Categories
Uncategorized

Project Scorpio Specs Revealed

Check us out at…
Our website – http://www.geeksundergrace.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/geeksundergrace
Twitter – https://twitter.com/GeeksUnderGrace
Project Scorpio
https://goo.gl/bVhs6o
CyberPunk Trademarked
https://goo.gl/goF58b
Call of Duty Movie
https://goo.gl/MsJdTh
Dungeons And Dragons Movie
https://goo.gl/AdIXuD
Ghost In The Shell Bombs
https://goo.gl/frXhrS
John Simms Returns To Doctor Who
https://goo.gl/Kf6Zgr
Invader Zim Movie
https://goo.gl/vc0HMW

Categories
Articles Tabletop

Should Christians Play Dungeons & Dragons?

 imageedit_95_3121468059
geeks-playing-ddShortly after its release in the 1970s, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) became a figure of criticism—nowhere more so than in Christian circles. The game has been accused of summoning demons, leading to the occult, and even driving teens to suicide. So it is completely understandable that God’s people would naturally want to oppose it. The Bible also explicitly states not to confer with magic users, practice magic, or worship other gods (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Exodus 20:3), and you can create a character that can do all three of these things in D&D!
As many would hope it was just another phase, and with such opponents as Christians in the 1970s and 1980s and the media, that surely would be the case. Then it could go down in history as another pitfall that was swiftly defeated and we Christians would never have to deal with it again.
But that didn’t happen. The roleplaying game’s popularity grew—and worse yet, for some, Christians began playing it! Now we have found ourselves in a quandary with battle lines drawn in the middle of churches—proponents on one side, opposition on the other. As if we needed more reasons for division.
So how do we solve this dilemma? People on both sides of the fence have run to their corner and refrained from entertaining their other side’s point of view, as is the case in most arguments in recent generations. But where we have seen the most progress historically is in respectful discourse and well-researched opinions. When we run to our friends and only hear affirming opinions, we form uninformed echo chambers and drive a hearty wedge in the forming chasm. And that is where we are now.
Think about it. If you have traditionally opposed D&D, where did you hear that it was evil? Was if from a friend, pastor, or Christian website, or did you pick up a rulebook off of the shelf and thumb through it? Did you talk to a fellow believer who played to get their opinion? If you are a player or proponent of D&D, did you sit down and listen to legitimate concerns from your parents, pastor, or read them in a well-thought-out opposing article, or did your friends that play just tell you opposing opinions were ignorant and archaic?
Bible-believing Christians can be pretty well settled on things that are laid out in Scripture, Bible2but when things come up like this that aren’t, we have a tendency to form our war parties and stay on our side of the fence. We’ve seen it with movies, the internet, cell phones, and more. (I will explicitly state there were Christians on both sides of all of those arguments.) This isn’t to say all things that aren’t laid out in Scripture should be entertained. Things like pornography, for example, should obviously be opposed by all Christians. Watching two other people have sex is obviously not a part of God’s design. But when we come to a grayer area such as this, it benefits us to do our research.
If you are thinking this is difficult and not worth the time, trust me, you are in good company. This is something God had to work on me with, even up to this article! Originally this article was going to be much more along the lines of another article I wrote, Read This Before Condemning Christian Metal, where I laid out my point of view for opponents and left it at that, but after several hours of research, polling, and prayer, I’ve come to realize there are some legitimate concerns for Christians with D&D.
What is the best way to form an honest opinion on something like this, you say? I’m glad you asked. I have done my best to objectively lay out points for and against playing D&D and actual pitfalls versus presupposed ones. As with any situation, we all will have predispositions to one side of an argument or another, and I am not immune, so I know I can’t be completely fair in representing a side with which I don’t agree with all of the arguments.
So after hours of research and polling my Christian family and friends, here are the arguments I was presented with. Try to resist the temptation to skim the article as I know it is long, but there may be some things you have not thought of in any section below. Please keep an open mind no matter what your predisposition is to this subject, and use the information as an opportunity to grow closer to an understanding with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Objections to Dungeons & Dragons

We’ll start with the opposition to the game since that is what most people are familiar with, and I’ll make some counter points as well.

The Use of Magic in D&D

6a00e55043abd088340120a5ae0d90970cAs I laid out earlier, the Bible is clear that we should abstain from all forms of magic and not consort with those who do. The entire chapter of 1 Samuel 28 shows God’s disapproval of Saul speaking with a medium who communicates with the dead. (Though Saul had separated himself from the Lord at that point anyway.) We see him disguise himself and ask the medium to bring the prophet Samuel up so Saul and consult him to get God’s direction. He knew God had told Moses not to let anyone practice any form of magic in their congregation; he made a law against it! (1 Samuel 28:9) Yet he went to her anyway.
There is a major difference between the magic the medium used and the magic in D&D, though: Her’s actually worked! Whether you believe it was Samuel or a demon that came to Saul, something did come up. When I tell my character to cast Magic Missile in a game, three mystical pink shards don’t manifest and shoot across the room, but this medium consulted something: Samuel or a demon.
That doesn’t mean that people can’t take D&D magic too seriously, but we will get into that on a later point.

There is a Pantheon of False Gods, and Some Characters Have to Worship Them

Full disclaimer: This was the selling point to the opposition for me. Especially since some of them are evil gods referenced in the Bible that could have demonic origins. I am a huge fantasy lover, and I didn’t pick up a D&D book for years when I heard about this. Quite plainly, I’ve never picked up a game where you are forced to worship a false god, and I never intend to. I put myself into the character (a flaw in being a fiction writer, I guess), so I stay away from this type of media. But here is where I get into my next point:
Everyone has different hedges.
It’s not a sin to play a character that does anything. Some people are separated enough from their characters that they can do almost anything they want and have no impure thoughts. Some people can’t handle it, though. Namely, me. So for those of us that connect too deeply with our characters, we set this hedge up to keep us from falling into sin. The fault here comes when we impose our hedges and experiences with God on other people.
As Peter Haas beautifully laid out in Pharisectomy, it is easy for Christians to build hedges and expect others to need those same hedges. This is why some pastors will get behind the pulpit and condemn all movies for anyone. Movies may be a vice for them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is for you or anyone else.
This is a big reason why a healthy prayer life is important for every believer. The Holy Spirit will convict you of what is leading you into sin (John 16:8). If we are prayerful about God correcting us, we will know what we need to stay away from. If we aren’t, no amount of human preaching will.

The Game is Time Consuming and Can Lead to Idolatry & Addiction

220px-Wooden_hourglass_3I’ve kind of wrapped three points into one here, but they are all similar and shouldn’t need much individual elaboration. This is a huge factor for me as well. I have a very addictive personality, so I have had to walk away from things like Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs), hobbies, and even things like caffeine. So this is going to be where some of the heavy proponents are going to disagree with me.
If you start getting addicted to Dungeons & Dragons and it becomes, or begins to become, an idol, you need to stop playing it.
There are no two ways around it; idols are devastating to your faith. If you have spent any time reading the Old Testament, you’ll see Israel falling into that trap multiple times. Now I know their idols were wooden, stone, or metal dolls or statues, but the sentiment is the same: Don’t put other things before God. So stay in prayer and if you see yourself slipping with God and giving time to the game that should be dedicated to Him, drop it like it’s hot!
So if the game consumes time and isn’t beneficial in any way, why waste time playing it? I mean, Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” And this verse is quoted a lot when I discuss this with other Christians along with “all things are permissible, but not all things are edifying,” which is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 10:23.
This is true, and again, if you are letting D&D invade too much of your time or thoughts, then this game isn’t for you. However, if you have used this argument, how would these verses compare to all of your activities? Is watching football pure, lovely, and edifying? How about that television show where the character says “Jesus Christ” as an exclamation point? That song you listened to on the way to work, was it pure? You see, it’s fair to use that argument if you are Mother Theresa, living on the streets in poverty in a third world country, but to most Americans, those verses can be a double-edged sword. Any verse in Scripture that can be applied to the opposition for D&D can be applied to any leisure activity.
In all honesty, I don’t think those verses mean we can’t have fun. We are given time of rest, and how you choose to spend that time isn’t laid out in Scripture. You can say, “Well, that game is evil, so it’s different.” Three things with that: 1) How do you know it is evil? Is that said with research, or from something you’ve heard? 2) Watching dudes smear each other into astroturf, watching fictional people behaving badly, and listening to songs about practically anything these days are no different. 3) The game doesn’t have to have anything evil in it. But more on that in my next point.

As an Open Game, You Can Do Despicable Things in D&D

It is true this is among one of the most malleable games in existence, which gives the players a lot of power to manipulate it. In the infamous words of Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility,” or more appropriately for Christians, “From everyone who is given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). Betcha didn’t know there was a biblical lesson with that line!
imageedit_57_3836244173With this point, as with previous points, it comes down to the person. You can absolutely pillage, murder, steal, worship false gods, or do even worse things. But you don’t have to. If you have the temptation to do something terrible in-game, I would recommend speaking to a professional counselor. Genuinely. There’s nothing wrong with talking to someone who is well-versed in that field of study for their opinion. And if you have a friend that has serious tendencies like this with their characters, you aren’t doing any favors by letting them act them out. Now, I’m not talking about stealing gold or picking on a Non-Player Character (NPC), but if they make you blanch at the description in which they do something to an NPC, there may be deeper-seeded issues there. Sincerely ask them to look into it. But those problems aren’t tied to the game, they’re with the individual. They could act out in any platform.
The other side of the coin with this power, just like superheroes vs. super villains, is that it can be used for good. Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t have a rulebook; it has guidebooks. You can change practically anything you want to as long as the player it affects and the Game Master (the one who controls the direction of the game) can agree.
For example: Let’s say I want to play a paladin. Per the handbook, paladins derive their power by worshipping a god in the game’s pantheon. I can work out with the Game Master (GM) that my paladin worships Jehovah. The GM can even make a campaign where there are no false gods at all! There can be a campaign where the magic is more like innate power, power that comes from technology, or there can be no magic at all! It again boils down to the person, their hedges, and their convictions. If there is something you can’t agree with the GM on, it is probably best you don’t play with them as the GM. There are even rulebooks made by Christians to encourage this type of play.

Some People Have a Hard Time Differentiating Fantasy from Reality

This isn’t as common in adults, but children and youth can be more susceptible to this. When this problem was brought up in my polling, I recognized its value. It can’t really be refuted, and it shouldn’t be. Likewise, for those who have addictive tendencies with D&D, if you catch yourself only living in a fantasy world, stop playing. And if you have children or youth with minds still developing who are playing the game, you should be particularly vigilant in watching for any signs that the game is too real to them. Nightmares, talking about or researching actual spells, or all of their conversation being consumed by the world of D&D are some excellent indicators. Ensuring you present this world as fictional and even explicitly stating it to younger minds can go a long way in preventing this as well.
If you are shaking your head thinking this is not an issue, there have been studies that conclude this to be true. Children as old at 10-years-old have been polled about their beliefs in fantastical things, and some still believe them. I haven’t found any conclusive studies on teens and older, but the linked article looks at the beliefs of youth and how to address it with them properly. The study referenced in the article is here. Children from stressed childhoods have higher tendencies to these types of thoughts, so it isn’t unreasonable to conclude it could last further into life.
So when introducing D&D to a younger audience, the parent or guardian should take special care to ensure it isn’t more than a game to them. Monitor them closely or wait until you are sure they have matured enough to be able to make the distinction. This is advice I have had to follow myself. I have wanted to sit down with my son, who loves fantasy games and movies, but I have had to cut him off of some video games due to him having genuine fear from the characters on the game in the real world. (We’re talking cartoony games, too. I don’t let him play Resident Evil or anything gruesome.) Some games he makes the distinction with easily, others he’ll have to wait until he is older to play. I’m playing it safe with D&D and starting him later, since you engage more in the world in some ways than with video games.

Dungeons and Dragons Leads People into the Occult

darkdung04There have been a number of controversies surrounding D&D, the most prominent of which was popularized by William Schnoebelen. He was a Wiccan Priest before becoming a Satanic Priest who eventually dedicated his life to the Lord. Schnoebelen published his first article with Chick Publications titled, Straight Talk on Dungeons and Dragons, and a subsequent article, Should a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons? (Coincidence? Nah, it’s a good to-the-point title.) I could go point-for-point with you and explain where I agree and disagree from the standpoint of a player, but most of the points he makes are covered in this article, so I will save the word count here.
The biggest point to make here is that I agree that someone who wants to make this game about witchcraft can, but I disagree in his saying that it can’t be played by a Christian because others have that intention or that it has that capability. Your car has the capability to drive you into another car, but that doesn’t keep us from getting in one every day. A movie can make some people want to start a cult or subversive militia and overthrow the government, but we still watch those. Again, the destructive nature lies in the person, not the game, and I agree someone with those tendencies should not play Dungeons & Dragons. And if you do play D&D, and get into a game with someone who wants to make the game about things that make you uncomfortable spiritually, you should politely walk away and decline to play with them.

Compliments to Dungeons & Dragons

As there are good points for why a Christian shouldn’t play D&D and some of the fallacies associated therein, there are also solid reasons someone who feels inclined to should play.

Dungeons & Dragons Promotes Creative & Critical Thinking

imageedit_60_7445768158D&D is a pastime like watching an NFL game, playing basketball with friends, watching TV shows, listening to music, or any other recreational activity. A key difference is that some of these activities lack any developmental capabilities. The only thing you’re likely to develop watching football is an ulcer!
Playing D&D has a leg up on these other sedentary activities because it does exercise the brain in a few ways. Both the players and the GM have to use their creative thinking to come up with ways to create characters, cultures, systems, and everything else that makes the game run. Practice in creative thinking exercises these parts of our brains and promotes creative thinking in other areas of our lives. And creative thinking makes you more valuable in the workforce. Of course, it’s on the player to apply that creative thinking outside of D&D, but the fact remains that the game does give us the practice.
You also improve your critical thinking skills. When the GM sets an obstacle between the player and their goal, they have to come up with ways to overcome that challenge—typically in creative ways. The GM has to think critically of how to apply those obstacles as well. That again can translate into good problem solvers in the workforce and daily life. And the world can always use more of these types of thinkers. Granted, a good video game can help with these things as well, but when you add the human, critical thinking element in the GM versus an automated system, the growth and challenge have the opportunity to be much more valuable.

Churches Could Use D&D as an Outreach

It almost sounds heretical if your predisposition is that the game is evil, right? But as we addressed above, the game in and of itself isn’t evil; the power is in the hands of the players. And what happens if you give that power to Christians to be used for good? Effective outreach to a demographic that sorely needs it.
Think about it. We have Super Bowl parties that are effective outreaches as well, but typically people who play D&D and people who are truly interested in the outcome of NFL games are different people groups. By adding different avenues of outreach, our churches can become more effective at filling their pews and leading others to Christ.
As we’ve gone over, the game does not have to have any of the elements that would make it incompatible with a church group. Pastor and leaders aren’t okay with pantheon? Make them magic items. The magic system needs to be removed? Make them innate powers. No magic system at all? Just use the classes that don’t use magic and limit the ones that use them as a secondary measure.
The possibilities for the church here could be endless if Christians would do their research on this. You could literally have a campaign centered around a book in the Bible or give an accurate telling of the Crusades. If putting them straight into the story bothers you, it could be an allegorical campaign. Remember Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe? Think of all of the conversational opportunities that book created for Christians to relate with unbelieving readers. Now make that more personal by putting someone in the story. What better way to show someone what Joseph would have felt like being sold by his brothers than to give them a character that goes through the same thing?
Host a game at your church or small group. Put a few flyers in the mail or at your local game shop, create an event and post on Facebook, and send out an eblast and you’re good to go. Not to mention the rapport you’ll build with your local game shops. Paul used the culture of the Gentiles to reach them. It would serve us well to follow his example.

The Creator of Dungeons & Dragons Was A Christian

gygax-xmas-sYou read that right. Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D, was a professing Christian at the time he created the game. This isn’t necessarily a little-known fact, but to some it is news. He didn’t make that well-known in his life in what he described as an effort to protect the name of Christianity from the controversy that surrounded his creation.
Now, there are Christians at all stages of their walk with Christ, and as I’ve highlighted in this article, no two walks are the same. But Gygax was mature enough and firm enough in his faith to stand by his convictions. In the letter you see with this section, Gygax addresses why he couldn’t in his right conscience celebrate Christmas for its known pagan traditions. If someone has that kind of spiritual convictions can create a game like D&D, I believe it stands to reason there should be some Christians who could play it.
Again, this doesn’t mean every Christian will be able to play it. Everyone is convicted differently so we can put up hedges to help us stay away from the sins we are more predisposed to. But that should be a solid indicator that some can play it.

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped to shed some light on the topic, whichever side of the fence you stand on. I also hope it gives you a great starting point for some healthy, honest discourse with friends and family. We can use this opportunity for growth and coming together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, or go to our corners and continue to build our echo chambers. 
This article can also work well for any tabletop game, but I chose D&D for the launchpad for its notoriety in Christian circles. A key point to bring to the table with this conclusion: The most critical points for the game in my research came from the mouths of players. That says three things to me: 1) There are legitimate concerns for believers to watch out for while playing D&D. 2) Most players are doing their research and not blindly supporting it because they like it. 3) There can be mutual ground between believers on this subject if both sides are willing to give the other a chance.
Dungeons & Dragons puts the power in the hands of the players. As Christians, we can choose to wield that power for good and mind the pitfalls, or abandon our brothers and sisters in Christ that play into the hands of those who wouldn’t use it for good.
I would like to give a huge shout out to everyone who played a part in helping me with this article and the research required to help it come to fruition. To all of the people who voiced honest concerns and support in my polling, and Lindsay Harrup and Cody Hahn for going over the work in depth to keep me honest and accurate: Thank you!
Categories
Articles Gaming

The Quill, The Parchment, & The Browser

imageedit_14_6645229339
dungeons-and-dragons-master-book-2-wallpaper-001You step out into an open field with your friends, endless possibilities ahead of you. The smooth leather of your sword hilt rolls under your hand as you twist your weapon over and over, contemplating your next steps. Will your party go to the ancient dwarven caves, chasing the promises of wealth untold, or will you rush to the aid of the helpless farm town that is on the cusp of being raided by goblins and orcs? You turn to your party and everyone nods in unison as your path becomes clear. You give a mighty shout and charge into adventures unknown, changing the world you are in… for better, or for worse.
The ability to create and build a character beyond the limitations of computer programming in video games is appealing to some. For many years, friends have gathered around a table with a book, pens, paper, a few dice, and their imaginations to have hours of fun. For example, James may have been a Dragonborn fighter and Alicia may have been an elven sorcerer while Michael could have been a human ranger, with all of the adventure taking place in one friend’s basement.
Today the adventure isn’t limited to one physical location, though it certainly could be done in that friend’s basement still. Today, you can play a game with friends all around the globe. With social media groups centered around interests, you could even make new friends playing this game over the internet. Perhaps this isn’t something you have thought of, or perhaps it’s something you have tried without much luck. Well, this formula may just help you to do just that: connect with friends all over the world. It is flexible enough that you can manipulate it to fit your needs, but should give you enough of a basis to help you get started.

Getting Started

To get started you’ll need these few things:
The first step is to find someone that is willing to be the Dungeon Master. They will be the one that creates the world that you will be playing in and the adventures that you will be going on. It is usually best to find someone with some experience with the game to be the DM, but if you have a friend that is willing to do a lot of reading and research, they can pick up the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual and give it a shot.
Once you have someone delegated to be the DM, you’ll have to find some more players. Parties can range from 2 to as many as your DM will allow, but a party of 4-6 is ideal. You’ll want to form a pretty balanced team. Having someone to take the brunt of the damage, someone to heal the group, and the rest to do damage is best for combat. For story building, you’ll want a variety of backgrounds that can problem solve–finding things, learning the lore surrounding different aspects of the game, and fitting into difficult places to uncover special items, for example.
If you don’t have many friends that want to play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), you can always findDD-Players-Handbook-Cover more people in various places across the internet. If you play with people you don’t know, you’ll want to be especially careful to not share any personal information with anyone in the group. If you haven’t made your social media profile safe from people that aren’t on your friends list, you’ll want to do so before starting a game with people you don’t know. You can join Facebook Groups or other communities centered around D&D or just geekiness in general. (I am kind of partial to ours as a Christian geek community: Geeks Under Grace Community.)
With your party set, you’ll want to start making your character. You can click this link to buy the Player’s Handbook from Amazon. If this is your first time playing, you’ll want to take the time to think out what kind of character you’ll want. Read the instructions on how to make a character and formulate one on your character sheet. You can click this link to get to download the character sheet. Often times, seasoned players or the DM will be willing to help you make your character. Once you have chosen your class, you can also search builds and find good guides online.
For example: I want to make a sorcerer. I search “Sorcerer Build D&D 5e” on Google and click one of the links for a guide. The guide helps me choose everything from my race, to my background, to my starting stats.
You will need a set of dice for the various things that you will do on your adventure. Some seasoned players prefer to have physical dice. If you would like to use physical dice, there is a good set that you can buy here.

Digital Resources

For those that prefer the convenience of using their phones or tablets to house everything, there are a few apps that will help you track and play your game.
Apple Devices
For iPhone and iPad users, there is a great Character Sheet app called Fifth Edition Character Sheet. You can track everything that involves your character for free. If you want to take advantage of the automatic level-up process, you’ll have to pay $2.99 (which I did, because it is very much worth it). The best dice rolling app that I have found is Dice and Dragons. It is a free app that allows you to save your different ability rolls with applying the different modifiers. The startup tour process is lengthy and can be a little confusing, but once you get through that, this app is great! There is also a great app that a DM can use to share maps with you called 3D Virtual Tabletop that you can add your characters’ pictures to.
Android
If you have an Android device, you know that some apps don’t work for every device, so I can only give the two that work the best for the devices I know. The same Character Sheet app that is available for Apple devices is also available in the Google Play Store: Fifth Edition Character Sheet. You can track everything that involves your character for free. If you want to take advantage of the automatic level-up process, you’ll have to pay $2.99 (which I did, because it is very much worth it). As far as a good dice app, DnDice works well. It is 3D, works well, and it’s free! 3D Virtual Tabletop is also available on Android.

Communication Platforms

Finding the best platform to play the game on will be different for each group. You may want the convenience of a platform you are familiar with, or you may want to keep your game communication separate from everything else you do. Each group will likely be different, but you’ll want to come to an agreement on what type of platform you want to use. There are two main options that I have found that work well.
Facebook
mwr774Most people have a Facebook account these days, so a natural option for those that want to use a platform that they are familiar with is using messenger on Facebook. It isn’t always the easiest form to use, but it can be done. You’ll likely only want to use this platform with people you are comfortable with seeing your profile picture (and only if you have made your profile safe from people who aren’t on your friends list). If you are playing with a group of people you already know, you will be fine.
You’ll want to create two messenger groups: one for your in-character (IC) posts, and one for your out-of-character (OOC) posts. The IC group will be where you will type the things that take place in the world. If you are role-playing (RP) that your character is checking out the dungeon or swinging a sword, that post will go in this group. The OOC group is where you will discuss things that wouldn’t fit in the story. If you need to ask the DM a question or need to make a roll to attack, this group is where you will do it.
It is easiest to keep a secret group open with your group if you use Facebook for anything that needs to be shared or discussed that isn’t time sensitive. The group is where you will share your character sheets (if you choose to), maps of places you will frequent, any variant information (if the DM allows it), and things of that nature. Keeping these things readily available makes it easier than having to scroll up through several messages to try to find an important piece of information.
Slack
Slack is a great platform that you can use to house all of your adventures. It allows you to pin important posts, it has cross-platform apps, and it is free! You’ll just follow the steps to create a Slack account, get the player’s email addresses to send them invites to setup accounts, and follow the steps for setting up your page.
There are a few bonuses to using a platform to encompass all aspects of your game and nothing else; safety being one. You don’t have to worry about someone you don’t know very well looking at your profile. In addition, Slack allows you to make a profile for your character, which adds flavor to the game. Instead of seeing everyone’s Facebook profile pictures, you see a picture associated with their characters.
You’ll create an IC and OOC channel to toggle back and forth between. You won’t have to have a third page to manage, as you would have to using a secret group on Facebook, because you can “pin” important events and posts to show up on the right side of the page. Then you can view them any time you want without having to scroll back up to find them.

Managing Time

Playing with others around the globe has its drawbacks. You will likely end up with a group of peopletumblr_n4yjl83bpN1s7x60do1_1280 in different time zones and conflicting schedules. Having everything available on your mobile phone to allow you to play when others can is a plus to playing online, though. You could be at a number of places and bored out of your mind, but be able to find escape with your friends through D&D on your phone. Playing while traveling becomes an option too. You no longer have to have your character take a hiatus from the group or pause the game when someone goes on vacation. Your time may be more limited, but the game can go on.
Another way to alleviate some of this problem is to schedule some time with everyone to get in a few solid hours of playing. Then, you can know that you will have everyone’s undivided attention for that block of time, and an encounter won’t take days to get through. You can make a note and pin it on Slack, make an event for everyone’s calendars, or create an event on Facebook for everyone to track when the group will be available. Scheduling time may not always be an option with a busy DM, and not everyone will be able to make it to every scheduled setting, but everyone will know when the event is taking place if you can do so.

Conclusion

Jumping into your D&D character and world no longer requires you to be at a certain place at a certain time. You and your friends can be anywhere in the world and play at any time you are all available. These are certainly not the only ways this can be done either, but you can sure manage a game this way. Give it a shot and let us know, in our Facebook community (Geeks Under Grace Community), how it worked out for you. What worked well and what didn’t? Maybe you can even form a group!
May your adventures be plentiful and your enemies be crushed under your feet!

horizontal-divider

You can purchase dice and any of the books you need by clicking the images below:

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0786965606][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0786965622][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0786965614][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B007BVJ778]

Categories
Comics/Books Novels Reviews

Review: Icewind Dale Trilogy: The Legend of Drizzt

5118MJbPO3LAuthor: R.A. Salvatore
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Genre: Fantasy Novel
Release date:  1988-1990 Second release: January-August 2007
Price: $7.99 each; $19.95 collected edition
The first book in this series, The Crystal Shard, is the first novel ever published by critically acclaimed author R. A. Salvatore. For the past couple of decades, this series has been revered as a classic by thousands people. Those who have read the series can certainly understand why.
These books have a cast of lovable and memorable characters who are well developed, tons of great action scenes, and many other elements that fans of the fantasy genre will love. As there is not much filler in these books, you won’t likely get impatient waiting for something important to happen. Almost every scene drives the story. The only thing that may make you flinch is the infrequent swear word or the mention of a bloody battle scene. Even so, the overtones are much less dark than the previous trilogy in this series, giving you a little breath of fresh air. (You can read our review of that trilogy here: Review: Dark Elf Trilogy: The Legend of Drizzt).
Though this is the second trilogy in the series, it was the first written. The Dark Elf Trilogy was made as a prequel to this highly-successful series, as an answer to fan request. So many things happen in these books we won’t be able to cover everything in this review, but we can get a good summary.

 

Storyline

The Crystal Shard
In this book, we are introduced to Regis the Halfling and Wulfgar the Barbarian while getting a closer The_Crystal_Shard2look at three characters from the previous trilogy: Catti-Brie, Bruenor Battlehammer, and Drizzt Do’Urden. They live within the community of Ten Towns, which is a group of (you guessed it) ten cities on the outskirts of the harsh, frozen tundra of the north. A group of barbarians plan to attack the villages, but the city leaders learn of the plot and the citizens of Ten Towns thwart the massacre. In the battle, Bruenor Battlehammer the dwarf takes one of the barbarians captive, though he cannot say why he spared the man’s life. Fate soon reveals the reason.
Elsewhere, a puny apprentice named Akar Kessell tries to impress a group of wizards in an effort to join their ranks. His deceptive comrades manipulate him and leave him for dead in the frozen tundra of the north. However, Kessell comes across an ancient, magical artifact which saves his life: the Crystal Shard. Using the magic of the shard, Kessell spends years building a crystal tower and amassing an army of goblins, orcs, giants, and barbarians. When Kessell leads a campaign to conquer the tundra, the epic battle for Icewind Dale takes place on the doorsteps of Ten Towns.

 

Streams_of_Silver2Streams of Silver
The five adventurers of the main party leave the Icewind Dale for the first time in many years. They follow Bruenor Battlehammer to the lost kingdom of his youth in the hopes of helping him reclaim his throne. Mithral Hall is famed for having rivers of the precious metal Mithral running through its halls. The problem is that the secretive dwarves were too effective in hiding their underground kingdom, and Bruenor was “but a lad” when he last laid eyes on his homeland. After quite a bit of searching and some chance encounters, they come across the location of the city.
The party traverses some of the most challenging terrain they have ever endured and battle powerful opponents — all this while being unable to seek refuge. No one wants a drow (like Drizzt) in their city, after all. The team, save Regis, is unaware that they are being followed by one of the most deadly assassins in the realm. When they reach Mithral Hall, they find themselves in a web of battles with dark dwarves and the assassin who followed them. They also discover why Bruenor’s people fled their treasured city over 200 years ago;
[toggles behavior=”accordion”]
[toggle title=”SPOILER”]A black dragon spewing venomous breath has claimed the kingdom and its treasure. [/toggle]
[/toggles]
The Halfling’s Gem
The assassin, Artemis Entreri, has gotten away with his target, Regis, and is traveling south toThe_Halfling's_Gem2 take him to guildmaster Pasha Pook. Drizzt and Wulfgar set off in pursuit of their captured comrade, first seeking a magical item to help them travel the well-populated south. Catti-Brie swears to avenge their fallen friend by reclaiming his throne. She summons an army of dwarves, barbarians, mages, and archers. With the onset of the impending winter, Catti-Brie’s army will hold up in Longsaddle until Spring, while Drizzt and Wulfgar are racing to beat the biting cold winds from the north.
Drizzt and Wulfgar gain passage across the Shining Sea aboard Captain Deudermont’s ship.
[toggles behavior=”accordion”]
[toggle title=”SPOILER”]Bruenor makes a miraculous return and, against Catti-Brie’s request, catches up with the rest of their team in pursuit of the Halfling and his captor. [/toggle]
[/toggles]
The team traverses miles of open ocean and brutal desert to arrive at the city of Calimport. Entreri sets a trap to force Drizzt into a battle to prove himself the greater fighter. The group ends up in a battle with wererats while trying to enter the thieves’ guildhall. The group overcomes insurmountable odds that nearly claim all of their lives, before finally reaching the main chamber of Pasha Pook in the final battle to save their friend.

 

Content Guide

Positive Elements
Each of the characters in this trilogy brings a lesson to the table that Christians can take away while reading. In Drizzt Do’Urden, we learn how to overcome opposition from people who shun you. Most cities turn him away because of his appearance, but he protects the citizens anyway. Bruenor teaches us that our pride can blind us and push us down a path that leads to our ruin. He wants desperately to claim the throne that is rightfully his, but it almost gets him and his friends killed.
Wulfgar teaches us that when we see something wrong, we are to break off its horns and challenge it openly — even when the odds look overwhelming. When the barbarian king leads his tribe to do terrible things, Wulfgar mightily overcomes so he can lead his people in the right way. Catti-Brie teaches us how to be unafraid. Her fear of Artemis Entreri was complete and overwhelming, but she knew that her friends’ lives depended on her overcoming that fear, so she did it. Finally, we learn from Regis that greed and laziness can bring us into serious distress. Every time he went out chasing a trinket or a bauble, he got himself and his team into trouble; when he sat back thinking he couldn’t t help in a fight, he was captured.
Spiritual Content
If not for the incantations and spell-casting, this section wouldn’t need any notes. Wizards have to draw shapes on the floor, light candles, and chant to summon otherworldly demons and fiends. This is similar to some rituals that Satanists practice while worshiping. The characters also call on their false gods to do things like help them in battle and grant them luck in desperate situations. However, the gods never materialize, giving room to believe that the character’s blind faith is the only form in which the gods’ exist.
At the beginning of each new segment, Drizzt offers his thoughts in a first-person narrative of the events as if writing in a journal. In one of these writings, he pretty much spells out that we cannot have hope in a god. Fortunately for us, we know better. Drizzt somewhat contradicts his own writing in the next journal entry, so it is hard to pin him to any religious preference.
Drizzt_and_Artemis_by_joukal
Drizzt and Artemis by JouniKaltti
Violence
R.A. Salvatore is widely praised for his amazing battle scenes, so it should come as no surprise that these books have a lot of them. He doesn’t overly describe the gory parts of fighting, but he sometimes goes into detail about how the scenes play out. Blood is mentioned, but he doesn’t mention the spilling of entrails or similar pictures common in this genre. If you read fantasy frequently, the violence probably will not be more than what  you are used to. Otherwise, you are looking at more of a PG-13 type environment in the realm of violence.
Language/Crude Humor
These books do not use much in the way of profanity or crude humor. There is an occasional d**n or b*****d, but you do not see language like sh** or f***. Coarse jokes (in the way of body parts or similar nature) do not stand out to memory.
Sexual Content
Happily, aside from one scene were “voluptuous naked women” are mentioned, there is no content to report here. That one instance where nudity takes place is only a few sentences and does not go into great detail.
Drug/Alcohol Reference
The only drug reference is when the group comes across a group of southern barbarians who smoke a pipeweed. The group visits a couple of taverns and a few of them have drinks. While the group does not get intoxicated, strangers whom they have the misfortune to meet do become drunk. There certainly is not a strong glorification of it.

 

Presentation

I love the covers of the mass market paperbacks on these books. They illustrate an important scene in each story and give you a good basis for what the characters look like. (If you prefer to create your own image of characters when reading, you can put a paper bag over the covers.) The artist went into great detail to capture the imagery beautifully.
Salvatore does a great job painting the scenes for you, giving just enough description for you to easily fill in the blanks. I think this adds to the excellent speed of the books; I can’t remember wanting a scene to end in favor of the next.
Where the author does not give much descriptive visuals, he more than makes up for with character details and emotions. You always know why a character is doing what they are doing because their feelings and backstories are well described. This makes for excellent character development.
Grammatical errors continually happened with increasing frequency in these books, though they were lacking in the first trilogy. Several chapters have no mistakes, but then a chapter or two has a mistake every other paragraph. These types of mistakes do not bring everyone out of the story — in fact, a lot of people may even read over them — but some of us reread a couple of times to make sure we understood correctly.
There is not a lot of humor in the first book, but humorous moments take place as the series goes on and the characters begin to become comfortable with one another. The dwarf’s hardened demeanor gives the appearance that he does not have time for the mistakes of the newbies and the circumstantial humor will leave you chuckling. The jokes highlight the differences of personalities between the characters.

 

Final Word

These books certainly live up to the title of “classic”. The driving pace and vivid action scenes make you want to know what happens next. Watching your favorite characters battle overwhelming odds, overcoming them, and turning into different people on the other side really makes you connect with the stories. Doing this with five characters is no easy feat!
When you see Drizzt turned away by another town because they fear him and don’t understand him, you feel his sorrow. As Wulfgar completes a mighty feat, you feel your chest swell a little bit. The emotions and the events correlate in a profound way.
Fortunately, this trilogy does not have as much of the darker material that is common in fantasy novels. Compared to the previous trilogy, the occasional mention of a sinister deed or a chanting spell is far preferable to the dark rituals of the Underdark, the evil things that their denizens do, and even the killing of children. The story doesn’t suffer for missing all of that. These are truly remarkable books and highly recommended.

 

You can buy the collected trilogy or the individual books by clicking the links below:

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=078696538X][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0786942460][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0786942657][amazon template=iframe image&asin=0786942894]

Categories
Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Hand of Fate (PS4)

Content Warning:

Spells, magic, sorcery, and demons are prevalent throughout the games (i.e., one card mentions the devil, you cast various spells and visit with a sorcerer for healing and spells, etc.). However, during battles there is no bloodshed.

I have never been one to enjoy card games, so, when I began playing Hand of Fate, I decided I would trudge through it and give it the best objective review I could. In the end, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable game that I will continue play, even after I have completed this review.

I’m not sure which genre this game should fall into. Part of it feels like Magic the Gathering, another part feels like a session of D&D (Dungeons and Dragons), and the last part feels a bit like Final Fantasy Tactics. Wrap all of these games in a blanket of Fable, and you have Hand of FHoF1ate. The graphics aren’t dazzling, but I didn’t find that they needed to be. The game presents itself well as a card game with a bit of action. It leaves a lot up to the imagination, as most physical card games do via role-play. The Dealer’s voice acting is professionally performed. His mouth is covered by cloth, so there isn’t any disparage between his audio and his mouth movement.

The premise of Hand of Fate is rather simple; you play a card game against the “Dealer,” who also narrates what is happening, much like a Dungeon Master would. He quips along as you play your hand, remarking on your choices and what cards are drawn. The Dealer does most of the work for you as you make choices along your path. Your cards dictate your movement in the game, but the player can pick the direction they wish their token to travel. If there are multiple directions to move in, player’s options expand (they may be rewarded or may have to fight an enemy, for example).

You, the player, have a deck on your side of the table, while the Dealer has his own deck. His deck is usually full of your opponents and different attacks to be used against you. You have multiple cards placed on the table, and you choose where to move your piece based on the cards you draw. If you have multiple cards in front of your piece, you choose the direction you want to move to. The beginning rounds are mostly linear, and your cards are randomly placed in front of you.

HoF_Screenshot_Beta_03Your goal is to defeat the “boss” at the end of each playthrough. You collect the “boss” cards near the end of your playthrough to show your progress. Each “boss” card is displayed in a special case at the beginning of the round. I found that, with each game I played, the bosses and the levels became more difficult. The first few hands were relatively easy, in order to get me used to the gameplay.

There are cards of fortune that will help you with “blessings.” There are also cards of circumstance that will lead you into an ambush. Some cards will open up a shop for you to purchase things throughout your “quests.” You will have a limited amount of food that you can replenish with purchases; each move takes away one unit of food, so you must keep track of your usage. You may also draw a circumstance card that could put you in a scenario where you have your food stolen, or possibly give your food away to a hungry peasant. The choice is yours, which is what makes Hand of Fate so appealing. There is a strategy that you can develop the more you play.

The most interesting part of the game is that, when your character goes into battle, you actually get to control your character and fight against various foes. The fighting mechanic is simple and familiar if you have played any of the Batman Arkham games. You have the ability to attack, block, or dodge your opponents, and, as you uHof4pgrade or find better weapons, you can use their powers as well. These are extremely helpful when you are playing against multiple opponents, as you can stun or knock them back. The fighting sequences are not initially challenging; however, about five decks into your playthrough, the fighting becomes much more intense. You will also play through some “trap” levels, which consist of dodging various traps Indiana Jones-style. At the end of most of these challenges, you will be rewarded by drawing various cards that will give you extra gold or equipment to help you in your quest.

I had two major issues while playing this game. It froze on me at the end of one of my decks, and the game completely stalled and quit on me during another playthrough. Thankfully, the game appears to save quite frequently, and I didn’t lose any progress in my playthrough as a result. During a few fights, the frame rate appeared to lag a bit, but not enough to deter me from continuing the game.

I am quite impressed that a game like Hand of Fate was able to keep my interest and make me want to play it. If you enjoy Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, and Final Fantasy Tactics, you will be glad that you decided to check this game out.

Hand of Fate releases on February 17th at 4pm PST on PS4, XB1, and Steam.

Special thanks to Stride PR for providing Geeks Under Grace with a review copy of this game.