D&D in the 80s, Fads, and the Satanic Panic

Did many/any of the kids playing D&D in the early '80s care? I had zero knowledge of TSR as a company beyond the fact that their logo was plastered on the books I loved. I couldn't care less about anything beyond the game as we played it.
Kids, no. I wasn't a kid when I started playing though, and I couldn't help but notice that TSR had some management issues... some things just couldn't be hidden.... the mass layoffs at different times, the failure of some business ventures (acquiring SPI's stuff, for ex.), etc.

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Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The mainstream/global internet (web 1.0) wasn't a thing until '89-'90. That's a bit later than the Satanic Panic.
The Satanic Panic was still wriggling some tentacles at least into the early 90s. The McMartin Preschool trials didn't conclude until 1990, and some charlatans and preachers were still pushing the myths of satanic ritual abuse and recovered memories for at least another year or two.

Every once in a while you see an older televangelist push this stuff even today, but it's much less frequent.
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A suffusion of yellow
Speaking of Satanic

Dammit, I spoke too soon!
Baptist pastor G. Richard Fisher wrote a letter to his followers in 1986 warning them of the evils of Cabbage Patch Dolls, which were very popular then. The dolls, which are “adopted” by their buyers in a written contract, caused strange, destructive behavior, according to the letter.


Staff member
Thst might be the key there: the fringe right in Catholic circles would have been caught up in this panic, but that didn't penetrate mainstream Catholicism the same way that it did with Protestants.

Literally every Gen X or younger Catholci Priest or Religous that I know was a big D&D nerd.
1982-86, I was a Catholic kid at a private Catholic HS in Texas. I founded a D&D club there that operated on school grounds. The Monks didn’t have a problem with it- only the born-again art instructor (whom- I should note- I consider a dearly beloved mentor) did. He even gave away all of the new wave cassettes he played during class to some (undoubtedly) undeserving upperclassman.
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Which ... what? Okay, backing up a bit, this is the part that doesn't get as much coverage about the 80s. The Satanic Panic? It was a real thing. Footloose? That movie was based on actual events- places at the time still had dancing bans. And people really, truly believed that there was a giant mass of Satan worshippers out there, killing people, doing ritual abuse in the name of Satan, engaged in child sacrifice. And people were ... jailed. Lost their jobs.
When I worked at a museum in a historical building, we would sometimes allow ghost hunters to use the facilities at night. They paid us a nice fee, they were always respecful of the building and the artifacts, and while I thought they were kooky they were harmless. One year, they had a guest speaker who started answering a question by saying, "When we had all those occult related crimes in the 1980s...." and I just wanted to shout, "No, that didn't #%%#ing happen!" But people believed it then and a lot of people believe it now.

I know .. crazy, right? Only in the 80s could some sort of bizarre conspiracy theory spread like wildfire that baseless accused people of ritual child torture and trafficking. ....Wait... what? Oh ... never mind.
Any time I hear someone pontificate on how stupid Europeans were for the whole witch-craze in early modern Europe, I point to us today and arch an eyebrow.

The primary issues with TSR were at the corporate governance level; in essence, the company was poorly run, they were making decision based on the past growth, and they were funneling money to the Blume family and to Gygax's ... adventures ... in Hollywood as opposed to their core business.
The more I've learned about TSR over the years, the more amazed I've been that they were successful. It just goes to show you that sometimes you can catch lightning in a bottle and be successful despite your best efforts.

But was the Satanic Panic responsible for the collapse in sales in 1984? Not based on what I've seen.
I would tend to agree. The stellar success of D&D was a faddish, and at some point the ethusiasm died down. I guess around 1984? I've spent a lot of time playing D&D in some form or another, but it's only in recent years that I wasn't embarrassed to say that out lound. In 1989, I sure as hell didn't tell any of the girls I wanted to hand with that I played the game. (Although now I'm old and maybe I just don't care what others think.)

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