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.

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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.
 
Jim Ward

Comments

Ulfgeir

Explorer
That's interesting to know, considering how many RPGs have originated in Sweden.
Back then, we did not have that many Swedish RPG's though. Basically we had:
  • Drakar och Demoner (this was quite heavily influenced by Runequest. And yes it included humanoid ducks)
  • Mutant
  • Chock (Swedish translation of 1st ed Chill)
  • Sagan om Ringen (Swedish translation of MERP)
  • Stjärnornas krig (Swedish translation of Star Wars from West End Games)

I believe 1st edition of Western had come out, and also a bronze-age game called Khelatar. These two were made by different creators. but the company (Äventyrsspel) that made the above 5 had gotten a distribution-deal that got their products into toy-stores.

But yes, the rpg-scene has really exploded since then. I believe we have at last 7 different companies making games here now:
  • Free League / Fria Ligan
  • Helmgast
  • Eloso förlag
  • Riotminds
  • Bläckfisk förlag
  • Åskfågeln förlag
  • MylingSpel

The two big games here in Sweden has always been Drakar och Demoner, and Mutant in various incarnations.
 
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Ulfgeir

Explorer
One thing I might have been a bit bad of communicating, was that Kult was one of the targets of the Satanic Panic here. It came out just in the beginning of it.

And those two dramapedagogues, that causes so much trouble, well they were at it again when we had a murdercase a number of years ago. The victim was heavily involved in the Vampire the Masquerade-LARP scene. Somehow though those two somehow got the newspapers to play up the scary part of rpg's and claim that the murder happened due to rpg's.

And when I said that their book was badly researched; let's put it this way, if a student handed in a thesis for a bachelor's degree (or even the level below that) that was that badly done, they would have failed. And those two dramapedagogues claimed to have been researching rpg's for years. Here in Sweden roleplayers often refer to them as "Piff & Puff" (which happens to be the Swedish names for the 2 Disney characters Chip & Dale)
 

Ravenbrook

Explorer
And those two dramapedagogues, that causes so much trouble, well they were at it again when we had a murdercase a number of years ago. The victim was heavily involved in the Vampire the Masquerade-LARP scene. Somehow though those two somehow got the newspapers to play up the scary part of rpg's and claim that the murder happened due to rpg's.
Yep, the media like to sensationalize everything and find easy answers.
 

Zarithar

Explorer
That's a later edition. Here's the same monster in 1st edition.



Basically a black and white version of the 2nd edition, incl the tiny horns (that almost look like ears in 2nd edition). They didn't get big horns until 3rd edition.

Look at 1st edition Asmodeus.

Ok you got me there... personally it's really hard to tell that the 2e Pit Fiend has horns, but I guess they are in front of his ears. I can't find any 2e art of Asmodeus... I think they brought him back much later on if I recall mid to late 90s.
 

Bohandas

Explorer
I don't know why the religious-right's paranoia about RPGs leading to satanism was always so strongly fixated on D&D specifically.

I mean, I know that if I personally was going to start worshipping a demonic entity from a 1980's roleplaying game it wouldn't be anything from D&D, it would be Slaanesh from Warhammer 40000
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I don't know why the religious-right's paranoia about RPGs leading to satanism was always so strongly fixated on D&D specifically.

I mean, I know that if I personally was going to start worshipping a demonic entity from a 1980's roleplaying game it wouldn't be anything from D&D, it would be Slaanesh from Warhammer 40000
Size of the profile. D&D always had the name recognition. Hardly anybody knew what Warhammer 40K was. And to be honest, outside the hobby, that’s probably still true.
 

Ravenbrook

Explorer
Size of the profile. D&D always had the name recognition. Hardly anybody knew what Warhammer 40K was. And to be honest, outside the hobby, that’s probably still true.
True. The popularity of D&D made it the target. Same as with the Harry Potter books later on.
 

Hussar

Legend
Not so much. Tolkien, by virtue of his academic credentials, got put on the reading lists of many, many schools, both elementary and high school, in the English speaking world. It was the same way that C. S. Lewis, by virtue of his background (and the fact that he actually WAS writing religious allegory) pretty much completely avoided any backlash from fundie Christian circles.

From the teacher's POV, they got a book (The Hobbit) that students actually wanted to read that was "literary" enough to qualify as "literature". Whereas books like the Harry Potter series are mass market, and written by a woman with little or no academic background. Fertile ground for a good old book banning binge.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
Not so much. Tolkien, by virtue of his academic credentials, got put on the reading lists of many, many schools, both elementary and high school, in the English speaking world. It was the same way that C. S. Lewis, by virtue of his background (and the fact that he actually WAS writing religious allegory) pretty much completely avoided any backlash from fundie Christian circles.

From the teacher's POV, they got a book (The Hobbit) that students actually wanted to read that was "literary" enough to qualify as "literature". Whereas books like the Harry Potter series are mass market, and written by a woman with little or no academic background. Fertile ground for a good old book banning binge.
I'm not so sure about Tolkien there.

When I was younger Tolkien was not actually considered literature. It was comparable to the pulps or dime store books. It was considered not worthy of even university literature or even High School literature evaluations.

I saw that there were many that made it massively popular in the 70s and 80s and onwards, but even then most professors and such were very begrudging on whether Tolkien's works had any value.

I think what occurred is that they had many young students that DID view the Lord of the Rings as having value and when they finally came to their own and the old guard left, Tolkien's works were finally seen as being noteworthy literature in their own right (it basically almost started an entire genre of literature off of itself with many copycats and such of the Trilogy).

However, when I was young I did not see any of the "educated" teachers pushing the Lord of the Rings...in fact, most of the time they were derisive of it and had a very low view of it.

I felt differently, but I was not one of their educated peers in the so mighty world to determine what was worthy literature and what was not at that time period.

There was no religious backlash that I knew of regarding Tolkien, but he was definitely not something I saw on any reading lists of schools and such, in fact he was normally held in derision by teachers and professors and such in regards to literary value.

That came later, long after my youth, where Tolkien finally was well considered by the educated. Of course, many of those young individuals (such as yours truly) at the time held him in high esteem, but our opinions were not considered valid compared to our teachers. Now, I see Tolkien held as a great in literature, but originally I do not feel it was so. He was seen more as a writer of fairy tales and folklore, but as such his books were not considered comparable to those they felt wrote of the parallels of their time in satire or other means.

It is odd how opinion of what works are great and which are not change as time passes and as the views of the past change.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I would think any author that was a finalist for the Hugo award (not to mention others), would be considered a “real” author. And Tolkien was a finalist in the 60s and 70s. So I guess my takeaway was that you had crappy teachers or professors if they didn’t consider Hugo award finalists real literature. 🤷‍♂️
 
Not so much. Tolkien, by virtue of his academic credentials, got put on the reading lists of many, many schools, both elementary and high school, in the English speaking world. It was the same way that C. S. Lewis, by virtue of his background (and the fact that he actually WAS writing religious allegory) pretty much completely avoided any backlash from fundie Christian circles.

From the teacher's POV, they got a book (The Hobbit) that students actually wanted to read that was "literary" enough to qualify as "literature". Whereas books like the Harry Potter series are mass market, and written by a woman with little or no academic background. Fertile ground for a good old book banning binge.
Lol. And the entire time it was highly controversial because the nazis also loved his books. Forgot that part.
 

Hussar

Legend
Lol. And the entire time it was highly controversial because the nazis also loved his books. Forgot that part.
Really? Those time traveling Nazi's? Considering LotR didn't hit the shelves until 1954. Sure, the Hobbit came out in 1937, so, maybe Nazi's liked it? :erm: I dunno.

But, @GreyLord, really? You never saw it on reading lists for public schools? Maybe it's because I'm older, I went to school in the 70's and 80's, so, it was easy to see. The Hobbit was standard reading list fare for many public schools in Canada and the US in about Grade 7 (1st year Junior High for those who had that) and the LotR was on tons of university campus lit courses.

When an Oxford don bangs out a book, it makes it really, really easy to put it on reading lists. The fact that it was published by a school textbook publisher helped a lot too.

Heck, I even remember a line from Friends talking about reading the LotR in school:

 
Really? Those time traveling Nazi's? Considering LotR didn't hit the shelves until 1954. Sure, the Hobbit came out in 1937, so, maybe Nazi's liked it? :erm: I dunno.

But, @GreyLord, really? You never saw it on reading lists for public schools? Maybe it's because I'm older, I went to school in the 70's and 80's, so, it was easy to see. The Hobbit was standard reading list fare for many public schools in Canada and the US in about Grade 7 (1st year Junior High for those who had that) and the LotR was on tons of university campus lit courses.

When an Oxford don bangs out a book, it makes it really, really easy to put it on reading lists. The fact that it was published by a school textbook publisher helped a lot too.

Heck, I even remember a line from Friends talking about reading the LotR in school:

He wrote a lot more than LotR you know xD

They liked his earlier writings. Sheesh. Is this really not that obvious?
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
He wrote a lot more than LotR you know xD

They liked his earlier writings. Sheesh. Is this really not that obvious?
not until after WWII. The Hobbit was the only thing he wrote that was published until 1945 (and then it was a couple poems or short stories). He was also very vocally anti Nazi, so it would be weird that they would love his stuff. But I suppose if they could time travel, they could also like the works of someone who hated them...
 
not until after WWII. The Hobbit was the only thing he wrote that was published until 1945 (and then it was a couple poems or short stories). He was also very vocally anti Nazi, so it would be weird that they would love his stuff. But I suppose if they could time travel, they could also like the works of someone who hated them...
Yes. He was very vocally anti nazi. But he had many known works in philology and other areas of study. Not just fantasy. That said. They did like the hobbit. But they were very interested in his more academic writings as well. The hobbit was a hit with them back in the mid 1930s.
 

David Howery

Adventurer
Not so much. Tolkien, by virtue of his academic credentials, got put on the reading lists of many, many schools, both elementary and high school, in the English speaking world.
The Hobbit was part of the reading list for the Modern Novel class I took in high school.... which led to LOTR, Conan, Tarzan, assorted fantasy novels, and ultimately D&D. Was always so glad I took the Novel class instead of woodshop....
 

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