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Title: Re: Role Playing Games (soc.religion.christian discussion), with response by Jeff Freeman

Source: the soc.religion.christian newsgroup, and republished as part of the Christian FAQ for Sydney University

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.

Before reading this FAQ, it's important to understand which frequently asked question it is intended to answer. The question is "I have that some Christians are opposed to D&D. On what ground?" Thus this is not intended as a balanced presentation of D&D. (I would however be happy to accept a response if someone wanted to give it to me.)

Path: christian
Newsgroups: soc.religion.christian
From: david@maths.su.oz.au (David Fisher)
Subject: Re: Role Playing Games
Organization: Sydney University Computing Service, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Approved: christian@aramis.rutgers.edu

In <Jan.> mpk9716@zeus.tamu.edu (KELLY, MICHAEL PATRICK) writes:

> I am part of a group that plays a popular Role Playing Game, Advanced
>Dungeons and Dragons. I have played off and on for eight years. Last week
>one of aour group told me he was stopping play because he felt that he could
>not "give the game over to God". I do not understand this, but was supportive
>of his move if the game was dulling his spiritual life.

> I know some Christian groups think (or feel) Role Playing is evil, or
>God does not want us to take part in such games. Please explain your position
>on this topic, I await your reply with an open mind.

I became a christian about four years ago, and played AD & D from when I was 12 until I was 18. For a little while after God rescued me I still played it, but he showed me very directly that it was (for me, personally) very dangerous to my relationship with him to continue - so I stopped. There have been certain other times when I explained to someone why I believe it is wrong to play it, and I think I unintentionally came across quite forcefully. Therefore, before I say why I believe what I do, understand that I am neither condemning anyone nor commanding anyone to do anything - any decision to stop playing AD & D should be from a personal conviction that it is wrong in God's eyes, not from someone else's (my) words.

There are 3 reasons I will give :-

(1) Role playing and our thought life.

We are commanded to meditate on scripture (Joshua 1:8), think on good, healthy things (Philippians 4) and to be transformed in our thinking (Romans 12:2). It is therefore quite important what we let in or don't let into our minds. The idea of AD & D is to role-play characters who, if they are playing according to the rules and with the stated aims of the game in mind, go around killing, casting spells, deceiving and being deceived, greedily searching for treasure, worshipping pagan gods or even demons and living for themselves. In real life, such people are condemned by the Lord, no exceptions, as stated very explicity in many places in the Bible.

I have been through years of filling my mind with warfare, elves, magic, powerful swords and gloating demons, and having experienced the effects of this on my life I heartily warn any christian away from playing AD & D. I do not mean to offend christian role-players, but you do not realize how much AD & D is affecting your life, especially your thought life - I had no idea until my mind started being filled with scripture, what a devastating effect it had had on me.

A man called Selwyn Hughes (I think) said once that you become what you behold. If you "let in" the things you commonly find in the Dungeons and Dragons world it will have a dramatic effect on you. We are to fix our eyes
on Jesus, not the things of this world - and certainly not dark worlds full of evil and bloodshed and magic. And AD & D worlds are designed to be pretty captivating !

Inevitably (and I say this from experience, so naturally I can be contradicted, but it also seems quite logical), people whose minds are captivated by the concepts and world views of AD & D become more and more accepting of evil things. I heard one non-christian boasting of how totally evil and mercenary his character was. I have friends who, several years ago, refused to play AD & D because it seemed slightly repulsive to them, but they started playing after being convinced by friends, and I observed that they are now happy to role-play characters doing things they were previously thinking was repulsive (this was a change over time).

It is a foolish thing to do, to submit yourself in some way to someone else's world view - for example, if you knew someone who hated God and lived with a prostitute and was constantly drunk, it is not a great idea to spend a lot of time with him ("bad company corrupts good character", proverbs) - unless you are there as an ambassador for Jesus, of course. Being around such a person a lot, you would tend to "catch" his world view from him. There is an extremely strongly presented world view in AD & D. The character of the auther, Gary Gygax and everyone else involved, is in severe doubt in my own mind - he has obviously used black magic books (see below) as background material while creating the game; God does not exist, Jesus' death is for some reason unneccesary (implying no sin), "evil" and "good" are just opposite and roughly equal powers, and "goodness" is just morality. In a role-playing game, the idea is to imagine you are there, and to develop your character, working out what they would do in different situations - your eyes are fixed not on Jesus but on your character and his world, and you are infected by the godlessness you see there. You start to accept things you would never have accepted before, and
become more like what you see.

(2) Occult connections

I have had several years of experience with the occult (black magic). It left deep scars on me (including physically) which God has been dealing with in lovely ways. There are some things which may not seem very obvious to people who have had no such experience : if you play around with evil (ouji boards, tarot cards, horoscopes, occult books) it will affect you spiritually. My own playing around with black magic caused me to be demonically oppresses (not the same as possessed) and I needed deliverance; about a month after I became a christian, I had some prayer and saw Satan defeated in my life. You can't touch fire without getting burnt. If you have some problems with these ideas, some good books to read are "The Satan seller" by Mike Warnke and "Devil on the run" by Nikie Cruz.

Here are a few occult connections in Dungeons and Dragons :

(a) demons, well described and illustrated (including pornography, the succubus), with names and powers copied directly from occult books
(b) descriptions of spells which are REAL, including certain spells with material components (neccesary for the spell to work) such as human and animal blood and body parts
(c) descriptions, spells from and worship of REAL pagan gods - which are demons (1 Corinthians 10:20)
(d) accurate drawings and descriptions of "magic circles" which are used in REAL LIFE by practicing witches and warlocks to summon up demons and do sorcery, which is condemned in the Bible (Rev.22:15)

I myself became very interested in occult things due to the constant reference to it in AD & D, and I believe that over a period it would be very hard for a non-christian to resist the attraction of the descriptions of evil things in the AD & D rule books.

Satan is like a roaring lion, prowling around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). How delighted he must be when someone starts becoming interested in him due to descriptions in the AD & D rules.

(3) "it's just pretend"

Why pretend to be someone who God condemns, anyway ? I believe many players of AD & D do not realize what they are going along with - the most common argument is, "it's just a game, we don't take it seriously."

My answer to that is, would you happily play a game where there are complete descriptions of tearing babies apart piece by piece, or a game where you go and rape every innocent child you can find ? The typical activities which you role play in AD & D are just as disgusting and repulsive in the sight of God, as is clear from the Bible.

Just imagine for a minute if what happened in an AD & D scenario really came true. A world where there is no God, where people aim to kill and get treasure, a world where death is commonplace and powerful sorcerers intimidate weak peasants. (As an aside, people referred to in the AD & D manuals as "cannon fodder" - peasants and poor people - in real life are of incredible value to the Lord our God; their lives are cheap in the AD & D world.) Would you happily send your young children there, or go there yourself ? Would you take up a sword and learn sorcery yourself, then go and kill, get treasure in order to "gain experience" ? What kind of experience is being gained by such people, anyway ? Proficiency in power and ability to kill quickly.

To anyone who is a christian and plays AD & D :

Everything in our life should be pleasing to God (2 Cor 5:9) I just finished reading a book by a freemason who became a christian. He couldn't see anything wrong with freemasonry, and didn't like it when people told him that it was against God. Finally, someone said something like, "Leave it on the altar before God. Let him show you whether it's right or wrong. I can guarantee you that within six months God will have shown you." This he did, and four months later he was totally convinced that freeemsonry was incompatible with christianity. A question : is AD & D something you would not be prepared to give up if God made it clear to you that he wanted you to ? "We make it our goal to please him." Therefore, let everything in your life be open before God, and let him add what he wants to add, and take away what he wants to take away.

With love in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour and Redeemer and Shepherd and King and Judge and Burder-Bearer and Life-Giver and God,
David Fisher.


He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed
- Daniel 7:14

[I should note that AD&D is a specific role playing system, which includes a particular imaginary world. People tend to use "dungeons and dragons" generically for a whole class of activities that I would call "fantasy role-playing". However the world of AD&D is just one possible world for role-playing. It's possible to have games with explicit Christian content. But it's also possible to have systems that involve more explicit evil than AD&D, such as a role-playing game based on the Cthuulu mythos. There also appear to be variations in how games are carried out. My experience with role-playing is entirely in a church context. A couple of them were role-playing games with explicit Christian purposes, e.g. one taking place in a society where Christianity was outlawed, examining what it would be like for Christians. I was also involved in expeditions using the AD&D background, but ignoring its magical implications. That is, spells were treated as simply an unusual piece of techology. E.g. you might find an object that would heal all wounds. You used it by saying "I use the wand of healing". No rituals or wording was specified or used. Nor were they associated with any religion. We also didn't go in for back-stabbing, etc. It was simply adventure in an unsual setting. I mention my experiences to point out that there seem to be somewhat different overall "chemistries" among different groups, and this is likely to affect the spiritual impact on its members. There are certainly role-playing games I would want nothing to do with. Where I agree with David is that it's important to look at how you spend your time and imagination, and the effects on you. This does not necessarily mean it's always right to play basketball and wrong to play D&D. Basketball can be played for blood, and a D&D-like game among Christians can be perfectly OK. But there are certainly dangers in role-playing games that one should be alert to.

Path: christian
Newsgroups: soc.religion.christian
From: Jeff Freeman <jfreeman@chrysalis.org>
Subject: http://athos.rutgers.edu/pub/soc.religion.christian/faq/FAQ
Approved: christian@aramis.rutgers.edu

This is the preface of the D&D faq:

<<Before reading this FAQ, it's important to understand which frequently asked question it is intended to answer. The question is "I have that some Christians are opposed to D&D. On what ground?" Thus this is not intended as a balanced presentation of D&D. (I would however be happy to accept a response if someone wanted to give it to me.)>>

This is the response I would like for you to consider (If you do add it to the FAQ, feel free to change "(C) 1995 Jeff Freeman" to simply "by Jeff Freeman" in order to avoid confusion over whatever
copyright issues there might be):

Concerns Christians Should Have About Dungeons & Dragons

(C) 1995 Jeff Freeman

In the past couple of years, I've made a point of writing fundamentalist Christian groups asking for information about fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons, from TSR, Inc. I'm not just "picking on" Fundamentalist Christian organizations. I've written to other religious and secular organizations, government agencies and individuals as well. Only fundamentalist Christians consistantly respond to my inquiry with something other than, "Sorry, we don't have any information about D&D."

The American Association of Suicidology, the Center for Disease Control, Health & Welfare Canada, the California Creative and Gifted Children's Program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a handful of universities have studied the allegations that fantasy role-playing games cause suicide or murder. Not a single authoritative source has found any veracity to these claims at all.

When Dallas Egbert "ran away from it all" the mainstream media waded into the story in pack formation. His alleged drug use, reported homosexuality, to say nothing of the pressure that a 16- year old 'genius' in college must have faced, was overlooked entirely. The media seized on rumors that a mysterious game was being played in the steam tunnels beneath the university. Never mind that twenty years earlier, the rumors were that a mad-rapist lived in the steam tunnels. In fact, 'steam tunnel' folklore exists nearly everywhere there are steam tunnels.

Not until five years later did the family's private investigator, William Dear, break his silence and reveal that Dallas Egbert hadn't played much D&D at all, let alone any sort of live-action D&D in the steam tunnels.

By then the attack on role-playing games was well under way. Convinced that fantasy RPGs had something to do with Dallas' death - essentially promoting the delusion that "some boy killed himself while playing D&D in the steam tunnels" - Fundamentalist Christians began a photocopied-flyer war on gaming. These tracts and flyers typically made their point by quoting rules out of context and blurring the distinction between player and character with half-truths and outright lies. When the truth about Dallas Egbert came out, the anti-gamers had enough
'evidence' of RPG's evil to ignore it. Even if Dallas Egbert wasn't killed by D&D, they had plenty of 'proof' that it was a bad, dangerous game. The players themselves, not just the characters in the game, were worshipping pagan gods, summoning demons and casting magic spells.

Irving 'Bink' Pulling was reportedly a disturbed young man who'd taken a fancy to Hitler and had displayed Lycanthropic tendencies' according to Pat Pulling, his mother. He became depressed at school when he couldn't
find a campaign manager to run for student council and wrote 'Life is a Joke' on the blackboard at school. Two weeks later he shot himself with his mother's pistol.

Instead of becoming a left-wing gun-control nut, Pat Pulling became a right-wing game-control nut. Refusing to shoulder any of the blame for not noticing Bink's problems, or for keeping a loaded pistol where the child could access it, she blamed D&D for the death of her son. Although none of the other kids involved in the creative & gifted program recalled such an event, Pat insisted that her son had been 'cursed' by his teacher in a game of D&D. She filed suit against the teacher, the principal and the school district only to have her suit tossed out.

Pat Pulling wasn't finished, however. She founded Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons and toured the country speaking to law enforcement officers, religious groups and any other audience willing to pay the fee to hear her speak. As she lacked any sort of credentials, she completed a two week course to earn her private investigators' license and wrote a book. Being a P.I. with a book entitled her to refer to herself, she felt, as an 'expert' with 'numerous awards and degrees'.

Pat Pulling claimed that every single suicide committed by a person who'd ever played D&D (and a few who hadn't), was a 'D&D related' suicide. The mainstream media assisted Pat's war on gaming by making special note whenever a gamer committed suicide. Other, often significant, details were glossed-over or ignored entirely in the rush to report "D&D-Player Commits Suicide".

So much hysteria was generated over the D&D-suicide delusion that serious investigators finally began doing their own studies. Also, the game manufacturer's association assigned Mike Stackpole to investigate the claims that role-playing games caused suicide.

Quickly enough, it was discovered that only a quarter of Pat Pulling's "Trophy List" was sufficiently documented to even verify that a death had occurred. Half of those suicides were refuted by the parents of the victims. All of the suicides had significant other factors that one had to ignore in order to blame D&D. One suicide was a fictional death that had occurred in a novel. More importantly, the "Trophy List", even counting every single death as a bona-fide D&D-suicide, revealed that gamers had a suicide rate some ten times below the national average.

Meanwhile Pat Pulling had teamed-up with Dr. Thomas Radecki. Although his license to practice psychiatry has since been suspended, at the time his credentials lent validity to the charges against role-playing games. Thomas Radecki also charged that cartoon violence caused kids to behave more violently, that the Bugs Bunny & Roadrunner Hour on Saturday morning cartoons was as violent as Friday the 13th, and that Disney's Alice in Wonderland would "definitely cause viewers to become more violent." Together, Thomas Radecki and Pat Pulling added D&D- related murders, kidnappings and robberies to the "Trophy List" and petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require warning labels on fantasy role-playing games. The CPSC investigated the issue, found there was no issue, and summarily dismissed the petition.

Their poorly-documented list of "D&D related murders" likewise indicated a murder rate below the national average, but again prompted studies. No study yet has revealed any sort of danger to playing fantasy role-playing games. Instead, researchers discovered that gamers as a group have fewer criminal tendencies than average, no psychological abnormalities, a slight increase in creativity among long-time players and a greater sense of self-worth.

Ultimately Pat Pulling had only one allegation remaining that anyone would listen to - and even then only fundamentalist Christian groups were willing to believe it. Fantasy role playing games, they asserted, were occult indoctrination tools that lured white suburban teens into horrific satanic cults. Furthermore, these cults were everywhere. The popular "fortress mentality" of certain religious groups - the belief that the world is a wholly corrupt, evil place that only their faith protects them from - latched onto this "evidence" of Satan's power. Proof that the world was in Satan's grasp could be found by demonizing every aspect of pop-culture. Anything popular among teens was satanic, therefore one had only to make note of how many satanic things were popular to validate the fortress mentality.

Any movie, book or game containing spell-casting characters, wizards, witches, demons and the like, was an "occult" indoctrination tool that 'glorified evil' and lured kids to devil worship. Ultimately, exceptions were made. For example, the movie The Ten Commandments contains spell-casting Pharaoh's magicians but is not satanic. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, featuring Gandalf the Wizard fighting a demonesque "Balrog", is not satanic. C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, although fantasy, is not satanic. This Present Darkness, although populated with an entire cast of demons, is not satanic.

Fantasy role-playing games, on the other hand, are still satanic (or at least 'occultic') according to most of the fundamentalist organizations I've surveyed. For that matter, they still claim RPGs are causative factors in suicide and murder.

Game fans were quick to get their RPGs online. There are play- by-mail games and Multi-User Dungeons (essentially text adventure games that can be played by scores of people at the same time via internet). Online
services are already working on the next wave of graphical online RPGs. Computer game software generated more revenue than movie box-office sales in 1994 and 20 to 25% of it consisted of computer RPGs.

Books based on RPG fantasy worlds have hit the New York Times bestseller list on numerous occasions. The Dragonlance Chronicles was the first and most recently Starless Night hit number-one. TSR, Inc. has announced that two movies based on D&D and a television animated series are in the works.

Clearly, role-playing games are huge. If they were luring kids into cults, one would expect a mighty lot of cults. A large number of cults, meanwhile, would leave a lot of evidence of cult-activity. What evidence is there?

The evidence suggests that most cults in North America are bible-believing fundamentalist sects that carry their members off into physical and psychological isolation. There is a sad irony in all this delusion. Pat Pulling warned police officers that gamers might commit suicide: Gamers have a below-average suicide rate while police officers have the highest of any profession.

Some Christian groups seize on the "games lure kids into cults" (among other things) as proof of the world's corruption: The fortress mentality is the first step in psychological alienation that cults must use in order to control their members.

What are the real concerns for Christians when it comes to fantasy role-playing games? Concerns are misdirected towards the games that should rightly be directed towards the claims.

Any claim that role-playing games are physically or psychologically dangerous is just flat wrong. It is a misconception or worse, a lie. The mainstream media created a delusion and certain small groups sold it, with considerable embellishment, to the fundamentalist community. The claim that fantasy games are dangerous alone demonstrates a willingness to ignore the truth and the evidence rather than admit to being wrong, duped or used. The sale of this claim in pamphlets and flyers is the sale of a lie, usually in Jesus' name.

Indeed, such claims damage the credibility of fundamentalist arguments on every issue. Clinging to the "fantasy games are evil" argument is akin to claiming that the world is flat, because Christians used to believe the world was flat, all evidence to the contrary ignored. It makes it difficult to be taken seriously on other rather more significant issues such as sex-education, abortion, school-voucher programs or prayer in school. Why believe anything fundamentalists have to say about any of those issues when they clearly ignore the truth about fantasy games in favor of paranoid delusions?

The claim that role-playing games are occultic (among other such claims) is founded in ignorance and perpetuated either to validate the fortress mentality or to take advantage of it (e.g. to solicit donations). Real danger of cult involvement springs from world-views that encourage psychological isolation. Religious leaders that blur the distinction between mythology and occultism are being disingenuous. Theologians that further claim no distinction between occult involvement and fantasy entertainment often present a clear danger to those who believe them.

Finally, the more recent attempts to differentiate between "good" fantasy entertainment and "bad" fantasy entertainment is complicated by the blanket condemnation of role-playing games. This Present Darkness is a novel describing spiritual warfare. It is ripe with demonic characters, but clearly it is a Christian novel promoting fundamentalism.

Some actors in The Ten Commandments, among other Bible-films, play the role of bad-guys. They (pretend to) cast magic spells, worship pagan gods and otherwise do all of the things that players are allegedly doing in fantasy games. Yet The Ten Commandments is never denounced as a "lure" that entices youngsters to join satanic cults.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote fantasy novels that have been charged right along with RPGs for their "supernatural" content. More recently all but the most extreme of extremists have accepted that these are "good fantasy" works by celebrated Christian authors.

Clearly fantasy, as a genre, can be good. Perhaps, like historical fiction, western romance, contemporary fiction or any other genre, it can even be indifferent.

In fantasy role-playing games the referee, like the author of a novel, tells a story. In a novel, the author would be deciding the actions of every character, good and bad. In role-playing games, the referee is deciding the actions of every supporting character, but the other players are deciding the actions of the main characters. As the game is played a story unfolds. The players don't know what will happen because they are only deciding the main characters' actions. The referee doesn't know what will happen because the main characters' actions are being decided by the other players.

Telling (even fantasy) stories is not an un-Christian thing to do. Playing board-games is not an un-Christian thing to do. Playing something called a 'role-playing game' that combines elements of both is not an un-Christian thing to do either.

Lying, however, isn't Christian at all.

"Dungeons & Dragons" and "D&D" are trademark of TSR, Inc.

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