I recently made this YouTube video about Dungeons & Dragons, so I thought I would write a post as well with a little more info. Enjoy!
When I was growing up, Dungeons and Dragons was the stuff of legend, an ancient evil as terrifying as it was mysterious. I was homeschooled in a Christian household. I loved it! But I was definitely sheltered from some things, such as roleplaying games.
When I got older, I decided to find out for myself if they were really all that bad. So my wife and I joined a local D&D group to learn how it all worked. Today, we play D&D all the time and it’s a blast. But I didn’t have to give up my soul for it. This is your guide to D&D for Christians and homeschoolers, from a Christian homeschooler.
What Kind of Game is This?
Dungeons and Dragons is just one of many “table-top roleplaying games” or TTRPGs. These games are kind of like playing pretend with your friends. Remember when you were a kid and you said, “I am the legendary warrior! I will defeat you, villain!” and then you dueled your brother with a plastic sword? This is basically that, except you’re sitting at a table rolling dice to determine what happens. It’s make-believe, math, and a board game all rolled into one.
But that’s not all. Everyone at the table is telling a story together through the game. Groups usually meet a few times a month to keep those stories going for months or even years. There are no cults or satanic rituals. It’s just a good time with friends.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about all those stories I’ve heard? Isn’t D&D demonic? Aren’t the kinds of people playing this game interested in the occult? What if players pretend to be evil? Let’s address these concerns one at a time.
The “Lord of the Rings” Rule
First, here’s a good rule of thumb. If you’re okay with Lord of the Rings, you shouldn’t have any problem with D&D. They are very similar in their aesthetics and setting. There are other roleplaying games out there with all kinds of different settings such as sci-fi, the old west, superheroes, and more. But today, we’ll focus on D&D.
Magic and Fantasy Themes
Like Lord of the Rings, D&D has magic as well as good and evil fantasy elements. There are noble wizards, scary ghosts, and cursed orcs alike. That being said, every D&D group is different. Players usually sit down before starting a game to talk about what themes they’re comfortable with so everyone has a good time. If you want, you can avoid vampires or demons and just stick to fighting plain old bad guys.
Remember, it’s all make-believe. Nobody is actually trying to cast spells or speak to the dead. Yes, D&D has magic as well as good and evil fantasy tropes, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. That’s the great thing about this game. The adventure you have is up to you.
As a Christian, I exclude made-up religions and gods from my D&D games. I prefer to play without them. But D&D was designed for a fantasy world where many gods exist and behave similar to the pantheons in Norse, Roman, or Greek mythology. They’re spiritual beings who fight with each other, bestow power upon mortals, and cause general chaos. They aren’t there to temp you into denouncing Christianity. They simply serve a narrative purpose, providing outside forces to explain the presence of magic, influence the world, or offer a challenge for the players. But remember, you can run the game however you want. You could have only good gods, only one god, or no gods at all! It’s entirely up to you.
Now, one core part of the game is your character’s class. This determines whether you’re a wizard like Gandalf or a ranger like Aragorn. There are a couple classes themed around magic given to you by a divine being. But this is really just for flavor. If you want, you can ignore all of that and come up with your own reason for having magic. Likewise, there are some spells designed so that your character asks a god for guidance or wisdom, but you could just flavor it so they have a keen sense of their surroundings or something. It’s not a big deal. Again, you control how the game is played.
Can Players Pretend to be Evil?
Pretending to slay foul beasts and find buried treasure is all well and good, but what if you wanted to do something bad? What if you wanted to kill innocent civilians, partake in evil rituals, or just be a creep? Well, you’ll be glad to know that for most D&D groups, this isn’t a problem. You see, D&D is a cooperative game. You have to work together with your friends. It’s difficult to function as a team with evil characters. It just doesn’t work. This is why most groups don’t allow evil characters at all.
If someone is sabotaging your team’s plans or going against their morals, that’s the fault of the player, not the game. Talk to them like an adult. If you can’t come to an agreement, you’ll be better off finding a different group to play with. It’s that simple. My best tip to avoid inappropriate roleplaying is to be mature about things and communicate, just like you would for any other conflict.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)
How Much Does it Cost?
D&D can cost as little or as much as you want. The basic rules are available online for free. You can get a set of dice for a few bucks. The rest of the game is pen and paper. You don’t need miniatures, maps, or a dungeon master screen, but those are pretty affordable and useful to have. A great way to get into D&D is to buy a starter kit for about $20 dollars. This will give you dice, rules, premade characters, and a prewritten adventure—everything you need to play. The official books with more character options, more monsters, and more adventures usually cost 20 to 40 dollars each. It’s a very affordable hobby if you have any amount of self-control.
Is D&D Addictive?
Like any other hobby, roleplaying games are a fun pastime that can be turned into an unhealthy obsession. But there’s nothing unique about D&D in this regard. It doesn’t have expensive packs to collect like some card games. It doesn’t use instant gratification to get you addicted like some video games. It isn’t physically unhealthy like energy drinks or sugar. It’s just a game, and if you treat it like one, you have nothing to be concerned about.
“‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but I will not be mastered by anything.”1 Corinthians 6:12 (CSB)
The Satanic Panic
The media did a lot of fear-mongering about D&D in the 80s that, simply put, wasn’t substantiated. If you’ve heard stories about kids who played D&D and were stolen away by demon worshipers, it’s probably nonsense.
Ever heard of James Dallas Egbert? He was a student at Michigan State University in 1979 who played D&D. As the story goes, he got lost in the steam tunnels under the campus while playing a real-life version of the game with his friends. A detective found a bulletin board in his room with thumbtacks in it. He said it looked like a map of the tunnels. The media ate it up and took the opportunity to blame the entire thing on D&D with headlines like, “Game Might Have Turned Into Deathtrap” and “Did Dragons & Dungeons Swallow Dallas Egbert?”
So… what actually happened? Well, Egbert did enter the tunnels, but he left them shortly afterwards and he wasn’t playing a real-life version of D&D. The tacks in the bulletin board were not a map. In fact, D&D had nothing to do with his disappearance at all. The detective who made those claims later admitted to not knowing much of anything about the game. He just made wild speculations. As it turns out, Egbert was just a kid dealing with a stressful household, depression, and eventually substance abuse. He went into the tunnels with the intention of self-harm, but came back out to go visit a friend some distance away. Sadly, he lost his battle with depression a year later.
That’s just one of many stories the media manipulated so they could blame Dungeons & Dragons. But trust me when I say this hobby is not a cover up for cultic indoctrination, pagan rituals, or evil death traps. It’s just a roleplaying game that nerds and theater kids play for fun. Anything you hear otherwise is exaggerated by the media or just pure fiction.
How is D&D Actually Played?
Now that I’ve addressed some concerns, let me give you an idea of what playing D&D is like. First, you schedule a time to meet (that’s the hardest part). Once everyone arrives, you lay out some snacks and begin the game. One player is called the “dungeon master” (or DM for short). His job is to set the stage for the game by explaining where the party is, determining what happens when they do things, and standing in for all the different characters they meet. Everyone else plays as one of the heroes. Together, they’re the adventuring party the story revolves around, the “Fellowship of the Ring,” if you will.
“We begin where we left off last time,” says George the DM. “You enter the Gilded Hopper tavern, tired from your journey. You see all manner of travelers exchanging stories. The bartender is a pale dwarf with a sullen expression on his face. What do you do?”
“I walk up to the bartender,” says Claire the rogue.
“What can I get ye?” says George.
“Some information,” says Claire. “Have you seen a shady-looking orc with a red bandana? His name is Grimrock.”
“Make a persuasion check,” says George. Claire rolls a 20 sided die, gets a 2, and adds 6 to represent her skills in negotiation.
“Eight,” she says. Unfortunately, this is too low.
“I don’t mettle in personal business. Can I get ye anything else?”
“Let’s just leave,” says Jeff the wizard.
“Suddenly, you notice a flash of red from the corner of the room. A hulking figure steps out of the shadows,” says George. “I told you lot to stay away. But it seems you’ve forced my hand. Two more orcs join him at his shoulders and raise their swords. Roll for initiative!”
The fight begins! Each character moves and attacks one by one in turn order. The wizard casts a spell on the fighter, making him grow twice his size. The fighter lands a blow on one of the orcs. The other orc throws a javelin at the wizard, but misses. Grimrock swipes at the fighter with his axe. The rogue darts forward for a sneak attack, finishing off one of the orcs. Eventually, victory is claimed! The party regroups to make peace with the town and decide what they want to do next.
That’s basically D&D. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not about devil worship or corrupting the youth. It’s about nerding out over cool-looking dice and miniatures, developing creative backstories for characters, and channeling your inner actor through a hilariously bad accent. It’s about solving mysteries and defeating nefarious villains just like you pretended to do when you were a kid. Most of all, it’s about telling a story with your friends and improvising your way through a crazy fantasy world that’s part Lord of the Rings, part Breakfast Club, and part Princess Bride. So give it a try. You don’t have to sacrifice your soul to play a game with your friends.
What do you think about roleplaying games? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.