The 7 Deadlies: on sin in role playing (Part 1)

I’m not sure what happens when you first started playing a role playing game like D&D (or what will happen when you do), but I can tell you what happened at our first game – Chaos.

My players realized they were in a fantasy world and everything about their behavior changed. One fellow started running around without his clothes on, another also removed his clothes and turned invisible as soon as possible.  Others were driven by a simple minded greed for gold. Some got overly sexual. Some played characters with horrible tempers. Others were compulsive liars and charlatans. Others got away with murder whenever possible…

…and these were the supposed “heroes” of the story.

In my faith tradition, one of the basic tenets is that at their core people suck. Human beings are horrible. Men and women are cruel and sinful. “All have fallen short of the glory off God.”

It seems like a pretty bleak situation doesn’t it? If you were to judge humanity by what happens in those first moments of a truly open RPG, where there is a sense of real liberty and the consequences haven’t set in yet and people feel totally free, you might come to the same conclusion. People are self-serving and sinful creatures.

And yet, in spite of this very low anthropology I would describe my faith as an optimistic one. Sin controls, but Grace reigns.

I have seen enough real life horrors in my work as a pastor that I believe that humanity isn’t able to not screw it all up. It’s a theological truth called “non posse non picare”  If we accomplish anything good it happens because of God, and definitely not because of the “basic goodness of people”. As a DM I’ve seen people when things get basic, and it ain’t pretty.

Wrath. Pride. Envy. Avarice. Gluttony. Lust. Sloth. These are the classic 7 deadly sins. If you follow the teachings of the enneagram, the ancient Christian tradition of the desert fathers, then add two more sins to the list: Deceit and Fear. These vices form the shadow side of every person to ever exist. Sin is basic. That’s why the church calls it “original”.

So what good is playing a game that has the ability from the get-go to bring out the worst in people?

I’ll answer that question with another question, what good is there in telling stories about the end of the world? What is the purpose of the apocalypse?

Post your answer in the comments. As for me,  I’ll give my answer… next time.

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