The more I play D&D, the more I want to get away from this world.
March 22, 2014 10:45 AM   Subscribe

"What had fallen into my hot little hands was none other than one of the booklets that Patricia Pulling and her fellow members of Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons would hand out to people - police, pastors, parents, teachers, and librarians - to help 'educate' them about this terrible 'danger.' It was a crowning jewel to any collection of anti-RPG propaganda."
posted by griphus (86 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

OMG. Best of the web indeed!

I am currently teaching a class on game theory where we go from the kind of mathematical modeling of decisions through strategic interactions and on to D&D and the narrative gaming revolution. This IS AWESOME.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:49 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

I don't remember if it was this anti-D&D pamphlet in particular, but I do remember that some anti-D&D pamphlet prompted the pre-teen me to write a letter attempting to impersonate a Big Time Businessman to the group that produced the pamphlet, threatening to withdraw all of "our funding" from the group. Handwritten, in pre-teen handwriting.

D&D is still around. You are all welcome.
posted by Flunkie at 10:52 AM on March 22 [44 favorites]

This looks like the stupid crap that convinced my Mother that what I was doing was evil. Great find though.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:54 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]

*Notes the cover design does not look at all satanic.*
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:58 AM on March 22

Wow, that was painful just reading the commentary. I remember when my mother was proud of not falling for this kind of crap. Low hurdle, mom.
posted by immlass at 11:03 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

Cool dragon on the cover.
posted by glhaynes at 11:13 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

In the late 80s I attended a meeting of some religious group that demonstrated the horrors of Satanic backmasking. (We were bored, and hey, free Zep)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:14 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Oh man my Mother may still actually think this is real. Like I'm in my thirties and I'm pretty sure she still would be upset to know I played D&D.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:17 AM on March 22 [12 favorites]

I'm surprised the goodwife misquotation didn't result in a libel case.
posted by jaduncan at 11:17 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Low hurdle, mom.

Still an important one, I think. I'm pretty proud to say that growing up during the whole D&D satanism scare is one of the most important influences on my own parenting decisions.
posted by mhoye at 11:20 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]

In an interview for that story Mrs. Pulled redefined “Satanic worship” as “occult” and said it included “dabbling in witchcraft and such New Age activities as channeling.” She went on to say that she had gotten the 8% figure by “estimating 4 percent of the area’s teenagers, and 4 percent of the adults, were involved. She added the figures.”[24]

The reporter informed her that mathematically that amounted to 4% of the total population, but she said it didn’t matter because 8 percent – roughly one out of every dozen citizens – was probably “conservative” anyway. She went on to add that some of the bodies from unexplained homicides across the country actually may be Satanic sacrifice victims. “They certainly have found a number of unsolved murders with no motive, haven’t they?
I feel we have found the critical reasoning equivalent of Vogon poetry.
posted by jaduncan at 11:28 AM on March 22 [54 favorites]

True story: the first time I ever played D&D it was a charity event run by a couple of grade six classmates. They called it "D&D For Ethiopia." They must have raised upwards of five bucks, so I will have you know D&D can be a force for good as well as evil!
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:29 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

Bullshit like this is why my wife's father forbade her watching Smurfs, and why for a time he refused to get a Sam's Club membership and car insurance, because both required you to be issued a number.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:30 AM on March 22 [8 favorites]

Zombie Orpheus is now making a Dark Dungeons movie based on those Satanic panic comic strips. Given ZOE's gaming enthusiasm (a defining trait), it promises to be hilarious.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:31 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

The Dark Dungeons movie was an FPP this week, guys. Guess this is D&D Hysteria Week on Metafilter?
posted by emjaybee at 11:41 AM on March 22

Oh and my dad forbade me from D&D, but I'm pretty sure he didn't read any pamphlets; he just saw me carrying that one player's handbook with the demon on the front and freaked the fuck out. Things that also freaked him out: mini-skirts (in the 80s!), neon colors (no idea why), lacy stuff (looks like Madonna!), and electric guitars (Satanic! probably!).

Which makes me wonder if this pamphlet wasn't overkill. I think the people likely to be swayed by arguments about demons only need a little push, if they're anything like my dad. Just quote a Bible verse that might vaguely support your premise, invoke the fear of an angry God sending your precious child to Hell, and you're all set.
posted by emjaybee at 11:45 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


This statement in the pamphlet is attributed to one Kelly Jean Poppleton (deceased), who "was slain two days after this statement. Involved in drugs."
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:50 AM on March 22

If I had been into D&D as a kid (I didn't know the right people until later) I expect I would have been scolded by my mother for misplacing her nice crystals.

Which happened anyway, because I double dog dare you to give a ten year old access to a bunch of pretty shiny rocks and not have them wander off.
posted by cmyk at 11:56 AM on March 22

While my parents mostly didn't seem to go in for Satanic Panic, they did worry when I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism. I think I might have said "medieval" and that prompted them to ask if it involved devil worship. >_<
posted by Foosnark at 12:17 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]

Jesus. When I was a kid the only thing my dad could find to freak out about was the blurb on the inside of Jethro Tull's Aqualung (something about it being necessary to create God in Man's image...). Luckily, he never did find out who puked all over the lawnmower.
posted by sneebler at 12:24 PM on March 22

Luckily, he never did find out who puked all over the lawnmower.

Ian Anderson.
posted by griphus at 12:34 PM on March 22 [17 favorites]

I think I might have said "medieval" and that prompted them to ask if it involved devil worship.

People have forgotten about the threat of creeping Catharism over the last several hundred, but they've only grown stronger in their ties to Satan since they all got killed in that crusade. And then there's the Waldensians. And the Bogomils. Danger abounds!
posted by Copronymus at 1:16 PM on March 22 [7 favorites]

Metafilter: The more you play, the more you want to get away from this world.
posted by rlio at 1:33 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

The intense occult training through D&D prepared Debbie to accept the invitation to join a witches' coven.

The thing that would have stood out in the Chick pamphlet to my teenage self was that Debbie got $200 out of her father after her first lesson in magic. Just one lesson! Imagine what you could do after a few weeks...
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:40 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]

I confess I don't understand this whole worshiping Satan business. I mean, he's only AC -6, and 295 Hit Points- he's really kind of a wimp. Better to worship Orcus, or someone totally Metal like Thor.
posted by happyroach at 1:43 PM on March 22 [18 favorites]

Not only did my parents not think it was satanic, they encouraged my fledgling gaming group. I still get a tad misty when I think of that Wizard costume Mom made me from the front of the old AD&D rulebook when I was a kid, she put like a week into it.
posted by Sphinx at 1:44 PM on March 22 [6 favorites]

I'm sure your mother had good intentions, Sphinx, but look what happened: You grew up and took the name of a half-human half-beast demon whose name means "Strangler".
posted by Flunkie at 1:50 PM on March 22 [9 favorites]

This is so ridiculous. There was nothing evil about D&D before 4e.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:51 PM on March 22 [27 favorites]

What a strange period that was. There was a whole industry of "experts" selling Satanic gang worship seminars to law enforcement, by the time this peaked.
posted by thelonius at 1:52 PM on March 22 [5 favorites]

I feel we have found the critical reasoning equivalent of Vogon poetry.

Vogon, hell. I'd wager even money her maiden name was Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:54 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]

When I taught high school for a brief period I was the faculty sponsor for the D&D club. I would like to apologize to all those fine students for the three times I got a swathe of them killed before they decided that it would be best to play my character for me. I could always be counted on to make the worst possible choice in any situation.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:56 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]

I'm wondering now if there's a role-playing game about satanic conspiracies like this, where you have to keep kids safe by fighting all the satanic imagery of various games and toys and music. Character classes might include school-board member, preacher, concerned parent, police officer.
posted by RobotHero at 2:13 PM on March 22 [21 favorites]

My parents had their flaws, but their reaction to people who thought gaming was Satanic could best be summed up by the word "Morons."

I was left to game in peace.
posted by kyrademon at 2:32 PM on March 22

I'm wondering now if there's a role-playing game about satanic conspiracies like this, where you have to keep kids safe by fighting all the satanic imagery of various games and toys and music. Character classes might include school-board member, preacher, concerned parent, police officer.

Or a party game! We could call it SATANTIC PANIC and you have to finger one of the players as the "head" of the SATANTIC cult and if you're wrong you loose the game and it's all built around interviews and rolls oh god let's invent this right the fuck now.
posted by The Whelk at 2:46 PM on March 22 [5 favorites]

There was a whole industry of "experts" selling Satanic gang worship seminars to law enforcement, by the time this peaked.

Oh I think pretty much the same thing is going on with the pedophile panic and happened a few years back with the "experts" on Islamic terrorism that were giving all those seminars to cops.

An acquaintance of mine is an "expert", as in he's interviews on shows as an expert, that's pretty much his byline, etc. He got it because he just started calling himself an "expert" and promoting that as his title, issuing press releases and talking to press as an expert, and it snowballed until he's now a big-name expert that gets interviewed on national news and has bylined columns in several major outlets.

What's important is he didn't do anything. He didn't have any training or experience in the field, but he always had releases out there and he gave good quotes, so he eventually got pieces citing him as an expert that he then used to promote himself as an expert, thus giving him more quotes. It was pretty impressive to watch and nobody has ever done a background check on him to verify it. And by this point if you did, you'd just find a decade of pieces promoting him as an expert.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:53 PM on March 22 [18 favorites]

We could call it SATANTIC PANIC and you have to finger one of the players as the "head" of the SATANTIC cult and if you're wrong you loose the game and it's all built around interviews and rolls oh god let's invent this right the fuck now.

We could just adapt Mafia.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:54 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Yes let's create a version of it yes we are doing this now.
posted by The Whelk at 2:58 PM on March 22

When I was first getting into D&D (early 80s small-city Kansas), the only place in town that sold D&D stuff was a small craft store. The owners never looked happy about the RPG part of their business, and they must have bought into the Satanic panic, because one day I showed up with chore money only to find they'd taken all the RPG books off the shelves and put up a sign about how it was proven that D&D had a Satanic influence so they wouldn't be selling it anymore. After that, the nearest game store was an hour away in Wichita, which I couldn't just bike to after school.

(The only place that had computer games was ComputerLand. They often had games up and running that they'd let kids sit down and play. I remember the box for Suspended intimidating me a little. About the same time that the hobby store stopped selling D&D stuff, the ComputerLand died and came back as "Businessland" which to 6th grade me was Orwellian. Asking about games there got looks of smug amusement.

(The town was also getting a mall at this time. The downtown businesses were starting to freak out, putting solidarity campaign stickers in their windows, fixing up the street lights, etc. I didn't like the mall because the older kids were there; but my tween heart was steely cold to the plight of downtown.))

Or a party game! We could call it SATANTIC PANIC and you have to finger one of the players as the "head" of the SATANTIC cult and if you're wrong you loose the game and it's all built around interviews and rolls oh god let's invent this right the fuck now.

As a boardgame, I'd call it Battlestar Agricola.

Though I wonder how many religious wacko parody modules/variants were published in zines, or rejected Dragon, back in the day.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:02 PM on March 22 [5 favorites]

oh god let's invent this right the fuck now.

Some part of me does hope we can incorporate a mechanic where each game you have to bring in a toy or album cover and certain actions in the game require that you discover a new symbol on it like a pentagram if you connect five things or numbers can be converted into 666.

The idea that one or more players are secret satanists is tempting as well, but I'm less sure it's necessary to this. I think if there's a satanist player, they're obviously the satanic game developer/ toy manufacturer, or whatever the other players need to stop. And so their identity will be obvious to the other players, even if there are a lot of NPCs that are blind to the Incontrovertible Proof.
posted by RobotHero at 3:46 PM on March 22

D&D is certainly still around; just watch the latest episode of Community. (Link may not work outside USA).

"I have a moment of silence for my fallen comrade, Crouton."
posted by spinifex23 at 3:52 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]

Maybe it should be more like Pandemic, where the influence of satantism spreads throughout the population of a small town. Gaining control over the police, school board, and church are crucial. Satantic games and toys are an effective vector to spread satantism to the kids.
posted by RobotHero at 3:55 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Your town is now 45 7% Satanist, you have evolved YOGA CLASS FRONT and the BUT IT'S JUST A GAME modifier.
posted by The Whelk at 3:58 PM on March 22 [12 favorites]

You know, I kind of wish back in the day my mother had a religious freakout about D&D.

She knew very well they were just harmless games, but really, the players were so fat, she worried for their health. Instead of sitting around wasting time on something silly, they should have been out doing useful things like getting exercise, or marching for nuclear disarmament, or running a soup kitchen, or working in her garden, or throwing a cocktail party for the local arts crowd...or anything besides making noise and mess in her living room.

Honestly, atheistic liberal parents can be as bad for gamers as religious parents.
posted by happyroach at 5:04 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]

This is definitely something my mom would have seen on Sally Jesse Raphael
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:15 PM on March 22

This thread gave me the most intense feeling of deja vu ever, and I have no idea why. I think it's time to get off the internet.
posted by The Confessor at 5:29 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

You've got stacks of cards representing different people in the town, like teachers, members of the school board, librarians, local business, or something and actions they can take. At the start of the game, you have to set up a deck for each person, so a school board member stack and the librarian stack can each have a BAN THIS BOOK action card, but then the school board stack also shares some actions with the teacher stack. Then, somehow (maybe everyone has to leave the room temporarily and each player is given a short time with the board alone,) the satanist player is given a chance to replace a couple of the stacks with satanist cards.

Every round, each player makes an appeal to one member of the community, which involves taking a card from that person's stack and placing it face down in a round-play stack. Then the round-play stack is shuffled, and those cards are turned face up one at a time. So the satanist player will want to pull from the stacks of satanist characters, but do so in a way that keeps their identity a secret, so other people won't identify which stacks are satanist, or which player is trying to get them to pull from satanist card stacks.

This is where it's crucial the fact that every type of action can come from two or more possible characters, but not all possible characters. If this turn they pulled from a teacher pile and a school board pile and a librarian pile, and one of those three is a satanist, it can't be immediately certain which one it is.

There are also tokens or something to represent children that can have three states. They are
1 completely innocent,
2 fans of the game but unaware of its satanic aspect
3 full on converted to satanism.

The action cards from the non-satanists have ways to convert some of the students from 2 to 1, and the satanist cards will convert some of the 1 to 2 or 2 to 3. I'm picturing all the students on a grid, and a lot of the card actions have things like, "Every student with two or more satanist neighbours becomes a satanist," or "every gamer student without a gamer neighbour to the north or south abandons the game." There could also be groups within the students like the football team or the a.v. club and cards that apply only to those groups.

The satanist player would have a goal of reaching some threshold of students converted to satanism, and the others would have the goal of identifying the satanist player and the satanist members of the town.
posted by RobotHero at 5:32 PM on March 22 [16 favorites]

"a real fanasty world where their ethics become situational and their traditional values are erroded."

Her spelling is Satanic.

I remember D&D being much more related to being a nerd than a devil worshiper. I used to play with my friend Howard (6 feet 6, 140 pounds), he was a cleric named Omigod.

Good times.
posted by crazylegs at 5:48 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

The other approach is there are no secret satanist players, you're really competing with the other players to be declared the top "expert" in satanism.
posted by RobotHero at 5:48 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]

Oh, this is awesome.
I remember my own parents being a little wary of buying me the Basic D&D set way back when. And they did.
Somewhere around I have a Psychology Today article on D&D. Damned if I can remember its conclusions.
posted by Mezentian at 6:32 PM on March 22

Damnit. The PT article is linked. Internet, you have everything!
posted by Mezentian at 6:38 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

This is so amusing because even my parent-friends who think D&D is terminally dorky and have never played it themselves think it is GOOD FOR KIDS. Math! Reading! Storytelling! Group cooperation! Not on a screen!

Seriously even the ones who think adults who still play it must live in their parents' basements think it's a wholesome, educational activity for children.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:57 PM on March 22

You guys know there's already a roleplaying game that takes the Satanic Panic at face value, Kill Puppies For Satan (PDF link).
posted by JHarris at 7:00 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]

You guys know there's already a roleplaying game that takes the Satanic Panic at face value

I kind of figured there'd be something, but this was very difficult to Google for some reason.
posted by RobotHero at 7:12 PM on March 22

My parents were pretty low-key about my teenaged D&D years. My mom undertook to read the Player's Handbook so she had some idea about what I was doing every Friday night, but Gygax's prose had the effect it so often does and she handed it back with a shrug. My dad jumped in with more of a splash and rolled up a character. His gnome thief, Flem by name, started out in the Village of Hommlet but fell prey to those blasted frogs at the moathouse. So it goes.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:18 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

I wasn't much of a gamer as a kid because I was a Huge Coward and got attached to my characters. Guys! Guys! Let's just stay here again and see what happens, okay, guys?

Mainly, though, I am deeply underwhelmed by the rhetorical choice made in the name "'Bothered' about Dungeons and Dragons".

"Bothered"? If I really thought D&D was sending my kids to hell, and I had kids, and stuff, I think I would be a lot more than bothered.

posted by allthinky at 7:39 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]

MADD was already taken.
posted by ymgve at 8:26 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Extremely Galled About Dungeons and Dragons
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:35 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]

I alway feel a twinge of sadness when I read about Pulling. I mean, her son kills himself, she's angry at the universe. She's grasping for answers and all that comes up is this weird game he played. And that's what she goes after. It makes me sad to see this pointless crusade to convince people that D&D is bad. I always wished she could have channeled her grief elsewhere. If that's what she was doing.

D&D made me a couple of friends and brought me a lot of good times.
posted by hot_monster at 9:03 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]

My stepfather accused HeroQuest of being Satanic. Also Nobilis, though that one at least does technically involve blasphemy about canonical actual demons and angels.

Mind you, he also accused us of being involved in Satanic activities when we were sitting around playing Blokus, so...
posted by Scattercat at 10:28 PM on March 22

I always liked that line in kill puppies for satan about how having a sense of humor is a way of coping with being wrong, stupid, and weak, and hence, God hasn't got one. Conversely, the worst thing that could possibly happen to Satan already happened, so he's for the most part not the most uptight person, but hoo boy don't bring that one thing up.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:05 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]

> "Also Nobilis, though that one at least does technically involve blasphemy about canonical actual demons and angels. "

Eh, sort of. I mean, it's not In Nomine or anything.
posted by kyrademon at 3:34 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]

When I was about 12 I played D&D with some friends for maybe a year. My grandmother still seeks to reassure herself, 22 years later, that I have stopped playing "that awful game". Until now, I didn't know what she could have possibly heard about it, but I think this must have been it. Her paranoia is such that I can't even tell her I spent a night playing cards with my friends.
posted by chrillsicka at 5:56 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]

Man, now I know why I couldn't ever get into D&D. All those spells...too much effort.

Give me Call of Cthulhu any day. "What's that? It's indescribable. Yep."
posted by Katemonkey at 8:59 AM on March 23

I held Pat Pulling in contempt for years, because her claims were so ridiculous, yet so many well-meaning people fell for them.

Then I learned that her son Bink Pulling killed himself using her loaded gun. After that, I could only feel sorry for her. I'm not qualified to make a mental diagnosis by any stretch of the imagination, but it always seemed to me that Pulling had a visceral need to blame someone for Bink's death, and D&D fit the bill.

I'm sure Pat Pulling thought it couldn't be the fact that she owned a gun and kept it loaded and in her house--the culture of the community she was (Richmond, VA) likely took the Good Ol' Boy position that sees gun ownership as right, true, and the fundamental right of every American. I'm sure she thought it couldn't be Bink's emotional issues, because mental illness is heavily stigmatized and she was telling people that Bink was a happy, well-adjusted kid.

It had to be D&D. Pat Pulling reportedly didn't know her son played until the police asked about it, so that was sprung on her at the worst possible time. And let's face it: the early editions of the game had some artwork that could be seen as a little excessive by reasonable people, even reasonable people that play D&D. I imagine a quick skim of the material left Pulling confused and frightened. I imagine learning about James Dallas Egbert made that even worse. I also suspect losing her court case against the school where Bink played D&D simply solidified her belief that evil forces were at work on behalf of the game.

In the end, going after D&D was Pat Pulling's only choice. Because she couldn't blame Bink, she couldn't blame herself, and the court's threw out her case against Bink's school.

I wish she had turned her energy towards gun control, or mental health in teens. But Pat Pulling wasn't an expert in those areas. With D&D still being relatively unknown, she had a chance to position herself as the leading voice against the evil forces she believed killed her son. So that's what she did.

I used to be angry and contemptuous of Patricia Pulling. Now whenever I think of her, I just feel sad. For her and for Bink.

I didn't start playing D&D until late in high school, and started playing regularly in college (this was the late '80s). I made the decision to tell my mom, and I was nervous because our house ran moderate-to-conservative Christian. But all Mom did was thank me for telling her, and added "Just be careful who you play with. Some people who play the game seem to have some real problems."

This was the single best advice I ever received about the RPG hobby. Because Mom was right--the overwhelming number of people who play D&D or other tabletop RPGs are just fine. But a handful of people that I've run across over the years? They ultimately were using D&D (or another RPG) instead of therapy to deal with something wrong in their lives. That puts the gamemaster and the other players in the uncomfortable (and extremely untrained!) position of acting in an unwitting therapeutic capacity. That has the potential to cause great harm to all involved.

D&D never, ever causes anyone to commit suicide or pursue Satanism. But I'm convinced it can be awfully attractive to someone looking to escape emotional misery, or who feels powerless in his life. This is true for a lot of hobbies, of course, but I'm not sure that the whole leaving-yourself-behind-and-directly-putting-on-another-persona part of roleplaying is really replicated anywhere outside of video games and acting.

After an incident involving a player in my group who attempted suicide, I made sure my mom knew who I played with, and how to contact their parents (which, incidentally, confirmed to her beyond any doubt that the game was completely harmless). And to this day, I'm careful who I play any RPG with on a regular basis. I find out about their lives--what else do they do with their free time beside game? What relationships are they in, or have they been in? What are their likes and dislikes? Heck, I've found that the question "Tell me about your favorite character" can reveal a lot about a person.

I love D&D. Tabletop RPGs are still a big hobby of mine--hell, I do a podcast on them! But I can't be entirely unsympathetic to the concerns of anyone who's unfamiliar with D&D and concerned about someone playing. I tell them, "If your kid/spouse/whomever is a mentally and emotionally stable person, there will be no problem. If she's not? There could be. But there could also be a problem if she's unstable and playing video games, or cheering for the Seattle Seahawks, or knitting, or rock climbing, or blogging. The problem is her mental and emotional state, not her hobby."
posted by magstheaxe at 9:11 AM on March 23 [10 favorites]

How different the world was before the rise of the [citation needed] internet culture. I was a teen/young adult that played RPGs during the Satanic Panic '80s and thankfully my parents were level headed about D&D etc... Hell, my mom even bought me the D&D Basic Set ('81 revision) for Christmas one year. Of course D&D led me to a local occult bookstore where I began to collect the works of Aleister Crowley and began to live my life according to "Liber AL Vel Legis" but how was Mom to know that? Disclaimer: Some of this post may not be exactly true...
posted by MikeMc at 9:22 AM on March 23

Give me Call of Cthulhu any day.

Always wanted to try it. Some people in college played. The saving roll against insanity alone seems to justify the game's existence, even before the cool character types you can use.
posted by thelonius at 9:23 AM on March 23

I haven't run a game since last year - my last regular gaming sessions fell apart around Christmas - but I owe a lot to roleplaying games.

I've been surviving as a writer for about a year now. I don't make much money, (I could do a lot better if I dusted off my degree and put on a tie), but for the first time in my life, I truly feel free.

I learned many of the necessary skills for that by running games like D&D, (although *not* D&D when I could talk my friends into something better). Plotting, characterization, keeping track of the agendas of multiple parties, figuring out how to give an audience enough clues to follow a mystery... Having to improvise long form fiction in front of your nerdiest, most nitpicky friends makes writing stories at a word processor feel almost too easy.

Dungeon Mastering was like Toastmasters, but for composing novels instead of speeches.
posted by mordax at 11:41 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]

I've never played Call of Cthulhu, and never even read the rulebooks or anything like that, so my impression of it is just based on bits and pieces I've heard or read from people about it. In my mind, Call of Cthulhu is like this:

"I open the door."

"Behind it is an eldritch horror! It's indescribable! Roll against sanity!"

"OK... made it!"

"OK, you're still sane. Before you can react, the eldritch horror does something eldritch and indescribable! Roll against sanity!"

"OK... made it!"

"OK, you're still sane. The indescribable eldritch horror is there, being indescribably horrible."

"I shut the door!"

"An indescribable pseudopod from the indescribable eldritch horror indescribably sticks out into the doorway! You can't close the door! Roll against sanity!"

"OK... made it!"

"OK, you're still sane. The eldritch horror indescribably horribly oozes through the door opening, in an eldritch manner! Roll against sanity!"

"OK... failed!"

"YOU'RE INSANE! Game over!"
posted by Flunkie at 12:43 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]

Flunkie, that's about right, but our group always had more illegal drinking (since we were based in 1920s New York) and explosives.

So it was more:
"Indescribable eldritch horror! Roll for sanity!"
"I take a drink first!"
"Doesn't help! Roll!"
"Made it! I get out my dynamite!"
"It explodes and covers you in indescribable gore! Roll for sanity!"
"Another drink!"
"Still roll!"
"Pass! And I drink again!"
"Oh my god, where are you getting this booze?"
"I know guys!"
posted by Katemonkey at 1:10 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]

On Call of Cthulhu:

Insanity isn't the end of the game in Call of Cthulhu, not by a long shot, there's a whole chapter in the rulebook about insanity and its effects. The game only really ends for an insane character if their Sanity score reaches 0, and even then a graceful exit to a sanitarium, probably for the rest of the character's life, is possible. Characters can go insane long before Sanity reaches 0 though; that score is more a measure of overall mental stability, the less you have, the more likely insanity is to occur.

I ran a CoC game for some MeFites some time ago, on a message board Edogy set up (whose account is, sadly, disabled -- that happens a lot for some reason). I think to read the game's transcript requires registration though, and if you ever want to play you shouldn't read it anyway, because we did the all-time classic starter scenario "The Haunting," which is legendary for being nearly everyone's first exposure to the game and for being included in every edition of the rules since the first.

One way to play the game, in fact, is not very far at all from True Detective; the game doesn't actually demand that anything supernatural occur, just allusion to it is enough and can test sanity, and all that stuff about the King In Yellow is solidly a part of Call of Cthulhu, the King In Yellow and Hastur have stats in the book and there is a very well-regarded campaign called Tatters of the King.
posted by JHarris at 2:07 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]

(I'll chime in more later, gotta run to work.)
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on March 23

Another thing about Call of Cthulhu is that it was the first roleplaying game to really handle a historical period well. You could easily discard all the supernatural stuff and play it as just a game about the 1920s, there's plenty of adventure to be had in that setting by itself, especially in traveling to strange foreign places and fighting the mob. There are tons of well-researched sourcebooks for all kinds of places, and it's usually pretty easy to tell the realistic stuff from the squamous monstrosities bubbling up from below.
posted by JHarris at 2:20 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]

fighting the mob

Myrmidon Corleone
posted by thelonius at 4:25 PM on March 23

Myrmidon Corleone

Carcosa Nostra
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:03 PM on March 23 [4 favorites]

While I realize that this thread is no longer being read by anyone, I just have to give props to my dad. I'm just the right age where all of this D&D-bashing should have been a problem (born in the early 70s), but I actually learned about D&D by leafing through my dad's Dungeon Master's Guide, Player's Handbook, and Monster Manual. Not only did I not have to buy any manuals (just modules), but he also let me use his dice.
posted by Bugbread at 4:51 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]

I'm still readin' it! Thanks, Recent Activity link! And thanks, Bugbread's dad, for being great.
posted by JHarris at 4:53 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]

I had a youth pastor who listened to metal and played D&D. That guy was personally responsible for my life being substantially better in the 90's.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:50 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I was the other Keeper on the Edogy board until things ran out of steam. Fun time, nonetheless!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:51 PM on March 24

Myrmidon Corleone

Carcosa Nostra

The Podfather.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:09 PM on March 27

The pseudopodfather.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:57 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]

I assume he leaves the head of one of the 1,000 young in your bed when he wants to send a message? Or just eats you.
posted by Mezentian at 11:06 PM on March 29

He's gonna make you an offer you can't comprehend.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:11 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]

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