Dungeons and Dragons Satanic Panic

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In the 1980s, the fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragon was attacked and accused of supporting Satanism, and leading people to commit suicide.[1]

Some religious beliefs and fear of the unknown led to false accusations against things that were different from the norm. The protest against it changed the game forever and made players have to adapt to new rules. Many wanted to stop D&D completely, but in the end  compromises were made and the game is enjoyed by millions today.

Occult in the 1980s[change | change source]

In the 1980s, fear of the occult was a big problem. It all began when a mother believed her daughter's daycare center was teaching her to support and worship Satan. Daycare centers were very new back then and parents were afraid of the safety of their children. This one mother's accusation led an investigation as other parents started making false claims.

The interrogated children never said anything bad happened. Parents got so mad at this that many police scared the kids into saying what they wanted to hear. Accusations like this spread across the country, from rock music to card games. D&D was a big part of those accusations.[2]

D&D was arguably the first true role-playing game. Many people feared the occult and because of all these reports with D&D, suicides and murders, people also started fearing D&D. Time magazine published an article about D&D being satanic.

Though it was satire, it still caught on to people's fear of the occult. This fear led to problems with the criminal justice system. For example the West Memphis 3, 3 teens accused of murder, were prosecuted just because of people being scared of the occult. Even a policeman changed a story about the Irving Pulling case (Suicides & Harm) because he was scared of TSR suing him.[3]

Suicides and harm[change | change source]

James Dallas Egbert III disappeared in 1979 from his dorm in Michigan State University. He was found alive in the utility tunnels of the school two days later by a private investigator after James attempted suicide. His mother had found his suicide note the day before. The note referenced Egbert’s character in D&D needing to die because a demon told him to kill himself.

His mother completely blamed the game. Egbert suffered from many mental illnesses that were not researched enough, including depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. William Dear, the private investigator, suspected that the game had caused James' actions.[1]

The media took this as a fact and started an outrage against D&D. Dear thought Egbert went into the tunnels to play a live action version of the game. A year later, Egbert died from a gunshot suicide This story was the basis of the book (and later movie) Mazes & Monsters.

In 1983 the suicide of Irving Lee Pulling II was also associated with D&D.[4] Patricia Pulling, Irving’s mom, founded Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons as a result. Ms.Pulling found other D&D players who did harmful actions such as James Curbing, a rabid player, who killed his school principal, wounded three classmates, then shot himself. There was a view that teenagers couldn’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, and that all these murders and suicides were building on that, especially after many suicide notes mentioned the game.

Patricia Pulling and BADD[change | change source]

August, 1983. Investigators found Irving Lee Pulling and his brother dead from gunshot wounds beneath a railroad trestle. Irving had a gun in hand. Police thought it was a murder suicide. Pulling saw the incident as more than a murder suicide. She blamed Irving’s favorite game, Dungeons and Dragons, for his death.

Classmates say the trestle they were found under was a frequent place the boys would venture to play D&D. Investigators found that earlier that day Irving’s character had a curse cast upon him. The curse was supposed to cause his character “emotional pain and damage.” Pulling the curse was real, and was the cause of his suicide.[4]

Patricia Pulling said her claims about D&D supporting Satan had to be true because no one would be able to write with so much detail (in the manuals) without vast knowledge of the occult. Some monsters from the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons were demons, with varying degrees of power over the characters. Patricia sued Irving’s school for allowing the kids to play there. The principal argued that the game was not part of the curriculum of the school, and the charges were dropped.

The CDC found no link between the game and violence. Yet, Patricia continued her fight by creating the group BADD. BADD’s messages and PSA’s spread across the world. Patricia released a book titled The Devil’s Web- Who is Stalking Your Child for Satan?  In it she said players will become a “homosexual satanists who will sacrifice their parents, their sister, and the family cat, then commit suicide in a satanic ritual". (From Patricia's Book)

Some people still thought D&D was good. Michael Stackpole published articles like The Pulling Report and The Truth About Role-Playing Games to discredit Pulling's claims about D&D. Stackpole found that the suicide rate for people who DID play rpgs was actually lower than the suicide rate for the general population.[5]

Eventually, due to the negativity, TSR made changes to the game. James Ward, an executive at TSR had demons and devils removed from the Monster Manual and Assassins and some spells removed from the Player's Handbook. Ward explained his actions in an article in Dragon, a magazine about fantasy role-playing games, saying that "Avoiding the Angry Mother Syndrome has become a good, basic guideline, for all of the designers and editors at TSR, Inc.". In later editions TSR re-added some of the removed features in a separate manual intended for mature readers. (From 5e monster manual)

Today, the game is played around the world, and parents can be rest assured knowing that their children are not becoming Satanists.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The great 1980s Dungeons & Dragons panic". BBC News. 2014-04-11. Retrieved 2018-03-13.
  2. "The history of Satanic Panic in the US — and why it's not over yet". Vox. Retrieved 2018-03-13.
  3. Balko, Radley (2016-04-27). "Opinion | The D&D panic". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-03-13.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Haberman, Clyde (2016-04-17). "When Dungeons & Dragons Set Off a 'Moral Panic'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-13.
  5. BRMinistries (2016-05-21), Is Dungeon and Dragons Evil? *60 Minutes 1985 special *SHOCKING*, retrieved 2018-03-13