Religious communities are well known for being vehement about voicing their collective opinions on things they are opposed to, be it symbology in a movie (Tangled) to the more extreme and obnoxious cases such as funeral picketing. So it is little surprise that 30 years ago D&D was under the microscope for its occult-like symbology and the whipping boy for destroying community and families.
By nature D&D includes many fantastical concepts and creatures, taking inspiration from many sources such as medieval history and fiction, asian inspired fairy tales and religious folklore. The first editions of the game included demons and devils, clearly drawing inspiration from various religious folklore pagan and christian alike.
The first major religious objection to D&D was in the early 1980s. Patricia Pulling founded a group called Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (B.A.D.D.) after the suicide death of her son, Irving, that she believed was that direct result of D&D gameplay. She filed two lawsuits, one against her sons high school principal, and one against TSR. Both suits were dropped, but that didn't stop Pullings advocacy against roleplaying games. B.A.D.D was successful in getting their views aired through various media, and Pulling herself appeared alongside Gary Gygax in an 1985 episode of 60 minutes. She claimed that D&D promoted such practices as: Satanism, Witchcraft, suicide, rape culture and murder among other things.
Throughout the 80s Pulling facilitated various gaming related lawsuits, starring as an expert witness and consultant to law enforcement. While the lawsuits lost, the negative media D&D was receiving was enough to make many people question the morals of people who played D&D. The apex of Pullings influence came in the form of a book titled The Devil's Web: Who Is Stalking Your Children For Satan?, which has become famous for misconceptions, inaccuracies and questionable writing practices. One memorable example of misconception in her book is the treatment of H.P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon as a work of non-fiction.
Pulling continued her anti-occult campaigns with B.A.D.D. until her death in 1997, shortly thereafter the activism group dissolved.
Towards the end of the 1980's there were a few articles that were published that had contradicting points of view on the subject of D&D being directly involved in occult activity. The first of these articles was written by the co-author of the Ravenloft module for D&D, Tracy Hickman. The Hickman articles start with Ethics in Fantasy: Morality and D&D / Part 1: That Evil Game! which addresses the ethics of having D&D as a hobby from a Mormon point of view. Hickman being an author of various game modules and supporter of tabletop RPGs has a generally positive point of view on the subject.
Soon after the Hickman articles were published, Michael A Stackpole wrote Game Hysteria and the Truth (1989), which details the flaws in journalistic reports about RPGs and D&D in particular. He also published an article called The Pulling Report, calling out the authors misrepresentations in her credentials.
Straight Talk on Dungeons and Dragons was published by William Schnoebelen in 1989, wherein he talks about his experience with Satanism and Wiccanism, and how D&D was involved. He states that not only did he give details about both religions to a TSR representative as a community sorcerer, but that the rituals found within D&D are authentic rituals. In his essay he points out that D&D is a tools used by occult groups to introduce them to behaviors that are opposed to Christian beliefs and teaching. His follow-up article, Should a Christian Play Dungeons and Dragons? (2001), focuses less on the hysteria surrounding the game and its occult connections, and more on the morality of Christians using occult concepts for entertainment.
With news covering false information about teenage suicides being connected to D&D games, occult being involved in the marketing of books to lure children in, and pressure from the religious community in form of harmless cartoons its not surprising that D&D was banned from schools, and shunned in the "normal" community. Eyebrows were raised if you mentioned that D&D was your hobby, looked upon as an occultist. A stigma that stuck with the game for well over a decade.
While this might all seem like a thing of the past, there are still people who consider D&D to be a dangerous game that leads to occultism and suicide. Pat Roberson of Rightwingwatch.org still believes that D&D (and other roleplaying games) is a cause of teenage suicide and is heard saying as much in 2013. Perhaps there are more people who thoughts run with Robertsons.
Lastly, Dark Dungeons is becoming a movie reality August 14, 2014 thanks to Kickstarter. From reading the Kickstarter page, one would assume that the project head is making this movie just because of the sheer ridiculousness of the idea behind the original tract. However, recall that the original purpose of the tract was to be used as a tool to stop the spread of D&D and other roleplaying games. Therefore one must ask, what affects will a movie like this have on misconception of D&D in this day and age of tolerance?
The likely answer is no affect at all will come to the game, but it still is a good reminder that there was once a huge stigma to tabletop RPGs. It also serves as a notice that perhaps D&D-like games are still not tolerated in some social and cultural circles.
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