The latest security risk: Dungeons & Dragons

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have sent a clear message to would-be recruits who like playing fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons: don't bother.

The IDF is noted for its careful vetting, through training and attention to psychological profiling based on decades of battlefield experience, and it seems that role-playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) players don't make the grade in a number of ways.

A story on Israeli online news site, Ynetnews, quotes sources inside the IDF describing enthusiasts of the game as "detached from reality and susceptible to influence." According to the story, young recruits who say they play D&D are automatically given a low security clearance and excluded from sensitive military positions. According to one unnamed military official, the assessment of D&D players is taken seriously enough to have become unofficial policy.

"One of the tests we do, either by asking soldiers directly or through information provided us, is to ask whether they take part in the game. If a soldier answers in the affirmative, he is sent to a professional for an evaluation, usually a psychologist," he is quoted as saying.

Assuming they get that far, more than half of the players sent for further evaluation are turned down for sensitive positions in the IDF. The official continues: "These people have a tendency to be influenced by external factors which could cloud their judgment. They may be detached from reality or have a weak personality, elements which lower a person's security clearance, allowing them to serve in the army, but not in sensitive positions."

Soldiers discovered to be enthusiasts face further problems. "Exposing them could also harm their chances at being accepted to other military courses," an IDF soldier and D&D player was quoted as saying. Many of the Israeli D&D players are said to be Jews who arrived in Israel from the former Soviet Union.

For those who don't know, Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing game where players act out fantasy adventures whose outcome is at least partly based on rolling a dice. It is frowned on by some Christian groups for its fascination with Wizards dragons, and pagan iconography.

It sounds like the doing of an over-zealous physiologist, but can the world's most paranoid careful army be completely in the wrong about this game? Certainly, telling the world about a vetting policy like this assumes people will carry on telling the truth when they apply for jobs, which seems unlikely.

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John E. Dunn
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