Saturday, May 31, 2003

I've been working more on Phoenix Earth lately, after a long period of just not thinking about it much. I'm really happy with the work that's been done recently: revamping the specialization system, making a few tweaks to the combat system, and carefully crafting my villains' character sheets. Of course I am on the one hand merely excited to be back in that world. But on the other hand I am also excited to have the dream revived. Why? At the end of Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis writes the following:

"'Anyway,' he continued, 'what we need for the moment is not so much a body of belief as a body of people familiarized with certain ideas. If we could even effect in one per cent of our readers a change-over from the conception of Space to the conception of Heaven, we should have made a beginning.'"

If you are familiar with Lewis' other fiction, I think you will perceive that this is the man himself speaking. And it is an effort to which I would like to direct Phoenix Earth. There is more to it than that, of course; for my players the game certainly stands on its own (though, I should note, the world does not). I don't mean for Phoenix Earth to be an evangelistic tool, but I do hope that it is useful for the intellectual life of those who come into contact with it. I consider a childhood spent among fantasy and science fiction to be one of my humblest but most useful intellectual tools. It frees me, to a large extent, from the plausibility fallacy. That fallacy looks like this: when a historian reads an account of, say, the Red Sea crossing (or the Persians' repulsion from Delphi, or any other ancient miracle you care to name) they tend to dismiss it because such things are simply too absurd to be countenanced. That doesn't seem like a particularly good argument to me, and I find myself much less prone to it simply because such things do not seem particularly strange to me.

I should be very pleased if Phoenix Earth gives my friends the tools to consider the spiritual realm unfettered by the tendency to say, "now hold on, doesn't that strike you as ridiculous?" It's all well and good for The DM to consider that the admission of the reality of the spiritual world would demystify it - but that's precisely the problem. The virtue of the spiritual is not that it's mystic but that it's real. If that be not admitted, you're not only gutting the "mystic" system you're considering, you're still playing with mere make-believe. And why then is the "mystic" worthy of anything but our recreational time?

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