D&D, Culture and Christians

Chris Salzman

March 12, 2008

I've thought for a long time that this was a real "mission field" (in the non-condescending sense). I always wanted to play these games, but couldn't because I didn't have any friends who were interested. In retrospect this is good, because I wouldn't have liked the role-playing part, just the discovery and adventure part! Which books were pretty good for, too.

But in the meantime I do feel like there IS a compelling narrative to offer to roleplayers (now on Dofus or WoW, to some extent) of living in a country that is not your own. That's what Paul says!

I don't think that "Christian" roleplaying games are the answer, though I've had friends who've tried that approach - it ends up like a lot of "Christian" versions of stuff, namely not as good because it's trying to do two things. Even roleplaying a "pure good" character might not be the answer - but rather showing that Christian community can have as much and more to offer than the roleplaying community alone, a deeper and fuller sense of community that won't end when you decide you've outgrown the games (if you do - Andy, are you out there?).

Pastor Mike
March 12, 2008

"Take The Lord of the Rings trilogy, much of the imagery is borrowed heavily from the D&D universe. "

I like the article and it gives you a lot to think about - but this statement is to correct. The Movie may have borrowed from D&D but the original books by Tolkien come before D&D games. The origin of all of this is from myths that go way back in time. I think Tolkien and C.S Lewis can give us a good example of how to maybe engage mythology into Christian culture (And I think why LotR and Narnia have now been popular again)

Just my $.02 :)

Pastor Mike
March 12, 2008

Another comment - "The Celtic Way of Evangelism" by George Hunter talks about how to take a "celtic" way of community, used by Christians, to reach out and build community as you bring people into a relationship with Jesus. A great resource for discussion.

March 12, 2008

I love (present tense) Dungeons and Dragons. My parents were less than thrilled about me playing D&D growing up, but only partially because of the whole "devil worshipping" aspect of it. They were actually more concerned with the time investment it required, especially given the drop-out rate of the kids on my block (all of whom were heavy D&D players). After one attempt by a well-meaning aunt to shame me into giving D&D up, I did end up keeping my D&D playing secret in Christian circles.

Now, while I don't flaunt it, I play every reasonable chance I can get. These days, since my Dungeon Master lives 2000 miles away (hi Andy!), it's pretty rare. But I still love it.

In terms of Christian RPGs, KDC said it all: "it ends up like a lot of 'Christian' versions of stuff, namely not as good." cf. "Christian" top 40 music, "Christian" dramas, etc. Give me "Tomb of Horrors" or "The Temple of Elemental Evil" over "Holy Lands: Light Edition" or "Forgiveness: The First Chapter" anyday. (And yes, those are the actual names of "Christian" RPGs out there!)

March 12, 2008

Hey Mike,

I'd wager to say that the original intent of that statement referred to the "look-and-feel" of the LotR movie trilogy. We might have a very different concept of what elves and orcs and the like would look like were it not for D&D (and those fantastic manual illustrations!). No one's saying that LotR's *content* is derived from D&D. :-)


Daniel Kyles
March 12, 2008

Minor correction Chris (may I call you that :D )
You say "much of the imagery (in LOTR) is borrowed heavily from the D&D universe."
I disagree. LOTR movies are based on the books... which came much before D&D (gygax was born in 1938 if I recall) and Gygax is quoted as saying LOTR was a big influence for him :)
A more correct statement would be that fantasy-fiction in general is heavily indebted to J.R.R. Tolkien.
This isn't to say that D&D hasn't since had a very large influence since though.
I completely agree with the sentiment that people should be creating culture, not just condemming another. Very insightful.

March 12, 2008

Two things...

First, in defense of the Genre of Fantasy I have to say that unfortunately the popularity of D and D has made that type of Fantasy incredibly cliche and derivative, to the point where I eve loathe the Lord of the Rings, despite it's originality at the time because of how so much of fantasy is a derivative of it.

Secondly, I think Christians should be open to the culture, if they have friends in it to both learn it's not demonic, it's not that ultra-geeky, use it to build relationships. Don't do narratives that are blatantly "Christian-allegories". Don't have your level 12 elf become a Christ-archetype, where every move you get you "Teach the Way" and then die to save your friends, then get ressurected. That is incredibly cheesy.

March 12, 2008

One point I have is that the Lord of The Rings was a basic and undeniable influence on all modern Fantasy. I think it is safe to say that everyone in D&D and Fantasy circles has been influenced by that seminal work. Tolkien laid the ground work for the arche-types of orcs, elves, dwarves (even the incorrect spelling), and wizards. The irony of the anti-christian stance against fantasy works is that the god-father of Fantasy (Tolkien) actually helped convert C.S. Lewis to christianity and we all know that Lewis was a great writer of apologetics for the faith. Tolkien had a way of showing how a small light in a dark world can stand for good and ultimately triumph. If that's not a good metaphor of how Jesus' sacrifice saved a fallen world then I don't know what is.
Just my two cents.

March 13, 2008


Absolutely you can call me Chris!

I should have been a bit more clear in the distinction between the LOTR books and movies. No doubt the books are the groundwork for a large part of the mythology of D&D. However, I think (and I've done zero research to back this up) that the movies in turn borrow heavily from the imagery and direction that D&D took the genre.

It's a weird cyclical symbiotic thing. At this point they're both effecting each other (LOTR MMORPGs, table-top LOTR games, D&D novels, etc.) which is kind of cool. Still, your point does bear repeating that as much as Gygax changed gaming and entertainment as we know it., Tolkien had to come before him to pave the way.

March 13, 2008

Hey KDC! Good to hear from you.

I started writing up some random thoughts on this issue, but they got kinda lengthy, so I posted them here instead.

March 13, 2008

Hey PCG--anytime you're in town and feel the need to loot a dungeon and fight some orcs, you know who to call.

More seriously, I agree about Christian versions of D&D--while there are a couple with some interesting ideas, most were pretty much "D&D, but less fun." A lot of them hinted at theology that was actually more alarming to me than D&D's magic and occult content ever was--most Christian versions of D&D cast players as holy warriors out to fight evil and kill demons. Certainly that sort of war imagery has its place in Christianity, but it's hardly a very complete picture of the Gospel, and some games were not great at distinguishing between demons (who you were supposed to fight) and sinners (for whom violence is not usually a good evangelism tactic). Faced with a choice between a weird pseudo-Christian Sunday-school-lesson-meets-D&D game and a honest, unpretentious D&D dungeon crawl, I'll go with the latter any day of the week.

March 13, 2008

This is a good good post, but I do have to stand up and say that the D&D/LOTR influence thing goes ENTIRELY the other way. As someone who has participated pretty heavily in both it is Tolkien who changed the general understanding of elves from pixies (think Santa's Worshop) to almost angelic beings who were tied to nature. He essentially created the archetypes that D&D used to build the game around, especially in the worlds of the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance. I mean, the map of Ferun (FR) is incredibly similar to Middle Earth.

Great article, but the comparison verges on anachronistic.

March 13, 2008


I agree wholeheartedly that LOTR paved the way for D&D, but my point was that the imagery in the MOVIES borrows heavily from what D&D did with that mythology.

March 14, 2008

On a similar note, I'm leader of a Christian gaming clan (ChristianForce.NET). Our specific calling is to create a safe place of fellowship for Christians inside games that many would consider similar including Guild Wars and World of Warcraft.

Internally we had a lengthy discussion and debate on this topic of whether or not the games were appropriate for Christians to play. Both games use a make believe religion and involve the uses of magic and dark magic.

In CEF our focus has always been on the people who play rather than the game. So maybe we have a different view. We get immersed in the game, but only to the point of it being a game. We understand we are not our characters, it is make believe. And we should not allow our lives to be controlled by said games.

In the end our discussion was inconclusive. The best answer we could offer was that if it causes you to sin or practice REAL world magic STAY AWAY. But in the going on 3 years I've been leader of our clan we have not had one case where anyone has admitted or shown signs of being influenced to practice witchcraft or magic.

What many people don't understand is that there is a VERY INTRICATE and complex sub culture of gamers in both World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. Darkness reigns supreme in this culture. People come here to escape the world and their problems. There are a lot of hurting people.

As soldiers of light our presence has been met with stiff opposition. Especially in WoW we are fiercely hated for daring to bring Christianity into their culture...but for those Christians which were lost afloat in this culture who found us we lock onto and hold onto. We disciple. We teach. We strengthen. And most importantly we genuinely love them.

We have weekly Bible studies, weekly prayer meetings, some of our more trusted members have my cell phone number and the cell phone number of my co-leader with the instructions "If you ever need prayer. If you ever need someone to listen to you. Call."

Not a week goes by where someone doesn't turn to me and say "Thank you, Matthew, because of you and the people in this clan I've grown closer to God. You have encouraged me to read my Bible. You have helped me come closer to God. If it wasn't for you and what you've done here I don't know where I would be."

These are people I have never met and may never meet. Through the Internet. This is not an over exaggeration. Weekly I am told by different members about how awesome it is that they've been given a Christian atmosphere in these games that they love to play.

It is important that we stay away from the darker aspects of these games. I've never played D&D but my co-leader use to with a bunch of Christian friends. With games like D&D you have control over your world and where the story goes and what characters you play. They intentionally avoided the darker areas of the game. We do the same.

Christians are going to play these games. They are fun. They provide great entertainment and a nice escape after a long hard day. It would be a grievous mistake for the church to condemn and abandon this culture.

I'm in it. I'm seeing lives changed for Jesus. I'm seeing people go from potty mouth to on fire for God earnestly seeking His will. I'm seeing people take the Bible. Hold it in their hands and say "This is the truth. I serve Jesus. I'm going to make a difference."

I'll take all of the condemnation in the world from both the unbelievers and the Believers. I know what I am doing in this culture is God's will and I'm not going to stand down. Period.

If you struggle with witchcraft. Stay away. If you feel like you want to try it out. GET AWAY FAST. Just like someone who struggles with homosexuality shouldn't go witnessing at a homosexual convention. If its your vice. GET AWAY. Don't touch it. If it is wrong to you. Then DON'T. But for those who don't struggle with this...come on in. We could use more light in this dark culture.

March 16, 2008

Having read about Patricia Pulling and her BADD enterprise I feel once again that we as christians do ourselves no favours. The more we read about Mrs Pulling and her vendetta the more we see someone who has become consumed by grief and allowing it to take over her mind. Funny that it is the very thing she accuses D&D of doing to her son. She then goes on a crusade riddled with misinformation, half truths, anecdotal evidence and other dodgey bits. And, once again we see others attracted to the "crackpot's" vision, those who follow blindly along without checking the facts, those who make anothers beliefs into their own reality, they follow a false messiah.
My wife and I & a group of friends played D&D in our early 20's every Friday night. We had a great time and guess what we are now in our 50's and all still alive and happily married. We haven't killed anyone either and still go to church. We still use our 'imagination' to write music, stories, stage plays etc. My wife uses her 'imagination' that has made her one of the most respected scientists in her field. Imagine what life would be like without it - imagination. No cars, planes computers, medicine, need I go on?
Yes there is drivel that we need to stand against but we'd better make sure we have the facts before we mouth off otherwise we bring MORE shame and ridicule upon Jesus name. What did Ghandi say? Something in the vein of he liked the man Jesus Christ but he "didn't think much of his followers". We need to make sure our brains are in gear before we drive our mouths.

May 12, 2008

very good points. However, i must point out that D&D is based on LOTR, not the other way arround.

September 9, 2008

I saw this quote in your article: "Take The Lord of the Rings trilogy, much of the imagery is borrowed heavily from the D&D universe."

Actually, it's the other way around; the creators of Dungeons & Dragons borrowed from the Lord of the Rings, even though they weren't very familiar with the books. They saw, however, that the books were popular, and so incorporated themes and archetypes into the game. The game itself was developed from a wargame called Chainmail; the magic and dragons part was part of a later expansion pack, if I remember correctly.

September 10, 2008

Thanks for popping in! I was referring to the movies. You're very correct in stating that for the books it was the other way around, but I'd still argue that a lot of the visual elements of the movies were influenced by what happened with D&D culture.

Did you play Chainmail back in the day?

November 1, 2008

Actually, I have a bit of an issue. The Lord of the Rings came well before D&D was established. D&D actually borrowed heavily from Lord of the Rings, not the other way around.

February 5, 2009

Your last paragraph has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Once again this attitude is what compels many young people to feel disenfranchised and misunderstood by the Christian community.

What I find insulting on some level is that no one seems to hold this sort of strict light to everything else that consumes our lives and the lives of a teenager. While its understandable that fantasy books are regarded with a critical eye as I am not in disagreement of this per say-- I am in disagreement over the fact that few other "activities" are also held to such a light. Thinking of the past times in high school for instance, why not then is sports, cheerleading, all the various clubs held to such a strict light? Or rather in the very least the activities and behaviors that can be associated. If the Christian approach to high school football is turning away from the pitfalls such as rowdy behavior, teenaged drinking and sex..

Then why not then can we not find the Christian approach to not necessarily dungeons and dragons but the genre it is from? I've turned away from all of this as much of a painful thing I had to do. It is a daily struggle that is very much like a step forward and two steps back. You can balk and say then I am not good Christian but I'd like to then throw back to anyone who has those sort of comments in their head. If you yourself had to give up something that had been an integral part of who you were.. then you might understand the struggle.

Yet I am still made to feel awkward that I didn't come from a background of liking the accepted Christian approved things that I sometimes still feel at odds with my fellow Christians when I'm still made to feel different. For me the fantasy and science fiction genre that readily accepted me more than other things and people ever did. It's very easy to tout that becoming a Christian and denying the flesh is easy as pie when you don't lose whole parts of yourself or parts of your identity. It's easy when you're not giving up what is already socially acceptable in Christian society.

Before anyone says I'm ranting or crying, I am saying all this with the purpose you understand how difficult (and yes how rewarding) it was to turn away from all of that. I never did delve into the darker aspects however if it was a struggle for me imagine how much more for others? However what I am now urging is how then do we deal with the issues associated with Dungeon and Dragons?

There needs to be acceptance for one. It cannot and should not only be that it is evil but rather enfold them into knowing the real love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Then look into what causes a teen to look into it in the first place. How do we as Christians find a solution to combating the issues. If there is an immediate disdain for what DnD is trying to do then I think the terrible cost is those who are unsaved. :C

Seika Komoriuta
March 13, 2009

Lord of the rings was written nearly 100 years before D&D so it could not have been bassed off of D&D, in fact it's the other way around. D&D was heavily based off of Lord of the rings, try doing more research before you write things.

Dylan McDonald
June 14, 2009

Blegh. I am a D&D playing Christian, and honestly, I hate all of the judgement. The so called "Hall of D&D Shame" doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of people who DIDN'T commit suicide. Those people were screwed in the head anyway. Media is media. Be it D&D or movies, being ruded in the scriptures and not actually practicing rituals is absolute. Spells or rituals aren't even described in the players handbooks. The judgment of these games is based on a diluted and rather idiotic stereotype and it's sad that it has ruined it for other people. My pastor actually compared playing D&D to using a Ouija board. Yeah, you roll a die and add a number. Real sinister.

April 26, 2010

Wait a second! LOTR influenced D&D! It's NOT the other way around!


Just kidding! I saw that everyone else was saying it, so I felt compelled to do the same.

February 20, 2011

I grew up playing D&D, starting in 1980. I am a practicing Christian. Of my closest D&D playing friends from 30 years ago, they too are active members in their churches and love Jesus. I introduced my son to the game when he was 10 yrs old. He is now 18, a senior Honors student in High School and an active member of YoungLife and leader in their WyldeLife program mentoring middle school kids in a Christian atmosphere. Including him, we are part of a group of 8 people who have been gaming once a week (online) for the last 3 years. Everyone member of the group is a christian. Some of us are at different places in our relationship with God - in that sense we are accountable to a certain degree to eachother. If you polled your congregation I bet the majority of the parents allow their children to play World of Warcraft, DragonAge, Halo...(insert any number of war games) with little regard. RPG's are cooperative games that bring people together in a unique way. It challenges people to interact with each other...problem solving, conflict resolution...in a way that console games can't match. Are there kids playing D&D that have problems, yes? So what. There are plenty of kids at my sons school that are abusing drugs, drinking and having sex and they all play console games. Are those kids in less danger?

September 29, 2011

I should tell you that the lord of the ring is based of the norse Eda's.  Gandalf is actually a dwarf name in those myths.  The lord of the rings was highly inspired by the story of the Nibelungen and their cursed treasure.

D&D Preacher
August 7, 2013

My best friend from High school and Iplayed D&D. He often stayed at my house and ate from table. After we graduated he took his own life. Many blamed D&D. The truth is he and I were both bullied. I had one thing he did a relationship with Jesus Christ. I shared the Good News with him many times but it never clicked for him. D&D was a refuge for him and so was my home.
Next month will mark 30 years since his passing. I am starting a small group this fall for gamers and other under served groups.
His death serves to remind me of how much Jesus changed me.

May 4, 2015

Let's clear something up here, Lord of The rings came before d&d. It inspired d&d, heck the race halfling was made because Hobbit was trademarked.

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