Dungeons & Dragons controversies
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Dungeons & Dragons controversies concern the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), which has received significant attention in the media and in popular culture. The game has received negative coverage, especially during the game's early years in the early 1980s. Because the term D&D may be mistakenly used to refer to all types of role-playing games, part of the controversies regarding D&D actually pertain to role-playing games in general, or to the literary genre of fantasy.
Part of the controversies concern the game and its alleged impact on those who play it, while others concern business issues at the game's original publisher, TSR. The game is now owned by Wizards of the Coast.
Religious objections 
At various times in its history, Dungeons & Dragons received negative publicity for alleged or perceived promotion of such practices as Satanism, witchcraft, suicide, pornography, and murder. Especially during the 1980s, certain religious groups accused the game of encouraging interest in sorcery and the veneration of demons. Throughout the history of roleplaying games, many of these criticisms have been aimed specifically at Dungeons & Dragons, but touch on the genre of fantasy roleplaying games as a whole.
The concept of Dungeons & Dragons as Satanic was linked to the concept of Satanic ritual abuse (SRA), in that both presumed the existence of large, organized Satanic cults and societies. Sources such as the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick Publications portray D&D as a recruitment tool for these organizations.[non-primary source needed]
Patricia Pulling 
Patricia Pulling was an anti-occult campaigner from Richmond, Virginia and the founder of Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD). This one-person advocacy group was dedicated to the elimination of Dungeons & Dragons and other such games. Pulling founded BADD in 1982 after her son Irving committed suicide; she continued her advocacy until her death in 1997. As her son had played Dungeons & Dragons, she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her son's high school principal, holding him responsible for what she claimed was a Dungeons & Dragons curse placed upon her son shortly before his death. She later filed suit against TSR, the publishers of the game at that time.
The case against TSR was thrown out in 1984 and most of her claims were disproved by reporters, especially Michael A. Stackpole, who demonstrated that gamers had lower suicide rates than non-gamers.
When her lawsuits were dismissed, she founded BADD and began publishing information to promote her belief that D&D encouraged Satanism, rape, suicide and incorporated an entire litany of immoral and illegal practices. BADD effectively ceased to exist after Pulling died of cancer in 1997.
The Schnoebelen articles 
Bill Schnoebelen stated that he used to be a Wiccan Priest as well as a Satanic Priest. After eschewing those faiths, he dedicated himself to encouraging others to avoid them as well. In 1989 he wrote an article "Straight Talk on Dungeons and Dragons", which was published by Chick Publications. He received a large number of letters and emails on the subject in the years after, and wrote a follow-up article in 2001 entitled "Should a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?". These essays portray Dungeons & Dragons as a tool for New Age Satanic groups to introduce concepts and behaviors that are seen as contrary to Christian teaching, and morality in general. Schnoebelen wrote: "In the late 1970s, a couple of the game writers actually came to my wife and I as prominent 'sorcerers' in the community. They wanted to make certain the rituals were authentic. For the most part, they are" [emphasis in original].
His first article summarized D&D as "a feeding program for occultism and witchcraft [which] violates the commandment of I Ths. 5:22 'Abstain from all appearance of evil.'" It stated that rituals described in the game were capable of conjuring malevolent demons and producing other real-world effects. The article further accused the Dungeon Master's Guide of celebrating Adolf Hitler for his charisma.
His second article focused on contrasting the Christian worldview and the fantasy worldview of Dungeons & Dragons. He wrote that "being exposed to all these ideas of magic to the degree that the game requires cannot but help have a significant impact on the minds of the players."
The Hickman articles 
Tracy Hickman, best-selling fantasy writer, practicing Mormon, and co-author of the Ravenloft module for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, has written articles about the ethics of Dungeons & Dragons from a theistic point of view. His 1988 essay "Ethics in Fantasy: Morality and D&D / Part 1: That Evil Game!" addresses a number of concerns about the ethics surrounding Dungeons & Dragons, and outlines hurdles in communication between gamers and non-gamers regarding these topics.
TSR's reaction 
The controversy led TSR to remove references to demons, devils, and other potentially controversial supernatural monsters from the 2nd Edition of AD&D, published in 1989. These terms were replaced by references to tanar'ri and baatezu. Many of these exclusions were returned to the 2nd Edition in the late 1990s, appearing again in releases such as A Guide To Hell. In 2000, the 3rd Edition of the game addressed demonology and demonolatry far more explicitly than materials from previous editions; however, relations and interactions with these creatures are explicitly said to be evil. The more "extreme" manuals, specifically the Book of Vile Darkness and the Book of Exalted Deeds, bear a "For Mature Audiences Only" label.
Psychological impact 
Dungeons & Dragons has been plagued by rumors since the early 1980s of players having psychological problems related to the game. These include claims that players have difficulty separating fantasy and reality, even leading to schizophrenia and suicide.
Mazes and Monsters 
As the role-playing game hobby began to grow, it was connected to the story in 1979 of the disappearance of 16-year-old James Dallas Egbert III. Egbert had attempted suicide in the utility tunnels beneath the campus of Michigan State University. After this unsuccessful attempt, he hid at a friend's house for approximately a month.
A well-publicized search for Egbert began, and his parents hired private investigator William Dear to seek out their son. Dear knew nothing about Dungeons & Dragons at that time, but speculated to the press that Egbert had gotten lost in the steam tunnels during a live-action version of the game. The press largely reported the story as fact, which served as the kernel of a persistent rumor regarding such "steam tunnel incidents". Egbert's suicide attempts, including his successful suicide the following year (by self-inflicted gunshot) had no connection whatsoever to D&D; it resulted from clinical depression and great stress.
Rona Jaffe published Mazes and Monsters in 1981, a thinly disguised fictionalization of the press exaggerations of the Egbert case. In an era when very few people understood role-playing games it seemed plausible to some elements of the public that a player might experience a psychotic episode and lose touch with reality during role-playing. The book was adapted into a made-for-television movie in 1982 starring Tom Hanks, and the publicity surrounding both the novel and film heightened the public's unease regarding role-playing games. In 1983, the Canadian film Skullduggery depicted a role playing game similar to D&D as tool of the devil to transform a young man into a serial killer.
Dear revealed the truth of the incident in his 1984 book The Dungeon Master, in which he repudiated the link between D&D and Egbert's disappearance. Dear acknowledged that Egbert's domineering mother had more to do with his problems than his interest in role-playing games.
Neal Stephenson's 1984 novel satirizing university life, The Big U, includes a series of similar incidents in which a live-action fantasy role-player dies in a steam tunnel accident, leading to another gamer becoming mentally unstable and unable to distinguish reality from the game.
Hobgoblin is a 1981 novel by horror and suspense writer John Coyne which followed on the angst about the Egbert incident, and D&D and fantasy role-playing games in general. It is about a young man, Scott Gardiner, who is traumatized by the sudden death of his father and by his mother's decision to take a job as caretaker of an isolated estate called Ballycastle. Ostracized by his peers at the local high school, Scott takes refuge in Hobgoblin, a role-playing game based on Ancient Celtic cults. Scott comes to identify more and more with his character, Brian Boru, frequently thinking of himself as Brian. In an attempt to improve relations with his schoolmates, Scott throws a Hobgoblin-themed costume party at Ballycastle. Tragedy strikes when the supposedly dead former owner of Ballycastle—now hopelessly deranged—arrives at the party, killing several guests and Scott's mother. Scott, in his Brian Boru persona, kills the murderer using the weapons he carries as part of his costume.
Lieth Von Stein 
In 1988, a murder case in Washington, North Carolina involving North Carolina State University students brought Dungeons & Dragons more unfavorable publicity. Chris Pritchard allegedly masterminded the murder of his stepfather, Lieth Von Stein, for his $2 million fortune.[according to whom?] Both von Stein and his wife, Bonnie, were bludgeoned and stabbed by masked assailants in their bedroom, leaving the husband mortally wounded and the wife injured.
Chris Pritchard had a long history of mutual antagonism with his stepfather, and state investigators learned over the course of a year that Pritchard had developed some unhealthy associations at NCSU. Pritchard had a history of alcohol and drug use. But the NCSU authorities focused on his role-playing group after a game map depicting the von Stein house turned up as physical evidence. Pritchard's friends, Gerald Neal Henderson and James "Moog" Upchurch III, were implicated in a plot to help Pritchard kill his stepfather. All three young men went to state prison in 1990. Henderson and Pritchard have since been paroled. Upchurch's death sentence was commuted to life in 1992; he is serving his term.
True crime authors Joe McGinniss and Jerry Bledsoe played up the role-playing angle. Much attention was given to Upchurch's influence and power as Dungeon Master. Bledsoe's book, Blood Games, was made into a TV movie, Honor Thy Mother, in 1992. That same year, McGinniss' book was adapted into a two part TV miniseries, Cruel Doubt. The latter film featured real role-playing game materials, doctored to imply they had caused the murders.
Israeli army 
The Israeli army has an official policy that frowns on the playing of D&D by its soldiers. Its position is that game play makes players "detached from reality and susceptible to influence", automatically lowering their security clearance. Due to these pressures, most soldiers who play D&D hide this fact.
Clinical research 
The American Association of Suicidology, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Health & Welfare (Canada) all concluded that there is no causal link between fantasy gaming and suicide. In 1990, the writer Michael Stackpole authored The Pulling Report, a review highly critical of Patricia Pulling's and BADD's methods of data collection, analysis, and reporting.
Researchers outside the context of BADD have investigated the emotional impact of Dungeons & Dragons since the 1980s. Studies have shown that depression and suicidal tendencies are not typically associated with role players. Feelings of alienation are not associated with mainstream players (though those who are deeply, and often financially, committed to the game do tend to have these feelings). According to one study there is "no significant correlation between years of playing the game and emotional stability."
In 2004, Wisconsin's Waupun prison instituted a ban on playing Dungeons & Dragons, arguing that it promoted gang-related activity. The policy went into effect based upon an anonymous letter from an inmate stating that the four prisoners that played the game were forming a "gang". When the ban took effect, the prison confiscated all Dungeons & Dragons-related materials. Inmate Kevin T. Singer, a dedicated player of the game, sentenced to a life term for first-degree homicide, sought to overturn the ban saying it violated his First Amendment rights. However, on January 25, 2010, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban as a "reasonable policy".
60 minutes special 
In 1985, a segment of 60 Minutes was devoted to the game, including interviews with Gary Gygax and his lawyer, as well as parents of players of the game, who had allegedly committed murders and suicides connected to the game.
Business disputes at TSR 
The game's commercial success led to lawsuits initiated in 1979 regarding distribution of royalties between D&D co-creators Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. Specifically at issue were the royalties for AD&D, a product for which TSR did not acknowledge Arneson's intellectual property claims. Those suits were settled out of court by 1981.
Gygax became embroiled in a political struggle for control of TSR and disputes related to the company’s deteriorating financial situation in the early 1980s. The disagreements culminated in a court battle and Gygax’s decision to sell his ownership interest in the company in 1985.
Licensing and trademark violations 
Early in the game's history, TSR summarily revoked the license to create AD&D-compatible items it had previously granted to the publishing company Judges Guild. TSR's action was a primary cause of the smaller publisher's decision to cease operations in the early 1980s.
Grimoire Games, which published David A. Hargrave's multi-volume Arduin series, had no such license. When presented with a cease and desist order regarding the use of TSR's trademarks, Grimoire was forced to rely on white-out and typing correction tape to mask its use of AD&D references in subsequent printings of the Arduin series.
TSR ran afoul of intellectual property law regarding the Cthulhu Mythos and Melnibonéan Mythos, elements of which were included in early versions of the 1980 Deities & Demigods manual. These problems were ultimately resolved by excising the material from later editions of the book. References in early TSR publications to certain creatures from J.R.R. Tolkien's mythical Middle-earth were also removed or altered due to intellectual property concerns. For example, TSR replaced all references to the race of Hobbits in D&D with their alternate name, Halflings—which was coined by Tolkien but judged by TSR to be non-infringing.
In 2009, Hasbro filed a lawsuit against Atari, claiming Atari had breached the Dungeons & Dragons licensing agreement when Atari sold its European distribution business to Namco Bandai Partners. Atari was accused of sub-licensing part of its exclusive D&D rights to Namco Bandai Partners without authorization. Hasbro also alleged Namco Bandai had obtained Hasbro's confidential information about Dungeons & Dragons from Atari, and posed itself as Dungeons & Dragons publisher for digital games previously published by Atari. In addition, the plaintiff claimed Atari had sold at least 4 of its subsidiaries actively engaged in D&D licensed activities to Namco Bandai, yet Atari had denied any relationship between itself and Namco Bandai with respect to D&D. Atari claimed Hasbro tried to unfairly take back rights granted to Atari, and Atari has sought to resolve the matter without cooperation from Hasbro. On August 15, 2011, Wizards of the Coast LLC, Hasbro, Inc. and Atari, S.A. announced the settlement and resolution of the complaint against Atari, S.A. and the counterclaims filed by Atari, S.A. against Hasbro, Inc. filed in December 2009 in regards to the Dungeons & Dragons brand. As part of the settlement, digital licensing rights for Dungeons & Dragons were returned to Hasbro. Atari would continue to develop and market several games under license from Hasbro and Wizards, including Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale and Heroes of Neverwinter for Facebook. In addition, as a result of the sales of Cryptic Studio to Perfect World Entertainment Inc., the release date of the Neverwinter PC Game was delayed to late 2012.
See also 
- Waldron, David (Spring 2005). "Role-Playing Games and the Christian Right: Community Formation in Response to a Moral Panic". Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 9.
- Chick, Jack T. (1984). "Dark Dungeons". Jack T. Chick LLC.
- Springston, Rex (April 7, 1989). "Local Believers Short on Evidence". The Richmond News Leader (Richmond, Virginia).
- Game Hysteria and the Truth by Michael A. Stackpole
- Eugene V. Gallagher; W. Michael Ashcraft (October 2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America: African diaspora traditions and other American innovations. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-275-98717-6. "William Schnoebelen, who claims to have been an Old Order Catholic priest, a Wiccan High Priest, a Satanist High Priest, a Master Mason, and a Temple Mormon, has (not surprisingly) been accused of simply inventing a past to gain countercult credibility. (p. 155)"
- "About William Schnoebelen". Chick Publications.
- Schnoebelen, William (1984). "Straight Talk on Dungeons and Dragons". Chick Publications.
- Schnoebelen, William (2001?). "Should a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?". Chick Publications.
- Stephen Weese (November 2006). God Loves the Freaks. Stephen Weese. pp. 136–7. ISBN 978-1-4303-0365-7.
- "Ravenloft, I6 (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Official Game Adventure #9075)". Book Description. Amazon. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
- Hickman, Tracy (1988). "Ethics in Fantasy: Morality and D&D / Part 1: That Evil Game!".
- Ward, James M (February 9, 1990). "The Games Wizards: Angry Mothers From Heck (And what we do about them)". Dragon (154).
- Dear, William C. Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, Houghton Mifflin, 1984
- Cruel Doubt on The Escapist's FAQ
- Greenberg, Hanan. "Army frowns on Dungeons and Dragons". ynetnews.com. Retrieved February 1, 2007.
- QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT ROLE-PLAYING GAMES, Loren K. Wiseman and Michael A. Stackpole, ©1991 by Game Manufacturers Association
- The Pulling Report by Michael A. Stackpole
- Carter R, Lester D (February 1998). "Personalities of players of Dungeons and Dragons". Psychol Rep 82 (1): 182. doi:10.2466/PR0.82.1.182-182. PMID 9520550.
- DeRenard LA, Kline LM (June 1990). "Alienation and the game dungeons and dragons". Psychol Rep 66 (3 Pt 2): 1219–22. PMID 2385713.
- Simon, Armando (October 1987). "Emotional Stability Pertaining to the Game of Dungeons & Dragons". Psychology in the Schools 24 (4): 329–32. doi:10.1002/1520-6807(198710)24:4<329::AID-PITS2310240406>3.0.CO;2-9.
- Bauer, Scott (January 25, 2010). "Game over: Wisconsin inmate loses legal fight to play Dungeons & Dragons behind bars". Chicago Tribune (Tribune Co.). Retrieved January 28, 2010.
- Harold Kahn, Mike Reagan, ed. (April/May 1981). "Interview with Dave Arneson". Pegasus (Judges Guild) (1): 4.
- Rausch, Allen (August 19, 2004). "Dave Arneson Interview". GameSpy. Retrieved February 23, 2007.
- Gygax, Gary. "Gygax FAQ". gygax.com. Archived from the original on January 28, 1999. Retrieved July 4, 2006.
- "The Acaeum page on Deities & Demigods". Retrieved February 21, 2007. shows contents of different printings.
- Copyright conflicts with the Tolkien Estate lead to removal of references to Hobbits, Ents and others, shown on "The Acaeum page on Original D&D Set". Retrieved February 21, 2007.
- Has Atari gone Chaotic Evil over D&D publishing rights?
- Hasbro Sues Atari Over D&D License, Atari Responds
- HASBRO AND ATARI RESOLVE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS RIGHTS DISPUTE
- Atari and Hasbro Settle D&D Lawsuit; Neverwinter Delayed
- "Studies About Fantasy Role-Playing Games". RPGStudies.net. 1994.
- "Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy role-playing games". Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 2002.
- "The Escapist — a gaming advocacy website". theescapist.com. 2007.