> FAQs > Basic
Basic Gaming Advocacy FAQ
This FAQ page covers two main
1. What roleplaying games are
and how they are played.
2. The myths and misconceptions
that have accumulated about them over the years.
of the best ways I have heard to describe role-playing to a
non-roleplayer is this one: Think of some of your favorite boardgames
that you like to play, now or when you were younger; popular games like
Monopoly, Battleship, Clue, Stratego,
or Risk. Try to imagine playing one of those
games while stepping into the role of a shrewd businessperson, a Navy
captain, a master detective, or Army General. Now, instead of just
rolling dice, drawing cards, and moving pieces around the board, you're
acting out that role, interacting with the other players who are doing
the same thing, and creating a story as well as playing a game.
simply, a role-playing game (RPG) is a form of interactive
storytelling, in which all of the participants act out the roles of
characters in the story. One player acts as a sort of
writer/director/referee, and is usually called a game master (or
Dungeon Master, in the case of Dungeons & Dragons).
This player prepares the story beforehand (by writing it and stocking
it with characters, or reading a prepared story), describes the scenes
and events of the story as they unfold, and tells the other players the
results of their actions.
all, it's very similar to the childhood game of "let's pretend" or
"cops and robbers," but with rules and a referee. In such games, all
actions taken by the characters and referee are described, not
performed, and the players do not usually dress as their characters.
This distinction is made to differentiate RPGs from LARPs, which are
described below. In most of these games, dice are used to
generate random numbers to resolve certain events (such as whether a
character can climb a slippery wall, or if an attempt to fast talk a
guard will work). These dice come in an array of shapes and sizes; a
common set of dice includes 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, and 20-sided dice.
Some games use a complete set of these dice (Dungeons
& Dragons and Call
of Cthulhu are two examples), while others may only
use one particular kind (GURPS
uses only 6-siders, for example, while the World of
Darkness games use only 10s). In others, dice are
replaced with other randomizers such as cards, or in some cases,
removed altogether in what is often called a "diceless" system.
stationed in Baghdad, Iraq sit down to a relaxing game of Dungeons
& Dragons in their free time. Top photo, from
left: Doug, Nate,
Ayala, Steve (GM), Will, and Tim. Bottom photo, from left: Steve and
photos to enlarge.)
plastic or metal figures are used in some games, such as Dungeons
& Dragons, to help the players visualize where their
characters are in a scene. They aren’t used in many RPGs, however, so
you frequently will not see them at a game session. There are also
strategy wargames that use the same or similar figures – these games
are also a lot of fun, but are not the same thing as a role-playing
really. RPGs are usually played in a comfortable area with a table
where everyone can relax while they play and have somewhere to put
their books, notes, and dice. There is a “sister” hobby to RPGs called
Live Action Role Playing (or LARP
for short - see below) where players dress as their characters and
occasionally use props and/or foam weapons during the game. These are
also a lot of fun.
not really. Many people see the large amount of books – some of them
very thick - that are available for a role-playing game and assume that
every page is filled with rules. The truth is, most of the material
found in any RPG book is background material for the setting – the
characters, locations, and history of the game world in which it is
played. The backgrounds of many RPGs are more detailed than those of
the average sci-fi or fantasy movie or television series, and this can
make the books very enjoyable to read.
are some RPGs that have rules that can be complex - Dungeons
& Dragons would be a perfect example. But the trend
in recent years has been towards games that have simple rules, and are
quick and easy to learn and play.
they do - even with the
advent of computer based RPGs with intense sound and graphics, people
still like to play sit-down, face-to-face games where they create their
own characters and act out the events of a story.
With all due respect, the question of whether or not people still play Dungeons & Dragons
is a bit silly. It's kind of like asking if people still read Robert
Frost's poetry, watch I
reruns, or play with yo-yos. Of course they do. All of those
forms of entertainment are just as entertaining as they were when they
were first created. Maybe the initial excitement about them isn't as
high as it was then, but that doesn't take away from their pure
Or, to create a better analogy - it's kind
of like asking if people still play any other game that's any older
than the latest releases. Try replacing "Dungeons & Dragons"
or "roleplaying games" in that sentence to any other game - checkers, Mouse Trap, volleyball,
bridge - and you'll get a better idea of how silly a question it really
drive the point home a bit further, I made the timeline on the right.
Feel free to refer people to it whenever they express astonishment that
people still play Dungeons
boardgame that originated in China, is so old that no one is certain
just how old it really is - and there millions who still play the game.
In fact, there are Go
tournaments worldwide, and professional Go players!)
LARP, or Live-Action Role-Play, is an RPG in which the players dress as
their characters and act out their roles. The referee is still present
to enforce the rules and keep the story moving; in fact, there may be
more than one
in a LARP. The LARP style of roleplay has been popularized, but by no
means invented, by White Wolf's World of
Darkness setting, of which Vampire: The
Masquerade is a large part.
LARPs are non-physical, where participants are not permitted to touch
each other or engage in any combat; others involve "boffer" weapons,
special homemade swords, shields, daggers, axes, and even arrows that
are covered in foam to protect the participants as they play against
fact is, may of the people reading this have participated in a form of
LARP before, or know someone who has, and they may not even realize it.
The How To Host A Murder and How To
Host A Mystery games, where players are handed cards with
information about the character they portray and the information that
they know, are really a basic form of live action roleplaying.
new section of The Escapist devoted to LARP is currently in the works.
Keep checking this space for more information.)
some will confuse roleplaying games with collectible card games (CCGs),
but the two are quite different.
card games are played with decks of cards that have been customized by
the players. The cards are usually purchased in "starter decks"
(usually around 60 cards per deck) and "booster packs" (usually around
15 cards per pack), though there are some games that forego the starter
deck and allow you to play with just a few booster packs. Each card has
it's own characteristics, and players consider this when constructing a
deck of them. Popular CCGs of today include Magic: The
Gathering, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh. There
are several themes and styles of CCGs, and the collectible format has
even inspired other types of games, such as collectible dice games
(Dragon Dice) and collectible miniatures games (Mage Knight, Heroclix, and many,
used to receive more coverage on this site early in their development,
as they met with bans, lawsuits, and unwarranted negative press from
people trying to eliminate them. Magic
was frequently accused of inspiring players to learn occultism, for
example, and the Pokemon craze once reached such
a height that some considered suing the producers of the game for
creating a method of illegal gambling (since valuable cards are
inserted randomly into booster packs). Such claims and bans have
dwindled in the last few years, but if they should ever begin to become
more prevalent, you will read about them here, as well.
advocacy is the name we give the cause of making the world a better
place for the hobby that we love - whether it be defending a game from
an attack in a newspaper article or televised newscast, helping gamers
find others to game with, improving the way that we play or the quality
of the games themselves, or researching the benefits of
role-playing. There are many other activities that could come
under this header... basically, if it means furthering the hobby in one
way or another, then it is considered gaming advocacy.
odds are, you probably have. The news media and many religious groups
have had little good to say about both RPGs and CCGs. The same goes for
general word of mouth, which is usually conditioned by both of the
above. You may have heard that RPGs promote satanism, witchcraft, or
other forms of the occult, or that they can cause kids to commit
suicide or kill others. As with most things in life, however, you
should never believe everything that you hear.
have become part of many urban legends, or
modern-day tales of folklore that usually have very little basis in
fact. One popular legend claims that swallowing Pop Rocks (a
type of candy that pops in your mouth) and washing it down with a
carbonated beverage will cause the stomach to explode, killing the
imbiber - and that this was the fate of the young man who played Mikey
in the Life cereal commercial.
of us know that this is not true. Not only do we have a
governmental body to protect us from such unfortunate accidents (the
FDA), but "Mikey" (a.k.a. Michael Gilchrist) is alive, and doing quite
legends often sprout from actual events, but quickly degrade into
stories that happened to "a friend of a friend," and begin to become
more spectacular as they are passed on. In any case, they are
hardly a reliable source of information. This case is
certainly no exception.
stems mainly from a pair of isolated incidents, one of which occurred
in 1979, and the other of which happened in the early 1980s.
first incident involved a young man named James Dallas Egbert, a
16-year-old boy who was bright enough to be attending college at such a
young age. Egbert had much more than his fair share of
problems; he was under constant pressure from his parents to exceed,
and was hiding his drug addictions and homosexuality from
went into hiding for nearly a month, and was pursued by William Dear, a
private investigator hired by his uncle to find him. Dear
discovered that the boy occasionally played Dungeons
& Dragons, and began searching for him based on the
hunch that Egbert was playing the game in the steam tunnels beneath the
dormitories. This sparked media stories associating the game
with Egbert's disappearance; stories that were never retracted when the
truth came out. When Egbert took his own life a
year after being found, Dear let the story stand as it was, untrue and
misleading, to "protect" the Egbert family from the truth about Dallas'
times told me how much he feared that his younger brother, Doug, would
be hurt if the truth became public. He had a deep affection
for Doug and expressed the hope and even belief that his brother would
grow up under happier conditions than he had. He did not want
Doug to endure cruel asides from his classmates and friends about his
"faggot brother, the dope addict," and he emphasized this as another
reason that I should remain silent. I thought he was right to
be concerned, and I held off writing this book until Doug was out of
high school. - Dear, William, The
Dungeon Master (Houghton Mifflin, 1984), p. 280-281
event not only began the myth that role-playing can inspire suicide,
but it also started the urban legend that gamers like to play in places
such as steam or sewage tunnels.
second incident involved a young man named Irving "Bink" Pulling, who
killed himself in 1982 with his mother's handgun. His mother
Patricia believed that he had become involved in the occult, and that
his suicide was due to a curse that had been placed on his character in
a D&D game he played at his
school. Her theory was possibly fed to her by a police
investigator who questioned her after her son's death; before that
time, Pulling had never heard of D&D, and
didn't believe that devil worship existed outside of the movies.
Hanover County Sheriff's Department Investigator) had found some
letters apparently written by Bink. He asked me if I would
look at them and identify the handwriting.
before you do that," he continued, "I have one other
question." He paused, then asked, "Mrs. Pulling, are you or
your husband devil worshipers?"
was speechless, but finally managed to say, "What kind of question is
that to ask me at a time like this? Are you crazy?"
told him to look through my house, to do anything he wanted; he would
not find anything connecting our family to something as insane as devil
thought to myself, "Maybe this is a nightmare. Is this guy
really a policeman? Is everybody crazy? Devil
worship! That stuff doesn't even exist except in the movies!"
- Pulling, Patricia, The Devil's Web
(Huntington House, 1989), p. 4-5
story, however, showed a collection of deeper problems: he idolized
Adolf Hitler, had trouble fitting in with his schoolmates, and was
often seen running through his backyard while howling at the moon.
went on to form Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (B.A.D.D.), a
group that sought to ban D&D from schools
and have a label placed on the covers of game books warning that the
contents could cause suicide. She and her group were
moderately successful in the former, but failed at the
latter. During her involvement with B.A.D.D., Pulling would
often distribute newspaper articles that had been edited
to help prove her point - she would change the order of paragraphs to
put an anti-game slant on the story, and remove anything that did not
support her beliefs. This is not only dishonest and
misleading, it is illegal. (Examples of the "Pat Pulling Editing
Method" can be found here
since these two events occurred, many have associated gaming as a
possible cause in any crime committed by, or even against,
a gamer, or someone who is assumed to be a gamer.
In this manner, gaming has been associated with every crime imaginable,
from robbery, burglary, and drug abuse to rape, suicide, and
murder. This certainly has been assisted by people such as
Mrs. Pulling who have done all that they can to propagate such untruths.
in every case, a saner, more realistic, and more probable cause can
easily be found. That is, when games are even involved at
all; 20% of all "game related" cases do not involve any form of game,
but are assumed to by investigators and
reporters. The Columbine massacre is possibly the most famous
example of this.
CCGs began their existence with Magic: The Gathering
(which is based on a fantasy spell-casting environment) and were born
out of the popularity of RPGs, they have received a "guilt by
association" charge by many of the anti-gamers.
Mercy, James A., personal
communication to Paul Cardwell, Jr. (June 8th,1988) -
No evidence of game/suicide connection, by Chief, International
Injuries Section, Centers for Disease Control.
Associated Gifted and
Creative Children of California - Survey of coroners from
American cities who were
asked to review the
psychological autopsies of adolescent suicides, revealed not one case
in which Dungeons and Dragons or any other role-playing game
was a contributing factor.
Dr. S. Kenneth Schonberg
- In a study at the Albert Einstien College of Medicine of over 700
adolescents who had committed suicide, not one case cited D&D
or any RPG as a possible cause.
American Association of Suicidology,
Denver, Colorado - No evidence of any game as a
possible cause of suicide.
Lips, Thomas J., personal
communication to Jennifer Clarke Wilkes (September 15th, 1993) - No
evidence of game/suicide connection, by mental health consultant,
Health & Welfare Canada.
truth is, as proven by the Center for Disease Control, the Albert
Einstein College of Medicine, the American Association of Suicidology,
and Health & Welfare Canada, is that role-playing games do not
cause their players to kill themselves. With this knowledge
in hand, all of the remaining accusations against games and gamers
fact, when one compares the 80-plus cases of crimes where gamers were
involved versus the millions of people who enjoy games on a regular
basis, an abysmally small percentage, way below the norm for people of
any specialty group, is the result. Could it be
that playing D&D or Magic
actually prevents crime?
anti-gamers like Pat Pulling didn't realize was that the numbers they
once tossed around, if they had any basis in reality, would actually
prove the opposite of their claims - that role-players had an abysmally
small suicide and crime rate among their members, small enough to
consider the hobby as a possible deterrent to
violent and criminal behavior, rather than a cause of it. For more
information on that subject, click here.
there was. Mazes and Monsters was a
made-for-television movie that aired on CBS, December 28th,
1982. It was based on a novel of the same name by Rona Jaffee.
movie managed to reinforce some of the negative stereotypes about
gamers - that we are weird, eccentric social outcasts obsessed with a
child's game - but that doesn't appear to be it's true intention.
Jaffee was allegedly more interested in writing a novel based on a
topical news story of the time, and wasn't using the book as a
centerpiece for an anti-game campaign.
movie still pops up from time to time on late night television, and has
recently been released to DVD. For more about Mazes and
Monsters, click here
to see its entry in the Gaming
Advocacy Encyclopedia, or visit the internet's
(allegedly) only Mazes and
their core, role-playing games are about telling stories by acting out
the roles of characters who interact with each other in various
ways. As in real life, one of those methods of interaction is
combat. Combat in most games, card games included, is quick,
unrealistic, and mostly bloodless; in fact, it could be compared best
to the swashbuckling styles of an Errol Flynn movie.
one ever seems to be overly concerned when their children play cops
& robbers or cowboys & indians - games that many of
today's parents grew up on. RPGs are very much the same thing.
games, like any other game of make-believe, are very much a blank
canvas. The players and game master decide what gets painted
on that canvas, and what course the story takes. If they
choose to play a game filled with blood and gore, there is nothing
short of parental intervention to stop them from doing so. As
with any activity, a parent needs to supervise what their child is
doing, and ensure at all times that they approve of what is going on.
spells only exist in games that support such a thing in their game
world; in other words, Dungeons & Dragons
has spells that can be cast by the characters, but the Men In
Black RPG does not, because characters in that setting do not
normally have magical powers.
in a game are not something that can be used in real life, by
any stretch of the imagination. Instead, they are
tools that the characters (not the players) use to perform some sort of
action. One spell may open locks, allowing a character to
free a trapped ally, while another may allow the character to fly or
heal the wounds of others.
there are a few games on the market that attempt to simulate the
effects of "real world" occultism and witchcraft (such as Nephilim
or Authentic Thaumaturgy), none
of these games could ever be considered a lesson in how to use real
spells. Just as a player cannot learn horseback riding or
blacksmithing from playing these games, they also cannot learn how to
throw fireballs around.
a helpful resource on roleplaying games for children, including an
extensive list of available games with parental advisories for each, be
sure to visit The
Young Person's Adventure League.
simply, it can make it very difficult for gamers to enjoy their hobby.
RPGs and CCGs have been banned from schools, clubs, and libraries.
Usually, misinformation is behind the ban.
|What's the big deal, anyway? Why should we really
care if they have such a negative bias in the media and public opinion?
one case, the owner of a Texas gaming store was told his establishment
attracted undesirable types of customers, and he was not allowed to
renew his lease. A child custody case in Delaware attempted
to prove a father was unfit because, among other reasons, he allowed
his son to play a computer D&D game. In one of the
more extreme situations, a young man was beaten by his father after he
returned from a police seminar on the dangers of role-playing games -
apparently in the hopes of driving some of the demons out of his son.
are the types of things that result from misinformation, lies, and
paranoia. The bottom line is that the accusations made
against games are false. That in itself is enough
to warrant all of this effort.
is bad (or good) for the soul is a discussion that goes far beyond the
scope of this FAQ, or even this website. But I will make some
points regarding this question, which I receive quite often.
|My parent / pastor / teacher tells me that I
shouldn't play role-playing games because they can be detrimental to my
soul. What should I do?
- parents, teachers, and members of the clergy can (and will) be
mistaken about things from time to time. We all
can. It's part of being human.
you are under eighteen (or thereabouts) and/or still living with your
parents, you must respect their rules and wishes. If they say
no gaming, then you have no choice. Your respect for your
parents must come above any leisure activity. (This is not to
say that you shouldn't try to educate your parents about the hobby, as
long as you do it in a respectful manner). It's just a game,
after all, and it's certainly not something worth driving a wedge
between you and your parents over.
same goes for your teachers. Many schools have banned RPGs
and other games on the basis that they are "bad" for the people who
play them. If this is the case where you go to school, please
respect their rules... but don't be discouraged from trying to show
them the truth.
best course of action when attempting to show anyone the real truth
about role-playing games is to stay calm and open-minded to their
concerns. An argument will never accomplish anything worthwhile.
Instead, offer to set up a demonstration of an RPG or LARP for people
who have never seen one before. Let them look through the rulebooks and
ask you about anything that causes them concern. Explain terms and
jargon as you go along, and let them interrupt you with questions. If
they seem open to it, send them the link to this FAQ so that they can
find out more. During all of this, make sure that they understand that
you know they always have the authority to say "No" if they still
haven't changed their mind. Even if that is their final word, you will
have done your absolute best, and possibly even earned a little more
respect in their eyes for giving them so much respect yourself.
Gaming and God
I'm not here to give spiritual advice to anyone, but I would like to
bring up an important point. There is a usenet posting that
has been on the web for some time that was written by David Fisher, an
ex-gamer who gave up the hobby because he felt it was damaging his
relationship with God.
the introduction, he goes to great lengths to explain that he is not
condemning gamers, only explaining why he chooses not to play
anymore. He then goes on to condemn gamers anyway, by
comparing our hobby to some very horrible things.
(If you like, you can read it in the Escapist Archives.)
in this article he does make an important point: each of us
should weigh everything we do with how it affects our spiritual life.
Not just gaming, but everything. If you
can honestly say that something you do as a hobby has changed you for
the worst, made you unhappy, or damaged your relationship with God (or
Budda, or Allah, etc.) then you need to give it up. This is
your own decision based on your own feelings and experiences, and
should never be decided for you by someone else - especially someone
babbling about it on the internet (and that includes myself).
please keep in mind that your choices are your own. You may
encounter others who feel that their hobby is fully compatible with
their spiritual life. In fact, this can be said about almost
every gamer. They have made their choice. Please
can, of course, be
carried to excess. It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It
may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing
in the world is that not true?... Abusus non tollit usum. (Abuse does
not take away use.)
J.R.R. Tolkien, On
is true that the public opinion of the role-playing hobby has shifted
in the last couple decades, from wild claims of Satanism, occultism,
murder, suicide, and crime, to a general opinion that it's something
that painfully geeky people do for fun. These days, most references to Dungeons
& Dragons or role-playing games on television or in
the movies are much more kind than they used to be, and we have even
seen shows and movies based on gamers and specific games.
so often, however, another incident will pop up that will somehow get
attached to RPGs. In 2002, the brother of Stephanie Crowe and his
friend were found innocent of her 1998 murder when new evidence linked
the crime to someone else - until that day, the only evidence against
the boys was a coerced confession by police that revealed that both
were D&D players. As one news story put
portrayed the slaying as an open-and-shut case against three boys
warped by an unhealthy passion for dark role-playing games like
Dungeons and Dragons. (full
same year, the DC Beltway Snipers were incorrectly profiled as possible
D&D players, based solely on
the fact that they left a Tarot card behind (even though Tarot and D&D
have practically nothing to do with each other). In 2005, a town in
Brazil passed a law banning the sale of RPG books after rumors began to
fly about a possible connection between an RPG and a triple murder case.
are still misconceptions, misinformation, and downright lies about
role-playing and role-players. It's just not as common as it used to be.
that isn't the only subject that gaming advocacy covers. There's also
bringing new people into the hobby, encouraging parents to play with
their kids, encouraging gamers to support their local game shops and
conventions, using roleplaying as a teaching tool in the classroom, and
inspiring gamers to donate their time and resources to philanthropic
endeavors. This site covers all of these a little now, and in the
future it will broaden each of them until the occasional misinformed
news items will hardly be noticable anymore.
is one of the most requested nuggets of information here at The
Escapist. I've nicknamed it the Suicide Statistic Fallacy,
and it comes from Michael Stackpole's 1989 document Game
Hysteria and the Truth. The statement
that Stackpole makes does not go so far as to suggest that gamers are
any less likely to kill themselves than non-gamers - rather, it
demonstrates the useless and arbitrary statistics that are favored by
anti-gamers, and uses them to disprove their own cause:
half of those of 125 deaths were suicides, that would account for 62.5
gamers killing themselves between 1975 (when the game first appeared
for sale) and 1987 - a span of 12 years. That works out to an
average of 5.2 suicides a year (with a little rounding off), which is
an incredibly low suicide statistic for any specialized group of
people, such as role-playing gamers.
The Devil's Web, Pat Pulling cites a user base for D&D alone as
4,000,000 players. Since the introduction of the game in 1975, the
suicide rate for individuals aged 15-24 has fluctuated between 11.7
(1975) and 12.8 (1980) deaths per 100,000 individuals in the
population. (The rate has been falling since then.) If gamers were
killing themselves at the average rate for their age group we would
have between 468 and 512 successful suicides a year. As the American
Association of Suicidology notes, only 6% of suicide attempts are
successful, so the number of unsuccessful gamer suicides would run
between 7800 and 8533 annually.
The Devil's Web, Mrs. Pulling cites 125 deaths connected to the games
as of 1987, though she does report "Many, many more [cases] remain
unpublicized; the cases are in files marked 'confidential.' This is not
hype. This is not speculation. The cases are there." Even at four times
her reported case list, the total would not equal one year's average
number of suicides for gamers, if they were killing themselves at a
rate equal to the rest of the population. Given that the 125 cases
cited above consist of roughly 50% murders and 50% suicides, the
statistics cast even more doubt on the link between games and suicide."
It's also interesting to
note that Stackpole mentions how the suicide rate began to fall after
1980 and continued to fall through the rest of the 80s, which was the
same time that the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons began
It bears repeating: This
should not, in any way, be taken as a scientific study that gamers are
less likely to kill themselves or others. Such
studies may exist, but this is not one of them. Some of the
numbers used here are from Pulling herself, and are far from
accurate. Her claim of 125 gaming-related crimes is
questionable, considering that she never supplied anyone with a
complete list, but instead relied on claims of unpublicized and
confidential cases that no one can verify. The primary point
here is that if she really wanted to use arbitrary numbers to prove
that games cause people to kill, she should have set those numbers much
higher in order to break the national averages.
roleplaying hobby has a lot of social, developmental, and educational
benefits. It encourages literacy, teamwork, and problem solving, it
develops math and spatial thinking skills, and it helps build
friendships. You can read more about these benefits on the What Roleplaying Games Are
not clear who made the first connection between gaming and Satanism and
the occult - but such connections can be traced back as far as 1980,
not long after the Dallas
Egbert incident. Many religious pamphlets and
materials began to list Dungeons & Dragons
among the "threats" that endanger the welfare of our
children. See Dark
Dungeons for a classic example.
|"C'mon, kids! Roll up a character! You'll love it!"
trend seems to have begun as a direct response to public concern over a
relatively "new" fad. But many preachers and other religious
authors grew concerned over the presence of magic, demons, devils, and
polytheistic gods in the game, and added these in with their lists of
grievances against it. Suddenly, D&D
was an indoctrination tool for Satanists and witch's covens, as well as
a suicide and homicide threat - despite the absolute lack of any
evidence to this end.
popular spiritual tirade against D&D, for
example, addresses the amount of times the words demon
and devil appear in the Monster Manual, and
compares this to the same totals found in the Bible. As
anyone can imagine, this book of fantasy creatures (listed as opponents
for player characters) had a considerably higher count of these words
than the Bible did. It boggles the mind to think of someone
seriously comparing the literal content of a fantasy game to the
literal content of the Bible, and using this as a gauge of how "evil"
the book is. Does this mean that books that do not mention
demons or devils at all are actually more holy than
preachers who began to publish pamphlets in this tradition were the
Rev. James R. Cotter and John S. Torrell. Due to a long
tradition among preachers of prolific cutting and pasting, much of the
rhetoric seen in religious anti-gaming materials can be traced
backwards to the work of these two men.
you can see, it doesn't take a whole lot to start an urban legend or a
nasty rumor - just a few choice words in just the right places.
they do not. This wonderful little rumor comes from two
out-of-context statements in the original Dungeon Master's
Guide. The first reads as follows:
|Do the Dungeons & Dragons
books really mention rape as an activity that characters would partake
intelligent non-humans will serve for from 10% to 60% less cost, but
these evil creatures will certainly expect to loot, pillage, and rape
freely at every chance, and kill (and possibly eat) captives. -
First edition Dungeon Master's
Guide, page 31, second column, first paragraph
this is something that has been taken out of context. For
starters, this statement comes from a section on non-humans (orcs,
goblins, and such) as hired troops - it does not apply to the motives
or desires of player characters. Secondly, the point being
made here is not that you should include graphic scenes of rape or
murder in your games - but that relying on evil creatures to do your
work for you can have some terrible outcomes.
how this sentence mentions that "evil creatures... loot, pillage, and
rape." If anything, this statement makes it clear that crimes
such as looting, theft, and rape are evil activities. And
that's a good thing to make clear to D&D
players, isn't it?
second statement is found later in the book, in a description of a city
encounter. Dungeons & Dragons
uses random encounter tables to simulate chance meetings with other
characters or monsters. One of these tables is for encounters
in a city or town, and lists the people that you can meet there -
shopkeepers, city guards, citizens, and so on. One of the
entries on that table is "goodwife," and the description reads as
description is used to give the Dungeon Master a guideline on how the
encountered characters will react to different approaches from the
player's characters. From this description, we can see that a
threatening approach will cause a lot of trouble for the characters,
but a friendly approach might be rewarded with some useful information.
encounters are with a single woman, often indistinguishable from any
other type of female (such as a magic-user, harlot, etc.).
Any offensive treatment or seeming threat will be likely to cause the
woman to scream for help, accusing the offending party of any number of
crimes, i.e. assault, rape, theft, or murder. 20% of
goodwives know interesting gossip. - First
Edition Dungeon Master's Guide, page 192, first
column, fifth paragraph
click image for larger version
would be somewhat of a desperate reach to suggest that this statement
was promoting rape, but that's exactly what Patricia Pulling
did in her book, The Devil's Web. In her typical
form, she had to edit the statement down a bit to make it sound more
objecting to rape are treated as follows in the D&D Dungeon
Master's Guide: "Random Monster Encounters: Goodwife: Encounters are
with a single woman, any seeming party of assault, rape, theft, murder"
[page 192]. - The Devil's Web,
page 85, second paragraph
better illustrate her editing technique, here is the complete
paragraph, with the words she chose to delete in red:
encounters are with a single woman, often indistinguishable from any other type
of female (such as a magic-user, harlot, etc.). Any
offensive treatment or
seeming threat will be likely to cause the woman to
scream for help, accusing the offending party
of any number of
crimes, i.e. assault, rape, theft, or murder. 20% of goodwives know interesting gossip
how the words have been edited (from 60 to 15 words, without proper
notation) to "put a spin" on this statement and make it into something
sinister. It's not even a good attempt; the result is
something that barely makes any sense. This is,
unfortunately, a very common practice among people who are desperate
for evidence to support their cause.
is a very serious issue, and certainly nothing that should be made
light of in something like a role-playing game. These quotes
taken directly from the Dungeon Master's Guide show
that it is considered a serious issue in its pages as well - it is
depicted as both an evil act, and something that can bring serious
the record, these statements only appear in the first edition of the Dungeon
Master's Guide; all subsequent editions (since 1990) do not
include any information regarding this issue.
more examples of Pulling's editing methods, read this section of Michael Stackpole's Pulling Report.)
click image for larger version
they do not. This is another rumor that started from a
misquoted passage in the original Dungeon Master's Guide.
This claim was made in a 1987 pamphlet called A Christian
Response To Dungeons & Dragons by Peter Leithart and
George Grant, and it has appeared in many other places as well:
Dungeon Master's Guide lists Hitler among those historical characters
who exhibited true D&D charisma. - A Christian
Response To Dungeons & Dragons,
page 5, 4th paragraph
is the statement that they have drawn this claim from:
comment was a discussion on the difference between physical
attractiveness and overall charisma - yet many times I have seen the
mere mention of Hitler's name used as "proof" that the game is evil,
and even some claims that it is anti-Semitic.
persons have the sad misconception that charisma is merely physical
attractiveness. This error is obvious to any person who
considers the subject with perceptiveness. Charisma is a
combination of physical appearance, persuasiveness, and personal
magnetism. True charisma becomes evident when one considers
such historic examples of Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf
Hitler. Obviously, these individuals did not have an 18 score
on physical beauty... - First edition Dungeon
Master's Guide, page 15, second column, eighth paragraph
truth here, as anyone can see, is that Hitler was being used as an
example of someone who had much in the way of personal magnetism, but
little in the way of physical attractiveness. Attempting to
make any other interpretation is taking the material out of context.
people feel it's acceptable to lie or reorder a few words deceptively,
just so long as they get the point across. Among many other false
claims that Leithart and Grant make in the Christian Response
pamphlet is this one:
Not only are
gods, devils, and demons treated as fantasy, Jesus himself is included
as one of the deities. Note carefully the logic here: "It's just a
game. The monsters aren't real. The magical powers aren't real. The
gods aren't real. Jesus is one of the gods." Christ is reduced to the
level of fantastic monsters, halflings, dwarves, and elves. We can give
this no less a label than blasphemy.
it would be blasphemy... if it were true. Jesus Christ does not appear
in any edition of any Dungeons & Dragons
book, as a diety, character, monster, or otherwise. (Some would
probably consider that a sign of corruption
itself, creating a very handy no-win situation for the game.) The
statement above is an outright falsehood. Note carefully the logic
here: If we really want to get people fired up against this
game, let's make up a story about how blasphemous it is and how it
venerates Hitler. It won't count as a sin if we do it in the name of
should be noted that the above example from the Dungeon
Master's Guide only appears in the first edition; all
subsequent editions (since 1990) do not include it at all.
The 1987 pamphlet, however, has been digitized and is still distributed
freely to Christian homeschoolers and educators to this day. (You can
read the pamphlet, in web or PDF format, here.)
claim has been made by former Satanist-turned-Christian William
Schnoebelen, who allegedly lived in Milwaukee during the seventies and
claims that he was contacted by employees of TSR to reality-check their
|Did the original authors of Dungeons
& Dragons contact a real-world occultist to make the
game more "realistic?"
is a direct quote from his article Straight Talk On Dungeons
and Dragons (the emphasis in bold is his own):
was a witch high priest (Alexandrian tradition) during the period
1973-84. During some of that period (1976-80) I was also involved in
hard-core Satanism. We studied and practiced and trained more than 175
people in the Craft. Our "covendom" was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; just a
short drive away from the world headquarters of TSR, the company which
makes Dungeons and Dragons in Lake Geneva, WI. In the late 1970's, a
couple of the game writers actually came to my wife and I as prominent
"sorcerers" in the community. They wanted to make certain the
rituals were authentic. For the most part, they are.
These two guys sat in our living room and took copious notes from us on
how to make sure the rituals were truly right "from the book," (this
meaning that they actually came from magic grimoires or workbooks).
They seemed satisfied with what they got and left us thankfully.
priest, ex-Satanist, ex-Mormon, ex-Mason, ex-Catholic, ex-vampire,
(whew!) William Schnoebelen
story sounds convincing, but overlooks the fact that by the late
seventies, D&D was already published and
on the shelves for several years - which would have made it a little
late to do any kind of research for it. The Advanced version
of the game saw publication in 1979, but very little changed in the way
that spells were listed - the rules surrounding each spell were
expanded a little and variables were adjusted to accomodate the new
rule system, but none of this could be considered "reality-checking"
the game against real world occultism.
is also another inconsistency in this story. If the alleged "rituals"
in these rulebooks are "authentic... (f)or the most part," then why
did these two men need to take "copious notes" from Schnoebelen and his
spells, as has been asserted before, are not "rituals," or even
anything used by the players. Fireballs and magic missiles, very common
magical effects in D&D, are not the sorts
of things that "real" high priests or Satanists can cast, or would
claim to be able to cast. Schnoebelen may disagree with this premise,
but until he can actually summon a ball of fire from his fingertips,
his claim doesn't hold much weight.
names or descriptions of these two field-testing game designers are
given, so we can't even be sure if these were actual representatives of
TSR, two guys pulling a practical joke on the Witch High Priest of
Milwaukee, or a simple figment of Schnobelen's imagination. In my quest
for an answer to this claim, I went straight to the horse's mouth -
Gary Gygax, co-creator of the original Dungeons &
Dragons - and asked him if there was any truth to this
story. His simple answer: "Pure rubbish, that assertion!"
this would not be enough for some people, as it's purely one word
against another - and in Schnoebelen's mentality, all occultists are
known to lie (except the reformed ones, of course). So the
only thing we have to go on would be his veracity. What other
claims has he made, and how truthful are they?
|Great Cthulhu - One of the monsters under
that, I refer you to his take on Cthulhu
(from Should A Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?):
to the ramblings of D&D defenders like Michael Stackpole, the
Necronomicon and the Cthulhu mythos are quite real.
you heard it here first, friends - there really is a massive, octopoid
aberration living in a non-Euclidean city beneath the ocean, awaiting
an alignment of the stars to awaken and destroy us all.
also claims to be a former vampire, and tells this story in the film Interview With An Ex-Vampire.
During his time as a Satanist/vampire, he built
a special trapezoidal "vampire coffin" designed to attract "vampiric
dark demonic energy" to help the occupant achieve "demonic
resurrection" - the same sort of coffin in which Pope John Paul
II was laid to rest!
the independent gaming documentary Über Goober,
Schnobelen tells the story of how opposing warlocks would materialize
in his home, attacking him and his wife via astral projection - and how
a good friend of his was so adept at it that he could project himself
into movie theaters to skip the admission fee.
who do we believe? A guy who makes a game about imaginary
monsters, or a "vampire coffin designer" who actually believes
in imaginary monsters, and believes that he was one,
once upon a time? I'll let you decide that for yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Not at all. In
fact, you'll notice that I'm usually very careful about making it clear
to everyone that I do not paint all members of any group with the same
the initial media coverage of Columbine, I was accused of calling a
police officer an "idiot" because he allegedly made some disparaging
statements against Vampire: The Masquerade.
This bothered me a lot because I've never called anyone
an idiot on this site, and I would never judge someone like that based
on a single statement that they made. I offered to give equal
time to the officer, whom my accuser knew personally, but the offer was
never accepted. Hopefully, the officer saw my side of the
story - or is at least aware that I never called him an "idiot." If I
criticize anything, it is actions, not the people who perform
them. There is "good" reporting - seeking out the
truth to report on it, "poor" reporting - when the required research to
properly present a story is not done, and "bad" reporting - when a
flashy headline is used to sell papers at any expense. No one
would seriously suggest that all reporting falls into the latter two
categories - and I am the first to make it known when a positive gaming
story hits the paper or the TV screen. Unfortunately, that's
not that often.
same can be said about investigators. William Dear, who hid
the truth from the world in order to protect the reputation of his
clients, ended up doing more harm than good to a lot of people who
enjoy role-playing. This does not make him a "bad"
investigator - far from it. He has a reputation as one of the
best investigators of our time, with the track record to back it
up. He simply made, in my opinion, a bad decision.
me to criticize Christianity because of the flak that gaming has taken
from several Christian leaders would be more than illogical - it would
be hypocritical. To me, gaming is a form of freedom of
speech, and in the United States, that right is guaranteed to us by the
same amendment that gives us freedom of religion.
I had a grudge against Christians, I'd also have to include all of my
gaming friends who are Christians - that's most of them, by the
way. I'd have to turn my nose up at all the emails I get from
Christian gamers who write to encourage me and apologize on behalf of
the "bad apples." I don't plan on doing any of this, ever.
am very careful not to
attack anyone's religion or spirituality on the site, and I'd like to
think that I've done an excellent job of it. I am critical of
certain beliefs, it's true - but they are limited to the following:
The belief that role-playing games can cause you to kill yourself,
others, or engage in any other dangerous or criminal activity that you
would not have if you had never started playing.
- The belief that role-playing
games are spiritually dangerous, and can attract demons to possess the
players, or bestow
the players with the ability to cast spells, summon demons, or any
other supernatural powers.
The belief that a god or gods are not happy with people playing
roleplaying games (yet somehow have no problem with people playing
roles on stage or in TV or movies).
beliefs do not exist as canon or scripture in any holy book of which I
am aware, so it can be safely said that I do not criticize any actual
religious beliefs here on the site - only the crazy ones that people
have added on their own.
This is, without a
doubt, my most frequently asked question. I feel that this
matter is a very personal one, so I respectfully decline to
answer. Here’s why: This site, and the entire cause of gaming
advocacy, deals in facts; the “reality of fantasy games,” as I like to
put it. My personal belief system does not change these
one? Sorry, not tellin'.
people do not agree with this, however. They see a person's
religion (and sometimes even their denomination) as a primary factor in
their veracity. It's a very shallow way to think, but
unfortunately, it's the way that things are. These people
would truly doubt the accuracy of something written on these pages,
based on how closely my belief system matches theirs.
email I received from an Escapist reader who is a Jehovah’s Witness
mentioned that a fellow church member was surprised to hear a rumor
that Gary Gygax was a Witness, and even made the comment that “he
probably isn't anymore.” This is an example of the way that
some people think – this person was of the opinion that Mr. Gygax had
left or even been “kicked out” of the Witnesses for being involved in
the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.
small-minded discussions are petty, trivial, and superficial, and it is
my intention to avoid supplying fuel for such things. The truth is the
truth, plain and simple.
|"The lady doth
protest too much, methinks."
- Hamlet (III, ii, 239)
may seem that I am 'protesting too much' (to quote Shakespeare) by
pointing these things out in such detail - in other words, I may be
going through a lot of effort to cover up something. This is a tactic
often used by those who aren't happy with the fact that someone is
looking at their extraordinary claims with a critical eye. In
some cases, it may even be made by gamers themselves, who feel that all
of this brings undue negative attention to the hobby.
myths and misconceptions about the RPG and LARP hobbies are part of
their history. They will not go away if we ignore them, and when they
do come up in conversation, or in a news item or website, it's best to
have some sort of resource that points to the truth. It's just my humble
opinion, but I feel that bringing these claims into the light and
showing how they fall apart is much better than stuffing them under the
bed and hoping that no one will ever see them.
the response to a claim can get a little verbose, and seem like it is
"protesting too much." It's very easy to make up a falsehood about any
particular subject, or pass on that falsehood to others, but it takes a
lot of work and words to correct those falsehoods. As in the example above,
it is extremely easy for Patricia Pulling to pare down a paragraph from
a D&D book to a quarter of its former
self in order for her to make a misinformed point - but it takes a lot
more effort and explanation to show what was done and why it was wrong.
none of this helps, then allow me to put it another way:
about a hobby or pasttime that you and others enjoy - something
that relaxes you, keeps your mind and hands active, and maybe even
keeps you out of trouble. It could be model building,
quilting, fly tying, wind surfing, or collecting political
Now, imagine how you would feel if someone started speaking out against
that hobby, wrongfully calling it dangerous and trying to get it banned
and public places, for reasons that have no basis in reality.
you want to set the record straight, if no one else was?
consider this one: You're a parent of a teen or pre-teen who is going
through the usual growing pains. You spot some roleplaying books in
their room - books with pictures of demons and monsters and vampires in
them. You've heard some awful things about these kinds of games, but
you really want to find out more for yourself before you make up your
mind about it.
are you going to go to find the truth about these games?
the question here is whether or not I make a profit through the RPG
industry, then the answer is no. That has changed from time to time - I
once had a small business that sold used copies of RPG books, I used to
write for a gaming magazine, and for a brief while I was even working
for a company that planned to publish role-playing games.
with the knowledge of this, some people will think that all of this
work is just a money-making ploy, a plan to make something "bad" seem
"good" in order to cash in on it.
nothing could be further from the truth. I do this because I love the
hobby, I'd like to see it flourish, and I hate the lies and
misconceptions about it. It's not that different from a fishing
enthusiast who creates a page of information about the benefits of
taking your kids out to catch some trout, or a coach who speaks out
against negative press that high school sports have been getting.
like role-playing, I enjoy teaching people about it, and I'd love to
see more people get involved in it. Nothing more, nothing less.
This ends the
Basic Gaming FAQ. You can learn more about role-playing games by
exploring the other FAQ files in this section: