Sunday, 2 August 2009

"And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."

The DM in a role playing game is God, but he is a constrained and very human one - he is the God of the Hebrews, the one who made up his mind to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and everyone in them but who Abraham persuaded not to if righteous people were living there; the one who gambled with Satan over the soul of Job; the one who Jacob wrestled with in the desert and defeated. He isn't the infallible Christian version who knows all and whose word is always true and always final. He can be negotiated with and sometimes his mind can be changed.

This is why I like the idea of Professor MAR Barker's Perfected Game Rules, which the inestimable Timeshadows posted yesterday:

Prof. Mohammed abd Rahman Barker's Perfected Game Rules:

1) We both roll dice.
2) If you roll high, your view of reality prevails.
3) If I roll high, my view of reality prevails.
4) If we're close, we negotiate.

Of course, these Perfected Game Rules require adherence to my Don't Be A Dickhead philosophy, i.e. it requires that both parties be friendly and reasonable people who have social skills. But I'd like to give them a try some day.

Their chief advantage, apart from the fact that you don't have to arse around with things like game books and stats, is that they add another crucial human element to the game. Negotiation is a huge part of what makes games like Diplomacy so great, and is a cornerstone of human interaction; done correctly it is always mutually satisfying, like most other cornerstones of human interaction. (Especially the one where two people engage in naked bed top wrestling.) The fact that it isn't a major part of a lot of rpgs is a sad consequence of the fact that the hobby seems to attract a proportion of dickheads (because you need robust rules to deal with them), but it doesn't have to be that way.


  1. "When all else fails dice off for it"? Yeah, makes sense. Learned that one in the brutal world of backstreet WFB leagues. Hey, it was dice, or knife-fighting, and I'm too purdy to be shanked...

    But did you *have* to put fatbeards and naked bed top wrestling in the same part of my mind? You are a Bad Noisms!

    wv: podera - how the noughties of the 21st c. will be known to future archaeologists

  2. Not sure I'd agree with your particular exegesis for a fallible God.

    The story of Sodom and Amorah opens with God saying that he must tell Abraham that he is going to destroy the cities-- the implication being that he wants Abraham to debate him, presumably as a test for Abraham rather than being in order to change God's mind(which doesn't happen, by the way-- they are still destroyed)

    As for the story of Job-- my instinct is that the discussions between God and Satan are anthropomorphised in order to set up a background for Job's discussions with his friends which seem to be the main focus of the book.

    In fact, Bilam's attempts to negotiate with God over the cursing of the Jews are met with the response "is God a man that he will change his mind"(23:19)

    It seems that the only way to change God's mind in the Jewish outlook is by changing the situation i.e. "Repentance, Prayer, and Charity change the harsh decree"(high holiday prayers)

    Relating to the broader subject of your post: Negotiation is certainly a Jewish value between people, one example being the Talmud's note that in civil cases the two sided are encouraged to reach a compromise rather than going to court(Don't remember the source).