The role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), which has received a lot of attention in the media and popular culture, has sparked a lot of debate. During the game’s early years, notably in the early 1980s, the game garnered some unfavourable press. Some D&D problems are wrongly attributed to role-playing games in general, or to the literary genre of fantasy, because the name D&D is commonly used to apply to all sorts of role-playing games. The game and its purported influence on individuals who play it are at the centre of some of the conflicts, while commercial concerns at the game’s original publisher, TSR, are at the centre of others. Wizards of the Coast is currently the owner of the game.
Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has been accused of promoting Satanism, witchcraft, suicide, pornography, and murder at various periods throughout its history. The moral panic, or widespread concern that some evil is threatening society’s well-being, peaked in the 1980s, centred on role-playing games. The moral panic about Dungeons & Dragons has dissipated, according to The New York Times in 2016.
D&D has been accused of racist depictions of Caucasians, Asians, and Africans. D&D’s presentation of negative racial stereotypes in some of its “monsters,” such as orcs and drow elves, has also been criticised. Some of these flaws were addressed in the release of specific D&D 5th edition extra rulebooks.
The Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin has prohibited D&D for “promoting gang-related behaviour,” while the Idaho State Correctional Institution has a blanket ban on role-playing games. Some religious critics have panned D&D, including Peter Leithart, George Grant, and William Schnoebelen.
Some information had to be modified or removed to meet intellectual property issues after D&D was involved in some small licencing and trademark conflicts. To avoid copyright difficulties with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, hobbits were renamed halflings.
TSR Inc., D&D’s parent business, had some internal squabbles. Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, the game’s developers, were involved in these disagreements. Gygax and his business partner Brian Blume also had a falling out.
The Extinction of A Dungeons & Dragons Fan Prodigy
On August 15, 1979, a flame was lit that sparked an entire movement against Dungeons & Dragons.
According to the Saturday Evening Post, James Dallas Egbert III, an adolescent college student, child prodigy, and D&D player, vanished on that day, leaving behind a suicide note. The police were summoned, and a private investigator named William Dear was brought in to help with the investigation. Dear was more interested in a map of the college campus and the information that the missing kid played D&D than he was in the difficulties of being a young college student and reports of drug usage. Dear came to the conclusion that he had entered steam tunnels beneath the school, most likely in a state of confusion induced by his inability to distinguish between fact and game.
Egbert eventually reappeared, confessing that he had awoken from his suicide attempt and fled the state. He said he did it due to academic and family pressure, but in the eyes of the public, it was all about the D&D. A Cosmopolitan journalist based his book Mazes and Monsters on the case in 1981, a year after Egbert committed suicide. It was made into a film starring a teenage Tom Hanks, and when Dear published his own book in 1984, it didn’t matter if he minimised any Dungeons & Dragons ties – that part of the tale had already been written.
Irving Lee Pulling’s Tragic Death
Sadly, Egbert’s suicide was not the only one tied to Dungeons & Dragons. Irving Lee Pulling II’s parents sued his high school administrator in 1983 after their son committed suicide the day before exams in 1982. According to The Washington Post, the sheriff’s department discovered a plethora of D&D “paraphernalia,” including a magazine and a message written in a language they didn’t recognise. More to the point, Pulling’s classmates claimed he struggled to fit in and was depressed.
In any case, his parents filed a lawsuit against the school for allowing them to play D&D there, including the last session where another player allegedly “cursed” Pulling. A Virginia court dropped the lawsuit just a few months after it was filed, but not for any reason linked to D&D. It was rejected because the principal was performing his duties as a government official and hence could not be sued as an individual.
Patricia Pulling wasn’t about to let up, so she began a crusade against the game, according to The Village Voice. She started Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD), perhaps unaware of how conventional a paladin she was: holding the sword of truth against the darkness, warning everyone about the dangers they would face, and being welcomed at the table by no one.
Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.
Bring It to The Bone
Patricia Pulling waged a massive fight against Dungeons & Dragons, writing her own books on the game she thought encouraged insanity, blasphemy, cannibalism, and demon summoning. According to The Village Voice, D&D is one of the major causes of teen suicide in the United States. It was clear that something had to be done.
Pulling was there, waving her sword and yanking claims from her own Bag of Holding like there was no tomorrow. She even produced a list of actions that indicated D&D had taken hold of the curious toddler. What should Mom and Dad keep their eyes peeled for? D&D may have infiltrated your home if Junior began tomb-robbing, stealing holy treasures, drinking blood, forming suicide pacts, or displaying “supremacist views.” Quick, make a poison save!
She identified children who were particularly vulnerable to D&D, claiming that brilliant, adventurous, creative children with no history of drug use or behavioural issues were the ones who failed their saving throws and were lured in. So, pretty much everyone’s ideal child was a contender for Dungeons & Dragons supremacy. She wasn’t alone in her beliefs: she appeared on shows all over the 80s dial and even sat down with inventor Gary Gygax on a 60 Minutes broadcast (via the BBC). Sure, she was mistaken, but who needs the facts when Shield of Faith can get you over those annoying speed bumps?