A look back at the D&D moral panic

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The greatest irony of the D&D moral panic is the accusation by Christian fundamentalists that kids playing a game are the ones who can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.


I think they rely on children not knowing the difference between fantasy and reality. Otherwise they wouldn’t have such intensive programs of indoctrination.

"Give me the child until he is seven and I'll give you the man" -Francis Xavier

Growing up in a fundie household, I can confidently say that anything that might have made my thoughts less controlled by my parents absolutely terrified them.


The irony of my fundie upbringing is that going to a Christian college was the death knell for my Christian beliefs. I thought it would make me a better Christian, but it just made me realize that I couldn’t fool myself any longer.


I just started playing D&D. Something I’ve wanted to do for decades. And honestly, I can’t shake the guilt. My mum knows I’m playing, and she doesn’t approve. I’m 40.

I lived in Orangeville, and knew a kid who was killed by someone who used the “I was made crazy by D&D” defence. My parents took away all my Fighting Fantasy novels, and my copy of Ultima.


Is that Tom Hanks in the animated gif?


Yup, from the movie Mazes and Monsters. Loosely based on what people assumed happened with James Dallas Egbert III.


Remember that it’s not just quaint “people sure were gullible back then!” reminiscing. The D&D aspect may have temporarily ruined a few childhoods, but the satanic panic as a whole ruined entire lives. There are still people in prison today because of those insane, fantasy-based witch hunts.


Right, like all that satanic ritual abuse bullshit there’s no evidence for, but a lot of people are still locked up over it.


A bit more on the murder here. And a little bit more about Thomas Redecki, the “expert witness” on the case. I’m quite astounded that the article doesn’t talk about Radecki, since he really worked the D&D thing to get himself famous. (Full disclosure: I’m not on a computing that can view the video, so maybe it’s in that.)


And, in my experience, people who should have been locked up longer got out because because a d20 made them do it.

Or maybe they got a nat 20 on a saving throw?

Oh wait, that fantasy v. reality thing again. Dammit. I keep getting confused!


… we need the multifaceted like on here like Facebook has done so I can give you a “well, played madam/sir”.


Exactly. I think people forget how completely out of control this whole thing was at the time. A lot of people really, seriously believed that there were literally Satan-worshipping covens hiding in forests and basements, ritually sacrificing babies and abusing children, that anyone could be living a secret double life as a bloodthirsty cultist, that anything they didn’t understand, from rock music to D&D, was part of a fiendish conspiracy. There was absolutely ZERO evidence for any of this, not a single case, but people believed it anyway, and eventually, as abides pointed out, people started using it as an excuse for other crimes because they knew people would believe them. The effects still linger today- in addition to the people thrown in prison with no evidence other than wild testimony (which would sound completely, laughably over-the-top ridiculous to anyone today), this is why Halloween has pretty much died out or been watered down to daylight mall trips, and why a handful of batshit crazy idiots still say that things like Harry Potter or My Little Pony are secret Satanic indoctrination tools.

Frankly, I’m surprised it ever died out at all. It’s not like Americans have gotten any smarter over the past few decades.


I remember it well. Ironically, most of the stuff they were going on about would have made for an amazing urban fantasy tabletop RPG campaign. There were people going on about demons in the books, kids killing with great frequency, demonic rituals and even that they were learning to sell their souls for dark magic and shit.

The thing to remember is that the D&D moral panic was really just a subset of the Satanic Panic, where folks were writing books claiming, in all seriousness, that human sacrifice was occurring in the US that, by some (entirely made up) estimates would have depopulated the country fairly rapidly, but somehow remained entirely unnoticed.

The whole thing was completely insane.


I wonder if anyone has introduced the same fundies to chess? The game also has the players battling it out with warriors and priests. A kid is just as likely to lose his sense of reality over it and go on a killing spree.

“The work of Satan.”

  • Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, on chess, Jan 2016

One group of cultural artifacts from the time were the Chick Tracts that covered such topics as D&D, Halloween, and related supposedly satanic conventions. My mother liked to hand them out.

That shit was creepy and haunting, and again, revealed that the minds of the fundies like Chick are scarier than anything the supposed satanists and witches came up with.


In my church chess was (probably) okay. But cards? SATANIC. Warning, autoplaying MIDI.


In my dad’s church D&D would have been OK and cards were welcomed. But putting sugar in your tea would get you burned at the stake.


Some of the most common places you will find a deck of cards (besides our homes) will be with prostitutes, gamblers, thieves, murderers, in taverns, brothels, prisons, insane asylums, gambling dens, etc., but never at a prayer meeting.

You mean like in places that the New Testament says Jesus hung out in? ::gasp::