Dungeons and Dragons and Delusions of Devils

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around FtB about Dungeons and Dragons. I’m one of those who stayed away from the game when I was a kid because I didn’t want to become a Satanist. At 11 or 12 years old, I was subscribed to Focus on the Family’s magazine for teen boys Breakaway. It quickly became my favorite magazine. The first issue I ever received had the story of a teenager who allegedly became a Satanist because he played Dungeons and Dragons.

Below, via Unreasonable Faith, is some vintage 60 Minutes from 1985 stoking hysteria around the game. It’s pretty nuts. 60 Minutes (and the police they reported on!) should be ashamed for irresponsibly treating superstitious paranoia so seriously. The D&D section is only the first 14 minutes and 20 seconds:

Also: Pharyngula passed on from Libby Anne a Christian alternative game meant to keep kids away from D&D.

Natalie Reed thought I should be a D&D cleric. I have no idea what that means. Click on the link to read her full casting of FtBers as D&D character types.

WWJTD opened the floor for that (a.nd more) D&D-FtB geekery and Julian disputed that I would make a good cleric:

Dan Fincke as a Cleric? He’s a philosopher. They’re all about perfecting themselves and eliminating the biases our feeble minds are born with. He’s a LG Monk for sure.

I don’t know what an LG Monk is either. But, my older cousin’s husband is senior vice president of marketing and go-to-market operations, for LG. (No that’s not Kirk Cameron pictured in the link.) He used to live with my mom and me while I was in high school. For another connection to Satanism—he played the devil in a complicated Christian camp game meant to simulate real life. He pulled me aside specifically early in the game and completely deceived me that I was on God’s team and he was letting me in on the secrets of the game.  It turned out we were on the devil’s team. We had to watch the other kids eat cake at the end. It was pretty traumatic.

Oh, and last but not least (I think not least but I’m not sure), Crommunist has gone and identified me as FtB Wu Tang’s Method Man. I think this is flattering. But I have no idea. All I know is that now I’ve got “The Method Man Can” stuck in my head, playing to the tune of “The Candy Man Can”. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Crommunist was thinking.

I will say this, “hey, you get off of my cloud” is one of my favorite songs. I like to quote it in everyday conversation. Whenever anyone says to me “hey” I say “You, get off of my cloud”. I don’t know how Crommunist knew that.

But since as a teenager I thought not only Dungeons and Dragons was Satanic but all secular rock music. So when I hear “hey, you get off of my cloud” in my mind, to this day it is as it comes up in this medley. (Understandably, I had a hard time with the section of that medley that incorporates “Sympathy for the Devil”. It was as Satanic as my music collection got.)

For more on my weird Christian childhood and other things (including the Beastie Boys) that I feared as Satanic read Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood and Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist Crommunist

    I don’t know how Crommunist knew that.


  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist Crommunist

    Also unless your childhood extended into the 90s and early 2000s, you should still know who Meth is. He’s been in a bunch of movies too.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

    Wow, dude’s been in a ton of stuff according to Wikipedia. Apparently I’ve seen him in some of it but I can’t remember him.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/billygutter01 billygutter01

    Hey you, get off my cloud
    You don’t know me
    And you don’t know my style….

    DAMN*! Now I have to dig my Wu-Tang clan CD out of the stacks and give it a spin for old time’s sake.

    Damn** you,Daniel! And double-damn** you, Crommunist!

    * Damn = Nice
    ** Damn = Thanks a shit-ton

  • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

    Do you want to learn?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Indeed. We’ve been discussing if that if ever there’s a Freethought Blogs Convention, D&D will be taught.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

      Good, I think you’d have fun.

    • Dave, the Kwisatz Haderach

      I would love to learn.

      We played D&D once, secretly, in the basement of the Christian school I was sent to as a kid. We were scared that we’d all end up possessed and evil, but it was a dare, and you know you can’t back down from a dare. The DM was terrible. He, like the rest of us, had no idea what was going on. It ended up sucking, and we never played again.

      But there are so many stories about epic campaigns and much fun times to be had, I would love to try again with an experienced DM, and see what the fuss is about.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Natalie Reed thinks I should be a D&D cleric. I have no idea what that means

    Under at least two flavors of D&D, characters’ characteristics are determined by rolling three six-sided* dice, giving scores from 3 to 18 in various abilities. These abilities are strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, charisma and wisdom. Being as you is a philosophician and, according to the propaganda, philosophitizing involves wisdom, Natalie made the assumption that your highest ability score would be wisdom. D&D Clerics need high wisdom.

    *Dice used in D&D include four sided, six sided, eight sided, ten sided and twenty sided. Here’s a rather pretty set you can get for less than $10.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      Oh yeah, there’s also 12 sided dice.

  • http://andythenerd.tumblr.com The Nerd

    I used to be a Christian. Then I started playing D&D. Now I’m an atheist.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

      It’s funny, because many of my characters tend to be quite pious. Of course, in D&D, there is evidence the gods exist.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Are you also a Satanist?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      D’oh! What was I thinking, you said you’re an atheist—that’s the same thing as a Satanist.

    • http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed Natalie Reed

      SHIT. IT HAPPENED THAT WAY FOR ME TOO?!? We’re through the looking glass here…

    • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight


    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      I was an atheist long before D&D was invented.

      <Hangs head in shame>

    • machintelligence

      ‘Tis @ 7
      Yeah, me too, by more than a decade.

    • machintelligence

      6 actually. I fear I’m becoming disnumeric.

  • sumdum

    I’ve never played D&D, but I like roleplaying games online. Seems rather interesting, if a bit nerdy. But, no friends around means I’d be all alone without anyone to play or teach me.

    • Aliasalpha

      Have you tried the D&D computer games from the early 2000s? They’re not a substitute for a creative group but they’re rather good (and only $6-10 on gog.com)

  • Sqrat

    It’s now a very long time ago, but in my youth I actually knew Dave Arneson, one of the co-designers of the orignal D&D. D&D had its origins in role-playing, a form of gaming invented by another mutual acquaintances, Dave Wesely. I knew them both because I was involved in a Napoleonic Wars simlation game that Dave Arneson was running and Dave Wesely was playing in. Wikipedia quotes Arneson, “At the time, I was quite tired of my Nappy (Napoleonic) campaign with all its rigid rules and was rebelling against it.”

    D&D evolved in part out of a set of medieval miniatures rules called “Chainmail.” As the story was told to me at the time, the idea was to put the players into the mindset of the medieval world — a word steeped in religion and superstition. The only way to do that properly, it was thought, was to create a game in which religious and magical rituals actually “work” in game terms.

    Speaking from first-hand knowledge, I can say that there was absolutely nothing “satanist” about Dave Arneson, but I sometimes wonder whether D&D does, indeed, derive from a skepticism which simply assumes that, as a matter of fact, religious and magical rituals DON’T work.

    • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

      You knew Dave Arneson!?! Sooooo jealous!!!

  • http://larianlequella.com larianlequella

    Back in the 80s there was a lot of mass hysteria going around. Not only about D&D, but satanic cults kidnapping babies and murdering them, repressed memories of thousands of girls recovered proving their dads molested them, and just a lot of irrational woo…

    I played D&D starting in 1978, and still enjoy the game. Although now I don’t get to play as much as I would like. I substitute online MMOs for that in a way (Dark Age of Camelot in my case).

    As a matter of fact, my username is really my favorite D&D character’s name.

  • jesse

    OK. I played a lot of D&D — and Traveler — as a kid into my adolescence in the early 80s.

    There was some, I guess, demon-related stuff, but it was related to Magic Users (yes, that’s what they were called) calling on them to do various things and killing them when they got out of line.

    I dunno, I thought it was fun and my math teacher loved the polyhedral dice, which he used in a demonstration of the Platonic solids.

    Either way I have to credit it with getting me and my friends into thinking about world-building.

    And Daniel would have made a good cleric. The funny thing was the cleric was supposed to be priest of whatever set of gods. They had a whole book called Deities and Demigods that laid out what they were supposed to do if you were a priest of, like, Thor.

    Monks, I think were modeled on Shaolin. But loosely. They were a tough one to play in the early iterations of the game.

    Ah memories of strange rituals of 13-year-olds.

  • http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed Natalie Reed

    FTB Wu-Tang:

    RZA – Ed
    GZA – PZ
    Ghostface Killah – Crommunist
    Raekwon The Chef – Physioproffe
    Method Man – Dan
    Inspectah Deck – Natalie
    Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Hank Fox
    Masta Killa – Jason
    Cappadonna – JT
    U-God – Ummmmm… I won’t inflict the shame of being u-god on anyone. John Loftus?

    • http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed Natalie Reed


      The Who-Tang Clan:

      -Method Cyberman
      -Gelthface Killah
      -Ol’ Dirty TimeLord
      -The Master Killa
      -Inspectah Dalek

  • Aliasalpha

    So when do we start arguing over the best setting? I’d either go for Planescape or Dragonlance. Oh and I guess Ravenloft was kind of cool in a gothic horror kind of way.

  • John Morales

    Nah, Dan is neither a cleric nor a monk — he’s a sage.

  • Andrew

    I want to hear more about the Christian version you played, pretending to be the devils sounds fun.

  • Gregory

    My, but this thread brings back memories.

    I played D&D and GURPS back in the 80s; I remember all the attempted hysteria over “Satan! SAAATAAAN!!!!” My group used to pass around the Jack Chick tracts (this one, in particular) and laugh ourselves silly.

    Nowadays, I’m more of an online role player: EverCrackQuest, EverCampQuest II, City of Heroes/Villans, Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft. I have managed to quit WoW and now spend my time trying desperately (and probably futilely) from getting sucked into another one.

    In WoW terms, I would classify Daniel as a priest. Most priests in World of Warcraft serve and draw their power from the Light, a non-theistic philosophy.

  • JeseC

    I think we decided with my group that the law/chaos divide depended on what ethical theory you held. So if you were a deontologist you were lawful, if you were a consequentialist you were chaotic, and if you were a virtue ethicist you were neutral. Letting philosophers play D&D has…interesting results.

    But there is such a thing in the game as a cleric of an ideal – you didn’t have to believe in a god do be a cleric. So it might even be possible to have a cleric of atheism, strange as that sounds.

  • Rick

    I remember when this video first aired and a good Christian girl inviting me to her bible study group so I could be saved from the horrors of D&D. Funny thing, now I am at Seminary and not only are there students who play (including me), but several professors and one priest also play. The alignment system can be a great starting point for debating ethics and morality.

  • Agent Smith

    I converted to D&D in the early ’80s, and have been an enthusiastic acolyte ever since. When I heard about how some people were castigating the game for being Satanic, I was both amused and bemused. Why pick on D&D, when it was clearly Monopoly that was of the devil?