Thursday, December 25, 2014

The God in the Cave: Guest Post by G.K. Chesterton

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

This is Chapter 1 of Part 2 (On the Man Called Christ) of Chesterton's brilliant The Everlasting Man, published in 1925. It is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and useful books on Christ and Christianity ever penned. If that's up your alley and you haven't yet made an acquaintance with this book, then: Read it. Read about it. Or buy it.

Chesterton was as orthodox a Christian and then Catholic as one could imagine. That said, so much of what he wrote on the subject was unique, skewed (in a good way) and utterly original. Enjoy and Happy Christmas!

This sketch of the human story began in a cave; the cave which popular science associates with the cave-man and in which practical discovery has really found archaic drawings of animals. The second half of human history, which was like a new creation of the world, also begins in a cave. There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present; for it was a cave used as a stable by the mountaineers of the uplands about Bethlehem; who still drive their cattle into such holes and caverns at night. It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors of the crowded caravanserai had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passersby, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born But in that second creation there was indeed something symbolical in the roots of the primeval rock or the horns of the prehistoric herd. God also was a CaveMan, and, had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously colored upon the wall of the world; but the pictures that he made had come to life.

A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. It is at least like a jest in this; that it is something which the scientific critic cannot see. He laboriously explains the difficulty which we have always defiantly and almost derisively exaggerated; and mildly condemns as improbable something that we have almost madly exalted as incredible; as something that would be much too good to be true, except that it is true. When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasized, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it; especially one of the sort that seems to take a long time to see a joke, even his own joke. But about this contrast and combination of ideas one thing may be said here, because it is relevant to the whole thesis of this book. The sort of modern critic of whom I speak is generally much impressed with the importance of education in life and the importance of psychology in education. That sort of man is never tired of telling us that first impressions fix character by the law of causation; and he will become quite nervous if a child's visual sense is poisoned by the wrong colors on a golliwog or his nervous system prematurely shaken by a cacophonous rattle. Yet he will think us very narrow-minded, if we say that this is exactly why there really is a difference between being brought up as a Christian and being brought up as a Jew or a Moslem or an atheist. T he difference is that every Catholic child has learned from pictures, and even every Protestant child from stones, this incredible combination of contrasted ideas as one of the very first impressions on his mind. It is not merely a theological difference. It is a psychological difference which can outlast any theologies It really is, as that sort of scientist loves to say about anything, incurable. Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether be likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection; for him there will always be some savor of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God. But the two ideas are not naturally or necessarily combined. They would not be necessarily combined for an ancient Greek or a Chinaman, even for Aristotle or Confucius. It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians; because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones. In other words, this combination of ideas has emphatically, in the much disputed phrase, altered human nature. There is really a difference between the man who knows it and the man who does not. It may not be a difference of moral worth, for the Moslem or the Jew might be worthier according to his lights; but it is a plain fact about the crossing of two particular lights, the conjunction of two stars in our particular horoscope. Omnipotence and impotence, or divinity and infancy, do definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. It is not unreasonable to call it unique.

Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet. Here begins, it is needless to say, another mighty influence for the humanization of Christendom. If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect (I could never at any stage of my opinions imagine why); the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother, you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows I as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.

It might be suggested, in a somewhat violent image, that nothing had happened in that fold or crack in the great gray hills except that the whole universe had been turned inside out. I mean that all the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now. turned inward to the smallest. The very image will suggest all that multitudinous marvel of converging eyes that makes so much of the colored Catholic imagery like a peacock's tail., But it is true in a sense that God who bad been only a circumference was seen as a centre; and a centre is infinitely small. It is true that the spiritual spiral henceforward works inwards instead of outwards, and in that sense is centripetal and not centrifugal. The faith becomes, in more ways than one, a religion of little things. But its traditions in art and' literature and popular fable have quite sufficiently attested, as has been said, this particular paradox of the divine being in the cradle Perhaps they have not so clearly emphasized the significance o f the divine being in the cave. Curiously enough, indeed, tradition has not very clearly emphasized the cave. It is a familiar fact that the Bethlehem scene has been represented in every possible setting of time and country, of landscape and architecture; and it is a wholly happy and admirable fact that men have conceived it as quite different according to their different individual traditions and tastes. But while all have realized that it was a stable, not so many have realized that it was a cave. Some critics have even been so silly as to suppose that there was some contradiction between the stable and the cave; in which case they cannot know much about caves or stables in Palestine. As they see differences that are not there, it is needless to add that they do not see differences that are there. When a well-known critic says, for instance, that Christ being born in a rocky cavern is like Mithras having sprung alive out of a rock, it sounds like a parody upon comparative religion. There is such a thing as the point of a story, even if it is a story in the sense of a lie. And the notion of a hero appearing, like Pallas from the brain of Zeus, mature and without a mother, is obviously the very opposite of the idea of a god being born like an ordinary baby and entirely dependent on a mother. Whichever ideal we might prefer, we should surely see that they are contrary ideals. It is as stupid to connect them because they both contain a substance called stone as to identify the punishment of the Deluge with the baptism in the Jordan because they both contain a substance called water. Whether as a myth or a mystery, Christ was obviously conceived as born in a hole in the rocks primarily because it marked the position of one outcast and homeless. Nevertheless it is true, as I have said, that the cave has not been so commonly or so clearly used as a symbol as the other realities that surrounded the first Christmas.

And the reason for this also refers to the very nature of that new world. It was in a sense the difficulty of a new dimension. Christ was not only born on the level of the world, but even lower than the world. The first act of the divine drama was enacted, not only on no stage set up above the sightseer, but on a dark and curtained stage sunken out of sight; and that is an idea very difficult to express in most modes of artistic expression. It is the idea of simultaneous happenings on different levels of life. Something like it might have been attempted in the more archaic and decorative medieval art. But the more the artists learned of realism and perspective, the less they could depict at once the angels in the heavens and the shepherds on the hills, and the glory in the darkness that was under the hills. Perhaps it could have been best conveyed by the characteristic expedient of some of the medieval guilds, when they wheeled about the streets a theater with three stages one above the other, with heaven above the earth and hell under the earth. But in the riddle of Bethlehem it was heaven that was under the earth.

There is in that alone the touch of a revolution, as of the world turned upside down. It would be vain to attempt to say anything adequate, or anything new, about the change which this conception of a deity born like an outcast or even an outlaw bad upon the whole conception of law and its duties to the poor and outcast. It is profoundly true to say that after that moment there could be no slaves. There could be and were people bearing that legal title, until the Church was strong enough to weed them out, but there could be no more of the pagan repose in the mere advantage to the state of keeping it a servile state. Individuals became important, in a sense in which no instruments can be important. A man could not be a means to an end, at any rate to any other man's end. All this popular and fraternal element in the story has been rightly attached by tradition to the episode of the Shepherds; the hinds who found themselves talking face to face with the princes of heaven. But there is another aspect of the popular element as represented by the shepherds which has not perhaps been so fully developed; and which is more directly relevant here.

Men of the people, like the shepherds, men of the popular tradition, had everywhere been the makers of the mythologies. It was they who had felt most directly, with least check or chill from philosophy or the corrupt cults of civilization, the need we have already considered; the images that were adventures of the imagination; the mythology that was a sort of search the tempting and tantalizing hints of something half human in nature; the dumb significance of seasons and special places. They bad best understood that the soul of a landscape is a story and the soul of a story is a personality. But rationalism had already begun to rot away these really irrational though imaginative treasures of the peasant; even as systematic slavery had eaten the peasant out of house and home. Upon all such peasantries everywhere there was descending a dusk and twilight of disappointment, in the hour when these few men discovered what they sought. Everywhere else Arcadia was fading from the forest. Pan was dead and the shepherds were scattered like sheep. And though no man knew it, the hour was near which was to end and to fulfill all things; and though no man heard it, there was one far-off cry in an unknown tongue upon the heaving wilderness of the mountains. The shepherds had found their Shepherd.

And the thing they found was of a kind with the things they sought. The populace had been wrong in many things; but they had not been wrong in believing that holy things could have a habitation and that divinity need not disdain the limits of time and space. And the barbarian who conceived the crudest fancy about the sun being stolen and hidden in a box, or the wildest myth about the god being rescued and his enemy deceived with a stone, was nearer to the secret of the cave and knew more about the crisis of the world, than all those in the circle of cities round the Mediterranean who had become content with cold abstractions or cosmopolitan generalizations; than all those who were spinning thinner and thinner threads of thought out of the transcendentalism of Plato or the orientalism of Pythagoras. The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic; it was not a place of myths allegorized or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true. Since that hour no mythologies have been made in the world. Mythology is a search.

We all know that the popular presentation of this popular story, in so many miracle plays and carols, has given to the shepherds the costume, the language, and the landscape of the separate English and European countryside. We all know that one shepherd will talk in a Somerset dialect or another talk of driving his sheep from Conway towards the Clyde. Most of us know by this time bow true is that error, how wise, how artistic, how intensely Christian and Catholic is that anachronism. But some who have seen it in these scenes of medieval rusticity have perhaps not seen it in another sort of poetry, which it is sometimes the fashion to call artificial rather than artistic. I fear that many modem critics Will see only a faded classicism in the fact that men like Crashaw and Herrick conceived the shepherds of Bethlehem under the form of the shepherds of Virgil. Yet they were profoundly right; and in turning their Bethlehem play into a Latin Eclogue they took up one of the most important links in human history. Virgil, as we have already seen, does stand for all that saner heathenism that had overthrown the insane heathenism of human sacrifice; but the very fact that even the Virgilian virtues and the sane heathenism were in incurable decay is the whole problem to which the revelation to the shepherds is the solution. If the world bad ever had the chance to grow weary of being demoniac, it might have been healed merely by becoming sane. But if it bad grown weary even of being sane, what was to happen, except what did happen? Nor is it false to conceive the Arcadian shepherd of the Eclogues as rejoicing in what did happen. One of the Eclogues has even been claimed as a prophecy of what did happen.

But it is quite as much in the tone and incidental diction of the great poet that we feel the potential sympathy with the great event; and even in their own human phrases the voices of the Virgilian shepherds might more than once have broken upon more than the tenderness of Italy . . . . . Incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem . . . . . They might have found in that strange place all that was best in the last traditions of the Latins; and something better than a wooden idol standing up forever for the pillar of the human family; a household god. But they and all the other mythologists would be justified in rejoicing that the event had fulfilled not merely the mysticism but the materialism of mythology. Mythology had many sins; but it had not been wrong in being as carnal as the Incarnation. With something of the ancient voice that was supposed to have rung through the groves, it could cry again, 'We have seen, he hath seen us, a visible god.' So the ancient shepherds might have danced, and their feet have been beautiful upon the mountains, rejoicing over the philosophers. But the philosophers had also heard.

It is still a strange story, though an old one, bow they came out of orient lands, crowned with the majesty of kings and clothed with something of the mystery of magicians. That truth that is tradition has wisely remembered them almost as unknown quantities, as mysterious as their mysterious and melodious names; Melchior, Caspar, Balthazar. But there came with them all that world of wisdom that had watched the stars in Chaldea and the sun in Persia; and we shall not be wrong if we see in them the same curiosity that moves all the sages. They would stand for the same human ideal if their names had really been Confucius or Pythagoras or Plato. They were those who sought not tales but the truth of things; and since their thirst for truth was itself a thirst for God, they also have bad their reward. But even in order to understand that reward, we must understand that for philosophy as much as mythology, that reward was the completion of the incomplete.

Such learned men would doubtless have come, as these learned men did come, to find themselves confirmed in much that was true in their own traditions and right in their own reasoning. Confucius would have found a new foundation for the family in the very reversal of the Holy Family; Buddha would have looked upon a new renunciation, of stars rather than jewels and divinity than royalty. These learned men would still have the right to say, or rather a new right to say, that there was truth in their old teaching. But after all these learned men would have come to learn. They would have come to complete their conceptions with something they had not yet conceived; even to balance their imperfect universe with something they might once have contradicted. Buddha would have come from his impersonal paradise to worship a person. Confucius would have come from his temples of ancestor-worship to worship a child.

We must grasp from the first this character in the new cosmos; that it was larger than the old cosmos. In that sense Christendom is larger than creation; as creation had been before Christ. It included things that had not been there; it also included the things that bad been there. The point happens to be well illustrated in this example of Chinese piety, but it would be true of other pagan virtues or pagan beliefs. Nobody can doubt that a reasonable respect for parents is part of a gospel in which God himself was subject in childhood to earthly parents. But the other sense in which the --parents were subject to him does introduce an idea that is not Confucian. The infant Christ is not like the infant Confucius; our mysticism conceives him in an immortal infancy. I do not know what Confucius would have done with the Bambino, had it come to life in his arms as it did in the arms of St. Francis. But this is true in relation to all the other religions and philosophies; it is the challenge of the Church. The Church contains what the world does not contain. Life itself does not provide as she does for all sides of life. That every other single system is narrow and insufficient compared to this one; that is not a rhetorical boast; it is a real fact and a real dilemma. Where is the Holy Child amid the Stoics and the ancestor-worshippers? Where is Our Lady of the Moslems, a woman made for no man and set above all angels? Where is St. Michael of the monks of Buddha, rider and master of the trumpets, guarding for every soldier the honor of the sword? What could St. Thomas Aquinas do with the mythology of Brahmanism, he who set forth all the science and rationality and even rationalism of Christianity? Yet even if we compare Aquinas with Aristotle, at the other extreme of reason, we shall find the same sense of something added. Aquinas could understand the most logical parts of Aristotle; it is doubtful if Aristotle could have understood the most mystical parts of Aquinas.

Even where we can hardly call the Christian greater, we are forced to call him larger. But it is so to whatever philosophy or heresy or modern movement we may turn. How would Francis the Troubadour have fared among the Calvinists, or for that matter among the Utilitarians of the Manchester School? Yet men like Bossuet and Pascal could be as stern and logical as any Calvinist or Utilitarian. How would St. Joan of Arc, a woman waving on men to war with the sword, have fared among the Quakers or the Doukhabors or the Tolstoyan sect of pacifists? Yet any number of Catholic saints have spent their lives in preaching peace and preventing wars. It is the same with all the modern attempts at Syncretism. They are never able to make something larger than the Creed without leaving something out. I do not mean leaving out something divine but something human; the flag or the inn or the boy's tale of battle or the hedge at the end of the field. The Theosophists build a pantheon; but it is only a pantheon for pantheists. They call a Parliament of Religions as a reunion of all the peoples; but it is only a reunion of all the prigs. Yet exactly such a pantheon had been set up two thousand years before by the shores of the Mediterranean; and Christians were invited to set up the image of Jesus side by side with the image of Jupiter, of Mithras, of Osiris, of Atys, or of Ammon. It was the -point of history. refusal of the Christians that was the turning If the Christians had accepted, they and the whole world would have certainly, in a grotesque but exact metaphor, gone to pot. They would all have been boiled down to one lukewarm liquid in that great pot of cosmopolitan corruption in which all the other myths and mysteries were already melting. It was an awful and an appalling escape. Nobody understands the nature of the Church, or the ringing note of the creed descending from antiquity, who does not realize that the whole world once very nearly died of broad-mindedness and. the brotherhood of all religions.

Here it is the important point that the Magi, who stand for mysticism and philosophy, are truly conceived as seeking something new and even as finding something unexpected. That tense sense of crisis which still tingles in the Christmas story and even in every Christmas celebration, accentuates the idea of a search and a discovery. The discovery is, in this case, truly a scientific discovery. For the other mystical figures in the miracle play; for the angel and the mother, the shepherds and the soldiers of Herod, there may be aspects both simpler and more supernatural, more elemental or more emotional. But the Wise Men must be seeking wisdom; and for them there must be a light also in the intellect. And this is the light; that the Catholic creed is catholic and that nothing else is catholic. The philosophy of the Church is universal. The philosophy of the philosophers was not universal. Had Plato and Pythagoras and Aristotle stood for an instant in the light that came out of that little cave, they would have known that their own light was not universal.

It is far from certain, indeed, that they did not know it already. Philosophy also, like mythology, bad very much the air of a search. It is the realization of this truth that gives its traditional majesty and mystery to the figures of the Three Kings; the discovery that religion is broader than philosophy and that this is the broadest of religions, contained within this narrow space. The Magicians were gazing at the strange pentacle with the human triangle reversed; and they have never come to the end of their calculations about it. For it is the paradox of that group in the cave, that while our emotions about it are of childish simplicity, our thoughts about it can branch with a never-ending complexity. And we can never reach the end even of our own ideas about the child who was a father and the mother who was a child.

We might well be content to say that mythology had come with the shepherds and philosophy with the philosophers; and' that it only remained for them to combine in the recognition of religion. But there was a third element that must not be ignored and one which that religion forever refuses to ignore, in any revel or reconciliation. There was present in the primary scenes of the drama that Enemy that had rotted the legends with lust and frozen the theories into atheism, but which answered the direct challenge with something of that more direct method which we have seen in the conscious cult of the demons. In the description of that demon-worship, of the devouring detestation of innocence shown in the works of its witchcraft and the most inhuman of its human sacrifice, I have said less of its indirect and secret penetration of the saner paganism; the soaking of mythological imagination with sex; the rise of imperial pride into insanity. But both the indirect and the direct influence make themselves felt in the drama of Bethlehem. A ruler under the Roman suzerainty, probably equipped and surrounded with the Roman ornament and order though himself of eastern blood, seems in that hour to have felt stirring within him the spirit of strange things. We all know the story of how Herod, alarmed at some rumor of a mysterious rival, remembered the wild gesture of the capricious despots of Asia and ordered a massacre of suspects of the new generation of the populace. Everyone knows the story; but not everyone has perhaps noted its place in the story of the strange religions of men. Not everybody has seen the significance even of its very contrast with the Corinthian columns and Roman pavement of that conquered and superficially civilized world. Only, as the purpose in his dark spirit began to show and shine in the eyes of the Admen, a seer might perhaps have seen something like a great gray ghost that looked over his shoulder; have seen behind him filling the dome of night and hovering for the last time over history that vast and fearful face that was Moloch of the Carthaginians; awaiting his last tribute from a ruler of the races of Shem. The demons also, in that first festival of Christmas, feasted after their own fashion.

Unless we understand the presence of that enemy, we shall not only miss the point of Christianity, but even miss the point of Christmas. Christmas for us in Christendom has become one thing, and in one sense even a simple thing. But like all the truths of that tradition, it is in another sense a very complex thing. Its unique note is the simultaneous striking of many notes; of humility, of gaiety, of gratitude, of mystical fear, but also of vigilance and of drama. It is not only an occasion for the peacemakers any more than for the merry makers; it is not only a Hindu peace conference any more than it is only a Scandinavian winter feast. There is something defiant in it also; something that makes the abrupt bells at midnight sound like the great guns of a battle that has just been won. All this indescribable thing that we call the Christmas atmosphere only bangs in the air as something like a lingering fragrance or fading vapor from the exultant, explosion of that one hour in the Judean hills nearly two thousand years ago. But the savor is still unmistakable, and it is something too subtle or too solitary to be covered by our use of the word peace. By the very nature of the story the rejoicings in the cavern were rejoicings in a fortress or an outlaws den; properly understood it' is not unduly flippant to say they were rejoicing in a dug-out. It is not only true that such a subterranean chamber was a hiding-place from enemies; and that the enemies were already scouring the stony plain that lay above it like a sky. It is not only that the very horse-hoofs of Herod might in that sense have passed like thunder over the sunken head of Christ. It is also that there is in that image a true idea of an outpost, of a piercing through the rock and an entrance into an enemy territory. There is in this buried divinity an idea of undermining the world; of shaking the towers and palaces from below; even as Herod the great king felt that earthquake under him and swayed with his swaying palace.

That is perhaps the mightiest of the mysteries of the cave. It is already apparent that though men are said to have looked for hell under the earth, in this case it is rather heaven that is under the earth. And there follows in this strange story the idea of an upheaval of heaven. That is the paradox of the whole position; that henceforth the highest thing can only work from below. Royalty can only return to its own by a sort of rebellion Indeed the Church from its beginnings, and perhaps especially in its beginnings, was not so much a principality as a revolution against the prince of the world. This sense that the world bad been conquered by the great usurper, and was in his possession, has been much deplored or derided by those optimists who identify enlightenment with case. But it was responsible for all that thrill of defiance and a beautiful danger that made the good news seem to be really both good and new. It was in truth against a huge unconscious usurpation that it raised a revolt, and originally so obscure a revolt. Olympus still occupied the sky like a motionless cloud molded into many mighty forms; philosophy still sat in the high places and even on the thrones of the kings, when Christ was born in the cave and Christianity in the catacombs.

In both cases we may remark the same paradox of revolution; the sense of something despised and of something feared. The cave in one aspect is only a hole or comer into Which the outcasts are swept like rubbish; yet in the other aspect it is a hiding-place of something valuable which the tyrants are seeking like treasure. In one sense they are there because the inn-keeper would not even remember them, and in another because the king can never forget them. We have already noted that this paradox appeared also in the treatment of the early Church. It was important while it was still insignificant, and certainly while it was still impotent. It was important solely because it was intolerable; and in that sense it is true to say that it was intolerable because it was intolerant. It was resented, because, in its own still and almost secret way, it had declared war. It had risen out of the ground to wreck the heaven and earth of heathenism. It did not try to destroy all that creation of gold and marble; but it contemplated a world without it. It dared to look right through it as though the gold and marble had been glass. Those who charged the Christians with burning down Rome with firebrands were slanderers; but they were at least far nearer to the nature of Christianity than those among the moderns who tell us that the Christians were a sort of ethical society, being martyred in a languid fashion for telling men they had a duty to their neighbors, and only mildly disliked because they were meek and mild.

Herod had his place, therefore, in the miracle play of Bethlehem because he is the menace to the Church Militant and shows it from the first as under persecution and fighting for its life. For those who think this a discord, it is a discord that sounds simultaneously with the Christmas bells. For those who think the idea of the Crusade is one that spoils the idea of the Cross, we can only say that for them the idea of the Cross is spoiled; the idea of the Cross is spoiled quite literally in the cradle. It is not here to the purpose to argue with them on the abstract ethics of fighting; the purpose in this place is merely to sum up the combination of ideas that make up the Christian and Catholic idea, and to note that all of them are already crystallized in the first Christmas story. They are three distinct and commonly contrasted things which are nevertheless one thing; but this is the only thing which can make them one. The first is the human instinct for a heaven ,that shall be as literal and almost as local as a home. It is the idea pursued by all poets and pagans making myths; that a particular place must be the shrine of the god or the abode of the blest; that fairyland is a land; or that the return of the ghost must be the resurrection of the body. I do not here ,reason about the refusal of rationalism to satisfy this need. I only say that if the rationalists refuse to satisfy it, the pagans: will not be satisfied. This is present in the story of Bethlehem and Jerusalem as it is present in the story of Delos and Delphi, and as it is not present in the whole universe of Lucretius or the whole universe of Herbert Spencer. The second element is a philosophy larger than other philosophies; larger than that of Lucretius and infinitely larger than that of Herbert Spencer. It looks at the world through a hundred windows where the ancient stoic or the modem agnostic only looks through one. It sees life with thousands of eyes belonging to thousands of different sorts of people, where the other is only the individual standpoint of a stoic or an agnostic. It has something for all moods of man, it finds work for all kinds of men, it understands secrets of psychology, it is aware of depths of evil, it is able to distinguish between real and unreal marvels and miraculous exceptions, it trains itself in tact about bard cases, all with a multiplicity and subtlety and imagination about the varieties of life which is far beyond the bald or breezy platitudes of most ancient or modem moral philosophy. In a word, there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life. Masses of this material about our many-sided life have been added since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas. But St. Thomas Aquinas alone would have found himself limited in the world of Confucius or of Comte. And the third point is this; that while it is local enough for poetry and larger than any other philosophy, it is also a challenge and a fight. While it is deliberately broadened to embrace every aspect of truth, it is still stiffly embattled against every mode of error. It gets every kind of man to fight for it, it gets every kind of weapon to fight with, it widens its knowledge of the things that are fought for and against with every art of curiosity or sympathy; but it never forgets that it is fighting. It proclaims peace on earth and never forgets why there was war in heaven.

This is the trinity of truths symbolized here by the three types in the old Christmas story; the shepherds and the kings and that other king who warred upon the children. It is simply not true to say that other religions and philosophies are in this respect its rivals. It is not true to say that any one of them combines these characters; it is not true to say that any one of them pretends to combine them. Buddhism may profess to be equally mystical; it does not even profess to be equally military. Islam may profess to be equally military; it does not even profess to be equally metaphysical and subtle. Confucianism may profess to satisfy the need of the philosophers for order and reason; it does not even profess to satisfy the, need of the mystics for miracle and sacrament and the consecration of concrete things. There are many evidences of this presence of a spirit at once universal and unique. One will serve here which is the symbol of the subject of this chapter; that no other story, no pagan legend or philosophical anecdote or historical event, does in fact affect any of us with that peculiar and even poignant impression produced on us by the word Bethlehem. No other birth of a god or childhood of a sage seems to us to be Christmas or anything like Christmas. It is either too cold or too frivolous, or too formal and ,classical, or too simple and savage, or too occult and complicated. Not one of us, whatever his opinions, would ever go to such a scene with the sense that he was going home. He might admire it because it was poetical, or because it was philosophical or any number of other things in separation; but not because it was itself. The truth is that there is a quite peculiar and individual character about the hold of this story on human nature; it is not in its psychological substance at all like a mere legend or the life of a great man. It does not exactly in the ordinary sense turn our minds to greatness; to those extensions and exaggerations of humanity which are turned into gods and heroes, even by the healthiest sort of hero worship. It does not exactly work outwards, adventourously to the wonders to be found at the ends of the earth. It is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can sometimes take us off our guard in the pathos of small objects or the blind pieties of the poor. It is rather as if a man had ,,found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which .,he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is if he found something at the back of his own heart that ,betrayed him into good. It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary softening that is in some strange fashion become strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over some-thing more human than humanity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Alignment in OD&D and Zylarthen, Part II

One of the greatest of the Appendix N novels
So the first comment on the last post by Reverance Pavane (aka Ian Borchardt) asked some great questions that deserve more detailed answers than I initially gave. I'd like to reprint the comment in full here:
I think you are starting out with an assumption here brought on from later editions that alignment is actually "a moral outlook." I personally don't think morality came into it until the Good/Evil dichotomy was introduced in Greyhawk. Before this it was what it literally said it was - an alignment with a faction - whether that was the seelie/unseelie of Andersons' A Broken Sword, the eternal battle of Moorcock's Elric series, or even something as obscure as the reality/unreality of Brunner's Traveller in Black. 
That being said people generally prefer order ("may you live in interesting times" is a curse for a very good reason) so Law often gets equated with being a desirable or good quality. The fact that many "monsters" are in the Chaos list make it inherently bad. 
My personal response to the original OD&D list was to consider Law to be akin to civilisation, and Chaos to be akin to the wilderness. (Although to be more precise the Chaos elements were those who either raided civilisation or directly opposed the expansion of civilization. ) As more and more of the wilderness is conquered and brought to order and settled it moves from Chaos to Law. The traditional dungeons, for example, could be considered bastions of Chaos. (This follows more of the Brunner model.)
I'm going to break this down into two questions about alignment in OD&D:
  1. Is alignment a moral outlook as opposed to (merely) an alliance with a "side"?
  2. Is Law vs. Chaos equivalent to, or does it at least track (in some fairly close sense) Good vs. Evil?
Now, I think Ian is right that by the time we get to the AD&D Players Handbook (1978), it was a moral outlook, which doesn't mean it necessarily started out that way in 1974. AD&D also introduced a nine-point alliance scheme, which explicitly contrasted the concepts of Law and Chaos with Good and Evil, and this was foreshadowed in Basic D&D (1977) with the five-point system. But this leaves unanswered the meaning of the terms before that, as well as in the Moldvay/Cook, Basic/Expert set (1981) a few years later, which reverted to the three-point system).

Also, Ian is correct in claiming that there might be a difference between successive iterations of OD&D, for example, between the first edition "The Three Little Brown Books" (1974) and Greyhawk (1975). Among other things, it might be the case that Greyhawk was a sort of bridge between the original edition and AD&D.

Let's go to the sources. First, two from Appendix N (fantasy authors and texts that Gary Gygax explicitly cited as inspirations for D&D)--Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961) and Michael Moorcock's Elric series (1961-). Here we'll crib somewhat from Jon Peterson's Playing at the World. Then we'll look at the text from to Chainmail (1971-), The Three Little Brown Books, Greyhawk and an article Gygax wrote in The Strategic Review (1976). I've read both Anderson and Moorcock but it's been a while. (No, I'm not going to reread them for this blog post.) So I'm going to rely somewhat for quotes and such on Peterson's book.

In Three Hearts and Three Lions a Danish anti-Nazi resistance fighter, Holger Carlson, finds himself transported to an alternate universe early middle-ages, where he becomes involved in a struggle between Law and Chaos. Most humans are on the side of Law, whereas elves, trolls, giants and many other monstrous creatures are on the side of Chaos. Some are neutral between the two, such as the swanmay, Alianora, whom Holger will fall in love with. Later, after he is transported back to 20th century Europe, he decides that the struggle between Law and Chaos is being fought or refought as the current war between the Allied powers and the Nazis.

Now, here the focus is obviously on sides. "Holger is frequently questioned about his allegiances: 'Which side be ye on? Law or Chaos,' Alianora asks him, to which he replies, after hesitating, 'Law, I suppose'" (Peterson, p. 181). Chaos has it's ugly and monstrous components, but it is also frequently attractive, at least superficially, exemplified by the sexually seductive elves. So while Chaos may certainly track evil, its partisans do not all go around dressed in black with skulls on their standards. That Law and Chaos are more sides and not precisely moral outlooks is apparent in the fact that Holger--an adult man who has obviously already made some important moral choices in his life--has to identify them and (so it seems) decide between them, as opposed to just being one or the other.

But these sides are not independent of personal moral behavior.
The most striking illustration of this in the novel is the incident where Holger, mindful of his missed opportunities for dalliance with the Faerie, surreptitiously palpates the breast of the sleeping Alianora--not exactly at his most pious. Virtually as soon as he does so, the party is attacked by a giant, whom Holger attempts to repel by invoking the names of the Holy Trinity. The giant replies dismissively, "Too late for that, mortal, when you've broken the good circle by your sinful wishes and not yet made act of contrition" (Peterson, p. 184).
Here and elsewhere, Chaos is linked (to a large extent) with sin and evil conduct, while Law is identified with Christian morality.

Moorcock, in his Elric series, also features a struggle between Law and Chaos. But as befits a 1960's-ish New Wavy skeptical leftist (that's not a criticism as much as I think a relatively accurate characterization) has a moral metaphysics that is a bit more, shall we say, nuanced. The hero, or more precisely anti-hero, Elric, has a Chaotic god as a patron, and carries a sword "forged by Chaos to vanquish Chaos" (Peterson, p. 182). So he variously "allies" as well as fights against both sides. Whether these sides can be slapped with the labels "Good" and "Evil" is questionable or perhaps merely semantic. Moorcock is at least coy here by flirting with the conventional interpretation, calling the Lords of Chaos "the Dukes of Hell".  However, Moorcock seems to imply that peace resides in keeping a "Balance" between the two (Peterson pp. 182-3). And while Elric is certainly not a paragon of conventional virtue, the thrust of the series is that individual moral conduct is in any case somewhat separate from the "eternal struggle" of Law and Chaos.

While Anderson's and Moorcock's conceptions of Law vs. Chaos are quite different, I'm going to jump ahead and put my cards on the table right now. However one comes down on the meaning of the terms (and we'll shortly see what OD&D and Zylarthen have to say about that), labeling the struggle as one between "Law vs. Chaos" as opposed to labeling it as "Good vs. Evil" just sounds cooler.

What's wrong with cooler?

Next, Chainmail...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Free Zylarthen Is About To Go Away

This isn't a sales pitch. Actually, sort of the opposite.

I launched the public version of Seven Voyages of Zylarthen on Christmas Day, 2013. So, it's been almost a year. The game itself isn't vanishing anywhere. Indeed, I intend to increase my support for it.  But the free PDF version is about to disappear, at least for the time being. That's because I'm shortly going to offer a combined PDF of all four booklets, bookmarked and with some possible "extras", for a price. In another location I said this would happen at Christmas, but that's probably a bit early. And is Christmas really the time to take away a free thing? New Year's? We'll see. But the clock is ticking.

If you like the game, or want to possess a copy, you still have at least a few days to get it for free on Lulu. Obviously, the "priced" version isn't going to bankrupt anyone, but free is free. So go for it now if you are so inclined.

Thank you first of all to those who purchased the physical booklets. I really appreciate it. Sure, I can't say that I've made $100/hour on the thing. But that last Lulu check came in handy, I'll tell you that. The physical booklets will always be available, although I am exploring every option to offer them at the highest possible quality for the lowest possible price (consistent with the fact that I have six hungry mouths to feed). Additional Zylarthen material in the form of adventures and supplements in either PDF and/or physical form is also on the horizon.

But thank you secondly to those who have downloaded the game, especially if you have spread the word. Here at Campion and Clitherow (the Saints names of my wife and I) we are incredibly grateful for the positive "buzz" the game has received. I have appreciated every comment, criticism and play report I have seen.
Happy dungeoneering! Guard the innocent! Avenge the wronged! May you find heaps of gold at the end of your path, or at the least a memorable and heroic demise! But above all, God grant that you find wonder everywhere!
Zylarthen is my tribute to Gygax and Arneson's original conception. I hope (in whatever format) you enjoy it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Alignment in OD&D and Zylarthen, Part I

From The Dragon No. 39. Guess what alignment he is.

In these posts, I won’t be tracing or debating the changes, variances or related minutia of alignment through the editions—such as the three-point vs. five point vs. nine point systems, or the alignment languages question, etc. Rather, I want to look at the notion of alignment in general.

The basic idea goes something like this (these are my words, not text contained in any edition):
Each player-character must at the start of play choose a moral outlook, called an “alignment”, which will guide and to some degree limit the choices and actions of the character within the game. Alignment, along with class and race will be one of the factors to take into consideration for proper “role-playing”.
I actually think alignment is one of the more consistent things through the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons (again, if one ignores changes at the margins such as whether there are three, five, nine or how ever many of them), so there isn’t any old school vs. new school issue here. True to form, though, OD&D had only a few lines on the matter—as opposed to the pages often spent on it in later editions:
Before the game begins it is not only necessary to select a role, but it is also necessary to determine what stance the character will take - Law, Neutrality, or Chaos…Character types are limited as follows by this alignment. Men & Magic, p. 9.
Oddly, the text then immediately switches focus to monster (not character) types, presenting three lists that outline the alignments of the various intelligent monsters. Here is the full text, including that of the above:

Note that most monsters appear on only one list. A few appear on two—either Law and Neutrality or Chaos and Neutrality—but only one—Men—appear on all three. (Technically, Lycanthropes are also on all three but that’s only because, as we’ll find out later, there are different types of them.) That there is no underline for the "Men" under Neutrality or Chaos is I assume a mistake. 

Precisely what is meant by taking a stance, or perhaps more importantly, what is meant by the labels Law, Neutrality or Chaos is not explained. Obviously, though, the composition of the lists says a lot—Unicorns and Patriarchs are Lawful, Evil Priests and Vampires are Chaotic, etc.* A bit more about alignment will be sketched in later in discussions of some of the spells and the properties of magic swords (of all things). For example, for the spell Reincarnation, we learn that a character may only be reincarnated as a creature of the same alignment.

The major points that emerge from the full text are these:

  1. Law and Chaos appear to at least track good and evil (whether they are precisely equivalent to them is left unsaid).
  2. One's alignment is pretty fundamental to one's being. It might change (perhaps as a result of a cursed item) but that would be a big deal.
  3. For Player-characters alignment is an individual choice, made early—at the time of character creation.
  4. However, for all except player-characters and perhaps some important non-player characters, alignment seems to be a collective thing. For most races, every member of that race will (it is implied) be of the same alignment. And even for those races that can vary, the variance seems to go by group. For example, in the “Men” category, Dervishes are Lawful while Pirates are Chaotic.
What is wrong with this scheme? What is right with it? Did I do anything differently in Seven Voyages of Zylarthen? More in Part II...

*Wikipedia fib alert: the entry for Alignment (Dungeons & Dragons) reads “Dwarves were Lawful and elves Chaotic, while humans could be any of the three alignments. [citation needed].” Actually, as the above makes clear, both Dwarves and Elves are listed as being potentially either Lawful or Neutral (along with Gnomes and Rocs). Good luck on that citation.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gold Pieces Are Now Falling From Heaven

The Introit of the Tridentine Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent begins with this extraordinary verse from Isaiah 45, 8:
Rorate caeli, sesuper, et nubes pluant justum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour.
Dom Dominic Johner in his Chants of the Vatican Gradual provides this commentary, including the curious and evocative description of the post title:
What would this earth be without the Messias? A desert, an uncharted and arid waste scorched by the sun, having not one little flower or blade of grass. If new life is to spring forth, the ground must be cultivated, the clouds must send down their rain, the fructifying rain which is so valuable that the Portuguese say of the summer showers: "Gold pieces are now falling from heaven." Oh, that it might come, this rain, to penetrate into the hearts of men and awaken new life! Would that the clouds might have mercy! For the Israelites the concept of cloud was full of deep meaning: in the column of cloud God led His people through the desert; veiled by clouds He manifested Himself on Sinai; in a cloud the glory of the Most High descended upon the Temple which Solomon had built. Clouds are the symbol and the containers of life-giving rain, as well as of the grace of redemption which comes down to us from the heights of heaven, and of all the benefits and glories of the new kingdom of the Messias. When these clouds open, new life will bud forth (germinet) about Nazareth, a life of unusual beauty, rich in blossoms and fruits. We implore the descent of the Just One from heaven. But His justice will not make His countenance the less benevolent, nor His eyes the less loving. He comes not to reproach, not to drive sin-laden man away in confusion; He comes as the Saviour, calling to Himself all who are weary or burdened.
(Referenced by the Traditionalist Catholic Blog Rorate Caeli on the occasion of its ninth anniversary.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

OSR Art Friday: The Lace & Steel Illustrations of Donna Barr

From the original box cover

I bought the first edition of Lace & Steel--the game of faux-17th century swashbuckling and fancy court balls--in 1989, after seeing it on the shelf and flipping though it for thirty seconds. I never played it, but it has always enchanted me. Recently I realized that one of the reasons for that was its art. Unusual for its type, all of the illustrations are by one artist, Donna Barr. In addition, and also, somewhat unusually for the category, the pages are drenched in illustrations of all kinds. There are approximately 200 pages, distributed over four booklets. There are many full-page and even two-page drawings but also a huge number of smaller ones averaging out to at least three a page. Large-scale battles, duels, ladies and gentlemen at leisure or at fancy balls, monsters--warnets (intelligent giant hornets), pixies, harpies and "half-horses" (centaurs), to name a few--landscapes and maps, individual weapons, armor pieces or clothing, as well as musketeers with hangovers making faces into mirrors in the morning, are all covered.

In a roundabout way, Lace & Steel was one of the inspirations for Seven Voyages of Zylarthen. I wanted to make a 17th century "Lace & Steel" version of OD&D. That became a 16th century pseudo-Catholic version, which finally became a more conventional swords & sorcery-fairy tale version. But a few things from Lace & Steel survived almost intact--for example, the idea of using physical tokens to represent money in the game:
The author has found that a new dimension is added to game play when a player character’s funds are simulated by solid objects. One or two cent pieces can simulate copper groats, and heavy washers make good silver and gold pieces. Washers or disks can be had from any hardware store. Go for big washers (20 to 25mm is good) with small central holes, such as muffler washers. Brass washers are used for gold marks, and steel washers for silver schillings. 
“Real” money is excellent fun to use, and players soon develop odd habits such as fondling their money or stacking it into neat little piles. Parting with money can be a traumatic experience for miserly players, since they are handing over a physical object rather than just crossing a number off a piece of paper. Players will also tend to keep a less ready tag on their wealth, which adds a bit of spice to play.
A man bathing in coins
But to get back to the art. Is it OSR? Well, the game itself--authored by the still active Paul Kidd--certainly features some supposed new school elements, such as skills. But it is twenty-five years old, released at a time when 1e AD&D was still (barely) the standard. And to me, the evocative line-drawings of Donna Barr are the polar-opposites of the video-gamish color splatterings of most contemporary RPG art. But in any case, OSR Art Friday was never intended to be ideologically rigid (whatever that might mean in this context). And part of the fun is to choose a diverse variety of examples. Donna Barr's drawings are cool. They work. In the end, that's what matters.

Who is Donna Barr? One way to get to know her is to read her long-running and frequently updated blog. As many of you know, she's an incredibly prolific and still very active writer and illustrator, known primarily for comic books or "graphic novels" (though, she prefers the label "drawn-fiction"). Her output is distinctive. Her major works or series are The Desert Peach--about Erwin Rommel's fictional brother Pfirsich, an exuberantly homosexual Nazi general who leads a North African unit of homosexuals and assorted misfits--Stinz--about centaurs or "half-horses" interacting with normal men in a stylized German valley setting--and Bosom Enemies about two normal men who find themselves enslaved and transformed into half-horses. Obviously there's a sexual subtext to much of her material (also involving animals or, rather people that are half-animals), but without (on the main) being graphic or pornographic. Let us say, she at least occupies a niche. (Occupies? Scratch that. She dominates it and then uses it as a bridgehead.)
Musketeer with hangover making faces into his mirror in the morning
Wait, Nazis? Flamboyant, leather-clad, homosexual Nazis (that are to some extent made fun of, albeit affectionately), sexual themes involving animals or people half-way transformed into animals and then quasi-sexually dominated by other people?


(Oh, sorry. I was temporarily seized by the spirit of the age.)

Emphasizing the sexual part doesn't do the whole justice. Her series are witty and funny and at times moving and, yes, profound. See for yourself if you can.

In the late 1980's she also did some drawings for Traveller and GURPS. But her work for Lace & Steel was her most thorough RPG effort. That the game is now long out of print does not diminish its value or influence. For example, I would be surprised if James Raggi did not riff off of it for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Used copies of the first edition are now hard to find and expensive. A second edition came out in 1998 but featured an inferior cover and a somewhat different one-volume layout. Inexplicably it discarded many of the best and largest drawings.

Donna Barr is a great asset to the wider hobby. OSR Art Friday is proud to feature her.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Gamergate the Card Game

In the interests of unbiased blogger journalism, I thought I would do a review of this game, authored by the prolific James Desborough of Postmortem Studios. As many of you know, it was the only game ever banned by OneBookShelf (RPGNow and DriveThroughRPG) and perhaps the only game (according to them) that perhaps ever would or will be banned by that same print-on-demand publisher ("banned", by the way, is their term). I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

Full disclosure points:
  1. I'm against winning political arguments by bullying people, lying about people and smearing people (ooh, strong and controversial stand there, Spalding). I'm also against the politicization of gaming--even if it's a form of gaming I don't like and don't engage in. This inclines me to be pro-Gamergate.
  2. I don't like video games and think they're pernicious. I haven't played one seriously in fifteen years. I don't want my kids to play them, etc. Since Gamergate seems to be about the proper direction of video games, I'm not sure what side this puts me on.
  3. Partly for the above reason, I feel that I don't really know that much about the actual Gamergate controversy. Feel free to use that against me. What I do know seems to indicate that the facts are somewhat Byzantine. Then again, I'm inclined, due to the first point, to favor one side.
Okay, so on to the game. In PDF it comes to 17 pages. Most of these are images of cards you're supposed to assemble. Less than a page is rules. I skipped the rules, figuring they weren't that important. Plus, it's 11:40, my kids are still running around and I'm tired.

There are two sets of cards--one set for the "Gamergate" player and one set for the "Social Justice Warrior" player. Each card has a Title, an Actions row featuring one to four actions, three potential Ethics Breaches--Corruption, Outrage and Bulls__t, and some flavor text. For example, here is a sample Gamergate card:
  1. Title: #NotYourShield
  2. Actions: Modifier: Group, LOL, Pwned.
  3. Potential Ethics Breaches: Corruption: 1, Boosts all your Outrage and Bulls__t Attacker scores on this Ethics Breach by +1, Outrage:1, Bulls__t: 1.
  4. Flavor text: We're all fakes and sockpuppets.
I have no idea what any of this means.

So, here's a roundup of a random sample of cards, featuring the title and the flavor text only, with commentary by yours truly. Again, since I didn't read the rules, I don't understand them, and thus will not include Actions or Potential Ethics Breaches.

First, the Gamergate cards:
  1. Send E-mails!: Praise the Lord and pass the keyboard. Who is sending the emails? Who are they going to? Is it a good thing? Is the author being slightly self-deprecating about his own side?
  2. Send E-mails!: Still not censorship. Okay, I'm glad.
  3. The Internet is for Porn: Fap, fap, fap, fap. What does "fap" mean?
  4. Atheist Allies: Two words to strike horror into every heart. Atheism Plus. So, I guess there's a subset of Gamergate people who are atheists?
  5. GrimmyPoohs: Narcissistic enough to go in his own game. I think this is a self-deprecating reference by the author about himself. How hateful and misogynistic of him. That's so offensive.
  6. Inconvenient Facts: But, but, butt! "Butt"? Is that a sophomoric joke? I'll laugh in the car.
  7. Based Mum: A feminist if you're not. Not a feminist if you are. I think this is a reference to semi-pro-Gamergate journalist Christina Hoff Sommers. I remember her from when I used to subscribe to Reason. I like her.
  8. Intranet Republican: Wields the magical wig of snarkiness. Is this pro-Republican or not? I have no idea.
  9. Emperor of Politics: Total Shill. I think this is a reference to a pro-Gamergate guy who also seems to be anti-Israel. Subtract one from my bias towards Gamergate. Is "Total Shill" what his opponents call him or what the author thinks of him? No idea.
And so on.

And now the Social Justice Cards:
  1. Right Wing: Because your stance on abortion is totes relevant to vidya. Absolutely no idea what this means.
  2. Anime Avatar: Nobody can take you seriously with an anime avatar. I guess so. (That's SO offensive!)
  3. Dox: It's OK when we do it. I think I understand the point here, and I agree with it.
  4. Mass Censorship: You shut up, and you shut up, and you shut up, and you and you and you! Again, I think I understand the point. I'm against it.
  5. Bumbirinas: Transexual otter kin with Bod head mates will not put up with this! Again, no idea, but it sounds like it's an insult directed against a subset of transsexuals on the anti-Gamergate side.  The author obviously should be drawn and quartered for this. Slowly. How dare he?
  6. P__sbaby: I prefer 'Urinary Infant'. That's disgusting.
  7. S__tlord: I prefer 'Turd Emperor'. Even more disgusting. I have no idea what it means.
  8. Ethical Policy: Not an option Apparently. Okay, I get it. Desborough believes that anti-Gamergate people have no Ethical Policies. (Did I get that right?) That's SO offensive. Pardon me if I boycott anyone that doesn't instantly agree.
  9. But we won an Award! OK, so we fixed the result, but...shiny! Hey, I like Firefly too. I'm hip.
And so on.

To summarize: Gamergate the card game appears to be a super-inside joke that satirizes both sides, though with an obvious bias towards one.

According to Steve Wieck at OneBookShelf, it's the most awful, horrific and offensive thing they have ever hosted (worse than a game about torturing people to death, among other things). They banned it only after huddling together for a few days and thinking deep thoughts about social responsibility balanced against freedom of speech, etc., etc., etc. For Wieck, the game is equivalent to laughing about (according to his terms) racist police shooting down innocent African American teenagers.

  1. Disgusting
  2. Dishonest
  3. Ridiculous
  4. Unreasonable
  5. Insane
  6. Cowardly
  7. A threat to freedom of speech, freedom of thought and pretty much anything else you can put after "freedom of".
  8. Evil
I spent $3.50 on the game through this site. Anyone who is against bullying and lies should consider doing the same. Obviously I will never "play" the game. That's not the point.

This is the place where I might write "Fight On!". But I'm too depressed. They want to bring their smutty, dirty politics and Brown Shirt bullying tactics into tabletop gaming. You and I don't want that. But what do we do? If we don't resist, they win. If we do resist, we dirty ourselves by getting "political", just like them. Or so it seems.

I don't know the answer.