Main > Resources > Stranger Than Fantasy: Anti-RPG Literature of the 80s and 90s

Stranger Than Fantasy 
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 warnings against role-playing games from the 1980s and 1990s - books, pamphlets, tracts, and more - were usually filled with incredible myths and downright fabrications 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 & Dragons are authentic occult rituals, or that RPGs are recruiting tools for Satanists and/or practitioners of witchcraft.

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.

And 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...

Jack Chick - 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 Dungeons player, becomes distraught when her thief character dies from a poison trap, and eventually kills herself when her cry for help goes unheard.

  • 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 "intense occult 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 and miniatures.

  • 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. 
Visit the Dark Dungeons page 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 Dragons (date 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 deceptive editing here. This booklet made an appearance on the 60 Minutes piece on Dungeons & Dragons 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) and Should a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons? (2001) Ex-Satanist, Catholic, Mormon, Mason, Alexandrian High Priest, and Vampire William Schnoebelen has all of the proof that he needs to show that D&D 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:
  • D&D 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 Dragons 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 with them."
Much of Should a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons? is 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!)

  • "Today 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.

  • Imagining 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 playing D&D, 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 one!)
But my favorite extraordinary claim of Schnoebelen's has to be this one:
  • "Contrary 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?

Richard White, Dungeons & Dragons: Adventure or Abomination?, 1986 - This was the pamphlet that the Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network would send to anyone who called their 800 number and asked about Dungeons & Dragons 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 D&D 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 opinion?)

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 -  A booklet of misconceptions and outright lies about D&D. Here's 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 appearance).

  • 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. Thus, D&D 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 more here). 

  • "...D&D 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 your workout."
If you feel you have the stomach for it, you can download and read this booklet in PDF format here.

Rebecca Brown, Prepare For War, 1987 - 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.

Mental 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 For War, 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"

  • The 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."

  • In 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 against the 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?)

  • "One 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.)

  • In 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 same reason.
You can read the "Game Doorways" chapter of Prepare For War here, and read more about Brown and her unusual life in this post from the Escapist Blog.

Tipper Gore, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society, 1987 - This 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.  But Gore couldn't help but make mention of Dungeons & Dragons when the subject turned to satanism and the occult:

"But 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."

Fun facts:
  • 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 Futurama that featured her father playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, and Stephen Hawking.

Texe 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 Hell, 1988 - A Chick Publications guide on Satan's "well planned destruction" of teenagers. Such a book would never be complete without a mention of Dungeons & Dragons, 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 by sports demons?)

  • Dungeons & 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."

  • D&D contains "authentic occult materials. Rituals, magic spells, charms, names of demons, etc. [are] all authentic."

  • "...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. You can read the chapter on D&D online at

author unknown - The Professional Occultist, 1988(?)
- Definitely the strangest book on this list, it was quoted by Baptist pastor Bill Waltz in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about a ban on Dungeons & Dragons 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 article. 

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 from Christianity began the day he first listened to a Kiss album, contains a chapter titled "Fantasy Role Playing Games: An Introduction to the Occult?"

Most of the material in that chapter is cribbed directly from Patricia Pulling's The Devil's Web (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!)

  • "The Advanced D&D Handbook informs us that life, freedom, truth, and the 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 pretty obvious to anyone that this is meant to describe the beliefs of evil characters, and not meant as a personal philosophy that anyone should adopt.)

Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, and Kurt Van Gorden, Kingdom of the Occult, 2008 - An impressive 700+ page tome of knowledge on most anything that can be considered occultic. Dungeons & Dragons only gets a very brief mention, but the claims are just as extraordinary as usual:
  • 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 deceit."