With Halloween just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to discuss this particular topic. Anyway, the Satanic Panic arose in the early-to-mid 1980’s, with the right-wing religious group known as “The Moral Majority” decided to come after “Dungeons & Dragons” and other tabletop roleplaying games, labeling them as Satanic in nature. This was pretty early in my roleplaying experience, and made things very difficult in many ways, but with that said…
Five Things I Love About The Satanic Panic
- Cheap books: In 1982, I was able to buy a used set of the “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” core books, plus a set of dice, for only $25. A guy I knew in high school had to get rid of his books quick, because his church had found out his roleplaying (as well as his group), and looking to confiscate all of their gaming materials. I was able to save those three books, and those dice, where the books all of his friends had, along with their characters, were all burned in the church parking lot.
- Free advertising: The church described above wasn’t alone, many Christian groups were in a fervor against roleplaying games in the 80’s. This had its downsides, as you might imagine, but also did one thing that was extremely useful: Provided free advertising for D&D and other roleplaying games. Kids who are told not to do something, tend to be at least curious about what they are told not to do. Be it drugs, sex, or D&D, the Satanic Panic brought a lot of new players to my Roleplaying Club I ran in high school. Thanks, Moral Majority!
- Chick Tracts: Jack Chick was perhaps one of the most focused of the religious nutjobs pushing the Satanic Panic, and the creator of the famous “Chick Tracts”. These were small comic strips that Jack created, which would be handed out at churches and through other means, with the intent of steering children away from the influence of the Devil. But they are best known for their anti-roleplaying comics, which were absolutely hysterical! I used to collect them, but lost them in one of my many moves over the years. Regardless, our group used to pass them around and have a great time laughing at how stupid the whole thing was.
- Growth of the Industry: With all of the attention the Satanic Panic brought to roleplaying games, especially D&D but also others, many other companies decided to jump on board the hype train, and came out with games of their own. The 1980’s was a period of massive growth for the roleplaying industry, despite all the religious fervor against the games, and in many ways absolutely because of the panic. If there hadn’t been so much attention on the industry as the Satanic Panic brought, a lot of these games may never have been made. Again, thanks Moral Majority!
- Conversions: My mother was a devout Catholic who watched the “700 Club” (a religious TV program) every day. The preacher on that show was absolutely embroiled in this Moral Majority nonsense. Anyway, my Mom bought into this, and had a real issue with my brother and I playing roleplaying games, at first. But one day we were watching the “700 Club” together, and they were explaining why toys based upon the “Dungeons & Dragons” cartoon were going to kill your children, and I couldn’t stop laughing. I guess the ridiculousness of the preaching finally got through to my Mom, and she stopped having an issue with Roleplaying. Eventually, both of my parents and some other family joined in on our games, and we played together for years.
So in the end, even though the Satanic Panic really was a problem for me during my high school years (I got physically assaulted a few times because of religious nuts in my school, and it made me a bit of an outcast), it was good for roleplaying as a whole, in the long run. So I would say it is worth it, because I love TTRPGs, and what’s a few ass-kickings if it means I get to play all these lovely games now?