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Advocacy 1997 Article Archive
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 firstname.lastname@example.org:
From the Daily Mail (UK)
THE DRAGON LOVERS IN HIGH DUDGEON
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
'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...
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.
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
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
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
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
The Gathering, would be "wasting their lives playing Dungeons &
I'm filled with the unbearable urge to tell their
mommy on them.
Wanna see the article? No problem. It's right here.
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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?
Cult Experts Find
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...
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
-- 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
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
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
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!
* "Teens Face Court Quietly," Leslie Clark, Orlando
Sentinel, December 8th, 1996
** "Wendorf Case," Paul Cardwell, CAR-PGa Newsletter,
January 1997, Pg. 6