Mazes & Monsters and the BADD old days: I’m collecting stories of the backlash against Dungeons & Dragons

I’m collecting stories. I want to hear from any of you who played Dungeons & Dragons or any other pencil-and-paper fantasy role-playing games back in the day.

Specifically, I’m looking for stories of condemnation, consternation, opprobrium and sheer, unvarnished panic that you may have encountered during the height of the backlash against such games. Anything related to the Satanic panic, BADD, Mazes & Monsters, or to any of the myriad fundamentalist urban legends involving dark magic, spiritual warfare, or encounters with “real” spells, monsters or demons resulting from the perilous use of graph paper and multi-sided dice.

I’m guessing that some folks have no idea what any of the above is all about. But I’m sure that others know exactly what I’m referring to.

I first played such games back in the Reagan years. We played Tunnels & Trolls, which was every bit the down-market knock-off of D&D that its name suggests. It was a cheaper, simplified version that relied entirely on six-sided dice — requiring an unwieldy number of them for play at higher levels (we looted every Yahtzee set and board game in all of our houses).

The great advantage of Tunnels & Trolls for my friends and I was that it was not Dungeons & Dragons, which allowed us to defend the hobby in our evangelical Christian world by saying, “Oh, no, no, no. Of course we’re not playing Dungeons & Dragons. This is completely different.”

Eventually, to better shield ourselves from the concerns and criticisms of the good Christian folk at our churches and our school, we switched to MERP — Middle Earth Role-Playing. That was based on Tolkien, and Tolkien was friends with C.S. Lewis. So that had to be acceptable.

But for every member of our core-group of players, we had several other friends who wanted to play, but were not allowed. Some of their parents or churches objected due to the Mazes-and-Monsters style urban legends that were circulating back then. Others came from churches that embraced the demons-are-everywhere notion of spiritual warfare that Frank Peretti would soon ride to riches with This Present Darkness and its sequels. Others simply condemned any game involving imaginary magic for the same un-reasons that a later generation of evangelicals would condemn the Harry Potter novels.

I’m reconsidering that part of my personal history because I’m interested in how that anti-D&D sentiment ties in with the Satanic panic of that same period, and with the related phenomenon of things like Mike Warnke’s “ex-Satanic high priest” ministry, like the viral rumors about Procter & Gamble, and like the obsession with combatting Satanic baby-killers that was then transforming the public identity of our increasingly politicized evangelical subculture. (One irony of all of that, I think, is that fantasy role-playing games wound up being condemned by many people precisely because they had adopted a moralistic framework in which they were role-playing their own fantasy scenario.)

So I want to hear your stories too. If you were the proud owner of a set of multi-sided dice back then, what did your parents, relatives, teachers or Sunday school teachers think or say about that hobby? Did you have any encounters with anyone associated with BADD (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons)? Did you encounter any religious objections to your playing such games?

Please let me know. Share your stories here in comments or, if you’d prefer, email me at slacktivist (at) hotmail-dot-com.


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  • AnonaMiss

    A story from the late 2000’s: a friend of mine was Catholic and had a Baptist? some sort of fundamentalist – boyfriend. They used to play D&D at home with her nerdy Trekkie homeschooler mom as the DM. (I guess with such a big family, you know?) He was a year older than her and they kept their relationship going long distance until she could join him at the university.

    Unfortunately he fell in with a bad religious crowd at the university. A Pentecostal crowd of a Catholics Are Evil mentality.

    It caused friction for a couple years in which they were an otherwise happy couple, and during which they introduced me to D&D for the first time, with him as the DM. Then, during her sophomore/his junior year, he gave an ultimatum: she had to either convert away from Catholicism, presumably to the local fundegelicalism, or their relationship was over.

    She took the breakup hard – honestly they both did, after a few days he was begging her to take him back anyway but the fact that he had made such an ultimatum was more than she could stand.

    It was a few months later that I discovered Chick tracts in all their cheesy glory, and shared Dark Dungeons with my friend. She had a much stronger reaction than I had expected.

    Yep: as it turned out, Fundie Ex-Boyfriend, our Dungeon Master, had been attempting to evangelize her out of Catholicism with Chick Tracts.

  • Carl D. Orr

    I remember a letter run by our hometown newspaper about the evils of D&D. I wish I had saved it, because it was spectacular not only for its crazed urgency, but for its lack of understanding about the game itself. One of the things she was concerned about was “hex sheets.” Hex sheets are basically graph paper that uses hexagons rather than a square grid, and were used for outdoor maps.

    The paper, to their credit, ran a rebuttal letters column about two weeks later, with a good 10 or 12 responses from the nerd community explaining that D&D was in fact not a gateway to Satanism, and pointing out the original letter writer’s factual errors.

  • Jim Roberts

    My mom kind of freaked out about me using “hex maps” until I showed her what they actually were – Honestly, both my mom and dad were very good at dealing with me getting into roleplaying, I think in part because it was the first time I showed a real interest in socializing.

  • interleaper

     Ha! I had my mom pull a face at me once when I headed for a hobby shop, mentioning I wanted to pick up a pad of “hex paper”.

    But my mom wasn’t a fundie (it’s still a mystery to me why I got sent to that private school, and I suppose it always will be since my parents aren’t around to ask anymore). It’s just that anything related to magic or myth or fantasy– “weird” things– made her squeamish. I think she was afraid of it leading to some sort of psychological breakdown, not calling demons.

    My older sister was the fanatic spiritual warrior of the family. She would lecture me about how playing D&D (among other things) would “open doors for dark spiritual forces” and while I didn’t see a reason to believe this, she had demonstrated the willingness previously to invade my room and destroy my stuff, so I had to take her seriously. In desperation I proposed showing the (1st ed) AD&D books I had borrowed from a school friend to our pastor and promising to abide by his decision. So, we had the interview, and after he lingered for an uncomfortably long time over the Demons and Devils section of the Monster Manual, he finally said that while he felt the game dwelt a bit too much on the “subterranean”, ultimately he didn’t see the harm in it. That got my sister off my case, though she wasn’t happy about it, and eventually my mom even gave me a Player’s Handbook.

    The only actual game available to me at the time, though, was a room full of over a dozen grade-school boys all trying to play the same dungeon. It was pure confusion, not a satisfying experience at all. I continued to be fascinated by RPGs, buying and reading the game books and admiring the hobby from afar, but didn’t get to play in a campaign I enjoyed until several years after I graduated college.

  • Jdnicoll

    I ran a game store in Kitchener, Ontario from 1984 to 2001. In the 1980s, someone connected with St. Jerome’s, a near-by Catholic high school*, was given a copy of DARK DUNGEONS.

    Believing what they read, they kicked off a short-lived panic over the moral hazards of the school’s RPG club. The reason it was only short-lived is that the teacher supervising the club knew who Chick Publications was and better, had some of their pamphlets about Catholics and Catholicism. Hilarity ensued when those got passed around at the Moral Panic meeting.

    (I have a feeling the ban was specific to D&D because the person behind it didn’t know about other rpgs and nobody wanted to educate them in this matter)

    * For historical reasons Ontario has parallel school systems. Details here:

  • Jeff Weskamp

    My first exposure to D&D was the classic “red-box” set, which my folks bought for me back in 1983 at the local K_Mart.  I didn’t actually end up playing the game until I was 18 or 19, because I live in a small town in northeast Colorado, where fellow gamers were few and far between.

    I did a little bit of freelance writing back in the mid-00’s for Sword and Sorcery Studios, which was White Wolf’s line of products for 3rd-edition D&D under the Open Game License (specifically for their Scarred Lands campaign setting).  I’m now publishing a series of Pathfinder-compatible PDF’s for the Paizo Store.  My company is called Shadowland Press, and the series is titled “Secrets of the Synod Horrenda.”  It’s based on a slightly darker view of the Pathfinder RPG, and presents new spells, monsters, and ideas that are lean more towards the horror genre.  Here’s a link:

  • connorboone

    My father (who was raised Catholic, and who took me through Presbyterian, Reform and Evangelical as I was growing up) never disapproved of D&D, though he did mumble something about ‘well, it has magic, and some people think all magic comes from Satan’ at some point – though I’d been gaming for a couple years at that point.  I think I was 12 or so.

    I did, however, have a friend with a crazy evangelical mom – he had to hide his D&D books, but could store his Vampire: the Masquerade books openly.  He used to joke that, if his mother found his D&D books, he would just smile and say, “But I still have two more levels before I have to sacrifice my parents!”

  • Tim Lehnerer

    The following anecdotes reflect my childhood and adolescence in Wheaton, Illinois (roughly 1980-1995), The only family trouble I had while running AD&D 2nd edition was the parental edict that I had to include my friendless younger brother. In grade, middle and high school I remember hearing from multiple other kids that if your character in D&D died you had to kill yourself (I even loaned someone the rule book and asked him to highlight the rule that said you had to commit suicide when you lost a character); of course, that never happened. One of my friends’ mother said that he couldn’t hang up a poster of Wolverine because it was “Satanic”, but that guy played Heroes Unlimited rather than D&D. I never actually found out what she thought of games other than the most famous one.

    I brought a Rifts book to class my junior year of high school and was reading it instead of paying attention to whatever my class was second hour; that day by fifth hour there were rumors that I was a Satanist for reading a gaming book. I was already out as an atheist at that point, and when I tried to explain my position there were a great many people who literally could not imagine any option other than “Christian of my exact doctrine” and “Satan worshipper”. But they were about 16 at the time and were raised in the brass buckle of the Bible belt. It isn’t their fault they were raised to be ignorant.

  • Otrame

    I did not play back in the day, though I do now on occasion. My son, however, did. I had a supposedly educated school psychologist tell me most sincerely that the fact that he played D&D was evidence of his “schizo-typical” personality. As near as I could tell, this idiot thought having an imagination was “abnormal” and something to be guarded against.

    I’m not the confrontational type, but that time I went off. I said, “What infuriates me about what you just said is not that it shows me how incompetent you are. All I can think about is the parents who you have scared to death with that sort of diagnosis, because I know that is complete bullshit, but too many others won’t know that. Shame on you.”

    Oh, I am sure he thought I was in denial, but really, my son’s only real problem in school was painful boredom and failure-to-respond-to-negligible-attempts-to-deal-with-his-ADD.

    I did have a very sweet lady tell me that allowing too much free reign to the imagination could allow Satan to get a toe-hold in your kid’s soul. But that was about Harry Potter.

  • Larry Lennhoff

    Not exactly on point, but I was in college when D&D first started (to give some idea, my DM was one of the playtesters for Blackmoor, the supplement after GreyHawk).    I kept playing long after I left college.  When the D&D craze hit, my Mom suggested I get together with my 12 year old cousin, because we were both into D&D. I was 27 at the time.  Even more embarrassing than that, a year or so later he had outgrown it, and was greatly amused that I was still playing.

  • Ann Unemori

    Not much to add. For a while felt vaguely guilty about playing it, the conflict over being a RTC versus a much-needed mental adventure. Seems every group I joined broke up after about two episodes, there’s a meaning in that somewhere.

  • Matt C.

    In 1985, a few weeks after the 60 Minutes “expose'” on Dungeons and Dragons, my school tried to ban my RPG gaming group on the grounds that they’d “received complaints from parents about the disturbing things we were going playing THOSE games”.  Luckily, both my father as well as our faculty advisor (a math teacher who I’m ashamed to admit I don’t remember her name) stuck up for us and the club was allowed to continue to meet.  Later that same year, I also had a friend with a VERY religious mother who, when she discovered the Dungeons and Dragons books as well as some comic books I had loaned him, literally piled them up and had a book-burning bonfire on her apartment balcony.  When I showed up a few days later, unaware this had happened, she confronted me, called me “a pawn of Satan”, spit in my face and banned me from ever seeing her son again. 

  • Jinx

    My school (in England) didn’t have a D&D club, and there was a rumor that this was because the Headmaster had bought into the Mazes and Monsters line, but there wasn’t any hard evidence or even solid rumor to support this.

    Our school chaplain did show us any anti-cult/occult video once, though. Where AD&D was mentioned once, near the end. The video included a shot of the front cover of the 1st edition AD&D DMG, but with the bottom of the cover hidden; so that you could see the big scarey demonic looking monster, but not the people fighting it. A fact that I helpfully pointed out.

    Our chaplain was a genuinely nice guy who’d never dream of raising his voice at someone. I gave him a copy of “Good Omens” as a leaving present. Perfectly innocently – he sounded interested when I’d described the plot earlier.

  • Tim Lehnerer

    Just remembered another rumor:  The existence of “special characters” that you needed to play the game the properly Satanic way. I’m guessing someone made that up after they read the book(s) for the game and didn’t see any actual Satanism. I think I first heard that one in fourth or fifth grade from another kid at school.

  • Ann Unemori

    Sounds like a rumor dreamed up by one of the game publishers, hoping to get people to buy more books/dice/minatures in order to get the “special” stuff. It’s like looking for the one “lucky” Monopoly piece whenever McDonald’s has one of their contests. 

  • Mary Sue

    The interesting thing is I grew up in a liberal, progressive religious household, where we didn’t typically see demons behind every shadow and ill omens behind every stubbed toe. Yet my mother still banned D&D from the house because she’d seen Mazes and Monsters and a 60 Minutes special that purported anyone who would play D&D would turn into a drug-addicted serial killer. Of course, she’s terribly proud of the fact I now own my own home, but doesn’t want to hear about the raids I run for my friends around the dining room table in said home. 

  • Vermic

    I was born in 1971 and got into D&D when I was about 10, so I was playing right around the time when fundamentalist panic about the game started gathering steam.  My parents heard the Satan stories, but didn’t put much stock in them because they knew better; they could hear our gaming sessions in the basement and knew it was harmless creative fun.  They were more concerned with D&D replacing other forms of active outdoor activity — not too unreasonable a worry, really.

    I don’t have any tales of run-ins with fundamentalists, although when I and some friends tried to set up a D&D Club in junior high, the school turned us down because “D&D is considered a controversial subject to some people” and they didn’t want to have to deal with that.

    When I was in grade school, I remember seeing some televangelist railing against D&D, brandishing a copy of the 1e Player’s Handbook (the one with the cover art of adventurers looting a demon statue) and basically arguing “Well, there’s a demon on the cover, there you go.”  For me, it was a valuable early lesson that grownups, even grownups on TV in nice suits, frequently didn’t know shit.

    But anyway, MERP as a morally acceptable alternative to D&D?  I hope they didn’t look too closely at the critical hit table.  Some of those outcomes are brutal.

  • Mathbard

    I didn’t start playing until I was stationed in Germany a few years ago, but I vaguely remember my parents burning a set of D&D books when I was a kid. I don’t remember when they were bought, but I remember my mother saying she was having nightmares about them, and that was why they were burned. Later, when I was a teenager, there was a couple episodes of Adventures in Odyssey that were about a group of kids playing some sort of RPG (D&D never got mentioned in-story, but it was made clear that *that* was what was being referenced) and horrible stuff happened to the kids playing the game.

    Now I play off and on with various groups using D&D, White Wolf, and Savage Worlds, or a combination of them all. Don’t have a local group right now, though, people keep moving away or being super busy.

  • Ross

    The only real incident i can remember is that my friends were briefly barred from reading their Rifts sourcebooks during study hall because RPGs were “associated with cults”.

    (Study hall was a big ball of fail anyway, since the reason it existed was that there had been a bad ice storm that year, so they extended  the school day by half an hour to catch up. This caused a lot of havoc for parents whose schedules couldn’t easily accomodate “the kid comes home half an hour later”, plus the individual schools couldn’t come up with anything useful to do with an extra half hour, so they just added a half hour of “sit quietly and read. But you’re not allowed to do homework since homework is to be done at home”)

  • EllieMurasaki

    a half hour of “sit quietly and read. But you’re not allowed to do homework since homework is to be done at home”

    How many kids took a sudden grade drop because a half hour less time at home any given day meant they couldn’t finish that day’s homework?

  • Dave

    I remember being puzzled in my youth by the fact that a community that was so centrally defined by their shared make-believe stories (both canonical and improvised) about magic, gods, demons, heroic adventures and so forth was so adamantly opposed to D&D. It took me a while to wrap my brain around the fact that admitting it was make-believe was such a dealbreaker.

    Not really on-point, but… my (non-Christian) parents’ objection to  D&D was mostly they thought it was stupid. I remember explicitly drawing connections between the monsters and adventures and magic items in the Greek mythology we were studying stories about in (public) high school and the monsters and adventures and magic items we were playing with stories about at home, and my mom arguing that they weren’t at all the same thing, since one of them was a school subject and the other wasn’t.

    In retrospect, I should have asked her how I’d be able to tell which of the two was stupid if I didn’t already know one of them was taught in school.

  • Vermic

    I remember being puzzled in my youth by the fact that a community that was so centrally defined by their shared make-believe stories (both canonical and improvised) about magic, gods, demons, heroic adventures and so forth was so adamantly opposed to D&D.

    The thing that broke my brain was how moral guardians warned that D&D would ruin your ability to tell fantasy from reality, but they were the ones claiming that demons were real and you could use the books to summon them.  Like, I’m eleven years old and I already know it doesn’t work that way, sir or madam.

  • Dave

     Yes, exactly this.

    I mean, it took me a long time to unravel the tangle enough to state it as clearly as you just did, but that was the crux of it: just what do we mean by “reality” here?

    Once I got it clear in my head that what they meant by “reality” included Jehovah the Creator who both brought into the world as an act of special loving creation bugs whose maturing larvae ate their way out of their mothers’ still-living bodies and thought anal sex was unspeakably disgusting, it all made a lot more sense.

  • fraser

     Stephen Jay Gould has written about the 19th-century theory that larvae of that sort are God’s way of showing us how noble motherhood is.

  • Dave

    Indeed he has. I’ve never been able to decide whether the notion that being eaten alive from the inside out ought to be some kind of aspirational template for feminine nobility is more or less disgusting than the notion that it in fact is one.

  • vsm

    A pelican stabbing herself to feed the blood to her young used to be a very popular symbol for Christ. I guess it’s the same principle taken up to eleven.

  • Mordicai

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m in my thirties & roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons remain my primary hobby.  How that relates to being forbidden from playing Dungeons & Dragons…well, I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

    I was absolutely forbidden from playing Dungeons & Dragons.  Like a lot of my mother’s stricter rules, it was unevenly enforced.  Months would go by where I wasn’t hassled about it, & then one day I’d come home from school to find out that she’d gone through all my things & thrown out all of my RPG books (& for that matter, black clothing).  So, I’d go out & buy them again, but this time I’d just hide them.

    Why?  “The devil.”  How exactly or why exactly was totally immaterial.  It wasn’t rational, & she didn’t even pretend that it was.  “Witchcraft.”  Somehow.  She’d heard about it somewhere, & so.  That HAD to be what was wrong with me, after all!  I wasn’t the son she wanted, so if she started demonizing all the things I liked, she eventually would figure out the reason why I was such a bad son, right?

    For me, games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness– & yes, MERP!– were a middle ground that I could sometimes occupy, as well.  Though I still took care to keep them hidden– you never know when the mood will turn– but that was the rhetorical axioms I would start from, arguing about games that, you know, didn’t have magic-users or “baatezu” in them.As sort of an end note to all this, I will mention that, unsurprisingly, I am estranged from my family.  I don’t speak to my father, don’t really talk  to my sibling, & don’t call my mother unless she sends me something for my birthday or Christmas; it would be rude otherwise, right?  I don’t go home, I don’t visit, I don’t have a real relationship with them.  Because, well, I spent my whole life being told I was– & that everything I liked, from games to music to fashion– was literally satanic.

  • histrogeek

    Probably been mentioned already but This American Life had something on the moral panic about ten years ago with some crazy woman giving a speech on the dangers of D&D. It was a recording from back in the eighties I think.
    I only remember it because she was so delightfully over the top. Basically she said D&D led to orgies, sodomy, and black magic. I just kept thinking, damn did I ever do that game wrong. Sort of like all the public sex that accompanies gay pride parades in the fundieverse, I just keep missing the good parts.

  • Ann Unemori

    Orgies? Darn, howcum I never got to join one of those groups? ;-)

  • histrogeek

     I know! The professional nags could really do us damned souls a solid and at least tell us where this is going on. So we can, um, disapprove of it. Yeah that’s it.

  • Lliira

    I know of one person who has orgies and D&D with the same group of people. I’m 99% sure the orgies came first, though. 

    I know everyone’s joking (and it is funny), but seriously, if you want D&D plus orgies — build it and they will come.

  • mistformsquirrel

     Am I terribly wrong for thinking “That’s going to require one hell of a charisma check…”? >_>

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Hey! Mistform! *wavewave* where’ve you been? :D

  • mistformsquirrel

    Hiding >.> (Holiday stress made me feel pretty unsociable for awhile, so I just hid (‘x’) is what I do sometimes.)

  • fraser

     Shit, orgies? So many cute women in my college group and they never invited me …

  • 2-D Man

    I never got into the tabletop games. Although I’d still like to give it a try.

    My Free Methodist dad acquired a look of concern when I told him that I was playing Baldur’s Gate 2 (and told him that it ran off the D&D ruleset). That was in 2004, I think…?

  • Joshua

    I think I mentioned this in previous threads, but…

    As a kid, I was already quite the nerd, and correspondingly I had nerd friends. One of them was a D&D player, and at one point we (there were four of us) got together to play a game out of the old Red Box.

    Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling my dad, as staunch a “Baptist” as he was dedicated to being a violent asshole. He was furious and forbid me from ever playing D&D again. I think he also forbid me from talking to the kid who owned the Red Box, because I don’t recall spending much time with him after that.

    Anyway, my remaining friends and I still had the RPG bug, so we tried out a few others. We tried out the Mechwarrior RPG but didn’t get that into the system. Then we moved on to the Robotech and Macross RPGS, which we did stick with. Those two RPGs were published by Palladium, who prided themselves on a cross-compatible system that allowed content from any of their games to be used in any other of their games.

    One of those other games was Rifts… As far as “demonic content”, D&D to Rifts was a real frying pan to fire scenario. At the very least, it was a solid R, and my friends and I were around 13ish. But, see, it WASN’T D&D and was therefore ok.

  • FearlessSon

    Those two RPGs were published by Palladium, who prided themselves on a cross-compatible system that allowed content from any of their games to be used in any other of their games.

    Their systems may have been cross compatible, and some of their settings were richly creative, but damn if those systems could be kind of frustrating to deal with.  They are much better at representing some things than others, which despite the compatible rules leads to some things being a lot more ridiculous than others.  

  • Aaron Boyden

    I gamed throughout the 80s.  I heard about the weird controversies, but none of my friends seemed to have problems with their parents thinking the games were satanic.  Two of the kids I games with were actually friends I knew from church (they were also cousins of E. Gary Gygax; I was quite jealous of how they got signed copies of the newest D&D books every Christmas or birthday).

  • Cathy W

    I played D&D in the ’80s – with my parents once or twice, so they knew the fuss was about nothing. Hubby also played D&D in the ’80s, and I know there was some church-related backlash that resulted in a lot of his books being burned; I’ll ask him if I can share.

  • vsm

    I don’t think Finland ever got the note about D&D being evil, maybe aside from small Pentecostal groups. You were much more likely to get shit for liking metal in the eighties and nineties, and once some of our metal bands started gaining an international following, even that stopped. (Finns are wonderfully opportunistic like that. If foreigners like something we’ve done, it immediately becomes a source of national pride. This includes Adam Lambert’s boyfriend.)

    I do remember a high school friend whose days of playing Magic the Gathering stopped with the visit of a Swedish aunt. On the day she left, she stole all his cards and threw them in the Gulf of Bothnia. Despite that episode, he grew up into an upstanding Christian with a deep love of fantasy and science fiction.

  • Devin Parker

    I wonder whether kids today can fully appreciate what it was like back in the 80s when these sorts of panics would make the rounds. It’s not as though people could go online and check Snopes to see if it was true or not. I vividly remember third-generation Xerox copies of articles being passed around with all sorts of wild claims about D&D and the people who played it.

    My older brother and I grew up in a conservative Christian extended family. We started playing what we called “D&D” with my cousin, where my cousin would act as Dungeon Master and narrate the dungeon for us, and my brother and I would tell him what we wanted our characters to do (my brother got to be a knight; I always had to be his squire). Later, I played in my first real AD&D game with a friend and his older brother, and shortly after that, my parents bought us the Moldvay Red Box Basic D&D set and the World of Greyhawk campaign setting. I took to DMing, which remains my favorite role. This was in the early-to-mid 80s, so D&D was in its first heyday and at the peak of public popularity.

    Eventually, the moral panic made its rounds. “20/20” and “60 Minutes” had their episodes on the subject, where they spoke to Pat Pulling and others who made the claim that Satanic cults and demon possessions were connected to the game (and Gary Gygax told them they were being silly). I remember being creeped out by the silhouetted person who told the reporter about how he was thrown across his bedroom by a demonic force that he believed came from his D&D lead miniature, or some similar drivel. At the time, it was pretty creepy, and these stories were seemingly everywhere. It never made me think it had anything to do with the game, but we were pretty sure there were Satanic cults everywhere, sacrificing animals out in the woods. I saw the “Dark Dungeons” Chick tract at about that time (my best friend’s older sister had a ton of Chick tracts), and we had great fun using white-out on the word bubbles to write in our own captions.

    Then the youth pastor at our church got on a jag about D&D and managed to convince my brother – who had been playing as long as I had, mind you – that it was truly evil, and so my brother refused to play for a few months. I had to remind him that never once had we ever done anything that could be considered un-Christian when we played, and after a while he returned to his senses. (This same pastor fed him audio tapes from some group called “The Eagle’s Nest” or something similar, on which a histrionic preacher ‘demonstrated’ how backwards masking in heavy metal was encouraging us to worship Satan, and KISS actually stood for “Knights In Satan’s Service;” stuff like that.)

    My parents, God bless them, were always rational people. My mother asked us a few specific questions about the game, and came away convinced that there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it. And aside from one odd incident where my usually patient and sweet grandmother got uncharacteristically angry with me for buying an Endless Quest book (TSR’s version of the Choose Your Own Adventure Books) because it was “Satanic”, it was never really an issue in our household. Having said that, my father eventually took a dislike to the game because my brother and I would spend all of our time and effort making stuff for the game instead of, say, doing our homework… Later on, however, I think I felt some kinship with my father – and perhaps he was more understanding about this issue in the first place because of this – when I discovered that he had been given a great deal of grief from some of the same people at church because he was a Freemason. He had been subjected to many of the same accusations that I had gotten.

    But the D&D scare came up occasionally after that. Every now and then it would be mentioned in a sermon, and we would all roll our eyes. I had a friend at church who eventually joined our gaming group, but would refuse to play D&D because “that’s that Satanic game.” But he had no problem playing a sociopathic killer in Cyberpunk…

    My mother has since gotten a taste of the moral panic, as well, since she was a big fan of the Harry Potter novels. I’m sad to say that it’s still alive and well in some quarters, as I can attest to after working in a Christian bookstore for a few years. Still, there’s no comparison now to what it was like then. Things have improved exponentially.

  • FearlessSon

    Silver lining – you are probably more likely to be able to get lead-free ones these days.

    Damn near impossible to get lead containing ones these days, if you are buying from official sources.  Citadel Miniatures discontinued their metal models sometime in the last few years.  Now they only sell plastic kits and resin models.  

    … while still charging prices as though they were white metal.  Yeah “price control” is apparently an anathema concept to Games Workshop these days.  

  • Albanaeon

     The resin thing really bothers me.  Considering GW implied at least that the cost of pewter was getting too high as a reason for switching to resin, then STILL increased the prices, it’s hard not to be a little miffed about the whole thing.  Particularly when I am filling in air bubbles worse than I’d get from my own castings in models.

  • FearlessSon

     The resin thing really bothers me.  Considering GW implied at least that the cost of pewter was getting too high as a reason for switching to resin, then STILL increased the prices, it’s hard not to be a little miffed about the whole thing.  Particularly when I am filling in air bubbles worse than I’d get from my own castings in models.

    You are not the only one.  GW has been getting really greedy lately.  There used to be a lot more do-it-yourself encouraged when it came to things like terrain or super-heavy vehicles, but these days those things are discouraged in favor of hawking bigger and more expensive pre-made stuff.  

    Pre-made stuff is nice insofar as it is technically high quality and can be recombined in a variety of ways, but it feels like something is lost when original stuff is not mixed in there with it.  

    I guess it is unsurprising that a lot of the old-guard has left GW to go and work elsewhere.  For example, Rick Priestley, Andy Hoare, and even Andy Chambers went to go and write for Fantasy Flight Games (who publish all the paper-and-pencil RPGs in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Warhammer 40,000 universes) instead.

  • Marc Mielke

    They might as well gouge while they can: once 3-d printing becomes common, miniature piracy will go THROUGH THE ROOF. I already know a couple people who buy one unit and throw it into the replimat until they have an army. 

  • FearlessSon

    They might as well gouge while they can: once 3-d printing becomes common, miniature piracy will go THROUGH THE ROOF. I already know a couple people who buy one unit and throw it into the replimat until they have an army.

    Yeah, but in that I see pretty clear parallels between miniature sales and software sales.  Piracy happens and there is nothing you can do to completely eliminate it, but there are things you can do to raise the barrier of entry to pirates (limiting the amount of “casual” piracy that can happen) and mitigate the demand for piracy in the first place (prices in excess of the value the market is prepared to tolerate tend to drive up piracy demand.)  

    Given that 3D printing is still a semi-expensive process to do out of the home, and you already have a barrier of entry right there (the only people who could afford to pirate the models can afford to buy them) and as much as they manufacture these machines there is only so much they can do to bring the prices down (lots of moving parts and expended material.)  The other aspect to this is that home-done casting, which cheaper, still requires a certain amount of investment on the part of the pirate both in terms of money and in terms of practice to be able to do a good job of it.  

    The second factor I mentioned, the price being out of sync with the value, is something that increases demand for piracy in the first place.  Even more “casual” pirates will be more willing to go to those extra lengths to pirate when the price of the original is high enough to justify the hassle of going through some of those more necessarily difficult pirate means.  If the prices come back down to reasonable, demand for pirated product will dry up and you will see fewer people actually pirating.  

  • Turcano

    The truly horrible thing is that I actually prefer Failcost to pewter; for all of its many faults, you can at least glue it together properly and straighten it with a heating element.  Although I suppose I just had a very bad initial experience with pewter when I bought a Thunderfire Cannon that I belatedly discovered was impossible to put together.

  • FearlessSon

    The truly horrible thing is that I actually prefer Failcost to pewter; for all of its many faults, you can at least glue it together properly and straighten it with a heating element.  Although I suppose I just had a very bad initial experience with pewter when I bought a Thunderfire Cannon that I belatedly discovered was impossible to put together.

    Resin is admittedly better at that than puter ever was.  However, most of the resin models that they sell now were for poses that they would never have done in old puter because of casting and assembly limitations.  I do know that you could shape puter without heating though, but its weight made attaching difficult.  A pin vice and some steel wire was the usual solution to strengthen the joins.  It is a practice I still maintain even after switching to the new stuff because it makes them easier to pose models in a more “active” stance without risking it falling apart by being handled.  

    Of course, the difficulty of attaching the puter stuff is the reason Abbadon Has No Arms.

  • Albanaeon

    Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of advantages to Failcast, such as I am refinding as I try to put together a metal Balrog, such as it’s lightness make big models much less a pain.

    Still, given that I have produced more consistent casts from resin, or at least discarded the ones that were bad, buying less than nearly perfect for the prices GW is selling is… irritating.

  • Another Matt

    I’m probably too young to be associated with the D&D panic, but I can tell you my dad freaked out when he found out what the Nintendo game Final Fantasy was about after I got it for my 10th birthday. At first he was willing to let me play it so long as I didn’t use any magic-using characters. Eventually I just played it when he wasn’t home… but he lost that fight when my younger brothers got into video games.

    I’m sure there are plenty of people my age and younger who had similar experiences with video-game RPGs in the late 80s and 90s, if you wanted to expand your search a little.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Considering the Fighter and the Thief both class-change into minor magic users, it sounds like your all Black Belt/Master game can’t have been very fun. Or was there a loophole if you didn’t actually buy any spells for them?

  • Another Matt

    Considering the Fighter and the Thief both class-change into minor magic users, it sounds like your all Black Belt/Master game can’t have been very fun. Or was there a loophole if you didn’t actually buy any spells for them?

    Ha ha, no, I just didn’t say anything about that. But any of the mage/wizard characters were out, and anyway he quit paying (that is, I quit playing while he was home) long before I was able to achieve the class change for the first time! I also didn’t mention the various potions…

  • Michael Pullmann

     Ah, yes, the old “what Dad doesn’t know won’t hurt me” gambit. That’s how I got away with reading Preacher.

  • Andrew

    I played d&d with a group of friends once a week with a group of friends after school (in the high school); it was well worth the extra hour of time on the late bus. There was someone in the town who wrote a nasty letter to the paper about the dangers of the game. In response, the mother of two of the members of my group wrote a rebuttal; a year later, there was a role playing club in the middle school.

  • FearlessSon

    As I mentioned in my first comment on the thread, I never had any condemnation of my tabletop RPG hobbies from my family.  However, I have had it a few times from strangers on the bus.  

    First example, when I was on the bus one morning and I was reading Drizzt Do’Urden’s Guide to the Underdark, specifically a chapter about deities worshiped by Underdark societies, specifically the entry about Ghaunadaur, the god of slimes, rebels, and outcasts.  A lady sitting across the isle from me caught a look at the pages and took some objection to them.  She moved across and sat next to me, trying to get me to look at a little handcraft set up like a tiny book made of several pieces of differently colored felt, explaining that they signified different books of the Bible.  She seemed more “earnest concern” than “angry” though, but my stop was just ahead at that point so I was able to extract myself quickly.  

    The next time I was reading the Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Angels of Darkness, covering the Blood Angels and Dark Angels chapters of Space Marines.  I was reading some pages about the Blood Angel’s flawed geneseed and what it does to them, when the older lady across the aisle from me (different lady this time) got an angry expression and started asking me why I was reading a book talking about the “Black Rage” and “Red Thirst”.  I tried to explain that it was just a game.  She spent the rest of the bus trip occasionally looking disapprovingly in my direction.  

  • Sam Kabo Ashwell

    Growing up in Botswana, I had a good friend who was the son of Australian missionaries.  At some point (I must have been nine or ten at the time) I wanted to play a cheesy Top-Trumps-like game that was based on some series of highly-generic genre-fantasy graphic novel. His immediate response was ‘not until I check this out with my parents’; he’d been prepped for this.  The explanation wasn’t very clear, and is further muddled by imperfect memory and youthful incomprehension, but it was something like along the lines of ‘good and evil aren’t a game’, or that you should never put yourself in a situation where you imagine you’re the evil side.

  • Jesse M. Danielson

    This one is from the mid-90’s, but I was DMing AD&D back when I was in 6th grade, and there was this guy who really wanted to play with us.  However, his parents were insane, and wouldn’t let him play because the game was “Satanic.”  The kid also had to deal with other issues, like not being able to play Starcraft because he could play as non-humans and having to subsequently hide it from his parents that the Orcs were playable in Warcraft II.  Must of been effective though.  The guy’s a militarist jerk nowadays…

  • NobleExperiments

    I was a little older when D&D became a thing, so I missed actually playing it.  But how about going back to Ouiji Boards in the 1970s?  I remember my parents and my friends’ parents warning us against letting “evil spirits” in, which made it – of course – irresistible.  I only did it a couple of time because I was too creeped out (what if my parents were RIGHT?!?).

    I was raised in a family in which my grandfather, the patriarch, didn’t approve of “fiction” (anything not non-fiction or documentary) because it wasn’t real.  D&D, etc. would have been seen, “evil spirits” aside, as focusing on something Not Real, and therefore Not Godly.  I’ve since come to believe that one of the most evil things a person can do to a child’s mind is to deny them their imagination.

  • NobleExperiments

    BTW, the Proctor & Gamble urban legend came directly from their big competitor Amway and then gained a life of its own (I remember it from the 1970s) when I was a young fundy.  Amway’s long used the power of its position as a “Christian business” to demonize their competitors and detractors.

  • Pvanhiel

    Several instances over years of playing RPGs, from age 13 to my late 20s.  I was in the Salvation Army, which had no formal policy on D&D, but this meant a lot of paranoia from down south could leak in.

    At some point in grade nine I acquired a very beat-up copy of the 1st edition AD&D player’s handbook from an acquaintance at church. The book was held together with duct tape, which also handily covered the spine, meaning I was able to cleverly conceal the manual between some of my wholesome coffee table books about Warsaw Pact armies or WWII. I’d crack it open at odd times, impressed by the line art, the tone of the text, the dense pages of rules covering strange situations. The rules were a mystery to be solved, an arcane language I had not yet mastered. 
    About this time, a fellow named Matthew appeared on the local church scene. Like me, he attended the Salvation Army, though he was not at my “corps”, or church. My memories of him are vague in many respects.  He was my age, nerdy, and he played AD&D. Or rather, he had played it. At some point, he’d seen the light and realized the game was a pack of Satanic lies, infused with dark magicks and demonic influences. What’s more, he was telling everyone about it. He spoke at “teens and twenties” groups locally about his struggle with AD&D addiction. He regarded it quite seriously as a Satanic snare. Matt was embraced by church leaders as a true believer who’d walked the dark path, and snatched from the jaws of Hell by the saving blood of Jesus. They’d never played D&D, but were quite happy to accept the testimony of this earnest young man.An interview with Matt appeared in the Salvation Army’s youth magazine. It was revealing. Matt talked about how the game encouraged evil, and cheating, and the use of the supernatural. He talked about his character (a high level Chaotic Evil mage/psionicist) and how he profited through death and slaughter. He talked about how the game encouraged you to kill your fellow players. He noted that he burned his books rather than give them away.At the time, I remember reading the article and thinking, “No it doesn’t! You’re just playing like a jerk!” At the time, my only characters had been a Lawful Good Paladin and a Neutral Good Cavalier. It was as though Matt had played Monopoly and kept stealing money from other players, then turned around and claimed that Monopoly encouraged theft. Still, his testimony made me uncomfortable. Maybe he was right! Maybe, just by having that book in my room, I was inviting Satan to eat my soul. Why did I even want it? Could it be because demons were whispering sly inveiglements into my ears, planting lustful desires in my soul? I was troubled. My failure to throw away the book was a sin. Later, I learned that Matt was going to be the keynote speaker at that year’s Salvation Army Youth Councils. I was going, and rather looking forward to it. In those heady days, the Youth Council was a major event, with hundreds of attendees. I roomed with my friend Dave, who attended another church. He was an RPG nerd as well.There were the usual combination of Jesus cheerleading, repetitive praise and worship songs, and legitimate theological commentary. These were followed with small group panels. A friend and I attended one about demonic possession, which featured a tape recorded account of an exorcism by a Salvation Army officer. This was heady, scary stuff. We all shivered in the classroom as the bass voice of the exorcist rumbled on and on from a tape player. “We started singing hymns,” the exorcist said. “Demons don’t like hymns,” he noted wryly, and the whole room broke out in nervous laughter.Afterward, we wandered the campus, talking about what we’d learned in the panel. We were both firm believers, though I suspect mainly because we wanted to imagine ourselves as members of a secret band of faith warriors who could see through the mechanistic illusion of the day-to-day world. It was almost like we were role-playing, except for real.Next day, Matt spoke. He spoke about his character, and his struggle to stop playing the game. He spoke about his evil (in game) compulsions to cheat and steal. He tied the use of spells in the game to black magic and Satanism, at a time when North America was still largely in the grip of the Satanic Panic of the 80s. As he spoke, I grow restless and anxious. Was it the self-realization of my own sin making me feel this way? I thought it was, for a while.As Matt’s commentary became more and more outrageous, I realized what I was actually feeling was anger. This kid was up on stage telling lies. And not one of the hundreds of people in the room was calling him on these lies. Most of them couldn’t. They were swallowing them as truth because, hey, Matt had been there. And on stage with Matt were various senior local officers, nodding soberly at the troubling testimony of this brave young man.It took me a long time to process Matt’s comments. Months later, he was at my church and I tried to talk to him about it. I said I didn’t think D&D was that bad, and he said, “It’s Satanic.” I tried to make a joke of it and replied, “Yeah, but only if you find devil worship Satanic.” I don’t think anyone realized I was trying to be funny.I think the idea of playing the target in a struggle between Heaven and Hell appealed to Matt, just as the idea of fighting real demons appealed to Dave and I. It let us recast ourselves as heroes in a mythic drama, as shining pawns in the great war against the Evil One.

    In short, we were all just roleplaying…In short, we liked having excuses to roleplay.

  • FearlessSon

    In short, we were all just roleplaying…In short, we liked having excuses to roleplay.

    You know, this reminds me of something Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw once said about how we are all nerds of one kind or another.  Even people who are dedicated sports fans are, measured by certain sets of metrics, nerds.  He generalizes that anyone who is passionate about something is a form of nerd, and piteous is the rare non-nerd who never finds something to be passionate about.

    What he did say was a bit tragic about sports nerds though is how many of them seem to be in denial about their own nerdiness.  To quote, “And if we could just encourage them to drop this air of toughness and superiority, I think we could all get along a lot better.”

    I think that a lot of the same could be said about Christ-nerds.  It is wonderful that they are so passionate, but if they could own up about what they are interested in and why there would be a lot less conflict.  

  • Albanaeon

    Had a bit of fun with that when I sent out one of those “motivational posters” to my crew which included an over the top fantasy football fanatic coworker.  The caption was “D&D for people that used to tease D&D players.”

    That he didn’t get the joke was on HIM was the truly priceless part…

  • Carstonio

    I would describe that as simple fandom. Nerdiness involves awkwardness with social interaction. In some cases, the hyperfandom may be an escape from the social discomfort, where nerds bond over their shared feeling of being different. Other types, such as RTC, seem to involve the hyperfandom causing the awkwardness. A sports fan would qualify as a nerd if the fandom involved feelings of difference and awkwardness.

  • FearlessSon

    I would describe that as simple fandom. Nerdiness involves awkwardness with social interaction.

    I will give you that.  I do not mind people in the Christ fandom, they can be quite nice, but their fandumb can get really irritating.  

  • Shavon

    I bought my first set of D&D tabletop equipment back in 1993, in my first year of college. My mother, an usher at our local Southern Baptist church, immediately expressed concern about the state of my soul and told me the game was “demonic”. Since I really didn’t have anyone to play with anyway, I donated the game to my dorm. 

    Later, I ran into more geeks–an ex boyfriend, and, later, my now-husband. The gaming never really caught my attention, probably because my attention span is as short as a smothered sneeze, but I don’t have a problem with it now and probably won’t again. 

  • Kelex

    My parents being a Baptist minister and his (somewhat MORE religious) wife, we were never allowed to play the “real” game.  We had to make everything up ourselves, and use only the dice we already had available.  So everything was D6 based, character sheets and rules had to be made from scratch, and we weren’t allowed to call the game “Dungeons & Dragons” or even “D&D.”  We had to call it “Sally & The Ducks.”  (Fun Fact: No one ever used the name “Sally” in-game, and ducks were never involved)

    One of the reasons they gave was that, while just playing a *GAME* wouldn’t hurt you, D&D required you to listen to music on cassette tapes that contain backward masking which is how Satan convinced children to worship him and/or kill themselves and others.  So, y’know, two Satanic Panic urban legends that taste great together.  (Fun Fact II: In all my years of playing REAL D&D, I have yet to find any of those cassettes.  Or even hear of anyone playing one.  Or even if any such thing exists.)

  • Ann Unemori

    You ought to develop and market the “Sally & the Ducks” game, it actually sounds interesting.

  • Will Huston

    The 4th edition Dungeon Master’s guide does suggest putting on ambient or dramatic music at the appropriate times to help build the experience. So…

  • Kelex

     Sure, I’ve done that, find a good CD with appropriate background sounds.  But this was supposed to be Official D&D Music that came WITH the game, for the express purposes of Satanic indoctrination. 

  • mistformsquirrel

    Ah roleplaying games, and D&D particular, something I still enjoy to this day… and something I nearly didn’t start for the exact reasons outlined in this post.  As I’ve mentioned before, I was brought up in the whole ‘DEMONS EVERYWHERE’ line of thinking which of course had me TERRIFIED of D&D.

    However I did have a handful of geeky friends at the time, and since I steadfastly refused to go anywhere near D&D,  we started off light.

    That is we started off with Call of Cthulu.  Now to be fair, I didn’t even much like that game* – but you have to admit it’s kind of hilarious where I wound up considering what I was trying to avoid.  Now to be fair, I knew my dad would hate Cthulu just as much as D&D; but somehow the supernatural evil of  D&D had been hammered into my head so far that for a long time I was convinced I would be damned for playing it – Cthulu by comparison was just harmless fun.  (Like D&D really is.)

    Anyway, we eventually migrated through a series of other games – Traveler, the Marvel Superhero RPG, Star Wars (the old D6 edition), Shadowrun 3rd Edition (love that game)**, the Mechwarrior RPG, the World of Darkness games, etc… (Yes I was OK with playing a Vampire or a Werewolf; but heaven forbid I play D&D…)

    Until finally about the time I was 14 they convinced me to give it a go.

    And it was fun.  Oh there were problems – my DM was kind of an asshole for one – but the overall game was quite fun;  and I’ve played ever since.

    Now we get to the meat of the story, and the part Fred actually asked for:

    After I bought my first set of D&D books, my mom (who’s much more mellow compared to my dad) went apeshit.  At first she demanded I get rid of them because they’d cause us all kinds of misery.  I was eventually allowed to keep them… if I left them in the car when they weren’t in use.

    Why?  Because she had a headache and blamed it (I kid you not) on the presence of those D&D books.

    This went on for about 3 months – with her randomly deciding at various times that D&D was OMGEVIL and trying to get me to get rid of the books while being panicked beyond words about it…

    And then something unusual and awesome happened.  One of my mom’s friends stepped in; see, her son played Vampire: The Masquerade, and was a perfectly decent kid – she explained the concept of RPGs to my mom and talked to her about D&D and unlike myself, she was willing to listen to another adult.

    She caved and we started hosting D&D sessions at my house – mom started making bean dip*** for when we had our sessions and eventually apologized for her overreaction.  But man those first 3 months… some of the just out-there stuff she claimed…

    At any rate, long story short mom started to enjoy our sessions because she had a houseful of happy (hungry) teenagers whenever they happened;  and a happy ending was had.

    I still have yet to tell my dad I play D&D.  I’m 29.  He’s mellowed some, but I don’t want to test it.  I have discovered as I age that he really doesn’t appreciate fantasy or science fiction much at all, just as art forms even,  so I’m starting to wonder if some of his willingness to latch on to the “D&D IS SCARY EVIL AND BAD” thing is just personal bias against the genres too.

    *The Cthulu mythos is neat, but at the same point I get annoyed in any “doom” scenario you can’t change.  Being the age I was I posited all kinds of ways to beat Cthulu… my favorite to this day being throwing down with him while piloting a Gundam.  … I was young, it made sense at the time. >.>

    **I was hungry for fantasy about this time and since SR3 had a magic system in place, but I was still afraid to play legit D&D,  I did what any budding rules lawyer would do… I made a set of conversion rules for turning Shadowrun into a fantasy RPG.  It worked, kinda… and there are actually aspects of that conversion that I sometimes miss when playing actual D&D.  (Particularly how incredibly lethal combat could be – kept you on your toes!)

    ***Can of chili + velveta cheese mixed in a crockpot delicious dip for nachos.

  • Omnicrom

     It’s completely plausible to defeat a Cosmic Horror with an army of Giant Robots if Super Robot Wars has taught me anything.

  • Omnicrom

     If Super Robot Wars has taught me anything it’s that fighting Cosmic Horrors with a giant robot is a completely feasible way to defeat them.

  • Marc Mielke

    my favorite to this day being throwing down with him while piloting a Gundam.

    Check out CthulhuTech. It’s kind of like that, only more Evangelion than Gundam. 

  • mistformsquirrel

     In fact I have done precisely that (I love Eva)  Sadly I just haven’t gotten around to playing it just yet – too many play by post games going right now!

  • AnonaMiss

    Mistform, you’re a PBPer? :o What do you play? 

    I don’t pbp anymore but I’m still involved in the communities somewhat. I played at Aelyria from, eh, 2003-2005, when it was still Alleria, and also played a couple of its moderator rebellion “spinoff” games, most notably Surrender and Adylheim.

  • mistformsquirrel

     I mostly play on – so mostly just standard D&D campaigns   Though they do run games for just about every system (and several freeform) there too; not to mention OOTS being there and all <_<

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    Well, if you need another, I have been wanting to try out Ctulhutech, but so far I’ve only convinced 2 people to play (tager group, text based, skype). *Puppy eyes*

  • mistformsquirrel

     I shall keep it in mind should I ever get around to running/playing a game

  • FearlessSon

    That is we started off with Call of Cthulu.  Now to be fair, I didn’t even much like that game* – but you have to admit it’s kind of hilarious where I wound up considering what I was trying to avoid.  Now to be fair, I knew my dad would hate Cthulu just as much as D&D; but somehow the supernatural evil of  D&D had been hammered into my head so far that for a long time I was convinced I would be damned for playing it – Cthulu by comparison was just harmless fun.  (Like D&D really is.)

    There is a bit of a “trick” to enjoying cosmic horror RPGs.

  • Kiba

    Why?  Because she had a headache and blamed it (I kid you not) on the presence of those D&D books.

    I grew up hearing my mother carry on about tarot cards and how she couldn’t be in the same room with them because bad things happened to her. Fast forward to the mid 90s when I bought a pack of tarot cards (I liked some of the art work) and she’s never once experienced any stuff she claimed (and still does) happened to her before and she knows I have them which makes it even more irritating. 

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Ah, yes.  The Satanic Panic of the Eighties.  Most of my Heavy Dee & Dee was between 1976 and 1980, so I’d gone more inactive than anything else when the main Kyle’s Moms’ Crusade hit (“Think of The Children, The Children, The Children…”).

    We did get some of the foreshocks, though.

    Expeditions Ltd, Cal State Fullerton, late 1970s.  When the local Campus Crusade for Christ chapter targeted us and our Satanic game.  I was mostly out of the loop (commuting from Cal Poly Pomona at the other end of Brea Canyon for my Dee & Dee fix), but here’s the gamer gossip of the time.

    First, CCC chapters vary from campus to campus.  At Cal Poly Pomona, a lot of the CCCers there were also gamers so we didn’t have any problem there.  (I first heard of the live game”Killer”/”The Assassination Game” from CCCers, where it was apprarently common among the CCC staff.)  Cal State Fullerton, however….

    CCC Fullerton had a rep of being very rigid and what’s now called “Culture Warriors”, AKA Jihadists.  And they called Jihad on Expeditions Ltd. 

    One secondhand story had CCC trying to get us in trouble with the campus cops (Calfiornia State University Police), but that didn’t go anywhere.   Us gamers were on very good terms with the cops.  Maybe our fingering a petty arsonist who was torching trash cans in the building had a lot do to with it.

    And then there was the rumor that CCC was training “Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing” to infiltrate us.  We had one gamer who was flat-out WEIRD even for our crowd, and either was a tarot card fanboy or could put on an act of being Really Into the Occult.  So we’d steer noobs past him for a dungeon crawl or two to screen out CCC infiltrators.

    Ah, the “Weird Shit” days of D&D’s Burgess Shale period, when there were NO “official” ways to do anything or “official” campaign backgrounds so every Dungeonmaster had to homebrew his own.  Resulting in a wild and crazy variety never seen before or since.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And then there were the Christianese Games — pitched as “Just like Dee & Dee, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”  Like Left Behind, Omega Code, Carmen, et al, consolation/booby prizes for the Righteous who were forbidden the real thing.

    The first of these was something called “Revelations”, circa late 1970s.  I remember the radio ads ominously talking about “Secular games all about Dungeons & Demons and The Occult” then pitching “Revelations” as the Christian Alternative.  So I tracked down a copy in the local Jesus Junk store. And…

    I was NOT impressed.  First, it was a Milton Bradley-style boardgame, NOT repeat not an RPG.  The only way I could describe it was “Jack Chick Tract crossed with Milton Bradley’s Life, I kid you not.”

    Then around 1984 came the First Christian(TM) RPG, Dragonraid.  According to my old DM (who was as much a game collector as gamer — he’d try anything once), it was a workable RPG, but “at least two generations behind state-of-the-art”.  Then I heard the designer interviewed on what was the best afternoon talk show in the area (despite being Christian) — Rich Buhler’s “Talk from the Heart”.  And found out the following things:
    1)  Dragonraid’s designer had never previously done any RPG gaming before, had no experience in game design, and deliberately did not study any Secular/Heathen RPGs.
    2)  Dragonraid was NOT designed as a game but as a “Sword Drill”, i.e. SCRIPTURE Memorization Excercise.
    3)  In case you haven’t guessed, these are NOT good signs.

    It is now 2013.  Well after the Satanic Panic, the Magic/CCG Extinction Event, and “gaming” coming to mean WOW or TF2 or Halo or other stuff you do on your Xbox or PC.  Dragonraid is not only an orphan game, but a historical curiosity.  And Dee & Dee (and it’s direct descendant Pathfinder from Paizo) is still there and going strong — pencil, paper, funny dice and all.

  • David Starner

     Jonathan Tweet has an review about Dragonraid:

    He seems to imply that it mechanically was not unreasonable, but is a bit upset about the fact that it makes him (an atheist) as a valid target to kill in the game.

  • Randy Owens

    It’s a fairly trivial one, but one of my best friends around 3rd-9th grades was a fairly religious person, and while he was willing and even fairly eager to play D&D (the real thing) with me, he insisted that his cleric character had to be Lutheran, no matter how poorly it fitted into the milieu.  This was probably sometime around ’79-’81 or so.

  • Kelex

     I haven’t had first-hand experience of this, but my current DM (a fairly religious man himself) has told me stories of one of his friends who plays a cleric and insists that his in-game deity has to be Jesus.

  • Madhabmatics

    Christians in my area were way more paranoid about David the Gnome and the Carebears (hidden fonts of occultism) than the relatively openly fantastic D&D created by a Jehovah’s Witness

    have ya’ll ever seen Gygax’s letter about christmas because lol

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Christians in my area were way more paranoid about David the Gnome and the Carebears (hidden fonts of occultism) than the relatively openly fantastic D&D created by a Jehovah’s Witness

    According to an anecdotal account on an Internet Monk comment thread, My Little Pony was also Occultism — the colors of the ponies had Deep Occult Significance.

    A dying horse is said to emit a terrible scream.  I have mental images of Fluttershy and Rarity screaming like that being burned at the stake for Witchcraft.

    Around 20 years ago there was even a Christianese knockoff of My Little Pony called “Praise Ponies”.  They were basically G1 knockoffs, apparently without the hitchiking Demons of the originals.  I don’t know what made them “Christian(TM)” except they were marketed to the Jesus Junk store circuit.  Maybe they had Bible verse zip codes for Cutie Marks or something?

    And this time last year I assisted my other writing partner on a Pony crossover fanfic one of whose themes is the contrast between the ponies natural magic and an alien sorcerer’s Occult Magick.  A draft of it is up at if anyone wants to take a look-see.
    (end plug)

  • The_L1985

     David the Gnome?  That hasn’t even been on TV in 20 years!

  • Doc Bedlam

    I am old, and I remember the whole thing about the steam tunnels, and Patricia Pulling and BADD. At the TIME, though, I never encountered anything particularly bothersome. D&D was considered NERDY, but not EVIL, or SATANIC, at least in the little bitty Texas cow town where I grew up. One of the church elders looked over the materials, satisfied herself that it was harmless, and for the rest of the time I was in high school, we played D&D in her dining room. 30 years later, I am pleased to say that none of us ever decided to worship Satan, murder anyone, or do anything worse than you’d expect of an average frat party.

    Afterwards, however, I have come to encounter — and be disturbed by — the aftermath of Pulling’s campaign, and that of other religious figures who’ve spoken out on the evils of D&D in particular and roleplaying in general. Culturally, a lot of people still seem to believe the “Dark Dungeons” version.

    In particular: I knew a teenager who desperately, desperately wanted to learn about Dungeons and Dragons. He seemed like a natural, so I gathered together a bunch of used D&D stuff — a starter set, a Player’s Handbook, some dice, a pad of character sheets, and suchlike — and gave it to him. He was thrilled.

    A couple of days later, he gave it back to me, and stated that he was not permitted to have such things in the house. His mother had heard about the satanic reputation of the game, and while she didn’t PERSONALLY see any harm in it, she preferred not to take chances, and therefore vetoed not only his possession of the materials, but his participation in a D&D group (which she had heard led to cultism.)

    Kid’s in college now. I often wonder if he plays on the sly, since he’s living in the dorms, miles from mom and dad. I guess it’s better than drinking or drugs…

    Another particular: On one occasion, my supervisor at a job I had once asked if I owned a “weejee” board. Took me a minute to realize she meant “Ouija board.” I said I did not. She seemed surprised, and I asked “Why do you think I’d have a Ouija board?”

    “Well,” she said, “I’d heard you played that D&D game. A weejee board  just seemed like something you’d have lying around.”

    I was stunned and confused. “Why?”

    “Never mind.”

    I explained to her that D&D was a fantasy game, comparable to an interactive version of “Lord of the Rings,” or a tabletop version of “World of Warcraft,” which to my knowledge has never been accused of anything except being addictive, and that expecting a D&D player to own a Ouija board was comparable to expecting a fish to own a bicycle: what would he need it for?

    She smiled, and nodded, and the subject was closed. Still don’t think she believed me.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The most tragic and heartbreaking D&D Witch Hunt story I have ever heard was related to me by my SF writing partner “Heavy Horse” (a burned-out preacher-man from rural Pennsylvania).  This is from memory, so it might not be 100% accurate, but this is what I remember.

    It had to do with another pastor who was in occasional/intermittent contact with Heavy and whose teenage son was into D&D.  Pastor Dad announced to Heavy that he had committed his son involuntarily to a Teen Challenge halfway house.  The reason?  Satanic Dee & Dee.

    While Heavy stood there in shock, Pastor Dad continued that the kid was due to be released soon.  “When he gets home, I’ll have his Dungeons & Dragons books on one side and The Holy Bible on the other and He Will Have To Choose.  Or Else.”

    Since Heavy could not penetrate Pastor Dad’s utter Righteousness, he had to break contact with him.  He never found out the results of the “Choose!” but he heard occasionally about the kid afterwards before losing contact completely.

    Kid whipsaws between sex/drugs/booze/rebellion/Atheism and Good Little Born-Again Worship Bot with the intensity of a psychotic.  Back and forth, Marilyn Manson to Fred Phelps to Marilyn Manson to Fred Phelps to Marilyn Manson to Fred Phelps.  Heavy considers it the worst case of non-prosecutable child abuse and its aftermath he has ever encountered (and he’s seen some bad cases).

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    First, the Incantation:

    “It’s Friday night and I’m ready to roll
    With my wizard and my goblin crew;
    My friends coming over to Mom’s basement
    Bringing Funyuns and Mountain Dew;
    I’ve got a big broadsword
    It’s made of cardboard,
    And the stereo’s pumping Zeppelin;
    It’s that time of night —
    Turn on the black light —

    Then the history lesson:

    Twenty years before D&D, there was another Satanic Plot To Get Our Children:  Comic books, primarily the classic EC horror comics.  A popular book titled “Seduction of the Innocent” became Scripture for the Kyle’s Moms and Witchfinders-General of the 1950s.  Resulting in the Comics Code which crippled American graphic novels for the next forty years and made comics synonymous with Children’s Books and Superheroes, Superheroes, Superheroes instead of an alternate way to tell a story.

    Twenty years after D&D, there was Harry Potter.  Recent enough that everyone reading this should remember it.  Nuff said.

    Now the Satanic Panic/Witch Hunt over Harry Potter is passing into history, as it did over D&D 20-30 years before and over EC Comics 20 years before that.  The Kyle’s Moms need another Righteous Cause to feel important and get their doublepluswarmfeelies.  The Witchfinders-General need more Witches to burn to prove their own Righteousness. 

    Who is going to be next in the new Burning Times? 
    My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?????

  • Michael Pullmann

     I thought comics were a Communist plot.

  • Kelex

     Is it too late for Percy Jackson?  (FALSE GODS!!)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Who is going to be next in the new Burning Times? 
    My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?????

    Might as well make it a twofer, then:  Friendship is Dragons

    Or My(stara) Little Ponies: Friendship Is Adventuring

    (I keep being surprised I _haven’t_ heard of any Spiritual Warfare types denouncing the ponies, yet.)

  • mistformsquirrel

     I’ve not even watched the show and the first comic has me giggling <_< I like.

  • reynard61

    “I’ve not even watched the show and the first comic has me giggling <_< I like."

    I'm a regular reader and semi-regular commenter (same name and avatar) and I can tell you truthfully that it only gets better and funnier. (Also, read Lyntermas' alt scripts. They're hilarious!)

  • reynard61

    “Who is going to be next in the new Burning Times?
    My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?????

    They’ll get my “Luna is Best Princess” T-shirt when they pry it from my COLD DEAD HOOVES!!! (Which is okay because I have two and I’ll arrange to be buried — or cremated[?] — in the other.)

  • James F. McGrath

    I played avidly as a teen, but after a conversion experience in a Pentecostal church, I gave away my various books. But I never really encountered any specific opposition to D&D, definitely not from family, but even from people in church, that I can recall. I probably, as someone who had played the game a great deal, would have objected to anyone suggesting that the game was inherently evil. 

  • James Hofmann

    My only memory of the backlash is my mom vaguely mentioning that there was one, around the time(early 90s) I first picked up some books in AD&D 2nd edition. It was around 5th grade, and my best friend had some old 1st edition books, and for all we knew it was just another game.

    Later in high school I came across The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III in the school library. A great “true story” book, I recall finding it a real page-turner and surprisingly dramatic. It is a must-read for anyone covering the D&D scare.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    My only memory of the backlash is my mom vaguely mentioning that there was one, around the time(early 90s) I first picked up some books in AD&D 2nd edition.

    By the Nineties, the Satanic Panic had pretty much burned out.  Recovered Memories (a BIG part of the spectral evidence) was found to be tainted by False Memory Syndrome (usually induced by True Beleiver investigators or therapists with their own agendas), and a lot of the evidence collapsed at that point.

    Not to say there won’t always be True Believers on the subject.  Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory logic is in effect; The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

    Thank you, Mike Warnke.  You total fraud.

  • Madhabmatics

    Check out this letter published in IFW monthly by D&D creator Gary Gygax

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wasn’t Jesus born in the spring?

  • Madhabmatics

    No clue, but he has the same fervor writing about that that he did coming up with a list of a hundred polearms.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    No clue, but he has the same fervor writing about that that he did coming up with a list of a hundred polearms.

    You’ve gotta be talking about Gygax.

  • Lorehead

    You’ve gotta be talking about Gygax.

    Slovenly trull, expensive doxy, wealthy procuress — sorry, wrong table.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, what?

  • Lorehead

    Sorry, inside joke.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy
    You’ve gotta be talking about Gygax.

    Slovenly trull, expensive doxy, wealthy procuress — sorry, wrong table.

    Ah, yes.  AD&D1, circa 1977.  As my old DM put it recently, “The peak of the Ad Hoc ruleset phase.  Ad Hoc tables for everything, each added as it came up with no linkage between any of them.”

    At least D&D3 systematized everything in an inter-related system, at the expense of the anything-goes wildness of the earlier editions.

  • FearlessSon

    No clue, but he has the same fervor writing about that that he did coming up with a list of a hundred polearms.

    When the polearm weapon list meets Monty Python.

  • Andrew G.

    Wasn’t Jesus born in the spring?

    We don’t have anything resembling evidence that he was born at all, much less what year, and even less what time of year.

    The bit with the shepherds is the only seasonal clue (suggesting spring) but that’s in a story that was not written until as much as a century later, and was almost certainly a whole-cloth invention, so not exactly a reliable source. The claimed link to the census of 6AD doesn’t help either since this may have taken more than a year to complete (from the summer of 6AD to the autumn of 7AD), and of course there’s every reason to believe that this link is also pure invention.

    The traditional date is based on a Jewish numerological belief that important prophets were always conceived or born on the same day that they died, also not exactly a reliable guide.

  • FearlessSon

    The impression that I got, based on a few other factors about Gygax’s personal life, is that he was not a Witness, but would sometimes self-identify as one as a kind of inside-joke or “take-that” to his detractors calling his work “Satanic”.  

  • Vaughn Lowe

    How can I resist such an open invitation to share a large part of what shaped me into the kind of person I am?

    I grew up in the heart of the Bible belt, and I was a strong fundamentalist in my youth, but it seemed like the church was playing mind games with me.  “What’s he into?  Okay let’s condemn it as Satanic.”  I liked D&D and spent a lot of time coming up with scenarios, characters and studying the books.  I didn’t play very much, mainly because I couldn’t find others to play with, though.

    At the same time, I was wanting to be a preacher, but I had to hide my gaming stuff, like other teenagers hid their drugs and porn.  I really did feel at times like an addict but I couldn’t see how a game could hurt me.  I knew others who were far more into football and sports, and I didn’t see anyone calling them satanic.

    I flitted back and forth between “kicking the habit,” and “it’s just a game.”  I swallowed the lies of Warnke and Bob Larson, which just made me feel like a hypocrite.

    Now I just enjoy the occasional computer game; don’t have the time or income for the hobby anymore.   The main impact the whole experience made me think of God as a being who sees a person enjoying himself and saying “None of that here!”

  • Lorehead

    One part of that backlash was the Christian Brand™ RPG, DragonRaid.  But this reminds me of a story I read years ago from, I believe, the CAR-PGa.  Back in the ’80s, TSR decided that there was no such thing as bad publicity, and it wasn’t going to to waste any money defending its game.  So, some gamers formed the CAR-PGa to fill that gap.

    One day, they’d held a small event somewhere to educate the public about what RPGs were.  The speaker asked, “Now, you may have heard that people cast spells in the game.  I’d like to demonstrate how we ‘cast spells.’  Could I have a volunteer?”  A little old lady raised her hand.  “Now, I’m going to cast a spell on you; could you roll this die, please?”  She did.  “It didn’t work; you resisted,” he told her.

    She proudly announced, “Of course!  I’m filled with the Holy Spirit!”

  • Ann Unemori

    In other words: “Missed me!”

  • chucklingsage

     Fred, this is just a thought here- DnDnChurch horror stories abound on the internet already. How about a call for any positive experiences? Fewer comments to be had, I’m sure, but they might serve as good examples/instructions.