In this essay I will explore the ideas of luck, control by consent, unpredictability and the illusion of skill present in the ritual of the game Dungeons and Dragons, and why they are so prevelant in this ritual.
The game of Dungeons and Dragons is a popular fantasy roleplaying game created in 1974. The ideas of luck, control by consent, unpredictability and the illusion of skill are all very prevelant throughout the ritual, particularly in dice rolling and in the role of the Dungeon Master. These ideas have come about through the beliefs and needs of the players themselves, so by further investigating why these constructs are so present in the ritual we may be able to make some educated assumptions about the types of people attracted to these dice games. Players of Dungeons and Dragons in particular already have a desire to believe in more than just reality, which is very obvious by the way in which they try to affect the 'luck' of their dice and therefore have more control over the outcomes.
Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy roleplaying game made by the company Wizards of the Coast, and has gained huge popularity throughout the world since it was first created in 1974. Players create characters by selecting from the many choices of races, classes, backgrounds, religions, weapons, and many other factors such as height and weight, to special abilities that allow the character to become more specialised. The characters also each have a basic set of basic abilities such as acrobatics, diplomacy, intimidation, perception, and many more. These are used during the game to aid in 'checks' to see if the player can successfully complete actions such as unpicking locks, checking for traps, climbing walls, etc. This is done by rolling a die and adding the appropriate ability stat to the roll. How skilled a character is in each of these abilities is decided randomly either by the use of a computer program or (more commonly) by rolling dice, and later there is an opportunity to 'train' in certain abilities. The game is overseen by the Dungeon Master (DM) who controls the world in which the adventure takes place, and all of the creatures who interact with the adventurers. Often the world or 'rooms' (areas in which the action is happening) are represented by some kind of a board with a grid, and each character (represented by a figurine) in the encounter has a turn in which to make actions. Again, the order of this is determined by the ever-important dice roll (in this case it is known as an initiative check). This is a very basic outline of what occurs during a typical game, but of course exactly what occurs is dependent on what the DM has planned, as well as choices made by the players and the outcome of certain dice rolls.
The role of the Dungeon Master in Dungeons and Dragons is amazingly important. The DM 'plans, organizes, and describes the action' (Vos, Thomas, 2012) and is responible for building the world in which the adventure takes place. Because of this the DM has an enormous amount of control over the game, but it is only aquired by consent of the players who agree to play under their control. This creates a rather hegemonic type relationship between the DM and the players. The DM cannot just do whatever they want as they have to maintain some level of balance within the game so that the players continue to agree to play under the DM's rules. The players also have to learn to respect that the DM is ultimately not on their side, and has a duty to be unbiased in order for the game to be properly played out, even if this does occasionally include having to kill off a players character or letting a powerful enemy get away. One of the most important traits of a good Dungeon Master is the ability to think on the spot. The nature of the game is that it is unpredictable, the DM doesn't know how things are going to turn out, and neither...