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Title: Dungeons and Dragons: Don't Let it Happen to Your Kid

Source: Adequacy.org, August 1st, 2001

NOTICE: The following material is copyrighted as indicated in the body of text.  It has been posted to this web page for archival purposes, and in doing so, no claim of authorship is expressed or implied, nor is a profit being made from the use of the material.

When I stumbled into Billy's room and saw my boy's limp body swaying from a rope tied to a ceiling hook in this closet, I could hardly see for the tears. My boy, my poor little boy, had snuffed out his own life when there was so much promise ahead. His death left a hole in my heart that can never be filled.

Dungeons and Dragons killed my boy. Don't let it kill yours. 

It wasn't until the paramedics removed his body after officially pronouncing him DOA that I mustered the strength to make a closer examination. I wanted to know what Billy's last moments were like; what he was seeing and thinking when he placed that noose over his little head and stepped off into oblivion.

I looked down.

Before me was a heap of books he'd arranged as a makeshift stool to stand atop and then kick aside, doing the deed and sealing his fate. I ran my hand along their spines, recognizing some but unable to recognize a couple towards the top. I removed them and brought them out of the closet and into the light:

  • Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition Player's Handbook
  • Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition Dungeon Master's Guide
I knew my Billy. I watched what he eat, how much he slept, which friends he played with, and everything else, trying to be the best parent I could and trying to make sure he was safe and happy. But I couldn't make heads or tails of what these books were and why he had them. So I did what any responsible parent would do: after a few days passed and I composed myself, I set out to learn as much as I could about Dungeons and why my Billy had chosen those books to kill himself with.

I visited the library. I spoke to other parents. I telephoned the chaplain at my husband's military base. And I fired up my internet. And I learned the awful truth: my Billy had fallen in with a cult.

Dungeons is a cult, plain and simple. The definition of "cult", which Dungeons fits to the tee, is:

A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
Let's take this one piece by piece:
Religions are systems of belief that consume one's entire intellectual outlook, a characteristic Dungeons typifies. But whereas mainstream religions are a healthful addition to the plurality of human experiences and diversity of viewpoints that makes this country strong, Dungeons is a scourge of the lowest sort. Dungeons provides its adherents with no positive moral direction whatsoever. Whereas the religious are taught to love their neighbors, Dungeons adherents are encouraged to despise them as detractions from the task at hand: perpetuating the Dungeons movement and its subversive goals.
Extremist and unconventional
Dungeons adherents are renowned for their iconoclastic lifestyles. The very fact alone that they would rather spend their time sitting around a table massaging integers instead of breathing the fresh air of our fair planet is enough to prove my point.
Authoritarian regimes all share the common fact of strict rules directing their subjects' lives in the minutest detail. When I cracked open those Dungeons tomes, what did I find? Heaps and heaps of rules governing how adherents are supposed to go about even basic tasks like purchasing goods and speaking to non-adherents (when allowed). But instead of teaching Billy some skills he could put to good use in the outside world, Dungeons forced him to trust his fate to the rolling of those cursed dice, as though those dice could help him if he ever found himself drowning off a real-life icy floe or languishing at the bottom of a dark pit where he'd accidentally fallen while practicing unsafe and irresponsible exploration. This is what it means to be false.
Charismatic leader
Like all cults, Dungeons has its charismatic leader, a bald moustached man named Peter D Adkison. Read his biography, as it's the first step all Dungeons adherents must undertake when joining the cult. In fact, one of the easiest ways to spot an adherent to Dungeons is to mention Adkinson's name and watch the listener's eyes for that flash of recognition, as every Dungeons adherent knows his name and his vision well, though they largely fail to comprehend its parallel to Scientology as a sinister money-driven enterprise [editor's note, by jsm]Scientology is not a sinister money-driven enterprise. I would, however, even go as far as to say that only the especially slow-witted adherents cannot recognize Adkinson, but since those adherents also lack the reasoning skills necessary to fall victim in full to the cult movement and could not mentally conceive of committing suicide the way Billy did, they're probably not the ones to be worrying about here.
Once you've recognized Dungeons for the cult it is, it's your job to spot the warning signs before it can suck your children in. Here's a partial list of those warning signs:
  • Does your child spend excessive amounts of time with friends unsupervised indoors? Dungeons adherents are notoriously reclusive, refusing to play stickball in the streets or any of a host of normal healthful activities.
  • Does he question the rules and commands you lay down as a parent? Dungeons, at least superficially, promotes independent decision making, though we all know this "free thinking" would be more aptly described as "thinking consistent with the tenets and dictates of the Dungeons movement and ideology".
  • Are his grades slipping of late? One of the myriad of sinister consequences of adherence to Dungeons is the sheer amount of squandered time spent convening and practicing its cult teachings. Dungeons is highly addictive and, if left unchecked, can push a child's entire life aside to make room for more Dungeons.

At this point, you should be thinking: "How do I talk to my kids about Dungeons?" It isn't merely a question I wish I had known the answer to; it's a question I wish I had known to ask myself. If only I had spoken to Billy before he could have gotten in with the wrong crowd and done this to himself! Children always listen to their parents as long as they know they love them and have their best interests at heart. With a soft voice but stern hand, you can make a difference in your child's life.

Once you have the proper mind set, you should start practicing your answers to some of the retorts your child might try to give in defense of Dungeons.

"But Dungeons has helped me to make lasting friendships!"
Just think back to the lectures you gave your kids about drug dealers. Friends made over Dungeons aren't friends at all. True friendship can only be forged through community-building activities like softball and linestepping. If you ever had to rely on these so-called friends in a time of need, then rest assured they would be no where to be found; alternatively, they could be found, but only playing more Dungeons.
"But Dungeons helps develop my imagination!"
Imagination has its place in a civilized society, but when its citizens become too far removed from reality, social upheaval inevitably follows. Imagination can be a healthy thing, in moderation. Imagination can be put to good creative use, as listeners to wholesome music understand. But like everything else, excessive imagination can lead to severe emotional and physical problems. If your children spend all their time in the realm of fantasy, then they won't know how to interact with their peers and with the bigger world out there when they grow up. At best, Dungeons is directly responsible for the social failures their adherents experience when mixing with jocks and beauty queens. At worst, it can induce psychotic schizophrenic episodes like the ones shown in the 1982 documentary Mazes and Monsters.
But Dungeons gives me a sense of belonging!
This is exactly what draws people to a cult in the first place; they substitute a cult lifestyle for the one they feel disenchanted with. Fortunately, it's also one of the easiest arguments to rebut: just find another way for your child to "belong". Sign him up for the church choir. Get him to join a little-league team. Have him attend 4H meetings. There's a whole world of community groups out there. Expect some resistance, but don't take 'no' for an answer; you're the parent and you make the decisions. Once he's found a new clique, he will forget all about that Dungeons nonsense, and he'll thank you for it someday.

Let me qualify that last statement with a little bit of advice: be prudent when confronting your child about his addiction. Dungeons adherents have even been known to kill their loved ones who stand in the way of their addiction. If you feel like you're getting in over your head, then call in a pastor or other prominent community leader to help -- I know my husband's army chaplain was a big help for me. There is no shame in recognizing your own limitations for what they are, and you don't want to jeopardize what may be your child's only chance for recovery.

I'll never have my Billy back; he's lost to a world of dangers and temptations that have already too claimed many . But Billy shall not have hanged himself in vain. His death's keen shall be a clarion wakeup call. We must all unite against the menace of Dungeons; only then shall we be assured of the continuing safety of our children and loved ones.

Hug your children. Let them know that there are happier things in life than spelunking around a dank cavern with only a dwarf for companionship. Let them know that no matter how they feel about themselves and others, that you care and want to help. Only your love can turn them from despair and self destruction.

I know Billy's looking down from up there and smiling. He would've wanted it this way.
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