Book Review: Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy: Raiding the Temple of Wisdom
Part of the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series, Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy: Raiding the Temple of Wisdom attempts to apply the cerebral and lofty concepts and theories of philosophy to an iconic roleplaying game. A review by David Gerding says that there is a chance that you’ll dig this book. I think he should have said that there is a 2d10 percent chance that you will like and understand all the concepts presented in this book. I have never formally studied philosophy and after reading this book, I know why. There is some real merit in philosophy and in this book, but it seems like you have to dig around to find those useful nuggets.
This book has a healthy amount of essays covering a wide variety of D&D topics. When reading it as a gamer with little or no philosophical background, I found that some of the articles resonated more with me. I think that where this book might run into problems is that it seems to be geared for multiple audiences who will go into the book with many different expectations. Although I don’t think that the essays included in this collection served an interesting purpose for me as a gamer, even with my low Intelligence score, I did find that some of these essays were not only thought-provoking ones, but they also forced me to look at many common D&D issues from new and different angles.
Several of the essays deal with alignments and the concept of good vs. evil. Some DMs ignore alignment while others, like me, love it as roleplaying driver. I was surprised at how well the alignment descriptions from the D&D 3.5 Player’s Handbook held up during the essays. Actually, seeing the differences of the treatment of alignment among editions from an outside point of view was a real eye opener. As I adjusted to viewing gaming issues with a philosophical eye, I started to see the relevance of a book like this.
I can’t attest to the actual academic value of this book since I am not in academia. Based on the poor editing and the niche demographic that the book covers in relation to the overall study of philosophy, I would see this book as having limited use to most students. When viewed as a “Philosophy for Dummies: Gamer Version,” it becomes more educational but less interesting.
Because this book is a collection of essays, it was much easier to read in small doses. This book did open my eyes to some concepts I hadn’t even thought of as a DM, and I hope that I can distill those concepts into actions that will help me run a better game. Even with all of its faults, this book does have value, but don’t get too excited just because it has Dungeons & Dragons in the title.
Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy: Raiding the Temple of Wisdom
Edited by Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox
288 pages, Open Court
Review Disclaimer: This book was provided to the reviewer by Open Design.