Wednesday, 21 March 2012

D&D&Law – 4 things D&D has taught me about Law (part 1)

I love video games. When all the other kids were running around the playground, I was inside playing Tetris. While a usual student spends his Friday nights going out to bars to get hammered, my ideal Friday involves loading up on energy drinks and holding an old roleplaying games marathon with a television in the background playing an old cartoon like Dexter’s Laboratory.

It is only natural then that I would take an interest in Dungeons and Dragons, the tabletop roleplaying game that spawned most modern videogames of the genre. Basically, imagine monopoly with a lot more complicated rules. One person is designated the ‘dungeon master’(DM) and he is in charge of creating the narrative and controlling all outside factors. Now, you might be wondering why I am discussing this game on a blog dedicated to law. Well, there is a very good reason for that. Dungeons and Dragons has taught me a lot about studying law. This is partly because of how the game is set up and partly because of the nature of law. Here they are:

1. Knowing the law takes time
The first thing you receive when you want to play Dungeons and Dragons is the Player’s Handbook. It is a tome of 300 pages detailing the basic rules of the game. The DM gets to consult the Dungeon Master’s Guid, another 300 pages with more advanced rules. The Monsters that are fought are taken from the Monster Manual which is, you guessed it, over 300 pages long. Then there are 44 more books exactly like that. This multitude of rules can seem intimidating, but it is really not that bad once you start at the beginning and work your way through it. Almost all of the rules assume you already know all the other rules, so it is difficult to get started. All you can do is read everything and keep rereading until you got it…

… which is surprisingly a lot like how most laws work. There is a very large and complicated law, there are legal cases interpreting these laws and there is literature explaining them. The laws by themselves are usually confusing, but are essential to truly understanding the literature. And you need a decent grasp on both to really understand the legal cases. The important thing is to realize that knowing any set of rules takes time. Nobody is able to fully understand it because of the complicated nature of how rules fit together. You need to allow yourself the time to read and reread. Also, in both cases the process goes a whole lot quicker if you get someone who already knows it all to explain it to you.

The next three will be posted Friday. I was hoping to at least fit two things in this post, but, as it turns out, you quickly run out of space if you like ranting as much as I do.

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