Friday, February 13, 2009

Dungeons & Discipleship

There's this game I've been thinking about buying for several months now. It's called DragonRaid.

It's a fantasy RPG first released in the 80s. As you can see, it comes in a big, colorful box and includes lots of pretty little booklets with surprisingly nice-looking artwork. It even has a little map and cutout tokens... and a cassette tape! I mean, come on, this looks right up my alley.

Here's the problem: it's an RPG intended for "firmly establishing Christian values and making Christian responses to new situations almost automatic." Yeah, that's a quote from the official DragonRaid website, operated by its publisher, Adventures For Christ.

I will go on record here: like a lot of gamers, I am an atheist. But I don't have a problem with the existence of an RPG targeted specifically at members of a particular religion. That's actually kind of cool. What creeps me out is the fact that all of the info on the official site makes it sound a bit... well, I don't want to say "brainwashy", but I'm not sure how else to put it. DragonRaid isn't just a game, it "advances from mere intellectual enterprise to behavioral practice." Wow. So, it's not a mental exercise for fun, it's a full-fledged behavioral modification and conditioning program.

The example of play on the site involves the player characters (sorry, LightRaiders) encountering a troll that offers them a chance to leer at scantily clad beach goers or go to a wild concert where they can drink "pleasure potions". It then goes on to describe how the Adventure Master should drop hints on how to encourage the players to "act wisely" in order to avoid "sin enchantment". That actually doesn't sound much like an RPG, where the GM is generally meant to be impartial. To be fair, the words "role-playing game" don't seem to be used much on the site, so at least they're not promising that DragonRaid is something that the game isn't.

(Also, it seems like all the proper names in the setting have goofy in-word capitalization, like OverLord, LightRaider, EdenAgain, etc. After a while, reading that kind of thing would really drive me up the wall.)

Anyway, the game sure does look pretty, but I don't think I can plunk down even the modest $24.00 Adventures For Christ is asking for it in good conscience. The idea of a religious game seems interesting to me, but this one just feels too much like an aid to fundamentalist mental conditioning. I guess if a cheap copy ever surfaces on Ebay, I might give it a shot.


  1. i think as a blogger of the RPG world, it is somewhat incumbent upon you to check out things like this in good faith and with an open mind, but i also would hesitate at paying $24 to fund whatever other kind of activities that "Adventures For Christ" is underwriting. if it does surface on the secondary market at a cheaper price, it would probably be more than worth it to see how the writers massage the RPG format into this kind of thinly-veiled conditioning.

    furthermore, how effective do they honestly think this kind of thing can be? i mean, i certainly understand why Christians, many of whom are quite wary of fantasy-based RPG worlds (not altogether surprising, peopled as they are with demons, and all manner of quite un-Christian-like behavior) would want an option in the field of RPGs that more reflects their sensibilities. but frankly, telling kids/RPG-ers that they shouldn't drink the "pleasure potion" or oggle naked people doesn't change the fact that booze/drugs and naked people have a definite concrete appeal.

  2. Agreed on all points.

    Alas, thus far the only used copy floating around on Ebay has a shipping cost so high as to make it more expensive than buying it from Adventures For Christ, and the seller refuses to negotiate on shipping. So, taking a closer look at DragonRaid will have to wait.

  3. This games looks incredible. I want to check it out myself. You've gotta love the irony in that a game like this was probably only created as a "fight fire with fire" tactic, borne out of fear of how other RPGs were "brainwashing" the young, impressionable children of the modern world. The notion seems to be, "If you're going to misguide my kids, I'm going to misguide yours better." I guess two wrongs really do make a right.

    Seriously, though, this a disheartening bit of evidence that demonstrates the fundamentalist ideology (evangelical Christian or otherwise) as driven by ignorance and fear above all else. Perhaps it was the particular Zeitgeist of the 1980s, Cold War paranoia and so forth, which fueled these sorts of anti-fantasy/RPG witch hunts. Mazes and Monsters starring Tom Hanks comes to mind. I do think such grand, societal fear if not slightly less prevalent today, is aimed in other directions.

    On the plus side, it seems like alignments in Dragon Raid would be a breeze. I'm definitely interested in checking it out. If you're serious about it, I'd be willing to split the cost with you...

  4. There was a Evangelical-themed collectible card game back in the 1990s called Redemption. It was exactly like what you'd expect.

  5. I'm not sure if DragonRaid was really made from a "fight fire with fire" perspective. I suppose it's possible, but I honestly hadn't considered it. I was thinking it was more likely an attempt to hop onto the bandwagon of what was, at the time, a faddishly popular hobby.

    I think I read somewhere that the game's author was a legitimate fan of RPGs.

  6. Ironically, Gary Gygax was a committed Christian all of his life. It was his stated reason for not including angels and such in the game. And yet he was able to include the "whore table" in the DMG... ;-)

  7. And now, in the current edition of D&D, angels are right there in the Monster Manual, but nary a whore to be found. What a winding road...

  8. As a Christian, let me say I found your analysis a refreshing departure from the "*gasp* It's got Jesus in it! The Xians r in my world convertin my doodz!" posts one sometimes finds from fellow gamers who are atheists, Wiccans, etc.

    As a roleplayer, let me say that those "potion at a concert" and "scantily clad" scenarios sound pretty brainwashy, behavior moddy, and downright creepy.

    I remember seeing Dragon Raid. Excuse me, I mean DragonRaid in our local bookstore (or should I say BookStore?;)) back in the eighties. I think it was just an attempt to evangelize through gaming just like Stryper was an attempt to evangelize through heavy metal. Unfortunately, most times this is tried it just comes off as majorly cheesy (best example: those Judgment Houses some churches put up on Hallowe'en to frighten teens away from drinking and unwed mothers).

    I remember in the late eighties/early nineties, the 700 Club had a piece on D&D that included an interview with Gali Sanchez, a Christian game designer who turned out one of my favorite Dragon adventures ("Mechica"). Sanchez had some criticism of D&D, but he had a much greater grasp of the appeal of roleplaying than the DragonRaid designers seem to have. I wish he had been more prolific.

  9. You may be interested to hear that I just won a copy of DragonRaid on eBay today. I'll be taking a closer look at it once it arrives.

    I'm glad to hear my post was (relatively) well-received. Thanks for the comment!