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

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
It seems that people had a wild run in the 80's, at least in the anglosphere... Here in my country the satanic panic didn't arrive until the 90's, and its main casualties were mostly the Smurfs, then it killed anime as a mainstream tv phenomenon, (and later would go on to kill Adult Swim), and one priest called for a torching of Pokemon toys and paraphernalia. (It also made a small controversy out of the Ketchup song) but nothing on D&D. Ironically WoD -and Vampire the Masquerade in particular- which is relatively more popular here managed to fly under the water unnoticed, Magic the Gathering and Yugioh got way more flak...
 

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Mezuka

Hero
Didn't check if this has been said already but I strongly believe that by 1983ish there was enough competition by other rpg systems to split the market. Combine that with those who stayed behind at each new iteration (OD&D, Basic, BECMI, AD&D1) you get a fractured and diminishing fans base. And the competition wasn't labelled 'satanic', thus could be played.

My religious aunt tried to convince my mother D&D was dangerous but it didn't work. My mom had never seen me so happy and motivated about a project (DMing).
 

MGibster

Legend
It is important to remember that D&D was not originally designed for kids. Like all things kids actually find cool, it was designed for young people that wanted to see blood and boobs in their fantasy. I don't know how much it is brought up, but softening that edge probably didn't just irritate the existing players that wanted their demons and devils back, but probably also made D&D look much lamer to the 12 years olds in search of something just a little bit naughty (boob armor and Elmore lady poses notwithstanding).
I'm still upset about the remove of the random harlot table. Where are my random harlots, Mrs. Pulling? You're right that it's important to remember that AD&D wasn't really designed with children in mind. It's been a while since I read 1st edition, but it certainly expanded by vocabulary quite a bit. (Again, the random harlot table was both educational and fun.)
 

MGibster

Legend
Well, 60 minutes was as mainstream as it gets, but I remember it being aired on network news, it certainly made its way onto day time talk shows. It was not just the 60 minutes program. And you had TV movies like Mazes and Monsters, the book it was based on. You also had a ton of religious programing about it (which people can dismiss as fringe, but stuff like the 700 club and Jerry Falwell had considerable cultural pull in the 80s). I believe i even posted clips I found from old news shows here and elsewhere in previous threads (but I can't recall exact programs off the top of my head).

Let's not forget this stunning exposé on the dangers of Dungeons & Dragons.

 

Richards

Legend
B/X didn't have any of the nude/topless female human-appearing monsters and gods that the MM, DMG, and Deities and Demi-gods had, did it? (Although one female character in B had seemingly really powerful nipples under that armor). No harlot table. And no Demons or Devils.
As yes, good old Morgan Ironwolf. I remember her well....

Johnathan
 

Orius

Hero
Bloody thing still isn't over for some people. The other day I got a news feed with a headline about how fantasy roleplaying is a threat to or problem for American society or some such nonsense from some Christian media source. I see someone has learned how to manipulate Google's algorithms.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Bloody thing still isn't over for some people. The other day I got a news feed with a headline about how fantasy roleplaying is a threat to or problem for American society or some such nonsense from some Christian media source. I see someone has learned how to manipulate Google's algorithms.
It's a surprisingly nuanced piece.

It's not actually about roleplaying games, which the author notes turned out to be generally harmless fun. It's more about people finding meaning in delusional heroic versions of themselves, like the QAnon hoax.

 




ThrorII

Explorer
I grew up in the beach cities of L.A. County in the late 70s through 80s. My first game of D&D was OD&D (I think), run by one of my dad's friends, in around 1978. I was 9ish. He ran both a couple D&D games and a Traveller game for my family. My folks didn't get in to it, but me and my brother did.

We got the Holmes basic set for that Christmas. We played the heck out of it, and when I got to 6th grade (1980) I graduated to AD&D - as that's what everyone was playing at my school.

The Satanic Panic was not a big deal in my area. One of our school electives was 'games', and we had a regular D&D campaign running there. My parents were present when we discovered D&D, and understood the game, so were not afraid of it.

We also had a hobby shop just a mile from my house, so I could ride my bike there and buy modules, dice, etc.

We naturally grew out of AD&D around 1982, transitioning to Gamma World, Traveller, and Top Secret. And like others said, I had no knowledge of how big or small TSR was, or if they were a wreck or a good company.
 

MGibster

Legend
We naturally grew out of AD&D around 1982, transitioning to Gamma World, Traveller, and Top Secret. And like others said, I had no knowledge of how big or small TSR was, or if they were a wreck or a good company.
I see you are a man of culture as well. :)
 

Quode

First Post
This is humerus to say the least. At the time RPGs were well represented in the community, not just DnD. There was no panic, there was a tragedy of two young men that commit suicide and DnD was said to be of blame. From college campuses to conventions to clubs DnD ands other games were played. Stores like Toys are Us sold the game with no issues. The so-called panic was over reported yet under influenced. In fact, the panic spurred sales of DnD. With no internet at the time there was no central way to spread the so-called story. Some churches did try to ban the game for youths and some parents grew concerned but not on a national scale. The whole thing is more myth these days then fact. What is overlooked is the sheer number of DnD groups in colleges born of the early adopters of DnD in the 70s like me. We played both war games and DnD and other RPGs on the late 70s in high school with no issues. When I joined the navy in the 80s DnD was super popular and over the 6 years I was in I found gamers everywhere.
Not once did encounter the so-called panic in my hobby, it just was not a panic, just a blip and forgotten. We forget in stranger things Eddie is also a pusher, a drug dealer, regardless of him running DnD the character prays on the needy, drug dealers are a blight. Also, on the show he’s pursued do to the fact a young woman he is selling drugs to dies tragically. This is not the satanic panic, till that time the gamers were tolerated till Eddie ran.

This link might help. Michael A. Stackpole: The Pulling Report (rpgstudies.net)
 


In current news: Boosted by QAnon and mainstream conservatives, satanic panic spreads online and through local communities

While not directed against D&D (currently), the Satanic Panic is surging right now. Given the current targeting of LGBT+ people and the more inclusive focus of a number of game companies, including WotC, I expect some to be directed D&D's way again.

hip hop 90s GIF


The Satanic Panic never really stopped. D&D just stopped being popular enough to be the main target. IIRC, Harry Potter got the brunt of it after D&D.
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
The Satanic Panic never really stopped. D&D just stopped being popular enough to be the main target. IIRC, Harry Potter got the brunt of it after D&D.
Mod Edit:
Meme that comes across as transphobic removed. ~Umbran
 
Last edited by a moderator:

MGibster

Legend
The Satanic Panic never really stopped. D&D just stopped being popular enough to be the main target. IIRC, Harry Potter got the brunt of it after D&D.

The main focus of the Satanic Panic wasn't D&D. The moral panic of the 1980s was centered around a fear of abductions by Satanic groups who would engage in the ritualistic abuse, often of a sexual nature, of children. It all started with a book called Michelle Remembers written by a psychologist who claimed to treat a little girl who had been victimized by a Satanic group in the 1970s. The book has no credibility today but it launched a movement when it was published in 1980. The Satanic Panic did branch out and people went after rock music, complained about corporate logos, D&D, etc., etc., but that wasn't the meat and potatos of the movement.

The Satanic Panic was just a type of moral panic. Wikipedia has a pretty good definition of a moral panic as "a widespread feeling of fear, often an irrational one, that some evil person or thing threatens the values, interests, or well-being of a community or society." What changed wasn't that D&D dropped in popularity, instead the moral panic came to an end as fears of Satanic cabals abducting and abusing children was no longer widespread.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The main focus of the Satanic Panic wasn't D&D. The moral panic of the 1980s was centered around a fear of abductions by Satanic groups who would engage in the ritualistic abuse, often of a sexual nature, of children. It all started with a book called Michelle Remembers written by a psychologist who claimed to treat a little girl who had been victimized by a Satanic group in the 1970s. The book has no credibility today but it launched a movement when it was published in 1980. The Satanic Panic did branch out and people went after rock music, complained about corporate logos, D&D, etc., etc., but that wasn't the meat and potatoes of the movement.

The Satanic Panic was just a type of moral panic. Wikipedia has a pretty good definition of a moral panic as "a widespread feeling of fear, often an irrational one, that some evil person or thing threatens the values, interests, or well-being of a community or society." What changed wasn't that D&D dropped in popularity, instead the moral panic came to an end as fears of Satanic cabals abducting and abusing children was no longer widespread.
As a note, the mostly quackish and fraudulent Recovered Memory movement in psychology (made famous by Michelle Remembers, as I recall) hasn't entirely gone away. It's just lost mainstream credibility after general debunkings by researchers like Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. There are still people pushing these ideas and the (almost always fake and made up) cult abuse stories. The Satanic Temple (the trolly anti-fundamentalist, anti-religious supremacy First Amendment advocacy quasi-church) has a sub-org devoted to debunking and counteracting fraudulent "conspiracy therapists".


And on a broader note, the moral panics and conspiracy theories about children being abducted and abused or sacrificed by strangers (as opposed to reality, in which such acts are very rare, but abuse by close family depressingly common) go back centuries, at least. In older times they were often used to help fuel and justify religious persecution (such as against Jewish people) and related pogroms and abuse.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The main focus of the Satanic Panic wasn't D&D. The moral panic of the 1980s was centered around a fear of abductions by Satanic groups who would engage in the ritualistic abuse, often of a sexual nature, of children. It all started with a book called Michelle Remembers written by a psychologist who claimed to treat a little girl who had been victimized by a Satanic group in the 1970s.
And set right here in Victoria BC, no less.

It made being a Pagan around here an interesting experience in the late 80s and through the 90s, but rarely gets mentioned these days that I know of.
 

the Jester

Legend
Yeah, I was in 7th grade in 1983. I remember my kind old lady English teacher, Mrs. Bowman, showing me one of the flyers with all the "D&D teaches ASSASSINATION! VOODOO! DEMON SUMMONING! etc" on it and asking me about it. I laughed, but it was definitely a thing that affected our local culture. I believe they tried to ban playing D&D at recess and lunch, but it never took with us.

OTOH I also remember Time-Life's series about all the fantasy stuff having a demon summoning ritual in it, and a few of us got some chalk one day only to find that we couldn't inscribe a very circular circle on the ground, soooo no luck for us.
 

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