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  • Writer's pictureMark Legg

Play Dungeons and Dragons (or don’t!) 

Updated: Mar 19

Dungeons and Dragons, among other things, is a game where people pretend to explore dungeons and kill dragons. It’s one of many role-playing games (RPGs) played by millions. The 2023 movie starring Chris Pine, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, represents its resurgence in popularity. The exceptional 2023 video game version, Baldur’s Gate 3, won Game of the Year. (Warning: the video game is not for kids.) 

Never jumped in before? I’ll elaborate. In a traditional game of “DnD,” the “dungeon master” guides people through an adventure packed with story, plot, scenarios, traps, monsters, battles, character development, magic, and dialogue. In a fluid response, the players act out made-up characters by describing what they do, think, and say. Then, they roll dice to introduce some chance into the gameplay. In short, it’s a communal exercise of imaginative storytelling, often lasting multiple hours and played over dozens of sessions.

Although set in a Tolkein-inspired fantasy world, DnD wasn’t always on good terms with Christianity. Some parents in the 1980s feared it could lure kids into the occult. Jesus calls us to always be mindful of the influences of worldliness and darkness. (DnD included, of course. For example, some groups include explicit sex in their role-playing). However, I agree with the co-creator of DnD Gary Gygax’s response to criticism using the blindingly obvious: “This is make-believe. To use an analogy with another game, who is bankrupted by a game of Monopoly? Nobody is. The money isn't real.” 

Nowadays, most Christians see DnD for what it is: An innocent game of heroes and monsters. It’s a magnetic pastime for deep thinkers, creatives, and nerds alike–my kind of crowd! My dad introduced me to DnD about a decade ago. He survived the 1980s unscathed from occult influences and owns an original, well-worn 1979 edition of the player’s manual. Far from outdated, however, more and more young adults from every walk of life are joining the fun, communally enjoying the spontaneous, creative act of role-playing. 

You can probably tell that I like DnD. I share my enjoyment with people from all walks of life, from every religion, creed, life experience, or sexual orientation. Sounds to me like a prime way to meet people who need Jesus. Anything to get us to make friends with people outside our bubbles. Christians are no exception to our age’s well-documented dwindling social life, and DnD is a profoundly social activity. 

If I think in “low anthropology” terms, I find myself doubting my ability to evangelize by serially interrupting pedestrians with, “Do you know where you’re going when you die?” My introverted self finds this stereotypical approach to evangelism both draining and unappealing. (Though I laud the saints who do street evangelism well.) Instead, I’ve found that turning strangers into friends and friends into disciples is God’s modus operandi through me. And what better way to make friends than through something mutually enjoyable with them? 

The DnD crowd–imaginative, creative, open-minded, often outcast losers and intelligent seekers–sounds like just the people Jesus wants on his team. After all, Christianity requires a strong imagination muscle. We use it when reading about the roiling chaotic waters of Genesis, to the skies rolling up like a scroll, to the Hebrews following a pillar of fire, to God becoming a babe sent to die for the salvation of mankind; Christianity requires us to flex our imagination. We imagine toward the truth rather than fantasy (cf. C.S. Lewis), but we nevertheless imagine.

DnD, alongside academic philosophy, are two niches Jesus calls me to share through. My life involves both right now, praise God, and how sweet it is to share Jesus with those friends! So, play Dungeons and Dragons if you like it. Or don’t, if you don’t. 

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