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Main > Advocacy > Advocacy 2001 Archive

Advocacy 2001 Article Archive

November, 2001:

Kazakhstan Police Declare War on LARPers… or do they?

According to an Independent story, police in the former Kazakhstan capital of Almaty have begun to crack down on citizens who they feel lead “bohemian” lifestyles – “alternative artists,” street musicians, gays and lesbians, anarchists, hippies, and punks, as well as groups of “Tolkienisti,” or Tolkien fans who enjoy dressing up and acting as characters from the author’s Lord of the Rings novels.

Since around 1988, when the Lord of the Rings was first translated into Russian, the novel series has become a major hit in the former Soviet Union.  In recent years, Russian fans of the series have begun to form their own live-action role-play groups, where participants dress and act as characters from the stories, and even enact mock battles.

According to sources at the Independent, Kazakh police are accusing the hobbit fans of “being Satanists and conducting dark rituals," and have been arresting and allegedly torturing them.  One anonymous fan made claims of less severe harassment, in which Tolkienesti are stopped in the street and ordered to remove their costumes and surrender their mock weaponry – and that some police threaten a three-day detention for concealed weapons charges in an attempt to extort a sizeable bribe.

With these sorts of claims, one can only wonder how the police would feel about more traditional roleplaying games, with their oddly-shaped dice and ponderous books filled with arcane rules.  Do they consider traditional tabletop games to be part of the “bohemian” lifestyle as well?

But a few of Kazakhstan’s Tolkien fans claim that these stories are not true at all.  On, a popular Lord of the Rings website, letters from two Russian citizens deny that such arrests and punishments are even happening.  One fan named Arhi states: “My Kazakhstan friends are saying that they live in Almaty and have never been harassed by the police, and that's the first time they hear about it.”  Another Russian fan claims that information gathered from a popular Russian internet discussion board proves that the story is false – while admitting at the same time that he would not “swear on a bible that (his) information is correct.”

So, are Kazakh police really Hobbitophobes, or is this all a misunderstanding?  Which side of this story is pravda?  We may never know…

Click here to read the Independent story.

Trouble in Brazil

The details are sketchy at present, but it appears that a recent murder case in Brazil is stirring up controversy for role-playing games and the people who play them.  A woman was found dead in Ouro Preto, the victim of a gruesome murder; she had been stabbed numerous times, and her body was left in a graveyard with her arms open and legs closed.

For reasons that are not presently clear, investigators have begun to suspect that the culprits are involved in role-playing games, and a psychologist is being consulted to produce evidence that RPGs are dangerous.  The head investigator of the crime has announced that “if RPG is involved with this crime, it will be forbidden in Brazil.”

One early police theory was that the murderer played Vampire, and two Brazilian politicians have run with that theory, attempting to censor the books from store shelves and prevent new books from being sold in an effort to prevent future disasters.

This is an unusual place for such a thing to happen, as Brazil has always accepted RPGs as a part of their culture.  The craze for role-playing was so great at one point that citizens were learning English so that they could better understand the gaming manuals, and the Brazilian equivalent of the TV Guide or TV Times began to cover gaming conventions and new releases. 

Unfortunately, when you have politicians, everything can be a potential danger to public safety – as long as banning it from sight will help to secure their next re-election or pay raise.  Stay tuned for more on this story as it comes to light.

To keep up with the current developments on this story, be sure to visit the CAR-PGa eGroup.

Cthulhu Supplement Wins Psychiatry Award

The 2001 Mary Seeman Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Area of Psychiatry and Humanities has been granted to Unseen Masters, a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG.  The Mary Seeman Award, presented by the University of Toronto, is given for outstanding achievement for papers, programs or work that focus on Psychiatry and the Humanities.

“(It is) an amazing work.  It is prodigious, highly creative and extremely original. It was the best of a number of wonderful papers submitted this year," said Dr Ron Ruskin, Chairman of the Award Committee.  This award has made Unseen Masters the first horror fiction or RPG book to ever receive this type of honor.

To read the full press release, click here.

Weezer Leader Goes Multi-Class

In a Rolling Stone interview from June 7th, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo revealed his D&D class preferences: “I gravitated toward the, uh…  elven, or half-elven, something with high dexterity… a fighter-thief, maybe?  Hey, it's tough to commit.”

EconoCon Or Bust!

The great folks at EconoCon have invited me to be a Guest of Honor at next year's convention, on April 27th, 2002 - so if you happen to be in the New Hampshire area around that time, stop on by!  The other Guests of Honor include Jolly Blackburn and Steve Kenson, with more to be announced.  For more information, visit their site at

Chick Strikes AGAIN!

Chick Publications has struck again with "Should A Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?", an article on their website written by William Schnoebelen.  Schnoebelen is an alleged "witch high priest" turned born-again Christian who has made claims in the past that he was contacted by members of TSR in the late 1970s to "reality check" the spells in the game (a claim that Gygax himself says is untrue).

I'm tempted to do my usual fine-comb treatment of the full article and point out each and every misquote, error, and untruth, but there's really very little here that we haven't seen already, short of a few personal attacks towards Michael Stackpole, and several instances where the term "ad hominem" is used improperly.  So my time and energy would be wasted, especailly since most of my preaching, like his, is done to the choir.

I will make one exception, however.  There is one claim that Schnoebelen makes that we should pay very close attention to - and bear it in mind whenever his veracity is in question:

"Contrary to the ramblings of D&D defenders like Michael Stackpole, the Necronomicon and the Cthulhu mythos are quite real."
For those unfamiliar with the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Mr. Schnoebelen has just admitted that he believes in a giant, squid-headed monster that lives under the ocean and that there's a book hidden somewhere in Massachussetts that can wake that monster up.

It sounds to me like Mr. Schnoebelen shouldn't even go NEAR any gaming materials... or for that matter, act as an authority on what is real and what is fantasy.  To answer his titular question: Christians should play D&D if they really want to; they just shouldn't invite him.

David Millians Recognized at 2001 Origins Awards

David Millians was presented with a Merit of Service Award for his ten years of service as the head of GAMA’s Games and Education Committee.  The award was presented at the Origins Award ceremony, held in Columbus Ohio on July 7th.

David is a Georgia educator who uses RPGs, LARPs, and CCGs in his classroom to teach a variety of lessons and stimulate his students creativity.

You can check out my interview with David from 1995 by clicking here.

May, 2001:

Family of Columbine Victim File $5 Billion Lawsuit

The wife and two stepdaughters of teacher Dave Sanders, who was murdered during the Columbine massacre, the have filed a five billion dollar lawsuit against 25 media companies.  Most of those companies, like Nintendo and Sega, manufacture video games.

John DeCamp, the Sanders' lawyer, claims he finds himself in a "strange position here."  On one hand, he is "100 percent on the side of the First Amendment."

On the other hand, well... five billion dollars buys a whole lot of golf clubs...

What does this have to do with advocacy for role-playing games?  Imagine for a moment that Harris and Klebold had actually played them (as the media tried to claim on numerous occasions); companies such as White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast would have easily been dragged into this suit.  And many smaller, independent companies could have gotten pulled in as well, regardless of whether or not their games were involved.  Most of them would not have survived.

Of course, the suit is practically evidence against itself - if the "$20-billion-a-year video game industry" is really responsible for putting millions of games into the hands of minors that will eventually cause them to go on insane shooting binges, then wouldn't there be a lot more school shootings than we have now? 

Or am I just thinking way too far out of the knee-jerk-simple-solution box?

SPLC Makes A Much-Needed Gaming Statement

As you may recall from an earlier report in 1999, Newsweek misquoted a statement made by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, making it appear as if he was connecting D&D with racism. (see Newsweek Slams D&D Again and Newsweek Misquotes Potok on the Advocacy 1999 page for more information)

More recently, the SPLC posted an interview with Mattias Gardell, a professor of religious history at the University of Stockholm's Center for Research in International Migration and Ethnic Relations, as well as an "expert on right-wing extremism."  In the interview, Gardell focuses on what he perceives as a growing racist theme among neo-Pagans, and made a mention about the possible influences that bring people to Paganism:

"At the same time, this generation was made up of people who had been brought up on [the fantasy novels of J.R.R.] Tolkien, who played [the popular fantasy game] "Dungeons and Dragons," and watched sci-fi epics. They also listened to all this new music — industrial music, Gothic music, black and death and thrash metal."
This statement didn't sit very well with many of us, and seemed again to be attaching gaming with racism.  That's something that we certainly don't need.  We've already got our hands full with Satanism, witchcraft, murder, and suicide.  Disproving those to hardheaded members of the media and religious communities has been enough of a trial, without adding a possible KKK connection to the list.

After some heated conversation between Potok and Spencer Lease, an agreement was reached - and Mark made this statement for our benefit, to clear up any misunderstandings regarding the SPLC's stance on role-playing:

"The Southern Poverty Law [Center] sees absolutely no link between role-playing games and intolerance or racial hatred. What's more, those involved in such games have from time to time been attacked as somehow promoting unhealthy or even "Satanic" doctrines -- a suggestion that the Center finds ridiculous. In our view, role-playing games are unrelated to politics and certainly to hate."
We thank you, Mark.  You many not realize how much it means to us, and the cause.

April, 2001:

Weak Link To Gaming in California Stabbing

Two Marines in California have been arrested for attempted murder after attacking a woman on a recreation trail.  Jason Blad (21) and Jessie Carson (19) allegedly accosted the woman as she walked alone on the trail, stabbed her several times, slashed her throat, then wondered aloud why she wasn't dead.  The victim survived the brutal attack, and is undergoing reconstructive surgery on her face and neck.

Local police have begun to investigate the possibility that Blad and Carson were involved in some sort of role-playing game that they had taken too far.  No definite link has yet been found, but with a recently-imposed gag order in place, the real story won't see the light of day for some time.

This is unfortunate.  It leaves the story on a very damaging note, that an RPG could be linked to the crime.  A local paper, the Montgomery County Herald, has already printed one story (Stabbing May Be Linked To Role Play) that centers on the gaming angle. 

In that story, reporters Andy Rose and Virginia Hennessey point out that not all gamers are violent, and that the games themselves are "generally viewed as benign fantasies."  But these facts are terribly outweighed by the obligatory references to alleged "gamers gone wrong."  Rose and Hennessey mention the following as examples of cases in which gamers were linked to criminal behavior:

  • Rod Ferrell's vampire clan (who did not play RPGs together)
  • An unnamed man charged with child endangerment for cutting himself and "having young people drink his blood".  (His fellow gamers turned him in, proving that, as with any group, the law-abiding citizens are the majority).
  • The stabbing death of gamer Kris Olinger, whose parents believe was committed by gamers who went "over the edge" (despite the police investigation, which is focused on robbery and carjacking - another example of games as suspects because the victim was a gamer).
Deputy Public Defender Art Kaufmann, who is defending Carson, was quoted as saying he has not "found anything even remotely resembling a motive."  Likewise, Richard Weese, who is defending Blad, said that he had no information linking his client to role-playing.

Let's recap: we have two marines who attempted to kill a woman.  The police have no evidence that either were acting out a role-playing game, but they are still pursuing that angle.  Three examples of links between gaming and crime are given, none of which hold any water at all.  Neither of the defense lawyers can connect the motive to gaming (or anything, for that matter).  Yet the Herald feels perfectly confident with running a story on the case with the title "Stabbing May Be Linked To Role Play."

Or at least reporter Andy Rose thinks so.  After the story was made public, Mr. Rose became flooded with e-mails regarding his comments about gaming.  He wrote this reply to the responses, and defended his original story.  He didn't attack games, he said.  It was made very clear that the vast majority of gamers are harmless and there is no violence, he said.  It was pointed out that there have been no more than a few isolated cases of gamers committing crimes, he said.

Mr. Rose doesn't have the best memory of his work, however.  By itself, the title of this story turns gaming into a bigger suspect than Blad or Carson.  His definition of "very clear" is a brief half-sentence that is followed by a contrasting phrase in the second half.  At no point does he refer to his weak examples as "isolated cases;" in fact, those two words do not appear in his article at all.  If anything, his examples are used to counteract his statement that games are harmless.

In a direct response to Martin Kliehm (who, coincidentally, first brought this story to my attention - thanks Martin!), Mr. Rose states that no matter what group the suspects belonged to, the Herald would have made it part of the story - be they pro basketball players, Catholics, or chess masters.  With all due respect, I seriously doubt it in any of these cases.  Our nation is far too enamoured with pro sports to allow anyone to attach any sort of blame on them (just look at the frequency of sports riots and the lack of investigation into the prevention of them).  Likewise, a newspaper that dared to attach crime to the Catholic church would soon discover the true meaning of "a flood of hate mail."  And if a chess champ killed someone... well, I just can't picture that headline - "Stabbing May Be Linked To Chess?"  Nope, I can't see that happening.

To be fair, he does admit to understanding "some of the ultra-sensitivity," but it's not clear whether he realizes how much damage this type of reporting can do.  I sent him this email, which I thought was rather friendly, and got this response.  In it, he explains that he wrote about games because of the parents of Kris Olinger and their quest to link the death of their son to gaming.  I'm not exactly sure how to take that - is he trying to help them make this link by writing such an inappropriate story?  Does this mean that there's just as much evidence in that case as there is in this one?

A second Herald story, reported a week later by M. Cristina Medina (Trail Stabbing Story Hits Home) focuses on the younger suspect, Jesse Carson.  This piece makes only a brief mention of D&D and roleplaying - and closes the subject with the police statement that no link had yet been found.

In the end, we have another case for the files (one that likely doesn't involve gaming at all), and another article that the anti-gamers will use in their arsenal against us.

Here is the contact information for the Monterey Herald:
The Monterey County Herald
8 Ragsland Drive, Monterey CA. 93940
(831) 372-3311
Andy Rose: (831) 646-4355 or
Virginia Hennessey:(831) 753-6752 or
M. Cristina Medina: (831) 646-4436 or

Gygax Called As Expert Witness

According to sources in the CAR-PGa, D&D co-creator Gary Gygax has been standing as an expert witness in a trial in Sacramento, California.  While the details are slim that the present, we do know that the case involves a prison inmate that had his gaming materials confiscated by authorities.  Gary has promised us more information as soon as he is able to divulge it.

Special thanks to Dr. Alexander F. Simkin for making this story known.

Live Nude Gamers!

Well, maybe not nude.  I hope.  Andrew Koenig, who is best known for his role as "Boner" on the 80's sitcom Growing Pains, has written and directed a "live sitcom" about "three geeks caught up in the world of a sword and sorcery role playing game and the people who must deal with them."  The sitcom is staged at the Acme Comedy Theater in Hollywood, California, and runs on Friday nights at midnight from March 16th through May 18th.  For more information, visit their website at:  And if you do get to go, drop me a line and let me know how it is!

GURPS for the Vision Impaired

Several GURPS books are now available in braille and on cassette, for the benefit of the blind and vision impaired.  Twenty-six GURPS books are currently available on cassette, and ten of those are also available in braille.  These include such classic titles as Magic, Cyberpunk, Martial Arts and Supers, and of course the Basic Set.  The books and cassettes are being made available at cost by Nancy Feldman.  For a complete listing of which books are available, go to

You can also reach Nancy Feldman at: 

909 S. Peoria St. Apt. 20
Aurora, CO  80012

Pokemon Banned By Saudis

Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority has issued an edict banning Pokemon, claiming that it promotes Zionism and gambling and can possess the minds of children.

When asked how they felt about the edict, thousands of Saudi children said "Yeah, so what?  We're hooked on Cardcaptors now.  Pokemon is, like, sooo last year!"

For the full story, click here.

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