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Main > Advocacy > Advocacy 1997 Archive

Advocacy 1997 Article Archive

December, 1997:

"Ninety-Nine Percent Are Harmless"

That's the word on RPGs from David Atkinson, a director of youth services in England. Of course, he was only referring to the 99% that he didn't have to deal with. Here's an article I received from
    From the Daily Mail (UK)
            The goblins and wizards in the imaginary world of David Nicholson
    and his club have been banished.
            For three hours every Friday night, the 25 members - who ranged in
    age from adults down to 12-year-olds such as Mr Nicholson's son Michael -
    met to play boardgames such as Dungeons and Dragons.
            But now, Northamptonshire County Council has stopped the clubs
    activities as part of a crackdown on fantasy and role-playing games in
    its schools and youth clubs because it claims they could encourage
            Mr Nicholson's Nene Valley Role-Play and Fantasy Wargame Society
    at Moor Road Youth Centre in Rushden, was banned from county council
    premises pending an enquiry.
            He said: "I was absolutely flabbergasted. The games we play are
    pure fantasy. They are certainly a lot less violent than some of the current
    computer games.
            'It is harmless fun. It just encourages you to use your imagination.
    There is also an element of art and craft. We spend hours painting the
    figures and scenery.'
            But David Atkinson, director of youth services for Northamptonshire,
    said that the tide was turning against pastimes that encouraged violence.
            'There is a national debate in the youth service about the
    suitability of certain activities. We are erring on the side of caution.
            'We have a duty of care to the young people who use our facilities. In
    the case of role-playing games, I am sure 99 per cent of them are harmless,
    but it is the other one per cent we have to worry about.
            'They are highly imaginative and tend to take things to their extreme.
    There is a genuine worry the fantasy violence could spill over into reality.'
Since there have been over 400 different RPGs produced in the last twenty years, and one percent of 400 is 4, then all that the Nene Valley Role-Play and Fantasy Wargame Society would have to do to please Mr. Atkinson would be to avoid playing any of those four or five games, right?

Wrong. Atkinson is using a ploy that many of us have probably heard: "I'm sure that most of your hobby is perfectly fine, but I just don't care for the game that you play." Say this enough times, to enough different people playing different games, and you've damned the whole hobby. Atkinson is only upset with the name "Dungeons & Dragons"; he's heard so much about it, and probably fallen for most of it, that he gets itchy when he discovers that it's being played right under his nose.

It's this kind of wishy-washyness that really gets my goat. I mean, if someone is going to be an anti-gamer, then they should put their heart and soul into it! Speaking of whom...

Mother of Anti-Gaming Agenda Dies

The word came to me from both the CAR-PGa newsletter and Dragon magazine simultaneously that Pat Pulling, founder of Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons, died of cancer on October 15th in Richmond, Virginia. She was 49.

For an excellent write-up of Pulling's crusade, check out "Current Clack" on page 120 of issue #242 of Dragon Magazine.

A Little Graffitti Goes A Long Way

It wasn't long after Dateline NBC's November 24th broadcast that I started getting a flood of mail about it. Unfortunately, I missed the whole thing, but thanks to a few netizens, I have the basics of the story. Here's how Mark Towler, in a post to alt.folklore.urban described what he saw:
    Last night I was watching a rather interesting edition of Dateline, NBC's
    investigative reports/news show (sorry, I don't watch the US networks
    much, so this may not be an accurate description of the program). 
    Anyway, they were providing a very detailed analysis of a murder trial 
    involving a man named Feeney. While he was out of town at a convention, 
    his wife and two baby children were brutally bludgeoned to death (well, 
    one of the babies was strangled) and he was the prime suspect. It 
    seemed to me that the prosecutions case was rather weak (we can 
    discuss this offline), but there was certainly enough circumstantial 
    evidence to point at him. However, Feeney had some good lawyers and 
    there were a lot of unanswered questions (ie, no motive for killing his own 
    family) that set the prosecution back a few steps. Here's where it got 
    In their rebuttal, the prosecution claimed that Feeney played RPGs since
    the 70's - and we all know what that means, right kiddies? Furthermore,
    they found rule books to "Vampire:The Masquerade" in his home room (he's
    a teacher). Some completely illegible scrawls of paint on the wall at the
    murder scene were purported to read "MV" (looked more like MY to me) so
    that must mean "Master Vampire" right? The word "bit" was also (clearly)
    written on the wall and they seemed to feel that was related, even
    though none of the victims had been bitten. Dateline then conveniently 
    showed us a passage from the rulebook saying that "a vampire in frenzy is a 
    wild, uncontrolled killing machine with no remorse, etc, etc".
    Feeney claimed that the school's rpg club (which he supervised) played
    the game and that he didn't - they just stored stuff in his home room. As
    well, no one seemed to come up with a character sheet of his or any 
    indication that he ever played the game or called himself "Master Vampire". In
    fact, all interviews with his fellow role-players indicated that he tended to
    play good guys and that his nickname in RPG circles was "goody
    two-shoes".  As well, anyone familiar with the Vampire game would realize that 
    the term "Master Vampire" is totally inconsistent with the characters and
    settings described in the game.
    Anyway, I thought it interesting that the prosecution felt Feeney's
    involvement in RPG's was worth bringing up. There was no reference to any 
    other RPG-related ULs, but there certainly seemed to be an inference that 
    playing the game had somehow 'influenced' Feeney.

CBN Slams M:tG

In their Halloween tradition, the Christian Broadcasting Network (I don't know why I keep giving them links on my page... they'll never give me any on theirs) strutted out a story about "Introductions to the Occult" such as Magic: the Gathering and Goosebumps books. Here's a claim I've never heard before: Magic cards cause nightmares! Also: "(Magic: The Gathering) is a game where you're attacking your living, breathing opponent by using devils to conjure demons and cast spells." Don't believe it? Well, then, check it out!!!

CNN Slams V:TM

It's old news by now, but still hasn't been mentioned here as of yet: CNN's Impact reported on the "Vampire Sub-Culture" on Sunday, June 15th at 9:00 pm. I had planned to have a transcript of the show typed up, but I seem to have misplaced my video in the move. In brief: the story covered some recent "vampire" cases (Bush, Wendorf, and Baranyi), and did what it could to pin them to RPGs. Little, if any, evidence pointing away from RPGs was presented.

One element of the show that I do remember showed a copy of the Vampire core rulebook opened to various pages, while the reporter claimed in voice-over that it is the book on which the entire goth culture is based. That's quite a claim, and one that would probably make Mark Rein*Hagen proud, but it is far from true. There were vampire wannabees long before there was a game to blame their existence upon, and the goth scene is much more about music, fashion and literature than it is about gaming. It's sort of like blaming D&D for the abundance of Tolkien fans.

Dexter Does D&D

From the Steve Jackson Daily Illuminator comes the news that on an episode of Dexter's Laboratory (a nifty cartoon that is exclusive to the Cartoon Network), Dexter pulls out his copy of "Mazes And Monsters" and tries to play it with his sister. Later, his sister decides to take the game over, and turns out to be a better GM! Not having seen the episode myself, I cannot vouch for how closely the storyline follows Rona Jaffe's novel, nor can I tell if any of the voices were done by Tom Hanks (grin). 

June, 1997:

Newsweek Calls Us Bad Names

The May 25th edition of Newsweek brought us a piece entitled "Magic's Kingdom," concerning the gaming giant Wizards of the Coast and their rise to fame. While it portrayed WotC as a viable entity and a prospective leader in the games industry overall, it also took a very unnecessary stab at the gamers who made it all possible. One sentence refers to gamers as "alienated misfits," who, were it not for Magic: The Gathering, would be "wasting their lives playing Dungeons & Dragons."

I'm filled with the unbearable urge to tell their mommy on them.

Wanna see the article? No problem. It's right here

May, 1997:

More Trouble In Europe

I caught wind of a rumor recently that claimed that RPGs had been outlawed in France. When I went to the newsgroups to try to confirm it, I got the following response from fellow CAR-PGa member Bernard Delhausse (thanks, Bernard!):
    Yes these are pure rumors. Or rather, a French MP (I think) has had the
    idea of enforcing the age-limit restriction about RPG. A little bit like
    the advice on cigarettes packages or on CD ('Smoking can seriously
    endanger your health' or 'Parental Advisory, Excplicit Lyrics').
    I don't think this is a serious thread to RPGs. It is part of the French
    politically correctedness that is actually taking place, whether it is for
    bad or good reasons, i.e. anti-sects movements, drug legalisation,
    television censorship, etc. What was at stake (I think) is youth
    protection, some kind of way of promoting dialogue between parents and
    children, but I personally think this is not the right way to improve
    dialogue. Others seem to think the same way as this idea is several
    weeks/months old and has not reappeared since.
That's the good news. Not long after, the following was forwarded to me by Laura Trauth, who discovered it on the Rolemaster mailing list (thanks, Laura!):
     if anyone of you know about the Santer case (a killer in
     madrid) can send me any info, here in italy rpg are under
     media attack and a pressman say that this Santer was
     connected to rpg, if you have any info please send them to
     me, thanks
    Well people, I'm from Spain, so it's my turn to answer your questions.
    The santer case began when a couple of boys killed a man in a bus stop.
    They killed him because "he was fat, ugly and their clothes where
    The principal killer wrote all of this in his diarys, and they're the
    diarys of a crazy.Horribles.
    When the police arrest the killers they told the police that "we were
    playing a RPG".The result was the mass media talking (without any
    correct information) about the RPGs as "A type of game that is about
    kill people", in a few days, all the people began to look at the players
    as killers, crazy people, and really dangerous (some people don't talk
    with me since the crime of Santer).
    When the notice of the "Rol Killer" wasn't more interesting to catch
    audience, the TV programs and the newspapers began to talk some truth,
    but the damage was done.The public opinion thinks that the RPGs are for
    crazys and serial killers.
    But the history continues, a few months ago the judgement of the killers
    began, and the legend of the RPG killers began again.
    But this time the things changed, because the judges began to study the
    -Only one of the killers has done the crime, the other only was looking.
    -The killer has 40 personalitys different (characters); but he isn'tcrazy
    -The killer even now thinks that they're playing.
    -The RPG are only a way of drive their madness, they aren't dangerous.
    And the TV and the newspapers changed their opinions (not very much),
    but in some of them a psychologist told that "An actor takes the rol of
    an assasin, murder, demon, serial killer, and when he ends the film, he
    is normal again.The RPG are like this."
    The killer were condemned to prison, because he's not crazy, in the
    judge opinion, one thing are the characters, and other is to be crazy.
    Even the son of the victim told that "I don't hate the RPG, it's only a game".
    But unfortunately, the people continues thinking that the RPG are for
    strange people.
    Perhaps it's truth, because the RPG players have imagination, read
    books, play our characters as we were actors, and we develope an
    original view of the world.Perhaps the people don't like this.
I'm going to attempt to gather what I can about this case for the CAR-PGa files; if anyone has any further information on the Santer case, please let me know. Thanks!

AFA Slams V:TM

The March, 1997 edition of the AFA Journal printed the following on page 4:
    Popular role-playing game linked to murders
    A role-playing game in which players dress up like vampires has been linked in Florida to the arrest of a teenage girl and four friends for murdering her parents. Vampire: The Masquerade is the latest rage in role-playing games, a craze which started more than a decade ago with the infamous Dungeons & Dragons. The game has sold more than 500,000 copies since it's introduction in 1991. Avid players form clans, women submit to sires, and the language and fantasies are explicitly demonic. Some players drink blood. Some let the occult masquerade dominate their whole lives.
This article, which is attributed to the January 11th edition of World, appears on the AFA's Christians & Society Today page, which they encourage readers to photocopy and distribute. That means that this very inaccurate article is being read and believed by churchgoers all over the country. Chalk up one for the anti-gamers!

To quickly refute practically every statement in this article: 1. No evidence has been found to date that Heather Wendorf played Vampire: The Masquerade; there were no game books found in any of the teens' possession, nor were RPGs even mentioned by them to the police. No games = no link. 2. The role-playing "craze" actually began much closer to two decades ago, with the release of the "infamous" Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. 3. "Clans" are not formed (a statement designed to make one think of "cults," no doubt), but rather are more like races of vampires, with their own abilities and qualities. 4. Most vampire characters, female or not, submit to a sire, the vampire that has "created" them. This only applies to characters, of course; the players do not have to submit to anyone. By stating that "women submit to sires," the author is confusing fantasy and reality all on their own. 5. "the language and fantasies are explicity demonic:" While the term "demonic" has no concrete definition, and is a word usually used to describe something that a person simply doesn't understand, it should be noted that Vampire: The Masqerade deals mainly with vampires, and no demons are mentioned in it's books. 6. Vampire players are not required to drink blood, just as Tom Cruise didn't need to in order to play Lestat in Interview With A Vampire. Some (very strange) people actually do drink blood, but this is never because the game "made them do it." 7. "Some let the occult masquerade dominate their whole lives:" It's true that there are players who take Vampire a little further than they should. But with half a million copies of the game sold, it seems that the percentage of murderers and rapists among Vampire players is extremely low, and that's assuming that these reported cases have actually involved gamers. For that matter, there are certain people who probably shouldn't watch so much TV...

...I think that advice is lost on the AFA, however...

Amtrak: The Derailing

The following is an excerpt from the Saturday, April 26th edition of the Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal, page B5:
    This 'disaster' isn't real by Robin Brown, staff reporter WILMINGTON:-- Don't panic if you see bloody kids and tons of fire engines Sunday morning near Frawley Stadium. It's just a drill. Rescuers will practice their skills at 9 p.m. by responding to a make-believe derailment of a half-dozen Amtrak commuter cars at the rail yards behind the stadium... About 120 volunteers, most from area high schools, will be made up to portray the injured.
I wonder whose LARP rules they'll be using?

April, 1997:

Cult Experts Find Work

Few of you could have missed the recent coverage of the Heaven's Gate mass suicide in San Diego, California (optimism test: how many of you actually tried that link?). In a matter of hours, every self-proclaimed "cult expert" (and even a few legitimate ones) was on one channel or another, putting forth their own views and angles on the situation. While watching CNN, I caught a familiar name: Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver. He is the author of Painted Black, a book on satanism in America that has very few kind words for RPGs. Before many of the facts were in concerning the case, Raschke was telling all of America that he was taking the mass murder stance. Later events would prove him to be very wrong indeed.

Raschke seems to jump to a lot of conclusions, especially in Painted Black, in which he lists no less than thirteen cases that have been blamed on RPGs. Along with the most popular trophies (Egbert and Pulling, both easily refuted), Raschke lists several "guilt by association" cases, where RPGs are at fault simply because they were there. Some examples: Stephanie Jennings and her fiance, of Arlington, TX, were found dead in a park, their throats slashed (both were playing D&D at the time); an unnamed 13-year-old from Ohio (no city given) was found dead as the result of his own autoerotic hanging (he was known to have played D&D with his family); and Kellie Jean Poppleton, from Freemont, California, who was sexually abused and then murdered by three teens and an adult (two days before her death, she had written a school essay about her gaming experiences while under the influence of marijuana). All three of these cases have no evident connection to gaming, but Raschke jumps to his own conclusion in each. I must add that these are only three examples; there are many more where they came from.

I think we should all be very thankful that there wasn't a shred of gaming material involved in the Heaven's Gate mass suicide. I suspect that even if so much as a twenty-sided die was found on the scene, we would see a very different angle to the coverage. Their connections to the internet and prominent saucer-worship may have even been ignored entirely.

Steve Jackson reports on the SJ Home Page that he was contacted by a local news reporter about the mass suicide, apparently in the hopes that he would claim the internet was a possible cause. He didn't. Thanks, Steve.

On a related note, RPGers who are concerned about falling victim to vampire LARPers and spending the rest of their life undead can purchase vampire insurance from Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson. This is the same brokerage that sold Heaven's Gate their anti-abduction insurance. You can also purchase policies protecting you from immaculate conception, lycanthropy, and "death or serious injury from paranormal activity." Don't believe me? Check out this CNN story for yourself. And they call us weird...

Wait a second... didn't those guys want to get abducted? Hmmm...

Parents Sue School Over Owl Vomit

Here's a little article I found on the Gamer's World web page: School Sued, Accused of Promoting Satanism. To summarize:

A group of parents are suing the Bedford Central School District over what they consider infringement of their religious freedoms. Their list of complaints:

-- Allowing Magic: The Gathering to be played on school grounds. (It should be noted that the game is not being used in any of the classes, it's just permitted for the students to play it during breaks).
-- Persuading children to venerate Hindu idols (which appears to be a misunderstanding over a paper elephant mask).
-- Taking children to a graveyard and instructing them to lie on the graves (which was done to demonstrate how much smaller people were 200 years ago).
-- A lecture in which a man dressed as Abraham Lincoln told children that he believed in ghosts (which, for all we know, may have been true of the 'original' Abraham Lincoln).
-- Lastly, an act of "Earth Worship and New Age Paganism" in which students were made to examine owl pellets that contained the regurgitated remains of their prey (this is entirely too ridiculous to even attempt to refute).

Presbyterian minister Rev. Paul Alcorn, who has two children in the schools, has spoken against the lawsuit. His son was part of a group of students who held a Magic tournament at Bedford Presbyterian Church in order to give many the opportunity to see the cards and how the game is played. Concerning the tournament, Alcorn said "they were acting in a more mature fashion than the four people who called me and said how could I raise my son that way, how could I be a pastor."

Several parents have come forth in support of the school, and the next hearing for the case will take place on April 25th.

I can't help but think how this would make a bizarre card game... perhaps an expansion for Illuminati or Over The Edge...

Hey! Is that a Bedford School District booster pack?
Yeah... It just came out today.
Well... open it, and see what you got!
Alright... lessee... Oooohh! "Owl Pellets!" I hear that's a Rare!
What else? What else?
Ummm... "Lincoln's Ghosts," "Grave-laying Ritual," "Paper Elephant Mask," and... oh, man...
What's the matter?
The rest of them are all "Paranoid Satanic-Panic Scapegoat-Searching Parents" cards! Boy, do I HATE Commons!

Dungeons & Dobsons

My thanks go out to The Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance for this one:

Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family foundation produces a weekly radio play that they call Adventures in Odyssey. It's a Brady-Bunch meets the Bible sort of thing, where the kids get into all sorts of trouble and it takes the grown-ups, armed with Scripture, to bail them out.

The show itself is infamous for displaying subtle contempt of education and knowledge. In one episode, the token "egghead" is asked to drive into town to run an errand, and when he explains that he doesn't know how to drive, the rest of the cast expresses disbelief that he can be so educated and yet still lack such a basic skill. This character is the comic relief of the show, and is occasionally written off as just plain "weird."

On April 7th and 8th, 1997, Adventures in Odyssey tackled the "problem" of role-playing games, with a gamer who comes to town and teaches one of the regular characters how to play "Castles and Cauldrons." Len, the gamer, plays a character called "Luther the Magician," and teaches Jimmy to play, assigning him a character named "John Dell the Apprentice" (are these the best names they could come up with?).

Over the course of the episode, almost all of the nasty things that RPGs are accused of come to light. While Len and Jimmy are playing, they actually hear the clash of their weapons, they chant incantations, Whit (the main character of all Adventures in Odyssey episodes) is filled with a feeling of dread, a cat tears the arms off of a doll, and a roast in the oven begins to smoke (possibly because Whit was so full of dread that he forgot to take it out?).

All of these claims are, of course, ridiculous to those of us who have actually played any RPG. None of these kinds of powers are bestowed upon anyone who plays, because that's not what RPGs are about. Dobson's audience doesn't know this, however, and it is upon this ignorance that he plays, creating a danger that doesn't exist. In the long run, it may even mean more tithe money in his coffers.

The OCRT has prepared their own rebuttal of this particular radio show, which you can find here. It's considerably more substantial than my own, mainly because they have actually heard the broadcast, and I am merely working off of their description of it.

Play nice,

March, 1997:

Long Time, No See...

Well, what can I say, being a new father has taken a bit of my time away from my work here. In the time that I've spent away from the keyboard, a few things have happened:

Many of you may have heard this one already, but in case you haven't; two teens, Heather Wendorf and Rod Ferrell, were arrested in late November of 1996 for the murder of Wendorf's parents, Richard and Ruth. Both Wendorf and Ferrell were part of a gang that called itself, creatively enough, "the Vampire Clan."

Police on the scene found "no evidence of vampirism in the Wendorfs' deaths,*" the suspects have not admitted to playing RPGs, nor were any RPGs found among their belongings**. Yet, despite this evidence, police and the media are looking towards gaming as a possible scapegoat in this case.

Twenty percent (one out of every five) of the cases involving RPGs are situations in which gaming is not even involved, but because of the bizarre nature of the crime or criminals, it somehow gets drawn into the whole mess. This is one of those cases.

A friend informed me that the Jenny Jones show did an episode on vampire wanna-bees on 3/10/97, but I had missed the daytime airing. My local stations occasionally rerun talk shows late at night, but usually they air the following day's episode. Since I wasn't sure how the Jenny Jones show was handled, I set my VCR to record that evening's episode nonetheless. To make a long story short, I didn't get the episode on tape, but I did get the following day's episode, "There's Too Much Junk In Your Trunk" (women with large rear ends). I just hope doing a show on blood-drinking goths didn't hurt her credibility any.

For more info on the Wendorf case, check out the new Resources page.

Other little nuggets

If you're a fan of Prince Valiant, or fantasy animation in general, check your local listing for the Family Channel's Prince Valiant cartoon. While you're watching dragons being slain and spells being cast in a grand display of all that is great about heroic fantasy, try not to forget that the Family Channel is Pat Robertson's property. Yep, Pat is supplying our kids with a good-sized dose of practically the same thing that an afternoon of AD&D will, without the imaginative interaction. Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?

Also in the Unintentional Hypocrisy department: The Virginia Pilot, which gave us all such excellent coverage of the John Bush case (for more info on this case, see below), had this review to give to a How To Host A Teen Mystery game. Needless to say, the review is much more kind to this type of roleplaying versus any other form. Isn't it ironic? Yeah, I really do think...

I promise not to be such a stranger next time!

Play Nice,

* "Teens Face Court Quietly," Leslie Clark, Orlando Sentinel, December 8th, 1996
** "Wendorf Case," Paul Cardwell, CAR-PGa Newsletter, January 1997, Pg. 6


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