The most perfidious thing about Dungeons and Dragons is ...
November 11, 2014 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Boing Boing looks back on the truth behind the D&D Steam Tunnel tragedy Jason Louv writes for BoingBoing and outlines the truth behind the tabloid sensationalism of the D&D Steam Tunnel tragedy and what really happened to James Dallas. Note - it's far more complicated and tragic than was reported at the time.

Controversies surrounding the pen and paper role playing game of D&D are as old as the game itself.

Chick Tracts are mini Evangelical Christian comics which dedicated an entire mini series to them. The Dark Dungeons series was so well known (and derided) amongst gamers that it was developed as a crowd-sourced fan film. It is debatable how (if at all) tongue-in-cheek the movie actually is.

The most famous D&D-will-harm-your-children narrative is the one surrounding James Dallas Egbert III. James Dallas's own LARP (Live Action Role Playing) misfortunes were turned into the film Monsters and Mazes starring a (then unknown) young Tom Hanks.

Chick Tracks have been mentioned previously on Metafilter:
- In the great movie tradition of Tom Hanks' Mazes and Monsters
- High Weirdness By Mail
- Deceivers yet true
- Moral panic and pop-culture for kids
- NOTHING ELSE CAN SAVE YOU. TRUST ENTHEOGENS TODAY!
- Jack Chick weighs in on September 11th.

With over 100 posts that mention Dungeons & Dragons, D&D has a few previously on's as well ..
posted by Faintdreams (82 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
(the two above the fold links are the same - not sure if this is on purpose.)
posted by maryr at 8:07 AM on November 11, 2014


In the late 80s, I was actually given a Chick tract by someone at Rice. Pretty sure it was Dark Dungeons, too. (Yes, I played.)
posted by immlass at 8:16 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


"D&D PLAYERS DON'T GET LAID LOL" is roleplaying articles' version of "Comics Aren't Just for Kids Anymore".
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:19 AM on November 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


Little did parents understand that Dungeons and Dragons would both successfully drive a wall between their kids and anything cool, like sex and drugs, it would also train them to be productive suits in later life. Birth control and corporate training in one game!

Not that some of them didn't try.
posted by delfin at 8:22 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


The post could probably use tags both for James Dallas Egbert III and William Dear, the author of the book The Dungeon Master, which I read while I myself was in college (and, although pitying Egbert, also envied him a little because he'd at least made contact with the other nerds at his school, which I never really managed to do). These days, Dear is probably more notorious for his theory that the Brentwood murders were committed not by O.J. Simpson but by his son Jason, and that the elder Simpson covered them up. It's also worth noting that the case partially inspired Neal Stephenson's first book.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:24 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


My parents actually refused to let me play D&D in the late eighties because it might lead me down "dark paths" and then said something about it eroding your ability to tell reality from fantasy. Knowing my parents, I am dead sure that they remembered this case and that's what they were thinking about - they never forget stuff like that. In my own situation, it was pretty dismaying because D&D was one social milieu where I might have found some friends at an otherwise really awful and actually, literally friendless point in my life.

But that poor kid.

Eerie. I too was basically miserable because I was a too-intelligent weirdo and queer with it. I don't like to think what would have happened if I'd actually had access to anything which which I knew I could overdose. My parents were so anxious that I not end up thinking that, like, dragons were real that they ended up being completely cool with the fact that I was horribly depressed and isolated and obviously doing badly - at everything except academics! - for years.
posted by Frowner at 8:24 AM on November 11, 2014 [20 favorites]


I am playing a Hackmaster campaign at the moment. It is a lot of fun. That is all.
posted by Nevin at 8:25 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, I so wish that someone could send a copy of F.A.T.A.L. to those morally panicked about D&D back then. ROLL FOR ANAL CIRCUMFERENCE!
posted by delfin at 8:28 AM on November 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


"D&D PLAYERS DON'T GET LAID LOL" is roleplaying articles' version of "Comics Aren't Just for Kids Anymore".

It was nothing like that, penis breath!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:28 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've received over 65,536 copies of the Dark Dungeons over the years. Damned if I know why. Maybe it's the hair, but I'm a long-haired metalhead, not a D&D player. (Besides, I prefer Shin Megami Tensei.)
posted by starbreaker at 8:29 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Amazing that it's taken over 30 years for the full story to rise to the surface. I remember hearing about this case during my collegiate gaming-club days, but only in an urban-legend context. I didn't know it had any basis in fact, let alone that the story was kind of a microcosm of modern teen alienation.

And for the record, if it wasn't for role playing games, I probably wouldn't have gotten laid at all in college. So there.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:30 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's utterly sadistic, delfin. I like it.
posted by starbreaker at 8:30 AM on November 11, 2014


A THACO joke. There's a sort of nerd one-upmanship, based in revealing more and more arcane nerd knowledge, and THACO always seems to be the trump card.
posted by maxsparber at 8:39 AM on November 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


it might lead me down "dark paths" and then said something about it eroding your ability to tell reality from fantasy

ObSnark: D&D clearly eroded *their* ability to tell reality from fantasy.
posted by Slothrup at 8:39 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Which is to say, D&D was sort of mainstream enough to have a bit bart in a major movie. The local Boys and Girls club where I hung out as a pre-teen has a game every weekend and some weeknights. Thats where I started playing.

Initially, my parents were OK with it. Didn't get it, but whatever - I was out of the house and not obviously getting into trouble.

Then Mazes and Monsters and all that Satanic Panic shit really got going, and they confiscated my D&D books and shit.

I got them back after a while, because, fucking books aint magic dude. Besides, D&D in those days was far more likely to lead you to actuarialism than satanism.

The 80s Moral Panics were pretty deeply weird and stupid. Cultural Conservativism has always been like that - just different targets is all.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:39 AM on November 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Someone needs to make a role-playing with characters from Chick tracts. Oh, that's right, the Republican party.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:40 AM on November 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


I was a dorky, too-smart D&D girl playing with a group of guys. I was the ONLY girl playing with that group of guys. I was a hot commodity for the first time in my life. Hell yeah, D&D got me laid. (Which isn't to say that there weren't times when all of that male attention was uncomfortable.)

I tried to get other girls to play with me, but their parents wouldn't let them. This would be mid -late 80s, in RI. None of my friends came from conservative Christian households, but this "satanic" thing had permeated the landscape. Looking back, I'm impressed at how blasé my parents were about the whole thing.
posted by Biblio at 8:44 AM on November 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


Quibble:
However, it also tends to entrain skills that kids will use later in life to become successful adults.
The word entrain does exist - but it doesn't mean anything like that.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:46 AM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Technically it's THAC0, not THACO.
posted by radiosilents at 8:50 AM on November 11, 2014 [56 favorites]


I love the idea that using your imagination to make up stories is SO DANGEROUS to a child's sense of reality that the only antidote is to create a fully realized fictional moving picture and sound rendition of the living nightmare of involuntary hallucinations to show to the same children and completely terrify them because terror and excitement should only be created by a professional like Tom Hanks on a screen not wild in your brain! 80s kids yall know what I'm talking about!!!!!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:51 AM on November 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


Technically it's THAC0, not THACO.

Bet those n00bs had to use the table.
posted by Artw at 8:53 AM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


A THACO joke. There's a sort of nerd one-upmanship, based in revealing more and more arcane nerd knowledge, and THACO always seems to be the trump card.

I remember when 2nd Edition AD&D was the equivalent of 4th Edition D&D. Real geeks memorized the to-hit table from the 1st Edition DMG.
posted by echocollate at 8:59 AM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Even though I've seen Monsters and Mazes and read the Chick tracts, last weekend I bought the D&D starter set for my kids.
posted by bstreep at 9:03 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hell yeah, D&D got me laid.

Same here. I lost my virginity to a girl who hung around my regular D&D group.

She failed her saving throw vs. rods.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:05 AM on November 11, 2014 [16 favorites]


The irony of this story is that if the actual reason for Egbert's troubles came out, his homosexuality, the same hateful god botherers who were saying D&D led to suicide would instead have said being gay led to suicide. And I'm sure plenty of blame would have been left on the "older admirer" who sheltered Egbert for those weeks after his first attempted suicide.

It's gotten better, but our society still does a terrible job providing support for teenage boys who don't fit in to whatever roles are expected for them. Gay kids in the US are still disproportionately suicidal.

(D&D led to me coming out. I had the biggest crush on one of the boys I played D&D and Starfleet Battles with. Figuring that out and what it meant was the biggest moment in my teenage life. Thankfully I had help from supportive adults and grew up in a city with a large gay pride movement.)
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on November 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


Which is to say, D&D was sort of mainstream enough to have a bit bart in a major movie.

Before I clicked the link, I was convinced it was going to be Taps. D&D gets a brief mention by one of the characters early on in the film and it is that same character who goes batshit near the end trying to kill everyone. I've always wondered if that mention was the filmmakers sad, sad attempt at foreshadowing.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:18 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nelson, maybe we should just say that James Dallas Egbert III died of America. Our mainstream culture kills.
posted by starbreaker at 9:28 AM on November 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


D&D got me laid too. Unfortunately, she lives in Canada and I don't have a picture of her.
posted by dr_dank at 9:31 AM on November 11, 2014 [47 favorites]


"Now, as all nerds know, the most perfidious thing about Dungeons and Dragons is not that it drives you crazy and makes you see monsters, it’s that it keeps you from getting laid role-play is seen as a continuation of early childhood let's pretend/dress-up games - generally socially categorized as female-gendered activities1 - which in turn indicates a level of "gay-ness" on the part of male participants.2"

1 Cherney, Isabelle D., et al. "The effects of stereotyped toys and gender on play assessment in children aged 18-47 months." Educational Psychology 23.1 (2003): 95-106.

2 Risner, Doug. "When Boys dance: Moving masculinities and cultural resistance in dance training and education." Conference proceedings of dance and the child international (daCi), Kingston, Jamaica. 2009.


Edited for accuracy, academic merit, pedantic pleasure
posted by illovich at 9:31 AM on November 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


My parents actually refused to let me play D&D in the late eighties because it might lead me down "dark paths"

In the early eighties when I told my mom and dad my friends and I wanted to play D&D in our basement they were like, "That's nice, dear."

"Just don't put your little figures on my train layout," my dad said.

(Another friend's mom actually interceded with a third and persuaded her that no, none of us were going to hell, at least not for playing D&D. So go 'rents.)
posted by octobersurprise at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


D&D got me laid too. Unfortunately, she lives in Canada and I don't have a picture of her.

I think we're dating the same girl.
posted by echocollate at 9:49 AM on November 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


I assured my Very Christian mother that RPG's (not just D&D) weren't satanic buy introducing her to my University RPG Soc Chairman who was also the regional leader for the Baptist church in my area.

I never did let her look at any of my World of Darkness books though, cause I'm not an idiot :D
posted by Faintdreams at 9:58 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


.
posted by schmod at 10:01 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


A THACO joke. There's a sort of nerd one-upmanship, based in revealing more and more arcane nerd knowledge, and THACO always seems to be the trump card.

I remember when 2nd Edition AD&D was the equivalent of 4th Edition D&D. Real geeks memorized the to-hit table from the 1st Edition DMG.


I think your better class of geeks knew that THAC0 appeared in another system nine years before 2nd edition AD&D.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:02 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not that we didn't have Moral Panics up here in the 80s, but you Americans took it to ridiculous extremes.

Case in point: When I was a kid, I was identified as 'gifted' when it came to school. To keep us smartasses engaged, the Toronto District School Board ran these classes on Saturday mornings covering a pretty wide and amazing range of stuff--diving, sleight of hand, weaving; it was an amazing list.

Oh, and role playing games. Every Saturday morning I went over to Castle Frank school, and spent two-three hours in the cafeteria there messing about playing D&D (or AD&D, can't remember), Marvel Heroes, Car Wars (or whatever it was called) etc with a bunch of other geeks and nerds and assorted weirdos. This went on for a good couple of years.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:07 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've told this story here before, but I never get tired of it. My mother was in favor of me playing D&D, because she's a smart woman and saw we were just having harmless (math heavy) fun. In fact, when my best friend's mom tried to stop him from playing, her response was to explain that she wouldn't let me play Monopoly because she didn't want me turning into a vicious capitalist pig.

My friend's mom realized she was being dumb, and my friend got to keep playing with me.

Re: D&D - real men model it in Champions, though.
*allocates all CSLs to DCV to avoid thrown tomatoes*
posted by mordax at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


A THACO joke. There's a sort of nerd one-upmanship, based in revealing more and more arcane nerd knowledge, and THACO always seems to be the trump card.

My friend Jascha once broke the tension of a simmering almost-fight by responding to an invitation to "take this outside" by pushing up his sleeves and saying "Sure, sure, you wanna go down that road? Roll for initiative, bucko!" At that point everyone remembered that we were sapling nerds who had never thrown or taken a punch in our lives, and managed to change the subject and NOT ineffectually slapfight one another to death.
posted by KathrynT at 10:10 AM on November 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


D&D gets a brief mention by one of the characters early on in the film and it is that same character who goes batshit near the end trying to kill everyone

And that boy grew up to be Tom Cruise.
posted by maxsparber at 10:11 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


That account of Dear's D&D session is EXACTLY AS BORING AS ALL STORIES ABOUT ROLEPLAYING SESSIONS.
posted by bq at 10:14 AM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


D&D got me laid too. Unfortunately, she lives in Canada and I don't have a picture of her.

Her name is Alberta! She lives in Vancouver!
posted by maryr at 10:21 AM on November 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think we're dating the same girl.

D&D doesn't lead to the Devil, but it sounds like it might lead to a devil's threesome.
posted by The Tensor at 10:29 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Idle glands are the devil's playthings.
posted by maxsparber at 10:33 AM on November 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh, and role playing games. Every Saturday morning I went over to Castle Frank school,... feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:07 PM on November 11 [+] [!]

Good thing it wasn't the Frank Castle school. Though you might have learned some interesting things.
posted by k5.user at 10:39 AM on November 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


We just got a starter kit for our kid!

Re; being laid, one of my first boyfriends was our group's DM and the guy I married used to DM, so suck it haters.

I watched this movie when it came out. My parents were iffy on letting me, but thought it might be a good cautionary tale. All I remember thinking is that teenagers were stupid.
posted by emjaybee at 10:42 AM on November 11, 2014


Metafilter: Far more likely to lead you to actuarialism than Satanism.
posted by jonp72 at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Good lord, the Santanic Panic. It's so surreal to think back on that, and to think that there were people - Real people! People with power! People with authority! - who took it seriously. My High School had a few teachers/office people who used Bob Larson's "Satanism: The Seduction of America's Youth" as a justification to steal and destroy student materials they found offensive.

This was in Vallejo, CA in the late 80's, early 90's.

I have found myself struggling to explain what it was like to people of the younger generation, and it's hard to put into words how maddening it was.

It's like if everyone around you was terribly worried about the threat posed by goblins. And they had very serious school meetings about goblins, and books about "how to tell if your teen is secretly a goblin," and politicians were concerned about goblins, and people went to fucking jail because of the mythical fucking goblins.

Being 16 and knowing the goblins weren't real was maddening.
posted by Myca at 10:59 AM on November 11, 2014 [20 favorites]


Good lord, the Santanic Panic

...that was in the late 90s.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:00 AM on November 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


and politicians were concerned about goblins, and people went to fucking jail because of the mythical fucking goblins.

In that world D&D players would be rock stars, because they slay goblins all the time.
posted by Gelatin at 11:02 AM on November 11, 2014


Good lord, the Santanic Panic

...that was in the late 90s.


A very smooth time for us all.
posted by grubi at 11:05 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The ironic part about this, and the 80's Satanic Panic that this played such a big part in, is what it revealed was the extent to which religion can blur your sense of what is real and what isn't .

This poor kid was pushed too hard, too long. And when it became clear that he was something his parents couldn't deal with, they pushed more.. I have no idea if his parents were religious, but I know that the way they dealt with their child is the same way thousands, if not millions, of religious families have dealt with children they can't understand to similar results. That's frigging tragic.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:17 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Summer of Sleaze: The Exploitation of James Dallas Egbert III, Grady Hendrix, Tor.com, 29 August 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 11:25 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I had these friends when I was a kid whose parents were super Christian. Both kids were ubernerds (both work as game devs now) and way into D&D. Well the parents found out at Church that D&D was Satanic. They weren't the evil sort of parents though so their way of dealing with it was to buy them this Christian D&D set, which was utterly hilarious and dumb. It provided the perfect cover for playing the real game.
posted by cell divide at 11:45 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


My parents bought all the AD&D stuff for my brothers and me. This might have reflected their "If you want to fight go outside" Canadian parenting philosophy.
posted by srboisvert at 11:51 AM on November 11, 2014


D&D got me laid too. Unfortunately, she lives in Canada and I don't have a picture of her.


Oh, cool- what's her name? I probably know her!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:54 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was born mid 80's and my dad and his friends played D&D every weekend without fail. Going to a private Baptist school and living in the Bible belt caused all kinds of problems for me because I was definitely summoning demons in my sleep even though I had no real interest in the game. Cannot recount the number of conversations with would be friends that went wrong.
But nobody noticed any problems with the sexual abuse, domestic violence behavior or any other of the wierd creepy things my dad did. It was that he played D&D. Every. Single.Time.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:12 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was born mid 80's and my dad and his friends played D&D every weekend without fail.

Well, we are now into multi-generation geekery. In the mid-eighties I was in high school and playing D&D every Sunday night with a bunch of other teenagers. We ranged in age from probably twelve to seventeen and the guy running the game was older than most of the players. He was in college and was nineteen or twenty.

Then there was Jim. Jim was in his early forties, had a job, a wife, and two or three kids, and showed up every Sunday night without fail. We thought he was this strange old dude -- not dangerous or anything, just eccentric. Now I am years older than Jim was then and running an RPG for a bunch of mefites who are mostly in their late twenties and I feel pretty antediluvian.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, we are now into multi-generation geekery.

Both my daughters play in my home campaign, although my younger one is more into the game and also plays in the Adventurer's League (formerly D&D Encounters) organized play. She probably owns more Fourth Edition books than I do, and when I got my copy of the 5th Edition Starter Set, I got one for her too.
posted by Gelatin at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2014


After a lot of years away from D&D and its kind, I seem to be back - playing again, and starting up a homebrew world. Don't have a group of players yet, but, you know - if you build it, they will come kinda philosophy.

Forget the jokes about THAC0 and version changes, I'm amazed at how much technology has changed the game - we can do things now that I used to dream about being able to do. My most regular group plays via Fantasy Grounds II and Mumble and we're all across North America - never met anyone from the group in person (yet), but it's all there - maps, characters, dice, the same game with much better systems for tracking the action and keeping things moving. My other group is local and meets irregularly at the moment, but in all honesty, there isn't a huge difference in feel - although the in person group does seem to lend itself a bit towards more character to character role playing (which might also be the different system).

But beyond things like Fantasy Grounds, there's Roll 20, there's map generators, map drawing software, encounter generators, combat trackers, entire game systems as downloadable pdfs or wikis, campaign blogs and wikis for stealing ideas getting inspiration, places to get your questions answered/rules clarified, and on and on. I'm looking forward to introducing my boys to it when they get a little older, because part of me feels that there's a bit of a renaissance in tabletop RPGs, facilitated by the technology and those of us who grew up with the games either keeping them developing or coming back to them.

I remember, during the great Moral Panic Over D&D, my dad sitting down with all the books. He's an engineer, so I don't think it would've been inexplicably arcane to him - it's a bunch of numbers, often organized in tables, that get used by a group of people to tell a story. But I think he wanted to understand what we were doing, and came to the conclusion that letting a group of us play it on the weekends in the basement was better than us out wandering the city - the random encounters in real life for teenagers can be pretty hairy. I learned so much about group problem solving, consensus building, co-operation, and just general social skills around those tables that I want my boys to have the same experience.

I failed my save versus geek a long time ago. And as I've gotten older, I've realized that I'm very interested in stories and storytelling, and that I want to work with stories in a variety of ways. Tabletop RPGs are a fascinating exercise in joint storytelling, and that's a big part of the draw for me.
posted by nubs at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


A THACO joke. There's a sort of nerd one-upmanship, based in revealing more and more arcane nerd knowledge, and THACO always seems to be the trump card.

Nope. It's knowing that it's actually THAC0, the last letter is actually the number zero. WHOS DA NERD? WHOS DA NERD??
posted by JHarris at 1:59 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nope. It's knowing that it's actually THAC0, the last letter is actually the number zero. WHOS DA NERD? WHOS DA NERD??

I'm sorry. I can't hear you. Somebody's tripping off the NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT!
posted by jonp72 at 2:04 PM on November 11, 2014


Good lord, the Santanic Panic. It's so surreal to think back on that, and to think that there were people - Real people! People with power! People with authority! - who took it seriously. My High School had a few teachers/office people who used Bob Larson's "Satanism: The Seduction of America's Youth" as a justification to steal and destroy student materials they found offensive.

But they did. It is surreal, but many did, they were all taken in, and in so doing denied a beacon of light that could have provided enjoyment and friendship to lots of troubled kids. I was one of them.

Think about that fact. Let it sink in. When you can reconcile things like that happening with what you see going on in the world today, when you can see that this stuff is still going on in one form or another, you'll have gained two points of WIS.
posted by JHarris at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2014


In a way, I'm reminded of the Patricia Pulling story (previously) where there is a genuine tragedy behind the story, but it feels like someone fixated on the idea that this will be solved by taking away a particular game, because that's so much simpler than dealing with what's really going on.
posted by RobotHero at 2:11 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


All I know about this story (well, before reading the article anyway) was that every undergrad at State seemed to know it had happened, and the steam tunnels were locked tight. Not that we tried to get into them. But the idea always sounded like it could be fun, just exploring...

The real story? Man. I half suspected the original "dude freaks and hides in the tunnel" was an urban legend that hadn't really happened, but come to find out it was more tragic than I thought. Poor guy.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:21 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


The 80s Moral Panics were pretty deeply weird and stupid.

Yeah. And there's something about the sheer idiocy behind the bandwagoning that makes the whole thing—the obsessing and preaching and ostracizing and persecuting and throwing people in jail for years on end—even more tragic.

Which is why I felt kind of sad and angry when that Monster Energy Drink is the Debbil video popped up in my feed a few days ago. I really want to laugh at it since it's so bonkers ("So you go into Hebrew..."), but as a reminder of moral panics past it bummed me out.

On a brighter note: When I first played D&D a few years ago, it was with a bunch of folks in their late 20s and early 30s. Even so, one guy claimed to have a Canadian girlfriend. "Ha ha ha," I thought, until she moved down here from Toronto earlier this year. Guy is livin' the dream!
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:23 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


They weren't the evil sort of parents though so their way of dealing with it was to buy them this Christian D&D set, which was utterly hilarious and dumb.

Was it DragonRaid? Because it actually sounds like fun.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:07 PM on November 11, 2014


Pilgrims & Progress!
posted by Artw at 4:14 PM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Good lord, the Santanic Panic

Well, she was a black magic woman.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:06 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pilgrims & Progress!

Well, to judge by Bunion's Lyrics:

He’ll with a giant fight...
Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit;

You might think he was pretty familiar with the monster manual.
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 5:33 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


It is debatable how (if at all) tongue-in-cheek the movie actually is.

It's pretty well done in that they could deny the tongue-in-cheek nature if they need to, but it's full of references for the nerdy faithful, down to LARPing being the SINISTER PERVERSE INNER CIRCLE that tabletop gaming leads you to, deliberately bad Cthulhu CG, and quotes from The Gamers.

Worth the $5.
posted by xiw at 6:08 PM on November 11, 2014


Nope. It's knowing that it's actually THAC0, the last letter is actually the number zero. WHOS DA NERD? WHOS DA NERD??


Well, I won't claim to be a nerd, but a fellow named Bill Steitler made a film called THACO, and as an interstitial movie for an event I was doing in Minneapolis I had Bill come over to my apartment and made a eight-minute sequel to it.
posted by maxsparber at 7:17 PM on November 11, 2014


YOL0
posted by Artw at 7:39 PM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


THAC04LIFE
posted by das_2099 at 8:37 PM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Me: Good lord, the Santanic Panic.

feckless fecal fear mongering: ...that was in the late 90s.

grubi: A very smooth time for us all.

Saxon Kane: Well, she was a black magic woman.


...

I am man enough to admit this honestly: I literally just now noticed my typo after spending most of the day wondering what the hell you guys were talking about. :P
posted by Myca at 10:33 PM on November 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I wonder if any pen-and-paper RPG fans got mad at Dear for withholding the truth for four years and allowing all the drama around DnD to happen.
posted by BiggerJ at 4:09 AM on November 12, 2014


Good lord, the Santanic Panic. It's so surreal to think back on that, and to think that there were people - Real people! People with power! People with authority! - who took it seriously. My High School had a few teachers/office people who used Bob Larson's "Satanism: The Seduction of America's Youth" as a justification to steal and destroy student materials they found offensive.

That Bible they quote says nothing about D&D, but it does have something to say about stealing...
posted by Anne Neville at 6:29 AM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I started D&D in the 3rd grade, as a "I've heard about this game called D&D" thing where I and a few other kids just made stuff up on the way to soccer practice (the thing I remember is that halflings could throw fireballs for some reason, but would die instantly if they ran into an orc). Then my parents bought me the basic set for Christmas and my path for life was pretty much set.

There was only one point where my parents expressed any concern--I had just spent something like half an hour deciding what my new character's name would be, and my dad handed me a form to fill out for something, maybe the next season of soccer; I promptly put that new character name in the Name blank. At this point, I got the "if you can't distinguish fantasy from reality" speech.
posted by Four Ds at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2014


I recently had a conversation with a guy about D&D who lamented the "dumbing-down" of D&D by eliminating THAC0. I took great pleasure in explaining, using very simple words, that a defense number which is better when lower and an attack number which is better when lower is exactly the same as a defense number which is better when higher and an attack number which is better when higher.

I assured my Very Christian mother that RPG's (not just D&D) weren't satanic buy introducing her to my University RPG Soc Chairman who was also the regional leader for the Baptist church in my area.

I never did let her look at any of my World of Darkness books though, cause I'm not an idiot :D


I have told this story before, but I was playing Vampire with my friends one time around age 16 when my mother pulled me aside and told me that she didn't want me to play that game anymore, because it was satanic. I stared at her for a few seconds, then said, "Mom, we're Hindu. We don't believe in Satan."
posted by Errant at 12:35 PM on November 12, 2014 [12 favorites]


It has a Rakshasa
posted by Artw at 1:51 PM on November 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Now, Magic: The Gathering WAS totally Satanic in the early days.
posted by Jacen at 7:51 AM on November 13, 2014


Speaking of Satanic: Dogs Playing D&D
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:22 PM on November 13, 2014


Now, Magic: The Gathering WAS totally Satanic in the early days.

Not really. But the bit about their ink being infused with a highly addictive, skin-absorbed pyschoactive compound? Totally true. It's why the first few sets were printed in Belgium, the drug laws were different over there. The best part though was the fact that the compound flaked off during normal handling and shuffling, so that well used cards didn't give nearly as strong of a high as freshly bought ones.

Wizards of the Coast would have kept up with the scheme too, but they made a critical error when they started printing Pokemon cards: they forgot to scale down the dose for the different target demographic. The dosage needed to keep a 300 lb teenage nerd comfortably addicted on a booster-pack-a-day habit was much too strong for an 80 lb grade schooler. The resulting frenzy of millions of kids with a crippling, life-altering addiction to Pokemon cards spooked WotC, and they stopped doping the ink shortly thereafter. The damage had already been done though, the ramifications of which we still live with to this day.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:19 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


.
posted by chunking express at 7:34 PM on November 16, 2014


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