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The Devil’s Web: Who Is Stalking Your Children for Satan?
Author: Pat Pulling (with Kathy Cawthon)
Publisher: Huntington House
Discovered at: Goodwill, East 23rd Street
The Cover Promises: Satan is really into gray-washed jean jackets and Fruit Roll-Up candles.
“According to the woman who introduced me to the game, [D&D] is ‘women’s liberation with a vengeance. Not only does the D&D game allow women to stab people, it’s accepted. You even get a bonus for striking from behind.'” (page 81)
In the 1980s, annoyed that the forces of good had defeated him for millenia, Satan hatched a fool-proof plot: Taking over the world through the Dungeons & Dragons game that appealed to something like two percent of American high school students.
It didn’t work out, of course, thanks to the crusading efforts of heroes like Geraldo Rivera (human paladin, Str: 12, Int: 9, Wis: 13, Dex: 12, Con: 12, Chr: 17, HP 6, AC 5) and a bevy of stalwart ministers, authors, and talk-show guests, all dedicated to the important task of preventing young people from sitting together at a table and using their imaginations. (Also not helping Satan’s cause: The fact that every idea of D&D was eventually stolen and made more accessible — and much less interesting — by the video-games industry. But that’s another article.)
Pat Pulling was perhaps the best known of the non-Geraldo anti D&D paladins. As goofy and discredited as her cause may seem today, Pulling is still a compelling, even sympathetic figure. As she stated on shows like 60 Minutes and Whatever the Then-Current Piece-of-Shit Geraldo Series Was Called, her own D&D-playing son shot and killed himself in 1982. The Devil’s Web was published seven years later, after Pulling had spent much of the decade filing suit against the creators of D&D as well as her son’s school district. Pulling also founded the organization B.A.D.D., or “Bothered about Dungeons & Dragons,” to raise awareness about a game she defines thusly:
Note the word “teachings” at the end of the first sentence. In her book and her TV appearances, Pulling suggests that D&D is not a set of rules for the facilitation of collective adventure storytelling– rather, she believes it to be some harrowing ritual in which enthralled teens are apparently forced to act out scenes of sodomy despite the fact that there’s no real experience-point reward for that.
Anyway, before we look at Pulling’s misapprehensions about what the game actually is, here’s the highlights of Pulling’s lists of warning signs for parents concerned that the one fun thing their kids have found to do in the 1980s might actually be murder-sex parties with polyhedral dice:
Note that there’s only three steps between enjoying Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and literal graverobbing. Seriously, if graverobbing becomes a “behavior pattern” the problem is probably your parenting.
“H” confuses me. Doesn’t Pulling know that advertisers, Hollywood, and our entire media complex naturally presume teenagers already are “an elite group better and more powerful than most Americans”?
These next ones are stunners:
What American kid didn’t live out a scene like this?
“But mom, the only murdering we’re into is fun murder, not cult murder!”
“That’s all well and good, but you still assisted in the kidnapping of the victim, which Pat Pulling has taught me is just as bad as being a kidnapper yourself.”
Here’s Pulling’s “Profile of Participants” to help determine whether your RPGer is in thrall to Satan:
Don’t worry, parents! American high schools will be sure to stomp out #2 and 4!
That’s just trolling! (In D&D, trolls must be killed with fire. Please do not attempt to do this to Geraldo and other such anti-imagination zealots.)
In short, if your kid is a loner-type not built for sports but who has managed to gather friends and pass the time with them fruitfully THEN DUH SATAN HAS TRIUMPHED.
Pulling even links D&D to a word no one has ever since associated with it: “seduction.” From a passage titled “Fantasy Games Used as a Seduction Tool”:
“Fantasy games such as ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ also have been used by some adults to seduce and entrap adolescents into sexual activity.'”
Then, like the same alarmists who railed against jitterbugging in the ’30s or that epidemic of “knockout games” today, she offers up a couple ugly incidents as evidence of a growing and pernicious trend.
She misunderstands the game at the simplest level. Consider her explanation of the role of the dungeon master, who serves as D&D’s chief storyteller:
In the passage she’s quoting, the dungeon master, whose job is to imagine the world that the players’ characters inhabit, is instructed in how to handle cases in which a players’ character does not measure up to a god that character may serve, just as the DM determines the reactions of bootblacks and shopkeepers. Elsewhere, she credits dungeon masters with exercising “hypnotic control” over their players.Telling concerned parents that this makes the DM a “deity” is like warning them that their kids are usurious MBAs just because they play the banker in Monopoly.
Of course, America would never heed the ill-informed ravings of such an alarmist, right?
This is from the back cover:
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 20, 2014
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