Main > Archive > Dark Dungeons
Because they do not normally
print it, or have not issued further anti-RPG materials to warn people
away from other popular role-playing games (Vampire
would have been a perfect candidate), one could conclude that they have
eased up on the hobby - but nothing could be further from the truth.
Chick Publications is still active against role-playing to this day.
Two columns by William Schnoebelen appear on their website - Straight
Talk on Dungeons & Dragons, written in
1984, and Should
a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons? - the
latter written in 2001 (and as a followup to the first). In Straight
Talk, Schnoebelen claims to have once been the witch high
priest of Lake Geneva, and contacted during that time by alleged
employees of TSR, who requested that he reality check the spells in D&D...
several years after it had already been released. In Should
a Christian..., he claims that the Cthulhu mythos and Necronomicon
are real, and that bookstore shelves "literally groan" from the massive
amounts of books on wicca and the occult - books that were few and far
between when D&D first came along (which
can only mean one thing, right?).
Dungeons is possibly the most widely distributed piece of
anti-game propaganda in the history of gaming. It was first produced by
Chick Publications in 1984, during the heyday of anti-RPG paranoia, and
print copies were available on request from Chick as recently as the
mid-90s. Chick Publications, headed by reclusive comic author Jack T.
Chick, also brings us booklets on the evils of everything from
Buddhism to Halloween and reincarnation.
Chick takes no prisoners, and isn't interested in playing nicely;
they'd much rather convert you to their narrow world view, and possibly
get you to sprinkle the world liberally with more of their
has been updated twice since its first
appearance in 1984. The first update was to remove a reference
the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as occult books - a move
that was possibly due to threats by the estates of both authors. The
second, in August of 2013, changed some of the text and graphics,
possibly to fix some consistency errors and make the tract appear a bit
pamphlet has been out of regular print for several years - Chick
Publications has made it available on their site at http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp,
and for a sizeable donation ($750US), you can have your own custom
batch of 10,000 printed up, complete with the name of your church or
organization on the back of each.
Special thanks to Pastor Van Nattan of Blessed Quietness
and Michael Prabhu of Metamorphose
for directing some of their readers to this page so that they can learn
the truth behind the myths and misinformation about role-playing games.
To learn more about some of the lies and rumors you might be hearing
from others about RPGs, be sure to visit the FAQ
pages! (And for a rebuttal to Michael Prabhu's claims, visit this page)
tract on chick.com:
info from wikipedia:
it is obvious that Chick is still standing firm in their believe that
RPGs are dangerous. Steadfastness is a noble trait, but so is the
ability to admit when you're wrong, especially in the light of decades
Dungeons touches many of the bases of mid-80s anti-RPG
paranoia. Most of the cliches and urban legends are here; the dark,
seductive lady who acts as DM for a group of younger players, the
gamers who identify far too much with their characters and become
deeply troubled when a character dies, the "real spells" contained in
the books, the obsessive playing at the cost of a healthy social or
spiritual life, the eventual induction into a witches coven, and of
course, the inevitable suicide. About the only legends they miss are
drugs, rape, murder, and lead figures that scream when you throw them
into the fire. But to be fair, you can only give so much story in 21
is a brief overview of the myths and misconceptions that Dark
Dungeons helps to uphold, as well as some random
observations I've collected:
|Marcie, one of the
players, becomes visibly upset when her thief character misses a poison
trap and the Dungeon Master 'declares her dead.' As she jumps up from
the table, begging anyone for help, Debbie (our pigtailed protagonist)
tells her "Marcie, get out of here.YOU'RE DEAD! You don't exist
The loss of a character in an RPG can be
upsetting, especially for someone who has devoted a lot of time and
effort into detailing that character. But in a role-playing game, it is
easy to avoid death - in a fantasy styled game such as the one we can
assume "Dark Dungeons" is, there are healing and even resurrection
spells to put a character back into the action. There is always the
option of making a new character to adventure with. Also, there's
nothing to say that you can't take that character to someone else's
game and start playing again as if nothing had ever happened at Miss
raises an interesting point that anti-game pundits often bring up -
does this quality of RPGs cheapen life to the point where it no longer
has much value to the players? Usually not - role-playing is only a
more interactive form of reading a story, and heroes and villians die
in stories all of the time. We have had stories for as long as we've
known, so the logic just doesn't follow. If a person is so attached to
a character that they would create such an outburst, then the correct
course of action is to get them help as soon as possible - and don't
blame a game for a person's mental and emotional problems. That doesn't
do anything to help them at all.
how Debbie tells Marcie "(G)et out of here. YOU'RE DEAD! You
don't exist anymore." This is a subtle reference to the
player/character confusion that so many have accused gamers of in the
past. Since Marcie's character is dead, Marcie herself
is 'dead' to the other players of the game, at least until the game is
is not a common practice among real-world gamers, in real-world games,
where much of the point of playing is to enjoy the company of others.
But we must remember that this comic isn't the real world - it's the
|Miss Frost, the Dungeon
Master of the group, takes Debbie aside after everyone has left the
game and informs her that since her character has achieved eighth
level, she is now ready to learn 'real' magic. Debbie asks "You mean
you're going to teach me how to have the
(in bold italic underline,
for triple emphasis!) Miss Frost responds by saying "Yes, you have the
personality for it now.
has been no evidence to support the claim
that any form of witchcraft, occultism, or satanism has used
role-playing games as an indoctrination tool. The closest thing we may
have is William Schnoebelen's claim that he was approached by members
of TSR to 'reality check' the spells in the early form of Dungeons
& Dragons in the mid-70s - and judging from some of
claims, it's highly unlikely that he's telling the truth on
this one, either.
|Debbie returns to Miss
Frost's house to explain how happy she is now that she has the
real power. As a test, she cast a
"mind bondage" spell on her father, who was trying to get her to stop
playing "D&D." Debbie's face is now
twisted and sinister as she tells her story. When Miss Frost asks what
the result of the spell was, Debbie gleefully tells her that he
purchased her $200 in "D&D figures and
The game in question is no longer "Dark
Dungeons," but now "D&D." Chick has slyly created a 'pretend'
role-playing game, then begun to make references to a real one. Either
that, or he slipped up, and forgot about this story detail.
|While at Ms. Frost's
house, fighting 'the Zombie,' Debbie gets a call from Marcie. She asks
Ms. Frost to tell Marcie that she will see her later that night.
There is more than one zombie in Dungeons & Dragons.
By capitalizing the word "zombie" and
using it as a singular, Chick openly flaunts his monozombistic
worldview - one that is flawed and phony. To suggest that D&D
is not polyzombistic is to deny the truth as it is plainly spelled out
for us in the Monster Manual.
yes, I'm joking...)
goes to Marcie's house as promised, and is told by her mother that
Marcie has "shut herself up in her room and won't come out." She goes
on to foreshadow that "ever since her character in the game got killed,
it's as though a part of her died."
Debbie enters Marcie's room, she finds a terrible scene - Marcie has
hung herself from the ceiling in a room filled with fantasy posters and
figures - the apparent "smoking gun" of her last desperate act.
The suicide/gaming connection
never been successfully proven - not in any court case to date, not by
the Center for Disease Control, not by the American Association of
Suicidology, and not by any reputable source anywhere in the world.
of some the actual investigations into the
RPG/suicide connection can be found to the right).
This will never stop people from making the
to the American Association of Suicidology's suicide statistic data
from the 1980s (when this tract was published), a group of people as
large as that of roleplaying gamers (estimated at 4 million by some
sources) would have to reach around 490 successful suicides and over
8000 unsuccessful suicide attempts yearly, just to reach the national
average! That means that before anyone can make any
serious claim about a connection between roleplaying and suicide, they
would have to supply well over 8000 examples before it can be
considered an epidemic, and not just a statistical probability. (You
can read more about this particular subject here.)
an Escapist reader, wrote in with an interesting point that I hadn't
thought of before: If Marcie identified with her RPG character too
closely, as many critics of RPGs claim is true of gamers, then why did
she sign the suicide note with her real name, instead of Black
James A., personal
communication to Paul Cardwell, Jr. (June 8th,1988) -
No evidence of game/suicide connection, by Chief, International
Injuries Section, Centers for Disease Control.
Associated Gifted and
Creative Children of California - Survey of coroners from
American cities who were
asked to review the
psychological autopsies of adolescent suicides, revealed not one case
in which Dungeons and Dragons or any other role-playing game
was a contributing factor.
S. Kenneth Schonberg
- In a study at the Albert Einstien College of Medicine of over 700
adolescents who had committed suicide, not one case cited D&D
or any RPG as a possible cause.
Association of Suicidology,
Denver, Colorado - No evidence of any game as a
possible cause of suicide.
Thomas J., personal
communication to Jennifer Clarke Wilkes (September 15th, 1993) - No
evidence of game/suicide connection, by mental health consultant,
Health & Welfare Canada.
tells the bad news to Ms. Frost, who is unimpressed. "Your spiritual
growth through the game is more important than some lousy loser's
life." After all, "It would have happened sooner or later. Her
character was too weak." Debbie responds by mentioning the tenet of
many witchcraft faiths - that you may do what you wish, as long as you
harm no one. "But now we have harmed Marcie," she says.
Ms. Frost mentions "spiritual growth through the game" - now, the game
is not only an indoctrination tool for occultists, but also a
continuing education program in occultism. "Fighting the Zombie" must
have been a pop quiz that particular day. (So, what happened to the
folks in the dark robes standing on the giant pentagram?)
has never been any evidence of occultists using D&D
or any RPG as a "spiritual growth" program (though William Schnoebelen
may say differently, since he is willing to make any claim necessary).
But that doesn't mean that a person can't learn something from playing
an RPG - it's possible to learn many lessons in strategy, ethics, and
the repurcussions of your actions in a good game. In fact, the
potential for learning is so great that some Christians have developed
their own Christian-based RPGs (such as Dragonraid),
or modified existing games to help teach Christian lessons. And for
this, we do have real, concrete evidence.
Ms. Frost says "Her character was too weak," it is left to us to decide
if she is talking about Black Leaf or Marcie. Or perhaps it's both?
Once again, readers are being fed the sort of player/character
confusion that gamers are often accused of. An actor is not the same
person as the role that they play - otherwise, John Wayne would really
be a coldblooded killer. A roleplayer is no different than an amateur
actor. (NOTE: This sentence has been changed in the August 2013 revision. See below for more information.)
Marcie expresses her concern that her suicide is their fault - "But now
we have harmed Marcie." It is common for people who have lost (or
nearly lost) a friend or loved one in this way to feel as it they were
to blame - maybe if they had paid more attention, or been at the right
place at the right time, things wouldn't have turned out the way that
they did. I can speak on this from personal experience. Here, Debbie is
doing the same thing that a real person confronting a real suicide
would do - but the implication is that the game made them do it. If
only she had been playing Chutes & Ladders
instead of "fighting the Zombie," it might have been easier to pull
|Ms. Frost, angry with
Debbie's weakness, grabs her roughly and tells her that she had "better
let Elfstar take care of things." Debbie responds by saying "I don't
want to be Elfstar anymore. I want to be Debbie."
More player/character confusion - Ms. Frost wants Debbie's
D&D character to take over for her and forget all
this nonsense about some "lousy loser's life." Sort of like how Gary
Coleman handled all of his life's situations by letting Arnold Jackson
take the wheel for a while. "Whuzyoutalkinbout, Ms. Frost?"
|Distraught with her
situation, Debbie sits under a tree. When her friend Mike approaches to
find out what's wrong, Debbie utters a profanity in disgust. To protect
our innocent minds from such filth, Chick abbreviates it in the text - S.O.B.
Why Chick would want to put such vulgarity in his comics, when they are
supposed to be guiding people to goodness and purity, is beyond me.
I'm joking again. There are times when you HAVE to joke, just to stay
|Mike encourages Debbie
to go to a meeting that afternoon to see a speaker who "came out of
witchcraft" and "knows what (she's) up against."
have no real rebuttal here, I just wanted to point out Mike's varsity
jacket, square chiseled jaw, and the part in his hair that you could
set your watch to. You wouldn't expect a speech like this from a
pimply-faced kid with Coke-bottle glasses and a Star Wars t-shirt,
|The (unnamed) speaker
explains that they will be collecting D&D
materials, along with rock music, charms, and anything else creepy,
spooky, and altogether ooky, in order to put them into a big pile and
the first printing of Dark Dungeons, this
particular panel included a footnote that has since been removed. The
words "occult books" had a double asterisk next to them, and the
corresponding note below read "Including C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, both
of which can be found in occult bookstores."
story behind this footnote is detailed in Secrets
of Dark Dungeons by P.D. Magnus, which tells us that the bit
about Lewis and Tolkien was submitted to Chick by a man named John Todd
- a preacher who "claim(ed) to have been an important figure in
international witchcraft before his salvation" and often spouted rants
and sermons about massive satanic conspiracies. (Sound familiar? It
seems Chick always keeps the same sort of company.)
character's image could even be modeled after Todd, who appeared in an
early Chick comic, "Spellbound" (which you can read here).
His dark history and insane messages are far too colorful to be
detailed here - for more information on John Todd, be sure to check out
enough, the footnote was removed by Chick Publications because their
policy is that they "must be able to prove what is printed by more than
one source." What sources did they use, then, to prove that
role-playing games make innocent kids kill themselves?
|As the speaker casts the
demons out of Debbie, she gives her (capital L!) Life to Jesus, and
asks Him to be in charge of everything, "not that lousy D&D
As a guide for life, D&D manuals would
indeed be "lousy" - unless you happen to have a Shambling Mound in your
backyard, and you need to know how to get rid of it.
are not guides for life, they are guides for a game. No one should
decide anything in their life based on something in a D&D
book, and truthfully, no one does.
|The "filth of Satan" is
stacked into a pile and set alight. As the fire rages and parishoners
stand around chanting and singing, Debbie thanks the Lord for setting
There were probably some classic Ral Partha figures in that pile. And
some of those great old modules like Expedition to the
Barrier Peaks, and some of those old Dragon
magazines that had Wormy comics in the back... *sniff*
DARK DUNGEONS' NEW EDITION - THE AUGUST 2013 UPDATEWhile watching a parody video of DD on YouTube (this one, if you're curious), I began to notice a few subtle changes in the text of the comic. So I loaded up archive.org
and started comparing panels - sure enough, sometime in August of 2013
Chick updated the comic with a few changes to the text and some
different graphics. The changes are listed below - I just hope they
don't trigger any new edition wars...
Elfstar doesn't get promoted to priestess quite so quickly now. They must have a probationary period or something.Marcie
loses the dress for some pants. This could be a continuity correction
(she's not wearing a dress in the first two panels, after all), but if
so, it's been a long time coming. She had been wearing that dress for 29
Miss Frost now writes off Marcie's fate to a weak spirit, instead of a weak character, possibly to drive home the point that this isn't a game anymore.This
is the change that caught my eye and started me searching for others -
our ex-witch pastor now tells his congregation to gather up Dark Dungeons material, where he used to say Dungeons and Dragons material.
It's hard to tell if they've done this to avoid legal issues (that
didn't worry them in the least since 1985), for continuity, or for
some other reason entirely. All I can say is that whatever their
...somebody is doing a sloppy job.Debbie
gets a new outfit as well, something a little more light and
summery, for reasons that will probably never be known to us. Likewise,
a perfect opportunity to fix a 29-year-old typo (the capital-L "Life")
is inexplicably missed.The biggest change happens right at the end of the comic, where an
entire panel is dropped, and the quote from Deuteronomy removed - a
strange choice, as that particular scripture is usually the foundation
for this sort of satanic-panic fearmongering. Instead, the
whole affair is summed up in a simple sentence, as the now bare-shouldered
Debbie delivers her old, familiar punchline....and
now I understand the outfit change. Those bonfires can get pretty hot.
She would have ROASTED herself in that stuffy old church outfit!
get enough Dark Dungeons? Then here are some more
sites that may sate your craving:
Dungeons: Between the Panels:
The official Escapist Dark Dungeons spoof. An interview with some of
the main characters from the original comic in a 25th anniversary
Dungeons: The Movie:
A live-action retelling of the tract that was funded by a Kickstarter
campaign in 2013, played completely straight. There are even anti-drug
style "...but on RPGs you will." graphics on their website.
Science Theater 3000 Presents: Dark Dungeons: Mike and
the 'bots take on the Chick tract. This one has been floating around
the internet for quite some time, and because of that, it can be found
on numerous sites with various formats. This
one looks good, with photos of the cast during the intro and
closing - you just have to tolerate a little MIDI music on the opening
one is pretty nice, too. This one
isn't quite as pretty, but good if you'd rather scroll than click
through each page. There are many more, but these should just about
the women outnumber the men" Crow: "Well, it IS a 'Chick
The online comic strip PvP takes a stab at Chick in general with this
all-things-reversed parody of Dark Dungeons.
After it was first published, cartoonist Scott R. Kurtz added
a lengthy statement about his afterthoughts regarding the
strip. Both are worth a look. (Note:
This page and the strip have been missing from the PVP site for some
time now. The link here is to an archived copy of the original page as
it appeared in February of 2001.)
Dungeons: from Chyx Publications. Lots of
coarse language and adult humor. It made me chuckle more than once.
Includes a commentary, and a side-by-side comparison to the original
Dungeon: A parody on the goth scene. More
coarse language, adult humor, and references to Livejournal. Please
click with discretion.
of Dark Dungeons: (mentioned above) Paul
Magnus' interesting commentary on John Todd, a hate-and-fear preacher
from the late 1970s, and the man responsible for some of the content
in Dark Dungeons. The statement accusing C.S. Lewis
and J.R.R. Tolkien of being "occult" authors has been removed from a
later edition of DD... this page explains why.
This one requires a bit of backstory. In 2002, White Wolf Studios
released a new RPG in their World of Darkness series, titled Demon: The Fallen.
To promote the game, they created a phony anti-RPG website,
www.father-ramos.com, and this tract, which is obviously inspired by Dark Dungeons. The
site was taken down in September of 2004, but you can view the archived
and the tract is available on this site at the above link.
An upcoming tabletop roleplaying game
based on the fantasy world presented in the Dark
comic, where role-playing games are so dangerous that the players are
lucky to get out of them with their lives. "It's your
fault Black Leaf died..." (NOTE:
The site has been down for some time, and the RPG doesn't seem to be a
reality anymore, but you can visit the archived site here. Also - don't confuse this RPG with the identically-named one listed below.)
A retro-clone fantasy RPG that took its
name directly from the
Chick pamphlet, and uses characters from the tract (AND their RPG
characters) in the rule examples. Since its release, this RPG has
amassed a pretty large fanbase, had two alternate editions with
modified rules (titled Darker Dungeons and Darkest Dungeons), and acquired a forum, as well as a Facebook page and Facebook group.
Bronze Blog - Christians & Crusades:
A blog post in which the author remixes
the Dark Dungeons panels
into a commentary on argumentum
ad baculum, or "argument from force," a classic example
of which is "If you play Dungeons
& Dragons, you'll go to hell."
A computer-generated film based on
story that can be viewed on Vimeo and YouTube.
you know of any other sites/tributes/parodies that I have missed,
please let me know and I'll put them up.
for reading, and look out for the Zombie,
wjw - March, 2007
Jack T. Chick, "Dark Dungeons" - http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp
William Schnoebelen, "Straight
Talk on Dungeons & Dragons" - http://www.chick.com/articles/dnd.asp
Schnoebelen, "Should a Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?" - http://www.chick.com/articles/frpg.asp
Paul Magnus, "Secrets of Dark Dungeons" - http://www.fecundity.com/pmagnus/darkdung.html
Contributors: Berislav Lopac (PvP link), Jason
McCartan (who led me to Arthur Boff's site), and the kind person who
sent me the MST link (sorry, I seem to have misplaced your e-mail).
document is a work in progress, and is in no way complete as you see it
here. If I have left something out, or missed an important
point, it is imperitave that you, the reader, bring it to my
attention. All contributors will receive credit for their
contributions at the end of the document.