The Writing

14 February, 2011

role-playing

I played my first RPG my senior year of high school. The Rat invited me to play a pre-made character in a Star Trek RPG...Janissa Grenadine, gods help me that I remember it. Had a blast, although I annoyed the GM (who had a thing for the Rat, apparently not grasping that he was not her type on a chromosomal level). Then she started an AD&D campaign, and we were off, and we've been gaming together ever since. That's 20-plus years now. Some marriages don't last that long.

Speaking of: I met both husbands (no, not at the same time) in Vampire: The Masquerade LARPs.

I've done the SCA thing (and will do it again at some point, maybe), and the Ren Faire thing. Not gaming, exactly, but still role-playing, and with the added fun of costumes. We still dress up for Faire, even though we don't work there anymore. It's fun.

So yeah. I love role-playing. I love role-players. I understand us. Even the stereotyped socially inept-so-immersed-in-fantasy-they-can-hardly-function gamers--which I never have been, mind you. I get them. The neopagans and the deviants and the people in black and leather skulking around coffee shops, which I have been all at once before; and I'm still two and three, to some extent (or as much as one can be in a town of only Starbucks).

But I do not, at all, understand role-playing real religion, in either belief or praxis. I mean, my religion sometimes informs and shapes my fiction, or my RPGs, or whatever--but my RPGs and my fiction do not inform my praxis. No. No. No.

There's a lot of theatre in the neopagan ritual scene. Lot of high church elements. You know. Props. Wands and staffs and cups and athames and robes and special jewelry. I grew up Catholic. I get all the costuming and the theatre that goes into (semi)public ritual.  I get the "make sacred space argument," and I recognize the underlying purposes behind the pageantry. And since a lot of the neopagans I've met overlap with the RPG, SCA, and Ren Faire crowds, it doesn't surprise me that there's bleed over, and a sense of drama wrapped up in worship. Nothing wrong with it, to a point. Except....

Except. Okay, I'm a revivalist. Hard polytheist. I understand the irritation Asatruers have with Wiccatru, and Theodish aggravation with Asatru, and all the vice versas. Spats over dogma, ideas about hierachies and the proper way to show honor, okay, bring it. We can wave primary sources at each other and quote experts all damn day. If you want approach Them in Wiccan Circles, go right ahead. Just don't be surprised when the recons go batshit on you for it. But this isn't just Wiccatru vs. The Recons, because I see the recons and revivalists doing it, too. Costumes. Garb. Special tools. And I get all that, from the ritualized standpoint--when one performs for an audience, symbols are useful. But I do not understand why one needs a hammer.

I realize this is a very Catholic/Protestant sort of thing, and the irony is killing me; because for a transcendent and omnipotent god, I think the trappings and ritual are vital. But not for the Gods I know. They're... family. Kin. The old uncle who deserves your respect, who comes to dinner, who will help you out if you need it but expects you to be an adult, not a little grabby kid. The sort of uncle who would not be impressed by your fancy dishes or your linen table cloth, but who appreciates good beer or vodka. No nonsense. No bullshit. No pretense. My faith (and it's not, really... it's a certainty, deep as bone) hinges on that kind of...what is the word? Not honesty. Not genuineness. Not simplicity, either. In any case, I approach Them as family, which is to say--of all the beings in the universe, why would you need to perform for Them? They know me. To play at dress-up and theatre seems to me childish, like the little kid who dresses as her favorite character and insists everyone calls her by that name. I acknowledge that some folks out there are genuine, even as they perform; but I distrust the performance and by extension, the performer.