Christians in D&D?

The AD&D books recommend that in order to avoid offending anyone, “real world & modern day” religions be avoided in game play (although, bizarrely, Hindu, Native American and Shinto religious figures were included in the Deities & Demigods book— I guess to TSR, “real” meant Christian and Jewish).

I wouldn’t care if a player wanted to pretend his PC was a ‘Christian’ or not. Back in the day one of the guys I played with had a cleric he named, “Father Francis the Franciscan.” An NPC cleric in my first game was a cleric at the Church of Saint Alphonzo (named after the church in a Frank Zappa Song). Another player wrote “Yahweh” at the top of his character sheet and when I asked him why, he said because that was the god his character worshipped. Half of our cleric minis had little crosses in their hands or hanging around their little lead necks (see image of the ‘Dungeon Dwellers” clerics at above right; I think three out of four are carrying or wearing crosses and the other one has an ankh — I still have most of those little guys. They also made an “evil cleric” mini and you could tell he was evil because he had a grimace on his face and was holding his cross upside down! Just like a satanist from a horror movie!). We didn’t delve too deeply into what form their prayers or observances took (no, we did not try to really cast spells beyond saying, “My character will cast Magic Missile at the troll!” and the like).

In the first version of the rules I owned, the price list included things like “wooden cross, silver cross,” etc., until it was later replaced in the newer editions by the more P.C. term, “holy symbol.” There was holy water in the rules and a reference to killing a vampire by filling it’s mouth with holy wafers and the pictures of clerics in the books sometimes looked like Friar Tuck or was wearing a cassock, surplice or mitre or swinging incense censers or holding chalices (admittedly, I now know the mitre was also worn by Babylonian priests)… so, to this former altar boy, much of the trappings of ‘make believe’ D&D religion came from the real world Christianity and it didn’t bother me (and I considered myself an observant Catholic at that time). I just didn’t see the harm in having the references to real world religions in fantasy, and, honestly, I still don’t — I think most of that stuff was excised to be more P.C. in the wake of “D&D is devil worship!” scandals and Geraldo Rivera style “journalism.”

3 Comments on “Christians in D&D?”

  1. Tim Brannan says:

    We also had a Church of St. Alphonzo too. Providing pancakes to weary adventures for the price of listening to the sermon of St. Alphonzo as delivered by Father O'Blivion.

  2. limpey says:

    Speaking to the general community, would there be anything that would cross a line for you? Perhaps a player who announces his dwarf character is Jewish (and thus greedy) or a character that speaks in 'Ebonics'? I only ask because when I was a kid in the midwest in 1978, I lived a pretty sheltered life… I didn't know anyone who was gay (well, I now know that some of the people I knerw then are gay… but they had not come out yet), and, although I knew a variety of people, some of my friends and school mates were pretty 'ignorant' of the wider world. I think it would be fair to generalize that my peer group often had less than progressive ideas about some matters like race and sex that would probably shock me if I could travel back through time and hear it again. I remember racist jokes, etc., and one of the guys I played with was always referring to the Drow as 'n*gg*r elves.' I remember thinking it was funny at the time, partially because it was a transgressive thing to say (at least in my house — my parents would have slapped me silly if they heard me say that), and partially because everyone else thought it was funny… and, well, I was a stupid kid who wanted other people to like me.
    The memory isn't a pleseant one, but all I can do is try to do better going forward and I can't beat myself up too much about what I did ~30 years ago, but it does make me wonder where one draws the line between 'bad taste' and 'truly horrible.'

  3. richard says:

    None of it ever bothered me, but I knew I was an atheist pretty early and growing up in England that was far from uncommon: we'd hear about Americans getting bent out of shape about religion and be puzzled.

    There's also the question of why it should offend anyone. I could maybe see Muslim RPGing being a problem because there's a specific injunction against creating likenesses of people – the idea that if you make a character then eventually God will challenge you to breathe life into it, and punish your presumption when you can't. But does anybody know what might be intrinsically offensive about Christian characters?

    Vampire The Dark Ages leans on it rather heavily and tiresomely as part of their Authenticke Medievale settinge. Again, that didn't strike me as the potentially controversial bit of vampire gaming.

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