, deep, eternal; a substance more real than even the physical; the Rock upon which rock stands. Beyond actions, beyond time, beyond even attributes such as power and wisdom, HE IS.

It is possible, especially in our culture, to be distracted of this, to let doing displace being and accident displace substance. The question of “Who are you?” has been usurped by “What do you do?” This is wrong. The proper place of doing is to point to being, and of accident to point to substance. When I fill out details, I will ask that you not only look at “What does this detail look like?”, but “To what, beyond itself, does it point?”

We are created in the image of God; that is, in the image of the Creator. Thence comes our imagination and our power to create. And we hold the power to create in the image of his Creation.

History contains four events: the Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation, and the Second Coming.

In the Creation, God filled his universe with infinite order and beauty and color. In That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis said, “God does not create two blades of grass alike, let alone two angels, two saints, or two nations.” Light is the presence of all color; black is the absence of color. If there is light, then there will be red and yellow and magenta and silver and polka-dot green. The body of Christ lives and breathes, not as four thousand, nine hundred and twenty two left thumbnails, but as a unity of variety. If the world is to be ordered and beautiful to point to God, then color is not simply permissible but mandatory.

Unless the characters are to be wayfarers, wandering over the face of the earth (in which case there will be many places and cultures for the game master to exhibit), there should be a culture, a nation, a land set for the characters to live in.

What is the nature of the spiritual life there? Do the people live in community, loving each other? Do they look after each other’s needs, present in time of weakness, and holding each other accountable? Do they spend time in silence, stillness, meditation, looking inside themselves? Do look — at souls, at birds, at shining stars — and both enjoy their beauty and stand in awe of the Creator whom they reflect? Do they worship in spirit and in truth? What points of sound doctrine do they emphasize? What virtues shine forth? How does the Spirit move among them?

What is the culture like? What is their music? Is it solemn and stately, telling of the great and majestic King? Is it vivid and lively, telling of the Lord of the Dance? Is it soft and still, telling of the Eternal? What is the life of the mind like? Is the thought logical or symbolic? What of imagination? What emotions flow forth? Do the people learn to be ancient, gentle, and wise, speaking the words of a sage? Do they learn to be like little children, dancing without end and staring in wonder of the beauty of Creation? What kind of art do they have? What senses do they focus on — sight, to see and behold; hearing, to listen to music, words, and silence, to hear birds chirping and the voice of a friend; smell, of flowers, food, and people; taste, to savor meat and bread and wine; touch, to feel water and stone and cloth and the soft warmth of human skin?

What is the land like? Is it lush forest, filled with warm rains? Is it arid desert? Is it cool and misty? Is it flat, or hilly, or mountainous? Are villages near or far apart? Is there a body of water nearby? What plants and animals are around? How much does the weather change? What special natural features are there?

In thinking about questions such as these, and perhaps others which have not come to mind, it should be possible to get a beginning picture of what the world will be like.

Creation was not the only event; there was the Fall, and its twistedness. The very way in which man was created as the holy image of God is the very means used by evil as instruments of wickedness. Created with the power to love, we hate. Created with the need for worship, we whore after idols. Created as sexual creatures, we commit adultery. Created with a tongue to bless the Lord and Father, we curse men, made in God’s image. Created with a mind to know the truth, we embrace lies. Created with hands to build up, we kill.

The characters, therefore, are fallen and will walk the dust of a fallen world. The next questions will give shape to that as well:

What moral sins, vices, and heresies are there? Are the people split into ten thousand factions, each one bickering and claiming, “We know the truth?” Have the people turned their back on God as irrelevant to their lives? Do they chase after money? Are they shallow? Are their friendships trivial? Do they throw the mind and scorn wisdom? Do they worship the mind as supreme above God, pursuing religion within a context of reason? Are they self-righteous prudes, tithing mint, dill, and cummin, and neglecting justice, mercy, and faith? Do they pray for their neighbor one day in seven and prey upon him the other six? Do they pursue a false wisdom which scorns the body and objects of sense, which “God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth?” Do they know nothing beyond the physical? Are they proud, lecherous, manipulative, hateful, duplicitous? Do they cut others down with the tongue? Do they lie, cheat, steal? Do they dishonor their elders? Do they crush the weak? Do they commit adultery? Do they kill in their worship of power? What good things do they neglect?

When man had turned away from God and forfeited everything, God paid for redemption at the price of his Son. The Word became flesh, and walked among us. Now, we know Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

Are the people willing to confess their sins — all of their sins — as sin, and repent of them, in order to receive forgiveness? Are they willing to open themselves to the motion of the Holy Spirit, and be filled with his mighty power? Do they take up daily the Cross, to come and die? Do they know his passion, his agony, his suffering? Have they given him everything?

What color does the new light shine in them? What fruit and gifts? How do they live in the freedom that Christ has given them?

Now, I think, would also best be answered the questions of,

What is their history? Have the people been peaceful or violent? Have they changed or stayed the same? Have the changes been for better or for worse, or both? What are their traditions? What do they commemorate? What are their customs? Have they interacted with other nations abroad, or stayed within their own borders? What other cultures have influenced them? What influences have they brought? Where does their language come from?

After all has passed will come the final end: the Second Coming. The old order of things shall pass away. God himself will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more evil, no more crying, no more pain. The saints will enter into joy and life eternal.

This has not yet come to pass, but it still has a mark on the present. One of the great themes of Christian thought is the Kingdom of Heaven — “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.” Bringing Heaven down to earth is expressed by one relief worker who said, “I’m going back to Hell, to plant some flowers.” Worship is a piece of Heaven, brought to earth. The prime citizenship of the believer is the Kingdom of Heaven rather than any worldly kingdom; “in the world, but not of it.” Believers carry little pieces of Heaven with and about them.

Do the believers carry with them a sense of timelessness? Do they witness to the world with what the world has never seen? Do they escape entrapment by material possessions, enjoying them but sharing generously? Do they sow a spark of joy? Do they meditate on the blessed hope of the resurrection? If this is the light that they shine, with what color do they radiate?

After the game world is designed, the players should spend a time — perhaps an hour or two — with the game master. In this time, the players will learn of the world, and the game master will help with any incomplete areas of character development. This should not become a haggling over power.

In a game which revolves around power and struggles for it, it is important that there be a balance of power. Here, that should not necessarily be the case. In A Wrinkle in Time, of many characters — a boy genius with second sight, scientists of worldwide renown, mighty and majestic angels — it is a stubborn and impatient ten year old girl who rescues Charles from the power of IT; the weak and foolish chosen to do what the strong and wise could not. The game should not be about power, and if either game master or player focuses on it, something is wrong.

Here, then, are some questions to use in the formation of a character:

Who is he? Does Jesus sit enthroned in his heart? How does he try to imitate Christ? How does he see the world? Where do his loyalty and his love lie? How does he use his talents? What virtues does he embody? Is he temperate, controlled, balanced? What vices does he still hold on to? What sins does he struggle with? What does he search for in other people? How deep are his friendships? How deep is he? How strongly does he embody the qualities he holds? What community is he a part of? What is his family, his liege, his birthplace? What inhabits his thoughts? How does he embody what is truly masculine (she embody what is truly feminine)? What fruit does he let the Spirit work in his life? What is his name?

What is his story? What interests, goals, and desires does he have? What does he cherish? What special twist does he put on things? How does he pray? What is his role in the Church? What does he create? Of what would his friends look and say, “That is him?” What is his story? What (if any) visions has he had [this question is more the focus of the DM than the player]? If he were an animal, what animal would he be, and why? What are his hobbies? What is his favorite story? What does he like to present to other people? What is he afraid of other people knowing about him? What memories does he cherish? How old is he? How has he changed over the years? How has he remained the same? What are his loyalties? Who lies closest to his heart? Who does he exist in relationship to? What communities is he a member of? How does he spend his time? What are his hopes and dreams?

Only then,

What is he naturally gifted at? What skills has he developped? What would traditional game systems attribute to him? What gifts has he received in the Spirit [again, this question is more for the DM]? Prophecy? Faith? Wisdom? Knowledge? Healing? Miraculous powers? Leadership? What are his weaknesses? Does he have any handicaps? What can and can’t he do?

What does he look like? What is his manner?

After the world is created and the characters are established — not as isolated islands, but in relation to their culture and each other (Brother and sister? Friends from childhood? Father and son? Mentor and student? Reconciled enemies?) can play begin.

The game master, as an authority, is to exhibit Christ’s model of authority: not an iron fist or a lording of power, but “he who would be great must be a servant, and he who would be first must be a slave,” just as the rabbi who washed his disciples’ feet. The game master holds the most power and has the final say; he is therefore the most bound to humility and service.

The play itself should consist of that which is wholesome: the playing out of personas, the exploration of a world, the spiritual warfare against the invisible forces of darkness, the participation in the great dance. The game master can do special things — shape the plot, send dreams and visions, people and events — but the world is created not only by the game master but also by the players, by the richness of their dialogue and the miniature world they create among themselves. In this manner good books may be taken as a model, and, after all things, prayer. This, I believe, will make it work.

A Dream of Light

Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World Not Touched by Evil

Halloween: a solemn farewell

The Sign of the Grail

Catch the Furball

Catch the Furball is an icebreaker-like game for friends to play around a computer. It is partly based on Generica, which has received kind comments from players. What is different between the two? There are a couple of things, but to play Generica you need to make a board, and print out/cut up cards. You can play Catch the Furball from the web.

A view of Catch the Furball

Would you like to play Catch the Furball?

The source code is distributed here, for two purposes:

  • So that people can download the game and make it available from their websites.
  • So that people can use the game engine to customize Catch the Furball or create their own games in the same genre.

This distribution includes both the game, and the editor used to create its data. If you’re not sure which version to download, I suggest the highest-numbered version marked ‘stable’.

License: This project is free software, available under your choice of the Artistic, GPL, and MIT licenses. If you like this software, you are invited to consider linking to CJSHayward.com.

 

Version Unix/Linux Tarball RedHat RPM
1.0.3, stable furball1_0_3.tar.gz furball-1.0.3-2.i386.rpm
1.0.2, stable furball1_0_2.tar.gz furball-1.0.2-1.i386.rpm
1.0.1, stable furball1_0_1.tar.gz furball-1.0.1-1.i386.rpm
1.0, stable furball1_0.tar.gz furball-1.0-1.i386.rpm
1.0 beta, development furball1_0b.tar.gz furball-1.0b-1.i386.rpm

 

CJSH, a Python 3 based experimental, programmable Linux / Unix / Mac command line shell

Game Review: Meatspace

Generica

Virtual Tour (Demo)