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

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
The Satanic Panic had an aftermath that lasted quite a while as well. It's funny to talk about this again, since the last time I did, I was booted off the forum I was frequenting for not referring to it as the "social phenomenon involving role playing games in the 80's". Heh.

But it was actually 1988 when I came home from the big library in Joliet to the tiny speck of a town I had moved to 50 miles south of Chicago, armed with a couple of 1e hardcovers and my next door neighbor looked at them aghast, pulled my mother aside and asked her if she knew what "those devil books were".

The next day Mom asks me if I'm worshipping the devil, and in my head I was thinking "not unless he can let me cast magic missile!". Man.
 

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Orius

Legend
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.

That's mostly my recollection of the time too. The whole Satanic Panic thing was primarily an American thing and a lot of it was a reaction to the cultural shifts and conflicts of the 70's. The Church is very much an international organization. I do remember them using some of the talking points, but I think that they were taking advantage of it for their own ends, probably competing with evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants for influence over conservative Christians. The Church also tends to be more rational minded about things as well.

The closest I came to the Panic was in the late 90's. I was flipping through some new release at B. Dalton's - I don't remember which exactly - when some guy about my age, roughly late teens or early 20s at the time, started looking at the second Dark Sun MC and commenting on the monsters or something. Then some older woman came over and started scolding him for looking at it and that it was bad or something. I think maybe she was his mother but I don't know. He seemed a little strange, so I don't know if he was autistic or something, or she just had him browbeaten. She kept flashing me the stink eye, but I ignored her completely, and she got more and more agitated about it until she stormed away. She was probably looking for a fight and I left her feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. What interests me is none of her damn business, never has been and never will be. If she got in my face too much, well the D&D section wasn't far from the front counter where I could reasonably find the store manager.


It's supposed to be D&D, but they weren't allowed to use the product. They wanted it in the movie ... and TSR apparently turned them down.

....Yeah. A bunch of business GENIUSES running TSR back then.

To be fair, Gary did later admit he screwed up big time there.
 


Well, the Satanic Panic had some impact in my home town. At some point, it became impossible to get D&D books in any store. I had to go to parents board and church meeting to show them what D&D actually was. I made many speeches and had to show our pastoral teachers the game itself.

I was fortunate enough to still be serving mass in latin at our local monastery. It gave me that little something that most zealots were waiting to believe to let go of D&D as a simple hobby and not a series of black bible books bent on the corruption of their young children and teenagers.

But for over a year, no D&D books were available on stores in town. We had to go on an hour and a half trip to an other town to find some.
 


Oh yeah, I ran into him once. Would not stop talking about his 5th Generation Toreador who was Prince of Coos Bay, Oregon, who came there ever since (he claimed) Sir Francis Drake took refuge from a storm there in 1579.
Make's sense of how Drake managed to kick off the transatlantic slave trade and still have time to win a game of bowls.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
But for over a year, no D&D books were available on stores in town. We had to go on an hour and a half trip to an other town to find some.
I had an experience similar to that before the Satanic Panic.

I was introduced to AD&D in Aurora, CO- a suburb of Denver. But dad’s next posting was to Fort Riley, near Manhattan, KS. Not exactly a bustling metropolis. Besides the Army base, KSU was the next biggest thing. The A&W drive-in was a notable dining experience, and there were 2 Chinese restaurants- one good, one bad.

I could get some gaming stuff, probably in no small part due to the high percentage of college students in town. But it was mainly in only 2 stores- the campus bookstore and a small mom & pop bookshop near the hardware store, Thing is, there wasn’t much turnover. It might be a month or so before a new mini got put on the rotating stand, and modules were rare (which is how I got into Dragon Magazine). Support for Traveller was worse.

To get anything different, you had to travel to Lawrence, Topeka, Wichita or Kansas City, Kids would save our allowances for the eventual trips to those cities, and if your friends knew you were going, you’d often get a shopping list and a wad of dollars.
 

Satan was behind a lot in the '80's, TV shows, comic books, cartoons, music, music videos, RPGs and ouija boards.

But this had little effect on most RPG sales.

Few gamers even bought the D&D books. Typically a forever DM would buy them, but that is just about it. Sure a couple players would buy every book, but not many. Some players might buy a Players Handbook. A lot of players either just used their DMs books.....or made photo copies of needed pages(OR...hand write out copies)

Many players saw no need to buy all the books and/or saw many books a "for the DM only".

Also, by the mid 80's everyone had the "core" books that wanted them. So sure new players and DMs came to the game and bought books.....but not "that" much.

TSR flounder a bit with not enough focus on AD&D, so again drop in sales. Only if someone would have thought of putting out a book like "The Dragons of D&D" or such....
 

G

Guest 7034872

Guest
Few gamers even bought the D&D books. Typically a forever DM would buy them, but that is just about it. Sure a couple players would buy every book, but not many. Some players might buy a Players Handbook. A lot of players either just used their DMs books.....or made photo copies of needed pages(OR...hand write out copies)
That certainly wasn't my experience. Among all the gamers at my school anyway, pretty much anyone who played had bought--at minimum--the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual, and the Dungeon Master's Guide. The kids who were hardcore players typically also had the Fiend Folio and Deities and Demigods. I didn't see any greater or lesser book-purchasing habits among DMs than among players: in our school they seemed pretty equal.
 

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