Posts Tagged ‘ Catholic ’


In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said: “Whatever you ask I shall give you.” Solomon answered: “You have shown great kindness to your servant, David my father, because he walked before you with fidelity, justice, and an upright heart; and you have continued this great kindness toward him today, giving him a son to sit upon his throne. Now, LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed David my father; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act — I, your servant, among the people you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to give judgment for this vast people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:5-9)

Wisdom traditionally has been viewed as the ability to discern good from evil with the aim of doing the one and avoid the other. This view is reflected in AD&D‘s explanation of Wisdom, which “is a composite term for the character’s enlightenment, judgement, wile, will power, and (to a certain extent) intuitiveness” (PH, p. 11). It is the attribute which “subsumes the categories of willpower, judgment, wile, enlightenment, and intuitiveness” (DMG, p. 15). The qualities that Wisdom represents help me understand why Wisdom is the principal attribute of clerics, as well as being important for druids, paladins, rangers, and monks. For all but the monk, Wisdom also represents a connection to the divine, and, by extension, is a factor in a character’s alignment.

Some words about alignment. First and foremost, alignment is not a set of rules that dictate how a character must act. Sure, certain characters may suffer major consequences for acting contrary to their alignments, but their alignments per se do not make contrary action impossible. Also, alignment descriptions in the rules (PH, pp. 33-34; DMG, pp. 23-24) are generalizations. But what is alignment? It is a short-hand description of “the broad ethos of thinking, reasoning creatures” (DMG, p. 23). That’s it. Alignment summarizes a particular creature’s “disposition, character, or fundamental values” (to quote the dictionary about ethos). Alignment makes it possible to predict what a certain creature will do in such-and-such situation most of the time. Deviations are always possible, and probably fairly common in at least small ways.

Alignment is not, however, a reflection of a wholly subjective set of value judgments. In AD&D as the rules are written, it makes no sense to say that dwarves only think orcs are evil because dwarves are socially conditioned to think that way, but the orcs don’t view their actions as evil and so those actions are not really evil. It cannot be denied that there is always a subjective element in all moral judgments, but orcs “are cruel and hate living things in general”. They really hate elves “and will always attack them in preference to other creatures.” Orcs “take slaves for work, food, and entertainment (torture, etc) but not elves whom they kill immediately” (emphases added). In no way can cruelty, murderous cannibalism, slavery, torture for fun, et cetera be colored as anything other than evil. Orcs are not misunderstood or functioning under different but equally valid cultural norms. They’re evil as a general rule, both individually and collectively.

Alignment is especially important to classes with a connection to the divine. For example, clerics who “have not been faithful to their teachings, followed the aims of their deity, contributed freely to the cause, and otherwise acted according to the tenets of their faith” may find themselves unable to acquire certain levels of spells (DMG, p. 38). The consequences for paladins are perhaps the most severe of all. Paladins who “knowing perform an act which is chaotic in nature” must do appropriate penance. Those who “ever knowingly and willingly perform an evil act” lose paladin status forever.

My strong suspicion is that Mr. Gygax’s wording about paladins shows at least a familiarity with classical expressions of Christian moral theology. Note that certain actions are “chaotic in nature”. In other words, those actions are in and of themselves chaotic, regardless of what the paladin’s opinion might be or what the circumstances are. Christian moral theology doesn’t really consider things on a law-chaos axis as much as a good-evil axis, but recalling that “law dictates that order and organization [are] necessary and desirable” and “generally supports the group as more important than the individual” helps me grok essential differences. Ultimately, law cannot be concerned with what is merely legal. The Western philosophical tradition, well back before the time of Christ, has understood that unjust laws are not really laws. If torture is evil, for example, no law saying torture is acceptable makes torture not evil. Instead, in its essence, it seems as if law’s main thrust is that the Other and/or the Many have greater priority than the Self and/or the One. Note well that AD&D‘s alignment system conceptually separates such considerations from good-evil.

What this means for the lawful creature is that, all things being equal, the lawful creature puts the needs of others first. If a cleric and her companions are severely injured and in imminent danger of more harm, the lawful cleric probably heals her companions first. Perhaps some practical circumstances makes another use of healing resources more prudent, but, in general, the lawful cleric’s needs take a backseat to the needs of others. Back to the paladin, avoiding chaotic actions probably means that much of the time the paladin’s ability to “lay on hands” is going to be used to heal someone else.

When turning to good-evil, we see that “the tenets of good are human rights, or in the case of AD&D, creature rights. Each creature is entitled to life, relative freedom, and the prospect of happiness. Cruelty and suffering are undesirable.” Evil “does not concern itself with rights or happiness; purpose is the determinant” (DMG, p. 23). In other words, evil is about the will to power, about the ends both justifying and rationalizing the means. Those means may be aimed at the perceived benefit of the group (lawful evil) or entirely selfish (chaotic evil), but questions about life, freedom, and happiness are unimportant. Such actions are evil in and of themselves. They are malum in se, not merely malum prohibitum. They violate what has been variously been called divine law, natural law, moral law, or (to use the term preferred by C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man) the Tao.

Back to what appears to be Mr. Gygax’s familiarity with classical expressions of Christian moral theology. Note that the paladin must “knowingly and willingly” do evil in order to lose paladin status. In classical Christian moral theology, distinctions are made between acts that are venial and mortal. Paladins lose their paladinhood for mortal acts, and for an act to be mortal it must meet certain objective criteria, namely:

1. The act’s subject matter must be grave. In other words, the act itself must be malum in se.
2. The act must be committed with full knowledge/awareness of the action’s evil and the gravity of the offense.
3. The act must be committed with deliberate and complete consent.

Each part above corresponds to part of makes paladins stop being paladins forever:

1. The act must be evil.
2. The act must be knowingly performed.
3. The act must be willingly performed.

In instances where the paladin does not have sufficient knowledge and/or does not act freely, the action remains evil, but does not meet the criteria necessary for him being stripped of paladinhood.

So what does this have to do with Wisdom?

Well, since Wisdom deals in part with a character’s ability to judge good from evil, it stands to reason that a character’s Wisdom somehow reflects at least the voice of conscience that kicks in before a character performs some act that will have dire consequences (such as loss of spells or no longer getting to advance as a paladin). This also means that I, as a DM, need to be clear about constitutes law-chaos and good-evil in my campaign, and that I clearly communicate that information to my players. It doesn’t means that such considerations are up for debate (although it might). If in my AD&D game I as DM say that torture is always and everywhere evil, then torture is always and everywhere evil.

Does that mean that, for example, a paladin may never resort to torture? No, for one reason: Paladins have free will. Does that mean that a paladin who tortures an enemy immediately and forever ceases to be a paladin? Probably. Referring to the three criteria above and considering that it’s my campaign world governed by certain moral absolutes I’ve defined as DM, the first criterion is met. I’ve communicated such to the players, but that doesn’t mean the paladin is all that hip to the truth. This is where the paladin’s Wisdom comes into play. If the paladin lacks sufficient Wisdom and sufficient moral training, he may be bit off in his understanding about torture. He might be fully aware of torture’s evil and gravity. Even if he is, there is still the third criterion. Does the paladin really have no other acceptable choice? If so, then, yes, the paladin commits a gravely evil act, but does not do so willingly. Some punishment from the gods is appropriate, but this punishment ought not include the permanent loss of paladinhood.

Wisdom reflects a character’s ability to discern good from evil. An exceptionally wise character ought not be surprised to learn after the fact that such-and-such action is evil. The character would have the insight to know ahead of time. The character may choose to ignore that insight as the player decides, and that is one of the ways that the moral drama implied by AD&D‘s alignment system comes into play.

July 31st, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Conferencing in Austin, Texas

So, Wednesday through Friday of last week, I was in Austin attending a classical education conference spearheaded by the Circe Institute. Lots of smart people talking smartly about smart things related to the best way to educate children. I sat in on some fascinating sessions, including one that explained a basic lesson format that encourages something at least approaching Socratic discussion in math classes as an aid to memory. I have hopes that implementing those ideas will help my students this coming school year.

Unfortunately, there were some downsides. I woke up at about 0430 each morning with a migraine that I still haven’t completely shaken, but at least the pain is down to a very dull throb that is easy to ignore if I keep occupied. The conference was held in the Hyatt Regency. For the price, the rooms seemed small, especially my second room that I ended up sharing with a fellow teacher. The hotel-provided breakfasts and lunches weren’t that good. I ate out for breakfast one day and for lunch another day.

For breakfast, I had the French toast and coffee at Snooze: An A.M. Eatery. The food was good, but pricey for French toast. The menu of alcoholic breakfast cocktails was intriguing, but I abstained. For late lunch, I hit Polvos and had some tasty enchiladas and several glasses of water. I was on foot hoofing it about 3.4 miles round trip from the hotel to San Jose Catholic Church for evening Mass in a charming yet simple chapel. I walked around the parish grounds a bit, visting the small shrine to Our Lady of Fatima before walking back to the hotel.

I was about 1930 by the time I made it back to near the hotel. I stopped at Aussie’s Grill & Beach Bar to knock back a couple pints of local Live Oak Brewing Company‘s HefeWeizen with bourbon chasers. After this, my headache was mostly gone, so I went to bed to get a few hours sleep before the pain would wake me up again.

Thursday evening, I drove down the road to Tribe Comics & Games for Thursday-night games. Beforehand, I popped into the Kerbey Lane Cafe for some shrimp and grits. Tasty.

After dinner, I walked across the parking lot to Tribe Games & Comics. I was dropped into a group of six at a table getting ready to play four hours of D&D’s most recent edition. I’d not played 5E before, and I’d not done anything d20 System related for years. I don’t own a single 5E book, nor am I likely to unless someone just gives them to me.

I was given an already-made, some what generic human barbarian to play. I named him Anarch Greywulf. Player and character introductions were made all around. I was remiss and made no notes, so I can’t tell you who the people in the pictures are. They played a cleric, a fighter of some sort, a paladin, a bard, a sorcerer (I think), and a luchador-style monk. Our adventure revolved around breaking a bandit out of jail so that we could get information about a pending meeting between a bandit chief and a wicked sorceress that threatened the peace of the region.

It was an enjoyable four hours in a way-crowded gaming space. It was loud, and I’m pretty sure I missed more than one key point because I couldn’t quite hear what the DM or the other players were saying. Still, we had fun. Our characters rescued the bandit, killing an enraged and escaping minotaur in the process while the tower burned down around them. Anarch walked boldly into the bandit camp, dropped a few names, and was escorted to a tent where he was told to wait. While this went on, the rest of the party snuck up on the meeting point. Anarch befriended “Little” Eric, one of the bandits. The monk was spotted after getting too close. Chaos ensued.

Anarch convinced “Little” Eric that owl-omened treachery was afoot, and thus that NPC aided our party against the sorcereress’s kobold, orc, and owlbear minions. During the battle, our characters ran roughshod over the enemies on both sides, preventing any sort of evil alliance and probably collecting a nice bunch of treasure as well. I’m not sure on the latter since it was getting late. I didn’t stick around for the postgame report in the parking lot.

As I’ve said, it was a fun game. It’s not going to make me rush out and buy 5E books or find a local 5E game to play in. Not really my cup of tea any more. Games like Dungeon World, Monster of the Week, and Fate Accelerated fit the bill more nowadays, and shortly my little gaming group here in Houston, Texas, will start a new campaign using Barbarians of Lemuria.

Also, it’s good to be back home. Austin is a nice place to visit, but it’s not where the heart is.

So, a big “Thanks!” to the folks at Tribe Games & Comics. If I’m ever back in Austin on a Thursday, I’ll try to fit another game into my schedule.

July 23rd, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

A New Cleric Spell & A Magical Lake

At that time Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children.” (The Gospel According to St. Matthew 11-25)

Apophatic Facade
Spell Level: Cleric, 1st Level
Range: 120 feet
Duration: Until dispelled or an attack is made

The object of this spell, whether a person or a thing, becomes invisible to both the normal sight and darkvision of Chaotic creatures. A non-Chaotic creature can see the target if that creature fails its saving throw against the spell. An invisible creature cannot be attacked unless its approximate location is known, and all attacks are made at -4 to hit. If the invisible creature makes an attack, the spell is broken. Otherwise, it lasts until dispelled or removed by the caster.


The Great Northern Forest’s full extent remains a mystery. It is an inhospitable land of rugged, wooden terrain subject to heavy precipitation, especially during the latter spring and fall months. A few days west by northwest of Mirror Rock is a shallow, wide valley into which flows several small streams. These streams feed into Pilkullinen, an alkali lake with remarkable properties. Pilkullinen is shallow for most of its length and breadth, perhaps no more than several yards deep except during the heaviest of rainy seasons. The lake drains into marshes along its southern and eastern shores. During the shorter dry seasons, much of Pilkullinen evaporates or drains away, revealing dozens of large, natural pools. The strange minerals in the lake concentrate in these pools, and impart upon the waters healing powers. Unfortunately, the savage and xenophobic barbarians native to the region believe their fierce gods gave Pilkullinen to them alone, and they zealously guard it against trespassers.

Anyone who soaks in one of the large, natural pools for 1d4 hours may benefit from the lake’s special qualities. Roll on the following table and apply the results.

Pilkullinen’s Powers

1: Cures all diseases and heals 2d6+2 hit points.
2: Cures all diseases and heals 1d6+1 hit points.
3: Heals 2d6+2 hit points.
4: Heals 1d6+1 hit points.
5: Boosts health. +1 saves versus disease and poison for a day.
6: Strengthens will. +1 saves versus charm and fear for a day.

July 10th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

The Dread Warrior

For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. (Jeremiah 20:10-11)

The Dread Warrior fights to defend holy causes against infidels, scoffers, blasphemers, and other evil-doers. He lacks the raw power and martial skill of the Warrior, but his righteous devotion grants him the ability to inspire dread in those he faces.

Dread Warrior
Starting HP: d8 + 4
HP Per Level/Resting: 1d8
Weapons & Armor: Any and All
Attack Damage: 1d8 / 1d4 Unarmed or Improvising

Special Features
Once per hour while in combat, a Dread Warrior can regain 1d6 lost HP.

When confronting evil-doers opposed to the Dread Warrior’s holy cause, the Dread Warrior inspires fear using his Dreadful Mien Usage Die, which starts at a d4 at 1st level. This fear affects a number of Hit Dice of enemies equal to the die’s roll plus the Dread Warrior’s level. For the next few minutes, the Dread Warrior rolls with Advantage against those foes.

The Dread Warrior rolls with Advantage when resisting effects that affect his emotions or loyalties.

Leveling Up
Roll to see if attributes increase. Roll twice for STR and CHA.

Every odd numbered level, step up the Dreadful Mien die.

June 26th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »


In the picture, we see Thérèse of Lisieux in costume as Joan of Arc. The photograph dates from early 1895, about two years before Thérèse’s death from tuberculosis at the age of 24. Her sainthood was declared in May 1925 by Pius IX. Thérèse is the patron saint of aviators, florists, and those who suffer illnesses. Along with Francis Xavier, Thérèse is the patron of missions, and she and Joan are co-patrons of France. John Paul II declared Thérèse a Doctor of the Church in 1997, an honor Thérèse shares with three other women and about 30 men, an impressive accomplishment for such a young lady. Thérèse had a special fondness for Joan of Arc. You can read more about Thérèse at this site.

“But now,” [Jesus] said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one!” (The Gospel According to St. Luke 22:36)


Background & Origin: Emmanuelle Paquet, orphan and raised in a convent school by Discalced Carmelites, received an exceptional education growing up, to include a most unusual course of rigorous training in swordsmanship by Sister Joaquina de Olot, who had been a skilled athlete before taking vows. Emmanuelle also embraced an ethos focused on the works of mercy. After completing her schooling, Emmanuelle left the convent, taking on a position as a music tutor and earning additional monies as a secretary for a law office. In the latter position, Emmanuelle saw first-hand the effects of crime and poverty on people, especially on women and children.

The plight of several families at the hands of Hugo Mesrine, an extortionist and racketeer, greatly disturbed Emmanuelle. The young lady donned a costume and armed herself with sword and shield. Over a period of several days, Emmanuelle brought the fight to Mesrine and his criminal cohorts. She protected those families, disrupted Mesrine’s operations, and gathered evidence against Mesrine. The Parisian press exploded with sensational stories of a mysterious female vigilante. One journalist, picking up on the religious motifs of Emmanuelle’s costume and exploits, dubbed her Bellatrix, and the name stuck. In the end, Mesrine’s operations were crippled, and Mesrine himself found himself facing a date with Madame Guillotine. The Parisian underworld was shaken to its roots, and the people of Paris largely embraced Bellatrix as their protectress.

Motivation: To serve God and fight evil!

Qualities: Master [+6] Swordswoman, Master [+6] Gadget: Shield, Expert [+4] Athlete, Good [+2] Classical Education, Good [+2] Contacts with the Press, Good [+2] Criminology, Good [+2] Devotion to St. Joan of Arc, Good [+2] Hero of the People, Good [+2] Polyglot, Poor [-2] Ability to Compromise

Powers: None

Stunts: Expert [+4] Ricochet Shield Throw (Gadget: Shield Spin-Off, 1 HP)

Hero Point Pool: 5/10

June 24th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »