Do Not Meddle in the Affairs of Gamers, for They Are Nerdy and Quick to Anger. Quoted by Gildorf. Or Was It Tim Conway?

As Cap said…Avengers…assemble!

In some ways this one is going to be personal. In other ways, it will basically be the same thing I’ve been hoping up and down about almost since day one.

While I sometimes reference it, I have never until now made D&D a central topic of…well, frankly, anything, outside of my journal, that I have ever written. I believe most of my readers will know what that is, but I suppose, since I made the error with Paul Tay of assuming people knew as much as I did on the topic, I’ll start with at least a very cursory history of the game (Jason Jones, now would have been a good time to have watched some of those videos you recommended). I will then explain how Hasbro has the game players up in arms about some of the policies they were proposing as the current owners of the game. Then I will apply this microcosmic battle to the real world we know. Now that I have leveled up our geekdom, let’s draw our swords, notch our arrows, and heft our axes (Gimli! Gimli! You can’t have an axe, you destroyed it on the One Ring…oh never mind) and do battle with the Evil Power Master!

Likely this will be a multi part series.

The advertisements set me up for a fall. Until this decade, no self-respecting girl would ever play Dungeons & Dragons. I shoulda been born about 25 years later.

When I was about 4 or 5 years old, and we still had a little bit of money, Mom subscribed to several magazines. I don’t know, but I think even then there was a chance of being entered into the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. So we had a year of World, several years of Reader’s Digest, and a year of Games.

I hoped to find the covers that had been so impactful to my young mind. But I doubt if anyone else alive has read or cared about them. The reason I bring it up is there was an article about what then was a new trend. If memory serves it was called wargaming. My developing mind didn’t understand everything then, but getting hundreds of miniatures together and recreating the epic battles of fiction and history was right up my ally. Fortunately for all, poverty, Anti-intellectualism, and the Satanic Panic of the 80s ensured that I would have nothing to do with this trend until I was 19 and had had about 90% of my creativity quashed. (Imagine if there had been another 30 years of Tired Blogger? I’m pretty sure that was Thanos ultimate plan).

Ahhhh….the Satanic Panic of the 80s. My church passed these tracts out. They meant well, but a 12-year-old Curtis was terrified by these ill written propaganda pieces. First of all, as already mentioned, I have rarely known a D&D game to have women, let alone be exclusively women. Second…if your character dies you just roll up another character! I just…gahhhh….errhhhhh……stupid…magnetic forces slowing down my braaaaiin.

Long and the short, on a personal level, I was introduced to the game at 19. The core group of college friends I have had three interests that cemented our community: Jesus Christ, the Martial Arts, and D&D. As for the game itself:

Before there was D&D, there was Chainmail. Likely this was the game that was covered in the article I perused as a toddler. It was much simpler than the later D&D games and was meant to be for large scale combat simulations, as opposed to the individual character and roleplaying that evolved later.

I’ll try not to allow the history of the game to overwhelm the main point of this post, but for a short overview, the Nerdist tells us that at the end of rulebook for Chainmail “there was a 14-page supplement describing the application of the rules to fantasy. The fantasy supplement provided rules for magic swords, monsters, and spells with names like “Lightning” and “Fireball.”

“When Dave Arneson read the Chainmail fantasy rules, he adapted them to a fantasy world of his own creation, Blackmoor – a setting inspired by the Lord of the Rings universe combined with elements of Arneson’s own imagination and various mechanics pulled from other games. The premise was simple:  players would portray only a single character (an idea he lifted from a game called  Braunsteinand would explore underground dungeons where they would face perils and puzzles. Both the characters and the story would persist from session to session, with characters working cooperatively and improving over time.”

The article details how Gary Gygax took this game and developed it into D&D, and formed a business named TSR (Tactical Sturdies Rules Inc). And the game took off in the seventies, not to the degree of say, Pacman, or Monopoly. But it became a small community of enthusiasts that combined a passion for fantasy, strategy, gaming, storytelling, and theater. Everything was going swimmingly until August 15, 1979, when the seeds of the Satanic Panic were planted.

Wizards of the Coast President Cynthia Williams builds a money house from the profits made from D&D as Hasbro CEO Chriss Cocks looks on. Allegedly.

According to “That, says the Saturday Evening Post, is the day a teenage college student, child prodigy, and D&D player named James Dallas Egbert III disappeared, leaving behind a suicide note. Police were called, and a private investigator named William Dear also got involved in the search. Dear was less interested in the pressures of being a young college student and rumors of drug use than he was with a map of the college campus and the fact the missing teen played D&D. Dear came to the conclusion he had entered steam tunnels under the school, probably in something of a fugue state caused when he lost track of the line between reality and game.”

Over the course of the decade, several confused young people blamed their bad behavior on D&D. The drug use, the alcohol, the womanizing, the gambling debts, the tax evasion, the rock & roll, the arms dealing, none of that was the problem. D&D was. A mother of one of the young lads who committed suicide (which I don’t mean to make light of, I get that is terrible) decided to go on a crusade against the game. She founded “Bothered About D&D.” That’s right, she was Badd. So Badd. You know it? You know! Don’t you call me pudgy portly or stout, ’cause she’ll tell you once again…who’s Badd? D&D players, of course.

“Patricia Pulling’s [founder of BADD} crusade against Dungeons & Dragons was a major one, and she wrote her own books about the game she believed promoted things like insanity, blasphemy, cannibalism, and demon summoning…she also claimed D&D was one of the country’s leading causes of teen suicide.”

And yes, I said I would not mock her, but I get I have done some mocking. It’s not her I mean to mock. I’ve lost a son. I know the pain of trying to figure out why. I know the temptation of blaming this or that or the other. And since I don’t want to be blamed for the loss of my son, I do not in any way wish to imply that her son’s suicide is her fault. Having said that…something that was obviously such a profound source of her son’s psyche was something about which she knew nothing until the day he died.

I will make no further comment, I will simply leave the 60 Minutes segment from which I get that piece of information.

Stuff like this scared me so much as a kid. I wonder now, as a middle-aged man struggling with so many things, would the church have helped me better by just letting me be who I was? Comments wanted.

So… Satanic Panic, FastForward to the early 2000s. At this point, your Tired Blogger has ceased to be a part of the D&D community. I had left this dark world of blatant satanism, tax evasion, and blatant disregard for all things corporate, and was living a healthy lifestyle of doing what I was told. You know, reading the books I was told to read (or better yet not reading at all), thinking the thoughts I was told to think (or better yet not thinking at all), and giving my ex-wife cars for the holidays while receiving in return the latest edition of some televangelists book about how to shut up, do as I was told, and be a better husband. But that is not the point, the point is, D&D was itself at a crossroads.

Dndbyme.homeblog shares this information: “In 1997, a near-bankrupt TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast.[84] Following three years of development, Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition was released in 2000.[85] The new release folded the Basic and Advanced lines back into a single unified game. It was the largest revision of the D&D rules to date, and served as the basis for a multi-genre role-playing system designed around 20-sided dice, called the d20 System.[86] The 3rd Edition rules were designed to be internally consistent and less restrictive than previous editions of the game, allowing players more flexibility to create the characters they wanted to play.[87] Skills and feats were introduced into the core rules to encourage further customization of characters.[88] The new rules standardized the mechanics of action resolution and combat.[89] In 2003, Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5 was released as a revision of the 3rd Edition rules. This release incorporated hundreds of rule changes, mostly minor, and expanded the core rulebooks.[89]

No 3rd Edition for you Curtis! I had some friends that let me look at it. It looked amazing, but honestly, I’ll likely never know. Dust and ashes lad, dust and ashes. Seriously though, the blog post I’m quoting from is amazing. If you have the time, if DND interests you at all for good or ill, you should read it.

So why are so many gamers up in arms about licensing and laws and money? Why is your Tired Blogger even bothering to write about this, as opposed to another post honoring Martin Luther King Jr?

Licensing has been a bogey since (ironically) the heyday of the Satanic Panic. Dndbyme shares: “Early in the game’s history, TSR took no action against small publishers’ production of D&D compatible material, and even licensed Judges Guild to produce D&D materials for several years, such as City State of the Invincible Overlord.[116] This attitude changed in the mid-1980s when TSR took legal action to try to prevent others from publishing compatible material. This angered many fans and led to resentment by the other gaming companies.[66]Although TSR took legal action against several publishers in an attempt to restrict third-party usage, it never brought any court cases to completion, instead settling out of court in every instance.[117] TSR itself ran afoul of intellectual property law in several cases.[118]

I think I have some friends who have this copy. At any rate, this was before my time. But anything endorsed by Dave Arneson is a kind of holy grail to the old-time gamers. Sigh…when is the next game folks?

Again, tells us how the licensing debacle built up to the current time.

“With the launch of Dungeons & Dragons’3rd Edition, Wizards of the Coast made the d20 System available under the Open Game License (OGL) and d20 System trademark license. Under these licenses, authors were free to use the d20 System when writing games and game supplements.[119] The OGL and d20 Trademark License made possible new games, some based on licensed products like Star Wars, and new versions of older games, such as Call of Cthulhu.

“With the release of the fourth edition, Wizards of the Coast introduced its Game System License, which represented a significant restriction compared to the very open policies embodied by the OGL. In part as a response to this, some publishers (such as Paizo Publishing with its Pathfinder Roleplaying Game) who previously produced materials in support of the D&D product line, decided to continue supporting the 3rd Edition rules, thereby competing directly with Wizards of the Coast. Others, such as Kenzer & Company, are returning to the practice of publishing unlicensed supplements and arguing that copyright law does not allow Wizards of the Coast to restrict third-party usage.[120]

The game that has brought me back to the joy of rpg. Pathfinder has so much of the joy of the old days. It was an effort by old school gamers to revamp gaming to be a worthy alternative to computer games like Warcraft, Elder Scrolls, and Skyrim, and yet bypass the sudden change in licensing rules Hasbro had introduced.

The Pathfinder game system accomplished something that had never been done before (I think, please correct me if I am wrong). For a while they were actually beating D&D in sales for tabletop rpgs.

The response to the challenge, while imperfect, was actually effective. explains: “Alongside the publication of the fifth edition, Wizards of the Coast established a two-pronged licensing approach. The core of the fifth edition rules have been made available under the OGL, while publishers and independent creators have also been given the opportunity to create licensed materials directly for Dungeons & Dragons and associated properties like the Forgotten Realms under a program called the DM’s Guild.[122] The DM’s Guild does not function under the OGL, but uses a community agreement intended to foster liberal cooperation among content creators.[122]” Clear as mud, right?

The Open Game License allowed third parties to develop their own products, which counterintuitively meant there was money to be made by everyone. Web developers like Critical Role provided entertainment and geekdom for the masses, and WOTC regained their supremacy with a ton of free advertising, incredible community fervor, and a 5th edition that while not as good IMHO as Pathfinder, was still a profound step in the right direction. What could possibly go wrong?

Well folks, your Tired Blogger wore himself out on this one. 2358 words, and I’m beat (though it was also kinda fun). In the next post I will continue with explaining how Hasbro has the game players up in arms about some of the policies they were proposing as the current owners of the game. Then I will apply this microcosmic battle to the real world we know. Till Corporate America realizes that they are the true Satanic Panic, make mine Marvel (or D&D…or Pathfinder…oh heck just be excellent to each other and party on dudes)!

Believe what you want, but maybe do a bit of research before consigning me to Hell.
I can’t help it…this is just so funny.


  1. Xman says:

    Excellent start!

    The “megaChurch pastors play D&D” is a hilarious parody! If you grew up conservative in the 1980s or 90s, you probably new one of those guys!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curtiswselby says:

      Sadly, I just about WAS one of those guys. Brook, I REFUSE to bow down to your idols of darkness!


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