In a room illuminated only be candlelight, four youths sat around a modest, square altar. In a voice of grim determination, one of them spoke...This is a scene from the TV movie Mazes & Monsters, broadcast near the end of 1982. (Interestingly, this scene does not appear in Rona Jaffe's book upon which the movie is based.)
“I am the Maze Controller; the god of this universe I created; the absolute authority. Only I know the perilous course you are about to take. Your fate is in my hands...[setting description]...Thus warned, shall ye enter?”
“Let the journey begin...”
When I first played D&D, it was in the lunch room of my elementary school. The only associated ritual was the Liturgy of the Pudding Cups. (Admittedly, we performed the ritual with less than pious solemnity and, occasionally, ignored it altogether.) The way role-playing games were presented in the media was embarrassing, but I was young. For all I knew, some people actually played the game in candlelit rooms, reciting strange phrases, wearing robes and/or funny hats, and perhaps even roaming through tunnels. No one I knew played that way and the adults who worked at the game store scoffed at the notion. Still, there had to be some basis in truth, right? Like I said, I was young.
While some role-playing game rulebooks provide mood-setting advice for sessions, Timeship – published the year after Mazes & Monsters was broadcast – actually incorporates a non-optional ritual as a component of play. Among the preparations for the Great Ritual of the Timeship, lights should be dimmed and a lit candle placed on the players' side of the Timelord's screen.
Scenarios in Timeship are called Time Capsules. Players (i.e., Voyagers) enter a Time Capsule via a Gateway. Each Time Capsule has a drawing (approximately 8½” × 11”) that represents the Gateway and displays the scene in which the Voyagers will appear.
After the preparations are complete, the Timelord and the Voyagers engage in the following litany.
Timelord: Now begins the Great Ritual of the Timeship. Is it your will to travel through the timestream?
Voyagers: It is!
Timelord: Are your preparations made to your utmost satisfaction?
Voyagers: They are!
Timelord: Is your equipment ready?
Voyagers: It is.
Timelord: Are your souls at peace?
Voyagers: They are.
Timelord: Are you ready?
Timelord: By my authority as Timelord, by the arts of the TIMESHIP, I hereby bind you within the timestream, subject to its laws!
Voyagers: We are so bound.
Timelord: Behold the Gateway!
The Voyagers now stare intently for a moment at the Gateway, then, closing their eyes briefly, attempt to imagine the scene depicted on the Gateway as if it existed before them in literal reality.
Timelord: Let the adventure begin!
Here ends the Great Ritual of the Timeship.
Timelord: Step through the Gateway!
Herbie Brennan, the author of Timeship, stated that he based the Great Ritual of the Timeship on “an esoteric technique known as pathworking.” Is such a ritual necessary to play Timeship? Technically, no; however, Brennan devotes one of the forty-eight pages of the rulebook to describing the ritual. For Brennan, the ritual is an essential part of the game; it effects the transition from the reality of the players to the experience of the Voyagers. Since the players are the Voyagers, this transition is perhaps more useful in Timeship than it would be in games where players adopt the roles of fictional entities.
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Bonus Thoulish Trivia: The television production of Mazes & Monsters was “fully sponsored” by Procter & Gamble. In 1985, P&G 'retired' its logo (shown below) because they were unable to dispel rumors that it was a satanic symbol.
Coincidence? I think the reader already knows the answer.
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