Historical Jesus: The Role Playing Game (Jonathan Tweet Debates Richard Carrier)

I recently made the (virtual) acquaintance of the famous game designer Jonathan Tweet, who has been involved in authoring a number of Dungeons and Dragons volumes and books for other RPGs. Jonathan also published his first children’s book recently, Grandmother Fish, introducing children to evolution. I plan on blogging about that soon – and getting my copy signed by Jonathan in person at Gen Con.

But it turns out that our interests overlap on more than gaming and evolution. There is an upcoming debate in Seattle between Jonathan Tweet and Richard Carrier, about mythicism and the historical Jesus! The title of the event is “What Should Atheists Conclude about the Existence of Jesus?” and it will be held at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, Washington 98106) on Friday, August 11th at 7pm.  You can find the outline of Jonathan’s presentation on his blog.

I also discovered that there is a game that allows you to take on the role of Jesus. It is called A.D. 30 and it is by Victory Point Games. Here’s the description from their website:

Tom Decker’s A.D. 30: Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem is a very reverent solitaire game that takes you, as the player, along the travels of Jesus, from His baptism in the River Jordan to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Along the way, you will make decisions which will affect the outcome of His journeys and teachings. Thirteen possible alternate outcomes are included, not to imply that other outcomes were in fact possible, but to build a strategy game that includes challenges with the possibility of success and failure as the player of the game. Achieving the Major Victory (the historical outcome) will demonstrate the extraordinary set of circumstances that took place and were necessary to achieve the birth of Christianity.

The events that take place often cause the political and religious leaders of the area (represented by Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, and Pontius Pilate) to take notice and become increasingly concerned. In game terms, this is shown by moving those Leader markers along a track on the game board, advancing them from their start spaces one step at a time until they reach the final space on that track (“Arrest in Jerusalem”), at which point they attempt to arrest Jesus.

You get the chance to react to these movements with several choices each game turn. The goal is to assemble all twelve Apostles, maintain a high level of piety, and enter into Jerusalem. Additionally, when trying to reconstruct the beginnings of Christianity historically, it is imperative that Judas betrays Jesus in Jerusalem. Events tend to push Jesus towards Jerusalem, but try to avoid entering too early before all the important pieces are in place!

That game, intersecting with a game designer debating Richard Carrier about the historical Jesus, provided the inspiration for the title of this post. Of related interest see “The VALUE Project: Games and Archaeology at Leiden University.” I was also delighted to see that the American Academy of Religion has released a draft of guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship, and that “games” is included on the list of possibilities.

Finally, I had my attention drawn to Hirst Arts Molds, which has resources for replicating ancient buildings, which can be useful for historical reenactment gaming as well as other purposes.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John MacDonald

    As a secular person, I initially took an interest in Christianity because I wanted to consider the Noble Lie theory of Christian origins. I think I’ve explored that avenue as far as I can go, so I really don’t have any reason to discuss religion any further. The more I explore religion, the more bizarre and foreign it seems to me. Religious people seem just plain weird to me, and I’m happy that none of my close friends or family believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever other superstition is the flavor of the month.

    The one thing I take away from the question of the relationship between Christianity and the Greeks is that the resurrection stories about Jesus may have begun as Noble Lies by some who were trying to make the world a better place. I tried to outline my understanding of the Noble Lie theory of Christian origins, along with the reader comment section, here: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.ca/. It may have all been a lie, or it could have just been a bunch of different people hallucinating Jesus, but there is really no reason to choose one theory over the other. It’s just something we will never know.

    I’m glad that I will no longer be discussing religion, or associating with anyone who does. I now think that secular people who discuss God with religious people unwittingly lend credibility to ridiculous ancient superstitions.

    What a waste of time! lol

    • Eli Odell Jackson

      You sound like a fool.

      You have removed Christianity from its Jewish context, in doing so you err.
      Your fashionable atheism is both unlivable and itself ‘the flavor of the month’.

      The Way of Jesus Christ of Nazareth however is as timeless as any doctrine or teaching that has ever existed.

  • Brandon Roberts

    the evidence is very unreliable however we don’t have that many reliable records from that point in time (as far as i’m aware but i could be wrong)