It was a brilliant marketing concept. Give consumers the real power to control minds, but instead of indulging other worldly pursuits, they will acquire more and more TSR products. Of course, with the adoption of Second Edition, the real power was lost and TSR foundered.
The graphic above represents two panels from Jack Chick's anti-RPG 'tract' Dark Dungeons. For decades, Chick proselytized his version of Christianity where God is paradoxically both loving and hateful. The phenomenon of role-playing games was merely one of the many, many targets of Chick's crusade against perceived abominations. Chick met his faceless maker last Sunday. While this blog does not make light of the death of a human being, Chick's efforts deserve to be examined, if not ridiculed.
Dark Dungeons was a symptom of the 'Satanic Panic'. The tract begins with several people participating in a role-playing game. A character dies and her player, Marcie, overreacts. The remaining participants shun Marcie because, as Debbie – another player – phrases it, she “doesn't exist any more.” Ms. Frost, the Dungeon Master, recruits Debbie into a Dianic coven because “the intense occult training through D&D prepared Debbie to accept the invitation...”
Everything seems to be working out until Marcie commits suicide and Debbie blames herself: “If I'd left the game, she'd be alive today.” Um, no she wouldn't. If resurrecting Black Leaf was not an option, Marcie should have rolled up another character just like everyone else in her predicament. Ms. Frost reminds Debbie that her “spiritual growth through the game” is important. When Debbie demurs, Ms. Frost shakes her like a nanny and says, “I think you better let Elfstar take care of things.” You're going to get that when you use the 1E spiritual growth rules.
Fortunately, Mike – a hunky classmate – has been praying and fasting on Debbie's behalf. Mike takes Debbie to a meeting featuring a speaker who “came out of witchcraft.” After some bible quotes and book burning, Debbie is saved! Now, instead of “that lousy D&D manual,” the bible is her “final authority.” At least she won't be affected by edition wars.