Monday, June 6, 2011

Dungeons, Dragons and Halacha

In an earlier entry I discussed whether under halachah (Orthodox Jewish law) it would be acceptable to make a horcrux or become a lich if either were possible in real life. That entry was largely an excuse for bad wordplay related to the word "phylactery" which has a variety of meanings. A phylactery is in the most general sense an object which contains someting of religious or ritual significance. In the most common context, the word is used in the plural- "phylacteries" as an English translation of tefilin, the small boxes worn by some Jews at morning prayers. Another use of term is in Dungeons and Dragons, where the term is used to describe the object that a lich, a type of undead wizard, uses to store their soul.

However, I recently came across yet another meaning of this term in a Dungeons and Dragons context. There is a spell, described in the D&D book "Player's Guide to Faerun" called "Spell Phylactery" which allows one to store a spell on a scroll which "must be bound to your arm or forehead (usually rolled tightly or placed in a small box for this purpose)". This form seems more directly inspired by the phylacteries of the Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, even if D&D magic were real, it would not be halachically acceptable to make a three-way phylactery since the Spell Phylactery spell can only be cast by a worshipper of the goddess Mystra, which would be not allowed under halacha. Too bad. I really wanted phylacteries that functioned as both a phylactery and as a spell phylactery.

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