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.

Thanks.

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  • Vermic

    Reading these testimonials, I notice the element of book-burning popping up again and again — more often than I expected.  It’s just hard for me to picture.  People in real life really consigned their Monster Manuals, or those of their loved ones, to the flames.  Not even as part of a mass public demonstration; but on their own, independently, at home.  An object regarded as so wicked that nothing short of immediate and complete incineration would suffice.  The freakin’ Monster Manual, with the goofy manticore drawing on the cover.  It feels surreal.

     I have mental images of Fluttershy and Rarity screaming like that being burned at the stake for Witchcraft.

    Why would you put such an image into my head.  Why would you do this thing.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Reading these testimonials, I notice the element of book-burning popping up again and again — more often than I expected. It’s just hard for me to picture. People in real life really consigned their Monster Manuals, or those of their loved ones, to the flames. Not even as part of a mass public demonstration; but on their own, independently, at home. An object regarded as so wicked that nothing short of immediate and complete incineration would suffice. The freakin’ Monster Manual, with the goofy manticore drawing on the cover. It feels surreal.

    It WAS surreal.  Do you remember when 700 Club picked up the Christian urban legend of “the Demons inside the D&D Miniatures screaming as the miniatures melted down in the flames”?  Hook, line, and sinker by 700 Club and through 700 Club to the Christianese massmind.

    I have mental images of Fluttershy and Rarity screaming like that as they’re being burned at the stake for Witchcraft.

    Why would you put such an image into my head. Why would you do this thing.

    For impact.  Because there are those out there who would, and would praise God while doing so.  M Scott Peck wrote about using dramatic imagery for emphasis.

    (For the record, anyone trying to burn Fluttershy would have to get through their friends, two equine Princess/Goddesses, and a couple thousand Bronies first.  Something about Fluttershy just triggers a “Protect Her!” response in a lot of males.)

  • Makabit

    Reading these testimonials, I notice the element of book-burning popping up again and again — more often than I expected.  It’s just hard for me to picture.  People in real life really consigned their Monster Manuals, or those of their loved ones, to the flames.  Not even as part of a mass public demonstration; but on their own, independently, at home.  An object regarded as so wicked that nothing short of immediate and complete incineration would suffice.  The freakin’ Monster Manual, with the goofy manticore drawing on the cover.  It feels surreal.

    Yes, it is pretty bizarre. The incredible powers attributed to a game that involves group storytelling and a lot of dice were somewhat surreal.

    I don’t know how old you are, but the 198os were…weird. The Satanic Panic is now a footnote in history, but there was a time when the kind of hysteria about Satanism and ritual abuse and the like that is now mostly found only in very extreme Evangelical circles was basically mainstream. The McMartin trials are the obvious example, but that whole mentality tainted everything. (Rock music, D&D, what have you.) People who were not actually nutbars believed, sincerely, that Satanists were running preschools, subjecting innocent children to all kinds of unbelievable abuse, including murder AND LEAVING NO TRACE.

    I can’t mock the folks at Salem. We didn’t go so far, because we had better laws, and a separation of church and state, and a somewhat more scientific approach to reality, but the desire to burn witches (yes, I know they hanged at Salem) and keep our children safe appears to be totally intact.

    Books have been written about the whole thing. I’m not an expert. I was a kid. I just remember that it was a dark and paranoid time, and I’ve really never known why. I mean, we’re nuts now, but we’re nuts over things like ‘rainbow parties’ and the like. While that stuff may reflect our fears, it’s not quite the same.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

     

    I don’t know how old you are, but the 198os were…weird. The Satanic
    Panic is now a footnote in history, but there was a time when the kind
    of hysteria about Satanism and ritual abuse and the like that is now
    mostly found only in very extreme Evangelical circles was basically
    mainstream. The McMartin trials are the obvious example, but that whole
    mentality tainted everything. (Rock music, D&D, what have you.)
    People who were not actually nutbars believed, sincerely, that Satanists
    were running preschools, subjecting innocent children to all kinds of
    unbelievable abuse, including murder AND LEAVING NO TRACE.

    The reason all these Satanists were sacrificing babies left and right AND LEAVING NO TRACE was that ALL the Cops, Government, Media, everybody were ALL Satanists who were ALL Part of The Conspiracy.  ALL OF THEM.  EVERYONE except the Heroic Godly Crusaders (protected by the Holy Spirit) were Satanists.  EVERYONE ELSE.

    “When your Conspiracy Theory doesn’t fit the facts, Invent a Bigger Conspiracy.”
    — Kooks Magazine

    P.S.  The Eighties were weird, but they were the only time in my life I (a) didn’t have money worries and (b) had a girlfriend.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Seriously. I cried over Rarity’s fate in Fallout:Equestria (and Fluttershy’s wasn’t too sparkly either.) 

    Maybe I’m too sensitive because Rarity is my Best Pony, but damn. That’s nightmare fuel. 

  • depizan

    I got into gaming in 89 or 90 at the first convention (comics/sci-fi/role playing) I ever went to. That was near enough to the panic that people worried about the con getting harassed or bad news stories, but I don’t remember there being any actual problems. Of course, this was in a small city with five or six sci-fi/fantasy/comic book shops, so there may have been a high enough geek population to combat any satanic panic type stuff.

    I’ve met lots of people through the years who have been harassed or whose parents bought into the panic, but I don’t recall ever being so much as side eyed myself.

    My grandmother did ask about my doing role playing stuff once – hadn’t there been murders or creepy stuff associated with people who played it, something like that. I pointed out that not only is that true of -anything- but poker (something she enjoys playing) has a rather sorted history, and she never mentioned it again.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mariposakitten Kristy Griffin

    I’ve been a gamer for about a decade now, and nobody has ever tried to tell me D&D or anything else was Satanic.  (or else they did, and in response my brain automatically put them on the “people we forget exist” list.  That happens sometimes.)

    However, we did have someone call the cops on us during a LARP one time because they thought we were a cult.  (Given that it was a steampunk-fantasy larp, so we had a guy in a tailored suit and top hat and a bunch of women in corsets, fancy skirts, and tiny hats, I’d be curious to know precisely what kind of cult they thought we were, but there ya go.)   The police officer at least had the decency to be exasperated about the whole thing.

  • David Starner

    Back in the day? In 1994 or ’95, my stepfather opened a game store in a little town in Oklahoma.  There were protestors against the store, and the city considered banning D&D sales. Their lawyer told them that wasn’t legal, and an English professor (who worked at the local college) educated at a Bible college wrote in to the newspaper about how he played D&D at that college, so it sort of blew over, but there were some people still upset about D&D and Magic the Gathering all the time I was there. I moved there in ’96 and the protests had died down, but I got into some polite argument for it in school. On a school trip, I handed the boxed set I just bought to the main arguer to look at, and he proclaimed it Satanic because it mentioned druids and the figure on the cover was comic-book standard. (Maybe better, because it was a human-possible position, but definitely a touch risque.)

  • Parhelion

    Started back in ’75 during high school, so it’s hard to have been playing  D&D much longer than I have.  I never had any problems during college even though I played with some members of our Christian coffeehouse crowd. That may be because many of us had actually and mundanely gamed down in our tech school’s steam tunnels and so immediately figured out that Mazes and Monsters was unmitigated hogwash when it came out in ’81, which may have inoculated even our proto-RTC members against idiotic ideas about D&D publicized by outsiders who’d never so much as rolled a 20-sider.

    The disgusting Satanism scare during the eighties — including the D&D component, as exemplified by Jack Chick’s amazing little tract — was one of many, many events that broke up my college affair with Christianity and sent me back to atheism. But I never encountered the backlash personally until the evening in ’92 when I was running a RPG campaign for a small group and my future wife’s then-housemate decided to stop at our table to ask, “Is that pagan?” in a certain tone of voice implying she already knew the answer.

    All those years of rolling up characters who worshiped Hathor or Athena, and I finally had to have this conversation on an evening when the three players at the table were depicting a pair of priests and a nun battling supernatural evil and corruption in an alternate history Renaissance Italy. Oh, well.

  • We Must Dissent

    My mother fully bought into the D&D panic. She made my older brother get rid of all his books. He couldn’t sell them, because that would be passing the evil on to someone else. He had to burn them, probably well over $100 worth of books (in the early 80s) that he had purchased with his own money. It was for the reasons Fred wrote: the real names of real demons and summoning them was the specific item I remember.

    A few years later, in the late 80s, I got in trouble when my mother found out I was playing D&D with some friends from high school.

    And, yes, I owned Tunnels & Trolls, which was not nearly as good a game. Eventually, my brother and I discovered Champions/Hero 4th. Edition and the entire problem was solved.

    Of course, we also had to defend our choices of records against charges of secret Satanism, and my mother thinks that Harry Potter is evil. Also, we weren’t allowed to watch the Flintstones “because they lie to each other”. I still learned to lie, but it was to avoid getting punished with the specially designated “spank stick” my parents kept on top of the refrigerator.

    Goofiness like this is part of the reason I am no longer a Christian, and I now only communicate with my mother when I have to.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     The bit with the Flintstones reminds me of my dad’s objection to Transformers – “They’re deceptive!”

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was also the “Most Violent Show On TV” lolz

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Will-Huston/1318080484 Will Huston

    as for myself, way too young to worry about moral panic in D&D, though at my Catholic high school I remember some of the more religious kids giving dirty looks to the kids who played Magic the Gathering during lunch.  Though that could be for many different reasons.

    There were a few kids at school who couldn’t play Pokemon or collect Pokemon cards because that was supposed to be satanic.

    Comic books, heavy metal, D&D, Harry Potter and Pokemon… Christian Evangelicals really do not like nerds, do they?

  • Asha

    My story is of looking at the cool AD&D box when I was 14 in high school. It had dragons on it, and was on sale from Books-A-Million. I bought it, curious, and had fun looking through the starter kit. My Mom was… odd, about the whole thing, when I think about it. As far as I was concerned, it was a new board game with dragons involved. She didn’t give me much an opinion, and my Dad didn’t care. I even tried it out with my board game loving grandma. She and my sis seemed to enjoy themselves.

    Then I brought it to my Aunt’s. She didn’t say anything to me, beyond really not wanting to play it. Then she asked my mom if she as okay with me ‘dabbling in the occult.’ My parents were okay with me doing this, but my Aunt? She was really convinced I was going to hell for this. I felt angry and betrayed, because this was my favorite aunt, and it felt like she didn’t trust me. I was precocious, and loved reading fantasy and sci-fi, and my parents both trusted me a great deal because I was the odd kid who told them both everything. I was used to being trusted by the grown-ups.

    She tried to get me to read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and I wasn’t interested. Then she bought me the massive hard-cover edition for Christmas (and broke my heart doing so- it was a lousy present and she usually gave me great presents) and I haven’t quite forgiven her since. That she didn’t trust me hurt a lot.

    In the years since, I’ve come to see her very differently, but that was the first time I ever saw her with adult eye. That was… unpleasant.

    I also had a friend who said she had personal experience with DnD being demon summoning. I told her I had played and had no such experience. We never talked about it again. Of course, this was the person who told me with utter sincerity that she believed fuck came from Fornication Under Crown Knowledge and that beluga caviar came from beluga whales.

    We’re not friends anymore.

  • Cythraul

    When I was a kid, I was forbidden anything with the name “Dungeons & Dragons”.

    This policy was at its most relevant when I was in high school – old enough to be interested in the game, but young enough that I was still under my parents’ thumb.  This was in the late ’90s, in a small town in northern Ontario.

    My parents didn’t really know what D&D was.  They knew it was a game – of some sort.  (RPG?  What’s an RPG?)  They knew it carried traditional medieval fantasy trappings, and involved magic.  (When my brother and I first started playing “Magic: the Gathering”, my father sat down and “inspected” the cards, to make sure they were “nothing like” D&D.  I’m not sure what his criteria were.)  But they wouldn’t have known D&D if they’d seen it, unless they actually saw the name on it.  I could have played GURPS or Traveler or Paranoia – and I did – without comment from my parents.

    It really was the name.  At one point I visited a bookstore with my parents, and picked up a D&D tie-in novel off the shelf – that had the ‘DUNGEONS & DRAGONS’ banner across the top.  I was refused.  I then picked up a Dragonlance novel – Dragonlance being a D&D setting and hence an indicator that the book was also a D&D product, even if it didn’t carry the words.  This book was not refused.

    When confronted about it in more recent years, my father shrugs, and says “That’s what the church told us.”  I remember that, too – the church told me too.  My high-school age Sunday school class watched a video on Satanism, and the video included a segment specifically on Dungeons & Dragons – by name.  Again, no explanation as to what it is, and my classmates and teacher were just as ignorant on the subject as my parents.

    I had an English teacher who was well versed in RPGs, and who GMed a number of games.  (But not D&D – didn’t want to get me in trouble with my parents.)  He used to lend me D&D books, which I’d hide under my clothes in my dresser.

  • Shayna

    Not much direct experience here, my parents were pretty secular.  Our DM in high school had his books burned by his mom.  My husband is very careful to keep all of our game books hidden from his parents, as they are type to freak out about it. (They didn’t like Harry Potter either until we made them watch one of the movies…then they appeared very puzzled as to why people were making such a big fuss about it to them)

    Only one thing really qualifies for me I guess. After ‘converting’ to Christianity, I went to my first women’s retreat.  They passed out a questionnaire, we were supposed to check off bad things that had happened to us or that we had been involved in. After the leaders read them all, we burned them.

    Along with yoga, witchcraft, Satanism, sexual abuse, eating disorders, addiction, etc was D&D.  I did not check the box, because I didn’t think it was something I needed to burn :-p

    I am also in the crowd who has played a lot more than D&D. World of Darkness, Exalted, Star Trek, Star Wars, All Flesh Must Be Eaten (zombie survival RPG, hehehe), Wheel of Time,Lord of the Rings, Marvel Superheroes, and plenty more that I can’t think of at the moment.  That doesn’t count anything but tabletop games either, board or video games would make the list grow exponentially.

  • Chris K

    My only encounter with the phenomenon was my grandparents telling my parents that they were very upset that I was going to go to hell. My parents told me about it, and it really wrecked my relationship with my grandparents for quite a while. This would have been in the late 80s.

  • Rick Underwood

    Australia had a bit of a different culture back then, so we were shielded from most of the panic.  Still I did turn up to a friend’s place and his female flat mate looked at all our books and dice and asked “how do you get this stuff if it’s illegal?”.  My friend Iain’s mother sat him down when he was about 12 and asked him if he was into Satanism because someone told her thats where D&D led to.  However she accepted his explanation and he kept playing (at least until he discovered alcohol, cars, and women at age 18).

  • depizan

    I’m suddenly very curious what the reaction was to an episode of Simon and Simon – one of the few (the only?) neutral to positive mentions of something akin to D&D in a TV show that I can think of.  And it aired in ’81.

    A geeky grade schooler (or jr. high schooler?) uses his computer know how to steal money from a bank, our heroes get involved, kid has a number of geeky hobbies, including playing something like D&D which he talks to Rick about.  Bank manager decides to use kid to steal a bunch more money.  Kid escapes and hides in some old military depot or something, Rick and AJ rescue him.  But his hobbies (other than computerized bank robbery) are never questioned and he’s able to leave them a clue through what he talked to Rick about.

    Did people have fits over this episode when it aired?  Or did it air before the whole backlash against D&D started?  (It could’ve.  It aired a year before Mazes and Monsters, so if that movie was the beginning… )

    In any event it’s kind of sad that I can only think of one positive mention of role playing gaming in other popular entertainment.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Supernatural’s convention episode had live-action roleplaying. Community had a whole episode of tabletop roleplaying. I can’t remember about Leverage but Hardison seems the type.

  • depizan

     Oh, good, TV’s improved about geeky stuff in the very recent past then.  There was a long period of time when it seemed like geeky things only showed up to be evil or gotten horribly wrong (or, most likely, both).

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh there’s that too. Supernatural’s creators seem to think that Supernatural fandom is predominantly men who want to be Sam and Dean, or at least pretend to be on weekends, not women who want to write about Sam and Dean. Let’s just gloss over Becky Rosen entirely. She’s not as grating now we have Charlie Bradbury–having Charlie to contrast Becky with makes Becky pretty clearly an example of the sort of fangirl who behaves wildly inappropriately around the cast, not the sort of fangirl who behaves with decorum and/or refuses to cross the streams–but Charlie is not, as far as we know, a slashficcer, so Becky still looks like the Supernatural creators being very disapproving of their most dedicated fans.

    Which is rather a derail.

  • depizan

     Oh dear.  So points for being positive about some geeky things and then we take them right back for being bad about other geeky things.

    *sigh*

  • Michael Pullmann

     Given that the “most dedicated” Supernatural fans have publicly slandered and occasionally threatened the actors’ real-life wives for ruining their slash fantasies, I can’t really blame the creators for having a dim view of their fandom.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     “Don’t they realize we’re brothers?!?”
    “I don’t think they care.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    The rest of us have a dim view of that segment of fandom, too.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I can’t remember about Leverage but Hardison seems the type.

    There’s several mentions of Hardison playing online games involving orcs.

    And I just remembered that John Rogers (Leverage writer/showrunner) made the classic quote about Ayn Rand and orcs, so we know which of the two books was influential in young Hardison’s life :)

  • DnDer in Columbus

    I started playing using the Basic D&D set in 75-76 in 4th grade.   I played for several years with no problems from my parents and other relatives.  Mom wanted to understand what it was all about, so I DMed for her once (I was a horrible DM at age 12).  She played for a couple of hours, and I killed her character (took her solo on an adventure made for 4-6 characters- like I said, I was a bad DM).  Like I said, no problems- until after my Grandma died (in 1983).  At which point my Grandfather went all Fundamentalist and wrote my mom a 2 page letter about the horrors of Dungeons & Dragons, and how Satan was running/ruining my life.  He told mom that she just did not understand the danger, but he did- and she better stop me from playing immediately, or I would lose my soul (etc, etc).

    Fortunately, my mom had my back.  She wrote a scathing reply back to him explaining that she understood EXACTLY what went on, that she had played, and he was being extremely foolish.  And, if he EVER dared tell her how to raise her children again, he would not be seeing any of us any more.  Yay mom!

    Still playing 30 years later, and STILL haven’t figured out how to cast a magic missile for reals (but the Chick Tracts PROMISED  :-)  )

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     If you ever do figure out how to cast Magic Missile, just remember the first thing to do is attack the darkness! >_>

  • DnDerInColumbus

     I wish I’d had that on tape at the time, we could have played it for Grandpa.  Not that he would have appreciated it, but WE would have.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

     

    I started playing using the Basic D&D set in 75-76 in 4th grade.   I
    played for several years with no problems from my parents and other
    relatives.

    I started in January of 1976.  I’d met Wayne (my DM) at my first SF con the Labor Day before, and would drop by his college dorm on a regular basis.  And in January 1976 when I dropped by he handed me three six-sided dice and told me to start rolling up a character.  That’s how it started, with three little books plus Greyhawk and some funny dice in a brown box.

    I didn’t get much hostility from my parents; they just thought I was weird.

    Incidentally, when Dark Dungeons came out from Jack Chick, Wayne’s comment was “A female DM?”  (At the time, D&Ders were almost entirely geeky white boys; there were horror stories floating around about female gamers and the hostility they encountered.)  “If I ever ran across a DM like that, I’d probably marry her.”  (Which Wayne did some 20 years later; he married another gamer.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     (At the time, D&Ders were almost entirely geeky white boys; there
    were horror stories floating around about female gamers and the
    hostility they encountered.)

    Tragically, both the ‘mostly geeky white boys’ and the ‘female gamers’ horror stories’ parts are still ongoing. 

  • Dwculp

    The religious rights attack on D&D produced, for me, one of my most lasting and cherished memories of my childhood. I began playing D&D around 1980, give or take a year or two, my memory escapes me! I was around 10- 11 years of age and my first memories are of the old Holmes Blue Box, still my favorite edition of D&D, probably more to due with nostalgia than it being a superior edition.

    Although my immediate family was not overly religious, I did get get hit with a lot of D&D hatred in school. We had one teacher in my middle school in particular who highly disliked D&D, even to the point of lecturing on the evils of D&D during class (which tells you how popular the game was!). Her name was Mrs. Harper, one of the few techers from my childhood whose name I remember! We had shortened it to “Mrs. Harpy”, named after the evil part bird/part female creatures we often battled in our games. We spent many lunch periods battling the forces of evil, hacking away at hordes of orcs and exploring the unknown. “Mrs. Harpy” was able to get the open display of D&D books banned on campus. That was ok, we played without our books, all that was required was an imagination.

    As I said before, my family was not overly religious, however, my grandmother was so far to the right religiously she made up for the rest of the family. This was a woman who nearly worshiped Pat Robertson and never missed a showing of the 700 Club. She began putting a bug in my mothers ear on the evils of D&D, her children were satanist and going to hell for it. My mother began asking questions about the game we were playing and began consulting with my father about what to do. My father, a man I had immense respect for was a rationalist, even-tempered and not prone to rash judgement, he asked to sit down and play a game of D&D with my brothers and me! I was ecstatic, nervous, and scared all at the same time! Although it was never said, I knew why he had asked, he wanted to get a first hand view of this “evil game” and determine for himself if his sons should be playing it

    I still remember with fondness sitting down that day around the dinning room table, dice in hand, explaining the rules to my father, having him thumb through the rule books, asking questions about the game, I remember he had questions about the “thief” character class and I was explaining that it was not really a bad thing. We then began play, we ran though the classic adventure “The Keep on the Borderlands” and I was the DM (as always). I do not remember the outcome, I don’t remember the details, I simply remember sitting and playing D&D with father for four plus hours. At the end he said he had a great time (which we did) and he would like to play again. He had not given his direct permission to continue playing but I knew he had given us his permission to keep playing.

    I lost my father to a short but valiant fight against lymphoma almost exactly a year ago. The memory of playing D&D with my father is one of my most cherished memories. If Pat Pulling had not led a psychotic battle against D&D I would not have that memory as my father would have never asked to play then or again.

  • CAThompson

    There’s a thread with some newspaper clippings here: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?459104-Satanic-history-D-amp-D-A-Cautionary-Tale

    Somewhere also is the Pulling Report about BADD.

    Since I came from California, the only thing we had was my grandmother’s hairdresser worrying about our souls and no one caring.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=651573838 Jeff Sockwell

    This is the Pulling Report, compiled by Michael Stackpole. http://www.rpgstudies.net/stackpole/pulling_report.html

    I started playing D&D in 1981 and I can remember very well the hype about the dangers of the game. This less-than-bright woman really caused a lot of hurt, all to deflect her own guilt feelings for the death of her son. Pulling herself died of cancer in 1997.

    My parents blamed their problems communicating with me on the game and made me sell off all of my gaming stuff, even the sci-fi, ostensibly because it was demonic.

  • emotion13

    I was raised in a very conservative, non denominational Christian home.  Here’s what happened to me:

    When my mother found out I played D&D, she was very matter of fact about it.  “It’s satanic and you’re not playing it anymore.”  When I pressed her for any kind of argument that would lead me to believe that, she added, “It has witches in it.  And voodoo.”  “You’re dabbling in witchcraft.”  “You’re dabbling in the occult.”  Then I was threatened with a multiple year long grounding if she discovered I had played D&D again.

    After this, I came up with the idea of researching D&D at the library, hoping that more information would lead to a mutual understanding.  I got my hands on everything there I could find on the subject and read it all.  The secular stuff was pretty mundane, much like my actual game playing experiences.  Anything with the word “Christian” attached to it was from an alternative reality that I was totally unfamiliar with.  D&D causes suicide, you have to be evil to win, the dungeon master controls your life, players can’t differentiate between fantasy and reality, and other complete nonsense.  Oh, by the way, you can’t be a Christian and play, either.

    My friends were actually pretty cool about the whole thing; we started playing RPGs other than D&D after that.  Some time later, I brought home books from one of those different games.  My father took a book, read about one page, and came in my room, screaming at me,”THIS IS OF THE DEVIL AND IF THIS IS WHAT YOUR FRIENDS DO, YOU CAN KISS THEM GOODBYE!!!!!”  After that, I suppose there isn’t much more to say about their objection to RPGs.

    I have long thought that there is an irony to all this. They were so concerned about the effect D&D, and later all RPGs, were going to have on my faith, that they never figured out that it was their anti RPG demagoguery that ultimately did infinitely more damage to my faith than the games themselves.
     

  • Albanaeon

    Well, my gaming came in the nineties, well after the Satanic Panic era, but it did have an interesting effect on my start in them.

    So several of my karate friends finally asked if I wanted to play, since they knew I was already painting the miniatures and the like and had been for years.  My mother was uncharacteristically concerned by this.  Considering her child was taking karate and hiking alone in deserts for days, I couldn’t understand the problem, other than a vague awareness that DnD was controversial.  She explained that she had heard a few things and “don’t you remember that movie we watched 5 years ago.”  So my liberal Catholic mother, who shared my Eddings and Jordan and Tolkien books, and encouraged my miniature collecting was worried about DnD by the sheer dint of how much had been said and a crappy movie.

    Well, she agreed, but only if she could watch the session.  When she found it was a bunch of pre-teens rolling dice, moving toy soldiers, and making off color jokes, and the most arcane thing about it was trying to figure out THAC0, she had no problems.

    The only other story was when I was at a hobby store, and father flat out ranted to  his young son that they don’t allow demons into their house and how “evil” all these games were when he was asked by his child what a plastic model was.  It was such a bizarre over-reaction that it still chills me even though I think it was a great insight into the fundamentalist character.  They invest a great deal of time and thought into putting evil into relatively mundane things to the point they seem to not be able to invest it into actual evils.  Particularly if they seem relatively mundane, like poverty, or hunger, or obscene wealth. 

    I would guess that it also helps that their crusades are generally against the fringers of society so its easy to get otherwise uninterested people to go along with them because it gives a chance to justify their bullying.

  • eyelessgame

    Nothing dramatic – just one indirect instance. ~1980, I was fourteen or so. Had been playing for four years, since the Original White Box, Chainmail combat system, and the Three Grey Books. Was building a gaming group (who would be my best friends through high school). One guy drifted in to our group – interesting guy, fairly bright, but very naive and prone to being convinced by almost anything. Was “into” D&D. (I remember his odd but fun house rules that turned combat into a fast-response word game, almost like verbal fencing.)  I gamed with him separately because my other gamer friends were leery of him – he was also “into” pot and related “immature” stuff (my gamer friends had outgrown their pothead stage by then) – I was never into that but then as now I didn’t care what a guy did when he wasn’t gaming.
    After a few months, he got “into” whichever tent-based revival pentavangelibaptimentalism (I was Catholic, never kept track of them) was going around. I warned him “they’ll try to convince you D&D is Satanic”. He assured me they’d never do that – they were good people and open-minded and accepting, and went on about how they were speaking in tongues and healing and stuff, just like clerics.

    Three weeks later he was burning his D&D books because they were Evil. I pretty much lost track of him; he dropped out of high school and I don’t even remember his name today.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    pentavangelibaptimentalism

    Please figure out a way to add a few more syllables to this, so we can make a parody of ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’ 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Btw, one thing I’ve found helps dilute the immense social awkwardness that can cause problems around the table is playing by post over forums; or playing online via chat (not voice chat, just regular old text chat).

    There’s 3 basic reasons:

    1)  No one has to know your real gender if you don’t want them to.  This prevents some of the “I’m a gamer and female so I get too much attention” type problems; it also allows a player to more easily play a character of the opposite gender if they want without the difficulty of mimicking voices at the table or weirding out other players.

    2) It’s easier to stay in character when you don’t have to deal with ‘stage fright’.  There’s no need to put on a performance for anyone.

    3) It’s easier to walk away if things aren’t working out.  While that can be a two-edged sword – it can be a bit harder to work out personality clashes since someone might just leave rather than work it out – it’s nice to have the option to just pack up and go without worrying about who spent how much on the pizza and having to deal with alienating people in the group.

    All told that’s why I do the play by post thing primarily anymore.  I admit it’s imperfect; and sometimes groups just flop for reasons beyond explanation* – but for anyone who’s not got anyone local to play with or just isn’t comfortable around other people in person it can be a great boon!

    *There was a fantastic “Seven Samurai” based campaign I was in for a while that just halted suddenly when our DM vanished.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    No one has to know your real gender if you don’t want them to.

    I am not okay with hiding my gender, ever. Particularly if it’s out of fear because other people might be assholes to me because of it. Why would anyone want to play with anyone who’s an asshole to half the population, anyway? I am also not okay with playing male or even agender characters in RPGs of this type; I simply cannot do it, my gender identity is too strong. I have to play women or girls or not play. I could play a droid or something, but that droid would have a feminine identity.

    I understand why so many women in gaming hide their gender identities. But I wish, selfishly, that they’d stop doing it. It makes it that much harder for the rest of us. Though it’s not as hard now, in most areas of gaming, as it used to be — and that is thanks to girls and women playing and not hiding.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Understandable

    I mostly bring it up for people who want to get into gaming but are uncomfortable around a table (for a variety of reasons; gender just being one);  I mean myself, I’m biologically male but my gender identity is a bit… complicated and I don’t like all the assumptions that go with identifying as either; so I personally rarely reveal my gender online.*

    But I understand where you’re coming from too.

    *I will say this has lead to some slightly amusing situations where half the group is using ‘she’ and half the group is using ‘he’ to refer to me.  I don’t mind at all

  • Katie

    I think that there is a difference, though, between a genderqueer person not revealing their identity because they don’t want to be stereotyped or someone using RPGs as a way to explore their gender identity and cisgenderd women hiding their gender because they are afraid of being harrassed.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Certainly; I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.  It’s just one of those situations where a person has to decide what they personally can handle based on their own mental health.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Headless Unicorn Guy, is that an FFN copy… dedicated entirely to My Little Pony?

    (Given that it was a steampunk-fantasy larp, so we had a guy in a tailored suit and top hat and a bunch of women in corsets, fancy skirts, and tiny hats, I’d be curious to know precisely what kind of cult they thought we were, but there ya go.)

    A dapper one.

    We had shortened it to “Mrs. Harpy”, named after the evil part bird/part female creatures we often battled in our games

    Um… wouldn’t they be part bird/part human (or part woman, to be specific)?  Since… I don’t recall that the bird part is typically not female as well?  Although I suppose that could work as an explanation for how they reproduce (in cases where they *do*…)

  • Dwculp

    LOL… You are correct, it should be part bird/part human female! I wrote that on an iPad in a hotel room in very tired state of mind!

  • Hofeizai

    My first high school was a Catholic school with a Dungeons & Dragons club.  It was a nerdy thing to belong to, but no big deal.  When that school closed, a few of us tried to form a similar club at our new school, and found ourselves spending time with the school counselor due to out interest in Satanism and the occult.  

    My parents bought me the red box set in the mid 80s, then heard it would make me go crazy and kill myself.  They didn’t stop me from playing, but I know they worried about me and my friends.  Almost 30 years later, I think they’ve accepted that we are unlikely to sacrifice them as offerings to dark gods.  Soon, they will let their guard down completely, and then we strike!

  • Hofeizai

    Perhaps I’ve said too much

  • rikalous

    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.

    Oh, definitely. For instance: superstitions. I assume most of you know about the tabletop gamer’s rituals to appease the Random Number God so that the dice may roll in their favor. The only other time I’ve seen that level of magical thinking in otherwise perfectly sensible people is my dad on game day. He might wear a new team shirt if it isn’t an important game, but if it is he has to be wearing the shirt with a proven history of good luck. Someone could probably right a psychology paper on the phenomena.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I have the exact opposite dice superstition: that I will only make my rolls if I don’t care what the result is. This often has the effect of my not being able to cast a spell I should be able to cast, but randomly getting goodies like psi powers during character generation — when the chance is such that I shouldn’t care about the roll.

    So what I often do is cop a ostentatiously not-giving-a-shit act whenever I roll, sometimes refusing even to look at the result. Sometimes it works, sometimes it  doesn’t…dice being, y’know, random. 

    Oddly, during a 10-year long Rolemaster campaign, every single attempt I made to either overcast spells or cast Water magic (one of my 5 elemental lists) failed and failed BADLY. HOW CAN THE DICE KNOW?!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Oddly, during a 10-year long Rolemaster campaign, every single attempt I made to either overcast spells or cast Water magic (one of my 5 elemental lists) failed and failed BADLY. HOW CAN THE DICE KNOW?!

    Marc, you are talking to the walking Dice Implosion of Expeditions Ltd.  Nothing like being sent out of the room when another player had to make a vital saving throw.  My DM even used a random-number generator to give me a sheet of “dice rolls” of various sizes I could mark off as I used them.  No effect.  They even used to sit me next to “Rollin the Roller” (the Dice Explosion of the group) in the hope we’d damp each other out.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    You see…that would make sense. 
    I’m not a bad roller; my rolls more or less track with the known range of probabilities. I get my share of criticals and my share of fumbles. 

    Except in those two cases, which once I passed 4th level (Water Bolt being the main attack spell until then) didn’t come up much. But…EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. To overcast one level you only need to crack 25, so I’d give it a go now and then…and lose spellcasting for a week or something. Or I’d like to sink an enemy ship with a whirlpool…04. WHY DIDN’T I GO WITH 1 MILE RADIUS DARKNESS?

    (We only play every so often, but at the level I’m at I get roughly 1,000 spells to choose from and having earned them from bitter experience I can generally come up with six or seven responses to every situation, so it irritates me when I forget and do water spells…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    HOW CAN THE DICE KNOW?!

    I think mine tend to respond to where mood meets use – I get better results when acting in accord with the purpose to which I put them. I have a board game called “Mwahahaha!!” where the point is to play mad scientists competing for global domination. The more “in character” I get to the game, the better I seem to roll.

    Then again, there’s a dice bot on an IRC channel I used to frequent who seems to produce results that most amuse “her,” or what would be most dramatically appropriate. She likes to drop failures at the most hilarious-in-retrospect times, though always seems to pull through with a merciful result at the very last moment. She doesn’t have a proper RNG seed, instead being hooked into a detector online that listens to cosmic background radiation or something like that (maybe just ambient noise at some location? can’t remember…), so I tend to think of her as the universe taking a turn and laughing at the players.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Apparently if you subscribe to certain flavours of paganism it becomes rather amusing that I specifically have trouble with water magic. Something about water and sexuality…

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I have a board game called “Mwahahaha!!” where the point is to play mad scientists competing for global domination.

    “Mwahahaha?”  Sounds like you were channelling Nightmare Moon — that mare had an awesome Villain Laugh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Sounds like you were channelling Nightmare Moon — that mare had an awesome Villain Laugh.

    Or perhaps it was Bad Horse.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy
    Sounds like you were channelling Nightmare Moon — that mare had one awesome Villain Laugh.

    Or perhaps it was Bad Horse.

    Like this?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNWi5T7khoo

    Speaking of Bad Horses, there’s this one famous fanfic which had a major emotional impact on me last year.  Past Sins, written to bring redemption to Nightmare Moon (i.e. the P0ny Antichrist) by having her “born again” (and not in the way you think; let him who has ears to hear, hear):
    http://www.fimfiction.net/story/41596/Past-Sins
    (Note:  requires some familiarity with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)

    I’ve had the movie version playing nonstop in my head for over a year.  (Including the climactic showdown in Chapter 21 where I kept hearing the baptismal promises from every Easter Vigil — “Do you renounce Satan?  And all his works?  And all his empty promises?  Do you reject the glamor of Evil?”)

    I later made contact with the author (a 22-year-old grad student) regarding echoes and patterns in his writing (both Past Sins and a previous novel Creeping Darkness) and confirmed that he wrote that fan novel to redeem the Pony Antichrist.

    I find it interesting that while all the BADDs and Harry Potter Book Burners are attacking and destroying anything “Satanic” (real or imagined), damning everyone not like them to Hell, and the End Time Prophecy types have signed the future over to The Antichrist and only await an airlift out, a 22-year-old lapsed Lutheran spent a year and 200,000 words writing Redemption for the Pony Antichrist.  Salvation for their Antichrist.

  • Noah Brand

    If nobody’s mentioned it yet, I want to bring up Cruel Doubt, a 1992 TV movie-of-the-week about a teenager who killed his stepfather, and whether or not he did it because of D&D. It was hilariously awful. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104031/

  • guardiaspiridian

    I’ll relate the worst of my experiences here.  Wait until you get a load of this noise.

    It had to be 1993, summer.  That year I went to a rural community school in Missouri.  The high school went grades 8-12 in one building, senior class was like 25 people.  Yeah.

    That year we did a lot of cool gaming.  The buddies I made there were pretty cool and had never been gamers.  MERP, Shadowrun, some Dragon Quest and BECMI D&D.  We played Warriors of the Eternal Sun on Sega.

    One of our guys knew his dad might have a problem, so we straight up took him the D&D basic book and he decided he’d play a Chaotic Thief in our game.  Good times.

    Well, I would come to Oklahoma in the summer, as my family has always lived here.  I would spend a month or two and go back, as I always did every summer.  When I got back to that Missouri town, things had changed.  I wouldn’t know until school started.

    Everyone shunned me, even my buddies.  I had no idea where all the hate was coming from.  It was seriously weird…the whole community was just being hateful, but no one would tell me why.  Well, I had a buddy that was the police chief’s son…and he told me what happened.

    During the summer, some organization (I never found out if it was BADD but it was organized by the churches) came to the town and put on a seminar at the school auditorium.  The subject of the seminar was Dungeons & Dragons, and how it was evil.  Demons, spells and whatnot.

    Well, it was like poison in the well.  For the rest of the time I lived in Missouri, people were convinced I worshiped Satan, apparently through my game.  Also, I was after their kids.  I pretty much had it out with every single person in the community, from my gym coach wanting to confiscate the [I]Knight of Newts[/I] to the school librarian wanting to confiscate [I]Shadowrun[/I].

    All my friends turned on me, but I made new and better ones.  Still, the entire time I lived there after this it was hard.  My own folks, however, figured out it was just a game, but that I had a passion for it.  By the time we moved back to Oklahoma in 1994, they had fully accepted my hobby and I started to collect miniatures for Warhammer 40k.

    I could go on at length about individual encounters…but I wanted to share this story about the entire community being anti-D&D and being made so in the span of a single seminar.

    Ignorance can accomplish a lot of things, but it didn’t bring me down all the way.  The way I felt about the friends that had abandoned me ended that world and paved the way for another, brighter planet full of games and friends that weren’t easily swayed by bullshit rhetoric.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    By the time we moved back to Oklahoma in 1994, they had fully accepted my hobby and I started to collect miniatures for Warhammer 40k.

    I am surprised that they did not take more objection to that.  I heard from church that it promotes worship of the Ruinous Powers.  Pretty soon you will be painting Eight Pointed Stars and beseeching Khorne for his favor.  I can remember the incantations now…

    BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!  SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    For the Changer of Ways!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You will know the pleasures of the Prince of Indulgence… 

  • Launcifer

    Would it give away my age if I threw in my lot with Malal?

  • Tricksterson

    if they were going to get upset about a magical system it should have been Palladium fantasy.  One of my housemates at the time who was a pagan and magical practioner (not necessarily the same thing) took a look at some of the symbols portrayed in the magic section and went “Eek!”

  • Katie

    I’m also active in a play by post forum (I’m actually one of the moderators) and for me the main advantage is that its easier to find time to type up a post or three than it is to have a dedicated day or evening a week to game.  Its also allowed me to make friends with people from all over the place, who I would otherwise never have met, including my now-boyfriend.   This is my longest term experience with gaming, my involvement with a PnP group kind of fell apart when I got a job that required me to work weekends.

    To keep this on topic, I ran with a fairly geeky crowd in junior high and high school, this was in the early to mid 1990’s, and by then the Satanic Panic had pretty well faded.  We were aware of it, but it was a source of amusement, not anything that negatively affected anyone’s life.

  • Darkarchetype

    Oh, I can tell you about this one. My dad basically thinks Harry Potter is the devil’s work, Dungeons and Dragons is evil, and even Pokemon is sketchy because “don’t demons live in fire?” and there are fire-breathing creatures in the game.

    I just framed all my role-playing as other things. We don’t play D&D (and granted, I don’t use the system, I use other tabletop systems); I play “that game I play on the weekends. It’s like interactive storytelling.” I don’t mention magic and stuff like that. It’s just a big game of “reframe it so it doesn’t have certain buzzwords that will set off the Raging Evangelical Mentality.”

  • Tricksterson

    Never mention to your father that in the non-bowlderized Japanese version it’s very thinly veiled that Pkemon are meant to represent Shinto kami since I’m sure that he would think Shintoists worship demons too.

  • Mike Timonin

    Somewhere, I have written about my long descent into Dungeons and Dragons. The short version is something like this: in the middle of 10th grade, in the late 1980s or early 1990s, Dad got transferred, and so we moved. The group of folks I connected with at the new school played D&D, and, eventually, I was invited to make a character and join in. The church we joined was a small, non-denominational charismatic evangelical church, which means it was a hot bed for satanic panic type behavior. When I told my parents about the game, they got a copy of some sort of pamphlet (could have been Dark Dungeons? I’m not sure) about the dangers of D&D. (It was the pamphlet that combined discussion of several different fantasy role playing games, but called them all Dungeons and Dragons – there was discussion of the fact that there were stats for tripping over your own entrails, for instance, which were derived from some non D&D system). At any rate, I did not play D&D at that time – I had to wait until university. However, I did play lots of other role playing games in high school, including Shadowrun, which had the same sort of “realistic” magic system that people at church had problems with. My relationship with the church was always somewhat ambivalent.

    My parents were actually kinda odd about the whole thing – they didn’t really monitor me all that closely, and basically assumed that I would make good choices (which I’m inclined to think I did) – but they did object to Robert Asprin’s Myth series, on the basis that it featured demons (as opposed to all of the other reasons why the books are objectionable, but never mind), and to C. J. Cherryh’s Hellburner, because the title included the term “hell” (never mind that it referred to a propulsion system on some sort of spacecraft).  

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    (It was the pamphlet that combined discussion of several different fantasy role playing games, but called them all Dungeons and Dragons – there was discussion of the fact that there were stats for tripping over your own entrails, for instance, which were derived from some non D&D system).

    Probably Dave Hargrave’s “Arduin Grimoire”, which was a D&D house rules variant.  We didn’t call it “Bloody Arduin” for nothing.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    That has a distinct Rolemaster sound to it.

  • Cathy W

    Hubby said yes, I can share.

    He was in high school at the time, so this was probably around 1986-1987. He lived in a house next door to his church (Church of the Nazarene, which strikes me as a fairly moderate denomination with some odd hangups, and at a minimum from his experience not prone to seeing demons around every corner). One of the other boys in his youth group was the son of the church secretary, so had access to the building, and when Hubby and his friend were planning to put together a Dungeons and Dragons game, they concluded that one of the classrooms there at the church would be a good place to play, as long as they were careful not to make a mess, which they were. They went halfsies on a set of books, found a couple other players, and started playing regularly.

    Apparently the youth pastor was curious, but not alarmed; the head pastor, on the other hand, when he found out about what was going on, preached a very uncharacteristic sermon about how Dungeons and Dragons was steering our young people – “even some of those in this very church!” – away from salvation. Lots more fire and brimstone than usual. The game was moved to the basement of one of the other players – less convenient, and happened less regularly. Hubby’s mom started to grouse, where she’d been okay with the hobby before. But the final straw was at a youth retreat where they had a campfire ceremony in which the kids were encouraged to put in the fire a representation of things that interfered with their salvation, and the other boy who’d started the D&D game threw all the books into the fire – including the half that were Hubby’s.

    That kind of irritated Hubby, and the freakout over a harmless hobby might have been one of the first nudges he had down a spiritual path that led to atheism.

    (My own story is quite the opposite; my parents thought it was nice that I had a hobby, as long as I spent my own money on it, and actually played one or two game sessions. I had a teacher in middle school who recommended it as an exercise in teamwork, storytelling, and creativity. But even though my family was nominally Christian, we were not involved with any church; I suppose things might have been a little different if we had been.)

  • ScorpioUndone

    My story is pretty much the same as anyone/everyone else’s. I showed interest in playing, it sounded like fun, who wouldn’t want a miniature dragon, and was of course forbidden from so much as uttering the phrase D&D. I’d occasionally sneak behind my parents’ backs and try to get games together with friends, but it never worked out, probably because they were forbidden from playing, too.

    I eventually got around all the scare by picking up video games– I got hooked on the first Final Fantasy game for the Nintendo and have been playing that series off and on ever since.  

  • Tricksterson

    My parents never got bothered by my flirtation with D&D (it sank because I was the only one willing to GM and frankly I wasn’t very good at it.  Never got all that into it until the 3rd edition, instead I was much more into Aftermath and the various Hero System games and later Shadowrun and WoD).  What bothered my father was when I inscribed elemental sigils on the walls of my room in magic marker and a pentagram on the floor, which was a couple of years before I discovered D&D.  And no, I wasn’t a Heavy Metal fan either, I was into Billy Joel and Jethro Tull at the time.  More annoyingly he never understood my fondness for science fiction and fantasy because he didn’t consider them “serious literature”.  Never made a dent when I pointed out that half of Ayn Rand’s novels (He was an Objectivist) were sciece fiction as was 1984 of which he was also fond.  he was very much of the “If it’s good it can’t be science fiction/If it’s science fiction it can’t be good” school of thought.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    he was very much of the “If it’s good it can’t be science fiction/If it’s science fiction it can’t be good” school of thought.

    Ah yes, the so-called “Sci Fi Ghetto“.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Among people who think that way, Margaret Atwood. SF folks give her a lot of shit for that, given that ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ among other works of hers, are clearly SF even if she refuses to call it that. 

  • Tricksterson

    What’s ironic is that he got annoyed when people said jazz  (which was the closest he came to true religious belief) wasn’t “serious music”.

  • Evan Hunt

    It isn’t much of a story, but… I had a best friend from age 10 to 13 and, though it wasn’t our most common shared activity, we did play D&D together several times.  But then he got caught up in a pentacostal church, and he started telling me their horror stories with wide-eyed credulity.

    I rarely had much patience for them, and eventually it killed our friendship, but at first I tried to be nonjudgmental and just get along with him.  But I snapped one day when he told me the story about D&D being satanic and promoting witchcraft. I told him that was ridiculous, and all the worse because he knew it was ridiculous — he’d played D&D, he knew there was no witchcraft involved.  He responded by telling me about a woman who’d come to speak at his church:  she’d played D&D herself until a few years ago, but after she was saved and learned about how evil it was, she decided to burn all her books…. “and as they were burning, she heard screams coming from her fireplace!”

    I suppose that woman might have been delusional.  He didn’t mention whether she was soliciting for donations.  But I’ve always assumed she was, and she was probably making pretty good money telling hackish ghost stories to a profoundly gullible audience.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    He responded by telling me about a woman who’d come to speak at his church: she’d played D&D herself until a few years ago, but after she was saved and learned about how evil it was, she decided to burn all her books…. “and as they were burning, she heard screams coming from her fireplace!”

    That sounds like a retold variant of the Christian Urban Legend that made it onto the 700 Club.  Except in the original version it was D&D lead miniatures screaming as they were melted down by the Righteous.

    And it’s not just D&D stuff.  Two years ago, my sister-in-law claimed the reason for my depression I was going through at the time was a DEMON had hitched a ride into my home via a picture on my wall of an elegant cobra-woman in a white dress.  She (my SIL, not Miss Cobra) then tried to steer me towards a “Spiritual Warrior” she knew.

    I know exactly how that picture caused my depression.  Some circumstances around my acquiring it (at a Furry con art show) paralleled some stuff that happened when I broke up with my only girlfriend years ago and triggered a flashback at full emotional intensity.  No demons necessary.

    Wrote my way out of that depression with a 10,000-word fantasy novelette turning the experience into Magic Realism — an imaginary creature, the cobra-woman from the art piece, trying to reach into reality and become real, but only getting as far as dreams.  It ends with her hoping that in the Resurrection, she will be Resurrected from imagination to reality.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You know, there is also something interesting about the story of the company TSR itself (which was the original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons.)  The company was eventually taken over by Lorraine Williams, in a stock-consolidating move that could charitably called “hostile”.  I doubt Lorraine was trying from the outset to assume control of the company, but when she was invited in to help clear reorganize away some of their debt she wasted little time in getting a majority share and alienating Gary Gygax.  

    Anyway, among many other things, she decided to purge D&D of “Christian-hostile” elements, which meant among other things removing any references to things like demons and devils (they were still therejust not allowed to be called that.)  I am not sure how much of that was her own personal conviction, and how much was a business-motivated desire to placate the moral guardians in Satan-panic mode who were so shrill about it at the time.  

    Either way, the Satan-panic in the late eighties had a direct effect not simply on D&D consumers (or want-to-be consumers) but on the product itself.  That alone probably did not doom TSR, but it was one of many nails in the company’s coffin which led to its eventually closure in 1996.  

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Anyway, among many other things, she decided to purge D&D of “Christian-hostile” elements, which meant among other things removing any references to things like demons and devils (they were still therejust not allowed to be called that.)

    So that’s what happened to D&D 2e, with its “Baatezu” and “Taanari”.  Casualty of the “TSR Wars”.

    Granted, I remember when D&D Demons were originally introduced in 1976/77 — a little volume called “Eldritch Wizardry”, with a cover illo of a naked chick shackled to an altar.  Now THAT caused a bit of an uproar!

  • trillaphon

    I first played D&D my senior year of high school and loved it. My mom was convinced that you had to cast real spells to play. I had a bad breakdown halfway through the year and was hospitalized with psychotic symptoms.

    Mom went through and cleared everything out of my room. Her biggest concern was finding the Rulebook for Vampire: The Masquerade (my friend had lent it to me). She was certain that by playing these games I was inviting demons into my life, like intentionally. They became forbidden, and she took all my books, music, computer out of my bedroom, leaving me basically just with clothes and a Bible.

    I remember her handing me pages printed off the internet from someone who claimed to have been “delivered” from the influence of the game. I laughed at it; clearly the guy had never played and knew nothing about the game. She saw this as evidence that demonic influence was deeply affecting me. Eventually I promised I wouldn’t play just to get her off my back…most of my friends played and I always felt alienated because I couldn’t. But the first Bible verse I learned as a kid was Ephesians 6:1 and as a result I very rarely questioned my parents on their rules.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I remember her handing me pages printed off the internet from someone who claimed to have been “delivered” from the influence of the game. I laughed at it; clearly the guy had never played and knew nothing about the game.

    Around the end of the Satanic Panic period, I was at a pro-life rally with various booths set up for various organizations.  Talked with the German lady at the Shield of Roses booth (Catholic organization praying the Rosary to end abortion), watched an Eastern-rite priest trying to corral his kids, then went to a booth which was shall we say a bit into the Satanic Conspiracy Theory.
    Said booth was hawking one of the “Satan’s Bid for Your Child”/”Turmoil in the Toybox” books that were widespread at the time; I took a skim through the section on “Dungeons & Demons” and laughed out loud.  (Same effect you had.)  Told the guys in the booth that I’d been a gamer since ’76 and from my 14 years of in-country experience this book was total BS. 

    Bad Move.  The Bibles and tracts came out and the High-Pressure Witnessing and quoting like Calormenes began.

    I finally managed to disengage and get back to the Shield of Roses booth.  The old German lady had been watching the floor show and asked me, “Vell, did you haff an interesting discussion?”

    “More like a shouting match,” I answered.  “Who taught them how to Witness(TM), Josef Goebbels?  As in ‘Effective Propaganda consists of Simplification and Repetition.'”

    She fell off her chair laughing.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Bad Move.  The Bibles and tracts came out and the High-Pressure Witnessing and quoting like Calormenes began.

    You know that makes me think, maybe someone should go to one of those rallies while holding a copy of their Player’s Handbook to act as a witnessing tool.  People will get curious, ask about it, and you can spread the Good News to those who have yet to hear it.

    … D&D not actually being Satanic is considered good news, right?  

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     “You have to BELIEVE in Pelor my friends, and His light WILL shine on you!  *thumps PHB* Can I get an amen?!”

  • rikalous

    “You have to BELIEVE in Pelor my friends, and His light WILL shine on you!  *thumps PHB* Can I get an amen?!”

    Hah! That very PHB shows Pelor’s best-known servant casting Symbol of Pain, an Evil spell! No cleric of a Good god has the power to cast an Evil spell! Abjure Pelor the Burning Hate and all his lying minions!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Incidentally, I have a friend who is from a devout family (and she herself is quite devout) who is quite the geek and would love to play more RPGs… but her mother is (or at least was for a long time) terribly afraid of Dungeons & Dragons.  

    This led to amusing situations where my friend scratched her roleplaying itch by playing Neverwinter Nights on her computer, which her mother was okay with because it was “not D&D”, it was just a fantasy computer game.  She said that she could play it as much as she wanted without her mother getting upset… as long as her mother never figured out that it was actually an officially licensed digital adaptation of D&D, using third edition rules and taking place in the Forgotten Realms setting.

  • Carstonio

    I avoided D&D in high school because I didn’t want to give my classmates another reason to think of me as a nerd. Partly I wanted to be liked out of simple self-preservation, since dislike is the reason that anyone deliberately hurts anyone else. But mostly I wanted people who disiked me to leave me alone – it’s almost like many take it personally when someone wants to mind his or her own business. I suppose my avoidance of D&D only punished myself.

    I didn’t hear of the fundamentalist opposition to D&D until many years later, and it still seems ridiculous. The reasoning would have to apply to the entire fantasy genre. Maybe these folks don’t object to The Hobbit because that story has very little magic. 

  • Anubisbard

    In early 80’s small town Pennsylvania, I didn’t know much about the backlash – but when we tried to start a D and D club at school we were denied.  Apparently, some people objected to bringing witchcraft into the school.  We didn’t push and that was it — we went back to playing in the basement and drinking rum and cokes.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    In early 80’s small town Pennsylvania, I didn’t know much about the backlash – but when we tried to start a D and D club at school we were denied.

    Similar to a story I heard from a teen at a Brony meetup/picnic last year.  Said he got his bid for an on-campus My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic club denied hard by the school prinicpal.  Also said his school DID have an approved Zombie Apocalypse club, though.  Still scratching my head over that one.

  • Tricksterson

    Because the ZA involves firearms, which are totally okay, especially in a school setting?

  • Launcifer

    Well, this whole thread makes for depressing reading given the stories people are sharing. Here’s a (slightly) better one:-

    When I was at university, I lived in off-campus housing owned by said university, which meant that I had no choice over my housemates. At the start of my third year, the only other in-house survivor of my – or, I guess, our – truly catastrophic second year was a committed Christian, albeit one who took great interest in other faiths. He also worked for the housing folks and had been showing Erasmus (European students on an exchange year at my uni’) students and their parents around our house as a precursor to the signing of rental agreements and whatnot.

    He’d been having a perfectly pleasant and interesting discussion with a French Muslim family whose daughter was planning to attend the university when the father spotted his collection of RPG manuals and proceeded to launch into a diatribe questioning whether or not my housemate was a “true” Christian given his choice of reading material and whether or not his daughter could live in a house containing such books.

    This continued for maybe five minutes until one of the other French Muslim families (there were three) wandered into the room, at which point the mother from the second family launched into quite possibly the most epic – and polite – rebuttal I have ever heard in my entire life. My French wasn’t – and isn’t – good enough for me to follow the entire conversation, but I know that it began with a phrase something like: “When I was imprisoned for writing a cookery book…”. I still don’t entirely know what the mother of lady no.2 said, but bugger me if it didn’t work.

    At the end of things, the father from the first family apologised for judging my housemate and we all went out for a meal together to a nice Vietnamese restaurant just down the road (as you do). I even have vague recollections of his sitting in on one of our gaming sessions when he visited around the time of his daughter’s birthday, though this could well be me conflating two separate events.

    I don’t know if there’s a point to this post but, if there is, then I guess it’s to highlight my amazement at where the moral panic managed to penetrate, coupled with a vague wonder at just how willing my housemate’s father was to listen to reason (I’m guessing here but, given what followed, he must have been quite severely chastened by events as they played out), though the shine’s somewhat removed by the fact it required someone he “recognized” to tell him. I’ve also wanted to tell someone this story for about ten years now, but that’s another story.

  • Kit

    Too young for the mainstream D&D objection, but from a small enough town that it came up anyway. Nothing major in my memory, possibly because I was too young for the hardcore group. I do recall a neighbor/friend my age tattling on her older brother who snuck some RPG books into the house.

    When I was in late elementary in the ’90s, one of my dad’s college students loaned me The Vampire Book*, an earlier edition with a beautiful black and white faux-relief cover of some historic vampire painting or etching, which I unthinkingly took to my Catholic** school like any other book. I was pretty surprised when my parents were both called in at the end of school and I was held after for some kind of mediated meeting amongst us. The teacher rather thought my parents didn’t know I had the book (I had not been spoken to privately about it at all, so as not to, um, I dunno, spook me? So as not to ruin the surprise), but of course my (hyper liberal) dad had negotiated the terms of the loan, read over the book, and thought it was great. Eventually the teacher and principal concluded that I couldn’t bring the book to school anymore because it was scaring the other children (doubt it, though my possible Satanism did affect my popularity), but that I *wasn’t* going to be punished for bringing it that day. …Gee, thanks? This is only marginally relevant to the general Satanic Panic issue, but I distinctly recall them asking about my other hobbies, and giving my parents an oral list of things to consider future warning signs that the book was affecting my soul, D&D among them.

    Now, Harry Potter, that I was around for. My middle school science teacher not only burned them, but invited students to bonfires. And conscientiously objected, to misappropriate a beautiful sentiment, to large swaths of doing-her-damn-job, re: anything relating (to her; of course to me all science relates to) evolution. I have no doubt that she was caught up in the BADD old days, though she would have herself been a teenager then.

    *A bigass research compendium on vampires in media from woodcuts to Buffy. I wish I’d realized what was happening sooner and checked the Author Bio, ’cause the guy is a famous religious scholar.
    **The school was theoretically very Catholic, but due to the town size, only one of the teachers/principal was, so it had a strange Episcopalevangelical flavor.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Now, Harry Potter, that I was around for. My middle school science teacher not only burned them, but invited students to bonfires.

    While Pullman’s Golden Compass sailed right through as recommended reading?  (Even in Christian schools.)  In one interview, Pullman thanked Rowling for drawing all the fire and giving his “Anti-Narnia” clear sailing.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Really?  I thought that Pullman was kind of upset that there was not more outrage over his books.  He wrote His Dark Materials  deliberately as a dystheist tract, and yet it is book series with parallels to Christ who gets the fundies to take up their torches and pitchforks.  

  • Michael Pullmann

     No relation, by the way.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Second hand but: two of my siblings got into D&D (and later other RPGs) from around 1990 onwards, and as adults structured the larger part of their social lives around the RPG community. (I didn’t get into it myself partly because I was never particularly attracted to it anyway, partly because my parents wanted my brothers and I to have separate hobbies so we wouldn’t be in each others’ space all the time).

    My parents and other relatives never expressed the slightest concern. My mother, who leans towards social conservatism out of extreme social anxiety (she’d prefer if everyone were the same because then she wouldn’t have to worry about accidently saying the wrong thing) has met their friends on many occasions, many of whom are deeply into the RPG subculture and look, dress and speak differently to most young people, and she just thinks they’re lovely, polite, good friends for my siblings to have. Which is true.

    Separately, I have a priest friend who was very into D&D and only got rid of his stuff because he was taking a vow of poverty and giving away *all* his stuff. He still happily joins in a game if any parishioners think to invite him.

    No panic here.

  • Mike Timonin

    One of my daughter’s presents this Christmas was David Lubar’s _Wizards of the Game_, which is a YA novel about a group of kids who play some sort of fantasy RPG (it’s not D&D, because D&D is specifically referenced elsewhere in the book), and try to organize a gaming convention at their middle school (Oscar Wilde Middle School.  I mentioned to my wife that no school board in the US would name a school after Oscar Wilde, but whatevs) for charity. Which runs into trouble with a local fundagelical church. What I really liked about the book was that the Christian charity they decided to donate to is run by a pastor who refutes the religious arguments being made by the BADD types – it’s a very nice “not all people who are not you hate you” type thing. Cute story, too.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    I was interested in roleplaying from the time I was ten (when one of my neighbours ran a game but she said I was too young so i didn’t get to play). Mum and gran thought it was cool so they got me the D&D box set. Dad was slightly worried because I’m fantasy prone but I sort of looked at him sideways and said “Fantasy prone does not mean I can’t tell what’s fantasy” and he shut up. However I could never get my friends interested, so I didn’t get to play until I went to University…

    Where my first gaming group consisted almost completely of evangelical christians (plus me – catholic and another girl who was anglican). It was also a very gender balanced groups I’ve ever played in (Though all the groups I’ve played in tend to be – groups that take girls without comment tend to attract them).

    One of the guys would tell the story of giving his pastor a lift and the pastor suddenly opened the car window and tossed out his Heavy Metal tapes and a roleplaying book.  So he stopped the car and made him get out in the rain and go look for them. And one of the girls actually worked in a gamng store – protesters turned up and as she put it. “Their leader was talking nonsense so I handed him his head on a platter”.

  • Ryk Spoor

    A friend of mine named Karl was a regular player in our games (D&D and Top Secret) for years. Then his family was given the Chick pamphlet “Dark Dungeons” and BELIEVED it. They insisted he had to stop for the sake of his soul, etc., and eventually the pressure got to him (he lived in a building they owned so there was lots of pressure to bring to bear) and he disappeared from gaming entirely. It was very stressful for him, and very sad for us.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    A bit late, but I thought I’d add a few thoughts.

    I came to gaming too late for the Satanic Panic, and in any case my parents 1. are secular and 2. raised me on fantasy and science fiction.  A Fundagelical* frenemy I had in sixth grade once told me that my reading tastes would lure me to the devil.  This caused a bitter argument between us, with me asking how on earth stories about battling the forces of darkness could be satanic, and her replying, “They just are,” in a smug tone.  Not too long after this I decided that speculative fiction was better for my mental health than her company was.

    In the nineties I recall a kerfuffle over a murder which was loosely tied in some way to the Vampire:  the Masquerade RPG.  Back then, “being on the internet” meant email and usenet boards, and there was an explosion of discussion on the White Wolf boards, mostly people fuming about how the game was being horribly misrepresented by the media.  Someone mentioned seeing a report in which the news camera lingered over illustrations of bloody, be-fanged mouths, while “special experts” said things like “women are subjugated to Sires…”  I thought that was pretty rich; not only is Sire a gender-neutral term (it’s the vampire equivalent of “parent”, ie. the person who made you a vampire), but V:tM was one of the first RPGs which actively invited female players and used “she” as its default pronoun.

    It also spurred a lot of discussion by people who remembered the D&D panic.  One person actually had a positive anecdote:  she said that she’d been in church when her pastor started up with the “D&D is evil” crap, and her mother stood up and denounced this as nonsense, adding, “[Daughter] plays this with her friends, are you saying she’s a Satanist?”  The pastor backed down.  Later on her mother told her that she preferred her daughter having a hobby which took place in the house, “Where I know where you are and who you’re with.”

    *More rare in Canada, but we do have some.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Speaking of BBSes, way back in the day I hesitated before dialling one named “Moon of Endor” (or something like that) because I believed the writings of Herbert Armstrong which stated, basically, that names had power, and the wrong name could expose you to Satan.

    I eventually worked up the courage to dial it, and nothing bad happened, so… nnnyeah.

  • stonebiscuit

    My mom, who worked in our church (and just completed her MDiv!), and dad, who sang in the choir, introduced me to D&D when they bought me the red box in the mid-90s.  I was hooked, and have been playing ever since. When I brought up the possibility of it being evil to my mom, concerned that I was sinning or something, she sat me down with a Bible and talked me through/out of this ridiculous idea.

    The only issue I ever had was our DM’s dad, who didn’t let him play. We just played at other peoples’ houses.

  • CAThompson

    There’s an old story about Gygax hiring a psychologist to talk to people about D&D and assure them it was not the Devil’s own Suicide book. One of the parents asked how to get their children to stop playing?

    “Introduce them to women and liquor.”

  • Tetsubo Kanamono

    I started playing D&D back in 1978, when we rolled dice carved from dinosaur bones. At one point during my High School years my mother confiscated my gaming books because she felt it was detracting from my schooling. In all honesty it was. Because gaming was interesting and engaged my mind while school did not. I am still a collector of RPG books and have some 60+ feet of shelving space dedicated to my collection. You can find the beginning of a tour of said collection here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z1Ski11oPQ

  • Tricksterson

    That I can see as a valid reason.  Gaming, like anything else can be addictive. 

  • Tetsubo Kanamono

    Activities can not be addictive. Addiction involves a chemical dependency. Activities can be a compulsive behavior.  However, my love of role-playing games never became a compulsive behavior. You are off the mark here.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh, please. You sound like a pot smoker trying to rationalize it by saying, “Oh, it’s not physically addictive, it’s only psychologically addictive!”

    As if that made it so much better.

    Operationally, what matters is the consequences, not the definition. If what you do/use affects your daily life to the point of interfering with it, it’s likely an addiction to something.

  • Francis Dickinson

    There’s several mentions of Hardison playing online games involving orcs.

    And I just remembered that John Rogers (Leverage writer/showrunner)
    made the classic quote about Ayn Rand and orcs, so we know which of the
    two books was influential in young Hardison’s life :)

    Hardison plays Horde in World of Warcraft and almost missed one of the cons because he was downloading the latest patch (The Mile High job?).  John Rogers is definitely a gamer – and is writing a Crimeworld supplement for the FATE Core Kickstarter (His own words).  I don’t think the rest of the group plays.  Also on a tangent the official Leverage RPG is superb,


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