An Edition War parody of Jack Chick’s “Dark Dungeons.”

For tabletop gamers, the Satanic Panic is about 25 years behind us now, more or less.

Less in my case.

Soon after I first started in the hobby, I met a friend whose parents were very anti-Dungeons & Dragons. If he got caught with any D&D books he would get in a lot of trouble. In their view, D&D was Satanic, a la “Dark Dungeons,” by Jack Chick.

If you haven’t heard of Jack Chick before, he publishes these little comic tracts for good Christian folk to pass around. They often start with a main character in spiritual trouble for some reason (as defined by fundamentalist evangelist Christian standards, like drug use, alcoholism, being gay, being Catholic, reading non-King James versions of the Bible, and so on).

By the end of the tract, at least in most cases, the main character would find spiritual redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ.

“Dark Dungeons” ends with a bonfire of D&D books.

My friend managed to keep his hobby a secret from his parents for about three years, until his mother “discovered” his books while cleaning his room.

Into the fire they went.

Afterward my friend became even more determined to play Dungeons & Dragons to the point where he’d sneak over to my home to play, to the point of near obsession with the game. He’d become a fanatic gamer at the tabletop–and this really annoyed the other players at times.

You can read similar anecdotes across the Internet, here and here.

Most of these stories don’t go as far as RPG book burnings, but many feature similar pattern: Christians saying, “Don’t play RPGs because they’re evil.”

The strange thing, given our experiences, the more you tell somebody “don’t do that” the less likely they’ll obey–especially if don’t explain yourself, become even more extreme in your suppression, of both.

In fact, this is one of the first lessons you can take away from the Bible. Early in the book of Genesis, God tells Adam, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:15).

And look what happens in the Chapter 3, after Eve is created. Suddenly a talking snake sounds more logical than God. Eve and Adam eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And the rest is… well, I’m highly reluctant to say “history.”

Let’s just say that humans have been acquiring knowledge for thousands of years, for weal and woe, regardless of authorities saying: “Don’t!”

By telling somebody “don’t play RPGs” only makes RPGs more tempting.

If you really want your children to stay away from RPGs, you should let them play. But you should make them buy their own books. The average core book runs for about $50. And to get a complete set (with lots of accessories like battle mats and miniatures) to actually play a give system with lots of options and rules can run upwards of $200

And if your child overcomes that hurdle, there’s a good chance they’ll fall in with a group with a lousy game master or bunch of mook players who like to argue about rules for hours on end.

If that doesn’t dissuade somebody from playing RPGs, I don’t know what will.