Category Archives: Games

#435: Hindsight is 2021

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #435, on the subject of Hindsight is 2021.

Once again, as we did last year in web log post #371:  The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty and in previous years linked successively back from there, we are recapping everything published in the past year–sort of.

I say “sort of” because once again some material is being omitted.  There have been a few hundred posts to the Christian Gamers Guild Bible Study which can be accessed there but aren’t really fully indexed anywhere.  Meanwhile, the dozen articles in the Faith in Play series and the similar dozen in the RPG-ology series were just indexed yesterday on the Christian Gamers Guild site, along with everything else published there this year, in 2021 At the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, and won’t be repeated here.  The RPG-ology series began recovering articles from Game Ideas Unlimited, the lost four-year weekly series at Gaming Outpost, so I republished its debut article as web log post #384:  Game Ideas Unlimited Introduction, for the sake of completeness. 

I also posted several days a week on my Patreon web log, which announces almost everything I publish elsewhere on the same day it’s published, but again omitting the Bible study posts.

Similarly, we finished posting the novel Re Verse All, featuring Lauren Hastings, Tomiko Takano, and James Beam, from chapter 58 to the end (chapter 156), which are indexed there along with the several behind-the-writings posts on it:

  1. #373:  Nervous Characters covering chapters 55 through 60;
  2. #376:  Characters Arrive covering chapters 61 through 66;
  3. #379:  Character Conundrums covering chapters 67 through 72;
  4. #381:  World Complications covering chapters 73 through 78;
  5. #383:  Character Departures covering chapters 79 through 84;
  6. #385:  Characters Ascend covering chapters 85 through 90;
  7. #388:  Versers Climb covering chapters 91 through 96;
  8. #390:  World Facilities covering chapters 97 through 102;
  9. #392:  Characters Resting covering chapters 103 through 108;
  10. #395:  Character Obstacles covering chapters 109 through 114;
  11. #397:  Verser Challenges covering chapters 115 through 120;
  12. #401:  Characters Hiking covering chapters 121 through 126;
  13. #403:  Versers Innovating covering chapters 127 through 132;
  14. #405:  Versers Converge covering chapters 133 through 138;
  15. #407:  Versers Integrate covering chapters 139 through 144;
  16. #409:  Characters Cooperate covering chapters 145 through 150;
  17. #411:  Quest Concludes covering chapters 151 through 156.

Then there were several related character papers in the Multiverser Novel Support Site, and we then began posting In Verse Proportion, bringing back Joseph Kondor in fantasy Arabia, Bob Slade in industrial age bird world, and Derek Brown on a lost colony spaceship, at this point having reached chapter 39.  It included one behind-the-writings web log post, #432:  Whole New Worlds, covering the first twenty-one chapters.

Yet there was quite a bit more.

Forgive me for burying the lead, as it were, but just as Why I Believe came out late last year, it was followed this year by the release of The Essential Guide to Time Travel:  Temporal Anomalies & Replacement Theory, the long-awaited book on the subject, at the end of June.  This summarizing of much of the information on the Temporal Anomalies web site includes updated analyses of four films and a comprehensive presentation of time travel theory.  Dimensionfold Publishing interviewed me about it by e-mail, which they published here.

Related to that, a reader sent a letter with comments on Why I Believe, which I edited a bit (removing personal references) and posted as web log post #386:  An Unsolicited Private Review.

Now, getting back to other publications, there were another dozen songs published this year:

  1. Web log post #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom”, inspired by the verse about cutting off your hand;
  2. Web log post #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy”, a frenetic bit of musical excitement;
  3. Web log post #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice”, a bit of serious eschatological humor;
  4. Web log post #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good”, with political overtones;
  5. Web log post #393:  The Song “Why”, one of my rare worship songs;
  6. Web log post #399:  The Song “Look Around You”, an old evangelistic song;
  7. Web log post #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command, one of the generally early ones;
  8. Web log post #408:  The Song “Given You My Name”, written for my wife;
  9. Web log post #412:  The Song “When I Think”, which I hope will play at my funeral;
  10. Web log post #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me”, the title self-explanatory;
  11. Web log post #428:  The Song “To the Victor”, another rare worship song;
  12. Web log post #433:  The Song “From Job”, calling believers to repentance.

And there will be another song published today, but since that’s 2022, we’ll not say more about it yet.

I touched on Christian music otherwise in web log post #374:  Christian Instrumental Music, where I raise the question of how to recognize it.  My series on contemporary and rock Christian music in the 80s also continued briefly with web log posts #389:  Brother John Michael Talbot and #391:  Pat Terry.  A question asked on a Christian musicians group on Facebook prompted the writing of web log post #396:  Why Music Matters.

It was a not insignificant election year in New Jersey, but my first political post, #375:  Fixing the Focus, took a more general view, suggesting that Christians need to get our eyes off politics and on faith.  Closely following that, #377:  A New Tragedy of the Common looked at how online shopping was impacting brick & mortar retail.  Another political post with religious connections was #394:  Unplanned, about pregnancies.  With rules related to COVID in flux, in the late spring I posted web log post #398:  New 2021 Face Mask Rules in New Jersey to help a few of my readers.  The really political stuff began with #400:  New Jersey 2021 Primary and #402:  New Jersey 2021 Primary Results, but before the election an issue across the pond in England called for a response in #406:  Internet Racism, asking whether online social media criticism of black athletes should be criminal.

Then as the election loomed I offered #427:  The New Jersey 2021 Ballot, including a quick look at the public questions, followed a few days later by #430:  New Jersey 2021 Tentative Election Results.

I was given a book for Christmas, which I read and reviewed at Goodreads, God Is Disappointed In You, by comic book creator Mark Russell.

Then early in May someone (and I don’t remember who, how, or why) persuaded me to register as a Goodreads author; or maybe I did that earlier, but it was in May that I was persuaded by Goodreads to launch yet another web log, this one entitled The Ides of Mark because it appropriately posted at the middle and end of each month, updating readers on what I had published during that period.  In that sense, it is somewhat redundant, as the aforementioned Patreon web log covers that as it happens, and this annual review recaps it all eventually.  However, Ides also covers postings in the Bible Study and omits a lot of the personal detail about what I’m doing besides writing which the Patreon blog includes, and gives less information about what I am writing that has not yet been published.  This year’s entries have included:

  1. #1:  New Beginnings, May first through fifteenth, launching and explaining the series;
  2. #2:  Establishing Patterns, May sixteenth through thirty-first, featuring several web log posts;
  3. #3:  The Charm, June first through fifteenth, around the primary election;
  4. #4:  About Time, June sixteenth through thirtieth, announcing the publication of the aforementioned time travel book;
  5. #5:  Going Somewhen, July first through fifteenth, citing an Amazon review;
  6. #6:  The First Quarter, July sixteenth through thirty-first, with a scattered batch of articles;
  7. #7:  Getting Noticed, August first through fifteenth, citing evidence that the blog was being read by someone;
  8. #8:  Ends and Starts, August sixteenth through thirty-first, with the end of Re Verse All;
  9. #9:  Quiet on the Surface, September first through fifteenth, including character sheet posts;
  10. #10:  Before the Storm, September sixteenth through thirtieth, with the remaining character sheets;
  11. #11:  Looking Busy, October first through fifteenth, with the launch of In Verse Proportion and the beginning of the series on Exodus, listed below;
  12. #12:  A Frightening Output, October sixteenth through thirty-first, finishing the Exodus series;
  13. #13:  Slowing Down, November first through fifteenth, including the index of the articles in French translation mentioned below;
  14. #14:  Holiday Season, November sixteenth through thirtieth, as activity winds down;
  15. #15:  Not Much Said, December first through fifteenth, continuing the quiet;
  16. #16:  Years Go By, December sixteenth through thirty-first, with my post-Christmas post.

Not all of that is repeated here, but the bulk of it is.  I also answered ten questions there, which you can find here.

Half a decade ago I wrote about those musicians who influenced me; this year it occurred to me to do the same of writers, and so posted #380:  Authorial Influences exploring that.

Quite a few Bible questions came up and were answered, beginning with web log post #410:  When to Pray, followed by a somewhat technical question about a passage in Matthew, #413:  The Abomination of Desolation.  Then another reader asked me to address a long and complicated collection of issues in an article that claimed the Exodus, as reported in the book of that name, never happened, and I produced an eleven-part miniseries of web log posts in response:

  1. The introductory article was #415:  Can the Exodus Story Be True?
  2. It was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416:  Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?
  3. Turning to the second objection about whether such a departure could be organized, we offered #417:  Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?
  4. The third objection was that given the number of escaping Israelites the line this would have created would have been too long to outrun Pharaoh’s chariots, to which we offered #418:  Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?
  5. The fourth objection was summarized and answered in #419:  When Escaping in Exodus, Did the Israelites Have Too Much Luggage?
  6. In response to the fifth objection we wrote #420: Were the Hygiene Requirements in Exodus Impossible to Observe?
  7. The sixth objection asked and answered #421: Did Moses Write the Torah?
  8. For the seventh objection, we addressed the issue of anachronisms, and particularly those related to place names, in #422:  Are There Anachronisms in the Torah that Invalidate It?
  9. The absurdity of the eighth objection is displayed in #423:  What Kind of Infrastructure Did the Wandering Israelites Need?
  10. We looked at the penultimate objection in #424:  Did the Earth Really Stop Turning?
  11. Finally, the point was raised that there were similarities between the life of Moses and earlier accounts of Sargon, which led to the conclusion Do Similarities Between the Accounts of Moses Birth and Certain Myths Make Him a Fictional Character?, which also addresses a few final points.

After that, a Patreon patron asked about horror, so I produced #426:  A Christian View of Horror.  Comments on a Facebook group page related to one of my colleges concerning the fact that the campus is almost completely obliterated led to the writing of #429:  Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts, about the legacy such a place has without any memorial markers for the site.  I also finished the year last week with a post-Christmas post, #434:  Foolish Wisemen, something of a pre-epiphany epiphany.

Finally, I’ve had a long-standing relationship with the people at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, under which they have translated and republished quite a few of my articles.  I finally took the time to organize these into an index in English, at least for my own reference, which I made available as web log post #431:  Mark Joseph Young En Français, with links to such English versions as are available.

The writing of course continues, with more articles already in the queue, more work being done on the next novel, and more posted every week.  Thank you for reading, and particularly to those of you who have encouraged me through posts and reposts and likes, and who have supported me through Patreon or PayPal.me and the purchase of my books.

#431: Mark Joseph Young En Français

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #431, on the subject of Mark Joseph Young En Français.

Over two decades ago, the respected Australian role playing game e-zine Places to Go, People to Be asked if they could translate an article series I had written for them, three parts under the title Law and Enforcement in Imaginary realms, to republish in their then-new French edition.  This was the beginning of a long and continuing relationship during which they continued translating my work into French for release to a wider audience.  Recently I received word that they were releasing the twenty-sixth such article, and I had often realized that I had not been keeping track of what they had published and ought to do that, at least for my own sake, but also for yours.

This is in roughly the sequence in which the articles were originally translated and posted.

  1. La Loi et l’Ordre dans les Mondes Imaginaires – 1re Partie : Les sources de la Loi, written for and still published at the Australian version back in perhaps 1998 and translated shortly thereafter, was entitled Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms Part I:  The Source of Law, and dealt with how legal systems develop from primitive tribal structures to modern governmental systems, and how we derive laws from that.
  2. La Loi et l’Ordre dans les Mondes Imaginaires – 2e partie : la procédure judiciaire was the second part, Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms:  The Course of Law, presenting the issues of who executes the law and how is it executed, including what rights people might or might not have.
  3. La Loi et l’ordre dans les mondes imaginaires – 3e partie : Les Forces de l’Ordre finishes the series with Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms:  The Force of Law, dealing with matters of how and why we punish criminals.
  4. Des pièces de monnaie invisibles was originally a Game Ideas Unlimited article (at Gaming Outpost), more recently republished by the Christian Gamers Guild as RPG-ology #34:  Invisible Coins, about an illusionist technique and referee control of play.
  5. Gauche ou droite ? was again from Game Ideas Unlimited, again republished as RPG-ology #47:  Left or Right?, one of my personal favorites and another illusionist technique.
  6. Dans l’esprit de la radio is an article I wrote for the Winter 2004 edition of the e-zine Daedalus, entitled In the Spirit of Radio, and no longer available in English on the web.  Fortuitously I downloaded that issue, so I have a copy, and although it was not easy to convert PDF into HTML I expect it to post in the RPG-ology series next spring.
  7. La Sagesse dans les jeux de rôles, originally published as Game Ideas Unlimited:  Wisdom about how to play a character said to be wiser than the player, but only partially preserved on the web in English, it is my hope to reconstruct this eventually.
  8. LNS : de la théorie à l’application is a translation of an article originally published at The Forge and still available there as of last look, as Applied Theory, discussing how to apply concepts of gamism, narrativism, and simulationism to game design.
  9. Théorie 101 – 1re partie : le système et l’espace imaginaire commun is a significant piece.  Some years after I had written the Law and Enforcement series for the Australian e-zine, their editors put out a general call for someone to summarize the main features of role playing game theory as it was then being expounded at The Forge.  Being at that time involved in that work, I offered to compose something, and this, Theory 101:  System and the Shared Imagined Space, was the first of three parts.  It explains the concepts system, credibility, authority, and other aspects of how games work “under the hood” as it were that enable the creations of a shared world.  This article was later republished by Gaming Outpost, and the three-article translation was compacted and published in the French print magazine Joie de Role.
  10. Théorie 101 – 2e partie : Le Truc Impossible Avant Le Petit Déj’ is the second of the three parts, Theory 101:  The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast, discussing referee styles and how they resolve the conflict between the statement that the referee controls the story and the fact that the players control all the actions of its main characters.
  11. Théorie 101 – 3e partie : Les propositions créatives is the third part of the series, originally Theory 101:  Creative Agenda, discussing what is popularly called “GNS” or gamism, narrativism, and simulationism, the three primary approaches to player play, and what makes games fun for different people.
  12. Étreintes was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Embraces, and is scheduled to be reposted as RPG-ology #48:  Embraces on November 16 (2021); it deals with romance in role playing games.
  13. Valeurs was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Value, discussing what makes anything valuable or cheap.  It is on the list to be republished as an RPG-ology piece, but not yet scheduled.
  14. Récompenses was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Rewards, dealing with in-game reward systems, no longer available in English but on the list for eventually republication.
  15. Création de perso was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Chargen, about different ways of creating characters.  The English version only exists as a partial article, but eventually I hope to reconstruct it from the translation and republish it in RPG-ology.
  16. Du cash was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Cash, addressing the development of systems of exchange from barter through the invention of money in various forms to the future of electronic credit.  An English version exists, and will eventually be republished as an RPG-ology piece.
  17. Points négatifs was originally published as Game Ideas Unlimited:  Negative Points, a further discussion of character generation extolling the virtues of stronger and weaker characters.
  18. Maîtriser l’Horreur comes from closer to home, a translation of mark Joseph “young” web log post #132:  Writing Horror, about some of the elements that create a good horror story, whether for a book or for a game session.
  19. Moralité et conséquences : les fondamentaux oubliés. recovers the first article I wrote for someone else’s web site, Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials, originally published among the earliest articles at Gaming Outpost around 1997 and restored as mark Joseph “young” web log post #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials in 2018.
  20. Les Pactes avec le Diable is a translation of Faith and Gaming:  Deals, from the Christian Gamers Guild, about the Christian value in roleplaying deals with the devil.
  21. Le festin de Javan is again from the Christian Gamers Guild, Faith in Play #3:  Javan’s Feast, about an act of charity that rocked the game and impacted the players at the table.
  22. Histoire des Points de Vie was RPG-ology #3:  History of Hit Points, discussing the origin, development, and value of a fundamental mechanic in many games.
  23. Sentience was another Game Ideas Unlimited article, not spelled differently in English, and dealing with the elements of intelligence as a groundwork for creating alien minds.  It is scheduled for RPG-ology early next year.
  24. Funérailles reproduces another from Game Ideas Unlimited, this one republished recently as RPG-ology #46:  Deceased, asking why we don’t have funerals in our role playing games.
  25. Blessures is translated from Game Ideas Unlimited:  Wounds, addressing how events from adventures should impact character personality thereafter, which eventually should wind up in the RPG-ology series.
  26. Vous avez le droit de garder le silence… was more simply Game Ideas Unlimited:  Silence, about the relatively modern right against self-incrimination and how legal systems were different without it.  It, too, is slated for inclusion in the RPG-ology series.

The original French index on their site is here, for those more facile in French than I.  They expect to continue adding my material to their collection in the future, so I expect there may be a sequel to this article eventually.  My contributions are a drop in the ocean of excellent material they have gathered from a wealth of well-respected writers whom I will not begin to name for fear of omitting someone who ought to be mentioned.

#384: Game Ideas Unlimited Introduction

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #384, on the subject of Game Ideas Unlimited:  Introduction.

I must begin by thanking Regis Pannier and the team at the Places to Go, People to Be French edition for locating copies of many of the Game Ideas Unlimited articles which were lost with the crash of the Gaming Outpost website on which they were originally published.  An effort has begun to restore as many of these as possible as entries in the RPG-ology series at the Christian Gamers Guild.  However, the first article in the original series was primarily an introduction to the author–that is, to me–and as I had been introduced in several articles in Christian Gamers Guild series (Faith and Gaming and Faith in Play in addition to the one already linked)  it was decided that the additional redundancy of yet another introduction was unnecessary.

I suppose the same argument could be made here.  However, at the Christian Gamers Guild there is the limit that I post two articles a month, one in each series (sometimes an extra here or there if there’s something that needs to be posted that doesn’t fit either of the series), and here the limit is really just that I need to post things when I have something to post.  In the interest of historical completeness I am here publishing the original first article in the Game Ideas Unlimited series.  It was originally published June 1st, 2001.  The links have been updated where possible and necessary, and there are a few [bracketed] editorial notes.

*****

Game Ideas Unlimited:

Introduction

by Multiverser author M. Joseph Young

  I play Multiverser, and I love the game.  But that's expected--my name is on the cover.  E. R. Jones had been refining the idea for half a decade when he brought it to me, and I spent five years working with him to hammer out the details and the text.  So you can take my opinion with however many grains of salt you wish.  As long as it doesn't bother you that I'm a raving fanboy of my own game, we should get along fine.  And I promise to mention it only when it matters.

  So why do I mention it now?  Well, for all of its strengths, the game is voracious.  It consumes worlds and stories and creatures and ideas at an alarming rate.  I've run as many as eight worlds in a single night, each of them completely different.  It's one of the things that most frightens people about the game:  where do you keep getting ideas?  It's not that hard, really.  I just mentioned an idea I'd written up to one of our long-time fans (someone who playtested the game before it went to print), and he said that he never needs to look for ideas because there are so many of them out there.  He's right; ideas come easily, once you get in the habit.  But if you're not in the habit, it's easy to get stumped.  In fact, you don't have to play Multiverser to run short on ideas.

  And that's where this column comes in.  I've become something of an expert on generating ideas.  I run my own games; I write game tips for Valdron Inc's Tip of the Week site; I develop ideas for game worlds and games for future publication.  I've got some tricks I use, and some ideas I can share.  And this column gives me the chance to share them.

  There will be something a bit different here each week.  Sometimes you'll find ideas for creatures, or for characters, with which to populate your game world.  These will be suitably generic, so you can use them with whatever game you're currently playing.  Sometimes I'll give you the basics of an entire game world, something you can use for a campaign, or perhaps something smaller like an unusual adventure situation.  I'll also throw around ideas in game theory, ways to achieve different effects in your games, referee and player techniques, and other things I find useful in games I've played.  You won't find every column useful to you.  If you're into fantasy only, my forays into sci-fi might be of only passing interest; and similarly if you're a sci-fi gamer when I get talking about a challenging dungeon level concept you might find it less than practical.  But I hope to go beyond just the practical ideas themselves to something far more practical:  the patterns of thought that generate these ideas, the way I can always find new and creative ideas that keep my players going and constantly bring them back for the next game.  I'm convinced that creative thought patterns can be taught and learned.  I've learned them from others.  I hope by this medium to teach them to you.  Who knows?  Maybe some of you will wind up writing brilliant new worlds for my future Multiverser sessions.

  But perhaps some of you don't know me.  I'd like to introduce myself.  The best way I know to do that and make this column useful to you is to point you to a few of the things I've written that relate to gaming.  That will give you some idea of how I think and what I think, and maybe whether it will be worth your time to come back next week for the second installment.  It will also give you a fairly substantial reading list if you try to tackle all of it; there's a lot more out there than I'm going to mention here.  But I think you'll find some of this useful.  This isn't the only kind of thing I'll be writing; but it is the way I think about things.  Oh--some of these are on other game support sites.  I really don't want to send you away from the fine materials here at Gaming Outpost; but a writer's credentials are usually that he's been published in other places, so I'm going to have to offer you those other publications as a reference.  As my father's Mississippi family might say, "Y'all come back now, y'hear?"

  A couple years ago I tackled the problem of players who like playing evil characters.  I'm not opposed to evil characters in my games; but I think that too many of them get away with murder.  This was the first of my half dozen previous contributions to this site, Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Gaming Essentials [republished version], in which I examine how a referee should respond to the criminal, unethical, and immoral acts of player characters.

  If you've seen the Australian e-zine Places to Go, People to Be, you know they have some wonderful material.  It includes a three part series of mine, Law and Enforcement in Imaginary Realms.  The three parts, The Source of Law, The Course of Law, and The Force of Law, look at how to understand and build legal systems including laws, courts, police, and prisons, which are consistent with the worlds you play but surprising to the players.  Gaming Outpost liked this enough to reprint the first of these [here].

  A lot of gamers today complain about what they see as the old-style gamer who focuses too much on winning and not enough on story.  I gave some thoughts on this to Wounds Unlimited in Re-educating the Power Gamer.  Johnn Four of RoleplayingTips.com thought the article so helpful he reprinted it on his site.

  I've published quite a few web pages without the help of an e-zine; I won't burden you with all of them here.  But I will mention Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons Addict, my entry in the debate about whether role playing games are satanic.  Obviously you know my answer (I'm writing for an RPG site); but my arguments might help yours, and there's a fair amount of my personal and gaming history included in the piece.  This one gets a lot of attention--GAMA and the Christian Gamers Guild are among those linking to it.

  You might be wondering why I haven't mentioned RPGnet.  Well, I can't mention everybody.  I've got articles in a lot of out of the way places (WebCMO has one of my contributions on One-to-One Marketing; I have some interests besides gaming).  But indeed I do have an article there which might be of interest to you:  Intuition and Surprise looks at just exactly what it is that gives a character that "feeling" that something is amiss, and how to use that in your games.

  I try to keep current an index [alas, an effort abandoned years ago] of everything that isn't just a forum post or newsletter contribution.  It's not all about games, but a lot of it is.  And I make myself available by e-mail to discuss these or just about anything else.

  Beyond that, there are a couple things I should mention.  I've got two undergraduate degrees in theology and a juris doctore, that is, a graduate degree in law.  I was accepted into membership in Mensa years ago.  I'm the father of five boys, all of whom are avid and creative gamers.  I've always been serious about my fun, playing and inventing games of many types since before I knew about role playing games.  My interests have been quite diverse over the decades; expect that to show from time to time.

  I look forward to sharing some of my as yet unpublished ideas.  Next week, something different.

*****

As mentioned, additional entries are available at the Christian Gamers Guild.

#371: The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #371, on the subject of The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty.

I believe the correct greeting is Happy New Year, as we enter 2021.  That means it is time for us to look back at everything that we published in 2020.

The big deal is the book, in paperback and Kindle format, Why I Believe, a compilation of evidence on the basis of which intelligent people believe in God and in Jesus Christ.  I’m told the hardcover version is out, joining the paperback and Kindle versions, but haven’t seen it yet.

The year began, appropriately, on January 1st with a look back at the previous year, web log post #325:  The 2019 Recap, doing then what we are doing now, providing a quick look at everything from the previous dozen months.

On the first of the year I also published a song, the first of a dozen continuing from the seven of the previous year:

  1. web log post #326:  The Song “Mountain Mountain”;
  2. web log post #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice”;
  3. web log post #334:  The Song “Convinced”;
  4. web log post #337:  The Song “Selfish Love”;
  5. web log post #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul”;
  6. web log post #341:  The Song “Joined Together”;
  7. web log post #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”;
  8. web log post #349:  The Song “I Can’t Resist Your Love”;
  9. web log post #353:  The Song “I Use to Think”;
  10. web log post #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good”;
  11. web log post #362:  The Song “My Life to You”; and
  12. web log post #366:  The Song “Sometimes”.

That series continues with another song later today.

On the subject of series, there are several others, including both the Faith in Play and RPG-ology monthly series at the Christian Gamers Guild.  These are both indexed, along with other excellent material from other contributing authors, at 2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, posted yesterday.  Thanks to the editorial staff of the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, a large collection of the original Game Ideas Unlimited articles, thought to be lost when Gaming Outpost closed, have been recovered and are now appearing slightly repolished in these series.  (Quite a few of them plus other articles have been translated into French for their site.) We also finished posting the rest of the novel Versers Versus Versers, along with updated character sheets in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages, and started on the seventh, Re Verse All, which will continue well into the new year.  There were quite a few behind-the-writings web log posts connected to those, but they are indexed in the novel table of contents pages so we won’t burden this entry with them.

There was also the continuation of another series, reminiscences on the history of Christian contemporary and rock music from the early 1980s, which picked up with:

  1. web log post #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning, a conglomerate of artists from Randy Matthews and Randy Stonehill through Michael W. Smith;
  2. web log post #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown;
  3. web log post #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters;
  4. web log post #342:  Fireworks Times Five, one of the best rock bands of the era;
  5. web log post #345:  Be Ye Glad, one of the best vocal bands of the era;
  6. web log post #358:  DeGarmo and Key, Not a Country Band, another excellent early rock ensemble.

I should mention for the time travel fans that there is indeed a book in the works, possibly with a sequel, but it’s still in the early stages so that’s on the list for the coming year.  Meanwhile, temporal anomalies were not ignored, as we had several posts and pages.

Among the miscellaneous posts this year is one about the fact that my work appears under several slightly different names–Mark, Mark J., M. Joseph, M. J., and Mark Joseph–and the story behind that is explained in web log post #331:  What’s With the Names?  A musician asked a question on a Facebook group, which I answered in web log post #352:  Why No One Cares About Your Songs.

Giving extra confusion to the year, in February my second grandchild, my first grandson, was born, roughly a decade or so after his half-sister.  That was the beginning of a saga that still is not completely resolved, but it was several months before he came home, in time for Halloween.

My book reading slowed drastically, due largely to the fact that my Kindle was smashed and I’ve been trying to get it repaired, but there are a few book reviews (one of a book on writing) at Goodreads.  Also appearing are two republished book reviews, as web log posts #351:  In re:  Evil Star and #368:  In re:  Cry of the Icemark, recovered from the lost Gaming Outpost archives.

We were quiet on the political front until June, when events related to Black Lives Matter prompted the writing of web log post #344:  Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?  Some argued that it was not.  We later explained the mail-in ballot system adopted by our home state in web log post #360:  Voting in 2020 in New Jersey, with a follow-up a couple weeks later in web log post #363:  The 2020 Election in New Jersey.

The year ahead looks promising.  There should be another song posted today, with Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles already queued for publication later this month and well into the year ahead, chapters of the novel Re Verse All with their accompanying behind-the-writings peeks standing by, more CCM history, some time travel movies awaiting my attention, and–well, we’ll have to see what appears.  Meanwhile, this is your opportunity to catch anything you missed or re-read anything you forgot.

I would be remiss if I did not thank those who have supported me through Patreon and PayPal.me, and to invite and encourage others to do so.  The Patreon web log is the first place where all new pages are announced, and the place to go for glimpses of what is to come, and even as little as a dollar a month helps me immensely and gets you that information delivered several times a week.  Thank you.

#325: The 2019 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #325, on the subject of The 2019 Recap.

Happy New Year to you.  A year ago I continued the tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #278:  The 2018 Recap.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable, so that if you missed something you can find it, or if you vaguely remember something you want to read again you can hunt it down.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, that day also saw the publication of the first Faith in Play article of the year, but all twelve of those plus the dozen RPG-ology series articles are listed, described, and linked in 2019 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, published yesterday.  There’s some good game stuff there in addition to some good Bible stuff, including links to some articles by other talented gaming writers, and a couple contributions involving me one way or another that were not parts of either series.  Also CGG-related, I finished the Bible study on Revelation and began John in January; we’re still working through John, but thanks to a late-in-the-year problem with Yahoo!Groups that had been hosting us we had to move everything to Groups.IO, and I haven’t managed to fix all the important links yet.

At that point we were also about a quarter of the way through the novel Garden of Versers as we posted a Robert Slade chapter that same day, but that entire novel is indexed there, along with links to the web log posts giving background on the writing process.  In October we launched the sixth novel, Versers Versus Versers, which is heating up in three chapters a week, again indexed along with behind-the-writings posts there, and it will continue in the new year.  There are also links to the support pages, character sheets for the major protagonists and a few antagonists in the stories.  Also related to the novels, in October I invited reader input on which characters should be the focus of the seventh, in #318:  Toward a Seventh Multiverser Novel.

I wrote a few book reviews at Goodreads, which you can find there if you’re interested.  More of my earlier articles were translated for publication at the Places to Go, People to Be French edition.

So let’s turn to the web log posts.

The first one after the recap of the previous year was an answer to a personal question asked impersonally on a public forum:  how did I know I was called to writing and composing?  The answer is found in web log post #279:  My Journey to Becoming a Writer.

I had already begun a miniseries on the Christian contemporary and rock music of the seventies and early eighties–the time when I was working at the radio station and what I remembered from before that.  That series continued (and hopefully will continue this year) with:

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it is evident that the music dominated the web log this year.  In May I was invited to a sort of conference/convention in Nashville, which I attended and from which I benefited significantly.  I wrote about that in web log post #297:  An Objective Look at The Extreme Tour Objective Session.  While there I talked to several persons in the Christian music industry, and one of them advised me to found my own publishing company and publish my songs.  After considerable consideration I recognized that I have no skills for business, but I could put the songs out there, and so I began with a sort of song-of-the-month miniseries, the first seven songs posted this year:

  1. #301:  The Song “Holocaust”
  2. #307:  The Song “Time Bomb”
  3. #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal”
  4. #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods”
  5. #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe”
  6. #320:  The Song “Free”
  7. #322:  The Song “Voices”

I admit that I have to some degree soured on law and politics.  Polarization has gotten so bad that moderates are regarded enemies by the extremists on both sides.  However, I tackled a few Supreme Court cases, some issues in taxes including tariffs, a couple election articles, and a couple of recurring issues:

I was hospitalized more than once this year, but the big one was right near the beginning when the emergency room informed me that that pain was a myocardial infarction–in the vernacular, a heart attack.  Many of you supported me in many ways, and so I offered web log post #285:  An Expression of Gratitude.

Most of the game-related material went to the RPG-ology series mentioned at the beginning of this article, and you should visit that index for those.  I did include one role playing game article here as web log post #303:  A Nightmare Game World, a very strange scenario from a dream.

Finally, I did eventually post some time travel analyses, two movies available on Netflix.  The first was a kind of offbeat not quite a love story, Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies unravels When We First Met; the second a Spike Lee film focused on trying to fix the past, Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies unravels See You Yesterday.  For those wondering, I have not yet figured out how I can get access to the new Marvel movie Endgame, as it appears it will not be airing on Netflix and I do not expect to spring for a Disney subscription despite its appeal, at least, not unless the Patreon account grows significantly.

So that’s pretty much what I wrote this year, not counting the fact that I’m working on the second edition of Multiverser, looking for a publisher for a book entitled Why I Believe, and continuing to produce the material to continue the ongoing series into the new year.  We’ll do this again in a dozen months.

#303: A Nightmare Game World

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #303, on the subject of A Nightmare Game World.

I had a dream, a very strange dream, in which I was apparently trapped in a very strange world.  I think that if I ran this world in a game, people would be frightened, and so I’m calling it a nightmare–although oddly even when I was running for my life I wasn’t scared, just intrigued with the problems of trying to understand the world.  I’m going to blame Michael Garcia for some of this, because he just asked my opinion on a batch of documents that formed part of a world for his AD&D™ game set in a labyrinth with dimensional instabilities, but in fairness other than that there must have been dimensional instabilities in it, nothing in the dream came from him.  Yet I can see Eric Ashley running something like this as a Multiverser™ world, so I wanted to share it for the benefit of those referees looking for something really out there.

The basic setting is a modern warehouse-style department store, a sort of cross between BJ’s or Home Depot with the high racks of goods and Wal-mart with the many departments and clothing racks and linoleum floors and good lighting.  There seemed to have been a lot of people in the building, but it was not crowded, and often I was alone or with a few others.  I tacitly understood somehow that there was no exit, but that nobody actually lived here, as if they had all come to shop but then were trapped inside.  That in itself did not cause anyone to panic; it might be that they were not yet aware of the situation, as most were still shopping.

The first real oddity that caught my attention was in one corner of the store, where an aisle running from the front toward the back was lined with boxes that might have been games or kitchenware or something, there was a girl, probably young twenties, trying to set up something like a telescope–a big one, not Mount Palomar, but a couple body lengths with perhaps a four-foot diameter tube on a large base.  This apparently belonged to her father, who had set it up right here not long before, but had vanished, and for reasons not at all clear to me the device had been disassembled but was now being reassembled.  I came to understand through conversation that the telescope also had laser targeting devices which somehow managed to latch on to portals to other dimensions, maybe created wormholes or something, and the girl was certain that if she could get it working she could bring her father back.  O.K., shades of Howard the Duck.

Meanwhile, I concluded that there were dimensional rifts of some sort somewhere in the building.  My first clue to this was that a tyrannosaur came down the front aisle toward us, and we all had to run for our lives, abandoning the work on the telescope.  It’s kind of funny that whenever there is a breach to the Mesozoic era, it’s always a tyrannosaur that comes through, never small harmless herbivores, but then, they wouldn’t be so exciting.  I remember diving under a shelf unit to escape, and sometime in this I spotted what I took to be a shambling mound.  When I awoke I realized it looked nothing like a shambling mound, but rather appeared to be made of a mass of tangled bright green plastic ribbon about seven feet tall–but a shambling mound, I realized, made sense, since it’s entirely vegetative and so would be of no interest to the carnivorous tyrannosaur.

I can think of a lot of questions and directions for the player characters in such a world.  Can the professor actually be rescued using the telescope-like device?  If he is, does he know how to fix the dimensional instability so that the portals to other worlds can be closed and the doors to the natural world opened?  Is all of this a result of a botch with this device, and if there’s another botch, what’s likely to happen?  Is the equipment to fix the instability available in the store?  On a similar topic, does the store sell weapons, such as hunting rifles, and if so can they be accessed and made operational, and would they be effective against the invading creatures?  Can the panicking shoppers be organized into some kind of useful group, or are they just going to wind up bait for the monsters?

The biggest problem I see, from a Multiverser play perspective, is if the player character manages somehow to stabilize the building and open the doors so the people can egress to their homes, what does the referee do with the world beyond?  I find modern settings to be some of the most difficult to make interesting, myself, but then I know people who can do wild and crazy things with simple ideas.  I’d love to hear whether anyone does anything with this one.

#285: An Expression of Gratitude

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #285, on the subject of An Expression of Gratitude.

I need to thank a lot of people.

The complications include that I do not know who you all are, and I’m not sure of the propriety either of naming those whose names I have or contacting you personally.

Thus I am thanking you all, however many of you there are, through this web log post.

This arises from the fact that I recently had a myocardial infarction–a heart attack–which put me in the hospital.  I posted that in this Facebook post, and somewhere about twenty responses down I posted again with news of the Friday and Monday procedures, and my Tuesday discharge and such.

Many of you sent what I guess would be called “good wishes”, that is, comments, messages, whatever, hoping that I would get better.  Thank you.  I have done so to a significant degree, although I am still a bit weak and officially convalescing (and my wife has already scolded me for overworking once she knew how much I did yesterday, the day after my discharge, but someone had to get the boys to work and someone had to pick up my prescriptions, and more often than not I find that someone is me, particularly when she is working a string of night shifts, driving herself for the first time since her broken hip, and needing to sleep during the day).  So I am not fully recovered, but I am back at work.

Many of you prayed, and for this I am particularly grateful.  You have, of course, obligated me to let you know about the answers to your prayers so that many of you can give thanks to God for the grace extended through the prayers of many of you (cf. II Corinthians 1:11).  I have largely done that in the Facebook post.  I am not out of the woods entirely–I have a bag of new medications (and of all things the pharmacy couldn’t fill the “aspirin” prescription (chewable baby aspirin–how could they not have that?), so someone has to go back for it today), and I have two appointments for a cardiac stress test and a followup to decide what the test results mean.  Those are in the second week of March.

At least two of you made a point of spreading the word of my debilitation, and of encouraging people who at least know who I am to support me financially during this time.  That has resulted in a few gifts of significant amounts through my PayPal.me account–the first real activity there since it opened, and enough to pay for this bag of prescriptions and a bit more.  I have not seen any new Patreon patrons yet, but Patreon’s notification system is sometimes wonky so I’m going to include mention of that–because I am grateful to those of you who have made an effort to keep me going, and thankful to God that you are there, to those who contributed and to those who encouraged others to do so.

I’ll extend these thanks to those who have been meaning to send a bit of help my direction and simply haven’t yet done so; I know what that’s like, as there are often times when I have something I need to do soon that goes for days or weeks or even months before I manage it.  So thank you for the prayers and support you are going to send in the future.  You really do make a difference.

As the picture says, thank you.

#278: The 2018 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.

A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219:  A 2017 Retrospective.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters).  We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link.  Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site.  That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent.  It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.

Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me.  If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.

Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.

#220:  The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.

#221:  Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.

#222:  The Range War Explodes:  Interstate Water Rights arose at the Supreme Court level when Florida claimed Georgia was using too much of the water that should flow downstream to it.

#225:  Give Me Your Poor talks about our immigrant history, the illusion that it was entirely altruistic, and the question of what we do going forward.

#229:  A Challenge to Winner-Take-All in the Electoral College looks at a federal lawsuit claiming that the standard electoral college election system violates the one-person-one-vote rule.

#230:  No Womb No Say? challenges the notion that men should not have a say in abortion law.

#231:  Benefits of Free-Range Parenting discusses the recent idea that parents who do not closely monitor their kids are not being negligent.

#241:  Deportation of Dangerous Felons considers the Supreme Court case which decided that the law permitting deportation of immigrants for “aggravated felonies” is too vague.

#247:  The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.

#251:  Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.

#253:  Political Messages at Polling Places presented the decision that non-specific political clothing and such cannot be banned from polling places.

#255:  On Sveen:  Divorcees, Check Your Beneficiaries examined a convoluted probate case in which a law passed subsequent to a divorce dictated how life insurance policy assets should be distributed.

#259:  Saying No to Public Employee Union Agency Fees is the case the unions feared, in which they were stripped of their ability to charge non-members fees for representation.

#261:  A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates hinged on free speech and a California law compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post notices that the state provides free and low-cost abortions.

#270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot was the first of two parts on the election in our state, #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results providing the second part.

#274:  Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224:  Religious Politics.

My practice of late has been to put my book reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find quite a few there, but for several reasons I included #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker as a web log post.  I also copied information from a series of Facebook posts about books I recommended into #263:  The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

There were a few entries in time travel, mostly posted to the Temporal Anomalies section of the site, including Temporal Anomalies in Synchronicity, which is pretty good once you understand what it really is; Temporal Anomalies in Paradox, which is a remarkably convoluted action-packed time travel story; Temporal Anomalies in O Homen Do Futuro a.k.a. The Man From the Future, a wonderfully clever Brazilian film in which the time traveler has to fix what he tried to fix, interacting with himself in the past; and Temporal Anomalies in Abby Sen, an Indian film that is ultimately pretty dull but not without some interesting ideas.

In the miscellaneous realm, we had #227:  Toward Better Subtitles suggesting how to improve the closed captioning on television shows; #228:  Applying the Rules of Grammar encourages writers to understand the rules and the reasons for them before breaking them; and #273:  Maintaining Fictional Character Records gives some details of my way of keeping character information consistent from book to book.

This year we also began a subseries on the roots of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music, starting with #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor in March, and continuing with

  1. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael
  2. #236:  Reign of The Imperials
  3. #238:  Love Song by Love Song
  4. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark
  5. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch
  6. #244:  Missed the Archers
  7. #246:  The Secular Radio Hits
  8. #248:  The Hawkins Family
  9. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist
  10. #252:  Petra Means Rock
  11. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands
  12. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive
  13. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn
  14. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus
  15. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Christian Music
  16. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?
  17. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire
  18. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts
  19. #272:  To the Bride Live
  20. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233:  Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267:  A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.

There were also a couple of entries related to gaming, including the republication of a lost article as #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials–the first article I ever wrote to be published on someone else’s web site.  There was also a response to some comments made by #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild, and a sort of review of a convention appearance, #249:  A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.

So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts).  In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.

Again, your support through Patreon or PayPal.me helps make all of it possible.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

#249: A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #249, on the subject of A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

Last year in An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience I reflected on being a guest of the convention–a minor guest, listed as staff, but brought there because as a role playing game designer I hopefully add something to the experience of convention goers.  I’m looking at it through a different lens this time, hoping to give something of my own experience.

I suppose the story really starts months ago.  Last summer, shortly after my guest appearance at AnimeNEXT, I was hospitalized for emergency surgery and lost quite a bit of time recuperating.  Complicating it greatly, two days after I was hospitalized my wife fell and broke a hip and a foot, and was also hospitalized for emergency surgery followed by extended rehabilitation.  In what would have been a comedy of errors had it not been so serious, three of our sons were working at cross purposes trying to resolve issues with the house so that we would be able to maneuver in it while convalescing, with wheelchair and walker and such, and when I came home in the middle of this it was in an uproar.  I don’t know that I contributed much to it, but after perhaps a week my wife came home, and I was there for a few days helping her get settled before I returned to the hospital for another couple weeks and she was struggling to get along without me with the help of two of those boys and a neighbor friend of theirs.  We took a long time to convalesce, and things are still not entirely normal–which meant, among other things, that I had serious doubts about whether I would be able to get to the convention myself, and whether she would be able to manage without me for a few days.  She still doesn’t drive, even though she’s back to work, so I have to drive her.

I’m not sure whether it was the last week of April or the first week of May, but one night when I drove my wife to work the most reliable car we have broke down, and that put a dent in our transportation.  I had one of my sons pick me up, and used a different car in the morning to retrieve my wife from work, and AAA towed the car to the nearest AAA approved service station, which happened to be a few blocks from home, which was quite convenient since work is fifty miles away.  I was beginning to worry that I wasn’t going to make it.

Why should I worry?  Well, if you read the aforementioned linked article, you know that I was present in 2014 and 2017, but that in 2015 and 2016 last-minute disasters prevented my attendance.  I thought we were potentially facing another, particularly since one of the cars on which we rely belongs to a son who spends the school year driving around the country in a company car and then uses his car, which is legally my car so that he doesn’t have to pay insurance and garage fees during most of the year just to have it, for the summer.  So I was anticipating losing a car, on an uncertain date, complicating transportation further.

Then a few weeks prior to the convention I ran out of printer ink.  I was in the middle of printing the first draft of the next novel for online publication, and I’m collaborating with someone on this one, so an exchange of printed pages has been part of the process.  Printer ink might not be that important, but it is important, and with the car in the shop (for the entire month) and an expected cost estimated with a variable of about two hundred dollars more or less, I had to be careful about spending money.  HP makes a reliable all-in-one printer which I’ve been using for near a couple decades now, but they have a policy of underpricing their printers and then overpricing their ink cartridges.  Complicating it further, apparently the cartridge mine uses has become less commonly used, so that it wasn’t on the shelf at my local Walmart when I finally decided I needed to buy one.  The convention was two weeks away, and I went online and found a place that sold their own replacement cartridges, and ordered some.  They arrived about a week before the convention–and two out of two black cartridges were defective, in different ways.

I will credit SwiftInk for great customer service.  Their online help gave me suggestions for trying to make them work (cleaning the contacts), and when these failed promised to ship replacements immediately, which they did.  Unfortunately, those replacements did not arrive until after the convention began, so I had no print capability.

If somehow you don’t know, I go to conventions to run Multiverser, the roleplaying game I co-authored with E. R. Jones.  I take a stack of books; they’re out of print, and I don’t have any copies of the rules other than my own, but I have several of the world books and a couple others.  I also have a small (probably twenty-two pocket) file case in which I have a lot of papers, including unpublished worlds that I use, worksheets for magic skills, and on-the-fly character creation papers.  As noted, last year when I returned from the convention there was a lot happening, and I wound up hospitalized not too long thereafter, and never gave another thought to those books and papers.  At least they got put away–the suitcase that I used was left in the living room until one of my sons decided to move it outside to get it out of the way, and when I found it this year it was ruined.  It went through my head a couple times in the hectic days before the convention that I ought to find the books and papers and make sure I had everything, but then part of me was uncertain I was going to go at all, and part of me recognized that if I didn’t have printouts of the needed papers there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway, not having printer ink.

Complicating it further, as the date approached it became known that my wife, who works alternate weekends, would be working that weekend.  At first I thought that was the kibosh, but I realized after mulling on it for a few days that the convention started early Friday, with staff arriving starting Thursday night, and ran through Sunday morning; Sunday was the quiet day, generally.  If I could check in on Thursday night I could be active on Friday and up until lunchtime Saturday, get home in time to get organized and have my wife at work Saturday night.  I was not able to get confirmation for that from, well, anyone anywhere, but it became my plan, at any rate.

Transportation was settled a couple days in advance.  The car that was in the shop was going to be finished that Thursday, and my son whose car it is and I would retrieve it and bring it home.  He and his wife were interested in playing at the convention, so they were going to drive me in and back; as it turned out she was feeling ill the day I had to go, but he still did the driving for me (again, thank you).  He dropped me at Bally’s, where I was billeted, and I told him to stay in Atlantic City until he heard from me in case something went wrong.

Something did go wrong, but first I stood on line for probably half an hour.  I was very irked when a young and not unattractive girl took advantage of the attentions of a young man to cut in line right in front of me, but stifled my passive-aggressive tendencies and waited until it was my turn.  Then they asked for my ID.  I had not driven myself to Atlantic City, and I did not have a current copy of my license on my person.  With all the hospital visits and doctor offices wanting my ID, it got separated from my wallet and I wasn’t carrying it.  I had two older licenses, but the hotel would not accept these despite the fact that they were photo IDs, because they had expired.  They were not unsympathetic, and attempted to call the person running housing for the convention, Connie Ngo, but Connie didn’t answer her phone.  I was stuck.  I couldn’t keep my driver in the city all night, but I couldn’t send him away without knowing I had a room.  I texted him to return to get me, and started toward the exit; but I remembered that I had Connie on Messenger (because I had wanted to confirm that there would be no problem with checking in on Thursday night), so I messaged her.  She responded to the message and called the desk clerk, and I was approved and given a room key.

We were four to a room, technically, but only one of my roommates had arrived, and one had had to cancel at the last minute, and the remaining one I did not see until Friday night.  My roommate introduced himself by first name only, and I admit that it takes me several tries to learn names, and I only saw him awake one other time when I was barely so myself.  He offered a variety of snacks he brought from home.  I stuck one of the two key cards they had given me in a pocket and tossed the folder containing the other on the dresser, and never saw it again, but I slept with the card in my pajama pocket and kept track of it all day (I have this freaky thing about losing keys).  I laid claim to one of the beds and slept until morning.

At this point I’ll say a few words about the hotel.  I was in the Sheraton last year.  The room at Bally’s was considerably nicer.  I think the room itself was larger, and it had a couch large enough for a bed in addition to the two beds (and the first roommate had brought his own cot) so we didn’t have to share.  The bathroom is larger, with a large shower stall.  I had some concern that there were no safety railings inside the shower (I’m getting old, and am not always completely steady on my feet), but that’s often the case.  The Sheraton, as I recall, had a shower/tub, but I’m a bit tall for most bathtubs and so prefer showers.  It was overall a nice room.  I do not know, however, whether that’s because all the Bally’s rooms are nicer than the Sheraton rooms.  I was in the Garden Tower, and it may be that those are better than the standard rooms.

One thing that bothers me, though, is that if you wanted WiFi you had to pay for it separately.  McDonalds and Walmart can manage to give their customers free WiFi.  I’m not sure why one of the biggest casino hotels in one of the major resort centers in the Western Hemisphere can’t manage such a trivial amenity–but indeed I was reminded that the same rule held at the Sheraton last year.  I’d have used it to watch Netflix on my Kindle, I expect, but I had had the foresight to download a couple things to the Kindle for that purpose in advance, and I could handle Messenger, which I also have on the Kindle, on my phone.

I awoke alone, and had not yet checked in with the convention staff, but I took time for prayer and study and got a shower and a respiratory treatment before packing the essentials and walking the several blocks to the Convention Center.  That is one advantage of staying at the Sheraton:  it is physically attached to the Convention Center, being right across the street and having an enclosed pedestrian bridge between the second floors of each.  That doesn’t mean it’s close–it’s a long walk inside the Sheraton just to get from the rooms to the bridge (there are banquet halls between the two), and I remember lugging my gear using a wheeled cooler as a handtruck and case between the buildings.  I knew that there were free buses between Bally’s and the convention, but that you had to have your convention ID to use them, so the first time I had to walk.  Had I been earlier the night before I could have checked in there, but I was slow packing everything (the suitcase having been ruined, it took a while to settle on a high-quality reusable grocery bag for my clothes) and thought getting into the hotel was more important.  I made the walk to the center and found my way to operations, which was in the same room as last year, and was soon properly badged.  I then found Kat, my boss as head of Tabletop Gaming.  She was telling one of the photographers to get some pictures of how overcrowded the board game room already was on Friday morning, to show that our department could make good use of more space.  I told her I was going to take the Jtney (the bus) back to Bally’s and return with my thirty pound box of books, dice, and game materials, then grab some brunch somewhere.

Time to address the food.  That was an issue last year.  It was considerably better this year.  Instead of providing scheduled meals they gave us eight vouchers, each good for up to fifteen dollars at any of the several food outlets in the Convention Center itself except the Beer Garden.  Breakfast was still a challenge, as reportedly only one of those outlets opened early, and it sold out of breakfast sandwiches quite quickly both days I was there.  I was late enough on Friday that they already had their lunch menu going, and I bought a personal pizza, a cup of coffee, and a single-serve Minute Maid Tropical Blend juice, which was fourteen dollars and change–but hey, they must pay exorbitant rent to have space inside the convention center.  When I got back to the table, though, I already had players waiting, and so I sipped my coffee while running a game for a couple hours, and then when they scattered to other convention attractions I ate a cold pizza with a bottle of juice, and can’t really speak to the quality of the pizza.  The next morning I was earlier; they had gluten free bagels, which I decided not to eat (and was told my someone that this was a good decision), but instead got two cinnamon danishes, a small Jimmy Dean bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, coffee and juice.

By Friday afternoon I had heard that there was a place to buy food inside the dealer room, so I decided to try that next.  They were a pirate-themed grill, and advertised steak sandwiches and burgers.  I asked for one of their ten dollar bacon sirloin cheeseburgers, and was told that they were out of bacon, so I went with the eight dollar version without bacon, added lettuce, onion, mayonnaise, and catsup, with a bottle of Minute Maid Orange juice and a cup of hot chocolate, self-served.  It was rumored that their fries were good, but at five dollars I could see I wouldn’t be able to buy a drink and stay within the voucher.  Anyway, the burger was large, tasty, and filling, and I went back the next day.  At that point I was preparing to leave the convention, my ride being almost there, and so I spent two vouchers to get two bacon cheeseburgers and one without bacon.  I gave one of the bacon burgers to the son who drove to get me (and he devoured it in the street before we drove away, but said it was really very good, but economical as he is he would not have paid ten dollars for it; I figure that’s a good price for deluxe burgers nowadays, and again they have an incredibly high rent on their space).  I brought the other two home and shared them with my wife, who is not a fan of bacon.  The grill bent over backwards to make it possible for me to transport these, which were usually served in open topped boxes, and should be commended for that.  I left my remaining coupons with Ahmetia, my co-host in the RPG room, figuring she could use them.  Because of the high prices, I often saw people using a fifteen dollar voucher plus a bit of pocket cash to pay for their meals, and while I avoided that I did so partly by not buying some things I might otherwise have eaten.  That’s not a complaint; I tend to overeat anyway, and didn’t really need the fries.

By now I have this entirely out of sequence, but that’s not really a problem.  I’ve left out the games, only hinting at them to this point.  Time to remedy that.

By the time I got to the table with my pizza late Friday morning, Navya and Cory were waiting, and I began the character creation process.  Ahmetia, who has several years of Multiverser play under her belt, is very good at selling people on playing at my table, and Kat reminded me that she played a session at Ubercon a decade ago and thinks it’s a really great game, so I get referrals.  As we were moving forward with their character papers, Johanna arrived and joined us.

You’ll remember I said that the printer mattered.  My On-the-Fly Character Creation system uses four printed sheets on which players record information.  The fourth sheet is the simplest, being there strictly for the world list and stage number.  The third is equipment and the second skills, and of course you can have multiple sheets of skills and equipment.  The first, though, is the most complicated, with name, aliases, attributes, averaged attributes, best relevant attributes, bias levels, weaknesses, and character description all mapped onto a single page–and when I opened my file, I had only the second and third pages printed.

It wasn’t a disaster.  After all, I know what goes on the first page, and I had a couple of yellow pads, so everyone wrote out the first page longhand.  There was a second problem, that I had only one pen, and my first two players had no writing implements; I discovered another, though, an old four-color pen, in the game materials box, and when the third player arrived she had her own.  Not long after that, Ahmetia delivered a handful of pencils and some scrap paper, which was a big help as the weekend continued.  We put together their character papers, started them on the Tropical Island, and got them all gathered together with Michael di Vars, who explained to them what was happening.

I had eight players over the weekend, seven of whom sat and listened to Michael explain that they had died and any time in the future that they die they’ll come back to life in another universe just like this time, and not one of them balked, called him crazy, or demanded proof of this insane explanation.  Ah, well, it’s fun when it happens, but I’m not going to spoil it.  I was working out where each of the original trio was going to go next when they died, but suddenly they all had to run before that occurred, the game ended, and I ate my cold pizza and ran to the loo.

I returned to find Corderro waiting.  We got him up and running on the Tropical Island, and he had a long conversation with di Vars and then asked if the senior verser would be willing to spar a bit in unarmed combat.  As it happens, di Vars is extremely good at many weapons across the technological spectrum, but never really took much interest in unarmed hand-to-hand.  Corderro was high level professional, third degree black belt in a martial arts style.  At hand-to-hand he was fifty percent faster than di Vars with a very slight edge on accuracy, with the result that he outfought the killing machine in two one-minute rounds.  He lasted long enough for the volcano to blow, took a nasty rock to the head, and was out of the world–but also decided to leave the game there.  That’s a bit of a shame, because I knew where I was going to send him.  (Hint:  he has a beard.)

I’ll interrupt this recounting of games to recount the night.  I was the first one back to the room, partly because after seven I figured there was no point in starting a new game, I got and ate the aforementioned cheeseburger, and called it a night.  I moved my box of books to the board game room, which gets locked overnight, and took my bag of personal effects to the Jitney to ride back to the hotel.  I wasn’t up long, taking time to find something innocuous on the television that would lull me to sleep (Transformers, which I’ve seen before), set early alarms, and went to bed.

An hour later I was awakened by banging on the door.  It took a moment to get organized and answer it, and I almost didn’t catch the departing offender, but it was the roommate I’d met accompanied by the roommate I hadn’t met, having gotten themselves locked out.  I let them in and went back to bed, only to have my cell phone ring while I was getting in.  My youngest son, who lives not far from Atlantic City at the moment, had apparently not realized that I was going to be at the convention this weekend, and having failed to get his mother on her phone decided to try mine.  We talked for several minutes, and apart from me suggesting that if he couldn’t reach his mother he should try his brother I don’t remember any of it.  I then settled down to sleep.

Someone silenced the television at some point, but I was asleep by then.  I noticed it in one of my brief periods of overnight awareness.  I think I awoke before my alarm; in any case, I was the first up, and I packed my things, left the room, went back because I realized I’d forgotten my bottle of Barq’s Root Beer and discovered that I’d also forgotten my box of tissues, and then went downstairs and checked out of the hotel.  It was not quite seven thirty, and the buses didn’t run until eight, so I got some prayer and study time on a park bench near the hotel parking garage entrance under the shelter of the building as it poured rain a few dozen feet away.  At eight I walked the short couple blocks to the bus stop, boarded a waiting Jitney, and was soon joined by a crowd of others headed to the convention.  I had promised Kat I would text her when I was up, which I did around seven-thirty but with the caveat that I wasn’t going to get there until the buses started, and she said she was already awake and working on getting the room unlocked.

I put my stuff in the RPG room, but the board game room was still locked; I asked someone working that room to bring my box to me when it became possible, and went to obtain the aforementioned breakfast.  Returning, I did a bit more study while nibbling on part of the breakfast, but then Steven arrived.  I still didn’t have my materials, but there were pencils and pieces of scrap paper on the table, so I set aside my breakfast and attended to starting his character sheet.  The books came, I got him started on the island, and Hannah and Tia arrived.  I had actually bumped into them twice in the halls, and Hannah must look like someone I know because I thought I recognized her, but apparently she’s not who I remembered.  Having met me and introduced themselves, they came to try the game, so I started setting up their papers.  Having finished their first page, I turned to their skills, still juggling Steven through his time on the island, and Austin arrived and joined the character creation process.  I was hitting my stride, though, and got that moving well.  Steven met di Vars, and got a feel for what was happening, but then said he had to leave just about the time I was launching Tia, then Hannah, then Austin.

Austin made a comment about having to leave soon, so I ignored the die roll and had him reach di Vars first.  He decided on cautious discretion, and remained behind the tree line watching.  Tia, second to arrive, decided that she needed help more than caution, and called out, receiving an invitation to join him.  By the time Hannah arrived, she could see Tia sitting by the campfire, and as they were friends before the verse they recognized each other.  Austin left the table, and di Vars explained things to Tia and Hannah, and then before we got much further they, too, said they had to leave.

I feel a bit foolish that I did not mention it to Navya, Cory, and Johanna, but perhaps they’ll find their way here somehow.  Corderro jogged my thinking, so I invited him, Steven, Austin, Hannah, and Tia to continue play on the M. J. Young Net Forum.  I know several of them wrote that down, but as I write this none of them have arrived.  That’s kind of a shame, because I know where I want to send several of them, but we’ll give them some time to find their way.

I’ve got one other aside.  Last year, within minutes of my arrival, I saw a girl in costume who would have made a good picture for my character papers for Lauren Hastings.  She looks a lot like most representations of Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, so I often find pictures that work.  This year I saw someone, not quite as good but passable, again as I was headed for check-in.  Again I never saw her again.  It prompted my brain, though, to consider that I should look for people who might be suitable images for those character papers.  After all, Slade looks a lot like Thor, I’ve got a couple of American soldiers, someone might come as a sprite which would be good for Derek, Shella is a witch, and I’ve recently added a few characters including a dark-haired Arabian princess.  I saw no one the entire time who fit any of these images.  It was a bit disappointing in that regard, but then I’m not all that well versed in anime and recognized very few of the characters I did see.  Someone was Deadpool.  That’s about it.

When I got home, the household was hoping that since I had left the convention already I could run a game for them.  I somewhat wearily with apologies explained that the reason I was home was because I had to get some sleep and do the work driving that night, and then tackled what had to be done to be ready for that.

I must also thank Kate and Tris for holding down the kitchen in my absence.

Here’s hoping that I can do another convention next year, if not sooner.  I don’t know that I would say I have fun, but it is a high point in my time to be reminded that people like the game, even if it didn’t sell terribly well.

I think that about covers it all.  Thanks for reading, and thanks again to the convention for inviting me again.  Here’s hoping that I was not more trouble than I’m worth, and perhaps there will be another invitation next year.  It’s an interesting way to spend my birthday weekend.

#239: A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #239, on the subject of A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild.

Someone recently posted to the Christian Gamers Guild list, in a post called So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, that he would be resigning.  This is not a big deal; members come and members go, and life is like that.  Two things make this event a bit different.  The lesser is this individual has been involved for perhaps as long as I have, perhaps longer, and years ago actively so, and I miss some of those who were involved in the early years who are no longer there.  The greater is that in announcing his departure he suggested that perhaps he was wrong about role playing games, and that maybe the rest of us should consider quitting the hobby as well.

I am reproducing my reply, in substance at least, below; first, I am going to attempt to do justice to his statement without actually plagiarizing it.  I am going to call him “J” here, because I don’t have his permission to use this and don’t particularly want to put him on the spot, and “J” has absolutely nothing to do with his name (it’s short for “John Doe”, if you must know); members of the Christian Gamers Guild already know who he is.

J begins by introducing himself and announcing that he is leaving the group because he has decided not to play role playing games, but he wants to explain that.

Giving his history, he notes that when he first joined the group he was uncertain whether role playing games were compatible with Christian faith, and how that would work.  He had stopped playing when he became a Christian, but encouraged by the guild resumed doing so.  He identifies himself as “a Spirit-Filled believer and as such I believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church today through the gifts of the Spirit and in the anointing and power of God being alive and active in the Church and in individual believers today.”

He says that as soon as he returned to role playing he knew something wasn’t right but wouldn’t admit it to himself.  He was involved in ministry, but always felt that there was a hindrance blocking his connection to the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, he also felt that his faith interfered with his ability to play the games.  Before he was a believer, he felt that he tapped into something that enabled his games to flow, and once he was a Christian running games became a chore.  He believes that he had been connecting with a “spirit”, and although what he says is not exactly clear as to whether he means that literally he thinks there is a demonic and seductive connection in role playing games.  As a Christian, they simply weren’t the same for him as they had been when he was an unbeliever.

J then tells us that before he was a believer he was involved in the occult, and that Dungeons & Dragons™ played a role in pointing him in that direction.  His occult involvement never produced anything but empty promises and a few frightening experiences, and eventually drove him to Christ.

He wisely tells us that the Holy Spirit is at odds with many things in this world; he says that role playing games are one of them.  The most objective objection he raises is from someone who counseled him against games, who said “…in role playing games you spend your time trying to be something that you are not; what the Holy Spirit wants you to do is be who you are.”  He feels it is necessary for us to ignore explorations of who we aren’t and seek more deeply who we are.  So saying, he recommends that we all leave the fantasy behind, although he recognizes that not everyone is at the same place with God.  He departs with a word of love for us as siblings in Christ, and with the famous closing, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

*****

I am not attempting to persuade J that he’s wrong to leave the group or to give up role playing or other hobby games.  That’s a weaker brother issue, and if it’s a problem for him, I respect that.  I will certainly in some way miss him, even though he has rarely posted recently, just because knowing that there are a few people around besides Christian Gamers Guild President Rodney Barnes and me who have been here from the E-groups days makes me feel better about still being part of it all–and I do feel good about it; it has in some ways become integral to my identity.

Further, I understand the Charismatic/Spirit-filled viewpoint.  I don’t know that I speak in tongues more than you all, but I do speak in tongues, and quite a bit, while sitting, working, driving, writing, washing dishes, and at many other times.  Yet I am also solidly grounded in the more “rational” denominations, with solid connections to the Baptists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans particularly, and more casually to quite a few other denominations.  It also should be said that, like Rodney, I was a believer for many years before I discovered Dungeons & Dragons™, and in fact my “gateway” to it was the fantasy literature of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

My problem with what J says is that it’s almost entirely subjective.

There’s nothing wrong with that, per se.  As I discuss in Objective and Subjective Christian Guidance (covered in a bit more detail in my book What Does God Expect?) our lives are very much about balancing the two kinds of direction, each tempering the other.  Sometimes what God wants us to do is delivered entirely subjectively, and we have to trust at some level our own instincts, that this is indeed what God is saying, and not something that comes from within ourselves.  I just get upset about it because I’ve had people say to me that “God told me” the games were evil, and there is then no discussion.  J isn’t saying that; he’s saying that they have been an impediment to his own joy and connection to God, and he thinks it might be so for others.  It is certainly the case that God sometimes asks us to surrender perfectly good things simply because He must be more important in our lives than they are.  Anything that we are not willing to give up for God is an impediment to our relationship with Him.

In the course of the discussion, someone suggested that eventually J will be able to return to gaming, and that’s possible–but it’s also, I think, an idea that itself becomes an impediment.  If you give something up in the hope that God will give it back, you are still holding on to it.  When God wants you to give up something, you need to walk away and not look back.  So I understand that J might never return, and certainly is not going to expect to do so at this point as he is leaving.  That expectation itself would be counter-productive, an indication that he is not really leaving gaming but only pretending to do so for the present.

J is uncomfortable with the magic in gaming because in his mind it is connected to the occult.  I have often argued that one of the best aspects of fantasy role playing games is the magic, that it opens the players to the possibility that there is more in the world than materialistic naturalism.  Of course, when that happens believers need to be there to say, “Yes, and this is where you find it.”  J had the opposite experience, and now for him there is a connection from seeing the supernatural dimensions of the world and moving toward the occult.  For me, the connection is the opposite direction, from seeing the power of God to discovering the fictional exploration of that power in the games.

The games have also connected me to a lot of people who need God, and I think perhaps I have helped some of them along the way.

J’s point that many things in the world are at odds with God is certainly right and important; however, most of us are involved in the world by necessity, working in jobs that are not primarily about reaching people for Christ or building the faith of believers (sales help might be service industry, but it’s not delivering the gospel), becoming part of organizations that are beneficial without having solid religious connections (hospitals are big in this, but I also am aware of groups trying to help the homeless, and drug rehabilitation programs that are not primarily Christian faith based).  Jesus said that everyone who is not for us is against us, but He also said that everyone who is not against us is for us, and while that makes the world seem black and white, it also introduces the possibility that some things can be used both for and against God.  I watch television shows which some think are science fiction of the worst sort, in which I see metaphors for the work of God in the world.  Certainly role playing games can be used in ways that oppose God, but as I’ve noted elsewhere, even some which seem most anti-Christian can prove at the bottom to be strongly Christian.  It is not what we use but how we use it that most controls the impact of our games.  For some, incredibly dark worlds have been a reminder of the amazing greatness of God.

J also suggests that we need to discover who we really are, not explore fantasies of who we might be.  Yet I think this is an unreal dichotomy.  I often discover more of who I really am by exploring who I am not, and sometimes discover that who I pretend to be is really part of who I actually am.  Playing Multiverser I was encouraged by its magic system to trust the power of God for several things, minor things really but in some sense magical or miraculous in their own way, because my character did so successfully in the game world.  I would not have had the boldness to pray some of the practical prayers I have prayed had it not been that I explored that boldness in character.  Even in playing “unlike me” characters, I learn much about how people who reject God are thinking, and am thereby better able to connect with them and deliver the truth.  The exploration of fantasies is a significant part of understanding my reality.  Indeed, the fantasy literature of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams have had tremendous impact not only on me but on believers and unbelievers around the world.  Why should fantasy gaming not also have the same potential, used aright?

Some of what I have said is of course subjective, and none of it is a reason for J to stay if God is telling him to leave.  However, if you are considering whether what J says might be true for you, consider also whether being involved in role playing games has had any of these benefits for you:  connecting you to people who need to see your faith; giving you insight into the spiritual battle between God and the devil within the metaphors of the game; strengthening your faith by reminding you that you are on the side that has the power.  I have profited in those ways from game play, and in a sense that’s the tip of the iceberg.  The largest open door for my ministry has been through this group, a group I was reluctant twenty years ago to join, which has encouraged my efforts and given me a platform to reach out to a world not much reached by believers, the world of hobby gamers.

So I say so long, J, and if you’ve gotten any of those fish you mentioned from me, you’re welcome.  I hope you’ll keep in touch through other media like Facebook, but wish you the best of grace in all your endeavors.