Roleplaying god

The creators of what they describe as the country’s first original role-playing game hope their venture will open up new worlds.

RPG creators 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of the Arrow of Time creators)
RPG creators 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Arrow of Time creators)
In the second-floor study of a downtown Jerusalem bookshop, a group of self-professed hnunim (nerds) spend hours wrestling with a dilemma that has confounded few people, if any: How can a group of researchers blessed with ethereal powers go back in time to the year zero and rescue a planet that is doomed to destruction by its three approaching suns? This is not the plot of a science fiction film or a futuristic cartoon but the theme behind The Arrow of Time, a venture that is being billed as Israel’s first original role-playing game (RPG).
Created by three twentysomething Jerusalemites hoping to capitalize on the popularity of well-known simulation games like Dungeons and Dragons, the new RPG is ready to take the country by storm. It offers participants the chance to use their imaginations while adopting a fantasy-based persona that is tasked with functioning effectively in a group dynamic toward a common goal. Each player takes on the role of a researcher that is armed with special capabilities and tools. The goal is to band together with other members of a group in the hopes of discovering the secret object that will save the doomed planet. Indiana Jones meets Star Wars.
The game is based on Iliya, a character that was conceived by co-creator Noam Kimhi.
“I first came up with the idea when I was in ninth grade,” says Kimhi, a Ma’aleh Adumim resident. “I decided to construct my own world. About five years ago my good friend Shay [Halimi] and I decided that we wanted to create a game of our own. Initially, the concept was to create a board game. But we soon came to the conclusion that because we were so good at roleplaying games, we would create a role-playing game.”
After years of painstaking work, which included the addition of a third partner, Michael Yofis, into the project, Kimhi and Halimi produced a booklet that included the game’s main storyline and its rules. They handed it to a group of close friends who are well versed in the world of RPGs and provided feedback and criticism. A few tweaks and minor adjustments later, the game was unveiled to the public for an initial pilot at the Holzer Books store on Jaffa Road.
During the pilot run, Kimhi takes on the role of game master, the all-knowing guide whose job is to direct the players by presenting them with challenges and dilemmas on their journey back in time to rescue the endangered planet. The players are asked to delve into the depths of their imaginations while adhering to the rules of the game and the limitations of their respective characters.
Kimhi, Halimi and Yofis anticipate a six-week trial run at the bookstore, after which they expect to publish a book that will include the storyline, game rules and the illustrations of graphic artist Assaf Karass.
The inspiration for the game originated with Kimhi, who attributes his vivid imagination to a “difficult childhood.”
“When I was 15, I was the short, fat kid in the class who would always get picked on, and I would often be alone,” Kimhi recalls. “That was when I decided that I needed to grab onto some fictitious, alter egolike character that was incredibly strong and possessed godlike powers that made him superior to others but at the same time was bad. It was kind of born out of an instinct for revenge against the whole world, similar to a rebellious youth lashing out. That moved me to conjure up Iliya,” he explains.
Since hooking up with Halimi, the two have kept working. “We are people who have an excessively wild imaginations,” says Halimi. “We don’t need inspiration because the inspiration doesn’t leave us for a second.
We’re always thinking about new things to add.”
Aside from the fun that is derived from indulging scientific fantasies, RPGs also offer participants a forum to stretch their imaginations while improving their abilities to function within a group.
“It’s a very social-friendly experience,” says Halimi.
“It’s almost impossible to play this game by yourself.
You need a group to make it work. What generates interest within the game is the different ways in which the players think.”
Kimhi says the RPG is also unique in that it incorporates elements of neuro-linguistic programming, as well as guided affective imagery, a technique that is used to alleviate psychological ailments like depression and anxiety.
“The concept of RPGs was invented as a study aid for people with limited imaginations and cognitive difficulties. It was originally meant to be used as a means of psychological therapy,” says Kimhi. “Players learn to develop their imaginations, improve their creativity, their ability to think and their ability to cope with unfamiliar situations.”
The game’s target audience is people who are familiar with the world of RPGs, as well as youngsters between eight and 15 who can play in groups at community centers after school.
Kimhi and Halimi hope that the game’s popularity will grow by word of mouth, with a promotional campaign planned for Facebook and other social media outlets.
“This is an amazing story,” says Kimhi. “People really enjoy the concept, which combines elements of the past and the future. Whoever has enough of an imagination to picture an entire city in his mind will experience this game visually.”
“I think everybody would want to go back in time and possess the powers of a god,” says Halimi. “This is what we are offering people through this game. If it sounds out of this world, then that is exactly the point. For people who are familiar with fantasy and science fiction of the movies, this game taps into those same elements which are all encased in our own minds.”