Four Things I Learned Playing DragonRaid, a Christian D&D Substitute

By: 06.29.12  •  5 Comments

A while back, a friend of mine admitted he used to play “DragonRaid” as a kid. I figured it was a D&D knockoff, pretty common from the ’80s. Then he admitted that it was something he was forced to play in Sunday School.

Yes, it was a fundamentalist Christian version of “Dungeons & Dragons”. I was baffled, first of all that he had to play this, and secondly that it existed.

Being that it’s an old role-playing game from the ’80s, the entire thing is freely available online. So I got together a group, did some substitutions (mostly poetry for Scripture, since I was playing with a Buddhist, two Jewish folks, and an atheist), and we played the game.

And honestly, it was a little shocking what happened: we actually all enjoyed it.

The Game Rules And World Are Simple, But Solid

In a lot of ways, it’s heavily stripped down. That said, somebody clearly sat down with some D&D books and studied the system before constructing DragonRaid, and it shows. The gameplay is fairly straightforward: you use a D10 for all skill checks and roll against a few tables. You pick three weapons and skills at the start of the game and that’s it. XP (“Maturity Units” here) are tied directly to stats; there are no levels and each stat rises or falls independently.

Similarly, the game world, although the metaphors are thuddingly obvious (you’re playing a “TwiceBorn”, for example), is well constructed and has a lot of detail. You don’t have to fill in a lot of blanks. It was a nice surprise to see a game, religious or otherwise, so thought out. That’s probably a result of who was supposed to be the DM: Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, people who mean well but who may not necessarily be up on their Tolkien.

The Entire Thing Is Built To Prevent In-Game Dickery

I’m not going to lie, I rarely game because I’m a munchkin. So are all my friends, so whenever we game, it usually goes downhill fast. Here, though, beating up NPCs for their wallets and skinning gnomes to see if you can make a hang-glider out of them hands you massive stat drains and will kill you a lot faster than the in-game monsters.

The game instead rewards you for being nice to people. Granted, this in no way prevents muchkining: one of our group used to be Catholic, so he dragged in a lot of weirdness about slow martyrs and other saints pretty quickly. But it’s different, and it’s actually pretty funny.

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