Wednesday 26 August 2009

The Myths of D&D

I just read an article about the myths that seem to linger around D&D like a bad smell. Since the dawn of time (well the 70's which is close enough) there have been certain myths about the first and best roleplaying game that just won't die - even when hit repeatedly with a +5 Vorpal Sword.

Some evangelical Christians for instance, consider D&D a breeding ground of evil and think of the rulebooks as literal guides to satanism.

"Dungeons and Dragons is a tragic and tangled subject. It is essentially a
feeding program for occultism and witchcraft." (
One of the classic examples of this warped thinking is the comic strip Dark Dungeons. As a relatively normal person and a life long D&D player I found it hard not to laugh myself into a coma when I read this strip. But when you take a step back and look at this as a piece of religious propaganda it takes on a much more chilling aspect. One of the best rebuttals of this sort of garbage that I have read is on the lilith ezine website.

Another propagated myth is that D&D players are more likely to turn into deranged killers unable to tell the game from reality. This myth almost certainly stems from the by now famous case of James Dallas Egbert III who went missing in the steam tunnels below the campus of Michigan State University. Much of the press reports at the time suggested that Egbert was "lost in the game" and attributed his suicide attempts (eventually successful) to the influence of D&D. The 1982 film Mazes & Monsters starring Tom Hanks was largely based on this inaccurate and sensationalist reporting. The truth however was much less glamorous and involved a troubled youth and an overbearing farther. Two excellent reviews of this case can be found here and here. I'd also recommend reading this essay.

But surely these sort of ill informed attacks against a game loved and played by millions worldwide are a thing of the past? Unfortunately not so. Only last year there was uproar in the Roleplaying community when a member of John McCains election staff took a side swipe at D&D players. Portraying gamers as socially guileless nerds is still popular it seems, despite that fact that D&D has some illustrious players - Stephen Colbert, Ben Afflek, Judy Dench, Robin Williams, Moby, Mike Myers, Mat Damon, Wil Wheaton, Vin Diesel, Joss Whedon and Jack Black to name but a few.
Rest easy folks, were in seriously cool company!


  1. I might have a read of those essays if I get a second. My wife, from Chicago, has mentioned the story of Egbert III and 'Mazes and Monsters' before: what chance did the poor kid have with a name like that, anyhow?

    The 'Dark Dungeons' strip is fantastically fear-mongering. They come in little booklets which evangelists hand out to teenagers and kids (kids!) on street corners, and my sister-in-law sent me a bunch of them a couple of years ago for giggles. They're sickening across the board, but my favourite was the one denouncing homosexuality: as I recall it was set in Sodom and Gomorrah, full of Freddie Mercury-a-likes and vomit-inducingly bigoted.

    Y'know...for kids!

  2. I try to keep politics out of my blog, but in defence of my hobby I’ll make an exception!

    Religious fundamentalism (in all its forms) is never swayed by little things like Truth or Freedom. I’m not anti religion despite being a life long Atheist. I respect other people’s right to believe in a god. I even admire such strength of faith, while not understanding it myself. But I hate Doctrine and closed mindedness. For therein lies a path to all manner of human evil.

    A few years ago I took my daughter to the Holocaust exhibit at the Imperial War Museum and the link between extreme religious fundamentalism, racism and anti Semitism was chillingly clear. And the route from ‘extreme views’ to the Final Solution was frighteningly short.

  3. Quite: thanks.

    On a far, far lighter note, you may enjoy this: - hover the pointer over it once you've read it.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always try to reply as soon as I can, so why not pop back later and continue the conversation. In the meantime, keep rolling high!