This article is from the magicK kreEePing oOze FAQ, by tyagi nagasiva tyagI@houseofAos.abyss.coM with numerous contributions by others.
Role-playing is mythos-creation gaming in which characters are assumed
during a group co-creative fiction. The setting and character-types vary
depending on the particular Game Master and system in which the characters
explore/live. D&D, perhaps the most well-known role-playing game, was
created by Gary Gygax as an adjunct to war games and this developed into
a self-contained game all its own.
Gygax and company took the weaponry and other physical arts/crafts directly
from physical history and lifted the mythology and legend of many cultures
and time periods (largely focussing on the European and making some things
up whole cloth) when fabricating their background fantasy material. This
Simlar to Julian Jaynes' model, the Gygax fellowship set about developing
self-consciousness amidst their plebian warriors. The silly break-down
of personality-factors ('character-statistics') and comical use of the
term 'levels' all through the system speaks of their attempt to provide
a psychic life to their otherwise objectified selves. It was a simplistic
beginning, and, as with all beginnings, it had its difficulties. It
did NOT attempt to approximate 'reality'. It was a role-playing game
arising out of war-games.
Mages are generally associated with wonder-working or thaumaturgy, and the
majesty of role-playing game magic is in its mythological appearance.
Very important psycho-spiritual data may be found within many role-playing
game magical systems (cf. Paul Hume's lovely supplement for the Shadowrun
system, "The Grimoire", or such entire systems as MAGE or Ars Magica).
Since D&D many more 'realistic' systems have developed, yet most of them
(along with the fiction books which are co-inspired with them) retain that
'magic-user-as-psychic-manifestor-of-physical-wonders' type of character
because it is MYTHICALLY powerful. It is intended as a co-creation of
mythos, not a description of physical reality. As with all mythos, it is
bereft of its value when it is 'explained away and changed to suit the
As Gygax and others drew upon the pseudo-scientific thaumaturgy to create
their 'magic-users', in many game systems the source of the power is
described as the MAGE, not some god, which was described as method for the
'cleric' or theurgist. How we reconcile these outside the bounds of gaming
(i.e. when people refer to Jesus as a 'magician' and the like) is quite
interesting, I think, but it has more to do with our relation to divinity
than it does to specific delineations among traditions or disciplines.
Role-playing games can be very important tools for self-transformation, and
ridicule for such activities or for valuing the more mythic descriptions of
magical feats only speaks of specialization and immaturity on the part of
I have a feeling that FRP has positive contributions to magickal study (or
more properly to the foundations for magickal study):
It is an exercise in "willing suspension of disbelief" - which
is often necessary in order to grasp a new framework.
It improves visualization skills - which are valuable tools
for exploration of reality and formulation of will.
It offers us the opportunity to participate spontaneously in
extreme situations - and so creates a path whereby our subconscious
fears, desires and motivations can reveal themselves.
It enables us to explore perceptions and feelings from a perspective
other than our normal ego-place - which is essential in order to gain
a truer understanding of the world and the beings with whom we share it.
It offers even young children the opportunity to construct and explore
very intricate things - which is a relatively rare opportunity.
It is an exercise in both intellect and passion - likely to result
in the development and growth of each.
It often serves as a microcosm wherein we can observe how things
might unfold, and what the possible outcomes are of alternative
behaviors and world-views - and thus creates new growth opportunities.
I'm not saying that FRP is the 'path of the arrow' ... but I am suggesting
that if one were looking for a way to 'plough the fields' in preparation for
magickal studies or an inner-path, that FRP actually has much to offer.
(is this you, mark kampe?)
I've always felt that RPGs allowed us to feel like we were the central
figure in a story developed just for us (if the player) or to feel like
we were God, developing the whole thing from scratch for the benefit of
beings which we allowed to have free will (if the GM). In other words
I always got the feeling that it was quite a mainstream *Christian*
activity to engage in this activity, whatever its imaginational content,
since it sets up a pattern of game play which appears to proceed directly
from much of the foundational cosmology inherent to that religion - the
telling of a Story/Logos by God/Creator/Writer.
When I wanted to buck this type of thing I started to make games wherein
players could discover that there were actually no rules and that, in
discovering this, they could co-create the game with me; or games in which
suddenly as their character died it transformed, via some magical object,
into an exact replica of their nongame self (the other players deciding
on their characteristics :>). I started to merge the nongame and game
worlds and in this way break down that God/Creation mythotype, or perhaps
at least bend and twist it.