Jesus Saves . . . and Takes 1/2 Damage

I was introduced to tabletop role-playing games through Dungeons & Dragons in sixth grade (thanks neighbors!).  As a not-very-well-coordinated kid who was not sporty and loved to read fantasy and science fiction, the game opened up a whole new world for me. My imagination got to soar, I met new people, and some of my best friends to this day are ones who I share this hobby with. I still remember my very first wizard (Basic D&D – Red Box – old school!) named Arion (yes, stolen from the DC comic character – my character’s symbol was the double Star of David as well). Heading out with 4 hit points and one magic missile spell made for a very squishy character, but I loved playing the game, which was an almost weekly occurrence at that point. After finding out that some of my friends at school played as well, D&D became a weekly (or more than weekly) ritual that I looked forward to. I read as many books as I could get my hands on, and soon moved on to Advanced D&D. I played all through my high school life, adding other games along the way: Call of Cthulu, the Marvel RPG, the DC RPG, the Middle Earth/Rolemaster RPG, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten about.

I stopped playing in college (no ready made group of friends to play with + lots of reading & course work + ministry involvement + more freedom = no time for RPG’s), but started up after getting married and finding out that my wife used to play as well. Since them I’ve gone through AD&D, Player’s Options: Skills & Powers, 3rd Edition, 3.5 Edition, a bit of Pathfinder, and have been playing 4th Edition for a while now (while I’ve bought the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, my heart still belongs to 4E) 🙂

A few years ago at school a parent asked me if there was any group or extra curricular activity at school that their child could join. Said child was not sporty, loved to read, was interested in board and card games, and had a really good imagination. Hmm . . . lightbulb moment! I told the parent about the game that I played, said parent liked what they heard, and I accepted the quest to tackle the solo boss encounter Principal: Starting a Gaming Club. 🙂

Our principal at the time was hesitant, but after thinking about it I was given approval to go ahead and start the game. And the rest, as they say, is history. This is my fourth year running a gaming club – students play 4th Edition D&D (with me as the DM [Dungeon Master – the person that crafts the story the player’s are experiencing – I control the game world and all of the reactions of the game world to the actions the player’s take] most of the time), with some students playing collectible card games like Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, or Magic: The Gathering, and a few students playing the Star Wars miniatures game.

I’ve had memorable moments and lots of fun playing with my students these last few years. And I’m proud to have introduced them to another outlet for their creative imagination, as well as helping them to practice strategy and good sportsmanship. For the D&D game specifically I handle character creation (through the online Character Builder), but I have a worksheet (homework!) that they fill out to help me create their character. I’ve made unicorns (a re-fluffed Minotaur sorcerer), anime characters I’d never heard of (hybrid characters are your friend!), stealthy ranger/rogues, Shadow Hunters, superhero clones, and fighters who deal massive damage (one of my favorite quotes from the uber-damage dealing fighter after he was hit by a monster: “Thanks for the massage”). I’ve had groups run away from giant trolls, blast evil spellcasters off of rope bridges, track down supernatural infections, destroy evil crystal creatures, and travel to small pocket dimensions to rescue trapped goddesses. I’ve seen groups laugh together, argue over what to do, plan cohesive strategies that worked (and some that didn’t), hide during PvP battle, and generally enjoy getting to collectively tell stories as we played. It’s been a constant source of joy for the last four years, and I’m grateful for my past and current principal that they continue to encourage our kids to creatively use their imaginations by playing these games. I’m also proud that our local Catholic High School started a small RPG club last year, as some of my kids graduated and moved over there for their high school education.

If you’re interested in gaming with first time RPG’ers (4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons), whether at school or at home, you can download the worksheet I use here (in PDF format). Enjoy, have fun, and let me know if  you start playing and how it goes!

And lest I forget, the title is an allusion to an older game mechanic – sometimes, when enemies were targeting the characters with different powers, the player would roll a dice (a key component of most role playing games), and if they met or exceeded a certain number the character would take half or no damage from the attack. Christian gamers created bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. with the logo as a way to express their faith and their enjoyment of role playing games. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe!

Blessings & Peace,

Photo by Jennie Ivins