Saturday, August 23, 2008

Superheroes, RPGs, and Pagans... Oh My!

I was in Borders picking up a few of my regular magazines when I made an interesting discovery. I am the type of person who wanders around the magazine racks looking at nearly every book that catches my eye. I can easily blow an hour or two going through a large magazine rack and the Borders I go to has a HUGE selection. It is not unusual to see me pick up an issue of Gamepro, Country Cottages, Linux Pro, Dog Fancy( never Cat Fancy... that's just wrong), or even Forbes and thumb through them. The primary reason for my obsession with scouring every magazine rack I come across is finding new gaming, sci-fi or comic book magazines.Which usually doesn't happen, but there is the rare occassion I do find something related to my areas of interst in an unexpected part of the rack.

Case in point is New Witch magazine, issue #17 to be specific. In this issue were two articles I never expected to find in a pagan/witchcraft magazine. The first was a column, I assume it is a regular feature, titled "Chalice and Keybord: Pagans and RPGs". This issue held the second part of the article by Phil Brucato, who apparently has worked as a game designer, that details the influence that gaming had on his life.
At first glace the article brought back visions of the 80's anti-D&D mentality that linked our hobby to "the devil" and branded gamers as evil. My automatic response was to roll my eyes and hope that a politician/religous zealot didn't see this, but after reading the whole thing it was a really good article. The author touched on the 80's D&D "witch hunt", pun intended, but for the most part wrote a fairly responsible piece that included the pros and cons of gaming. He touched on being too into gaming at the expense of the more important parts of your life, the fact that it is a game and gave a very good description of what gaming is all about. Of course there was some mention of how gaming and witches were a good fit, after all it is a magazine for witches.
One of the things I found interesting about the article is the fact that the author did not try to equate being a gamer as a pathway into witchcraft, actually it was quite the opposite. He tended to feel that people who were into paganism were naturally drawn to gaming, but the reverse is not necessarily true. Which I would have to agree with.
The author also gives a very good list of games, game authors and publishers that pretty much covers all the bigger non-WotC game companies and designers as well as some of the smaller ones. Even if paganism isn't your thing, the article is a pretty intersting read.

The second article of interest in this issue was titled "Our Gods Wear Spandex", which was excerpted from the book by Chirstopher Knowles. This was a very interesting article that while regurgitating ideas I've heard for years, presented them in a very respectable way. Basically it is a look at how superheroes are the modern day equivalent to mythic gods.
The author goes on to create parallels between the deities worshipped by the Norse, Greeks, Romans, as well as other ancient cultures and the four color caped crusaders so many of us read about each month. One of the interesting points that the author brings up is the fact that comic book conventions have gone from basically being sad little gatherings of enthusiasts to being mainstream media events. The author also bring up the fact that comic book characters and the medium in general are far more influential in our culture than most people realize. There is even an interesting little article(I'm not sure if it is in the actual book or just an article that happened to fall in the middle of the excerpt) about Wonder Woman and her creator William Marston that gives a brief history of the character and her importance. I may have to check out the actual book because the excerpt provided in the magazine was really interesting.

That just goes to show you that you can find stuff in the most unexpected places. I may never buy another issue of this magazine, but I will be making sure to thumb through future issues to see if these topics pop up again.


Ken Newquist said...

Have you seen Unbreakable? Superheroes as modern gods was a central tenant of that film.

Geek Gazette said...

Yes I have, that was a great movie. That is one of the things I was thinking of when I said I had seen/heard the same theme over the years.

Scrwtape said...

Phil Brucato was heavily involved in the design of the original World of Darkness Mage: The Ascension, and Werewolf: The Apolcolyse.

In my opinion, Mage was one of the greatest settings that integrated the rules they had. He took a great deal from the modern world of the Occult, then took a few steps away and wove in the games mechanic.

His new game "Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium" is another amazing game. The only problem with these games is that they are so high concept, most "regular gamers" felt it to much work and barely utilize the full setting or understanding of the rules.

Geek Gazette said...

@ scrwtape
thanks for the info. I hadn't take the time to google the name and honestly had no idea who he was. but the article was a pretty good read.

I will have to check out those other games.