Playing Dungeons & Dragons &… Ethics?

Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Marketing, Downtown Main Library

“Greetings, hero! Our realm was on the verge of peace, but something is afoot... a group of goblin diplomats is missing, a mysterious weapon was spotted in the wilds, and there are rumors a magical mechanic is up to no good. What will you do?”

This is how a dozen kids, between 10 and 15-years-old, were greeted as they began their weekly teachings about ethics. These lessons weren’t happening in the classroom, they were taking place through fantastic adventures in the mythical worlds of Dungeons & Dragons.

Ethics Taught by a... Wizard?

These young adventurers are being taught by a wise philosopher. Turns out, it isn’t Plato, Confucius, or Du Bois, but the powerful wizards of Waterdeep! These wizards are, in real life, from the Cincinnati Ethics Center and the University of Cincinnati Philosophy graduate program. Led by Dr. Andrew Cullison, Executive Director of The Cincinnati Ethics Center, opens a new window, this weekly Dungeons & Dragons Club for kids and teens was hosted every week this summer in partnership with the Westwood Branch Library.

Interested? See our calendar for upcoming sessions of this free, fun series for tweens and teens., opens a new window

“This is a great way to do what our version of ethics education is, which is cultivating moral reasoning skills,” Dr. Cullison explains, sharing how blending philosophical lessons into the Dungeons & Dragons world is a surprisingly effective way to teach ethics.

“Each week we ensured there’s is some kind of imaginary dilemma that they have to deliberate. Doing this in the fantasy realm of D&D gives us a lower-stake method to cultivate reasoning skills around ethical issues.

Resolving Dilemmas Through Roleplaying

What is a dilemma that these intrepid heroes may encounter?

In one adventure a powerful artificer – a skilled craftsman – is under a spell and not in control of his villainous actions. Some villagers in the realm want the artificer to be punished which will raise the question: should someone be faulted when they have no control over their actions?

Having a place where kids and teens can learn (while having fun!) in a new way has brought a regular crowd to the Westwood Branch. “We’ve been waiting to do D&D for a long time,” says Alyssa Nichting, Youth Librarian at the branch, “It's great to have this kind of community building. We’re seeing a bunch of kids that don't normally come to the library. They are able to come in and become friends with kids they'd not otherwise meet.”

The Adventure Continues

The Cincinnati Ethics Center is continuing their series of Dungeons & Dragons & Ethics this fall at the Avondale Branch Library. The series began Monday, September 12. Adventurers can attend every week or just attend when they’re able as there will be a new fun-filled story to explore each week.

Find more information about the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons & Ethics club meetings on our website, opens a new window.