Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saintly Saturday: Happy New Year

In the Orthodox Church, today marks the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year. Personally, what I find significant about this reality are the first and last Great Feasts of the Church Calendar — The Nativity of the Theotokos and the Dormition of the Theotokos. For those who are not familiar with this nomenclature, the year begins with the birth of the Virgin Mary and ends with the death of the Virgin Mary.

This places all of the more Christo-centric Feasts (Christmas, Epiphany, the Presentation, Palm Sunday, Pascha (Easter), Ascension, Pentecost and Transfiguration) in context of a single human life. It demonstrates that everything Christ accomplished with His incarnation was accomplished for the express purpose of transforming the cycle of a human’s life from that of being finite and doomed to death to being full of the potential of divine grace and eternal life.

To put it more simply: God intends for each of us to fulfill our potential. This potential is granted in that we are capable of becoming like God because we are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, our potential is limited only by our own choice to accept or reject Christ’s transformational grace.

One of the reasons I have always loved RPGs is because they provide an arena for exploring the transformation of character and world through the mechanics of playing the game. For example, every edition of D&D, even at its most basic mechanical level, is about character transformation — characters gain XP through various means in order to advance in level and gain a variety of skills, powers and other game benefits.

I embrace the old ways (or new ways depending upon what side of the "OSR is dead" meme of the past couple of weeks) because they allow more freedom in terms of what this transformation looks like. I must admit, that there is something very compelling about all the various mechanical builds one can accomplish using 3.5 or Pathfinder; however, because they are so mechanics-driven they do not provide the kind of flexibility that older editions of the game do.

As a recent example, what little gaming I’ve done over the last several months has been as a player (our group decided to start a 1ed campaign with the Caverns of Thracia being the megadungeon of choice knowing that my availability this summer was going to be spotty). Since I am familiar with the module, the GM and I brainstormed a couple of ways to get around my meta-knowledge. He made some substantive changes, incorporated info in the 3.5 re-release of the module that I am unfamiliar with and warmed to the idea of me playing one of the denizens of the dungeon.

During the various adventures that I was able to take part in, my character witnessed a miracle performed by St. Cuthbert, someone my character had no idea existed. Because this was such a major event in my character’s life, I wanted him to be changed by the experience. So, I got to explore those changes. If I am honest, these changes would have been very possible in later editions of the game; however, they wouldn’t necessarily have been as easy or mechanically satisfying.

In the end, I have come to really appreciate the character because of this transformation, the way this change has affected the world in which he lives, the people he interacts with and the ability to see these transformations come to fruition.

This, in my mind, is one of the reasons D&D (whatever edition) has the staying power that it does — it plugs into that God-given desire for transformation exemplified by the life of the Virgin Mary.

1 comment:

AndreasDavour said...

Happy New Year, Dave! Thanks for all the thought worthy posts about gaming the last year, and some interesting spiritual insights as well. I've enjoyed them quite a lot.

Game on!