Ben Riggs Interview on the Death of the Golden Age

TheSword

Legend
WotC isnt some little kid we need to worry about getting bullied.
Perhaps, but the part we’re interested in are a relatively small group of artists, writers and project leads. It would be quite nice to engage with them on a more personal or creative level, like other communities do. But ‘unfortunately’ our community makes it impossible on account of the unremitting hate. Though miraculously as soon as they stop working for WotC we are all over them like a rash. Tribalism gone mad.
 
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GrimCo

Adventurer
I would disagree about people not transition from CRPGs to D&D. Almost all the people i know that play D&D and are between mid 30s to mid 40s, their first exposure to D&D as a brand was trough the Baldurs Gate, Icewind Dale and Planscape Torment. This was the age of old slow internet without social media. And let's be honest, they never did bother investing in marketing to general audience. In US you did have at least some marketing with D&D cartoon, some bad press with satanic panic in the 80s. But here in south eastern and eastern Europe, most people wouldn't hear about D&D if there weren't excellent CRPGs.
 

Meech17

WotC President Runner-Up.
The Mazes & Monsters TV movie was my gateway to D&D - so maybe more histrionic anti-D&D scare tactic TV movies starring a future Hollywood movie star and that kid from Meatballs and My Bodyguard will do the trick in promoting the game? :sneaky: :LOL:

(well, that and the catalog included in the DUNGEON! boardgame my uncle got me for XMas)
Funny enough, in Riggs' book (Though this I think is widely known, they discussed it in Of Dice and Men as well) he talks about how the satantic panic helped D&D far more than hurt it.

The best story was that there was one specific church who very publically raised money to buy out all the D&D books they could from local game stores and encouraged parents to bring in any materials belonging to their kids and they had a good ol fashioned book burning.

Someone at TSR (I want to say Tim Kask, but I'm not sure. I'm at work and I can't reference the book right now) said "Call the stores in the area and suggest that we double their orders."

And he was right because they sold lmao.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Funny enough, in Riggs' book (Though this I think is widely known, they discussed it in Of Dice and Men as well) he talks about how the satantic panic helped D&D far more than hurt it.

The best story was that there was one specific church who very publically raised money to buy out all the D&D books they could from local game stores and encouraged parents to bring in any materials belonging to their kids and they had a good ol fashioned book burning.

Someone at TSR (I want to say Tim Kask, but I'm not sure. I'm at work and I can't reference the book right now) said "Call the stores in the area and suggest that we double their orders."

And he was right because they sold lmao.

That's both true, yet also misleadingly incomplete. I recommend reading Game Wizards to get a more complete version of the story.

This is what happened.

The initial "Satanic Panic" operated like rocket fuel for D&D. The press surrounding the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert in 1979 led to the greatest growth period in D&D's history, and the resulting publicity around D&D (the first wave of the Satanic Panic) was an unalloyed positive for D&D. I don't think that anyone argue that the (first?) Golden Age of D&D can, at least partially, be credited to that.

However, the story isn't quite that simple. The moral panic that took root around Satanism in the Reagan '80s was a very real thing. As stupid and crazy and bizarre as it is to think of today, it had real and devastating impacts on people. In the early '80s, for example, it was common to see the full range of D&D products sold at the Scholastic Book fairs for kids. Lots of schools across America had (formally or informally) D&D clubs. It reached a cultural zeitgeist (a highwater mark) where D&D (or a very similar RPG!) was featured in E.T. in '82, and it was a Saturday morning cartoon in '83 through '85. But as the panic set in during the 80s, those opportunities disappeared.

Clubs at schools were forced to shut down. Books weren't being sold (although, to their credit, B. Dalton and Waldenbooks resisted the pressure ... something other large chains did not). There were a lot of people and places where you wouldn't talk about D&D. Heck, there were people charged with murder, and prosecutors would use playing D&D as evidence.....

While the powers that be at TSR maintained a brave face, this resulted in internal policies at TSR that toned down the material they were putting out ... this is why you see a massive shift in the overall tone in the early 80s, and is what lead to the design direction of 2e.

So yeah, the "Satanic Panic" was responsible for putting D&D in the mainstream and sold a lot of product initially, it had real and severe impacts as the '70s turned into the '80s.
 

Meech17

WotC President Runner-Up.
That's both true, yet also misleadingly incomplete. I recommend reading Game Wizards to get a more complete version of the story.

This is what happened.

The initial "Satanic Panic" operated like rocket fuel for D&D. The press surrounding the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert in 1979 led to the greatest growth period in D&D's history, and the resulting publicity around D&D (the first wave of the Satanic Panic) was an unalloyed positive for D&D. I don't think that anyone argue that the (first?) Golden Age of D&D can, at least partially, be credited to that.

However, the story isn't quite that simple. The moral panic that took root around Satanism in the Reagan '80s was a very real thing. As stupid and crazy and bizarre as it is to think of today, it had real and devastating impacts on people. In the early '80s, for example, it was common to see the full range of D&D products sold at the Scholastic Book fairs for kids. Lots of schools across America had (formally or informally) D&D clubs. It reached a cultural zeitgeist (a highwater mark) where D&D (or a very similar RPG!) was featured in E.T. in '82, and it was a Saturday morning cartoon in '83 through '85. But as the panic set in during the 80s, those opportunities disappeared.

Clubs at schools were forced to shut down. Books weren't being sold (although, to their credit, B. Dalton and Waldenbooks resisted the pressure ... something other large chains did not). There were a lot of people and places where you wouldn't talk about D&D. Heck, there were people charged with murder, and prosecutors would use playing D&D as evidence.....

While the powers that be at TSR maintained a brave face, this resulted in internal policies at TSR that toned down the material they were putting out ... this is why you see a massive shift in the overall tone in the early 80s, and is what lead to the design direction of 2e.

So yeah, the "Satanic Panic" was responsible for putting D&D in the mainstream and sold a lot of product initially, it had real and severe impacts as the '70s turned into the '80s.
For sure! I know first hand how real it was.

Even when I began playing decades later in the late 2000's-early 2010's, I was constantly trying to get my friends from highschool into the game with me, and one that got really into it had a real struggle. His mother was very religious and once she found out what we were doing she was FURIOUS. She didn't let me friend come over for months. We eventually had to resort to saying he was coming over for band related activities. He'd leave his D&D stuff at my place, and he had to bring his trombone over with him as cover.

In the book (I must admit I haven't finished it yet, and I'll add Game Wizards to my reading list) Riggs' does discuss how they opted to exclude demons and devils and the like from 2nd Edition as to not tempt the zealots. It is kind of a foot note on 2E overall as he focuses more on the overall development, and how it was positioned as a make or break point for TSR. (Which it seemed at this point they were teetering on the edge and every business decision was a make or break point.)
 

mamba

Legend
As stupid and crazy and bizarre as it is to think of today
I thought it sounded stupid back then already, but also distinctly American. Not much has changed since, unfortunately, when I look around, but that gets us into religion and politics, so…

So yeah, the "Satanic Panic" was responsible for putting D&D in the mainstream and sold a lot of product initially, it had real and severe impacts as the '70s turned into the '80s.
you think a downturn in sales in the mid / late 80s can be attributed to the satanic panic?

As far as I know it just made D&D popular by making people aware of it, I am not aware of any downstream consequences (apart of renaming devils and demons in 2e)
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
you think a downturn in sales in the mid / late 80s can be attributed to the satanic panic?

As far as I know it just made D&D popular by making people aware of it, I am not aware of any downstream consequences (apart of renaming devils and demons in 2e)

Definitely.

Obviously, there were fads in the 70s and 80s, and when the fad ended, so too did the boom times. I don't discount the extent to which the "fad ending" had a deleterious effect on D&D. Nor (if you've read Game Wizards) should you discount other factors, like mismanagement.

Even so, the Satanic Panic led to a lot of issues. I think that people get confused because of the dates and impacts. The initial (Egbert) Satanic Panic led to a massive boom in sales and popularity. The later (Pulling) panic happened to coincide ... with the fall of D&D.

BADD wasn't formed until 1983, and it's success in the Christian conservative media really took hold in 1984, followed up with more appearances in mainstream media in 1984 and 1985 (60 Minutes). It was those appearances that coincided with the rapid decline of D&D as a mass-market phenomenon. Unlike the earlier Egbert controversy, this didn't drive sales, instead it forced distributions channels to stop offering D&D, forced clubs to close, and caused many people to stop playing.

We forget this today, but BADD succeeded in getting D&D pulled from some public schools and school districts- places that otherwise might have caused another generation of players to blossom (and purchase books). In other places, even when D&D wasn't banned outright, it was marginalized and the clubs that had been formed were disbanded under pressure. Major retailers that offered D&D pulled back or otherwise wouldn't offer it for sale- it went from being a mass market game with a "Red Box" available at the department store to something you would only find at a book store or a game store.

I would make a further (and more controversial) argument- that the internal codes and policies ... the self-censorship within TSR starting toward the end of 1983, also caused a decline in sales. To the extent that good products sell better than bad products, I don't think it's particularly controversial to state that TSR was making better products (in terms of content) from 1977-1983, and then had a fallow period until the moral panic receded somewhat and we had the 2e product lines coming out in the 90s. I would say that this quality effected sales- while there are people that still love the rules and the direction of, say, the DSG or WSG, it's hard to say that people were excited by those products.

Can I exactly quantify this effect? No. But it certainly didn't help.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
BADD wasn't formed until 1983, and it's success in the Christian conservative media really took hold in 1984, followed up with more appearances in mainstream media in 1984 and 1985 (60 Minutes). It was those appearances that coincided with the rapid decline of D&D as a mass-market phenomenon. Unlike the earlier Egbert controversy, this didn't drive sales, instead it forced distributions channels to stop offering D&D, forced clubs to close, and caused many people to stop playing.

We forget this today, but BADD succeeded in getting D&D pulled from some public schools and school districts- places that otherwise might have caused another generation of players to blossom (and purchase books). In other places, even when D&D wasn't banned outright, it was marginalized and the clubs that had been formed were disbanded under pressure. Major retailers that offered D&D pulled back or otherwise wouldn't offer it for sale- it went from being a mass market game with a "Red Box" available at the department store to something you would only find at a book store or a game store.
Pulling and Radecki sold their lies about psychological damage, murder and suicide to newspapers, schools, and police departments (the latter often literally sold "trainings" on "occult crime" by fake experts). They did it for years, and they fraudulently edited newspaper articles and other sources to manufacture fake evidence to support their claims.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Definitely.

Obviously, there were fads in the 70s and 80s, and when the fad ended, so too did the boom times. I don't discount the extent to which the "fad ending" had a deleterious effect on D&D. Nor (if you've read Game Wizards) should you discount other factors, like mismanagement.

Even so, the Satanic Panic led to a lot of issues. I think that people get confused because of the dates and impacts. The initial (Egbert) Satanic Panic led to a massive boom in sales and popularity. The later (Pulling) panic happened to coincide ... with the fall of D&D.

BADD wasn't formed until 1983, and it's success in the Christian conservative media really took hold in 1984, followed up with more appearances in mainstream media in 1984 and 1985 (60 Minutes). It was those appearances that coincided with the rapid decline of D&D as a mass-market phenomenon. Unlike the earlier Egbert controversy, this didn't drive sales, instead it forced distributions channels to stop offering D&D, forced clubs to close, and caused many people to stop playing.

We forget this today, but BADD succeeded in getting D&D pulled from some public schools and school districts- places that otherwise might have caused another generation of players to blossom (and purchase books). In other places, even when D&D wasn't banned outright, it was marginalized and the clubs that had been formed were disbanded under pressure. Major retailers that offered D&D pulled back or otherwise wouldn't offer it for sale- it went from being a mass market game with a "Red Box" available at the department store to something you would only find at a book store or a game store.

I would make a further (and more controversial) argument- that the internal codes and policies ... the self-censorship within TSR starting toward the end of 1983, also caused a decline in sales. To the extent that good products sell better than bad products, I don't think it's particularly controversial to state that TSR was making better products (in terms of content) from 1977-1983, and then had a fallow period until the moral panic receded somewhat and we had the 2e product lines coming out in the 90s. I would say that this quality effected sales- while there are people that still love the rules and the direction of, say, the DSG or WSG, it's hard to say that people were excited by those products.

Can I exactly quantify this effect? No. But it certainly didn't help.
Just Sears and J. C. Penny dropping the box sets was a disaster.
 

GrimCo

Adventurer
It's interesting reading those stories about church, panic etc. In my part of woods, nobody even knew what D&D was back in those days. Even board games weren't that available (late 70's and 80s, Croatia was still part of socialist Yugoslavia). People bought what they could in Austria and Italy mostly. Only exposure were pirated old Gold Box games from late 80s and thats about time that epic naughty word storm hit this region.

Does any of the books mention anything about D&D in Europe (outside Great Britain ofc) at that time?
 

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