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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • What — No Manowar? I am all about 75% of the bands on the ‘Symphonic Metal’ list.

    Cookie yourself up an account and add it in.  It is a public wiki after all.  :)

  • 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.  

  • fraser

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve received at least half a dozen Chick Tracts in the last 10 years or so. So yes, there are still people handing these things out.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Persia

    One of my friends had an adoption stalled out because of her online fanfiction. So…yeah. IDGI.

  • 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.

  • Considering these people tend to treat science as if it is magic…

    By the way, this was all over a game in which you need a license in order to know how to wear a cloth hat. (I am not fond of FF12.)

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • Oh! Oh! ‘False Metal’ reminded me of another RPG-related story. I was in Salamanca, Spain on a student tour and met this perfectly nice girl who was on another student tour. We got together and everything seemed cool up until I mentioned gaming. She told me all that D&D stuff freaked her out.

    Now, the fun part of this is that she also claimed to be the kid sister of the guitar player of a hair band that was moderately popular at the time and to have dated members of Motley Crue. And she was freaked out by D&D. 

  • 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.)

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Persia

    My story is similar, only we had a great-aunt who was the one who will never know. We ended up with a weird little D & D group briefly when I was in high school (class of ’93). My great-aunt had, some years before, gone on a high rant with my great-uncle about the dangers of such games – if she hadn’t been well aware that Dad and I were huge fantasy/Tolkein/etc. geeks she might have spread her vitriol further – so we knew better than to tell her I was playing the game.

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

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Then, that awful, awful movie came out and all my books just “disappeared” one day and my mother told me she never wanted me to play it again. I went back to playing occasionally in college, but never really got back into it …. until 1993, when a guy who would go on to be one of my best friends introduced me to Vampire: the Masquerade, a game that makes D&D look like something you’d see on the 700 Club.

    1)  “Awful movie” as in “Mazes and Monsters”?  (Obvious Ugh & Argh title and all.)

    2)  Ah, yes.  WhiteWolfers.  The first and dominant alpha male of the Dark Fantasy games (no, DARKER…).  I don’t have the link in front of me, but there’s an essay on the Web that said that GrimDark games such as WhiteWolf were themselves a reaction to the Satanic Panic.  Along the lines of “They Say We’re Satanic and Occult, Lets Go As Far As We Can Into DARK and OCCULT”.

    3)  The same essay pretty much said that the Satanic Panic had driven a wedge of mutual hostility between gamers and Christians that continues to this day.

  • 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…

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Alan, if you are familiar only with OD&D (brown box, three little books plus Greyhawk) or AD&D1, there’s still a big following of them out there under the catchall title of “Old School Dee & Dee”.

  • 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.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I played most of the way through my teens in the 1980’s – mixture of D&D in various versions, Judge Dredd RPG, Star Trek RPG, Lankhmar RPG, James Bond RPG, Car Wars, Twilight 2000, Runequest and some live action RPG. The default choice though was alwasy AD&D.

    OD&D (starting with three little books plus Greyhawk), Traveller rev.1, Runequest 1st & 2nd, some Car Wars, some Battletech.

    I tended to write a lot of original material for adventures, which I would then DM. Trying to acheive the balance between an open textured world for the players to express themselves in, along with a plot line to lead them along the creation of a shared story. So much more satisfying than the old school dungeon crawl – “open door – kill monster – grab treasure – move to next door”.

    From the Burgess Shale period, when there was no official campaign backgrounds and every DM had to homebrew their own.  Wild and Crazy times, with more variety than has been seen before or since.

    I suppose the biggest memory of my D&D days was the fellowship, the humour of the finely developed in-joke, the storyteller’s nights and the occassional moments of beautiful characterisation. Further to this as a bunch of kids who were not into competitiveness it gave a form of shared activity in which no-one was inferior, in which the best solutions were the co-operative ones and in which no out-of-game advantages of gender, wealth, physical prowess or even intelligence made any difference. RPG’s created for us a level playing field and one in which playing well was important, but spending quality time with each other was really the only thing that mattered.

    The key to a good D&D game or campaign is the long-term dynamics of the players in the gaming group.  What in Christianese is called “Fellowship”.  And which I have only found full-strength in my early days among gamers and currently among Bronies.

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

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

  • Random_Lurker

     Simply put, they bigger, scarier, more fun monsters to fight against now and don’t need to attack games.  Like abortion, Islam and Obama.

  • 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

  • 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

    But the single weirdest thing I remember from the moral panic ’80s was that I had an English teacher who gave us a sort of personality test on the first day of class.

    It was basically a bunch of short essay questions about ourselves. You know: Describe your summer vacation in a short paragraph. Describe what you like about yourself. That sort of thing.

    However: There was one question, about 2/3 of the way down so as not to be too obvious, that said: “Pick one of these shapes and write about what it means to you.” Underneath were a circle, a square, a triangle, and a pentagram.

    Anyone who was in high school immediately after Columbine has a similar story about similar personality tests.  Except then it was guns and trenchcoats and “your feelings about Columbine” instead of pentagrams.  And the Omegas of their high schools (often Aspies)  would write the truth about their reactions, thus providing written Confessions for the Witchfinders-General.

    And after the Newtown Massacre, you’re probably seeing the same thing but primarily about guns.

  • 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?????

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Simply put, they bigger, scarier, more fun monsters to fight against now and don’t need to attack games. Like abortion, Islam and Obama.

    You forgot EVOLUTION and (dum dum da dummmm) HOMOSEXUALTIY!!!!!!!

  • 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)

  • 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.