Monday, February 20, 2017

Notes on OD&D - Part 33

Continuing on with the 4th Level Clerical "Spells"...

Men & Magic
  • p33 - Explanation of Clerical Spells - 4th Level
Neutralize Poison: A spell to counter the harmful effects of poison. Note that it will not aid a character killed by poison, however. It will only effect one object. Duration: 1 turn.

As it turns out, a "turn" is a trick issue in OD&D. But the most it can be is 10 minutes. Which, in my opinion, even at its best, makes this a kind of really pretty rinky dink spell. 1 turn? And THEN you dieeeee! I don't know. Sounds like that should have had a longer duration to me. But then again, it's a little hard to tell from this distance. When they played this game in 1974 they may have been doing stuff with poisons that I'm simply not aware of, and there's a reasonable chance that it makes sense in the context of the way they used to play. Not sure. But in my current World if this spell lasted 1 turn, and then the player character perished, then my players would probably never take this spell. Kinda sure about that.

On the other hand it may be that while the spell lasts for 1 turn, it does mean that the poison never again has an effect because it's been neutralized. But then why have it with any Duration at all in that case? Mmm... meh. Looks a little borked up to me either way. And add to that there is a good chance that the "turn" spoken of is not 10 minutes, but 1 minute, and it just goes down hill from there. My players would revolt.

I rate this spell 1 Star out of 5 for uselessness.

Cure Serious Wounds: This spell is like a Light Wound spell, but the effects are double, so two dice are rolled and one pip is added to each die. Therefore, from 4 to 14 hit points will be removed by this spell.

Ok that's not bad. I'm down with that. Solid clerical spell there. Yup.

I rate this spell 4 out of 5 for usefulness.

Protection from Evil, 10' Radius: this spell is the same as that for Magic-Users.

Recap: Protection from Evil: This spell hedges the conjurer round with a magic circle to keep out attacks from enchanted monsters. It also serves as an "armor" from various evil attacks, adding a +1 to all saving throws and taking a -1 from hit dice of evil opponents. (Note that this spell is not cumulative in effect with magic armor and rings, although it will continue to keep out enchanted monsters.) Duration: 6 turns.

Ok, now I'm a bit mystified. They don't really treat Clerics in OD&D the way I expected. I thought Clerics would be the 'clearly religious dudes' who fight Evil (or the opposite). in which case, I would think that Clerics would have at least some advantage over Magic-Users when it comes to dealing with the Evil guys. But in this case we can see that it's a big "Nope" on that. Interesting, and sheds a little more light on this dig through the dusty tomes of ancient gaming. I do wonder if there was really no distinction made between Clerics and Magic-Users in the fight against Evil (or the opposite). I tend to think they'd have focused on that somehow, and maybe this spell is just an anomaly in an otherwise sensible game-universe... maybe. Curious.

I rate this spell a 4 Stars out of 5 for Usefulness (it is useful after all).

Turn Sticks to Snakes: Anytime there are sticks nearby a Cleric can turn them into snakes, with a 50% chance that they will be poisonous. From 2-16 snakes can be conjured (roll two eight-sided dice). He can command these conjured snakes to perform as he orders. Duration: 6 turns. Range: 12" (360').

Hmmm... not seeing this as the most useful spell in the world, though it is interesting. Summoning poison snakes in the middle of an opposing group of villains could cause them to panic, possibly, and maybe if you're lucky do some damage. Especially if they are poisonous. So that could work. I'm sure there are other creative ways to use this spell as well. Clearing out a tent of guards, or some such comes to mind. But still... I'm thinking that for 4th Level this is wackadoodly lame. Maybe it's just me, but I can't fathom taking this spell until there just ain't nothing left to take. Probably.

I rate this spell 2 Stars out of 5 for uselessness.

Speak with Plants: This spell allows the Cleric to speak with all forms of plant life, understanding what they say in reply. Plants so spoken to will obey commands of the Cleric, such as part to allow a passage and so on. This spell does not give the Cleric the power to command trees as Ents do. Duration: 6 turns. Range 3" (90').

Ok that's potentially quite useful, especially if plants can communicate with each other. There are those who say, after all, that plants form a vast communications network over the surface of the earth. Did you know that? So they may be privy to a great deal of very interesting information. So there could be a potential bonanza in being able to communicate with plants. They might even be able to tell you where the enemy is lurking. So yeah, I'd say this could be pretty darn useful. And it would suddenly make Clerics stand out as "really good to have around". I would definitely take this one.

I rate this a 5 out of 5 Stars for usefulness.

Create Water: By means of this spell the Cleric can create a supply of drinking water sufficient for a party of a dozen men and horses for one day. The quantity doubles for every level above 8th the Cleric has attained.

Roger that. If you're hauling through the desert, or expect to be trapped in a dry dungeon for a long time, this could be useful. Otherwise, not so much. Under some rare circumstances it could be a life saver, but I would still shy away from taking this one.

I rate this a 2 Stars for uselessness.

And so there we have it. The 4th Level Clerical spells. Sorry, but I'm not really impressed with this set. Maybe 5th will make it all worthwhile. Stay tuned to find out next time when we cover 5th level Clerical spells.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Some Thoughts Regarding Tolkien's Aragorn

I wrote this as a comment to this Wonderful thread, and I thought I'd share it on my blog here.

The original post is about how Aragorn of the Books differs from that of the movies, and why. Interesting post. The comments were also very worth reading, and this post is in reply to one which suggested that Tolkien's hero was something our modern world can not quite accept because our culture does not allow us to have unadulterated heroes any longer. "We expect our heroes to be flawed and human, and have doubts about their true potential which they must overcome as they grow and change", as the OP puts it. So my comment here is in response to this idea.

I would also add that there may have been an underlying purpose behind Tolkien’s work that should also be considered. As a professor of Anglo Saxon literature at Oxford Tolkien was steeped in the medieval classics. It was not merely plot devices and literary conventions that occupied Tolkien’s mind, but the spirit of the age of which he wrote.

I read that Tolkien was teaching at Oxford when World War I broke out. He went and enlisted like all patriotic Englishmen. He survived honorably through the worst that the war could throw at him, and from those experiences he gave us such scenes as the nine black riders hunting the hobbits in the wilderness. I read that during the war Tolkien got caught behind enemy lines, and nine mounted German cavalrymen hunted him through the murky woods. I mention all of this to give a rational for saying that we should allow Tolkien the gravitas he deserves.

I think if you asked him, Tolkien would say that Aragorn, as he wrote him, was an embodiment of heroism for all time. In the same way that Thucydides wrote the Peloponesian War “for all time”. Aragorn is meant by Tolkien to be an example, a paragon of what it means for a human being to have a true noble virtue.

I think Tolkien believed that having a myth of our own in the 20th century was something we desperately need as a civilization. We’ve been, I think he felt, mechanized and automated into a heedless lumpy mass, and ground to dust by the weight of our burdens under a sauron-like malevolence known as “Progress”.

I think Tolkien, who saw his share of horrors, believed in the eternal truths of justice, goodness, and love and felt that they must be enshrined anew generation by generation, or the knowledge of them is lost. And that happens only at the last gasp of any civilization.

By renewing the legend of the Good King, through Aragon, I think Tolkien may have felt more that it was his means by which to pass on to the next generation the awe and love of Majesty itself. Love in its majesty is awesome, I think Tolkien would say, because it is Goodness and Strength personified. And each generation must have its champions to pronounce it again so that the people remember and are renewed as well.

My impression is that Tolkien knew something our contemporary angsty age has forgotten. He knew why we could no longer tolerate reading about true nobility. He watched as the old world was torn asunder around him, and the last vestiges of nobility uprooted and destroyed. I think he understood the modern plight far better than most of us do today. He was there before and after the Great War. And I believe there are those who would say, and rightly, that there is a vast gulf between the worlds of Before The War, and after it. And his literature, I feel certain, was his way of reminding us of what was lost.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. I think we should honor Tolkien by trying to understand not only what he wrote, but why, and also what its true influence has been on all of us who are enamored by his wonderful stories. One of the reasons I think we are so attached to them is because they present us with a rare vision of nobility that in the deep recesses of our hearts we still admire.

Monday, January 30, 2017

On Sandboxing and Game Balance

I've been Gamemastering since 1978, and I've always run a "sandbox" (what I used to call "free flow") game.  The way I have done it all along is to create a framework in which the world's history, current events and Main Non-Player Characters (NPCs) exist independently from the Player Characters.  So the primary NPCs are busy going about their business in my world with our without the Players.  They have objectives and try to achieve them.  Some of them are good guys, some of them are bad guys.  Some are lawful, and some are chaotic, and most fall somewhere in between.

When the Player Characters enter the world, whose name is Elthos btw, they can, but do not necessary have to, cross paths with the major NPCs and/or their minions.  Sometimes the PCs may join forces with them, or wind up fighting against them, or sometimes just wave as they pass by.  Often times they wind up in opposition with the goals of the NPCs and so a conflict ensues.  These conflicts usually engage the minions who may be running missions in accordance with their leader's objectives.  The PCs will in these cases try to stop them.  Eventually, perhaps, word of these efforts reach the upper tiers and a Main Character NPC may become aware of the Player Characters, and begin to work against them actively.  Especially if they've been successful at thwarting their plans.

This all is as it should be and this style of play lends itself to being fun for both myself and the Players.  I never quite know how any given game is going to go, nor do I try to steer the Players toward any specific objective or goal as the GM.  That said, they may be in the service of a Main Character NPC who definitely will be trying to steer them toward a specific objective, but I take on that role of NPC as though I were playing the Character him or herself, so I don't consider it me as GM trying to steer the group toward an end goal for the game, and I certainly don't tell the Players which NPCs they should have an association with.  I leave all that decision making to them, and flow along with whatever they decide.

Sometimes this leads to difficult situations.  They may, for example, decide that some activity is so wrong and terrible that they must wage a campaign against it.  But the underlying story, the Main Character NPC, and the situation may cause them to engage with an opponent that is completely over their heads.  When the fighting starts, they may realize that they're totally outnumbered, or out classed by the forces they're opposing.

And this is where the problem of Sandbox and Game Balance come in.  Some GMs try to always establish a balance between the PC group and their opponents, in an effort to keep the game fair and avoid the twin problems of Too Hard and Too Easy.  While the goal is laudable, in some respects, it is also, I find, impractical to some degree.  The reasons why are as follows.

One, it is very difficult, depending on the RPG rules, to determine what the balance between two forces actually is, especially in cases where you have randomized initiative rolls to determine who strikes first.  I've surmised from my studies that getting an accurate calculation as to what percent chance either side has of winning would involve the use of binomial math, and after going back and forth on that for some time (I originally thought deriving a calculation would be relatively easy), I was informed by mathematicians far better than I that the only practical way to do it would be to run simulated combats between the two groups a hundred or so times and find out from that what percent of those runs results in one side winning over the other.  I'm pretty sure that most GMs don't do that.  And I'm pretty sure that most GMs actually just eyeball the thing and say something like "Yeah, 10 Orcs and an Orgre ... that shouldn't be too hard for these guys", and leave it at that.  The problem, as we all know, is that this is a hopelessly inaccurate process and the results vary considerably, especially if the forces arrayed have unusual powers at their disposal.

The second problem is that as GM of a sandbox world, I'm never quite sure I know who is going to actually be in a battle at any given encounter.  This is because the Players may split the party.  Yes, I know - everyone knows - you should never split the party.  But since I don't tell my Players what they should do, I simply go with whatever they decide to do, they wind up splitting the party (as often as not to their regret, but so be it).  So no matter how maticulously I might (and I don't) try to create "Balanced Encounters" there's really no way I will know if the encounter is harshly one sided or not until the moment the party encounters it.  After all Players may split the party exactly one moment before the actual encounter ("Ok, we'll bust the door down and charge into this room, but you guys go down the stairs and block any Orcs that may come up this way while we fight whatever's in there.")  This kind of thing has been known to happen.  So attempting to create Balanced Encounters as often as not simply doesn't work.  This is a result of allowing Players to do what they want, even if it is not necessarily the best idea in the world.  And yes, there's pros and cons to this approach.  Some GMs avoid it by running Railroad Campaigns.  And while some will argue that such a thing should never be, my own feeling about it is that it's ok, so long as the Players are ok with it and everyone has fun.  But I don't run Railroad Campaigns and I don't want to.  I like the free flow style, and I find it more exciting a way for me as GM to play the game.  After all, why should the Players be the only ones who get surprised?

So for me, I tend to sacrifice Balance for Freedom.  I let the Players do what they want to do, without much guidance (especially if they don't ask for it from any NPCs who might be able to offer advice).  But at the same time the Player Characters are at risk of encounters that can squish them like little bugs if they aren't careful.  Or be way too easy for them.  The way I handle that is by randomizing the encounters to a certain degree.  So while I know that a certain area of the scene (in this case the secret underground township of Whitewode) has a certain kind of opponent, I don't determine in advance exactly how many there are, or even what their exact composition will be.  I roll for it at the time.  To make this work for me, I usually generate the NPCs randomly in advance, but when the encounter happens I roll to see how many of those NPCs happen to be on the scene.  So what happens next is to some degree a matter of luck, but it also very much depends on how clever the Players are when they hit the encounter.  I have rules in my game (Elthos RPG) that allow for a variety of ways to attempt to cut and run in case the odds are overwhelming.  Sometimes they take advantage of that to escape before they get themselves killed.  Other times they plow in and hope for the best.  As it happens my Players are damn lucky die rollers for some reason, and most of the time they manage to get through and achieve their goals.  I've often been shocked by the incredibly good timing of their "Critical Hits".  But that's luck for ya.

At any rate, that's how I handle my Sandbox world in relation to Balanced Encounters.  I don't really try too hard to make the Balance, I just let things play out based on the luck of the rolls.  Sometimes it goes poorly for the PCs.  Sometimes it goes poorly for the NPCs.  But either way, the risk of calamity makes the game exciting, and when those incredibly lucky rolls do happen you can bet there are loud cries of delight and amazement around my table.  As there should be.  :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Notes on OD&D - Part 32

Ok moving on to the 3rd Level Clerical "Spells"...

Men & Magic
  • p32 - Explanation of Clerical Spells - 3rd Level
Remove Curse: This spell is the same as that for Magic-Users.

So I think what we should take way from this is that Clerics and Magic-Users really were more or less equivalents. There is little to distinguish the two by spells themselves, because the spells both work the same way mechanically, and there is significant overlap between the two classes. So what is the the difference then? As far as I can tell, the major difference is that Magic-Users were intended to be non-fighters, whereas Clerics were a combination of Fighter and Magic-User, with a focus on slightly different kinds of spells. As I've already covered the overlap, I will move on, but you can review the spell list distinctions in Notes on OD&D - Part 15.

I rate this spell 3 out of 5 Stars for usefulness. (I don't see it coming up that often, frankly)

Cure Disease: A spell which cures any form of disease. The spell is only method to rid a character of a disease from a curse, for example.

Um... uh... wait. This is a bit confusing. So a curse can cause a disease. But Remove Curse doesn't work on that. Only Cure Disease works on that, despite the fact that we have Remove Curse sitting right there above this spell. Um ... ok. Kind of squirrely. I would think it should be, in this case, that if someone is diseased by a curse that either Remove Curse OR Cure Disease would work to cure it. Meh. As a GM I would prefer a less convoluted arrangement. I suspect my players would feel the same. But ok. Its D&D v1, some bugs included.

I rate this spell 2.5 Stars out of 5 for usefulness (because it's confusing).

Locate Object: This spell is the same as that for Magic-Users, except that the base range is 9".

Ditto on my comment above.

I rate this spell 3 out of 5 Stars for usefulness.

Continuous Light: This spell is the same as that for Magic-Users, except that the light shed is equal to full daylight.

Ok, this suggests a superiority of Clerics in terms of dealing with those monsters which are destroyed by daylight. This includes:

Surprisingly, perhaps, trolls are not included in those creatures effected by full daylight. I'm a bit miffed at that. There may be other monsters that are affected by daylight as well, but conducting a few searches in google failed to produce a list of them, so I am thinking that the above list will do for now. If I find in Monsters & Treasure others that should be included (I'll be surprised if daylight has no bearing on Shades, and the like), I will add them.

I rate this spell 4 out of 5 Stars for usefulness (because full daylight is a good thing).

Ok that section was easy. Very few spells, most of them overlapping Magic-User spells which I already covered. So yah. Until next time, ciao.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Battle of Whitewode with TTS

Currently in the World of Elthos ...

Our heroes are still trapped in the cursed township of Whitewode as it comes under assault of the Pech Army. Praymar, the albino lizard-prince is rallying his Lizardmen forces behind the East gate. on the other side are Gnoll archers peppering the town with flaming arrows, and who have set the the main gate on fire.

Within the township Praymar has set his trap. He ignites the bonfire in front of him, and orders the Lizardmen to open the gates. He expects the Gnolls to charge in en mass, and be attacked on the flanks by his Lizardmen.

The two armies are equal in size, at 30 troops each. How will things turn out for Praymar? Stay tuned...

As for the layout here, I am using Tabletop Simulator to create the scenes.  It's a nice little piece of software from Berserk Games.  I am using it both in-house on one monitor that my group looks at, and also online with a friend who lives a few States down the East Coast, with whom we connect with via Hangouts.  I share the Tabletop Simulator via Hangouts, and have another computer with a webcam via which he can see all of us in the room, and we can see him.  It's a very functional setup, and works rather nicely to keep both Sam, and my group, engaged-as-hell in the game.  :)  If you don't mind paying about $20 bucks for Tabletop Simulator, and the associated learning curve to use it, then I do recommend giving it a try.  If you do, or are using it currently, please let me know what you think of it, and how you go about employing it for your games.  Curious to hear other people's experience with it.  Mine's been solid good thus far, despite the learning curve and relatively minor hiccups.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Some Thoughts on Settings vs Systems

I read this post by Ryan M. Danks just now that talks about how to get around the conundrum of writing Settings for the many RPG Systems out there. It was a thoughtful post, and provides some interesting advice. But the more I thought about it the harder I thought it would be to actually follow the advice. Once again, the problem is that ... it's complicated.

The advice seemed pretty spot on advice to me at first, in that Settings are the gift that keeps on giving, and frankly I don't think it is possible to saturate the market as the options are infinite.

As I see it RPG Systems tend to be rigid and can force Settings down certain paths due to the intricacies of the rules. For example, most systems come with specific items, classes, spells, and so on, specific in many cases to that particular system. The implications on the world are huge, and can limit you into making Settings choices that aren't really what you wanted to write about. But since, for example, the rules have Fire Ball spells, you kinda have no choice but to take them into account. Otherwise the GMs who buy your setting for System X will complain that there's no Fire Balls, and everyone knows the Heroes are going to have Fire Balls. So you include Fire Balls as one of the Spells for your new evil Shamen class. It doesn't fit, but hell with it.  The System has Fire Balls, and so you're obliged to factor that in. When you play to a System it shapes your Setting. It has to.  In a sense, that is what Systems are for.

However, if you write Settings that don't include anything from a known setting, but instead includes things you have in mind that are different and cool, such as a handful of spells that actually do fit your new evil Shamen class... well, now you kind of have to define those spells and how they work so that once they bought your Setting the GMs and Players know what to do with them. But then once you do that you're kind of on rocky terrain because that suggests that the spells you want to create for your Setting are going to have some System stuff associated to them. The evil Shamen spell "Shadow Fist", for example, might be defined in your Setting as doing 1d6 damage to the recipient's Mystic Points. But what if the system the GM likes to play doesn't have Mystic Points, but uses some totally different mechanic for magic? The GM will then need to translate into their preferred System. It gets messy.  You could just say, instead, "Shadow Fist is a spell that does spiritual damage," but does that really solve the problem?  The GM and the Players may wind up scratching their heads and asking "Well, how do we account for that?"

I think a possible solution is to write stories. Stories that are representative of the Setting you have in mind. And include in the stories history, main characters, and descriptions of the kinds of things that can happen. Include maps. Include a plot line. But whatever you do, don't include specifics, like armors, weapons, spells and whatnot. Adding any of that would open the can of worms.  Then you market the Story as a Setting for RPGs, just with the technical details left out.  This would allow GMs for any system to pick up your story and run with it.  Maybe.

To be honest, I'm not sure how many GMs will want to purchase Settings if they don't come with the technical stats that they need to run the game. A lot of GMs are perfectly fine with creating their own histories, NPCs, plot lines and so forth. Where they need help is in saving time creating the Stats for all their monsters, villains, NPC heroes, and treasures (that fit their world), and so on. GMs will gravitate towards anything that is creative AND saves them time.

Unfortunately, as many people have pointed out, there's a huge glut of RPG Systems. And there's more every month. Everyone wants to create Systems, and tie them to their Settings. In fact, I believe that has been a mantra of the Indie Revolution for some time.  The Rules must actively support and reinforce the Setting.  Of course not everyone is writing Indie RPGs and there's been a big push among OSR enthusiasts to also produce RPGs.  But even so, it seems to be that Settings-Systems come together and are fused into one thing. And consequently it's often hard for GMs to take Settings materials that were written for one System and apply them easily and efficiently to another. They are still stuck translating from one System to another, and it is still time consuming.  And there is always the matter of Stuff that's in a Setting for System X that doesn't exist in System Y.

It may be there is no easy solution. We may have to go back in time and explain to Gygax and Arneson that they need to focus on simplifying the rules rather than expanding them, and focusing on Settings that can fit into those rules easily, thus making the market about Settings, not rules. Unfortunately that didn't happen. So here we are. I'm not sure there's a good solution to the problem at this point. But if there is any, it's in a simple system that allows conversions to other systems as easily as possible.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Some Thoughts on Escapism

Some random thoughts that come to mind while reading Jens D's very interesting and thought provoking post here.

The question of escapism requires context in order to discern whether it is useful or detrimental. By itself it is unclear which way it should be considered as it has both a positive and negative aspect. For example, escapism when in jail, certainly, is a positive. However, escapism when reality requires your attention is a negative. As an example, those who escape into fantasy worlds (to the extreme) and wind up missing work, and (in some cases) living degraded lives in their mom's basement playing World of Warcraft... that would be rightfully considered a negative. So... whether escapism is useful and a good thing, or detrimental and a bad thing depends on who is using it, when, and for what purpose, and to what effect. In other words - it's complicated.

Stories are indeed important. However, they are not important because of their entertainment value, although that is what makes them useful (which is to say that is why people listen to them). They are important because they teach valuable lessons about life. For example, that prehistoric caveman around the fire telling the story of the wild buffalo and how he overcame it with his "new fangled" arrow (the older geezers probably grumbling about how in the old days they had to use their teeth to slay the buffalo) taught the youth that arrows are a good and heroic thing.

But furthermore, and this is where it gets really weird, the stories of the ancients very often dealt with completely impractical matters such as The Gods, and the dawn of existence, and this sort of thing. But laden in those stories were a lot of lessons about morality. And that's really why they were told, I think. Now we might look at those stories of The Gods and wonder what the heck kind of morality they had, seeing has how they were pretty wild, incestuous, and power-crazed (apparently), but we can't really fathom from here what the minds of our ancestors thought, and what their hearts felt, when they originally heard these stories for the first time. We can't possibly expect to superimpose our 21st century emotions, moralities, and thoughts on the distant past that way and imagine that we can understand any of their feelings or thoughts. We'd be bone headed stupid to assume we can understand any of it from their point of view.

Speaking of which... Imagination. Fantasy is all about imagination, and that's been going on since the dawn of man. But the reaction against it, which appears to culminate in the accusation of escapism, is unfairly targeted at the Industrial Age. In fact, warnings against the imagination are founded in none other than the Bible.
"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
- Genesis 6:5
Now some people might say "oh well that's why Religion is so bad... how can people cast aspersions on Imagination?!" But I think that would be an overly simplistic conclusion to draw. The ancients who wrote all of those stories that we so love include those that are found in the Bible, many of which actually predate the Bible and come from Summarian culture anyway. They are some of the oldest and most profound stories in the world. So we shouldn't lightly discount them as if we are all so smart. We should, I think, try to understand them as best we can. There may be hidden nuggets of wisdom there, after all.

But lets put Imagination in the Biblical context for a moment to see why, and how important it was. It was the imagination of man that produced, after all, the technological wonder of the Tower of Babel, which "reached the heavens". What this story is about, the lesson, I think, is that man is too immature, to petty, selfish, and cruel to obtain God-like Technological Power. It was, from God, a big warning when He cast down the Tower of Babel and thwarted the once unified language of man. It was to prohibit, perhaps, the ultimate evil - that the imagination of man would create technologies that could destroy the entire world. Or worse - the Universe itself (tampering with the boson higgs field comes to mind:

So the power of the Imagination is great... and it could be our ultimate doom. And that might be why the Bible warns us about it, and against its use.

But that takes me back to the Bible itself - a collection of stories. Which employ the use of the imagination. We visualize these stories in order to understand them, and God, apparently, gave us the ability and power to do so, as well as the Bible itself with which we are obviously intended to use our imaginations. So imagination, although unwieldy and potentially dangerous, is also intrinsic to our being. It is the God-like power that divinity grants to mankind, and that's how Tolkien saw it. Which is why he was an advocate of Mythopoeia. Again, just like with escapism, Imagination is complicated.

What Tolkien and CS Lewis, Owen Barfield, and the rest of the Inklings were concerned with was the use of the Imagination to produce Good, rather than evil. And as stories can, and should, teach valuable lessons, and not the least of which are lessons about morality, they should be considered to be a Good use of the Imagination. Just as we would have to conclude that the Bible itself is a Good use of the Imagination.

Another thing to consider that Jens D's post brought to mind is that Tolkien lived through both WWI and WWII... he fought in WWI on the front lines and at the Somme. He was a man who lived through the absolute worst that human imagination had been able to contrive to that date. We in our time, those of us who never lived through such things, have an almost impossible time understanding the world-view that was inevitably molded by such experiences. So when Tolkien rails against jailers and accuses them of being the ones who are most likely to denounce escapism, I think we should understand the context of his experience that might well have lead him to feel that in the big picture we are all in prison... with small and fruitless interludes between The Great Wars that actually define and are the reality of human life on earth. And we should also remember that he was a devout Christian, and therefore believed that the world itself is ruled by Satan, and that the true escape is to Heaven itself.

Which leads me to the last point I want to make - escapism in the service of the Good is a wonderful thing. But I can't say that it is always and absolutely a good thing. If escapism leads one to a state of depravity, which it very well can, then it's not a good thing at all. After all, one can easily jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

So in conclusion, it is my assessment that when creating a world and adventures therein, that we also may keep these ideas in mind as well. It is my hope and goal to make my World and it's campaigns not merely entertaining, but at some level, albeit often imperceivably so, lessons of one sort or another. Whether I am successful at that is besides the point, as I can't really be the judge of the result. I'm far too biased in my own favor. So I will have to leave it for history to decide.