. . .many fantasy gamers see nothing wrong with a game-universe ruled by evil forces, or by a callous "Neutrality" barely distinguishable from evil, but let anyone suggest having an omnipotent good power, and they'll scream, "Blasphemy! That spoils GAME BALANCE!!!!
Is it my thesis that a D&D Campaign can assume the existence of an omnipotent God — in fact, the God of the Bible — without losing the quality of suspense, just as, in reality, the existence of that same God does not make life predictable or unchallenging on our "Prime Material Plane."
For those of you who follow this blog, you might mistake the above quote for something that I had written from one of my earlier posts; however, you would be mistaken. Rather, it is from an article that ze bulette of Dungeons and Digressions brought to my attention from the Oct/Nov 1981 issue of Judges Guild's Pegasus Magazine — Monotheism In Fantasy Games by Joseph R. Ravitts.
From my perspective, it is a fascinating piece of gaming history because it indicates that the seeds that eventually drove me away from playing D&D for many a year were already planted and bearing fruit in 1981. The fact that Ravitts is having to make many of the same arguments that I have in this blog (that monotheism is not only a legitimate choice in FRPGs, but is well supported by fantasy literature) demonstrates a trend within the hobby that may very well have contributed to that dark and ridiculous association of D&D with Satanism by the likes of Pulling, Schoebelen and Hickman. However, I think the most interesting aspect of this article (and what distinguishes it from my own writing) is that Ravitts feels the need to spend a lot of time arguing for a fantasy world where Jesus Christ is not one of many active deities.
Over the course of the last three decades, hobbyists have come to agree with Ravitts; however, the majority chose to rid their games of Christianity rather than pagan gods. Which, of course, is where I come in. I have endeavored to demonstrably find ways in which to go the other direction and play this game with a very strong Christian foundation. A foundation that was, at least in part, present in the early years of the hobby as evidenced by Ravitt's need to argue that Jesus Christ cannot coexist with the likes of Odin, Crom, Set, Cthulhu or Krishna as active deities that directly influence fantasy worlds through granting spells to clerics etc.
Here are (from my perspective) some of Ravitt's more instructive observations:
Jesus Christ had to warn His followers, "In this world you will have tribulation." Sam Gamgee, in The Return of the King had a vision of "light and high beauty forever beyond (Sauron's) reach," but this did not relieve him of the responsibility to fight against the immediate threat to his world.
Others will object that the stern moral authority of the Christian God puts too many limits on a character's freedom. But have you considered the restrictiveness of other cosmologies? The Eastern religions view man as the prisoner of Karma; in Greek mythology, gods and men were subject to Fate, and often brought on a predestined doom in the very act of trying to avoid it; and in Norse mythology, everything that a hero achieved or enjoyed was overshadowed by the inevitability of Ragnarok. The Judeo-Christian view, in contrast, dignifies mankind by asserting the our will is truly free, and our free choice is crucial to our eternal destiny (Genesis 4:7, Deuteronmy 30:11-14, Joshua 24:15, Matthew 23:37, James 1:13-14).
However, the true gem to be found in this article from the annuls of our hobby is Ravitt's description of his own campaign world. Citing the fact that C.S. Lewis had Aslan/Christ supply Narnia with human beings from earth rather than creating a whole separate human race, he imagines his own version of Middle-Earth where two or three hundred years after the fall of Sauron, God arranges for Christians from our world to be transplanted to Middle-Earth to preach the Gospel to the beings that inhabit it.
While I would not choose Middle-Earth myself, this approach has a tremendous amount of appeal. It plugs into a deep seeded trope within Pulp Sci Fi and offers a fabulous way to introduce all kinds of sci fi elements, as Ravitts himself points out:
Subsequent crossovers from our Earth brought in the English language — and whatever other elements of the real world I wanted to have appear in my game-world. (That's how you can get anachronistic items in your dungeon without spoiling the internal logic!)
This has caused me to have a very bad case of Gamer ADD because this has put an extremely cool twist on my proposed version of Greyhawk. Rather than use one of my Aslan-esque Christ analogues, I could actually use Christianity with the understanding that St. Cuthbert is one of those Christians brought from our world to preach the Gospel to the World of Greyhawk. Thus, whenever someone says, "That is St. Cuthbert's Church" it is understood that it is the place where you go to worship St. Cuthbert's God — Jesus Christ. It also gives me the freedom to introduce some of the more gonzo elements of the early hobby with impunity.
If you have access to Pegasus IV, I recommend reading Monotheism In Fantasy Games, if for nothing else than a fascinating look at the early years of the hobby.