The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

6 Ways D&D is not Like Medival Times

One of the things I always enjoy thinking about are the subtle ways in which D&D worlds must be more like our modern one than like the medieval Europe they are frequently patterned after. Here are 6 ways D&D worlds are like our own.

1. Time
Historically knowing the hour of the day was being very accurate. In D&D there are many common magics with times measured in minutes or seconds. Adventures would have a sense of time that was absolutely unheard of historically.

2. Literacy
How often do you meet an illiterate person in a D&D world? Usually infrequently enough that it really stands out. Of course, in the real world outside of nobility and clergy being literate was uncommon.

3. Accuracy
One of the things that goes hand in hand with literacy is the demand for accuracy. In oral cultures it is expected that stories will change with each teller; the point of stories is not to give an exact retelling, but rather to evoke similar emotions. But in most D&D worlds there is a very modern notion of accuracy.

4. Freedom
Slavery in D&D worlds is usually a plot point that spells E-V-I-L, and serfdom is unheard of. Both were very common and not frowned upon historically.

5. Money
I know there are some DMs who do an awesome job at bring real barter into the game; most, including me, just let the coinage do all the work. Moreover, I frequently just tell player to pay the book price for items rather than try to role play each shop keeper. Obviously having store that deal only in money at standardized prices is not historical.

6. Racism
Though I won’t deny there are certain types of racism in D&D, in another way it is really limited. Basically, all the good races are incredibly chummy. Sure the dwarves and elves get on each others nerves, but you don’t see the elves wearing white sheets or the dwarves running death camps. Considering that historically people have started killing each other over the tiniest of differences, this niceness is unreal.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.


November 15, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | ,


  1. … I’ve seen elves run halfling concentration camps…

    … but I will admit that elf campaign was a bit unusual in a lot of ways.

    Comment by kensanoni | November 15, 2010 | Reply

  2. You might want to add:

    7. Dear god the smell
    Sanitation was not really a priority in medieval times. You tended to empty your chamber pot right out the window onto the street. Elves presumably had outhouses someplace. With soft leaves nearby.

    8. You don’t get out much, do you?
    Travel was extremely dangerous – roads were terrible, ship travel dangerous and pirates and brigands a constant hazard. Finding a well-traveled person would be the exception.

    9. What the hell is that sore?
    Disease, infection, plague – all were very common in the medieval era’s. Of course, cure disease works better than penicillin, so it might not be an issue.

    Comment by wickedmurph | November 15, 2010 | Reply

    • All very good items.

      Actually, I’m sure we could extend this list to 100 if we tried.

      Comment by The Red DM | November 15, 2010 | Reply

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