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May 19, 2004

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Less Math, More Myth

FoS* Matt Penniman is writing a new weblog about games and game design with a special emphasis on the precursors to all our fancy Final Fantasies: pen-and-paper role-playing games.

His latest entry talks about the prosaic ways that gods are handled in RPGs, e.g. as normal characters with really high “stats.”

That practice has extended into the digital age. Final Fantasy games always end with a battle against a) someone who wants to be a god, b) someone pretending to be a god, or c) a god. And invariably — even though these omnipotent foes have 45-zillion “hit points” (ah, the hit point: irreducible unit of life in RPGs) — you end up killing them.

Matt writes:

Reducing deities to game terms (which bear a striking resemble to legal language) is a sure way to suck all the life and mystery out of an encounter with the divine. For a certain style of play, this degree of specificity can be useful — but I vastly prefer the approach that says, “The gods work in mysterious ways. Mortals cannot fathom their powers and practices.”

What would a game with truly mysterious gods look like? Here’s a notion: There’d be conversation, not combat. You wouldn’t kill God; you’d trick Him, or make a deal with Her.

You know, like in Greek mythology. People were always yanking Zeus’s chain, right? And setting up weird bets with Hades.

*Friend of Snarkmarket

Also, I would just like to say that I am really proud of the headline I came up with for this item.

Posted May 19, 2004 at 3:29 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Video Games


Despite my disdain for overly-specific rules, they still exert a strange power. I spent a good half-hour after that post working out a table for precisely how many worshippers a deity would need to achieve each rank of power, with a smoothly-scaling rate of increase from 250 to 5 million over 20 ranks. It was immensely satisfying.

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