I posted this originally over at fairiesfantasyandfaith, but figured I’d post it here too.
The questions was, “Should Christians read fantasy books?” One commenter said that reading was okay, but playing D&D was stepping over the line. This was my response.
I’ve been an avid SciFi and Fantasy reader since my High School days. I’ve also played D&D since then. I remember once in collage we were having a discussion about whether playing D&D was evil. One of the guys in the group told us, “Once my parents were giving me a hard time about playing D&D. They said that I was worshiping the Devil by playing. I told them, ‘I don’t worship devils, I kill them.’”
I think D&D, like all fantasy, isn’t inherently evil. It is how you use it that maters. Now I’ll grant that perhaps D&D is more like a loaded gun, and it easier to get pulled off into the dirt than with a game like Monopoly, but them maybe Monopoly is a bad comparison.
When my kids wanted to start playing, I offered to be their Dungeon Master. It gave me a way to connect with my kids, to watch them to make sure the game wasn’t leading them places that I didn’t want them to go, and it gave me a chance to put some lessons in front of them.
One lesson in particular stands out. We were starting a new game and the kids had all made their characters. The characters were hanging around town looking for something to do. A woman runs into town, obviously very upset, and asks if anyone can help her. The characters said yes. She tells them that her husband, a lumberjack, is three days late coming back from the woods. Will they go look for him.
Several things happen along the way, but eventual they find the lumberjack’s camp, but no lumber jack. They discover wagon tracks, and follow them. After a few days they catch up to the wagon and discover that it belongs to dark elves, and that the lumberjack, a couple other people and a few monsters are being taken away as slaves.
So now they have to decide what to do. They decide that there are to many dark elves and that fighting them would be a bad idea. They talk about just leaving, but some of them want to succeed at the rescue. A couple of the characters decide to go talk to the slavers and discover that the lumberjack is for sale.
This is where the group dynamics really got interesting and some of the kids had their eyes opened. A discussion between the characters, and between the kids, developed talking about wether it was good to pay the slavers for the lumberjack. Some of the kids thought that saving his life was worth any price. Others thought that paying the slavers was morally wrong. After ten minutes of talking the discussion ended with five kids wanting to pay and two saying no. The five said they they were going to vote on it, and of course won the vote. But the two refused to put up their part of the ransom.
Two of the five then started threatening the two, even threatening to kill them if they would not help pay. After another ten minutes of talking, another one of the five offered to pay the shares of the two characters who didn’t want to pay. And so they collected the money, paid the slavers, and returned the lumberjack to his wife. The lumberjack paid them back the money they had spent to but his freedom, plus a reward. The party decided to give the two characters their share of the reward, even though they didn’t put any money in. Those two players then gave their shares back to the lumberjack and wished him well.
At the end of such adventures the DM give out points for the monsters killed and for playing well. The kids were surprised and pleased when the two characters who wouldn’t pay, got extra experience points for sticking up for what they believed. Which of course launched them into another ten minute discussion about the rewards for doing what’s right, and not just doing what’s fun.
For me, and I believe for the kids too, it was a very satisfying experience to wrestle with each other about right and wrong, and why we do right. An I don’t think I could have ever had that discussion with these seven kids if I hadn’t been able to take them out of their day to day lives and put them into a fantasy world, where I could ask the questions, “Why would your character do that.”