To all our friends and fans, all our customers and colleagues, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I especially wish for you all peace and prosperity in the coming year.
As a gift to you I’m offering Lunatic Labyrinth at a special discount price of $1 from Drive Thru RPG. Get it here. The offer ends on the 1st of the new year. All proceeds go towards site hosting and domain registration.
NaNoWriMo is done and dusted (but you can still donate) and now it’s on to the next big thing. I’ve got a couple of ideas but I’d love to hear from you. What do you want to read about here on Rising Phoenix Game? Any games you’re interested in? Want more adventure hooks? NPC’s? Role-playing tips? Maps? Widgets? More Japan-Awesomeness? What do you want to talk about? Let me know and we’ll see what we can do.
Why do you play games? Do you play because it’s a reason to do something with friends? Is it because you love the challenge? Maybe it’s the pure escapism?
Personally I think it’s a little bit of everything for me, but mostly it’s the escapism. Yesterday I picked up a few Marvel HeroClix figures, including Spider-Man and Iron-Man. Today I played a quick battle by myself and just enjoyed imagining the action.
Now, I’m a little biased, because I’ve always loved Spider-Man. Spider-Man is fast, agile, confident and has always stood up for good ideals. Spider-Man doesn’t kill his enemies, he puts himself at greater risk to preserve all life. Spider-Man has always been my favorite super hero, I’d choose him over Wolverine, Captain-America, Iron-Man or any of the others.
Boden raised his holy symbol high above his head, calling down a searing beam of light into the valley below. The seething mass of living dead bodies recoiled, flailing their arms in an attempt to shield themselves from the holy light and backing away from their victims.
“Evil will not triumph this day!” Boden muttered under his breath.
The story of the battle of good versus evil is as old as time yet as engaging and important as always. We love the hero and we want him or her to win, and in their victory we learn something of ourselves: heroism, humility, honour, whatever it may be. You see, the story of the battle of good versus evil is our own story. It is tied to our existence and as important as the air we breathe.
For good to exist, at least in a story, there must be the opposite force. In any good story there is evil. In real life there may be two parties with opposing views, neither one necessarily evil or good per say, just not agreeing with each other. In a story like Spider-Man, The Lord of the Rings, David and Goliath, Gladiator, and the Matrix, there is an evil that the hero must overcome, and by the darkness of evil we see the light of the “good” hero all the more brightly.
Because of the evil enemy, role-playing books are usually full of all types of monster, demon, devil and horror. They are the darkness that players want to defeat. Role-playing sometimes gets a bad rap from many religious organizations because of this evil content. It’s probably not surprising, even though there are Christian role-players out there, like myself. But in stories, we realize the need for that evil oppressor, the mad villain or the terrible dragon. Without Sauron, the Hobbits would have never left for Bree, Rohan would never have come to the defended of the White Tree and JRR Tolkien would not be as famous a story teller as he is today.
Edit: I came across a great post from Christian blogger Berin Kinsman that supports what I’m saying, so I’m plugging that in here:
Nearly everyone I know that’s involved in the roleplaying hobby, whether they play in fantasy settings, superheroes, horror, espionage, and any of the myriad styles and genres, typically engage in basic good-versus-evil stories. Even the folks I know who play games where they play monsters enjoy wrestling with and exploring the moral and ethical dilemmas and the angsts and drama. It is social, it is creative, but it is fiction. There is, on some level, a degree of redeeming social value to go along with the escapism.
The story of good versus evil teaches us a lot about our real selves. It teaches us, I think, that we want goodness and peace, we dislike oppression or unfairness, and we realize that peace doesn’t come from inaction but that often people had to die for freedom. As a South African it’s easy to think back on how activists like Mahatma Gandhi worked for freedom, through personal effort, suffering and hardship.
I think a wise GM looks at his campaign…
…and asks “what are we (the PC’s) fighting for?” It may, in a small part, be to defeat the tyrant, push back evil from the land or put the dead to rest, but what is the higher cause? Even if a new, more powerful set of armour motivates most of your players onto their next quest, I think you’ll find a deep hunger for the good to win out against evil. It’s part of what makes us human.
While contemplating the difference between “role-play”, “roleplay” and “role play” I came across an interesting bit of trivia. In Japan, RPG means a digital role-playing game, while pencil and paper RPG’s are known as TRPG’s or “table-talk role-playing games”.
Role-playing in Japan is an interesting phenomenon. They had their own boom, have their own games and enjoyed some of the games we know well in the west, such as GURP’s and Dungeons and Dragons. There are even companies like Aurora Models who make miniatures and dungeon sets for TRPG’s.
But what’s the state of TRPG’s now?
Well, it seems like the disaster that hit Japan a year ago had quite an effect on spending, especially in terms of recreation. Apart from many foreigners leaving, many Japanese cut down on travelling and recreational spending. I spoke to my local hobby store owner who said that Magic The Gathering had seen a sharp decline in sales.
Have a look on the store locator from the Wizards of the Coast site and you’ll find plenty of stores stocking their goods in Japan, but talk to the average teenager about RPG’s and they might not know what you’re talking about, even with those who understand English well.
Is this all because of the disaster or just the general slump of the RPG industry?
The Foreign Effect
There might not be as many foreigners in Japan now as there were a year ago, but amongst us the passion for gaming burns strong. My own list of role players in my area numbers some 15 people, and that’s only after being here for 8 months (you should know that I’m socially retarded quite often, so I’m sure there are people I’m missing, just because I don’t get out much.)
Amazon.co.jp, the iTunes store and Drive Thru RPG are probably the main stores used by the foreign community today, while finding dice is a bit of an art form.
Japan is a country of determined people. The spirit of Bushido and “Never Give Up” may be stronger than any Japanese person would ever admit, especially in the face of the situation today. While the rest of Japan may not have been so directly affected as those hit by the Tsunami or the displacement from the reactor, their minds certainly are not far from what happened a year ago today.
What can you do?
Japan doesn’t want to be treated like a plague victim. It’s safe enough, even if there at tremors now and again, but it’s a beautiful country that deserves a visit. As role-players we are continually inspired by Japan, from L5R to the samurai and ninja classes in D&D or Pathfinder. Reach out on the web. Buy manga, play the games and come and be inspired by this amazing country.
The New York Times recently published an article about Wizards of the Coast’s announcement of the next iteration of Dungeons and Dragons. I had heard rumours. I wonder if they ever considered just running with the games they have, like what Pathfinder is doing?
My wife and I have been in Japan now for a little over two months, and I’ve used my free time to research role-playing and hobby games here in the Land of the Rising sun. In the upcoming months I’ll be sharing some of my findings and thoughts on the hobby gaming industry in Japan, reviewing games and bringing you inspiring thoughts you can bring to the games table. So join me, as I get inspired in Japan.
Make sure you follow me on twitter: RisingPhoenixGM.
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Welcome to the blog of Rising Phoenix Games! The aim of this blog is to be accessible to both new and experienced role-players, and not just the Game Masters out there. We’ll be sharing tips, giving advice, having a laugh and going on a few adventures together. Join us, it’ll be a blast.