The planet is EdenAgain. The continent is Talania. In the north, dragons and dark creatures rule over the human OnceBorn, promising them wealth and power but keeping them in bondage. In the south, the TwiceBorn, willing servants of the OverLord of Many Names, who sacrificed his life to gain their freedom, live in harmony — but some of them, moved by compassion for their suffering fellows, strike out into the Dragon Lands to battle the dark creatures and share the goodness of the OverLord.
"Might as well say it now. Dragonraid was an RPG put together by a Christian publisher in the early 80s', intended to provide an holy alternative to horrible Satanic games like Toon, Traveller, and, worst of all, the abominable creation known as Bunnies & Burrows."
DragonRaid came out in 1984, in the thick of both mainstream and conservative-Christian opposition to Dungeons & Dragons; it was The Moral Substitute at a time when the need for a substitute was deeply felt. And, indeed, almost every aspect of DragonRaid seems to be a direct response to some misconception about D&D.
- Against the idea that D&D encourages wanton killing, DragonRaid turns its monsters into allegorical representations of sin and punishes the killing of humans with massive stat-drains.
- Against the idea that role-playing is "simulation training" that inevitably influences real-life behavior, DragonRaid encourages role-playing virtuous behavior in situations that have clear parallels to real life.
- Against the idea that players regularly become despondent when their characters die, DragonRaid explicitly frames character death as noble martyrdom.
- Against the idea that the peer-DM controls every aspect of the player's life, DragonRaid expects games to be run by people with legitimate out-of-game authority (parents, youth pastors, Sunday school teachers).
- Against the idea that D&D players inevitably become ruthless and power-hungry, DragonRaid makes character advancement gradual, piecemeal, and contingent on the character's good behavior.
- Against the idea that players must recite spells for their characters to use magic, DragonRaid obliges players to recite Scripture for their characters to obtain miracles.
What is most curious about all this is that, despite being built almost entirely of opposition and reaction, DragonRaid still stands on its own as a perfectly solid, workable game. The setting, Anvilicious allegory though it be, is painted with loving detail, and the mechanics are simple and sound.
Character advancement occurs through the accumulation of "maturity units," which are earned for completing adventures, for in-character acts of kindness, and (most prevalently) for reciting WordRunes from memory. There is no level system per se; instead, each of the nine main stats increases independently of the others, and the skills which derive from it are recalculated on the spot.
Gameplay is extremely simple, and all player rolls can be done with a single d10. Skill checks are rolled as percentiles against difficulty. Attack and defense rolls have only one modifier each: Weapon Ability and Shield of Faith, respectively. Every weapon does either 1-5 or 1-10 damage.
Provides examples of:
- Always Chaotic Evil: Technically averted, but upheld in practice. Enemy creatures are evil members of otherwise good races, sequestered on EdenAgain to contain their corruption. Their good brethren remain on other planets, far from the action. See also Planet of Hats.
- Played straight with the dragons, since they're the setting's equivalent of devils.
- Experience Points: "Maturity units," which are earned for specific stats, and are tied to that stat. (For example, gaining 20 mu in Kindness automatically increases your Kindness by one point; you can't switch it over to buy up your Patience instead.)
- Fantastic Racism: The introduction of new playable races in the second edition comes with the suggestion to use them to "teach . . . players about the evils of racism." Included is a list of specific prejudices characters might exhibit, along with bona fide cultural differences that lend themselves to stereotyping.
- Insistent Terminology: Dragon Raid is not an RPG, Heavens, no. It's an Adventure Learning System, or ALS.
- The Missionary: Every player character is expected to "witness" to the OnceBorn.
- In the first scenario, however, characters are penalized if they do not abandon a human NPC on the grounds that his disbelief makes him unsuitable to associate with True Christians. The fact that the NPC expresses interest in conversion makes this all the more questionable, but then, he does run off and bring back enemies if you keep him around.
- Planet of Hats: Semi-justified. Most planets have a dominant race which exemplifies a particular virtue; those who defy that virtue are exiled to EdenAgain, where they can't upset the homogeneous cultures of their home planets.
- Prestige Class: In a sense, every class is a prestige class. All of the "special character roles" have fairly high stat requirements, which most characters can't meet starting out, but are expected to qualify for later.
- Railroading: Actively encouraged in the Adventure Master manual.
- Vapor Ware: The "second edition" (actually a non-obsoleting supplemental rule book) was announced more than ten years ago, and is still supposed to be imminent, but hasn't gotten past some as-yet-unofficial rules posted on the website.
- We Will Use WikiWords in the Future: StarLot. WordRune. LightRaider. TwiceBorn. EdenAgain. Typing this page was a RealPain.