A Philosopher's Blog

Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy

Posted in Miscellaneous by Michael LaBossiere on November 25, 2014

The most recent offering in Blackwell’s Philosophy & Pulp Culture Series is the appropriately named Dungeons & Dragons & Philosophy. I was offered a free copy in return for mentioning the book on my blog and I am making good on that deal. If time permits, I’ll write a review of the book as well.  I am not one of the authors and wasn’t asked to contribute, so there is no conflict of interest. Well, other than the free copy.

Here is the back cover info for the book:

“Does justice exist in the drow city of Menzoberranzan?

How does one cope with the death of a player character?

Is it ever morally acceptable to cast necromancy and summoning spells?

Is Raistlin Majere the same person over time?

Do demons and devils have free will?

First introduced by war-game enthusiasts Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons developed into a cultural phenomenon that continues to cast a spell on millions of gaming aficionados around the world. Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy delves into the heroic quests, deadly battles, and medieval courtly intrigue of the legendary role-playing game to probe its rich terrain of philosophically compelling concepts and ideas. From the nature of free will and the metaphysics of personal identity to the morality of crafting fictions and the role of friendship in collaborative storytelling,D&D players and gaming enthusiasts will gain startling insights into the deep philosophical issues that underlie a broad swath of role-playing tactics and strategies. Put the broadswords away and letDungeons & Dragons and Philosophy transport you across the philosophical divide.”


To answer the questions:

1. No. Or yes.  Traditional drow are always chaotic evil, so they have no justice. Except that which is dispensed by the adventurers who give them the deaths they really, really deserve. New drow can be any alignment, but tend to be evil and crazy. So, justice is possible, but usually not actual. But, in D&D justice is whatever the DM says it is.

2. Roll a new one.

3. Yes. Necromancy includes healing spells like cure light wounds (look at the spell descriptions). Healing people is morally okay, in general. Summoned creatures are (in the standard game) not permanently harmed by their battles. Also, most of the time they match the summoner in alignment and usually advance the cause of the alignment when summoned to fight. So, summoning them is fine. Plus, they are often things that really like to fight. In D&D that is most things.

4. No idea who that is. I’m getting vague memories about the Dragonlance books I never read, though.  I’ll go with the usual answer about games: whatever the DM says.

5. Depends on the DM. Metaphysical issues in RPGs are settled by the dungeon master. In my campaign, they get free will. So yes. For me. Some DMs take devils and demons to always be evil and without free moral choice. That is AD&D Monster Manual-they are always evil (lawful for devils, chaotic for demons). So no. For them. D&D metaphysics is easy.



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