On a mission to bring Christianity to Dungeons and Dragons
“With the mission of evangelism – to bring the gospel and Christ to the four corners of the world – I think the table has room for honest conversations about religion and living with faith,” writes the author.
When the Harry Potter series first appeared in 1997, I immersed myself in this world of fantasy and wonder. I vividly remember bringing the books with me to Boy Scout Summer Camp to read on wet evenings, repel mosquitoes, and flashlight reading. By the time the spring of 2000 came and I could finally go see a Harry Potter movie, the first trailer for the Lord of the Rings appeared. My dad turned to me and pointed at the screen saying, “Do you think Harry Potter is great?” Wait for those movies to come out. Now those are fantasy. We are going to read these books.
I devoured The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy while waiting for the release of each new Peter Jackson film. Without any prior knowledge of Tolkien, I was able to gain insight into the Catholic themes within the work. I remember discussing Lembas bread as a parallel to the Eucharist. After doing some research, I was delighted to find that the author was Catholic, and that Catholicism was incorporated into the work without it being explicit – visible, but not revealing.
In college, a friend of mine from the school marching band had talked about this Dungeons & Dragons game and wanted our group of friends to play the latest, fourth edition. I was curious enough to give it a try, going back up the stats of my very first character, a human wizard named Otto von Krieg. I had created an avatar for myself to play with while exploring the gaming world. But it was not electronic and passive; I was moving a miniature game piece, but I was life and breathing like the character. I became Otto. Others created their own characters as they liked: good, evil, dwarf, elf, human, etc.
The Dungeon Master, the “arbiter” of the game, would gather us together and paint the scene (we met in an imaginary tavern). In stories and games, for the most part, civilization and cities are havens of peace – places to heal your wounds, meet new people, repair your armor, buy new equipment, and enjoy downtime in the city. the local water point. Real life takes place there, but so does the plot of the next adventure.
With the mission of evangelism – to bring the Gospel and Christ to the four corners of the world – I think the table has room for honest conversations about religion and living with faith. After all, a world of magic and fantasy has deities that you can interact with in very real ways in the game, as you are imbued with the powers of your god to strike enemies or call them to intervene in the most difficult circumstances. . How active is the Holy Spirit in our lives? How much more real can you get than the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar? Are there more engaging stories than those shared in the gospels?
While Dungeons & Dragons mythology treats gods in a very Manichean sense, we know that Jesus Christ has already conquered sin and death, calling us to pick up our crosses and follow him. Dungeon Masters are free to borrow and create their own game worlds, as are player characters when they create the life and story of their heroes.
For some people who play Dungeons & Dragons, Faith is simply a game mechanic that only exists for magical-based divine heroes to perform incredible feats. I think it’s important to remember that believers also play this game. As such, we have a responsibility to exemplify Christ’s command to love God and one another, especially when we encounter others who disagree with the gospel or ignore the gospel. ‘Gospel.
Following Tolkien’s example, I tried to weave Christianity into the foundations of my own game world. Like the music of the Ainur of the Silmarillion, my world seeks to recall the story of creation in the book of Genesis. . God is the creator of the universe, and the pagan deities of mortals in the game world function like Tolkien’s Valar. Within my framework there is a communion of saints and heroic figures from the past. They can be solicited and invited to intercede on behalf of common people and adventurers.
A world is nothing without its inhabitants. Perhaps by drawing inspiration from the saints, you could be inspired to become a holy warrior who avoids armor for mere tunics and is a friend of man and animal (reminiscent of Saint Francis of Assisi) . Perhaps you are inspired to become a former soldier in the Emperor’s army, a man who refuses to renounce his faith, becoming a folk hero defending his beliefs and slaying the fierce dragon (like my boss St. George ). Maybe you want to amaze both your Dungeon Master and your fellow adventurers by basing your character on Saint Martha, who according to legend defeated a tarascan (one of the most difficult monsters to fight in all of Dungeons & Dragons !) symbol and splashing the creature with holy water. Saints can be great role models, inspiring the creation of characters with a deep and lasting love for God. The holy characters would certainly lead to unique and lasting interactions between the players at your table, both in and outside the game.
The same can be done for non-player characters in the world. The fantasy genre as a whole has had to contend with the baggage of different species and cultures coded to speak on behalf of entire groups of people as either inherently evil or defined only by harmful stereotypes. Gamers and table space designers have worked hard to remove the problematic elements and help tell better stories. The ancient undead wizard who summoned the party to his tower might offer you a series of quests to aid them in the process of seeking redemption and surrendering their souls to their deity. The towering ogre guarding the bridge you’re trying to cross without paying the toll can fight all of you, but he can refuse to deal a killing blow. This is because the ogre has been commissioned by the king to render the mercy shown to him by the king – a sort of fantastic tabletop account of the parable Jesus shares in Matthew 18: 21-35. The unpretentious mason who was cursed by a vampire still has faith in his god and refuses to attack the townspeople in order to satisfy his hunger and protect the hamlet from bandits and thieves.
The rules and mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons form a flexible framework. With only the limits of your imagination and the cohesion maintained by the Dungeon Master, there are thousands of stories waiting to be told. If our comics and movies quickly turn to Greek and Norse mythology, why shouldn’t our board games weave Christianity into the fabric of characters and stories? We can become a JRR Tolkien, a CS Lewis, or a GK Chesterton for someone else. We can let our characters in the game world help stimulate the desire of so many restless hearts for Christ.
Whether we are at a game table or in our local pub sipping a pint, we need to be sure that we are living the gospel authentically and finding ways to invite others to sit on our bench. Build your world, create your characters and share your stories that proclaim the crucified and risen Christ.