25 November 2014

Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy: The Book

Congratulations to my friend Christopher Robichaud on his new book, Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy!

There is a nice overview of the book by Ethan Gilsdorf here.  It looks great, and I'm looking forward to delving into it once the holidays arrive.

On why Aristotle would've approved of playing RPGs:
In one of the most compelling chapters, “‘Others play at dice’: Friendship and Dungeons & Dragons,” Jeffery L. Nicholas offers several examples of friendships between characters and players in D&D (as well as friendships from Lord of the Rings, The Princess Bride, A Song of Ice and Fire, and his own life. “One reason Aristotle believes people need friends is that only through friendship can one exercise certain virtues that are necessary for leading a flourishing life,” he says. “Through D&D, individuals have the opportunity not only to learn about friendship, loyalty, and love, but also to develop those rare true friendships in which they live a life valuing loyalty and love.” 
I think all D&Ders can speak to a similar effect that the game has had on their lives. It’s a virtuous game, one that opens our eyes to different ideas, different worldviews, different perspectives, opposing plots and quests, as well as pursuit of the common good. “Characters develop relationships that mirror the relationships we develop with other players,” says Nicholas. Had it not been for D&D, he and his gaming buddies would never have been as close. “D&D brought us together once a week, and we were able to talk about the most important things in our lives.”
My only criticism: "No ... Kant vs. Nietzsche vs. Kierkegaard psionic showdowns on the Astral Plane."  (*sigh* Some day…)

Kudos to Christopher!  I think that he rolled a 'natural 20' with this one.

06 November 2014

Pelinore Returns

During the early 1980s I was something of an Anglophile, at least with respect to RPGs.  I generally preferred White Dwarf to Dragon (these were the years during which White Dwarf was a general RPG-focused magazine), I loved the Fighting Fantasy books (they were my ‘fix’ when I couldn’t get together with my friends for a regular game), among my favourite AD&D modules were the ‘U’ and ‘UK’ ones, and I was a big fan of the ‘weird’ Fiend Folio (the Githyanki, the Githzerai, the art of Russ Nicholson, etc.). 

During this time I picked up a few issues of Imagine magazine (now long lost, alas).  Unlike White Dwarf, it was hard to get Imagine at my local gaming shop.  Those few issues included some articles on a world called ‘Pelinore,’ which seemed cool and unusual.  I recall wondering what the whole setting was like.

Now that setting has been made available – for free – by Kellri, in the Collected Pellinore.  Kellri has brought together, in a single document, the Pellinore material from Imagine magazine and GameMaster Publications from 1984-85.  It can be obtained here.

How can one not love a setting in which the clerics of the ‘Green Man’ must be inebriated in order to obtain their divinely-provided spells?  (“His clerics must become moderately intoxicated before sleeping in order to regain their spells” [p. 20].)

05 November 2014

New Shadow World Novel

‘Shadow World’ (also known as ‘Kulthea’) is a fantasy world created by Terry K. Amthor, one of the original members of Iron Crown Enterprises.  It was designed for use with the Rolemaster fantasy role-playing game in the 1980s.  (Amthor’s Middle-Earth campaign module, The Court of Ardor, is sort of a ‘rough draft’ of Shadow World, and is a very poor fit for Middle-Earth, even by the rather loose standards of 1980s ICE.  Severed from Middle-earth, though, Ardor is an excellent setting – easily one of my favourite of all time.  But I digress…)

Amthor recently published a novel set in Shadow World, entitled The Loremaster Legacy.  The ‘Loremasters’ are a secret organisation of mages committed to fighting the ‘Unlife,’ similar to the Istari of Middle-earth, but without the semi-divine background.  (Interestingly, an earlier version of the Loremasters – the ‘Guild of Elements’ – exists within Ardor.)

I used to be a huge fan of Rolemaster, and Amthor's work in particular, including his Shadow World setting, or at least the continent of 'Jaiman' (I never really got into the other areas).  I remember finding the mix of fantasy and science fiction intriguing decades ago.  Now I know that such ‘mixing’ was common in the early days of FRPGs, in such settings as the Wilderlands and Blackmoor, but in the 1980s it seemed quite novel to me, as I was unfamiliar with those settings. 

Anyhow, it's been many years since I last thought about Shadow World at any length, but I may check this out!

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).