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Title: Is Dungeons & Dragons Satanic?

Source: rec.games.frp.dnd

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Newsgroups: rec.games.frp.dnd
Subject: IS D&D Satanic? ESSAY! ESSAY! ESSAY!
From: jdmarquart@miavx1.acs.muohio.edu
Date: 17 Jan 95 14:22:17 -0500

Thought you all might want to see this... I wrote it for my english class in High School and then re-used it for a college english class 2 years ago...
It was written in 1992.
I got an "A" on it both times.

                      Is Dungeons & Dragons Satanic?
            Joshua D. Marquart (For 2 of his English Classes)

     People who committed murder and suicide and blamed their actions on the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games are prevaricators. D&D has gotten a bad reputation from this publicity, which causes people to think that it is a Satanic product.  Because people believe this theory, they blame D&D's influence for some suicides.

     D&D, and other role-playing games (RPG's), have gotten their bad reputation mostly because people really don't know what they are all about.  D&D, as defined by an avid player of it, is a complex and imaginative role-playing game.  It is not played on a board, but in the imagination of the players, who are aided by sheets of papers which contain stats and important information about the character they are portraying.  Each game is run by one person called the Dungeon Master (DM).  The DM creates a spot on a world and fills it with encounters and creatures, towns and castles, dungeons and towers.  Then, the players create characters that they take the role of.  These characters exist only in the world that the DM created.  The characters that the players use are called player-characters (PCs), and the monsters and other residents of the world that the DM uses are called non-PCs (NPCs).  Don't confuse players with PCs -- a PC exists only on paper and in the player's head; the player is the person sitting in the chair.

     The DM puts the PCs into the world where they can do whatever they want, to an extent. Some PCs specialize in fighting, others in magic and healing, and even some in thievery. DMs create or use ready-made adventures for the PCs to participate in.  They can be set in a dungeon, the wilderness, a castle, and even on another plane of existence.

     The player's goal in D&D is to make his character powerful. He does this by going out on adventures and gaining money and prestige, also known as experience.  A D&D adventure can consist of specific goals such as rescuing a princess, finding an item, killing a certain monster, or just going out to get gold and experience in a fun dungeon frolic.

     Experience allows PCs to become more resilient to attacks, to be able to hit more proficiently, or to cast more powerful spells.  When they get even more experience and gold, the usual currency, the PCs build castles, rule dominions, and enter mass combats a.k.a. wars with armies.

     Because of the resulting controversy, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) game, a more complex version of D&D, has been revised into a second edition which does not contain thee demons and devils.  Many things were taken out and added in, not only changing the whole nature of the game, but pleasing the people who are against the game.

     There were supposedly 29 deaths attributed to D&D, according to a survey taken from Bothered About D&D (B.A.D.D.), an association that is against D&D (Shuster 64).  After extensive research, I found only three publicized, D&D related murders and suicides, and one runaway case for which D&D was blamed but was not the true cause.

     According to a New York Times article, one of the people who killed and blamed his actions on D&D, David K. Ventiquattro, killed his friend, Martin E. Howland with a shotgun on November 22, 1985.  They were neighbors in the village of Herrings, about 80 miles north of Syracuse.

     "Two New York State police officers testified that after seven hours of questioning, Mr. Ventiquattro, who recanted earlier versions that the shooting was a suicide or accident, admitted that he killed Martin as part of a Dungeons and Dragons fantasy.  The officers testified that Mr. Ventiquattro told them he was playing the role of a D&D character when he fired his ...20-gauge shotgun inches from Martin's head.  The younger boy had become 'evil' in his fantasy, and Mr. Ventiquattro's role was to 'extinguish evil'.  The prosecution called two other youths who testified that Mr. Ventiquattro had pointed a gun at them on separate occasions after they had played D&D with him.  'He stated that he was in another world,' a state police investigator said.  'He stated in his fantasy world that he wanted to kill Martin, but not in real life,'"  (16-Year-Old Is Convicted"  47).

     Another of the D&D murders was reported in May of 1987, in The New York Times.  Daniel Kasten, 19, shot his parents, Edith and Joseph, as they were sleeping at home in Lake Ronkonkoma. Mr. Kasten claimed that he was under the control of a mind flayer, a monster from AD&D which supposedly projects mind-controlling beams ("Murder Jury Rejects" 6).

     The Connecticut volume of The New York Times published an article on Roland Cartier, 13,  who had committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree in April of 1985.  He had been an avid player of the D&D game which caused some of the town to suspect that the game had spurred him to kill himself, because they could find no other reason for his suicide, even though one of his friends said that he was on drugs (Hamilton 17).

     Dungeons and Dragons is considered both helpful and harmful depending upon the point of view.  Many teachers feel that it helps to stimulate imagination and creativity in their students. Very religious people feel that the monsters, monster slaying, and spell casting portions of the game are satanic (Ivins 8).

     In The New York Times, an article, by Molly Ivins, discussed a town's battle "against D&D".  "Many of the residents of Heber City, Utah, are convinced that Satan has been operating there in the guise of the Dungeons and Dragons game, and an after school program using the game has been discontinued because of the resulting pressure" (8).

     The town, held a meeting on this in 1980.  "Teachers and school administrators were left feeling variously distressed, stunned, or amused at the reaction to the program that they had hoped would stimulate imagination, creativity, and teamwork among talented children.  For the teacher's pains, they have been accused of working with the Antichrist and of fomenting Communist subversion" (8).

     Mr. Michael Tunnel, the school librarian who was in charge of the program and also a Mormon and a political conservative gave his opinion of the situation.  "Sometimes we have a rather archaic point of view in my state.  We can't deal with sex education in the schools in any form and when we teach Utah history, we are often accused by non-Mormons of teaching church doctrine.  But when we started this thing, the last thing we ever dreamed of was that it would become a controversy" (8).

     "Oh it is very antireligious," says Norman Springer, a nondenominational Christian minister from the town.  "I have studied witchcraft and demonology for some years and I've taught against witchcraft.  The books themselves have been taken from mythology and from witchcraft and they are filled with demonology, filled with pictures and symbols that you could find in any basic witchcraft book and use the same terminology" (8). Many monsters were taken from Greek and Norse mythology.  These myths have been taught in schools for years, and there haven't been any publicly announced complaints yet.  There are no instructions in the old AD&D and D&D manuals for the summoning of demons, and the newly revised versions do not contain any of this information at all.

     Lastly, Rev. Springer said that the game's rule books included incubi and succubi, male and female demons having to do with lust and the terminology of magic, including a magic circle (8).  I looked through these books and found no magic circle.  I did see the incubi.  I also noticed that all the author used having to do with incubi and succubi were the names themselves, and a picture for a visual description.  The information listed below the picture and name is only gaming material, like experience points earned for destroying one, or treasure carried.

     "These books are filled with things that are not fantasy but are actual in the real demon world," Mr. Springer said, "and can be very dangerous for anyone involved in the game because it leaves them so open to Satanic spirits" (8).  Excuse me?  REAL demon world?  It might just be that I'm Jewish, but there's a demon world?  Really?  Reverend Springer comes off to me to be some sort of evangelist.  Sure the book utilizes the names of the demons, and gives statistics for them to be used in an adventure, but all they are, to both players and DMs, are monsters that are tougher than goblins and have a lot more treasure.  I think the Reverend should stop reading and maybe try the game.

     "Trooper Paul Roy, the investigating officer in the Cartier case, said that after the incident, he went to play a game with a group in Danielson and became convinced that the game was not a threat.  He said of his own three young children, 'If they wanted to play D&D, I'd sit down and play with them'" (Hamilton 17).

     At a games convention in Milwaukee, in 1985, a writer to The New York Times asked the creator of the D&D lines of games and president of T.S.R. Hobbies, Mr. Gary Gygax, a few questions about his role-playing games products.  Mr. Gygax said that such games were "useful in that players use their imagination, learn graphing and charting skills, develop logical and analytical thinking, and enjoy social interaction.  He continued by saying that although the first D&D game came out 11 years ago (at the time), only in the past two years has he been aware that playing the game has led some teens to suicide" (At a Games 23).  That's why the teachers in Heber City wanted to use it in their classes. The PCs each get a different profession, and the only way t play the game and get the most fun out of it is to work together.

     "Accusing the D&D games as the reason for teenage suicide is a cross between McCarthyism and the Salem witch hunts," says Mr. Gygax.  "I have not seen one iota of clinical evidence linking role-playing gaming with a teenage suicide.  This is only a coincidence because, unfortunately teenage suicide is an epidemic in our country.  Unfortunately, what we have here are religious fanatics who object to the mentioning of mythical gods, demons and devils in the game.  From a game aspect, who else do the good guys fight?"  (At a Games 23).  I couldn't have said it better myself.  When Mr. Gygax created D&D, he used creatures from mythology and folk tales to help the players familiarize themselves with the game.  These were creatures, such as the minotaur, that the players could relate to.

     In Dragon Magazine, a magazine which is strictly for RPG players, different gamers give their opinions about the relationship between D&D and Satanism.  One writer, Wesley Crowell, states "In this age of drugs and violence, parents are justified in worrying about their kids' hobbies and interests.  I believe most parents would accept D&D, as mine did, if only their children were better at explaining the concept of role-playing games.  Ignorant people will hate the game no matter what" ("Forum" 36).  Mr. Crowell is perfectly correct in his accusations.  People are afraid of things that are unfamiliar, and until they are familiarized with it, they may judge it wrongly, as with the D&D game.

     Another writer to the magazine, Gord Coleman, elaborates on the subject.  "The greatest threat facing the D&D game today comes from certain organizations that claim that D&D games have a harmful effect on their players.  These organizations (typically parent's associations, school boards, and religious groups) make numerous allegations against the D&D game, ranging from accusing it of glorifying violence to blaming it for the suicides of several teenage players.  These organizations feel that the only solution is to ban or outlaw the game" ("Forum" 38).

     Groups like B.A.D.D. and the National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV) have been working to limit D&D's so-called "influence" on teenagers.  "NCTV petitioned the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Protection Agency to require T.S.R. Hobbies, Mr. Gygax's company, to put warnings on game books stating that the game has been linked to several deaths. Both federal agencies rejected the requests, because they felt they were ludicrous" (Shuster 64).

     Accompanying NCTV in this effort is an organization called B.A.D.D.  The group was founded by Pat Pulling, the mother of a boy who played D&D at the time he killed himself.  T.S.R. spokesman Dieter Sturm said 5,000 American teenagers commit suicide every year.  "Maybe some of these people did play D&D, but so do millions of others" (Shuster 65).

      "NCTV and B.A.D.D. said that in at least 13 deaths linked to D&D, there is 'very solid evidence' -- including police reports, eyewitnesses, and documents left by the victims -- that the game's influence was a decisive factor.  Sturm called such claims 'misleading.'  Subsequent investigations, he said, found the game has nothing to do with the deaths" (Shuster 65).  B.A.D.D. and NCTV both must have jumped to conclusions when they thought that the deaths were D&D related.  There are many reasons for suicide, and just because someone played D&D at one time in their lives does not mean that if they later commit suicide that D&D is to blame.

      Many reasons were given for the actions of the murders and suicide victims who were said to have D&D account for their actions.  In the case of Mr. Ventiquattro killing his friend, police required that a psychologist take some tests on the boy. The tests determined that Mr. Ventiquattro had the maturity of a 13-year-old.  He was 15 at the time of the shooting.  The youth's lawyer argued that he was immature and did not realize the consequences of his actions ("16-Year-Old Boy Sentenced" 30).

     Daniel Kasten, who killed his parents, testified at a trial. His lawyer said that the case was not about D&D, but that Mr. Kasten believed he was under the control of the mind flayer monster.  "This case is about psychoses, delusions, and schizophrenia," said the lawyer.  "D&D is the game Mr. Kasten decided to make his own reality".  Mr. Kasten had originally claimed that he killed his parents because his college grades had dropped and he feared they would stop supporting him ("Murder Jury Rejects" 6).  Mr. Kasten probably claimed that a D&D monster took over his mind so that he could plea insanity to the judge and get a lighter sentence.

      In the suicide case of Roland Cartier, a friend of Rolands gave a different reason than D&D for his suicide.  "I'm sick of then saying that Roland killed himself beacuse it was D&D," said young Erik Bergeson, "it was drugs" (Brooke 11).  Trooper Roy elaborated on reasons for the boy's death.  "D&D no way killed this kid."  The youth had become involved with drugs and had several confrontations with his mother (Brooke 17).

      Suicide is the result of extreme amounts of stress.  This stress can be caused by a number of sources: pressure to perform in school, peer pressure to conform or to use alcohol and drugs, pressure in the home, any number of reasons.  People undergoing such stress see themselves as sliding into a hopeless pit of depression.  Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol are very popular to escape this depression, a better, harmless escape exists, D&D. Unfortunately, retreating to such an escape only postpones a player's problems and does nothing to alleviate them.  Thus, the D&D game is being made into a convenient scapegoat.  It is ludicrous to claim that a game could cause the suicides of it's players.  Suicide is the result of stress, and if anything, the D&D game helps reduce stress by providing a temporary escape from the frustrations of everyday life.  In an article in Newsweek, the author quotes from Dr. Joyce Brothers.  "The overwhelming majority of kids who play D&D after all, do not commit suicide, which suggests that the ones who did may have been troubled in other ways" (Adler 93).

     T.S.R. spokesman Dieter Sturm says D&D "is being made a scapegoat for the rampant teenage suicide problem."  But with the incidence of teenage suicide having tripled in the last 25 years, it is not surprising that parents are looking for something to blame.  But in general, T.S.R. maintains that it is no more responsible to assume that youths will kill themselves after playing D&D than that children will bake themselves in ovens after reading "Hansel and Gretel" (Adler 93).

      Dungeons and Dragons, with reasons given by credible people, did not cause teenagers to murder and commit suicide.  From a religious view, the game can be seen to be Satanic and evil, because of the usage of true legends, myths, the use of magic spells, and the inclusion of demons in the game, even though other people's legends and myths , like the Greek, Norse, American Indian, and even New England myths, which were used in the games creation, have never been considered Satanic before. >From a gamer's view, the people who blamed their actions on the game are people who cannot cope with their own problems, and have found the game as a scapegoat.  It seems that the ones who blame suicides on D&D cannot find any other reason, or do not want to believe any other reason, such as drug or alcohol abuse, which is probably true, and seemed to be the real reason in this instance.


Adler, Jerry  "Kids: the deadliest game?"  Newsweek.
     9 September 1985 : 93.

"At a Games Convention, Fun and Fantasy Reign"
     The New York Times. 26 August 1985 : 23.

Brooke, James "A Suicide Spurs Town to Debate Nature of a Game
     The New York Times.  22 August 1985 : 11.

Brown, Timothy B.  The New Dungeons & Dragons Game.7
     New York : Random House 1991.

"Forum"  Dragon Magazine #162.
     October 1990 : 36-38.

Hamilton, Robert A.  "Game is Target of Fight in Putnam"
     The New York Times. 26 May 1985 : 17.

Ivins, Molly  "Utah Parents Exorcize 'Devilish' Game"
     The New York Times.  3 May 1980 : 8.

"Murder Jury Rejects Fantasy-Game Claim"  The New York Times.
     30 June 1988 : 6.

Shuster, William G.  "Critics Link a Fantasy Game to 29 Deaths"
     Christianity Today.  17 May 1985 : 64-5.

"16-Year-Old is Convicted in Fantasy-Game Slaying of Boy, 11"
     The New York Times.  23 November 1986 : 47.

"16-Year-Old Sentenced For Murder of His Playmate"
     The New York Times.  6 December 1986 : 30.
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