TSR Jim Ward: Demons & Devils, NOT!

In the very early to mid '80s religious nongamer people discovered AD&D had magical spells and demons and devils in its rules. The problems started with Sears and Penny's retail stores. TSR was selling thousands of Player Handbooks and Dungeon Master's Guides every month to both of those companies. I know this because I was in sales and inventory control at the time.


Six ladies wrote to Sears and the same six wrote to Penny's home offices telling those two companies of the evils of AD&D. They expounded on children learning to throw demonic spells while they summoned demons in their basements. The writers claimed that they would never buy a thing again from those two companies if the companies still sold TSR games. Just like a light switch those two companies stopped selling TSR product. The companies were offered things like Boot Hill, Tractics, and Gamma World, but they weren't interested. The stopping of sales from those two huge companies was a hard blow to take for TSR.

Author's Note: When I write these articles for EN World I'm trying to present an honest look at my memories of those times. There was enough wild and crazy things happening at TSR that I think the readers should be entertained. I freely admit that there might be dates and times that I don't have correctly related. However, I never try to exaggerate the facts or actions of others. I was in the thick of things and part of the design group and middle management for most of the 20+ years I worked there. If I make a mistake in the writing of these memories, I'm sorry and the mistake was unintentional.

Things proceeded and the bible belt southern states started doing book burnings. Those always elated Gary Gygax because he thought every player who had their books taken away would go back and buy the books again.

Gary went on some of the talk shows to speak about the value of the game. He was an excellent champion for the company. One of his arguments, that I really liked, was his baseball analogy. He would say, “When a criminal hurts someone with a baseball bat are you supposed to blame baseball?” That would make the naysayers sputter every time.

Duke Siegfried, Uncle Duke as he liked to be called, ran news interview classes for the middle management of TSR; these were people who had a chance to be interviewed out at conventions. I can especially remember one of the training sessions. Duke role-played the part of Johnny Carson. Don Snow was to be the TSR representative getting interviewed. Terri Quinn was in marketing at the time and her job was to distract Don. While Duke interviewed Don about D&D, asking questions to make the game look bad, Terri went to work on Don. Acting all the way, poor Don was torn between the distraction of Terri and the questions of Duke. At the end of the scenario Duke explained that set ups like that were common for news people and we needed to be on the look out for such things. I can remember thinking that scenario could never happen.

Six months later I was at a convention in Atlanta when a reporter started quizzing and flirting with me about the evils of AD&D and its harmful effects on children. I started out all smiles and really enjoying the woman's company and her style. Suddenly, remembering Duke's lesson, I became grim-faced, and gave out the bullet-point facts Duke had prepared us with if we were interviewed. She didn't get the interview she wanted from me.

Conventions for awhile became a trial for us. Religious people would come up to the TSR booth and start arguing with us about the evils of D&D. I'm proud to say we soon found an answer for them. I have a friend Dave Conant who worked in the typesetting department. He didn't get out to many conventions. Gen Con in August was a convention everyone working for TSR went to and did 40 hours. One Gen Con in August a particularly nasty gentlemen was berating the sales woman at the show. They didn't know what to think of the dude and wanted to be polite. I knew exactly what the guy was doing. He wanted to get 15 minutes of fame as a person concerned about the evils of D&D.

I was on my way over to give the guy the bums rush, when Dave showed up. He had taken his cross out of his shirt and started calmly talking to the guy. Dave established that the guy had never read one bit of the TSR material. The man only knew what he had heard from others. Then Dave started asking the guy questions about what he thought was wrong with the game. Dave was able to quote bible versus as he calmly and gently completely tore apart the guy's argument. I had always been impressed by Dave's technical skills, but I became even more impressed with his logical argument. From then on we had at least two religious TSR people at every convention. It was amazing how quick those anti-TSR people stopped coming at us at those shows.

Time passed and TSR started working on AD&D 2nd edition. By then I had come to a realization. At conventions I had been in on many discussions about the evils of AD&D. Literally every single person coming up to argue about the game had never read one word of the books. Their argument when questioned about that fact was “We don't need to read about Satan to know he is evil.” So I came up with an idea. In second edition I ordered Zeb Cook to develop a new name for Demons & Devils.

Baatezu/Devil & Tanarri/Demon were born in second edition. Zeb did a terrific job of putting all that together.

We still had the same type of demons and devils but we called them completely different names. The word spread out that TSR had taken out all of the demons and devils in the game. Technically that wasn't true at all. But again like the click of a light switch the arguments and comments stopped. TSR picked up lots of new accounts in the Bible Best of the south. Every time it was mentioned a TSR person would tell them the company didn't have devils any more. It pleased everyone at TSR that the company didn't get any grief on that topic.

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Jim Ward

Jim Ward

Drawmij the Wizard

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I do, because "demon" is too generic. What would a peasant call a T-Rex that ate his daughter? Probably "a demon from the jungle" or something like that. Don't even get me started on "daemon." I'm fine if ignorant peasants refer to Tanar'ri (or Yugoloths, or Baatezu, or dragons or hydras) as "demons", but educated people in my world use the more specific term, although almost none of them know the true backstory I've created for the Blood War.

Short version: Baatezu and Tanar'ri and Yugoloths are all basically ancient, magic-and-bio-enhanced murderhobo munchkins with access to immortality devices that (like Astral Project) happen not to work when you're on your own plane. There used to be a lot more of them but by the time a campaign starts, 99% of them are gone and the Blood War is drawing to a close with the Tanar'ri in a stronger position numerically but the Baatezu more unified and with better leadership and logistics. Yugoloths tend to have better mods (immunities, spells, etc.) than either because they've been getting payoffs from both sides.

Anyway, treating them as actual species works better for me than pretending they're groupies of a certain self-important rebellious spirit with bad ideas, who doesn't even fit into D&D's cosmology.

I've always had the common folk use the terms "demons" and "devils" interchangeably in my campaign world. (Heck, on this planet, they pretty much do have the same meaning and let's not even start on "daemon". D&D's proud tradition on having a new monster for every varied spelling. Not as bad as goblin/goblyn I suppose...)

What is the difference between a cambion, a tiefling, and an alu-fiend?
Cambions and Alu-fiends are the same basic type of creature, with cambions being male and alu-fiends being female. Depending on the source/edition, they're usually considered as half-fiends. They're essentially the products of fiends mating with mortals, where the net result is 1/2 fiend or more.

Tieflings are what happens when a cambion or alu-fiend mates with a humanoid, and they're less than 1/2 fiend.

Doug McCrae

That's because the official position of the apostolic and pre-Reformation churchs (Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic) was and still is that there is no such thing as witchcraft or magic. All power comes from God and you can't commune with the devil or demons from below and get magic powers.

Augustine of Hippo

On Christian Doctrine 2.35-36 (397)

As a result of these delusions and deceptions it has come about that these superstitious and deadly kinds of divination actually do tell us of past and future things, which happen exactly as predicted… The fact that the ghost of the dead Samuel prophesied the truth to King Saul does not make the wickedness of summoning that ghost any less abhorrent. Nor did the fact that (in Acts) a soothsayer bore true testimony to the Lord’s apostles lead Paul to spare that spirit rather than cleanse the woman by rebuking the demon and driving it out.

So all the specialists in this kind of futile and harmful superstition, and the contracts, as it were, of an untrustworthy and treacherous partnership established by this disastrous alliance of men and devils, must be totally rejected and avoided by the Christian.

City of God 8.19 (426)

All the marvels of magicians… happen on the instructions of demons and by their efforts.

City of God 10.8

The magi of the pharaoh… were suffered to do some wonderful things that they might be vanquished all the more signally! They did these things by the magical arts and incantations to which the evil spirits or demons are addicted.

Caesarius of Arles | Sermon 54 (c. 530)

Perhaps someone says: What are we to do for the magicians and seers often announce true omens to us? Concerning this the Scriptures warn and advise us: Even if they tell you the truth, do not believe them, “For the Lord your God trieth you, whether you fear him, or not.” Again you say: Sometimes many would run the risk even of death from the bite of a snake or some infirmity if there were no magicians. It is true, dearly beloved, that god permits this to the Devil, as I already mentioned above, to try Christian people. Thus, when they sometimes are able to recover from sickness by these impious remedies, men see some truth in them and afterwards more readily believe the Devil.

Isidore of Seville

The Etymologies 8.9.9 (c. 600-625)

The magi are they who are usually called malefici because of the greatness of their guilt. They throw the elements into commotion, disorder men’s minds, and without any draught of poison they kill by the mere virulence of a charm.

The Etymologies 8.9.31

In all these the demonic art has arisen from a pestilential association of men and bad angels.

Halitgar of Cambrai | The “Roman” Penitential (c. 830)

If anyone is a wizard, that is, if he takes away the mind of a man by the invocation of demons, he shall do penance for five years, one year on bread and water.

Hugh of St Victor | The Didascalion (c. 1120)

Sorcerers are those who, with demonic incantations or amulets or any other execrable types of remedies, by the cooperation of devils and by evil instinct, perform wicked things. Performers of illusions are those who with their demonic art make sport of human senses through imaginative illusions about one thing’s being turned into another.

Thomas Aquinas

Summa Contra Gentiles 3.105 (1259-1265)

The magic arts derive their efficacy from another intelligent being, to whom the magician’s words are addressed… the persons by whose assistance such things are done have an evil mind.

Summa Theologica, Supplement, Question 58 Article 2 (1265-1274)

Some have asserted that witchcraft is nothing in the world but an imagining of men who ascribed to spells those natural effects the causes of which are hidden. But this is contrary to the authority of holy men who state that the demons have power over men's bodies and imaginations, when God allows them… By reason of their subtle nature they are able to do many things which we cannot; and those who induce them to do such things are called wizards.

William, Cardinal of Santa Sabina | letter (22nd August 1320)

Sent on behalf of Pope John XXII to the inquisitors of Carcassonne and Toulouse

Pope John XXII fervently desires that the sorcerers, the infectors of God’s flock, flee from the midst of the House of God. He ordains and commits to you that, by his authority against them who make sacrifice to demons or adore them, or do homage unto them by giving them as a sign a written pact or other token; or who make certain binding pacts with them, or who make or have made for them certain images or other things which bind them to demons, or by invoking the demons plan to perpetrate whatever sorceries they wish… you can investigate and otherwise proceed against them by whatever means available.

Pope Gregory XI | letter (1374)

To Jacques de Morée, inquisitor in France

A very large number of people (even on occasion ecclesiastics), unmindful of their salvation, invoke demons to the peril of their souls.

Pope Eugenius IV | letter (1437)

To all inquisitors of heretical depravity

They sacrifice to demons, adore them, seek out and accept responses from them, do homage to them, and make with them a written agreement or another kind of pact through which, by a single word, touch, or sign, they may perform whatever evil deeds or sorcery they wish and be transported to or away from wherever they wish. They cure diseases, provoke bad weather, and make pacts concerning other evil deeds.

Pope Innocent VIII | Summis Desiderantes (1484)

Many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth.

Doug McCrae

Pre-Reformation no one got into trouble for "being a witch" or the like, you were more likely to get into trouble for accusing someone being a witch, because that is heresy.

This post presents evidence that punishment for magic could be very severe in Europe prior to the Reformation in 1517. Many people were killed for magical offences, both legally and extra-legally, throughout this period. The peaks seem to have been in the Roman Republic in the 2nd century BCE, the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Russia in the high middle ages, and the 15th century western Alps. Legal codes from the 3rd century onward prescribed harsh penalties.

According to the Roman historian Livy there were mass executions of those suspected of veneficium, which could either mean using poison or a magic potion, during the Roman Republic. In 331 BCE, 170 women were condemned to death for allegedly causing an epidemic. During another outbreak of disease 2000 people were executed in 184 BCE, and 3000 in 180 BCE. The Chronicle of the Year 354 relates that the Emperor Tiberius (reign 14-37) executed a total of 130 veneficiarii and malefici (literally evil-doers but by 354 it meant practitioners of harmful magic) over the course of his reign.

In the 3rd century the influential Roman jurist, Julius Paulus Prudentissimus, wrote:

Those who perform, or arrange for the performance of, impious or nocturnal rites, in order to enchant, magically bind, or restrain [magically compel] someone, shall be crucified or thrown to the beasts… It is agreed that those guilty of the magic art be inflicted with the supreme punishment, i.e. to be thrown to the beasts or crucified. Actual magicians, however, shall be burned alive. No one is permitted to have in their possession books of the magic art; and if anyone is found to have them in their possession, the books shall be publicly burnt and their property confiscated; honestiores shall be sent to an island; humiliores capitally punished. Not only the profession of this art but also its knowledge is prohibited.​

From 358 to 371 there were several waves of prosecutions under the emperors Constantius II, Valentinian and Valens. A number of individual cases were detailed by Ammianus Marcellinus in Roman Antiquities Book 28. In 385, Priscillian, bishop of Avila, was executed for maleficium along with five companions. Draconian legal codes of the 4th century were repeated in the Theodosian Code (438) and the early 6th century Code of Justinian. Title 18.6 of the latter stated:

Many persons do not hesitate to disturb the elements by the use of magic, plot against the lives of innocent people, and, by the invocation of household gods, dare to provide means by which anyone can destroy his enemies by evil arts. Such persons shall be thrown to wild beasts, as they are of a nature different from that of ordinary mortals.​

There were similar laws in the medieval period. According to the historian, Ronald Hutton:

Medieval law codes, starting with those of the Germanic kingdoms which supplanted the western Roman Empire, continued to prescribe penalties for the deliberate working of harmful magic. If the harm done was serious, such as murder, then the penalties were as severe as those specified for doing equivalent damage by physical means; which is logical in societies, such as those in medieval Europe, which believed in the literal potency of spells and curses.​

Historian of magic, Michael Bailey, describes the law of Charlemagne:

Charlemagne issued a systematic and sweeping legal condemnation of magic in 789 in an Admonitio generalis (General Admonition) for his entire kingdom. Influenced perhaps by the stricter moral position of reform-minded clerics in his court, he took a harsh stance against magic reminiscent of late imperial Roman legal codes but based primarily on more literal readings of biblical condemnations of magic. The Admonitio outlawed all forms of divination and other magical practices and required all magicians or enchanters to repent their practices or be condemned to death.​

A nun, Gerberga, was accused of causing the illness of Emperor Louis the Pious (reign 813-840) by magic and was killed by drowning. Two people were executed for the alleged murder by magic of King Arnulf of Carinthia in 899. A late 920s legal code under King Athelstan pronounced the death penalty for killing by wiccecraeftum (witchcraft). Between 1000 and 1300 in Russia there were numerous reports of the killing of old people for supposedly causing famines. “In the first half of the eleventh century, King Ramiro I of Aragon ordered the execution of many maleficae.” (Montesano.) According to the chronicler Ademar of Chabannes, in 1028 the daughter-in-law of Count William II of Angoulême was burned at the stake, along with her co-conspirators, for causing his death by magic. Dubravius’s History of Bohemia related that in 1080, King Wratislaw II killed over a hundred for allegedly using magic to cause madness and storms and to steal victuals. During the reign of King Henry I of England the penalty for killing persons or animals by magic was death. If it was attempted but unsuccessful compensation should be paid. In Styria in 1115, thirty women were executed by burning for an unrecorded offence. Hutton considers this most likely to have been witchcraft. In 1128 a woman was burned at the stake for causing Count Dietrich of Flanders to become ill. The law code of King Alfonso X of Castille, drawn up in the 1260s and 1270s, stated that while astrology was acceptable most forms of divination, such as casting lots, and summoning spirits were punishable by death.

In 1317, Pope John XXII had the bishop of Cahors, Hugues Géraud, tortured and executed for allegedly trying to murder him using sorcery. Over the next eight years he levelled similar charges against many others. Although these were politically motivated “both John and his opponents would have believed in the efficacy of many magical rites, and surely some of his enemies were not above using such means to attempt to strike out at the pope.” (Bailey)

In Ireland in 1324-5 Dame Alice Kyteler and a number of her associates were accused by the Bishop of Ossory of magic and Devil worship. Kyteler’s servant, Petronella de Meath, was tortured and executed. Niccolo Consigli was burned in 1384 in Florence for necromancy and attempted murder by magic.

In Western Europe, trials for magic increased from the 14th century onwards. According to historian, Brian Levack:

From 1330 to 1375… there were numerous trials for sorcery… from 1375 to 1420, the number of prosecutions increased and charges of diabolism became common, mainly in Italy… During the 1420s and 1430s the full stereotype of the witch, complete with descriptions of the witches’ sabbath, emerged, most notably in trials in the western Alps.​

As many as one hundred were executed for witchcraft in the Valais in 1428. In the neighbouring Dauphiné region, there were 167 killings from 1428 to 1447. A trial at Arras in 1459-60 led to twelve being burned as witches.

After the Reformation in 1517 there was a lull. The witch trials reached their peak in the late 16th and 17th centuries. Levack gives a figure of 45 000 deaths in Europe during the early modern period.


Bailey Michael, Magic and Superstition in Europe (2006)
Collins Derek, Magic in the Ancient Greek World (2008)
Hutton Ronald, The Witch (2017)
Kieckhefer Richard, Magic in the Middle Ages 2nd edition (2000)
Levack Brian, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe 4th edition (2016)
Montesano Marina, Classical Culture and Witchcraft in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (2018)
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Doug McCrae

No 12th century bishop would be worrying about witchcraft

Eberhard II von Otelingen, bishop of Bamberg from 1146 to 1170, described the procedure for organising an ordeal by boiling water when someone is accused of, among others things, veneficium or maleficium. The water must be asperged (sprinkled with holy water) in case the Devil should render it harmless. He also said that the accused may be protected by magical herbs “prepared by the Devil’s art.”

Heribert, a monk who subsequently became archbishop of Torres in Sardinia, wrote in c. 1147 “False prophets who are striving to cause the downfall of Christianity... cannot be held in prison by any means because, if they are arrested they cannot be restrained by being tied up or put in chains, since the Devil sets them free.”

The penitential of Bartholomew Iscanus, bishop of Exeter from 1161 to 1184, prescribed penance of five years for those who conjure storms or, by invoking demons, induce madness. Using an incantation to steal food only merited three years’ penance. (Believing in nocturnal rides or transformation into wolves – one, which demonstrates that it was possible to consider some forms of magic to be real while denying others.)

“The bishop of Beauvais in northern France led the citizens in trying and executing a woman for practising magic in 1190.” (Hutton)
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Stuck in the 90s
Began playing in 89, so after the major religious problems with the game, but ironically the largest support for the game we found, came from the catholic household of my highschool best friend's parents. They were devout catholic and allowed us to use their house for gaming, knowing full well the contents of the game. His father would make interesting props for our games, while his mother would make dinner and snacks for us - they were truly wonderful, understanding people who grasped the difference between a game, and reality.

They saw, on a regular basis, or at least overheard so to speak, how our actions would more often than not help us avoid conflict. (The fact that monsters were outright brutal compared to our party's power level and we were downright scared of them half the time, was irrelevant - they just heard us trying to reason around slashing things to death all the time).

As for the name change, I started with 2e and grew quite fond of the interesting names for demons and devils, so I still use them today, regardless of the system (when playing in a classic D&D type setting). Nothing wrong with some extra flavor, even if it was invented for a marketing reason.


Stuck in the 90s
In case people are curious, this is still a thing, though it's gotten considerably less mainstream over time.

For an insider look, might I suggest Common Sense Media?
Parent reviews for Vampirina | Common Sense Media

Hah - I actually use Common Sense Media myself to see if excess nudity or sex is going to appear in a movie. I have no particular issues with it, as in I'm not a crusader against it, I just have zero interest in -watching- it.


Final Form (she/they)
Hah - I actually use Common Sense Media myself to see if excess nudity or sex is going to appear in a movie. I have no particular issues with it, as in I'm not a crusader against it, I just have zero interest in -watching- it.

It's a curiosity I check every now and again, but be careful because I've seen reviews outright lie about content before on there.


Tanari & baatezu are still in sort of use right?
Basically, the last time those terms were technically used in DND books was 3.0/3.5 Edition. Any edition after that used Devil/Demon IIRC. Never played 4E.

As I mentioned before, I myself still use T'anari and Baatezu because I'm just used to those from when I used to read a lot of 3.0/3.5 DND books as I got into the hobby from a lore standpoint during that edition. Plus the first DND book purchases I ever made was during that Edition period.

For the record: there is nothing wrong with still using those terms. As I and another poster mentioned, we use those terms as the "formal" terms such beings use for identifying themselves while lesser educated/knowledgeable people use the general/generic Demon/Devil terms.


Thinking that a magic spell in a game teaches people actual magic is already pretty absurd. But even more absurd is that apparently a lot of adults think magic is real. And that's no different today than it was back then.

Same line of thought that kids shouldn't have access to candy cigarettes because it will lead them trying real cigarettes. Or the old using Mary Jane leads to trying out the harder stuff.

I'm not endorsing the line of thinking, but I do understand the thought process behind it - seen a couple friends who've gotten themselves into trouble starting with something "innocent".

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