Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is Dungeons & Dragons Evil? - Part 1

Upon announcing that I'd be hosting a Dungeons & Dragons party, I was immediately looked down upon and told "Dungeons & Dragons is evil and leads to witchcraft and Satanic worship! Why would you do this?!?". I was shocked by this response and more so as it was presented by educated, well spoken, and generally open-minded people.

Dungeons & Dragons draws it's roots from wargames - the recreation of historical battles using little metal miniatures. In 1971, Gary Gygax created a new set of rules called Chainmail which allowed fantasy elements to be added to these massive miniature battles. Many games based on similar ideas still exist today, including Warhammer Fantasy, Lord Of The Rings Miniature Game, etc. Dave Arneson approached Gary Gygax in 1972 with the idea of having the players control only a single character instead of an entire army. As the D&D Dungeon Master's Manual describes it,
"This combination of rules, miniatures, and imaginination created a totally new entertainment experience, and in 1974 Gygax and Arneson published the first set of roleplaying game rules with TSR, Inc. - the Dungeons & Dragons game."

The Character You Play

To play Dungeons & Dragons, you first have to have a character. A character is a representative inside the fantasy world that you control. You say he jumps, he jumps. You say she attacks with an axe, she attacks with an axe. Characters live, eat, fight, hurt and even die in Dungeons & Dragons. So what about playing a character in D&D makes it evil? Let's look a few a parts of the character to see what we can discover.

Character Alignment

What is character alignment? According to the D&D Player's Handbook, character alignment is:

"...your character’s dedication to a set of moral principles... ...in a cosmic sense, it’s the team you believe in and fight for most strongly."

In the 4th edition of D&D, there are 5 different alignment possibilities:

  • Lawful Good - "An ordered society protects us from evil."

  • Good - "Protecting the weak from those who would dominate or kill them is just the right thing to do."

  • Unaligned - "Just let me go about my business."

  • Evil - "It is my right to claim what others possess."

  • Chaotic Evil - "I don’t care what I have to do to get what I want."

These all sound like pretty simple definitions for each alignment and there are both options for good and evil. D&D does not force an evil alignment onto a player's character. In fact, the Player's Handbook states:

"If you choose an alignment for your character, you should pick either good or lawful good. Unless your DM is running a campaign in which all the characters are evil or chaotic evil, playing an evil or chaotic evil character disrupts an adventuring party and, frankly, makes all the other players angry at you."

Did I just read that right? The Player's Handbook actually tells players to not pick evil! It basically calls evil rude and socially unacceptable. Very interesting.

Stay tuned for part 2!

1 comment:

  1. yeah, isn't there something about the inventor of d&d wanting to give a bunch of money to charity, but they wouldn't take it because they thought it was evil? D&D doesn't kill people, Gelatinous Cubes kill people.