Hey, everyone. While I’ve been away, Crystal and I have been working on redeveloping my web presence. My goal, as much as possible, has been to have a unified web presence, where the various parts of my life intersect. Right now, Dark Omen Games doesn’t quite integrate. I mean, let’s be honest; Dark Omen Games is really just Crystal and I doing stuff together. Why put up a corporate front, when connecting on a more personal level would probably be the better choice? So, we’re working on developing a new web site for me, which will integrate all these aspects.
However, as part of this integration, I’m going to be moving my blog. I’d like to have more of a hand in managing my blog, and I’d like to have additional integration possibilities. As a result, this will be the last post that I make to this blog. My new blog (with all content intact) can be found at sethbenezra.wordpress.com. Update your RSS feeds appropriately.
Specifically, I want to give a shout out to Billy Dennis. Thanks for giving me a home here for these last several years, and good luck with your future endeavors.
I designed a game tonight!
It’s time for Game Chef, which is an annual game design contest of sorts that’s been running for…um…ten years now, I think. A number of published games have come from this contest, including some significant ones like Polaris, The Mountain Witch, The Shab-al-Hiri Roach, and A Penny For My Thoughts.
I somehow doubt that Keepers of the Lantern (PDF) will have the same kind of impact. It’s just a short one-shot RPG poem. Mostly disposable, in fact.
But I really wanted to write it.
This year, the Forge is closing down. The site will remain with an archive of threads, but that’s it.
Eleven years ago, I signed on to the Forge forums. (Aside: through a funny convergence of events, I actually have had a user account on the Forge longer than Ron Edwards. Serious! Here’s my profile, and here’s Ron’s.) And, for that eleven years, the Forge has been a major part of my life.
I’ve launched three games through the community at the Forge.
GNS/The Big Model/Whatever we’re calling it now was a major boon for me, as it helped me broaden my enjoyment of games by coming to see that different people are looking for different things from the same experience.
I’ve made friends and colleagues across the country through the Forge. In fact, I connected with Ralph Mazza largely through the Forge, before either of us lived in Peoria.
My thinking on rituals and ritual design was shaped in part by an article by Chris Lehrich that was posted on the Forge.
There were years–years, I say–where reading the Forge and grappling with the ideas being pushed around there was a major component of my intellectual life. In fact, the Forge proved to me that it is possible to have productive discourse on the Internet.
Over the last couple of years, my life hasn’t allowed as much room for interaction at the Forge. For better or worse, the Forge Diaspora moved on most of the people I was really interested in continuing to connect with. And, as my life changed, my ability to devote the time to this place was hampered. I stopped checking the Forge regularly. Then, over time, it fell off my radar.
I’m probably not alone in this. Ron’s right; it’s time for the Forge to move on.
But still, I like that the last hurrah for the Forge is about design. At its heart, the Forge was all about quality design, leading to quality play. And, from where I’m sitting, it succeeded brilliantly.
So, Ron, Clinton, Vincent, I salute the work you’ve done over the years. Thank you for what you built.
Thank you for the Forge.
It’s a little after midnight on March 3, 2012. Around 3:00 pm today, my little sister Gabrielle is getting married. Obviously there are all kinds of thoughts wandering through my head. Here are a few I’m going to inflict on you.
*Gabrielle’s getting married! She thought it would never happen, and now it’s here!
*We have family in town. This is the first time that my side of the family has gathered in Peoria. It’s really cool to see people, some of whom I haven’t seen in years. Yes, that’s literal. IIRC, it’s been over 1.5 years since I’ve seen Tom and Elizabeth (my brother-in-law and sister) and over three years since I’ve seen Aunt Laurie and Uncle Don. It’s good to see them again.
*After the rehearsal, many of us gathered at Blue, our neighborhood bar. That’s when it hit me: I’m out drinking with my father, my aunt, and my uncle. I remember relating to them as a child. I remember going down to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house. Now, I’m drinking with them, and we’re interacting as adults. Time…it is strange.
*I have to be careful with this next one, because I’m not actually interested in getting maudlin. That being said, there is very much the awareness that Mom isn’t here. Don’t misunderstand! This is definitely a happy occasion. And yet, there’s this hole that shows up from time to time. And I begin to realize that I’ve simply gotten used to the hole. That’s probably even a good thing in some ways. Life goes on, even without the ones that we love, and there’s room for healing and a certain confidence in the power of the resurrection, where all things will be made new, including my mother. But still…you know?
But I can’t end there!
*This wedding has begun to give me an idea of what a multi-day party looks like. We’ve been working on being good about our diets and being disciplined and all that, which means that I’m really enjoying all the special food and drink and…well…simply the sense of occasion surrounding this wedding. It’s not just a reception for a few hours following the wedding. We’re spending days together, celebrating this wedding and family and simply being together for a while. It gives me an idea of what the coming kingdom of heaven must be like, when we are all finally gathered together forever, never to be separated, never to be apart. That will be a good day!
And now, to (try to) settle for sleep. There’s a wedding to prepare for!
So, here we are in 2012. Weird. Just eleven days ago it was 2011.
I’ve been making various promises here on my blog, and I don’t really think I’ve kept any of them. Go figure. And I think I’m figuring out why.
Crystal has been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, which surprises no one. Of course, she did the standard thing and did some research. As she did her reading, she comes to the conclusion that I’m probably struggling with adrenal fatigue as well.
I won’t lie; the last couple of years have been pretty rough. So it really shouldn’t surprise me that I am tired and worn out. And that’s really what adrenal fatigue means: you’re long-term tired, long-term worn out, long-term exhausted.
And it’s shown. The things that I’ve often delighted in (like, say, roleplaying games and game design) have lost their savor. Instead of being sources of delight, they have simply become too exhausting to do. There was a stretch that reading anything longer than a blog post was simply too much work. I’ve been irritable, tired, and depressed. It’s true!
Oh yeah, and I haven’t really been blogging here, either. Now you know why.
But I feel like the storm has passed, and times are changing. As a result, I think I know what God is calling me and mine to do during 2012.
So, at the point in the year where everyone is gearing up for new projects, I’m trying to stop doing as much as possible. I’m trying to refuse responsibility, not take on new ones. I didn’t realize until now that I can be a workaholic. It’s not about physical work, necessarily, but mental work. I feel the need to be doing all the time. Now, I get to learn to stop, to step back, to let others do instead.
This is actually kinda hard for me to do. But, through various means, God has made it quite clear that now is the time to rest and stop. No fair trying to sneak in “just one small project”. No. Put it down.
So, for the next six months, I’m eschewing sugar, alcohol, coffee…you know, all the fun stuff. I’m trying to get good sleep. I’m trying to eat well. I’m trying to do fun things that aren’t difficult. Around July I’m going to consider the possible necessity of jumpstarting my creative life, but I’m letting it lie fallow as well. So, boardgaming is good, but publishing another game (right now) is not. On the other hand, the game of One Ring that Ralph is running is due to start this Friday. I’m really looking forward to it, in part because I won’t be running. Again, fun things that aren’t difficult. God willing, I’ll GM again. But right now, it’s time to let another.
And I’m going to work on spending time with friends.
There will be time again in the future to pick up projects and do assail high mountains (metaphorically) and the like, but for now, it’s time to stop.
So, please bear with me as I do.
So, Arianna took a bit of a tumble yesterday at church and hurt her foot. It wasn’t getting better, so I took her to the doctor. Yep, it’s a break. Yay.
We’ll be taking her to an orthopedic doctor Real Soon Now, as soon as we get our referral, which should be tomorrow.
Another rite of passage for us all.
A few weeks ago, I finally watched The Mission. Yep, my parents told me years ago that I’d like this movie, and they were right. Though, in a way, I feel like I needed to be at this place in my life to truly appreciate the power of this film.
So, spoilers, right? But, given that the movie came out in 1986, well, you should just deal, you know?
The two main characters are Father Gabriel, a Jesuit missionary to the primitives of South America, and Rodrigo, a mercenary/slaver turned Jesuit novice. (As an aside, seeing Rodrigo’s conversion experience is a big deal in the movie and a major part of the film.)
Politics has moved against the mission to the Indians headed up by Father Gabriel, and soldiers are coming to “liquidate” the mission. Rodridgo sees the injustice and renounces his vows of obedience to take up the sword once again to defend the Indians. This brings him into conflict with Father Gabriel, who is a pacifist.
One of the many powerful scenes of the movie is set on the eve of battle. The soldiers will arrive the next day, and Rodrigo comes to Father Gabriel to seek his blessing. Now, you need to understand that Gabriel and Rodrigo have argued bitterly over this issue, and we know what Father Gabriel thinks of what Rodrigo is doing.
And yet, Rodrigo seeks Gabriel’s blessing.
And here, Father Gabriel demonstrates his wisdom.
He rises and refuses to bless Rodrigo. His conscience will not permit it. And yet, he tells Rodrigo that, if he is in the right, that God will bless Rodrigo.
Did you catch that?
On the eve of battle, on the last night of their lives, Gabriel stands by his pacifism, but he is still humble enough to admit that he may be wrong and appeals to God on behalf of Rodrigo. That night, they part as friends. Their disagreement is not enough to divide them. They each go their own ways to their own methods of resistance (and they both die), yet they die reconciled and at peace with each other.
I wish that more Christians would comprehend and embrace this understanding of Christian brotherhood.
O Sun of Righteousness,
The lifter of my head and lover of my soul,
Shine on me today through the shadows that surround me,
That I may come, in the end, to see Your deliverance.
I got lost in the woods today.
The fact that I’m typing this from the comfort of my office should let you know that this story has a happy ending.
The day got off to a stumbling start. Nothing really bad happened, you understand. It was just not coming together well. I was feeling tired and a bit overwhelmed by the work in front of me. Then I blinked, and it was lunchtime.
So, I decided to go for a walk.
My workplace is embedded in the Forest Park Nature Preserve. We are surrounded by beautiful woods, traversed by twisting trails. So, I put my new earbuds in, started up some music, and headed out.
I started out following a trail that I knew, but when I came to a fork, I decided to take the right-hand path, which I hadn’t walked before. But, really, what could go wrong? As long as I stayed on the path and walked carefully, the trail would bring me back home.
And so I kept walking. And walking. And walking. It was beautiful. The leaves are changing colors and beginning to fall to the ground, and the rain pattered gently on me as I kept moving. I still wasn’t concerned. All I had to do was stay on the path and walk carefully.
And so I kept walking. I climbed a hillside on wooden stairs and walked along a ridge line. The path twisted and turned and grew rough with exposed roots. Some places I had to watch carefully, because the path was almost obscured by leaves and debris, making it hard to determine where the path had gone. And I began to grow a little concerned that, maybe, I was lost.
By this point, it was too late to retrace my steps. Going back wasn’t any better. Really, the best, safest, and most sensible approach was to push ahead. All I had to do was stay on the path and walk carefully, and the trail would bring me back home.
And so I kept walking. But I was smiling and even laughing a bit to myself. Because I understood what was going on, and it pleased me. I embraced the metaphor that was being handed to me and lived in the moment.
I’m back. All is well, though I was gone longer than I had originally planned. And I get it now. In this moment, at least, it’s all so clear.
Stay on the path.
Trust the trail.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
I went for a walk earlier today.
Yeah, that’s the kind of gripping social commentary that you’ve come to expect from this blog. But, hang on a moment and let me explain.
Work has been hectic recently, and today was no exception. Wall-to-wall meetings, a fairly important presentation, and a high intensity level left me feeling tired around 3:30. Don’t get me wrong; it’s been a good day. But, I don’t do well being on a constant adrenaline rush. I need time for calm, for peace, to embrace silence.
Which is why I went for a walk.
Now, you need to understand that I have a hard time getting my brain to stop thinking. There’s a constant stream of thinking, mulling, or analyzing running in my head. I can’t stop it. Often, I’ll use that tendency to poke at game design or the book I’m reading or something like that. However, I haven’t really had a lot of energy to go into those things, so, when my brain goes to chew on something, it chews on…work.
That’s no good for someone who is trying to balance his life.
But today I realized, as I was walking, that I had actually managed to slow my mind. I think that it may have been the fact that I was playing music. But, as I walked through the woods around my workplace, I found myself able to simply walk, to live in the moment.
It was good for me, and I returned to the office refreshed.
Zen has the practice of walking meditation, of learning to “just walk”. I think that this bears further investigation. Right now, I need to be able to produce high levels of energy for extended periods of time in order to bring my A-game at work. But I also need to seek those moments of solitude and silence, where I can simply rest and be renewed.
Also, I think I need better earbuds.
Tonight we gathered for a meal and then a prayer service at Imago Dei Church. The meal was a typical potluck meal, which worked out quite well. And then, we all headed off to the chapel for prayer. We were all a little late, but whatever, right? We were going to have our prayer service.
Except we couldn’t. Because it was occupied.
Looking in the windows in the doors, we could see two members of the Imago prayer team praying with someone.
So they moved the prayer service. You know, because the chapel was being used to pray.
It turns out that the man they were praying with lives across the street from the church. In fact, Crystal actually saw him this morning when she was at the church for Bible study and prayed for him. Apparently his need drove him to come seek help. And he found love and care, and he was ushered into the presence of the Father in prayer.
That’s tremendous. That’s wonderful. That’s a worthy reason to move the prayer service.
And it made me glad to be part of a church that has been positioned to be able to be available to the lost and needy, like our neighbor.
Hi, SEO guys! How’s it going?
Rewind to 2001. I’m just getting into the small press roleplaying field. I’m hanging out on places like RPG.net and the Gaming Outpost. And, one night, I find myself in an IRC chat channel related to RPG.net talking to a guy named Jason Blair. Jason Blair is writing a horror RPG starring children called Little Fears. I want to know why. Really. What sicko wants to write a game about children being threatened by monsters?
And he answered me. He told me about how the monsters were metaphors for various forms of child abuse. He tells me that he wants to educate, to bring awareness. He tells me that he wants a game about children fighting back. (At least, this is how I remember the conversation. As I say, it’s been a while.)
What can I say? He sold me.
I encouraged him to include a disclaimer. I wrote an example right there in chat. Jason turned around and used what I wrote in the front of his book.
I was in.
I went on to write the opening fiction for the game and to provide editing services. Jason and I went on to become friends. Little Fears went on to be nominated for the Origins Award. The rest is history.
Yes, I remember the controversy over the game. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who questioned the moral rectitude of someone who would make a game about child abuse. But I was proud of my work on Little Fears. Before Dirty Secrets or A Flower for Mara, Little Fears was a game about issues. And I knew that I wanted more.
It’s been ten years since Little Fears was released. Life has changed a lot for both Jason and I. But, it’s fair to say that we’re both still proud of the work that we did on Little Fears. So, when I heard that Jason was putting out a tenth anniversary edition of Little Fears, I was pretty stoked.
And then, a complimentary copy of Happy Birthday, Little Fears showed up in my inbox. Because Jason is a class act.
So, if you’re interested in a piece of gaming history, check out Happy Birthday, Little Fears. If you’re not afraid of the dark….
I was talking to my father yesterday about my ambitions. I’ve realized that my ambitions have changed.
Once, I would have wanted to write a book or plant a church or build something great to change the world. Or, maybe, I would make some amazing principled stand, like Martin Luther, that would go down in history.
But no more. My ambitions are much smaller now.
I’d like to sit on my porch with a beer and watch my neighbors walking by and be able to greet them by name, because I know them, and they know me.
That’s it, really. That’s my ambition right now. But, as I sit on my porch right now and write, I find that I’m already on my way towards that ambition. I’m starting to know my neighbors, and they’re starting to know me.
And, honestly, I do think that, somehow, God uses such small ambitions to change the world.
So, that’s about par for the course, isn’t it? I say that I’m going to post here more and then…nothing.
Yep. Story of my life, these days, it seems. Start something, can’t ever really finish it.
See, I used to come here and write about stuff that I thought was important. It was a way for me to unfold ideas, to express what I was thinking, to decompress. Honestly, sometimes it was just about getting attention. I almost didn’t write this post, because I could tell that I was feeling that need. “Look at me! Look at me!” But, when I got an email from Christoph today, where he mentioned that he was looking forward to seeing more blogging, I figured I owed it to the people out there (whoever you are) to write.
So, here goes.
Normally, when I write, I edit and consider what I’m going to say. In this post, I’m just rambling. So, uh, sorry.
I haven’t really liked my life much, recently.
There. Said it. Might be a bit of an overstatement, there, but it seems like a reasonable place to start.
I look back for a starting point, for when I started feeling this way, and I keep finding myself at the fire.
I don’t really like upheaval. I like living in the same place, doing the same things, working the same work, and seeing the same people. And so, when I found myself suddenly thrust out of my home, it was a sizable struggle. Even after we returned to our home after living in a hotel for a month, I felt wounded in spirit.
I spent several large chunks of 2010 being sick. I mean, for days on end. I took a vacation in April and was sick for ten days straight. I haven’t been that sick in years.
Depression. Yeah. There it is.
Crystal did the best she could, and certainly she spoiled me last year. But I know that she isn’t full of limitless energy, and I drained her. She would say that she missed the old Seth, the one who would laugh and smile, the one who was so light and open.
I’ve been learning to read body language from Crystal. Probably the most fascinating application of this skill is upon yourself. Sometimes you can understand yourself better by reading your own body language.
What I saw last year wasn’t good. I curled up around myself. I would sit at the table with an arm in a defensive blocking position. I was hiding.
The last six months have seen more change and upheaval. Gabrielle and Raquel both have men in their lives. Raquel married Colton back in January, and things seem to be going well with Jonathan (her Jonathan) and Gabrielle. What this means for me, though, is that they have largely dropped out of my life.
We left Providence Church. We’re now attending Imago Dei Church, which is…. Well, I think it’s fair to say that the experience is going to be life-changing. But in what way?
More on this in a bit.
But, the point for now is that we are once again about the business of trying to form relationships and connections with new people. And I really struggle with that. I don’t do well in conversation with random folks. I’d just rather be able to jump past all the awkward interactions and difficult false starts to the place where we know each other. You know, where I’d have friends.
I’m facing theological challenge as well. Imago Dei isn’t a particularly conservative church by any stretch. Oh, let me not be unclear. Do they love Jesus? Yes. Do they love His Bible? Certainly. Are they like my Reformed Presbyterian background.
And see, in part, I’m really happy about this. Once, being Reformed was important to me. It was one of the words that constituted my identity. Now, not so much. I’m tired of being Reformed. I just want to be a Christian who is devout.
I’m loving the word “devout”. It seems like it sums up a lot of what’s important to me right now. In this word, I see the idea of having a close relationship with God. I don’t mean “buddy Jesus”. I mean something more devotional, even mystical. Something like “knowing God”.
And I have been feeling this at Imago Dei.
One of the long-term goals of Imago seems to be the slow adopting of liturgical thought by the use of Common Prayer by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. It’s the prayerbook that they used during the Wednesday Lent services, and it’s what they use for the morning prayers on Sunday morning. At 7:30. Which I’ve been attending.
You know that something is up when I’m out of the house at 7:20 a.m.
It’s been wonderful and beautiful and ordinary and holy. Sometimes it’s been earthshaking for me. Sometimes it’s just been prayer. But it feels like it matters somehow. And, along the way, I feel like “Reformed” is being rubbed off me.
Which is what I want. And which terrifies me.
I’ve always been Reformed, you know? Honestly, I’ve been Reformed longer than almost anyone I know. It’s very uncomfortable to yield a label that has been precious for so long. It means having to adopt different practices. It means being challenged by different understandings of the Bible. It means facing the possibility of having been wrong. It’s been soul-wrenching. But, somehow, at the same time, it’s what I want.
How that makes sense is beyond me.
My design life is non-existent. I keep idly prodding at Showdown, and nothing happens. My heart isn’t in it, and I wonder if God simply won’t let me finish it for now. Like, my love of design and the attendant ego boosts associated with it need to go. Like, maybe “game designer” is also needing to be rubbed off.
(I have some thoughts on this, by the way. I know that there are people who would like to be able to play Showdown. I’m thinking about ways to accommodate this.)
In fact, pretty much anything creative has failed for me recently. I mean, just look at this disorganized, disjointed blog post. This is not my best work. But it’s all I have right now.
My idols have failed me. And that’s for the best.
I took a vacation. Actually, I’m on that vacation right now. When I took it, I thought that I was coming home to help Crystal deal with feeling overwhelmed. But I don’t think that was the real reason for it.
We’ve spent the last couple of days cleaning house. We’ve been throwing junk away that’s gathered in the house. We’re purging our possessions, looking to rid ourselves of things that were just taking up space and requiring upkeep that we could be better using elsewhere. And I’ve been leading the family in morning and midday prayers. It reminds me that the work we’re about is holy work, that we are not just Americans living in a rough part of town, that we’re the children of the living God, doing His work as best we can.
Wow, these have been tiring, intense days of labor. I wake up, and my body is aching, because of what we’ve moved and discarded and consolidated. I’m not sure I’ve worked this hard in a long time.
And it feels freeing. It feels like we’re making progress towards a clean life, or something like that. Like, maybe, in the middle of all this, we’re taking another step closer to holiness.
I feel like I’m walking through the wilderness, one foot in front of the other, tired and thirsty on the road to Zion. But, somehow, some of the time at least, I think I realize that this wilderness trek is truly leading me into something greater. And, for the first time in a while, I’m actually excited to see what that greater thing is.
It’s time for me to stop typing. This is long enough already, and I’m getting tired. So, I’m marking categories and pressing “Publish”. Hopefully next time, you’ll get something a bit more coherent and focused. Farewell.
From Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro (p.18-19):
[I] am just a regular person trying to live my regular life. Except that my regular life largely includes being a Christian who doesn’t really like church or many of the people I find in church. The even tricker part is I’m also a Christian who believes that Christ calls us to live in the community of the church and to love our neighbors. So things have been kind of sticky most of my adult life….
The worst, and possibly scariest, thing about all this is that, like I said earlier, before I had any say in it, I was claimed as a Christian. Whether or not others might call me a Christian is up for grabs, but I belong to a faith tradition formed and steeped in the idea of self-denial for love of the neighbor and rooted in community. Just by the nature of my baptism I am part of a distinct and storied community whether I like it or not, whether I acknowledge it or not. I belong to a tradition that tells me my life is not really my own but rather is caught up in the divine and communal life of something much bigger than myself. I am a character in a story I did not write, and there are many other characters in addition to myself who are equally important. But these are all tenes I find hard to swallow on a daily basis. I prefer the parts of the tradition that talk about grace and God’s forgiveness of us and the fact that none of us can ever really measure up to perfection. These parts offer me the illusion that I am off the hook from striving to be something I obviously was not cut out to be–holy.
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
(This is where I’ve been for the last few weeks. Seems like a good place to be.)