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The good ole days of Satanic Panic


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GuyBoy

Adventurer
I remember being fully aware of the Satanic Panic, but it was never really much of a “thing” in the UK.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got more than our fair share of swivel-eyed loons (see Brexit for proof!), but they don’t tend to group around religion as their cause. So D&D was never particularly controversial.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
We lost a player to it. He had gotten the red box basic for Xmas one year as well as some Steve Jackson Games paper minis. Some months later, his pastor got wind he played it and told his parents he shouldn't be doing so and they complied. It was unfortunate because he really enjoyed the game.
 

payn

Legend
Theres been a long lasting effect of it too. Back in 2007 there was a murder trial where two of the suspects played Dungeons and Dragons Online. Why that came up who knows? The fact that they played a D&D videogame was a double dip into panic about corrupted youth being driven to violence nonsense. Not just the lawyers, but the opinion commentary from the media beat that narrative like a drum.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
From 1981 (when I started to play) to 1986, I lived in small town America in Alaska and eastern Oregon. Catholic household, overall pretty Christian towns. No one really cared about D&D. My parents never gave any flack about it, and in fact bought us our stuff. Music, however, that was a different creature. My mom didn't like the "heavy metal". In fact, she banned us from listening to Huey Lewis and the News because of "I want a new drug" despite that song being explicitly against using actual drugs. 🤷‍♂️

In 1986 I moved to the outskirts of Portland, so a bigger city didn't have much of a panic either.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
In central Texas in 1985 or so when I was playing Basic, the parents of some neighbors informed my family their children wouldn't be allowed to associate with me or my brothers anymore, because I played D&D.
They never actually played D&D with me (and neither did my brothers, for that matter). We were all just kids on the block, just "go outside and play!" sort of friends. Nevertheless, they were simply forbidden from ever playing with any of us at all. Because their pastor said.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I started playing D&D in Aurora Colorado in 1977-78. While my Mom was marginally concerned*, I was made fully aware of the Satanic Panic in 1982 or so because of a relative. We had just moved to Texas. (At the time, I had also discovered heavy metal.)

Funny thing, I was attending an all-boys Catholic private high school at the time, and the monks who ran it didn’t worry about it at all. In fact, I was permitted to start a roleplaying game club while I was there.

In fact, the only faculty member who gave me any guff about the game (and the music, too) was my art teacher. He was one of my faves, and I think the feeling was mutual (we’re still cordial to this day), but he became born again midway through the school year, gave away his tapes (which he used to play in class on a boom box), and started opening classes with a Bible quote.




* Mom didn’t actually do or say anything about either the music or the hobby, but did eventually tell me YEARS later of her worries.
 
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I went to a catholic grade school; about grade 5 a visiting priest came in to wail about the evils of "Dungeons & Hounds." Yes, that's correct, he didn't even know the proper name of the game (the art teacher corrected him). That particular priest later went to jail for raping children.
 

MGibster

Legend
Me: I'm heading to Chris'.
Mom: Are you guys going to play your Satanic game?
Me: Yeah.
Mom: Have fun.

My parents didn't take the Satanic panic very seriously. In sixth grade, I was reading Keep on the Borderlands in the school cafeteria and a teacher said to me, "I don't think you're supposed to have that here." but she didn't take it away or pursue the issue any further. While I always had a good time poking fun at some of those folks, I have to admit I feel very badly for Pat Pulling of Bothered about Dungeons and Dragons (BADD) fame. Her son, an avid gamer, committed suicide and I think Pulling kind of went off the deep end trying to cope with his death. The death of a young person is always difficult but dealing with suicide can complicate the grieving process quite a bit. I don't excuse her behavior, and while I might laugh at her absurd conclusions I don't laugh at her any more.
 



pogre

Legend
My Mom was a widow and a tough lady when she had to be. We grew up in a village in downstate Illinois and she heard from friends and neighbors that we should not be playing this satanic game. My Mom resisted their interference and even played with us from time-to-time.

The prejudice still is out there with some older folks. I take on student teachers from time-to-time and I had a university professor warn me once that a potential student-teacher was into "those cult D&D games." I immediately agreed to have him as a student teacher, and he did great. That was only about 10 years ago!

I do think if D&D gets even more popular and mainstream it will be targeted by some in the religious community in the United States. There was even a religious backlash against Harry Potter a few years ago (nothing to do with the author's current controversies).
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
My two DnD is evil stories...

As a kid (early 80s) my best friend who lived next door and I had a collection of random DnD materials. Mostly Basic rulebooks and modules. At some point his mom got drawn into the panic and demanded he get rid of all his DnD stuff. He gave it to me, we shared everything as desired, and we carried on as if nothing changed.

As a young adult, my brother got into a nasty divorce with custody issues. At some point in the various lawyer discussions I had been accused of "Forcing my nephew to stay up all night playing Dungeons and Dragons". The actual story is one New Years Eve my nephew and his friend asked me to play DnD so I did a makeshift intro game with some scratch paper and some yahtzee dice for about 20 minutes after the ball drop was on TV.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
This got me thinking about another incident in early 1984, a few months after I'd received Red Box Basic for Christmas. A kid at my elementary school was handing out pamphlets which had the words "Dungeons and Dragons" printed prominently on the outside. Seeing this, I became excited and started talking to him, chattering about how great a game it was, and did he play, and all that.

He just said I really needed to read the flier, handed me one, and wandered off.

Later that day, I actually read thing... and was a bit vexed and perplexed, because it didn't jibe with my (at the time very limited) experience of the game. I never interacted with that kid again after that, even though he was in my class.

I held on to the pamphlet for years, but finally tossed it during a move after college in the mid 1990s... and I've regretted that ever since. But after a bit of googling today, I finally found it again!
Only A Game 1.PNG
(Clicking the pic links to a blog post; scroll down a bit to see images that include scans of the full text.)

What stood out to me as a 10 year old was that real, thinking adults would confuse a game book with a religious text. (And also its weird focus on quotes with words like "crotch" and "genitals" pulled from various FRPGs.)

As I've grown older, I've learned that adults really aren't nearly as bright as I thought they were when I was a kid.
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
As a young adult, my brother got into a nasty divorce with custody issues. At some point in the various lawyer discussions I had been accused of "Forcing my nephew to stay up all night playing Dungeons and Dragons". The actual story is one New Years Eve my nephew and his friend asked me to play DnD so I did a makeshift intro game with some scratch paper and some yahtzee dice for about 20 minutes after the ball drop was on TV.
How long were you in jail for your crime? ;)
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
1. In junior high school, my closest friend's extremely religious mother forbade him from playing "that devil game" so we only played Top Secret at his house. According to his mother, it was okay for us to play characters who killed humans but that "even being heroes who kill devils" was inviting Satan into our lives.

He played D&D at everyone else's houses.

2. The bookstore run by six "good Christian" retired ladies asked me about D&D. I spent ten minutes explaining to them. After that, they were the only place in my small hometown that carried D&D books.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
This got me thinking about another incident in early 1984, a few months after I'd received Red Box Basic for Christmas. A kid at my elementary school was handing out pamphlets which had the words "Dungeons and Dragons" printed prominently on the outside. Seeing this, I became excited and started talking to him, chattering about how great a game it was, and did he play, and all that.

He just said I really needed to read the flier, handed me one, and wandered off.

Later that day, I actually read thing... and was a bit vexed and perplexed, because it didn't jibe with my (at the time very limited) experience of the game. I never interacted with that kid again after that, even though he was in my class.

I held on to the pamphlet for years, but finally tossed it during a move after college in the mid 1990s... and I've regretted that ever since. But after a bit of googling today, I finally found it again!
View attachment 149384
(Clicking the pic links to a blog post; scroll down a bit to see images that include scans of the full text.)

What stood out to me as a 10 year old was that real, thinking adults would confuse a game book with a religious text. (And also its weird focus on quotes with words like "crotch" and "genitals" pulled from various FRPGs.)

As I've grown older, I've learned that adults really aren't nearly as bright as I thought they were when I was a kid.
They're charging as much for a block of pamphlets as the MM costs. There's the real crime, right there, and also the telling truth of their motivation.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
My best friend's parents wouldn't let him play D&D. They were very conservative Catholics and even though their priest didn't have a problem with it, they still were not comfortable with it because of all the bad press. The good thing to come out of that was we played a lot of other TTRPGs that we might not have otherwise, starting with Star Wars, but also Star Frontiers, Gama World, Marvel Super Heros, etc.

What was always funny to me is that would have no problem with us playing Warhammer.

I also ran games at the local public library and would sometimes have to address parent concerns but I didn't live in an area of the country or small town where anyone would try to prevent games from being run in a public library.

The geek/nerd stigma was much more difficult to deal with than the Satanic Panic nonsense. Heck, being a "Satanist" was a step up in 1980s school cliques.
 


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