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A Dispatch from the War on D&D

March 28, 2014


I came across this article the other day and re-posted it on my Tumblr site. It’s a great look back to the “bad old days” in the early 1980s when the “D&D is Demonic” fervor was at its height. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it.

I remember these days and the fervor. I grew up hearing about all the various means that one could get themselves involved in satanic worship. There was rock and roll (of course)–one need only join the KISS Army (Knights in Satan’s Service) to fight the good fight. Or even AC/DC (“Anti-Christ/Devil’s Children”). There was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. There was even the Smurfs. And, of course, Dungeons & Dragons. The satanic/suicide panic against the game grew so out of proportion that even the esteemed news magazine 60 Minutes seemed to take it seriously.

Though I hadn’t really started playing until the mid-to-late 80s (man, that was a while ago), I still came across the fear of the game in the small, rural, North Texas town where I found myself going to high school. I would hear and read about all the supposed satanism in the game we played, though those descriptions never matched the fun and imaginative game I was playing. When I was playing regularly, I found myself approached by a concerned relative who gave me a copy of The Devil’s Web by Pat Pulling, hoping that I would read it and realize the error of my ways and the danger surrounding my hobby. I heard so much about these supposed dangers that I used them as the topic of the research paper I wrote for my junior-year English class. My teacher even managed to secure me a copy of Dungeon magazine to use as a source–though, she cautioned me that “this didn’t mean I should start playing the game.” I simply smiled and said “I already do” and continued on my merry way. I also remember reading about the upcoming new edition of AD&D (what came to be knows as 2nd Edition), and being disappointed that TSR had compromised against the backlash by changing their “demons” into these other races. It felt like a sell-out to me, a defeat against the onslaught of crazy.

Throughout the scare, my mom never voiced a single concern about me. She knew that I was a bright, relatively well-adjusted, teen with a vivid imagination. I had spent my entire childhood concocting adventures to play in and this was just a continuation of that. She trusted me. That is something that I’ll always appreciate and treasure.

And now we find ourselves in the Era of the Geek. Many of the things that I loved, and still love, things that cemented my identity as a “geek” and an outsider, are now mainstream culture. The satanic fever dreams of the 80s are now seen as the mob-induced panic attacks that they were. And, of all things, the grandfather of all RPGs is now produced by a multi-million dollar toy company. The game has thrived and is forty-years strong. It’s kind of a heady feeling. And a hobby that I am still proud to be a part of.

From → Ramblings

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