“Cleopatra is dead,” begins the voiceover narration of the trailer for The Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible. “Distant empires struggle for world domination, while the people in the middle kingdoms wait for the coming of a so-called Messiah.” So go the events of the first century A.D. Fast-forward to the twenty-first century A.D., and Cleopatra is still dead, but we also have the internet, and with it, Kickstarter crowdfunding.
As of this writing, the Kickstarter for The Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible has raised over $47,000 from more than 880 backers, massively exceeding its original $5,500 goal. And that’s with a February 5th deadline—there’s plenty of time left for that pot of gold to overflow even more. An ambitious project of Red Panda Publishing, the Guide sets the events of the Bible alongside non-biblically documented events, and in the midst of all of this, invites players to create their own characters and stories as they would in any other Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The project creators note that this sort of collaborative, choose-your-own adventure storytelling is itself biblical, explaining:
“Each time Jesus tells his gathered listeners about the prodigal son or the good Samaritan, he is creating a scenario that challenges the listener not only to reflect, but to respond. Just look at how many of these parables end with a question like ‘what would you do next?’”
You might have a question of your own: What exactly is all that money for? The funds are intended to go toward the production and publication of a hardcover, vividly illustrated campaign guide compatible with “5E,” shorthand for the 5th edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rulebook. The differences between the various editions of the game might seem opaque if you’re not well-versed in tabletop gaming, but as one blog post puts it, “5E is not just the most approachable edition of D&D ever, it’s also one of the most approachable RPGs ever made,” meaning that it’s simple for new players to grasp the game’s mechanics and dive right in.
The same post argues, however, that 5E is not so appealing for GMs, or Game Masters—typically known as Dungeon Masters in the context of Dungeons & Dragons. This is because rather than being granted a ton of artistic license as they run the show, “The GMs are just there to execute the game. Particularly, to execute published, prewritten games. And to allow the players to show off their creative visions during those published, prewritten games.” The Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible is one such game. At 350 pages, the Guide will be replete with relevant maps, NPCs, monsters, and all other information necessary to produce a fully fleshed-out story, as long as your character doesn’t exceed level 10. For the uninitiated: characters level up as they go on adventures, eventually maxing out at level 20; a thorough explanation of character levels can be found here.
The Kickstarter FAQ page promises simultaneous fealty to the Bible’s text and incorporation of the game aspects players love—“dungeon crawls, mysteries, romance, monsters, etc.” High-level supporters of the book have also been promised a related Spell Cards deck and world map poster.
Now here’s the part that makes this truly a new source of adventure rather than a rehash of a narrative with which many are intimately familiar: the majority of the campaign takes place in 26 A.D., a period in Jesus’ life that the Bible does not cover. The Guide’s creators explain that this choice is meant to give players freedom and flexibility to build their own narratives within the campaign without conflicting with the Bible’s own narrative arc.
According to a Reddit comment by the creators, the Guide was first born out of a personal desire to play in a biblical setting, with no plans for a wider release. However, the Christian response, particularly from youth groups and Bible study groups that play 5E, pushed Red Panda Publishing to expand their vision. This is the publishing group’s first major project, though the game designers have independently published a few board games.
The year is 2022. We have the internet, we have Kickstarter, we have Dungeons & Dragons, Cleopatra is dead, and The Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible is scheduled to ship out to Kickstarter supporters this coming August.
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