The Escapist Blog is a journal on the positive promotion of tabletop, pen-and-paper roleplaying games: dispelling the myths and misconceptions, educating the public about their benefits, encouraging new generations of players, and more. For more information on roleplaying advocacy, visit the Basic Gaming FAQ.

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Created by WJWalton4444 points  on Tue 26 of May, 2009 11:35 PDT
Last post Fri 11 of April, 2014 06:39 PDT
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Two positive roleplaying articles from Ethan Gilsdorf

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Mon 19 of April, 2010 08:30 PDT
Two great positive RPG pieces by Ethan Gilsdorf (the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks) recently found their way to me.

First is "Role-playing games pull reluctant school kids into a supportive crowd" on the Christian Science Monitor, where Gilsdorf explores The Game Loft, a youth program based in Belfast, Maine that uses board and roleplaying games as its focus:
"Killing dragons is a challenge," says Ray Esta­brook, The Game Loft's codirector and cofounder. His center connects dragon-slaying to the challenges life throws at you. Via gaming, kids test out "roles," but in a safe, nonschool environment, in order to become functioning adults in society – connected, compassionate, and caring. "Good things happen to kids who game," he says.
...
Sian Evans, whose two sons are Game Loft regulars, was one of those leery parents. She was no fan of video games, either, and wondered if fantasy games were too violent. But once she observed her sons in action, she noticed them begin to pass not only Pokémon cards back and forth across the gaming table, but also concepts.

"When you're playing D&D, you're talking about ideas," Ms. Evans says. "It's not games, it's life skills." She recalls a time that Taran, her 11-year-old, came home bubbling with enthusiasm about what had happened that day in the game: "Oh Mom, I got turned into a dwarf!"

[article | archive]

In the second, "Not just kids play" at Psychology Today, Gilsdorf points readers to the CSM article in a discussion of the negative PR that roleplaying has attracted over the years - he touches upon Patricia Pulling, Mazes & Monsters, the Dark Dungeons religious tract, then shifts gears to the benefits of roleplaying:
Still, stereotypes and prejudices against gaming and fantasy persist. Most people don't realize that for 99% of players and fans, these activities are integrated in healthy ways into the lives or normal people, and they provide an essential community, rites of passage, ethics and values, just like other clubs and hobbies.

[article | archive]

(Thanks to David Wright for the CSM story.)

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Tell Me About Your Character: Andrew French

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Fri 16 of April, 2010 16:04 PDT
The latest Tell Me About Your Character interview is up - meet Andrew French from Boston!

If doing a self-serve interview sounds like fun, that's because it is! Submit yours today! Find out how on the Tell Me About Your Character page.

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Wanted: Pictures of roleplayers in libraries

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Fri 16 of April, 2010 06:26 PDT
My friend JJ Lanza is working on a very cool semi-secret project, and he is asking around for pictures of roleplayers enjoying an RPG session in their local library.

And while I'm thinking of it, I wouldn't mind having a few as well, to put up on the Terra Libris page. If you have such a thing, please contact me. You can attach the pictures if you like, and I will send them along. Make sure to let me know where the picture was taken (city and state or country if outside the US), the name of the library, and what RPG is being played. If you like, you can also list the names of the players in the picture.

Thanks in advance, and keep an eye out for more on that semi-secret project!

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Roleplaying in the Navy

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Wed 14 of April, 2010 09:15 PDT
I've heard stories before about the popularity of roleplaying games among those who serve in the military (particularly in the Navy), and I always love to hear more about it - especially the challenges that players go through to get a game together. Recently, two posts on RPG blogs covered this issue nicely.

Youseph Tanha at Stargazer's World interviewed his friend Lyle Vogtmann about the ins and outs of roleplaying on a US Navy ship:

Finding people to play with, and places to play was the most interesting aspect of playing on board ship. As always, DND players do tend to find each other one way or another. Despite the massive size of an aircraft carrier, finding places to play was the difficult part. We’d get chased out of berthing areas where people sleep in their off hours, playing in someone’s work shop wouldn’t work, as they were always manned with the current shift. For a while we played up in the mezzanine of the hangar deck where empty airplane fuel pods were stored (wish I would have taken pictures… we had to climb a ladder 4 stories or so, and doing so while carrying our bags/briefcases full of manuals/dice/character sheets. We looked like a geek Special Forces team moving to higher ground positions!)


(Read more here)

In response, Mike Meredith at Dice Monkey posts about his own experiences with gaming in the Navy:

When we first deployed, we didn’t have anywhere to play. Finding a storage room three decks down from where we worked, we would sit on boxes of paper and roll dice into box lids, playing Kobolds Ate my Baby, as well as a few sessions of Ravenloft.


(Read more here)

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"Occult detective" speaks on the dangers of RPGs

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Thu 08 of April, 2010 19:05 PDT
Virginia's "occult detective," Don Rimer, will be hosting yet another training seminar on occult and ritual crimes that will include discussions on witchcraft, goth culture, death metal, and role-playing games, according to this item from delmarvanow.com:
ACCOMAC — The Virginia Gang Investors Association will host a training seminar April 30 on the subject of “Occult and Ritual crimes” at the Accomac Elks Club.

The speaker will be Don Rimer, who has been involved in many high profile cases involving this subject matter.

Rimer will discuss several topics including, New case studies, Satanism, Witchcraft, Goth, Animal abuse, Fantasy role playing, Death/metal music, etc.

The seminar is from 9a.m.-5pm at the Accomac Elks Lodge, 22454 Front St..

For more information contact Kelly Miles at 757-339-5204.

Rimer has held similar seminars before, and has made a name for himself as an "occult detective" from some high profile cases. One such case was that of Jon Bush, a Virginia air-conditioner repairman convicted for sexually abusing several teenage girls that he lured into a "vampire cult."

(For more on Don Rimer, see the links at the end of this post.)

It's probably a safe bet that the recent popularity of the Twilight books and movies and the accompanying interest in vampire literature and lore have motivated Rimer to cash in and spread some fresh paranoia around like so much fertilizer. This will likely be another exercise in confusion between causation and correlation, which is exactly the opposite of what a crime detective should be teaching (and practicing).

One of the commenters says it best:
Don Rimer cases are high profile, primarily due to the controversy of having a demonstrated charlatan like Don Rimer talking to law-enforcement agents under the guise of someone with expertise.

If you happen to be in the Accomac, Virginia area, consider contacting your local law enforcement station and see if they plan to attend. (Or even better - see if you can get into the seminar and take lots of notes!)

(Thanks to Shanya for the link.)


More on Don Rimer:

- "Cult Cop" Hosts Seminar

- Vampire-hunting detective is Virginia Beach's expert on the weird

- Not Just A Game

- Teenagers Seeking the Occult Find Death Instead

- Witness says self-proclaimed vampire threatened her life during rape

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The Wimpy Kid plays an RPG

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Wed 07 of April, 2010 11:13 PDT
JJ Lanza pointed me to this post at Grognardia a while ago, about the second book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. In it Greg (the titular "wimpy kid") is invited by his best friend's babysitter to try out a roleplaying game called "Magick and Monsters."

I wanted to get a copy of the book to review myself, but as it turns out, none of my local libraries have it on the shelf - every copy has been checked out, which may be because the movie adaptation of the first book in the series recently hit theaters.

But from Grognardia's review, it seems that the story is very gaming-positive - Greg soon becomes a fan of the game, and wants to play more and more. It even addresses parental concerns with the content of the game, when Greg's mother decides to sit in on a session to learn what it's all about.

So, there's a popular kid's book in bookstores and libraries right now that is giving a positive example of the roleplaying hobby, suggesting that it might be something fun to try, and even giving steps to take if your parents have concerns about it. And I can't even find it in any of my local libraries.

That makes your friend and narrator very happy.

My only concerns are the use of the "k" version of "Magick" and the name "Rowley" (one letter away from "Crowley"), which someone will eventually use as "evidence" that this book is attempting to teach kids about the occult.

I know, it sounds paranoid, but you get like that, after a while.

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RPGs as a Saving Throw vs. Life

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Tue 06 of April, 2010 08:00 PDT

Nearly a year ago, I made a post titled D&D as a Saving Throw vs. Life, in which I shared a letter from an Escapist reader who told us how his roleplaying group turned out to be a very positive force in his life (and the lives of the rest of the group as well).

Recently, Tyler from Held Action sent me a link to an RPGnet thread on the same subject, in which a fellow named Juan sends an instant message to Bill Coffin from Palladium to tell him how his games helped keep him out of some very serious trouble.

You will often hear jokes about gamers not having lives. Sometimes they're self-mockery, made by the gamers themselves. Other times, they're made by people who really don't understand how social and beneficial the activity really is.

If you have an anecdote on how RPGs kept you out of trouble or helped you during a rough part of life, why not share it?

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The Quixotist is back!

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Sat 03 of April, 2010 08:15 PDT
My personal roleplaying blog, The Contemporary Quixotist, is back up!

Where the Escapist blog covers roleplaying advocacy in all of its forms, this one is where I write about my personal roleplaying experiences - the games I'm playing, the games I WANT to play, various random items that might be inspirational for plots or worlds, and that sort of thing.

If it sounds interesting to you, feel free to check it out at quixotist.wordpress.com/ (external link)

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The Examiner examines the Escapist

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Fri 02 of April, 2010 08:15 PDT
Michael Tresca at the RPG Examiner asked me a few questions about myself and this nutty website thing that I do, and I answered them. Check it out!

Interview with W.J. Walton, author of the The Escapist web site

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Email from a reader, and why this site is here

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Thu 01 of April, 2010 21:06 PDT
Every now and then I will get an email from someone that reminds me why the efforts here - not only mine, but those of all of us - are so important. Yesterday, I received another one of those emails, and the author gave me permission to post it here, with the name and email address removed.
Hello. I found your website today and spent a good deal of time reading some of your articles. I just wanted to say that I very much appreciate what you're doing for the RPG community. We have a pretty decent sized role-playing club at my college, which I am a member of, and I enjoy it very much. I have made lots of friends and learned valuable lessons from being introduced to this community, and it is a shame how many misconceptions and outright lies there are surrounding it.

I cannot tell my family about my friends or my club because I am genuinely afraid they will disown me. My father is not religious, but he is very violent about D&D, and he believes that it causes people to become obsessive and withdrawn. From my experience, nothing could be further from the truth, but he would not listen to me if I told him this. The rest of my family is very religious and they believe that D&D would cause me to "move away from God."

The hardest part about this is that I'm not religious, and they don't know that, either. So if I told them that I don't believe in God anyway, and then I told them I also play D&D, it wouldn't matter to them that I stopped being religious long before I even knew what D&D was, that would be the excuse.

Anyway, sorry for rambling, I just wanted to let you know how much it means to me that you are promoting awareness of our hobby. I hope many people read your articles and change their minds.

Sincerely,
J

This is the end product of ignorance, misinformation, and fear - someone who has to hide a harmless and entertaining pasttime from their family.

This is why this site, and the CAR-PGa, exist.

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Notice: User accounts

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Thu 01 of April, 2010 20:43 PDT
Due to an excessive level of spam accounts being created, I have disabled automatic account creation for the time being. If you would like to create an account to post to the blog, forums, or wiki, please contact me with your desired username, and I will create one for you and email you a temporary password.

Also - if you have requested a user account recently, and it hasn't been approved yet, contact me as above, and I will take care of it right away (be sure to include your requested username, in the event that your account was deleted).

This only affects new user accounts - anyone with an existing account is free to post as before. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I just spent a good chunk of my evening deleting a ton of accounts with randomly generated usernames and email addresses, and it has gotten somewhat tiring. I'm not sure if taking the form down will discourage the spammers temporarily or permanently, but I'm willing to give it try either way.

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New "Clash of the Titans" writers are roleplayers

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Tue 30 of March, 2010 07:25 PDT
Looks like we can add Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, the writers of the upcoming Clash of the Titans remake, to the list of famous roleplayers, thanks to this interview on io9. In fact, Hay attributes his D&D playing to eventually becoming a screenwriter:
io9: You guys were executive producers on the documentary Dungeonmasters, about D&D players. Were you D&D fans? Did that influence you at all as writers?

Hay: Yes we're D&D fans. Playing D&D and all the associated games when I was a kid – to me, that's the root of me becoming a screenwriter. Those fantasy worlds, that kind of adventure, that kind of imaginative way to spend your time was my first way into creativity.

Manfredi: In all those role-playing games, there are blanks to fill in, and it's up to you to populate and describe that world. I gravitated toward the more geeky Top Secret. Really the game I played all the time was Call of Cthulhu.


Read the rest of the interview (including a tease about a possible Cthulhu movie) here.

(via Michael Tresca/RPG Examiner)

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Vintage anti-D&D propaganda: "Coveted" Clerics and the unusual tale of Rebecca Brown

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Fri 26 of March, 2010 17:12 PDT
An Escapist reader named Sven pointed out a classic bit of anti-D&D propaganda that I was completely unaware of, and the story behind it is pretty disturbing. So natually, I cannot help but share it.

In a book titled Prepare For War published by Chick Publications in 1987, author Rebecca Brown outlined many activities that brought the danger of "opening doors" inside of participants that could permit demons to enter through - activities such as yoga, martial arts, and playing fantasy role-playing games. RPGs, Brown claimed, are particularly dangerous as they serve to act as a "remote control" that the Horned One can use any time he needs to:
One of Satan's biggest tools in our country today is the occultic role-playing fantasy games, which have become so popular. Satan is using these games to produce a vast army of the most intelligent young people in this country; an army that the Anti-Christ will be able to tap into and control in an instant. Through their involvement in these games, people can be controlled demonically without ever realizing what is happening"

Brown goes on to explain that what roleplayers think they are visualizing in their heads is really a vision of what is happening in the spirit world. She even uses a quote from the Bible to discourage anyone from using their imagination for any sort of recreation - an interesting point that I will return to in a moment.

Not unlike Pat Pulling, Brown gives the impression of being something of an expert on RPGs and how they are played - and like Pulling, it doesn't take a long time to find a statement of hers that proves that the exact opposite is true:
One of the most coveted roles in these games is that of a cleric.

I actually chuckled out loud when I read this. Not only is it silly to suggest that any role in an RPG is "coveted" (most people choose what they want to play and simply play it), but the cleric was often the least popular character type in classic Dungeons & Dragons, where many players saw them as nothing more than healing machines. In most of the D&D games I played, clerics were usually NPCs (non-player characters controlled by the Dungeon Master), because the rest of us wanted to enjoy playing fighters or wizards.

It wasn't only my group that had this attitude, either. Consider this humorous ad from 1999 for the RPGA, the Role-Playing Games Association (an RPG enthusiast club organized by many of the people who created Dungeons & Dragons):



"Coveted" clerics, indeed...

Brown then shares the story of a 16-year-old boy who "admitted to being an 80th degree cleric in a role-playing game." We're not given his real name, which is to be expected in stories like this one, but we are told that the boy feels as if he will anger "his" deity (and not his character's) if he "disobey(s) the rules of the game" by leaving his current game and starting a new group with himself as the "game leader." He even suggests that a friend's suicide may have been the result of just such a schism.

To those of us who are familiar with RPGs, this is a very ridiculous notion, but for the benefit of those who aren't: there are no "rules" about staying with a group or leaving to start your own group, any more than there are hard and fast rules about who gets to be the banker in Monopoly (with extreme penalties if the rules are broken). Not only that, but many groups frequently switch Dungeon Masters (or Game Masters, or even "game leaders") to keep the games interesting, and provide an opportunity to anyone who wants one.

And no one playing in a roleplaying game serves any of the imaginary deities in the game. Their characters don't even have to, if they wish. And they certainly don't have to worry about the make-believe deities in an RPG rulebook enacting some divine retribution against them if they don't.

For someone so uncomfortable with the use of the imagination, Brown's own is quite active, and here is where the story gets pretty frightening.

In 1980, while working at Ball Memorial Hospital, she met Elaine, a mentally unstable woman who would become the source of many of the claims made in Brown's books. Elaine suffered from delusions that she was a Satanic High Priestess, married in a church ceremony to Satan himself, and who had been given a mission to kill a doctor who was making things difficult for the powers of evil - namely, Rebecca Brown. The demons that Elaine sent the doctor's way all came back empty handed due to some powerful zone of protection, and that turned Elaine into a Christian.

Satan, angry that his new bride wasn't doing his bidding, made her ill and sent her to the hospital where Dr. Brown was employed. Brown diagnosed her as being infested with demons, and received a special message from God to let Elaine move in with her. Later, God sent an angel with a glowing sword to kill Elaine for not agreeing to a covenant with him, but Brown pleaded with the angel to tell God to let his wrath fall on her instead. God agreed, spared Elaine's life, and they became roommates. Once all of Elaine's demons were exorcised, the two of them began a deliverance ministry to rid everyone of their inhabited demons - starting with the doctors and nurses at Ball Memorial Hospital, who were making all of the patients sick instead of well.

There's more. So much, much more, and it's a depressing tale of two deeply disturbed people who fed off of each other's delusions. But I've already gone on much longer that I had originally intended.

Eventually, Brown lost her medical license for her bizarre behavior. From Wikipedia:
In 1984, Brown's medical license was revoked by the issuing state of Indiana. The licensing board ruled that on numerous occasions she had "knowingly and intentionally misdiagnosed her patients", blaming their illnesses on "demons, devils, and evil spirits." A board-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed her as suffering from "acute personality disorders including demonic delusions and/or paranoid schizophrenia" and observed her injecting herself with unknown substances. The board also found that she had over-medicated her patients and administered improper treatments, as well as failed to properly document their treatment.

Some time after that, Brown and Elaine eventually parted ways, and Elaine died in 2005.

During their adventures, Brown and Elaine gained a small amount of notoriety - together they recorded two cassettes (Closet Witches 1 & 2) and published three books (including the aforementioned Prepare For War) for Chick Publications, the same people who brought us the Dark Dungeons tract and anti-game testimonies from William Schnoebelen. They even managed to make an appearance on the Geraldo Rivera show in 1987.

Though Brown is no longer doing business with Chick Publications, Jack Chick still defends the claims made in her tapes and books to this day. She married in 1989, and maintains a ministry with her husband, complete with a website where she offers advice on removing "unclean" objects from your home to eliminate demonic habitation. Her books, including Prepare For War, are still available through Whitaker House Publishing, which continues to refer to her as "Dr.," despite her loss of license. Even more disturbing is this blurb from their website, which suggests that her books are being used for police training, and that doctors and lawyers seek her out for advice:
They have been translated into over twelve languages and are used worldwide as teaching tools in churches and ministries. Her counsel is often sought by pastors, doctors and lawyers. In addition, her books are utilized by various U.S. law enforcement officials as part of their training programs for dealing with the occult.

Brown's delusions and dangerous behavior were and continue to be more fuel for the type of paranoia that is damaging to much more than simple pasttimes like roleplaying games, yoga, or rock music - they have and will continue to ruin lives.


Sources:
Wikipedia: Rebecca Brown - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca_Brown_%28Christian_author
The Bizarre Case of Dr. Rebecca Brown - http://www.answers.org/satan/brown.html
Drugs, Demons and Delusions: The "Amazing" Saga of Rebecca Brown (PDF) - http://www.culthelp.info/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=1091
Prepare For War: "Game Doorways" chapter - http://www.scribd.com/doc/3780058/Game-Doorways-By-Rebecca-Brown

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Gamers For Humanity returns from New Orleans

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Thu 25 of March, 2010 08:28 PDT
The Gamers For Humanity volunteers have returned from their latest work trip to New Orleans, where they helped with the rebuilding effort - hanging drywall, fixing pipes, rewiring electricity, and patching a leaky roof. They even let some rescued German Shepherd puppies hitch a ride to their new foster homes on the way back.

Details of this year's New Orleans trip are in the Gamers At Work blog, and you can see pictures at gamersforhumanity.org/pictures.html

For those of you who haven't heard me mention this group before, here's a little more about them, in their own words:
Gamers For Humanity is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit, incorporated in the State of Iowa. We are dedicated to helping improve the world around us through:

* increasing the participation of gamers in charitable activities across the nation by providing opportunities for enjoyable and meaningful volunteer work.
* providing human services to people and communities in need.
* encouraging the enjoyment of life for people of all ages through the playing of games.

We work to accomplish these goals by doing the work of organizing volunteer opportunities and opportunities for giving, and by collecting donated funds and items to be distributed to people in need.
For more information about Gamers for Humanity and how you can get involved, visit gamersforhumanity.org.



(Thanks to JJ Lanza for the link.)

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Positive D&D article from Houma Today

Posted by WJWalton4444 points  on Wed 24 of March, 2010 11:14 PDT
Louisiana's Houma Today published a positive article on Dungeons & Dragons that covers a lot of ground - the popularity of the new edition, the grognards who continue to play older editions, the benefits of playing the game, and even a brief mention of its troubled past:
Ottinger refers to D&D as “theater sitting down,” which she says makes the lingering misconception that the game is secretly evil or satanic all the more confounding.

“This is actually a good, fun, family activity,” she says.

[article | archive]

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