> Stranger Than Fantasy: Anti-RPG Literature of the 80s and 90s
Anti-RPG Literature of the 80s and 90s
In an interview for the documentary Über Goober
Michael Stackpole remarked that some of the claims of RPG
opponents are so
imaginative and outrageous that "they should be writing for us!" The
role-playing games from the 1980s and 1990s - books, pamphlets, tracts,
and more - were usually filled with incredible myths and downright
about the hobby and the people who play it.
Following is a sample of some of the publications that have
been a part
of the controversy over RPGs. Looking through them, you may find many
common themes - much of the anti-RPG literature from the early days
contained claims and cases that were copied and pasted from one book or
pamphlet to another. Most of them, for example, will claim that the
spells in Dungeons
are authentic occult rituals, or that
RPGs are recruiting tools for Satanists and/or practitioners of
But every now and again, you will find the
occasional statement that seems to come right out of the blue. For that
reason, I offer a word of warning before you begin -
it would be best to avoid eating or drinking while reading this page. I
cannot be held responsible for any monitor and/or keyboard
damage that may result.
if, while reading all of these, you happen to come up with any great
ideas for your next horror RPG campaign, I won't tell...
- Dark Dungeons, 1984
- Probably the most well-known anti-RPG publication of all. If you have
spent any amount of time on this website, then you are probably
familiar with this one, but here is a quick summary of the
extraordinary claims made in this little comic:
- Marcie, a Dark
player, becomes distraught when her thief character dies from a poison
trap, and eventually kills herself when her cry for help goes
- The gamemaster of Marcie's group, Miss
Frost, uses the game to
introduce her young players to witchcraft, and root out potential
candidates for her coven..
- Debbie, another player in the group, gains
training" by playing an RPG, and learns how to cast a "mind bondage"
spell that convinces her father to buy her $200 worth of D&D books
- After Marcie's suicide, Debbie begins to have
doubts about her involvement in the occult. She
gets help from a local pastor who helps remove her "spirits of the
occult" and warns the congregation against getting involved in
witchcraft and the occult. Then they put all of their roleplaying stuff
in a big pile, light it on fire, and dance around it.
for a full analysis of this tract, plus links
to the online version of the tract and other links.
Patricia Pulling, et al - Dungeons and
unknown, assumed to be around 1985)
- A booklet produced
by Pulling and company's group Bothered About
Dungeons & Dragons. Lots of out-of-context quoting and
editing here. This booklet made an appearance on the 60 Minutes
in 1985, so its date is assumed to be
that year or earlier.
You can read it in its entirety here on the site at this page
William Schnoebelen, Straight
Talk on Dungeons
and Dragons (1984)
Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons? (2001) -
Catholic, Mormon, Mason,
Alexandrian High Priest, and
Vampire William Schnoebelen has all of the proof that he needs to show
is bad for you, and he outlines all of it in these two articles written
for Chick Publications seventeen years apart:
From Straight Talk on
Dungeons and Dragons:
is a "feeding program for occultism and witchcraft."
- Two unnamed members of TSR's staff once visited
him while he lived in Michigan to "reality check" the spells in Dungeons & Dragons.
- People who play D&D are
neither sane nor decent: "...there is no doubt that Dungeons and
its imitators are right out of the pit of hell. No Christian or sane,
decent individual of whatever faith really should have anything to do
of Should a
Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?
devoted to Mike Stackpole - attempting to debunk his points, ignoring
his references and then pretending he doesn't supply any, and attacking
his personal character. But there are still a few crazy claims about
roleplaying that manage to get squeezed in:
- Playing Dungeons & Dragons
makes people more likely to use foul and abusive language when
defending the hobby, as evidenced by the anonymous emails that he has
recieved since writing the previous article.. (And since everyone else
on the internet is always polite and thoughtful when debating about
other subjects, this can only mean one thing!)
- The Dungeons
& Dragons movie was "spectacular." (Easily one of
his most ridiculous claims ever!)
shelves in major bookstores literally groan under the weight of various
of books (sic) on Wicca, for example." (Either those Wicca books are
pretty heavy, the shelves in those bookstores are pretty weak, or
Schnoebelen imagines groaning sounds whenever he enters a bookstore!)
- Playing D&D
is equally as dangerous as playing chicken
with cars, or Russian Roulette.
that your character is casting a spell is exactly the same thing as
casting a real "hermetic" spell (So please be careful where you aim
those fireballs and lightning bolts during your next game!).
- "Bink" Pulling's "lycanthropic tendencies" and
obsession with Adolf Hitler were actually the result of his
and not signs of any sort of pre-existing mental problems
(because Hitler isn't mentioned in any other books anywhere, and
learning the word "lycanthrope" from a book will instantly make you
think that you are
But my favorite extraordinary claim of Schnoebelen's has to be this one:
to the ramblings of D&D defenders like Michael Stackpole, the
Necronomicon and the Cthulhu mythos are quite real."
You can read the full articles for yourself at these links: Straight Talk
on Dungeons and Dragons
, Should a
Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?
Adventure or Abomination?, 1986 -
was the pamphlet that the Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting
Network would send to anyone who called their 800 number and asked
or other RPGs.
- "Charges that the game inspired occult-related
violence in a
macabre trail of suicides and murders convinced CBS to take the cartoon
off the air after three years. (A myth, possibly even a lie - the
series was cancelled due to declining viewership and increasing
animation costs, and CBS continued to run the cartoon in syndication
for several years after it was cancelled. That can hardly be considered
taking it off of the air.)
- "Intense lobbying by anti-D&D
critics proved effective when Mattel discontinued their popular
computer program games." (Another untruth, and possibly a deliberate
lie. Mattel's entire electronics division shut down in 1984 when the
video game industry took a nosedive. It had nothing to do with
"lobbying by anti-D&D critics.")
- "What is D&D? The answer depends on
whom you talk with." (So reality is based completely on individual
You can read this booklet in its entirety,
along with more of my commentary, here
Peter Leithart and George Grant - A Christian Response to Dungeons
& Dragons, 1987 -
misconceptions and outright lies about D&D.
what you will take away from this little manifesto:
- Adolf Hitler is described in
the Dungeon Master's
Guide as "exhibit(ing) true D&D charisma"
(a misinterpretation of a passage in the book explaining the difference
between charisma and physical
- Jesus Christ is listed as a D&D
deity, in an act of unspeakable blasphemy. (Completely untrue
- visit the Basic
Gaming FAQ for more on these two claims.)
- "Many of the spells, incantations, symbols, and
protective measures are genuine occultic techniques."
- "At the very least, anyone familiar with FRP
rule books is learning the terminology of witchcraft and Satanism."
- "By repetition and recitation, D&D enables
children to rehearse occultic basics in a fun, easy-to-learn fashion.
really is a catechism of occultism."
- "It is a recruiting tool for Satan."
- The statistics on teenage suicide are
"misinterpreted in the major media." (It's an inconvenient fact for
most '80s doomsayers that according to the American Department of
Suicidology, the teen suicide rate began to drop in 1980, and
continued on a downward trend through the entire decade - you can read
is the perfect game for the New Age '80s, providing the self-indulgent
escapism of drugs without the harmful physical effects. You can get a
kind of hallucinogenic high and still make it to the health club for
If you feel you have the stomach for it, you can download and
this booklet in PDF
Rebecca Brown, Prepare For
- Published by Chick Publications, this book is by a former doctor who
suffered a terrible downward spiral into obsessive insanity, claiming
that demons were posessing all of her patients, and overmedicating them
in an effort to cure them of their posession. Brown was diagnosed with
acute personality disorders that included paranoid schizophrenia and
lost her license to practice before she wrote this book.
disorders are nothing to be trivialized or laughed at. I want to make
that very clear before continuing. The claims she makes in her book are
a disturbing peek into the workings of her troubled mind.
In the "Game Doorways" chapter of Prepare
one can find the following claims:
- "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"
things we imagine while playing roleplaying games are real in the
spirit world. "What they think they are visualizing in their minds,
they are in actuality beginning to see in the spirit world."
2 Corinthians 10:35, the Bible tells us not to imagine things. (There
are only 18 verses in that chapter - it is likely a typo that should
read 10:3-5 - For
though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the
flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty
through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down
imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself
knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the
obedience of Christ.)
- "I do not know at what point the players become
infested with demons, but I have worked with many young people involved
in the games and I have yet to met anyone on the level of a game leader
who was not indwelt by demons and knew
it." (emphasis hers) "They will, of course, lie about
this." (So how does she know that they know it if they're lying?)
of the most coveted roles in these games is that of a cleric." (A silly
statement, since no one "covets" a role in an RPG - most gamers choose
whatever role they want to play. Also, in earlier editions of D&D,
clerics were usually the ones chosen last in gym class.)
an interview with a boy who admitted to being an "80th level cleric in
a roleplaying game," Brown discovers that he was afraid to leave his
current gaming group and start a new one of his own, because he was not
"qualified" to do so. When pressed, he says that he is afraid that his
"deity" (and not his character's?) would get angry if he did so - and
that a friend who recently committed suicide may have done so for the
You can read the "Game Doorways" chapter of Prepare For War here
and read more about Brown and her unusual life in this
from the Escapist Blog.
Tipper Gore, Raising
PG Kids in an X-Rated
Society, 1987 -
short book, written by the wife of Senator Albert Gore (who would later
become the Vice President of the United States), was mostly aimed at
the popular music of the 1980s and its effects on children.
Gore couldn't help but make mention of Dungeons & Dragons
when the subject turned to satanism and the occult:
like a cancer, satanism has come a long way since then, as heavy metal
groups capitalized on a growing fascination with the occult. From THE
EXORCIST to the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing game,
Americans chased one occult fad after another. The popular Dungeons and
Dragons game has sold eight million sets. The game is based on occultic
plots, images, and characters which players "become" as they play the
game. According to Mrs. Pulling, founder of the organization Bothered
About Dungeons and Dragons, the game has been linked to nearly fifty
teenage suicides and homicides. Pulling's own son killed himself in
1982 after becoming deeply involved in the game through his school's
gifted students programs. A fellow-player threatened him with a "death
curse," and he killed himself in response.”
The book also lists B.A.D.D.'s contact information in the section on
"Media Action and Resource Agency Directory."
- Bantam Books, the publisher of Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated
Society, is located at 666
Fifth Avenue in New York City. This infernal number is hidden on the
publishing info page of the book, just as it was hidden on so many of
the heavy metal albums that Tipper was warning parents about!
- Tipper and Al's daughter Kristin went on to
become a television screenwriter, and once wrote an episode of
that featured her father playing a game of
& Dragons with Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, and
Marrs, Ravaged by the
New Age, 1988 -
Texe Marrs' manifesto on the innumerable Satanic dangers that our
children face every day. Marrs warns us about the Smurfs, the Pound
Puppies, Mighty Mouse, My Little Pony, the "laser" combat game Photon,
poet and author Shel Silverstien, and anything with a peace symbol on
it. Oh and lest we forget, that most dangerous game, Dungeons & Dragons.
- "The ever-popular Dungeons & Dragons
fantasy role-playing game is ever-present in toy
stores and department stores. This game is
nothing more than an introduction to the occult. Fantasies the players
involve and indulge themselves in include murder, rape, arson, pillage
(sic), terrorism, brutal torture, etc."
- "Kids also take on the names of actual demons."
(Funny, I don't remember this rule in any rulebook...)
Rick Jones - Stairway to
A Chick Publications guide on Satan's "well planned destruction" of
teenagers. Such a book would never be complete without a
of Dungeons &
, and this one devotes an entire chapter to the
game. Some of the myths you will find here include:
- "Obsessed" is just a nice way of saying
"possessed." (So are obsessed sports fans are apparently possessed
& Dragons is a gateway that allows demons to enter
your body and control you, causing you to kill others or yourself.
"Literally millions of young people are unknowingly participating in
genuine occult practices and opening the doors for demons to enter
their bodies through this seemingly innocent game."
contains "authentic occult materials.
Rituals, magic spells, charms, names of demons, etc. [are] all
- "...a list of names of demons and devils that
were in a new D&D
book kept showing up in the Bible." (Check
some of the names of the nasties in any edition of the Monster Manual
versus the Holy Bible, and you'll find this to be completely untrue.)
- "Rapes, tortures, and untold other gruesome and
sick crimes have also been linked to D&D."
- A mention of the Sean Sellers anti-D&D
testimony that conveniently ignores his later statements that recant
the whole thing.
Though originally published in 1988, this book has seen many reprints
since then, and is almost always available from Chick's website. All of
the writing is hilariously melodramatic, and reminscent of Dana
Carvey's Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live.
can read the
chapter on D&D
online at http://www.chick.com/reading/books/204/0204_10.asp
unknown - The
Professional Occultist, 1988(?)
- Definitely the strangest book on this list, it was quoted
by Baptist pastor Bill Waltz in a Philadelphia Inquirer
about a ban on Dungeons
at a local high school. (You can read
the article for yourself here
Bill Waltz, a
pastor at Cinnaminson Baptist Church, told the board of a
book, The Professional Occultist, in which the author contended that
D&D was an ideal introduction to the occult.
The strangest thing about this book is that it seems to only exist in
the imagination of Pastor Waltz. No
such book exists in the Library of Congress database (which lists every
book published in the United States), and a Google search for the title
returns no reference to such a book, other than the one in this very
Charles G.B. Evans, Teens
and Devil Worship: What
Everyone Should Know, 1991 -
This book by Charles G.B. Evans, a former Satanist whose turn
Christianity began the day he first listened to a Kiss
album, contains a chapter titled "Fantasy Role Playing Games:
Introduction to the Occult?"
Most of the material in that chapter is cribbed directly from Patricia
Pulling's The Devil's
(which Evans calls "excellent"), so there isn't much
new here - but there are a couple of items of note:
- A quote by the Pullings from the Weekly World News
(the tabloid that, in the 80s and 90s, brought us stories on
aliens, Elvis, and the infamous Bat Boy!)
Advanced D&D Handbook informs us that life, freedom, truth, and
like are without value." (A convenient quote mine - this statement
actually comes from a description of the Lawful Evil alignment. The
statement even begins with "Creatures of this alignment ...", so it's
obvious to anyone that this is meant to describe the beliefs of evil
characters, and not meant as a personal philosophy that anyone should
Walter Martin, Jill Martin
Rische, and Kurt
Van Gorden, Kingdom
- An impressive 700+ page tome
of knowledge on most anything that can be considered occultic. Dungeons & Dragons
gets a very brief mention, but the claims are just as extraordinary as
- A case study is mentioned in which a woman
experiences strange phenomena once her husband begins playing Dungeons & Dragons
- her young daughters become withdrawn and begin talking about seeing
people in their bedrooms and the basement, and when the woman begins to
pray for protection in every room of the house, the windows began to
rattle loudly. The "analysis" includes the claim that "there is clearly
an exposure here to the occult" because of the game.
- "Sometimes the most deceptive occult products
come in the most innocent-looking packages, such as games like...
Dungeons & Dragons, and other fantasy role-playing games that
invoke powers, enchantments, or spells. ... Parents give these items as
gifts to their children; friends share them with other friends - all
without a moment's thought to the power (or consequences) of spiritual