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Title: Playing With Dragon Fire
Source: Focus on the Family's Breakaway, August, 1994; posted as a text file to rec.games.frp.misc on April 8th, 1995 by Jeff Freeman.
Read my rebuttal to this article (at the bottom of the page)
NOTICE: The following
material is copyrighted as indicated in the body of text. It has
been posted to this web page for archival purposes, and in doing so, no
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from the use of the material.
[Breakaway is a magazine for teen boys published by Focus on the Family]
A True Story by Manny Koehler
Photo's by Ron Nickel
Dave, my buddy, looked kind of faint. Stan, my other friend, squirmed around like he had to go to the bathroom. For a couple of
"Please, pleeeease don't peg out on me, Dude," Dave moaned, almost too late.
Belvar, Last of the Netherfeld Six, was close to death. Smelt, the Red Dragon of Wyvern Creep, had scorched him three times, scoring
Dave squeezed shut his eyes and rolled. The die bounced wildly on the hard table, taking forever to stop. *Two*.
"Oh, no. Oh, sick!" Stan shook his head in disgust.
"What?" Dave said, frantically opening his eyes. "What happened?!"
He focused on the number with anguish. "No way!" he said. "It can't be." Dave was desperate, but I didn't bat an eye.
"Belvar," I announced, "has breathed his last."
I was the dungeon master in a role-playing game that had been going for nearly 11 hours. Though it was now 5 am, we would keep going
CAGED WITH A DRAGON
A guy in my senior high algebra class got me started by lending me a few rule books. I studied them like crazy, hardly able to learn
The books described dozens of different characters a player could be: monks, paladins, dwarfs, elves, clerics, magicians.
I read about cool-sounding items like weapons, traps, gold, jewelry, maps and potions. And I was amazed by the gruesome details for
I learned that my characters could do anything they wanted when they encountered a monster. They could talk to it, barter with it,
Soon, I was hooked ... and headed for trouble.
SLAYED IN BATTLE
During our marathon games, we'd explore every crevice and sinkhole of our fantasy world. We'd barely finish one adventure before
Much of the game activity centered on killing. The more our characters killed others, the more experienced and powerful they
On one occasion, we fought a powerful, evil queen. We cast a spell of levitation on her, causing her to float helplessly to the
When we finally decided she was dead, I felt sort of lousy inside--just as I had when my own characters would die.
And that was a strange thing about the game. While we enjoyed killing anyone (or anything) that crossed our paths, our emotions
I'll never forget when my absolute favorite character, a sword bearer named Balic, died in a battle against a giant scorpion. It
As crazy as it may sound, I'd even heard of other teenagers "taking the final crash"--committing suicide--for the same reason.
I hadn't read my Bible in weeks--something I actually used to enjoy. And I certainly wasn't doing any homework. It was way more fun
The fact is I had turned into a social and spiritual zombie. But that's when it happened.
The day after we played for 25 hours straight, God's gentle voice got my attention. He began to impress upon my heart the ugliness of
I fought what I knew he was asking me to do (give up the obsession). I tried to enjoy the game in spite of God.
The fight lasted four days. But during that time, our loving Lord was good to me. Even though I didn't want to listen, He got his
ONE LAST FIGHT
*Dave and Stan might not understand, but God does*, I told myself. Then, I stood over the can and ripped every page into microscopic
I went back to my room, feeling kind of queasy from the withdrawals. But I knew I'd done the right thing. God told me so, way down deep.
I wish I could say the game ends there, but I can't. I gave in to one more ugly encounter.
Years later--when I became a cool, collected, mature adult--I bought my first computer. That's when I discovered it.
One day during a trip to the computer section at Wal-Mart, I noticed a copy of Dungeons & Dragons on a shelf. I stared for a long
I bought it, took it home and loaded it up. I plunged back into another long session. It was great! Fast, realistic--with just as
And like the first time so many years earlier, I traded in my Bible for the game's rule book, trying to shut out the voice of Someone
*Lord, what have I done?* I prayed. *I'm sorry for turning my back on You-- again. Give me the strength to resist this deception from
And again, I made a hard trip to the garbage can. This time, I used a match. As I watched the diskette melt, I couldn't help but feel
*So what?* God impressed upon my heart. That's when I smiled. It *was* finally over.
Yes, getting occultic role-playing stuff out of my life was the right thing to do. And that's exactly where the game ends--for
Please direct your comments to:
James C. Dobson, PhD, President
Remember to reference the article "Playing with Dragon Fire" by Manny Koehler from the August, 1994 issue of *Breakaway*.
MY REBUTTAL, Where Bill's two cents are freely dispensed.
4/2/99: Rebuttal to Manny Koehler's "Playing With Dragon Fire"
Manny Koehler is a pretty good writer. Not only does he pepper his language with "hip" slang to aid the reader in acheiving the frame of mind of a troubled teenager, he also does a passable job of making us believe he has a little bit of gaming experience. Whether he does or not remains to be seen.
What Koehler doesn't realize is that his account of his gaming adventures, if it is true, says a lot more about himself and his friends than it does about their choice of entertainment.
A role-playing game is much more of a canvas than it is a finished work; the players and game master decide the course of events more than any rulebook can. Once the characters are made and the adventure begun, the path of the story is entirely up to the players. If a game has become too violent and bloody, it is because the players, game master, or both have permitted it.
I can't help but draw a anecdote from my own gaming experience here: one of my most memorable campaigns as a referee was based on the AD&D Dark Sun world, a setting that has been criticized by many for being too combat-oriented, and thus a favorite of power-gamers and warmongers. We rose above the reputation of the setting, however, since we weren't interested in mindless violence. The result was a story filled with politics and intrigue, with the players constantly wondering who was pulling their strings, and those of everyone they met. Even the party's gladiator, a character whose occupation is based on acts of violence, saw very little combat, and instead was embroiled in a bidding war over his services.
No role-playing game forces you to act out graphic scenes of violence. No gaming manual told Koehler and his friends to levitate a queen and then fill her with arrows. They came up with that idea all on their own.
Maybe that's what Koehler is really so upset about.
Here's the part where I pick apart the entire article bit by bit:
[picture of 3 gamers with 15-20 "tea-lights" (little
I have yet to play an RPG that directly involves the lighting of candles. Yet ever since Mazes & Monsters graced our televisions, everyone seems to think that RPGs are played in darkened rooms with great amounts of pomp and circumstance. Organizations such as Focus on the Family and The 700 Club like to portray games with lots of candles and dry ice. It's not true. While I must admit to using candlelight for mood on a couple of occasions, it was only for brief periods of time, and I've never gone to the length of renting a dry ice machine. Candlelight is difficult to read by, and dangerous when there is a lot of paper around (two situations that are common when gaming).
Dave, my buddy, looked kind of faint. Stan,
my other friend,
Sounds like a bunch of guys at a Super Bowl party to me. Or any group of people who are taking a leisure activity far too seriously.
I was the dungeon master in a role-playing game
that had been going
Anything performed for 25 hours straight is unhealthy: role-playing, watching television, needlepoint... It is more of a matter of personal discipline than anything else. Lacking that discipline will cause you to do things like spend all night playing a game. If these were teens, as we are led to believe, I would like to know where their parents were while this was going on, and why they didn't do anything about it.
Before that time, I'd been heavily involved in
my church's youth
I can't help but chuckle at the way Koehler writes this story as if he's telling the world how he kicked alcohol, drugs, or a pornography addiction. He's talking about a game here, folks... try not to forget that.
I learned that my characters could do anything
they wanted when they
It is interesting, then, that he should choose the path of violence every time. It sounds like much more of a personal problem to me.
Much of the game activity centered on killing.
The more our
Or were, to start with.
On one occasion, we fought a powerful, evil queen.
We cast a spell
I mention this earlier, but it bears repeating: this was an action performed by Koehler and his friends. No rulebook told them to do this. It was an act of imaginary sadism dreamed up by no one else but the players themselves.
As crazy as it may sound, I'd even heard of other
It only sounds crazy because it is. For those who may be reading this who haven't heard me say this a thousand times already: The Center for Disease Control, Albert Einstien University, and Department of Suicidology have researched the possible connections between roleplaying and suicide, and found nothing.
Heresay makes for lousy journalism, Mr. Koelher. It's always best to get a good, solid source. But then again, you're not doing anything differently from a reporter for a real magazine or newspaper.
*Dave and Stan might not understand, but God does*,
I told myself.
For someone to refer to themselves as "stupid" indicates a possible self-esteem problem... which could answer a lot more questions than blaming a game for your feelings.
I went back to my room, feeling kind of queasy
from the withdrawals.
Withdrawals? Role-playing withdrawal? I've head it joked about, but never mentioned seriously.
It has been mentioned an enormous amount of times before, but bears repeating: NO RPG involves the actual casting of "real" spells or rituals. In most cases, and especially in the case of Dungeons & Dragons, there are "fantasy" type spells, like Fireballs and Teleports, that are used as tools to accomplish a task. However, these are described in game terms, and nothing more. Just as you cannot learn blacksmithing, horseback riding, or swordsmanship from playing D&D, you cannot learn how to cast "real" spells.
@ Does the game make
you dwell on evil things instead of good
This applies about as well as the violence issue... if you're dwelling on evil things, it's because of a personal problem, not because of a game.
@ Is the game filled
with violence, killing and "buckets of
See the Evil Levitating Pincushion Queen story, above.
@ Will the game tend
to take too much time away from other,
In the same way that playing sports, watching sports, watching television, shopping at the mall, or building toothpick suspension bridges will? Hobbies are a "pasttime"... sometimes they pass more time than they should. That doesn't make any of them a sinister pursuit.
Here is where we find the collection of "acceptable" alternatives, all written by Christian authors, of course.
@ THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
(a seven-book series) by C.S. Lewis.
Dragonraid was recently forced off of the market as the result of several Christian groups who found it to be too "New Age" for their liking. Author Dick Wulf posted the game for free on the internet for a short time, in an attempt to promote the game and sell what copies he had left. It will be very difficult to find it on a store shelf anywhere.
Oh... and it has combat in it. No fooling.
@ DRAGON KING TRILOGY
(a three-book series) by Stephen Lawhead.
Koehler leaves out a couple of fantasy works by Christian authors that are very popular... perhaps you've heard of them:
- a fellow known as J.R.R. Tolkien, who was a Christian and based many of his latter works on the Christian value system. He was the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, both of which did much to found the way that fantasy literature is written today.
- a born-again Christian who goes by the name David Arneson, who co-created a role-playing game called... brace yourself... Dungeons & Dragons!
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
In closing, I want to reiterate two points:
1. RPGs are what you make them. If someone with a copy of Dragonraid decided it would be a lot cooler to play the devils and demons, it wouldn't make the game evil. As the programming adage goes: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
2. RPGs require much in the way of imagination, intelligence, responsibility, and maturity. Persons lacking in any of these areas will obtain results similar to those found by Koehler and his friends. The violent manner in which they played shows a lack of imagination; playing obssessively for 25 hours straight shows a lack of responsibility (and possibly intelligence), and Koehler's attempt to blame a game for his own personal problems shows a lack of maturity.
Role-playing is not a hobby for everyone. It is easily abused, misused, and misunderstood by many people (which is why we have this article, supplied to us graciously by Focus On The Family). In the long run, it only hurts the people who enjoy the hobby, and just want to play a game.
William J. Walton, April 2nd, 1999.
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