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Created by WJWalton4670 points  on Tue 26 of May, 2009 11:35 PDT
Last post Thu 31 of July, 2014 17:36 PDT
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Vintage anti-D&D propaganda: "Coveted" Clerics and the unusual tale of Rebecca Brown

Posted by WJWalton4670 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 WJWalton4670 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 WJWalton4670 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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Kids Need To Game - game donations for Danish students

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Tue 23 of March, 2010 10:45 PDT



Brian Pedersen is a teacher from Denmark who uses RPGs to help his students learn English, as well as other skills. Recently, he has undertaken an exciting new project, and he could use our help. I'll let him tell the story in his own words:

As a teacher for many years, I have been able to use RPGs and wargames to not only assist me in teaching the English language, but to sharpen math skills, teamwork and abstract thinking. As such, it was a natural progression for me to seek out and to obtain permission to "take over" a section of the school library as a gamers corner. Our students do not even have to belong to a school club - they can simply loan out the materials like they would any other book. This is a first here, and something that I am very excited about.

But I need help.

My school, like many other of our public schools, operates with very little government funding for anything outside of the most necessary items, so there is simply no money available to purchase gaming books or boardgames.

While I personally have donated quite a few books, games and related items, one person isn't really capable of providing the sheer amount needed for a school library.

That's why I decided to start Kids Need To Game (KNTG) - and that's why I need your help.


Brian is looking for roleplaying material, as well as dice, card games, board games, and war games. He will gladly accept used and damaged (but still playable) games. Check his website for more on what he can (and can't) use, and how you can get it to him. (Keep in mind that if you do donate, you will have to ship the items to Denmark, and cover the shipping costs.)

If you have some used RPG material that you'd like to donate - or know someone who does - please consider contributing!

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"Are Role-Playing Gamers insane?" and more from Psychology Today

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Mon 22 of March, 2010 09:02 PDT
Two columns on the psychology of roleplaying appeared on Psychology Today's website recently.

The first has an attention-grabbing title that I just had to borrow: Are Role-Playing Gamers Insane? by anthropologist Peter Stromberg. Stromberg explores the tales of "roleplaying gone too far" that continue to pop up from time to time, and whether or not roleplayers have a looser grip on reality than everyone else.

Why tell these stories, then? My guess is that a role-player is likely to tell such a story to affirm that although there are people who confuse the fantasy of the game with the real world, he (or she) is not one of them. In other words, "I'm aware of this possibility, and because I'm aware of it, it can't describe me."

[article | archive]

The second is by Oberlin College Professor Nancy Darling:
When we last left our heroes... Psychology Meets D&D starts with Darling admitting her concerns about the game when her oldest son began to play in college - mostly about what type of social world it would bring her younger son into. But when she took the time to observe the game being played and saw the psychological benefits it bestows, her concerns were allayed.

One of those benefits, she explains, is supplying material for debate, to satisfy the need that young boys have to argue over options and details, such as which weapon is better, or which character choices are optimal:

As the campaign began, the arguments intensified. In fact, I think their favorite part of the whole game is arguing. What should we do best? Why is a long spear a good weapon to attack the goblins and why isn’t it good within 5’ and only for 10? Who is going to back me up? What language do I speak and can the goblins understand my cursing in Italian? Does Italy exist in this world? Do we want to be religious and worship the god, Winslow? Or should we give in to the adamant atheist in the group? And is our lack of piety why we got defeated?

[article | archive]

Good work, in all. I wish we could send these articles about 20 years back in time.

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Dr. Rotwang! and his daughter's first D&D game

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Mon 22 of March, 2010 07:25 PDT
On I Waste the Buddha With My Crossbow, Dr. Rotwang! tells the tale of his five-and-a-half year old daughter's first game of Dungeons & Dragons.

It's so great that I'm not going to quote any of it here. You have to read the whole thing for yourself. I'm just going to say that it's a perfect example of why it's good to share such a creative and imaginative hobby with your children.

Read it. Then get your kids together to play some D&D, or any other RPG that you think they would like. And if you don't have kids, go get someone else's. (With permission, of course!) If you need some advice and ideas, check out the Young Person's Adventure League. You'll find what you need there.

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"Undateable" book claims that roleplayers don't date or have sex

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Sun 21 of March, 2010 06:42 PDT
A new book titled Undateable: 311 Things Men Do That Guarantee They Won't Be Dating or Having Sex compiles dating deal-breakers from hundreds of women, as a sort of "Don't" list for men who are interested in dating and/or having sex with them.

You've probably figured this out already, but I have to say it anyway - "Playing Dungeons & Dragons" is on the list.

Here's a shocker, ladies: I've dated. And I have two kids. And there are others just like me! (In fact, if you look long and hard enough, you'll find that some women play as well!)

I realize that this admission just ruined my chances with many of those hundreds of women. I'll guess I'll just have to do my best to move on.

The fact is, compiling a book about things that individual women don't like about men is equally as useless as compiling a book about bands that individual people don't like, and calling it Bands That Suck.* The answers won't mean anything to anyone, because everyone's tastes are different.

In other words - in life, there are no guarantees, and that includes the one you made up for the title of your book.

[article]

(* Look for Bands That Suck, in bookstores this summer!)

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CBN News: "Landmark" work on the dangers of D&D

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Fri 19 of March, 2010 15:16 PDT
Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network is celebrating Pat's 80th birthday and over 30 years of reporting the news from Pat's perspective. To "pat" themselves on the back (sorry), they've put out an article about how great they are, and the many stories they've covered over the years, including one particular subject of which we are rather fond:
"The news department also did landmark work on such stories as the dangers of the artificial sweetener Aspartame and the game Dungeons and Dragons." [article]

Funny thing is, since CBN's reporting on this "danger" back in the 80s, Dungeons & Dragons has been going strong: it has seen three new editions, attracted millions of players, been translated into several languages, and made appearances in films, books, and television shows. Numerous celebrities, including Stephen Colbert, Wil Wheaton, Vin Diesel, and members of Weezer (to name a few) have told their stories of growing up playing this "dangerous" game. It has become firmly embedded in our popular culture, and inspired a whole new genre of entertainment.

Great "landmark" work on warning everyone to stay away from that Dungeons & Dragons, CBN. You should be proud.

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LARP coverage in Wicked Local Chelmsford

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Fri 19 of March, 2010 08:43 PDT
Here's a positive piece from Wicked Local Chelmsford (Mass.) on LARP and the Intercon K LARP convention: A LARP of faith at Chelmsford Radisson
Con Chairman Tim Lasko, who hails from Connecticut, says role-playing is an accepted tool in society and it’s used for employee and military training. But this form of role-playing is strictly for fun.

“At LARP conventions, we play full immersion games. Players are allowed to improvise once they understand a set of goals, rules and exceptions to the rules,” Lasko said, “What guides each game is how interesting you can make it and what there is to do.”


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Replacing school grades with an XP system

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Thu 18 of March, 2010 19:39 PDT
(Speaking of using RPGs in the classroom...)

Professor Lee Sheldon from Indiana University has given the grading concept a unique twist - he has replaced the standard grading system with an experience point system, in which students gain XP for completing assignments.
Borrowing from RPGs and MMORPGs, students begin the program with an avatar at level one. To gain experience, students must complete assignments camouflaged as RPG-based tasks such as quests, crafting, and more. In real life, they're making presentations, taking quizzes, and doing all that other boring school-related work.

According to Sheldon, students are grouped into guilds, and must complete "quests" as a solo adventurer or within "pick up groups" with other guild members. Is this working? Sheldon thinks so, saying the overall feedback is far more enthusiastic than previous grading methods. He's even revised elements of the class so that they're understandable and associated with fun.

[Full article at Tom's Guide]

No word on whether or not students with an Intelligence score above 17 will get an XP bonus, however.

(Thanks to one of my old gaming buddies, Tom Thompson, for the link!)

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RPGs in the school and library (and why they belong there)

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Thu 18 of March, 2010 09:51 PDT
Two great articles came to me yesterday - one about a library gaming group in Keller, Texas, that includes RPGs like Risus, and mentions how tabletop games promote socialization:
The Tabletop Gaming Club has been going strong for six years, said Terrence Rideau, club founder.

"I originally started the club because of my 30-plus-year love of tabletop games and a desire to share them with people in this digital age," he said. "I am not much on computer or console games and I believe that tabletop games help with interpersonal skill as well as having other skill benefits."

[article | archive]

...and another about an after-school Dungeons & Dragons program in Maryland, and how the game encourages creativity and strengthens math skills:
"A lot of kids nowadays don't get an opportunity to express their creativity; they spend a lot of time on the console playing games with their thumbs, but the limits of those games are as created by the game creators," he said. "You can't argue or negotiate with a monster. Instead, you can pretty much just walk up to something and hit it and hope that it goes away. ... Dungeons & Dragons at its base is playing ‘let's pretend.'"

[article | archive]

...but we already knew all about that, didn't we?

Don't forget - if you are an educator or librarian and are interested in adding roleplaying games to your school or library, there are two projects on The Escapist that can help you with ideas and resources: Reading, Writing, & Roleplaying and Terra Libris.

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Cthulhu Reads RPGs in Public!

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Sat 13 of March, 2010 20:53 PST
I was doodling today, and this picture of ol' squid-face jumped out of my pen. I liked it so much that I posted it to the RaRPGBiPW Facebook page - and someone there liked it so much, that he printed it out and hung it up in his office!



I've got a hi-res (300dpi) scan for print magazines (if anyone out there is interested), and I've made a PDF version for printing out and hanging in your office (or on your fridge, bulletin board, front door, every telephone pole in your neighborhood, etc.)

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More positive D&D coverage from a college paper

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Fri 12 of March, 2010 04:42 PST
Here's another positive article on the roleplaying hobby from a college newspaper - this time it's the University of Oregon's Daily Emerald, publishing "A cool creative outlet" by Greg Dewar:
Any sort of activity that by its very nature forces participants to think, feel and create should be lauded, accepted and popular in our society. It is a triumph of humanity. It’s a game where people get together and think, both individually and communally, to create a detailed mindscape to exist within. It’s the perfect creative and social outlet, and it boggles my mind that it isn’t more popular. Our society is in a sad state indeed when a game that allows you to explore your own humanity and exercise your mind is a frowned-upon activity (also, reading books should be considered cooler than it is).

(Full article is here.)

The way I see it, what we really have to do is find out how and when these collegiate journalists are taught the standard practices of always referring to gamers as loners and being certain to mention some unsubstantiated rumors about murders and suicides associated with the game whenever writing a piece about roleplaying.

Then maybe we can nip the problem in the bud.

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The good news - D&D camp is back!

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Thu 11 of March, 2010 13:24 PST
The bad news - I'm too old to go, and it's too far away from me anyway. But if you're in Toronto, Canada and 16 years old or younger, check out March Break Camps at Harbourfront Centre.

Some of you may remember my previous post on the great story and photos, provided by Gaming Brouhaha, of a 1981 Dungeons & Dragons camp. It's good to see this sort of thing still happening. Who knows? Maybe it will catch on.

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LA Times review of Gamer Fantastic

Posted by WJWalton4670 points  on Thu 11 of March, 2010 09:03 PST
Here's a book (and a review of it) that both somehow missed my gaming radar - Ed Park's LA Times review of Gamer Fantastic, a collection of thirteen short stories about adventure gaming.

The cover seems to suggest that the contents are about electronic gaming, but as the review reveals, the majority of them are based around our low-tech, dice-and-paper variety:
The brisk opener, Chris Pierson's "Escapism," manages a clever twist on the character of the first-person-shooter-obsessed teen, but most of the other 12 stories here involve significantly lower technology. As with writing stories, the games in question are primarily built of words — albeit with oddly shaped dice thundering in the background.

Read the full review here, and buy Gamer Fantastic through the Escapist Store here.

(Thanks to JJ Lanza for the link!)

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