Traumafessions :: Eric J. On Dungeons and Dragons and Jack Chick

The “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s was in full swing in my small town when I was introduced to one of the main recruiting tools of the dark lord, Dungeons and Dragons. TSR’s role playing game was a one way ticket to a steady diet of brimstone and piping hot Fresca for all eternity. A few of my older friends had mentioned that they were starting to play, and I was more than just a little interested. I had stumbled across a copy of the “Dungeon Masters Guide” at my local Waldenbooks and was captivated by the cover, a wizard or mage type person fought valiantly with a Paladin companion against a giant red devil wielding an equally giant scimitar. I remember glancing around the bookstore hoping that the devil or one of his minions wouldn’t notice me as I dared to pick up the book. As if on cue a small black pamphlet fell out of the book and on the floor. It was the infamous Jack Chick tract, “Dark Dungeons.”

Jack Chick tracts had already traumatized me for a few years prior to this point. The tract, “Bewitched” had exposed me to the horrors of drug use and the day to day battle that praying grandmothers had with Satan himself. The image of poor Ashley Wilson’s face melting off as she looked into a mirror during a drug “Freak out” had insured that I would stay away from drugs until I was at least out of middle school!

Dark Dungeons” is one of the mostly widely known and parodied Chick tracts. Poor Marcie and Black Leaf ! The horrors of role playing games were spelled out as people died with their characters, while other cast, “Mind Bondage” spells on their parents so they could play more. The reclusive Jack Chick spread his hysterical propaganda with a formidable output on many subjects, Halloween and Catholicism being rich and oft visited targets. It’s debated whether or not Jack Chick is one person or a group of people writing under a pseudonym, but what is not debated is that his methods impacted readers.

I eventually learned by playing Dungeons and Dragons, that it wasn’t a portal to hell and damnation, but rather a conduit for the imagination. How many people wrote stories about their adventures and went on to discover great fantasy literature or even developed the games that we play today. Dungeons and Dragons hysteria also produced the seriously awful movie, “Mazes and Monsters”, starring a pre-fame Tom Hanks as a role playing fan that takes things a little too seriously.

Every once and a while I feel like pulling the dice out of storage and dusting off my trusty cleric character sheet, but then I realize that there is real life to attend to, and that Greyhawk has passed me by. Hopefully my son will gravitate towards role playing games and exercise his imagination with me on a campaign someday.

Eric J.


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Phil Gonzales
Phil Gonzales (@fb788509390)
9 years ago

Enter the Jabberwock has a ton of great Jack Chick commentaries including two for Dark Dungeons:

Chuckles72 (@chuckles72)
9 years ago

Honestly, I could never determine exactly where my parents came down on the whole “D&D is evil” thing. I LOVED D&D and when I was not DMing a campaign for my friends, I was working on some new story, crappily drawing fantastic scenes from my imagination or biking to one of the many local hobby shops that sold D&D merch. At first my parents were generally tolerant but I think that the Satanic Panic eventually cast a cloud of doubt over them – why WAS I so interested in this strange game?

They started pressuring me to do more “normal” things which in my neighborhood was to smoke pot and trespass a lot. They had no idea what was going on. Eventually I just sat them down and explained the game – I laid out the nuts and bolts, the storytelling, the dorky social fun of it. They were not entirely convinced but let me proceed. Funny thing was that I got my first girlfriend shortly after that and had a whole new time-consuming interest (that they were not thrilled about once again). Was there ever a Chick Tract about evil girlfriends?

It is impossible these days to really understand the Satanic Panic connected with D&D and fantasy stuff in the early 80s – The Lord of the Rings is now a blockbuster film series, tens of millions of people play World of Warcraft and the religious nuts that got riled up about Harry Potter were completely steamrolled in the media.

knobgobbler (@knobgobbler)
9 years ago

Back in High School the kids in our D&D group were all in the same Baptist youth group. We met for the games in the home of the son of one of the ‘Deacons’.
As far as I know no one ever got any trouble about it, but eventually that kid’s parents decided we were a ‘bad influence’.
That was more about the music we listened to though. Is there a Chick Tract about the evils of Pink Floyd?
Anyway, I’m don’t go to church any more but I still play roleplaying games.

El Borak
El Borak (@el-borak)
9 years ago

what a bunch of crap that was.

i remember having to beg for a xmas gift just because it had warriors and monsters in it. my pseudo-step grandparents thought it was evil, ahah.

also loved mazes and monsters.

dude goes crazy and runs in the sewer.

Jami JoAnne Russell
Jami JoAnne Russell (@fb882225421)
9 years ago

@Chuck – I don’t know about evil girlfriends, but there was at least one where a girl slept with a guy once, got AIDS, and died.

Del Camino
Del Camino (@fb100003480571801)
9 years ago

I grew up in the Bible Belt in a family that was just a step or two removed from the sort of Pentecostals that Max Cady waxes nostalgic about in Cape Fear. Between Southern evangelism, Jack Chick and Geraldo Rivera, I’d have probably had a better chance scoring an eight ball of smack than anything Dungeons & Dragons related. However, I had a free hand when it came to comic books and the like. When I asked my mom for the Marvel Super Heroes game, she was kind enough to oblige. Turns out, not surprisingly, my mom had no idea what the hell it was. Upon learning that I had an RPG and basically the same thing as Dungeons & Dragons, she freaked out a bit. Fortunately though she was cool enough not to tear the game from my hands and toss it on the fire, as my far more uptight grandmother once did with a deck of playing cards.

If only I’d had someone to play with. 🙁

Brian Katcher
Brian Katcher (@bjkatcher)
9 years ago

@Jami: The one you’re thinking of is called ‘That Crazy Guy!’ It’s out of print and somewhat of a collector’s item.

Jami JoAnne Russell
Jami JoAnne Russell (@fb882225421)
9 years ago

@Del – I LOVE Classic Marvel Superheroes. I can’t stand the newer one where you HAVE to play set characters rather than creating your own. My favorite creation was Pearl Banks. A mutant who would die if she didn’t consume a certain amount of caffeine every day and who’s entire family was slaughtered by Sabertooth who had been hired to kill her family and kidnap her.

@BJ – Makes me wish I would’ve kept it.

Justin S. Davis
Justin S. Davis (@justin-s-davis)
9 years ago

You’re never to old to slang dice, man. Get to it!

My extended family were all holy-rollers–founded their own church, even–and were completely against my RPG-playing ways. I’d get Chick Tracts every Christmas and birthday (along with some socks).

Eric Eddy
Eric Eddy (@fb100000792125902)
9 years ago


Lol… The whole time in Mazes and Monsters I thought J.J. was the one who was going to lose it.