he publication of "Dungeons and Dragons" in 1974 did something no
other game had ever done: it imposed rules on what had been heretofore the
exercise of the imagination. It became the first ever Role Playing Game and,
while many others have followed and the rules have been revised several
different times, it continues to be the best well known and most widely
distributed game of that type. Role Playing Games (RPGs) have been
translated in a host of different languages and are as popular in Europe and
Japan as they are in the United States.
Dungeons and Dragons codified and dressed up with dice and pictures the
imaginary games we all had played as children - Cops and Robbers, Cowboys
and Indians and Tea Party. It made available to adolescents and adults a
vehicle to exercise their imaginations in a very active sense - a prerogative
largely usurped by the television in modern society. It provided a social
setting for a game designed to let people escape everyday cares and have
If the critics of Role Playing Games are to be believed, it also did something else. According to them, it opened the gates of Hell and has seduced over 100 individuals into acts of murder, mayhem and suicide. RPGs are, across the board, labeled as primers to the occult and are charged with leading children into Satanic covens from which they do not return. Heavy RPG involvement had been advanced as extenuating circumstances for murder, robbery, kidnapping and a host of lesser crimes.
The body of this paper will examine the claims made by the foes of
games. It will focus on the evidence they have advanced to back their claims.
It will also pay special attention to Patricia Pulling, the founder of Bothered
About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD) and the techniques she has used in
pursuing her vendetta against a hobby she blames for the death of her son.
Lastly, it will touch upon the links between BADD and some other
organizations within the anti-Satanism movement.
As a game player and designer I have been involved with Role Playing Games since December of 1976. I entered the hobby through wargaming and found fantasy gaming to be an interesting and stimulating passtime. As I was at the University of Vermont at the time, and was 19 years old, I was able to gather together a group of players to share the games with me.
By September 1977 I had completed my first game design and saw it published in August of 1978. Since that time I have created 3 paper and pencil role playing games, 2 computer role playing games, 5 solitaire adventures for RPGs, a game-master adventure, and have written in whole or part over 60 articles and selections in anthology projects or magazines. I have won awards for all of my computer game designs, including Computer Gaming World's Best Adventure Game of 1988 for Wasteland and the Strategist Club's Best Role Playing Game for 1988 for Bard's Tale III. Stormhaven won Best Role Playing Adventure for 1983 and Citybook 1 took the same award the previous year. I have done work for the following game systems: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes, BattleTech, Top Secret, Star Wars, Justice, Inc., Champions, ShadowRun and the Renegade Legion Role Playing Game. My work has been translated into French, Japanese, German, Swedish and Italian, as well as having both American and British printings.
In addition to all that, I have four science fiction novels currently in print
and was recently selected to be listed in the 22nd Edition of Who's Who in
the West. I am the Executive Director of the Phoenix Skeptics and a member
of the Science Fiction Writers of America. I am a founder and the head of the
Academy of Game Critics and a member of the Academy of Gaming Arts and
Design. I am also a member of the Game Manufacturers' Speakers' Bureau. I
also have a degree in History from the University of Vermont, with a
In short, I have a solid grasp on reality and gaming. I have been involved
with the industry on a full time basis since the explosion of RPGs in 1979.
My training as a historian has given me the tools to research the background
of many of these claims, and my sources within the industry provide me
accurate data on sales and distribution of games. I know what is in a game,
whether or not the game is in print, and roughly how many copies were ever
available. All this, as will be seen, is important.
The publication of "Dungeons and Dragons" in 1974 was unique. It applied fantasy elements to miniatures wargaming. Up to that point, lead soldiers had been used to refight the battles of history, or to pit armies against each other in "what if" battles - what if Genghis Khan had actually laid siege to Jerusalem, or the Britons had been organized to oppose the Romans.
Indeed, this latter scenario, in 1969, provided the first instance of magic
being used when David Arneson, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons,
allowed a friend to introduce a druid into a Britons versus Romans battle.
The player was fooling around when he said, "I call a lightning bolt down to
destroy your war elephant!" Dave, as the Gamemaster, pulled the elephant
off the board. The Romans subsequently massed and killed the pesky druid,
but the elements of role playing had been introduced into a staid war game
for the first time.
By 1974 E. Gary Gygax had written down and caused to be published the
rules that Dave had developed over the years. The trio of books were
virtually incomprehensible to anyone who did not understand miniatures
wargaming. Almost immediately imitations began appearing and, in the
grand tradition of gaming, did what D&D had done, but did it differently. The
second RPG in existence was Tunnels and Trolls, and that is the system with
which the author is most familiar.
By 1989 over 300 role playing games have been produced for the paper
and pencil market. Counting in computer games would boost that number
well over 500. The games cover subjects from fantasy and science fiction to
espionage and on down to "Woof, Meow: the role playing game of Cats and
Dogs." The games range widely in subject matter, approach, complexity and
level of professionalism in writing and production. According to David
Arneson, there are over 10,000,000 copies of D&D extant worldwide and Pat
Pulling says, in her book The Devil's Web, that there is a base of users
numbering over 4,000,000.
It is very important to note that while D&D in its myriad forms (Basic,
Expert, "classic," Advanced and Advanced, 2nd edition) is certainly the
largest selling RPG, the trend in the industry has been to move away from
the fantasy genre. The glut of fantasy games on the market makes it very
difficult to introduce a new fantasy title. In addition, the audience has
steadily moved toward games with a high-tech edge - perhaps because
years of hacking away with swords against monsters had lead to the desire
to shoot something so it doesn't get back up. Whatever the reason, the most
popular games to be introduced recently are ShadowRun (a cross of high-
tech and fantasy), Star Wars, Twilight 2000 (after the Holocaust),
Warhammer 40,000 (SF gaming in a bleak future) and Champions (a
The critics of RPGs point at teenagers who become obsessed with RPGs. They suggest that this obsession leads to all sorts of difficulties, including violence and suicide. They believe the games to be a harmful tool that warps the minds of perfectly normal kids and turns them into inhuman monsters capable of murdering their parents. They suggest that playing an RPG is the first step on the long road to a nightmare in real life.
No one would deny that as children grow up they seek to establish an
identity independent of their parents. In searching for this new identity,
kids often latch on to something that provides them a handle on who they
are. We have all been able to identify the cliques that form in high school:
the jocks, the brains, the drop-outs, the car freaks, the beauty queens, the
band and the outsiders. At one time or another most individuals growing up
in America classified themselves in one of those groups, or dreaded being
branded with such a label.
Two new classifications that have arisen since the 1970s are computer
nerds and gamers. The reason for their late arrival is that what they choose
to identify with did not exist prior to the mid 1970s. Computer nerds are
more easily accepted by their parents because understanding computers can
be the start of a promising career. A computer nerd's grasp of what goes on
inside a computer is a survival skill in the modern world. Yes, junior might
be a bit shy, but boy can he clear up that virus that's been destroying my
company's hard disk.
Gamers, on the other hand, have a greater problem. RPGs did not exist for their parents. Unless a youth was lucky enough to have a parent or older sibling who was willing to learn and perhaps play a game, he would be alone at home. His parents would see him devoting a great deal of time to a game, and that roughly translates to spending most of your time fooling around. As "fooling around" is not one of those high paying jobs, and careers in gaming are not easy to come by, a parent's concern is more than understandable.
And it must be said that kids can become obsessed with gaming, just as
they can be obsessed with sports, cars, computers, dating, music, television,
movies, ad infinitum. This obsession may well not be healthy, especially if it
continues for a long time. However, no parent would suggest that cars are
evil just because Bob spends all of his time working on his car. Why, then,
are games viewed with fear?
Pat Pulling has prepared more than one document that deals with
painting a profile of a child in jeopardy because of gaming. Mostly she uses
this profile to pinpoint kids who are headed for an involvement with
Satanism, but she also allows it to apply to youngsters who are potentially
suicidal. Quoting from her Interviewing Techniques for Adolescents
(BADD, Inc., Sept 1988) the profile goes as follows:
This profile, which is distributed by BADD to police departments for their
use in interrogating suspects in crimes clearly has some flaws. Even a casual
glance at the first three sections will show that virtually any child from the
ages of 11-17 is a potential candidate for seduction into Satanism.
Furthermore, this seduction will take place at times when a parent is least
likely to be present. In short, if you have a reasonably intelligent child from
a good background and he is out of your sight, he is open to recruitment by
And, as section four points out, after Heavy Metal music, the devil's
legions use RPGs to recruit their cultists. (A cynic might note, after looking at
Mrs. Pulling's list of methods for Satanists, that it is no wonder Satanism is
on the rise. Before Heavy Metal, games and movies, they had little to offer
No one in their right mind would scoff at a parent's concern for what his
child is doing in his spare time. Everyone agrees that parental interest in
activities is important, and games have long been a way to bring the family
together in a social setting. Gaming is very much a group activity and all
game professionals encourage parents to keep up with what their children
are doing. Ultimately it is a parent's responsibility to monitor his child's
behavior, to notice if there is a problem - and to deal with that problem
when it arises.
It is understandable that many parents who come from a strong religious background would object to games that deal with magic and the occult in one form or another. This is their right, but to brand all RPGs as doorways to the occult is fallacious and really points up the depth of ignorance concerning this subject that abound among its critics. Many RPGs are based in science fiction worlds where high technology precludes magic, and rare are the SF RPGs that deal with religion at all. Finding a game that does not have objectionable material on religious grounds is not hard to do.
All role playing games have some form of conflict resolution that involves combat. It is perhaps unfortunate that this is the case, but combat is an easy source of conflict for the storyline of an adventure. Of D&D, Dr. Thomas Radecki says, "this game is one of nonstop combat and violence." This, however, is not a valid characterization of D&D and other games in the field.
From a designer's standpoint, I produce games that limit violent conflict by making the outcome of the same very deadly. I also encourage non- violence by making the rewards for a non-violent or less violent resolution to a problem greater than the rewards for killing something. Furthermore, as games have developed over the years, the rewards for engaging in role play and interpersonal interaction have been increased, and the mechanisms have been refined, so the focus of games becomes role playing instead of combat.
In short, the scenario being run determines how much combat will occur. If a game is being run that takes place at a cocktail party in a posh New York apartment, the potential for violence is extremely low. (Note: it is extremely low as would be measured by most people. Dr. Radecki and his National Coalition Against Television Violence (NCTV) have entirely different standards for violence.) Many Gamemasters work to avoid violence in their games just because it is not as much fun as role playing.
The fundamental charge against RPGs is that they have triggered a
number of teen suicides. We will examine many cases later in this work, but
it is important to lay to rest this charge right here. Despite the claims of
BADD and NCTV, no evidence exists to establish causality of a game for the
suicide of anyone. In fact, what evidence there is that does exist suggests
just the opposite.
1. Dr. S. Kenneth Schonberg of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New
York conducted an in-depth study of over 700 adolescents who had
attempted suicide. Not one case indicated D&D or any RPG as a reason for
their suicide attempt.
2. Beth Grant-DeRoos, Spokesperson for the Associated Gifted and Creative
Children of California, conducted a survey which included all major American
cities. Coroners were asked to review the psychological autopsies of
adolescent suicides. Not one case indicated D&D or any RPG as contributing
to the suicide.
3. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia released a report on
teen suicide. Nothing indicated that suicide was more common among teens
who played D&D.
4. The American Association of Suicidology in Denver, Colorado is an expert source of information on the epidemic of suicide. They have no evidence that indicates any games have been the causes of suicides.
5. In The Devil's Web, Pat Pulling cites a user base for D&D alone as
4,000,000 players. Since the introduction of the game in 1975, the suicide
rate for individuals aged 15-24 has fluctuated between 11.7 (1975) and 12.8
(1980) deaths per 100,000 individuals in the population. (The rate has been
falling since then.) If gamers were killing themselves at the average rate
for their age group we would have between 468 and 512 successful suicides
a year. As the American Association of Suicidology notes, only 6% of suicide
attempts are successful, so the number of unsuccessful gamer suicides would
run between 7800 and 8533 annually.
In The Devil's Web, Mrs. Pulling cites 125 deaths connected to the games
as of 1987, though she does report "Many, many more [cases] remain
unpublicized; the cases are in files marked 'confidential.' This is not hype.
This is not speculation. The cases are there." Even at four times her reported
case list, the total would not equal one year's average number of suicides for
gamers, if they were killing themselves at a rate equal to the rest of the
population. Given that the 125 cases cited above consist of roughly 50%
murders and 50% suicides, the statistics cast even more doubt on the link
between games and suicide.
6. The evidence goes even further when the warning signs of suicide are
taken into account. Teen suicides are usually loners and drug users. In The
Devil's Web Pat herself notes, "Some [players] are loners, but many are not
as this is a group-oriented game." She also says, "Generally, the adolescent
D&D player is not involved with drugs; at most, there may be some use of
It is important to point out that having a close group of friends provides
the support a kid needs to get through difficult times. Furthermore, it
provides a network of individuals who can be on the lookout for the changes
in behavior and activities that could point out a potential suicide. Gaming
groups do build tight and long lasting friendships of the sort that encourage
helping and sharing problems.
There is no causal link between games and suicide any more than there is a link between breathing and suicide. Suicide is a desperate act of a very sick individual and to trivialize their condition by suggesting a game could push them over edge is cruel and unfeeling. To suggest a game could change an otherwise normal child into a suicidal or homicidal maniac asks us to believe that a normal individual cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality. It also vests an incredible amount of power in a game, and allows people to put their responsibility and guilt off onto an inanimate object.
Mrs. Pulling and her compatriots continually point to RPGs being used as
recruiting devices for occult groups. The scenario they depict runs something
like this: Johnny is a perfectly normal and well adjusted boy until he
innocently gets involved in a D&D game at school. A recruiter from a local
coven monitors the gaming group and selects Johnny as the sort of person he
wants in his diabolical group. He invites Johnny to a "party" and befriends
him. During this party, or the next one or the one after that, Johnny is talked
into doing something he shouldn't (smoking dope, dropping acid or becoming
sexually active) and this behavior is caught on video tape. If Johnny ever
decides to leave the group, he's trapped.
This recruitment story often ends in one of three ways. Johnny,
remorseful, kills himself. Johnny, now insane, kills his parents to dedicate his
life to Satan. Johnny has a change of heart and is murdered by the coven to
preserve their secrets - with the murder often being arranged to look like
It should be pointed out that no solid evidence has been presented to
show games as having been used as recruitment tools by occult groups - if
those groups exist at all. The only anecdotal evidence comes from Rosemary
Loyacano who maintains that is how her son Steven was seduced into a
coven. She claims he managed to keep his involvement with the coven
hidden from her, though she found all sorts of paraphernalia after his
suicide. (As will be seen later, this interpretation of Steven Loyacano's death
is contradicted by other writings about him.)
Perhaps because there is no evidence of recruitment, BADD and others always manage to intimate that Dave Arneson and E. Gary Gygax are closet Satanists and that their work is part of the fallen angel's plan for taking over the minds of the young. The fact that Dave Arneson is now, and was at the time he wrote his part of D&D, a born-again Christian has escaped their notice. Lawrence Schick, the editor for the first edition of the AD&D hardbacks, has said the TSR research library consisted of a few history books and not a single volume of occult knowledge. (It is curious that the majority of the books on the occult that Pulling uses to point up the Satanistic stuff in D&D were actually written after D&D and may have used the games as resource material, not the other way around as she likes to imply.)
While parents have every right to censor what their children read and do, they should not censor based on groundless fears. There is no evidence that RPGs cause or encourage suicide - in fact, the statistical evidence suggests quite the opposite. There is no proof that involvement in games will lead to violent behavior or involvement with the occult. In fact, the most negative comment made about RPGs comes from psychologists who suggest that role playing is too valuable and powerful a tool to be left in the hands of amateurs. Unless those good doctors can figure a way to police games of Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers (or show us the irreparable damage done to the young because of them) I would say their drive to keep role-playing in their private, clinical domain is doomed to failure.
However, it is perhaps not their fault that they rail against games,
because the people asking them for judgements are presenting only a few
facts. Those facts, seemingly chosen at random from sources that are, at best,
questionable, provide an incomplete picture of both gaming and the state of
a gamer's mind. When one begins with incomplete evidence and ignorance,
one only produces nonsense in commenting on it.
But from where, if this threat has been studied in such great detail, does
this vast ignorance arise?
As far as games are concerned, Patricia Pulling is the Exxon Valdez of
ignorance. She is full of it, she's leaking it all over, and it is left to the rest of
us to clean up. In her book The Devil's Web she says she has given
testimony in a number of trials and cites 3 as standing out in her mind. "My
role was that of jury education, explaining to the jury members the game of
'Dungeons & Dragons' and how it is played."
That she could be hired to give testimony in a court of law as an expert
on games is quite chilling. The only solace to be found in this is that, at least
in the three cases she cites, her client was convicted and sentenced to death
or life without parole.
Mrs. Pulling says in her book, "A number of other fantasy role-playing
games exist, and most are imitations of 'Dungeons & Dragons.' Some of the
most popular ones are 'Tunnels & Trolls,' 'The Arduin Grimoire,' 'Runequest,'
'Empire of the Petal Throne,' 'Nuclear Escalation,' 'Traveller,' 'Boot Hill,'
'Demons,' 'The Court of Ardor,' 'Melee & Wizard,' Metamorphosis Alpha,' and
Tunnels & Trolls is still in print and has even been computerized.
Version of this game have been translated into French, German, Italian and
Japanese. T&T does include magic, but has no religious system included or
implied in the game. The game has been available since 1975, has had five
editions, but has seen its sales dwindle since 1985. Its chief claim to fame
was in its line of solo adventures to be played by single players. (Through
the solo line I became involved in T&T and I have authored five solo
adventures for that system.) Her main objection to T&T, according to
Pulling's A Law Enforcement Primer On Fantasy Role-Playing Games
is "In this game you obtain your character by rolling 3 six-sided dice
The Arduin Grimoire is a set of unsanctioned D&D supplements written
by Dave Hargraves. Hargraves died in 1988, but a publisher in Texas keeps
his work in print. Arduin's highest point of distribution came in the early
80's, but because of the violence depicted in the game, most shops don't
stock it and won't sell it. At best 30,000 copies of the books were probably
produced and the author knows of no translations.
Runequest is one of the most popular RPGs and was the first to break away from using "levels" to gauge character development. It has been translated into several languages, but annual sales have slipped since 1986 when the Avalon Hill Game Company took over publication from the Chaosium. Runequest likewise suffers, in Pulling opinion, from the onerous usage of 3 six-sided dice for rolling characters (6,6,6).
Empire of the Petal Throne was originally published by TSR. It went out of print in the early 80s, then reappeared from Gamescience in 1983. The game is virtually unknown in 1989 and difficult to find in gaming stores.
Nuclear Escalation is not a role-playing game at all. I know this
because I helped develop this sequel to Nuclear War. It is a card game.
Pulling put it on the list in Primer on the basis of ad copy in an unspecified
magazine. The text she has excerpted includes the phrase "Nuclear Escalation
card game" in it. (Having written the ad originally, I made sure the game was
clearly seen as a card game.)
Traveller is a science fiction published by Game Designers Workshop.
The game has been changed and is now published under the title
Megatraveller, with Traveller 2300 AD being another title in that line. This
game has neither magic nor religion, though the occasional psionic ability
(ESP, Telepathy, etc.) could be taken by some as demonic. It is a very
Boot Hill was a wild west game published by TSR. It has been out of
print since the mid 1980s.
Demons was a small board game from SPI, Inc. It appeared in 1980/81
and has been out of print since 1982. SPI was later absorbed by TSR and the
game has not been reissued.
The Court of Ardor is not a role playing game, but an adventure for the Middle Earth Role Playing Game (a game based on the world of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of The Rings). (It cannot be used except in conjunction with the MERP or with another RPG after extensive revision.) Iron Crown Enterprises first published it in 1983 and it was the toughest/highest level adventure produced for that game system. It has been out of print for the last couple of years and there are no immediate plans to reprint it.
Melee & Wizard is actually two games: Melee and Wizard. Melee was a
man to man combat game and Wizard was a magic duel game. The two could
be combined for larger battles. Designed by Steve Jackson, they were
published by Metagaming. They have been out of print since Metagaming's
collapse in 1983.
Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World were both TSR products released in the late 70s and early 80s. MA is out of print, though Gamma World had a revised edition in 1986. Gamma World has been revived as Gammarauders, but the two games have little more than concept in common.
So, of the thirteen games on the Pulling list, the score is:
5 out of print
5 in serious decline
2 are not role playing games at all
1 is still popular, but goes under a different name
Mrs. Pulling's expertise with games apparently ends with 1983 because
all of the products she lists in her 1989 book were printed before then, and
none that have hit the market since are covered or even mentioned with the
exception explained below.
Mrs. Pulling continues her listing of games in Web by noting, "In England,
a fantasy role-playing game is being played by mail. A news article headline
reads, 'Kids sent murder in the mail.' ...The game is called 'It's A Crime,' and
details have been mailed to homes all over England."
What Mrs. Pulling fails to understand, it seems, is that "It's A Crime" is a
game that was created and is still being run here in the United States. It has
been available since 1985 and is produced by Adventures By Mail. The game
deals with building up a criminal cartel, which is not a subject I find
particularly attractive, but it has enjoyed a modest following since its
She continues on, calling "Further into Fantasy" a "popular fantasy-by-
mail game in England." She links it to the case of Michael Ryan, a young man
who went on a shooting spree in England. What she does not know is that the
game was very small, had no more than two dozen players and was being
run by two Swedes in Scotland. The game collapsed after the Michael Ryan
incident and the Swedes fled the country. No charges of any sort have been
brought against them and no one has suggested his involvement in the game
had anything to do with his madness.
Pat certainly suggests she has spent some time learning how to play the game Dungeons & Dragons. Her grasp of RPGs is weak, however, and can be pointed up through things she has written. Or, in the case of the How the Game Is Played section of The Devil's Web, things she has rewritten.
For the sake of brevity, I will only quote a couple of passages from The Devil's Web and it's source: The Darren Molitor Letter.
The Devil's Web:
The game itself is set in the middle ages. Each player is solely responsible for the actions of his character, and all players are under the direction of the Dungeon Master. Play begins with the six rolls of dice by each participant who then uses the six numbers he has rolled to organized the traits of his character (based upon strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity and charisma). If he wishes, he may roll again to determine the physical size of his character after which he assigns his persona a race (such as elf, dwarf, etc.), a class (occupation) and an alignment (attitude or outlook).
The Darren Molitor Letter:
The game is called "Dungeons & Dragons" and it is a fantasy role-playing game. As you can probably assume from the title it is set in the medieval era of our time or history. Because it is a game of "fantasy" anything is possible and being a "role-playing" game means you act as a character of that time as if you were on stage. But there is no physical action on the player's part. Everything is played or imagined in the mind. And you, as the player, are the sole person responsible for the action of your character or characters. You control him totally. His/her actions, words feelings, thought. Everything about this character you control.
To obtain a "character",[sic] a player must first roll three six-sided dice. Add up the numbers rolled and write it down. A player does this six times and then he must organize the numbers he has rolled to the six characteristics of his character. The six characteristics are strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity and charisma. These characteristics are the "heart" of your character. After which the player may roll to obtain the height and weight or he/she may choose it. The player assigns a race to the character, a class, which is his/her occupation and the alignment. An alignment is the character's attitude or outlook on life.
The Devil's Web:
[The Dungeon Master's] major responsibility is to create an adventure or dungeon for the characters. Books are available with prepared dungeons, but most DMs prefer to create the dungeons themselves. He must invent the scenery that the characters may encounter in the course of the adventure, the climate, the smells, the monsters and the treasure. This process can take from 36 to 48 hours of work. One woman has left her career to be a full-time DM; she is supported entirely by her D&D players.
The Darren Molitor Letter:
The DM has a lot of responsibility, as you can imagine. For example, the DM must create an adventure or dungeon. There are many books called modules with "dungeons" already prepared, but for the most part the DM creates them himself/herself. He/she must create the scenery (indoor, outdoor, underground, the various and numerable characters a player may encounter, the temperature, the smell, the monsters and the treasure. [sic] It is a very long and tedious process and the average dungeon takes anywhere from 36-48 hours of work. There is one case of the game being followed, that the DM, a lady, has quit her job and does nothing except create and prepare a dungeon for her players. She has created an entire country. The players of the group support her living necessities. They pay for her home, her groceries, her bills, etc.
I provide the text comparison above for two reasons, neither of which is
to prove Pat Pulling or her ghost writer Kathy Cawthon plagiarists. The first
block of text from Darren is an accurate, if semi-literate, explanation of how
a character is created for D&D. What is important in the representation of
this explanation is that it attaches great importance to rolling dice when
creating a character. As players know, the more important part of character
creation is the fabrication of a background story so you have an idea of who
the character you are to play is and what he wants out of the game. This is
directly analogous to actors creating fictional pasts for their characters in
movies so they know how to base their portrayal in whatever project they
The second excerpts are important because here we have Pat Pulling's
source for her comment about a woman who is supported solely by her
players. If she exists at all, and I am dubious about taking a convicted
murderer's word for that, she must have friends who have money to burn.
In all the years I have spent involved with gaming I have never heard of a
DM or Gamemaster who is being "kept" by his or her players. A non-working
spouse might act as DM for a group of players, but that is hardly the picture
Lastly, it is indeed possible to lavish incredible amount of time in
building up a world for gaming. The total number of hours spent probably
dwarfs the numbers given above, but it is time spent both gaming and in one
or two hour bites here and there. The first adventure a player creates might
take 10 or 12 hours to get perfect, but very few folks have the gumption to
make their game a full time job. As the learning curve progresses, design
time becomes shorter and some individuals, myself included, run games
totally off the cuff - no preparation time at all.
No one said games can't be time consuming, but what relaxing hobby
It would be fallacious to suggest the only way a doctor could cure a
disease is to have had the disease. On the other hand, an expert in gaming
would be expected to have an understanding of a game, and few are the
people who can fully comprehend all the nuances and features of a game
without playing it. Just reading the rules of chess and learning how to move
the pieces does not impart the understanding of the game that playing it
several times does.
With Mrs. Pulling's fear and loathing of RPGs, her reluctance to play and
fully comprehend the games is understandable. Why, however, has this fear
prevented her from keeping abreast of the games that are currently being
manufactures and sold in the US and around the world? Why has she been
prevented from doing market research? Why does she cite games that are no
longer available? Why isn't she up to date with the trends in gaming, which
now include a multi-media approach that includes novels and computer
versions of games right along with the paper and pencil originals? Why has
she never mentioned the DragonLance series of novels? Based on a Dungeons
& Dragons campaign, they went on to become best selling books ranked on
the New York Times Best Seller List.
It is clear that Mrs. Pulling is not an expert in games. She takes as gospel the word of a disturbed youth who was convicted of murder and gives it her imprimatur. She has no idea of what games are current, that the trends are actually away from fantasy and can find no more fault with some products than that they use 3 six-sided dice at one point in them. (One could argue Craps, though a die shy of the proscribed number, is clearly demonic, while Yahtzee only imperils the soul if played with less than four dice.)
Ignorance is bliss, except when it becomes a crusade.
BADD has indeed made the hunting of games a crusade. The profile
printed above comes from BADD's Interviewing Techniques for
Adolescents. The group provides this document to police agencies all over
the United States to aid in their questioning of suspects in crimes. One of the
profile's latter sections, partially reprinted below, indicates the prosecutorial
mentality BADD encourages in investigators.
WHAT can we do?
2. Keep an open mind
3. Stay objective
5. If individual is involved in "satanic activity," he/she will deny a great deal to protect other members of the group as well as the "satanic philosophy".[sic]
These three points are interesting when grouped together like this. While Pat encourages and open mind and objectivity in points 2 and 3, she provides a caution in point 5. In essence, she says, if they do not tell you what you want to hear, they are lying because Satanists will lie to protect their friends. This advice also sets up a "Catch-22" for gamers when the police use the questionnaire Pulling has provided in this packet.
In the questionnaire titled Interviewing Fantasy Role Playing
Gamers Pulling advises:
It is very important to understand that not all players of fantasy role playing games over identify with the game and or their player/characters. However, it appears that a significant amount of youngers are having difficulty with separating fantasy from reality. Or in other instances, their role playing has modified their behavior to the extent that they react in real life situations in the same fashion that they would react in a gaming situation. This is not always obvious or apparent to the suspect. The personality change is so subtle that in some cases the role player is unaware of any behavior or personality changes.
Here again we have a warning to the cops that a player may not be able to distinguish between fantasy or reality, and that any behavior change is so subtle the person might not notice it. Pulling continues:
This is why it is important for the investigator to not only be familiar with the game but to be able to ask questions which are relevant to the suspect's gaming background.
Once we get into these questions, things get interesting. Recall that Pulling has told the investigators that the players will lie to protect their friends. She has also said the players may not be functioning in this reality. Bearing those things in mind, as well as endeavoring to be open minded, the investigator is given the following list of questions with hints for answers. Anything within asterisks (*) are my comments added in.
1. Since it is necessary to have a Dungeon Master or game master/leader and two or more player characters, it is important to ask the suspect, who is the Dungeon Master. [sic] (At this point you may get double talk about several people being the Dungeon Master or the suspect may say "no one in particular. [sic] This is not typically standard. Generally there is one person who assumes the continuous lead of Dungeon Master.)
*Actually, sharing the Gamemaster duties is more common. In one
gaming group in Phoenix we had a half-dozen Gamemasters working
within the same world. Switching off Gamemastering duties, especially
between game systems is very common and gives everyone a chance to
experience both sides of the game.*
2. What is the character of your suspect in the game?
They will be as follows: Thief, Magic User, Fighter, Cleric. In the
aforementioned character classes they may be sub-classes that the
individual will refer to such as Thief-Assassin, etc.
*These are most often known as character classes in gaming. They
were very common in early RPGs, but often went by other names, like
Rogue, Wizard, Shaman, etc. Since 1983 or so, virtually no game has come
out with character classes because they are restrictive to play. It would
be very easy for a player to deny having a Thief or Magic User or Fighter
3. Also, ask the individual if he "ran" multiple characters such as a
Fighter/Magic-user. *The same comment as above applies - denying
knowledge of how to answer this question would not be uncommon
4. Each character will have certain abilities or attributes such as Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma, Constitution and Dexterity.
These abilities are obtained by rolling 3 6-sided dice. Therefore, the ability score of each category will range from 3 to 18. You should find out what the [attributes are for their current game characters].
*Two problems here. Many games have attributes with different
names, like Agility, Speed, Comliness, Presence, Essence and Body.
Furthermore only in D&D are scores restricted to 3-18. In Tunnels &
Trolls, for example, scores have no cap. In Traveller they go from 1 to F
and in ShadowRun they go from 1-7. In a game I finished designing in
July 1989, attributes run from 2-20 initially and are determined by point
allocation or the roll of 2 ten sided dice.*
5. How long has the individual been playing this role playing game?
*No clue given on a proper answer and the relevance of this question
6. How long has he/she been playing the particular character that he is
*Again, no clue as to a right answer.*
7. What is his level of his character/characters? Be specific.
*No clue for an answer here, but this must be an important question
because it appears again as question 12. There Pulling explains that level
reflects how much power a character has. This is only true in games
where they have levels. Like character classes, levels have become
somewhat passé in more recent games.*
8. What is his/her alignment?
The following are a list of categories for alignment: Chaotic Evil, Chaotic
Good, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral
Evil, Neutral Good and Neutral.
...Observations indicate that in the past a significant number of
adolescents will [sic] choose an evil alignment. The reasons that young
players give for choosing an evil alignment is they feel that there are less
restrictions on the player/characters therefore, they can do more, get by
with more and stay alive longer in the game.
*In reality, most players do whatever they have to do and don't worry
about alignment. Alignments are generally viewed with distaste among
players and are not featured in many games outside the D&D family. (I
once postulated an alignment system for a game that consisted of one axis
running from Naughty to Nice and the other from Sloppy to Neat, but it
never caught on.) Alignments are basically silly and impede play, so are
most often ignored.*
[Pulling continues in this section by noting "There was a young boy who was fourteen years old in Orlando, Florida who stated that he as a Thief with a Lawful Good Alignment. In reality thieves are not thought of in society as Good, therefore the confusion over proper attitudes about more qualities become confused. Right and Wrong are situational.
*I might note that Robin Hood or the patriots who held the Boston Tea Party could have been tagged with the label of Lawful Good Thieves.* ]
9. Has the individual has [sic] any curses placed on his/her character? If yes, what kind and get him to discuss the procedure, type of curse.
*Mrs. Pulling's concern over curses stems from her belief that having a curse placed on his character is what drove her son to kill himself.*
10. What was the individual's character name/names?
*Mrs. Pulling places a great deal of weight on the name of characters, especially if they can be found in occult works, such as the dreaded Necronomicon! She also notes Darren Molitor used the names Demun and Sammy Sager for his characters. After he confessed to the FBI, he signed his confession in those names as well as his own.*
11. What was his/her racial class in the game?
This only becomes important with the fact that many youngsters will try
try to "get over" on you when you ask what is their character and they
will tell you that they are an elf. An elf in the game is a racial class, not a
character class, therefore most people feel that elves are innocuous,
innocent creature and pass over any involvement with negative thoughts.
The Racial classes are as follows: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Half-Elven,
Halfling *(Hobbit)*, Half-Orc and Human.
*In other games there are other racial/alien types. The advantage of
playing a different race comes in added strength for Dwarves, or night
vision for Elves, etc. People play other races to escape, which is what
relaxation and hobbies are all about. The choice of racial type has no
12. What is his/her level in the game?
*See question seven.*
13. What god or gods did the individual serve in the game?
*Because most games do not deal with religion, the answer to this
game could be "Huh?" very easily.*
As can easily be seen from the material above, not only are the questions
insignificant, but the explanation of possible answers are nearly incoherent.
Very obviously Pulling's questions are designed to determine if the suspect
can distinguish between fantasy and reality. While it could be argued that
this sort of judgement is best made by someone with psychological training,
it is an important point because of things Pat Pulling herself mentions in the
In her "The Who What When Where and How of Teen Satanism" she appends to the HOW section this curious note: "TWO BASIC PRINCIPLES APPY HERE 'Law of Attraction' and the 'Law of Invitation.'" Being unaware of these "Laws" from a scientific or legal standpoint, my only assumption can be that Mrs. Pulling is referring to laws of magic. This would suggest, then, she believes that individuals within the society are using diabolical powers, governed by certain laws, to enslave or capture our children.
What a fantastic concept.
Mrs. Pulling adds another set of questions to the coven's worth she asked
the police to use above. The first is : "Has he read the Necronomicon or is he
familiar with it?" In her explanation of this general section she notes, "This
will help determine if the individual has a working knowledge of the occult,
and if his gaming abilities lean more to the dark side which could give cause
or reason for bizarre behavior."
With that being the lead off question, and such a dire explanation, this Necronomicon must be quite a heinous work, you would think.
The fact is that the Necronomicon is a joke. It was created as a volume of "forbidden knowledge" by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Lovecraft wrote back during the pulp era and created the Elder Gods, the best known of which is Cthulu (Kaa-thu-lu or Kaa-tu-lu). The Necronomicon was supposedly written by the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred. Penned in blood on parchment made of human flesh, it contained a history of the Elder Gods and spoke of their nature and the things they had done. To read it was to go insane.
Lovecraft shared his "Cthulu Mythos" with the other writers of the day,
opening it up to public domain. Cthulu, the other gods and the Necronomicon
began to show up in stories in the horror genre from a whole host of writers
; professional and amateur alike. Phantom copies of this book would
mysteriously appear listed in library databases, though it always seemed to
be checked out to a Mr. A. Alhazred.
In short, the Necronomicon became a joke shared by fantasy and horror
In the late seventies the first of at least five different versions of the book appeared on the market. Most are gibberish and at least one version repeats its Romanized Arabic text every ten pages (the author having assumed that no one would ever try to wade through more than ten pages of the nonsense). Another book appeared with a black leather binding and gold stamped cover. It retailed for $50 in 1978 and now goes for well over $100.
Though now extant, The Necronomicon has the same veracity as Gulliver's
Travels. Citing it as an occult book would be akin to citing Rona Jaffee's novel
"Mazes and Monsters" as an investigative book. (The fact that NCTV's Dr.
Thomas Radecki did just that in one of his press releases does not make the
novel a factual book.) A moment's research into the Necronomicon would
have revealed its less than blue-ribbon pedigree, but Mrs. Pulling has not
apparently put that much study into this tome.
Carelessness and a lack of diligence can explain some of the problems
with Mrs. Pulling's approach, but many people feel those shortcomings can
be overlooked because they perceive her work as vital and so pure in its
motivation. I have to disagree with that sentiment because it condones the
deliberate production of erroneous material reminiscent of Joe McCarthy's
modus operandi thirty years ago. Pat warns above about determining how
much of a gamer's abilities are applied to the "dark side which could give
cause or reason for bizarre behavior." Let's take a look at the darkside of Pat
I normally try to keep the following in mind: Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. I find it a philosophical jewel that helps bleed off anger whenever circumstances conspire to make life inconvenient. When I first heard of Pat Pulling's crusade against games, I applied this bon mot to it and chose not to be angered by her. As time passed and I heard what I classified as distortions coming from that camp, my level of concern rose to the point where I started to look into it.
On a radio broadcast over KFYI in Phoenix in the fall of 1987, Pat Pulling
billed herself as "a private investigator for the past six years." Robert D.
Hicks, a law enforcement analyst for the State of Virginia said in a letter to
me dated 28 Nov 88, "Pulling is a licensed private investigator, a certification
she earned on October 6, 1987." He went on to note:
You might be interested to know, however, the certification process. Anyone with any educational background can obtain a license. One must, though, do two things. First, one must either attend a 42-hour or a 48-hour course, which can be conducted virtually anywhere. The course includes such topics as rules of evidence, civil and criminal procedure, collecting and reporting information, interviewing techniques, and investigative techniques. The difference between the two courses -- six hours -- involves firearms instruction. Obviously, in six hours one cannot learn much about firearms beyond a simple orientation. Anyway, Pulling appears certified in the armed variety. The second prerequisite to obtaining a license is to pass a background investigation consisting of a fingerprint-based criminal records check through the state and FBI files. If one passes the background check, and if one passes a one-hour exam at the end of the private investigator training, one pays for a license.
Her career, if it was six years old in 1987, would have predated her son's
9 June 82 suicide by at least six months. Regardless, she became a PI in
October of 1987, and not a second sooner. To represent herself as having
been such before that time granted her "facts" a legitimacy that neither they
nor her investigations deserve.
Pulling's Techniques includes a story originally printed in the Daily
News-Sun of Sun City, AZ on Tuesday, 7 June 1988. The story details the
apparent suicide of Sean Hughes in Springerville, Arizona on 19 April 1988.
The piece, written by Doug Dollemore, is a balanced story that gets facts and
opinions from family, friends and law enforcement officials. Pulling reprints
it, pictures and all, as a centerpiece of the Techniques, and the story ends
with Springerville Police Chief Darrel Jenkins saying, "If Sean hadn't been
involved in role-playing games, he may have thought long and hard before
he pulled that trigger."
Because the story was published in Phoenix, I called Doug Dollemore and
we agreed to meet. When I showed him Pulling's edition of his story, he
glanced at it, then stopped when he got to the last page. He told me that the
original story had run in one long column, and on the last page produced by
Pulling it had been snipped into five parts so it could all fit on one sheet of
paper. In doing the cutting, the pieces had carefully been rearranged to
provide the sheriff's quote last.
As can be seen above, that quote is a nasty indictment of gaming. In
Doug's original version of the story it ended with Sean's mother saying, "If
there's a trial I want to be there. I want some answers." This was an ending
more in keeping with the whole non-judgmental tone of the piece. Doug also
noted that the News-Sun had not been contacted for nor given consent for
the piece to be reprinted with Pat's material.
Pat Pulling, in her Primer, reprinted the article from the Washington post about her son's death. The story ran a full 20 column inches on 13 Aug 1983, but Mrs. Pulling only runs the first 14 inches of the story. Cut are the comments of a classmate and a defense of Dungeons and Dragons by TSR. The classmate's comments, as can be seen in the cases section of this report, suggest Bink Pulling had more problems than just with the game. (The article concerned the lawsuit Pulling's parents filed against the school where the game was played and TSR, Inc. The case was thrown out of court.)
Most of Mrs. Pulling's publications are compilations of newspaper articles
and press releases that are reprinted with little or no comment. While Mrs.
Pulling is under no obligation to print follow-up articles that might
contradict the first story that she is printing, editing newspaper accounts is,
by no means, legitimate and, in the case of copyrighted material, is illegal. As
will be seen later on in the section of this paper dealing with the cases she
cites, contradictory evidence is easy to find.
Mark Twain attributes the above to Benjamin Disraeli, but neither man
probably could have dreamed of the voodoo statistics Pat Pulling is capable
of pulling out of her hat.
In January of 1988 Pat Pulling stated, in a Style Weekly article, she
"conservatively estimates that about 8 percent of the Richmond [VA]-area
population is involved with Satanic worship at some level." A Richmond
News Leader article (7 April 89) notes this would be roughly 56,000 people,
"more than the number of United Methodists in the Richmond area and
nearly the entire population of Hanover County."
In an interview for that story Mrs. Pulled redefined "Satanic worship" as
"occult" and said it included "dabbling in witchcraft and such New Age
activities as channeling." She went on to say that she had gotten the 8%
figure by "estimating 4 percent of the area's teen-agers, and 4 percent of the
adults, were involved. She added the figures."
The reporter informed her that mathematically that amounted to 4% of
the total population, but she said it didn't matter because 8 percent was
probably "conservative" anyway. She went on to add that some of the bodies
from unexplained homicides across the country actually may be Satanic
sacrifice victims. "They certainly have found a number of unsolved murders
with no motive, haven't they?"
Aa Richmond Times-Dispatch article of 23 September 88 noted,
"Authorities have estimated that more than 30,000 people nationwide ;
including doctors, lawyers and other professionals - practice... alternative
religion [like Satanism and other cults]." In that same article, one that
predates both the 8 percent solution and its defense, Pulling is quoted as
saying, "To me, this is just like any other fanatic type of group. They're not
large in numbers, but they create a lot of problems."
Barely seven months earlier another Richmond Times-Dispatch article about Pulling (5 March 88) estimated the number of Satanists at "300,000 nationally." It was noted they come from "as many as four generations of Satanists and from feeding stream of teen-agers recruited with promise of easy drugs and sex and the ultimate in revolt against parental control. 'We've found that the people in Satanism can be found on all levels of society,' says Pat Pulling...'Across the country, doctors, lawyers, clergymen, even police are involved in this.'" In this particular story she also makes her famous 8 percent remark, but it goes unquestioned and uncorrected.
Mrs. Pulling gives us a number of conflicting images in these stories. First
we have 300,000 Satanists involved in all levels of society, including the
police. Seven months pass and they've been reduced to a tenth of their
former number, but they still comprise 8% of the Richmond area population.
At this point Mrs. Pulling calls them "not large in number." Later yet she
defends her error in estimating 56,000 people of Richmond as being
Satanists by noting her estimate was "conservative."
Statistics are useful for all sorts of things. For example, if we take Mrs.
Pulling's estimated eight percent and apply it to her base user population for
Dungeons and Dragons of 4,000,000, we get 320,000 individuals. That is
more than the number of Satanists her highest estimate suggests exist. If,
however, we apply her definition of Satanism/occultism to the 250,000,000
people in the United States and use her 8%, we get 20,000,000
occultists/Satanists running around in the country.
The important thing to note here is that Pulling's statistics and comments
tend to vary wildly. If there was a distinct threat, one that could be dealt
with in a clear manner, the statistics would support her theories. But when
Pat needs to show she's up to the job of taking on the Satanists, they're no
problem. When she's speaking to the press or police officers about the threat,
it takes on biblical proportions. It could be argued that Pat has a firmer
grasp on all this stuff than anyone else, but the lack of evidence to back up
her estimates, and the sheer outlandishness of those estimates, cast doubt
One other thing must be understood here. Mrs. Pulling notes that the
police have plenty of murders nationwide with no motive and suggests that
many of them could be Satanist victims. As her class in evidence gathering
should have pointed out, a motive is not necessary for a crime or conviction.
Random murders and serial killings occur with no motive in evidence.
Furthermore, a motive might be so obscure that unless a suspect is caught,
there's no way to begin to even guess at the reason someone might have had
for killing another person.
Anyone could advance a theory for the "motiveless murders" that stump
police on a yearly basis. It could be suggested that mole-men from the
hollow earth come up to kidnap slaves, and the dead are ones who resisted.
Better yet, some Nazi conspiracy is killing off people related to men who
defeated the Third Reich. An utterly mad serial killer who travels around
and stalks names randomly chosen from a phonebook also explains these
murders. The fact is, however, none of those explanations make mole-men or
Nazi conspirators or a serial murderer fact.
Why then, when the Satanist conspiracy produces as much evidence as our mole-men, are mystery murders ascribed to Satanists?