Welcome to Part Two of Growing Creative Kid’s interview with Bruce – an Orthodox Christian and father who not only plays Role Playing Games but runs a Homeschool RPG Club for his kids. If you missed Part One please read it here
Part Two of the Interview:
In D&D there are Deities and Gods for characters to worship and some characters such as Clerics get their powers directly from the Gods they serve. These roles are optional to play. As a Christian gamer, do you take some parts or the game and not others? Or do you recognize that there is a difference and distinction between the character and the player and it is more like an actor taking on a role?
“This is an area where I have not fully made up my mind, I’m not a fan of the Cleric as a class in general, so I have never really played one for long enough to make up my mind. When I run games I usually run them in a monotheistic world. To this point I haven’t really had to develop things beyond that. I think it would be fun to run a game with a religious theme and explore the role of clerics and deities in a game world, but my players usually just want to kill things and take their treasure.
“The one thing I am uneasy about is using demons or angels as monsters in the game. I’m not sure why this is an issue for me, but I do believe that Satan and his demons exist and are opposed to God. I know that real demonic forces are not anything like those in a game world, but I just can’t use them. The stats and descriptions often make great monsters, and I have used those and just renamed the creatures, but I cannot call them demons.
“In general, though, I approach the game as an actor playing a role. I know it is a game, and that I cannot cast a fireball at my neighbour’s dog. I know that if I were to try to swing a sword around I would more than likely injure myself rather than anyone else. That being said, I would never play an evil character, and when I GM I insist that all characters be good. This is partly because as a Christian I prefer to keep my mind dwelling on the good rather than the evil, and partly because the in my mind, RPGs are meant to emulate heroic fantasy (or Sci-fi).”
What skills have you learned through playing RPGs?
“I think the major skill I’ve learned from RPGs is being able to think on my feet. Often the players do not do what I expect, and I have to make up something on the spur of the moment, or redirect them to where I want them to go. This is helpful in leading Bible studies at Church. On occasion I’ve had a study hijacked and have had to bring it back on topic. I think GMing keeps my mental agility in good shape for situations like this.”
Do you have any specific positive/and or negative RPG experiences you would like to share?
“I met my wife playing D&D. That is about the most positive you can get, I suppose. We were playing TSR’s Council of Wyrms campaign, and the DM, a common friend to both of us, set it up so that each of us played a dragon and a servant to another’s dragon. I played a brass dragon, who according to the monster description was very talkative. I myself am quite an introvert. When we got together to play I would chatter non stop as my dragon, and my (future) wife thought I was quite outgoing. I also ended up playing her dragon’s dwarven servant. For fun I would send her emails in character, and this led to us becoming friends, and eventually we got married. (She was quite surprised to discover that I was not as outgoing as my dragon was, however!)”
What kind of role do you see RPGs play with fitting into a Christian Life Style? What are the advantages?
“I like to tell my kids that everything you do either leads you closer to God or farther away. To me gaming represents a chance to have fun with friends, and allows me to exercise my imagination and creativity. In this way, gaming is no better or worse than any other hobby, sport or art form. When we use the gifts that God has given us he is glorified by it.
“In the essay On Fairy-Stories, J. R. R. Tolkien says that it is in our nature to create because we ourselves are created in the Image of God: “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.” From this perspective, RPGs – or any creative art or play – allow us to emulate our Creator.”
Could you please share your experiences/challenges about starting your own Kids’ RPG home school group?
“I’m quite amazed how it has taken off, and by the enthusiasm parents have expressed when I first started talking about it. While I haven’t seen the result yet, except in my own son, I have asked every kid in the two groups to write up or draw something from their adventure. My son sat down and wrote a two and a half page story about it, adding all sorts of colorful ideas. Normally I have to fight to get a few sentences out of him. I found this last year as well, when I did it with a smaller group, that it really released the creative juices in the kids.
“One of the biggest challenges for me is keeping the kids focused and paying attention when other kids are acting. Some kids can be very considerate and attentive all the time, but some faze out when it’s not their turn to participate or just get loud and rowdy. I usually try to present the game as a collaborative story telling game and point out that we all need to work together for it to be fun. I think this will come with maturity, however. On more than one occasion when the kids get a little too goofy I just send in some extra monsters to attack them. Nothing helps you focus more than a squad of Orcs bearing down on you! I find, however, that after a gaming session with kids I spend the next hour speaking very loudly and very fast. I think this is part adrenalin from the game, and partly from having to speak so loudly over the kids’ chatter.
“I think my greatest joy, however, is introducing a hobby I love to a new group of players. I really hope that they enjoy the games we play together and that they will go on and create their own worlds to explore one day.”
Should kids be playing RPGs? Why? What are the advantages?
“I think as a hobby playing RPGs is great for kids. Nothing is more natural for a kid than playing make-believe. RPGs take it one step farther. As a hobby, gaming helps their math skills develop as they interact with their character’s stats and the dice rolls, it encourages imagination and creativity, it is a great incentive for reading, writing, and even studying things like history, geography and science.
“Another advantage is the development of social skills – gaming is co-operative by nature. It allows shy kids to step out of their shell and be someone else for a time (my wife and I can really attest to that one!). It also allows kids to learn, safely, that their actions have consequences. If a kid has their character do something stupid and gets the party into trouble, it’s a good lesson that can be translated into real life.”
Are you a parent? If so, what are some of your experiences with playing RPGs with your kids?
“I have two kids, ages 9 and 11. I started gaming with them formally when they were 6 and 8. We played a simplified version of D&D. My son got into it right away, but my daughter had more fun playing with the dead monster minis. She would have tea parties with them on the edge of the battle map. Before that, however, I would tell the kids “adventure stories” I would start out with “You are walking in the forest and see a small wood cabin, what do you do? They would take turns telling me their actions and we would weave the story together – I still get asked from time to time to tell an adventure story.
“One of my son’s best friends died in a car accident this fall, he had been involved in a game with a couple of other kids that my son knew. My son was, of course, pretty shaken up by his friend’s death. The other boys from the gaming group came to the funeral, and during the coffee hour they sat around a table telling stories about the dead boy’s character and sharing their memories of him. It was the first time after the boy’s death that I saw my son laugh again. It made me very glad that I had introduced him to gaming, and that the boys all had that point of contact with him.”
Have any final thoughts for parents about RPGs?
“As I said earlier, just like anything your kids are interested in – be involved. Even if you don’t understand the game, listen to their stories and show an interest in what they love. Get to know the GM and the gaming group, if you don’t approve of where the GM is taking things, then talk to him, or find another group. Finally always be open for teaching moments. If your child comes home excited about siege weaponry, for example, take the time to show him where he can learn more about it, and learn with him. Play is still considered one of the best learning tools for children – use it. Enjoy it!”
I would like to thank Bruce for sharing his views with us. I think sharing perspectives and experiences is so important when you are dealing with a topic such as Role Playing Games that is steeped in so much myth, mystery and misconceptions. Bruce has just started his own blog about RPGs and Homeschooling. Please Check it out!
If you have any comments on this interview or have any questions for Bruce, please post a comment below!