A Christian Response to Dungeon & Dragons®

Introduction: Fantasy & Role Playing

This three-part article was not designed to expose every detail of Dungeons & Dragons (and the ever increasing multitude of spin-offs and competing products). Rather, we spend more time looking at the two primary issues, namely Fantasy & Role Playing. Without understanding the motivating factors, which ultimately are promoting fantasy role playing games, it is highly unlikely anyone can begin to counteract this phenomena. Attacking the games merely becomes an attempt to remove the symptoms, not to cure the problem. It is our desire that through a true and Biblical understanding of the underlying causes, many will be freed from the bondage of Satan's deceptions and lies. The second section was originally drafted (and published) as a response to a teen, who had written to a Christian magazine, saying that he saw nothing wrong with playing D&D -- while professing to be a Christian. The third section highlights the differences and similarities between mainline D&D and newer adaptations. One last note for those that read the end (or middle) first: you will find out more details about D&D, but you're missing much of the point.

Part 1: From Whence Cometh the Quest for Fantasy?



n.1. Imagination unrestrained by reality; wild fantasy.

2. An odd, unreal, or grotesque mental image.

3. Psychology A sequence of more or less pleasant mental images, usually fulfilling a need not gratified in the real world.


Fantasy has become a driving force behind our society today. So is all fantasy bad? Not at all. Whether it is good or bad is primarily dependent upon the source and object of the fantasy. Also, there remains the question of how much fantasy is good - at what point does interest become obsession?

Children utilize fantasy as part of their play. Toys, and even the child themselves, become part of their make believe worlds to act out fantasies. All very normal... All very common. But what happens when children begin to create fantasies based on things that are wrong, based on things that are beyond their control -- ideas that don't even resemble Christian norms? Since the advent of television (and to a lesser degree radio) the fantasies of children have been more or less shaped by these mediums. In the last fifteen years the increase of violence, graphic sexuality, the glorification of the weird and abnormal -- in dramatized shows, news, music, and cartoons -- have become the major supplier of ideas for children's fantasies. The results of this shift have shown themselves in the increase of rebellion against authority (be it parental or otherwise), theft, sexual crimes and even murder. What was once considered virtually unthinkable a generation ago has become more and more common today -- and to some degree some of this behavior is even becoming more accepted.

Today, in many education circles, we hear kids being encouraged to follows their intuition and feelings, to establish their own values apart from their parent's traditions, and especially "outdated" Christian beliefs. In this view of education, the child is to create a fantasy and ultimately to make that fantasy their reality. Many of you reading this would thing that it's absurd for anyone to suggest taking a fantasy and making it reality. But much of our adult world has actually set an example for our children to follow.

Perhaps the greatest myth (another word closely related to "fantasy") that has been perpetuated is "it's okay to look - but don't touch" in regards to the opposite gender. Now days it's even been extended to "it's okay to listen -- but don't touch." From the volumes of pornography (hard-core, so-called "soft" core, etc.), to the 1-900 sex numbers, millions are now living in a fantasy world that says "I can have all the pleasure I want -- without commitment -- when I want it, and how I want it." Immediately some say, "who's it hurting?" The most obvious answer is our society in general -- along with the participants. How many marriages (relationships) have been destroyed (or damaged) by the abnormal constraints of these so-called "harmless" fantasies? How many teen girls and women have bought the lie that they should have to look and act like the artificial creations - and how many teen guys and men have been so long in this fantasy world that they have come to expect it?

With AIDS finally jarring some of this generation away from the 1960's fantasy of "free love, free sex", non physical sex is now being promoted as an option, (held up along with the condom) as a form of "safe sex". But is this fantasy "safe". Not a chance! Every wicked deed ever done by man began as a thought. When we buy into a fantasy world of sex (how we want it, when we want it, with who we want it) we will see a continual increase of those who have taken the next step beyond "thought" -- those who act on their fantasies. When those who have been obsessed with pornography (etc.) are asked, they often confess that they are truly enslaved to it. Unable to stop, drawn to it like a drug addict requires another fix. With this addiction our culture has become the pusher. For those that need a little prompting we advertise it now in our newspapers (1-900's, XXX Video shops, etc.) we advertise it on our televisions, we advertise it in our magazines, and we introduce it in our movies, music videos, and even our comic books (just examine the covers of hundreds of comics now on sale at your nearest comic shop). Don't take my word that these thoughts (fantasies) will breed far more - listen to Jesus... "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (Mark 7:21-23)

Another related fantasy that we are advertising to our children is also related to our entertainment. In this fantasy we show that the most important thing in life is to be entertained. Why not? Entertainment is more important than exercising, spending time together as a family, reading a book, and for that matter just about anything else. The "I can't miss this show" fantasy that snares millions a day has a by-line that says "Wow, this world I'm watching is better than reality". Think I'm being extreme here? Well stop and consider this with just a small dash of logic. If the real world (my, or your, real world) is better, or at least equal, to the one I'm glued to on the tube, wouldn't I be more interested in my real world (i.e. doing something else). The bottom line message we're giving is that the events we're watching are more important. This "I've got to have a thrill a minute" fantasy world has worked to create a generation where attention spans are decreasing by the year. Children need to be entertained to be happy, teens need to experience the thrills (or so the advertisement goes), and many are no longer interested in any non-work activity that doesn't entertain. So out goes the Bible (reading takes to long and besides the Bible video just doesn't have enough action ), and of course, church is just so boring (like when are we going to get some more entertainment here?). Today's "edutainment" concepts help reinforce the message that it's only worth doing "if it's fun". Is it any wonder that memorizing scripture is becoming a thing of the past for most children and adults? With the evil thoughts, and resultant deeds, that are encouraged through much of our entertainment (fantasy), the antidote is not entertaining but it is effective... "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!" (Psalms 119:11)

We cannot begin to cover all fantasies which have become socially acceptable. Wild flights of imagination are now showered will millions of dollars to establish them as fact. Evolution cornerstones this trend, and it was quickly followed by the refutation of any global flood, the miraculous in scripture, and for many the possibility that a literal second coming of Christ is possible or imminent. Embodying Isaiah 5:20, truth has now been classed fantasy and fantasy has been held up as established truth. The apostle Peter affirms that this deliberate establishment of fantasy over fact was inevitable in these last days. "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he (Jesus) promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:3-7)"

An offshoot from our modern fantasy world makes personal responsibility and accountability a thing of the past. "Nothing is ever my fault -- it's my parent's fault, my grandparent's, my teacher's or anyone I can point to. If no one specific is available to take the blame, I can now even point to my socio-economic status, cultural or racial background, or a host of other general influences that most certainly made me who I am." In a pass-the-buck society like ours, most have fulfilled Peter's prophecy (verse 7 above) in this same manner. "If I'm not responsible for what I do (of course someone or something else is) then how can there possibly be a coming judgment... God could never blame me... it's not my fault".

Like most who have established themselves upon fantasies, they must either ignore the real world (the truth) or choose to explain it away. Showing that the god of this world has truly blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4), a prominent member of parliament (who is gay) confronted a questioner while at an Okanagan University College forum over her Biblical beliefs concerning the sinfulness of homosexuality. The MP stated that "Christ never said anything about homosexuality in the Bible." I suppose in his fantasy world, using his fantasy Bible, this may be true. But here, in the real world, using the eternal unchanging word of God (Isaiah 40:8) -- of which Christ was the embodiment (John 1:1,14) -- the Bible calls homosexuality sin; from the old testament to the new (Read Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Genesis chapter 19 note verse 5, Leviticus 18:22, etc.).

How can we begin to suggest our kids "get their heads out of the clouds and come down to earth" when we cannot set an example for them. Even the common acceptance of abortion bares witness to this. When the Bible and even science itself ascertains that human life begins at conception, we have chosen to accept a fantasy which allows us to speak a new reality into existence... Of course, if we don't call it a baby, if we don't give it the protection afforded all other humanity, then we can kill it with impunity. One needs only wonder how many murderers have merely chosen to speak out of existence the humanity of their victim(s) in their personal fantasy world.

Sadly within the church we have our own fantasies that are being taught (by example or otherwise). Perhaps greatest is the idea that we can "live in the world, imitate the world; go where the world goes, do what the world does and yet be unaffected by it." For many in our churches today, James telling us that pure and faultless religion includes "keeping oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27)" is beyond comprehension. The fantasy world they have bought into tells them there is nothing wrong with listening to the same songs that the world does, watching the same shows the world does, and having the same goals of financial success and prosperity as the world does (etc., etc.). In this fantasy they have created, sin is only what you physically do, not what you think. To even suggest that the places they go and the things they watch and listen to could have a detrimental effect on them -- temptation to sin in thought or deed -- is completely unacceptable. And to suggest that they rid their lives of these things is being far too extreme. It's too bad that their fantasy has no room for these radical words of Jesus... "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:28-30)" I may be wrong, but controlling what we set before our eyes and what we give our hands to do is far easier than Jesus' prescribed remedy.

Maybe it's identical to the last, but another fantasy commonly proffered claims that we can know about the Word, nominally ascribe to the Word, yet pick and choose what pieces of the Word we want adhere to. This fantasy world allows individuals to choose to try and follow the "big" commands; like not murdering, no adultery (at least physically), etc. etc., while ignoring the things considered difficult, too extreme, or impossible (at least by human standards), and so on. Fantasy theology of this variation allows people to drop the word "all" from Matthew 22:37. "Jesus said to him, `You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'". And, of course, to even consider that we should be persecuted for our beliefs (Matthew 5:10, Mark 10:30, 2 Timothy 3:12), that the world should hate us (John 15:18-21), can never be translated as "possibly we're doing something wrong" -- it definitely has to be that "the world is not as bad as it used to be." (And if everyone in the world doesn't love and flock into our church, just maybe we're not quite "seeker sensitive" or "user friendly" enough... Wake up from this fantasy... we can't allow the desire to be accepted by a world that's at war with God's kingdom to cause us to water down, or change, the Message to lose the offense of the cross (Gal. 5:11, 6:12, 1 Cor. 1:17 -18). The cure for any "pick and choose what we'll believe, or teach, or practice," fantasy is also found in the book of James... "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:21-22)"

In summary; all fantasy, all imagination, all thought must be governed by this one rule... We are to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5). If your fantasy-world has no place for Christ, if it violates or ignores His commands, and if it's a place you would not have Him accompany you, then your fantasy is a very real sin. Where the essence of fantasy is to hide or escape from that which is real, know this: "the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)". It's fantasy to think that you can hide from a Holy, ever present, all knowing, God.

Part 2: Role Playing by The Book.


n. 1. A part or character taken by an actor.

2. Any assumed character or function.

All Christians are encouraged in the Bible to be involved in role playing - as role playing is ultimately the fine art of imitation. It appears that God has created all mankind in such a way that we are, or should be, imitators. More on this later, but first a couple of facts.

Fact #1: Satan's primary tactic is to take something good, something God has created, and to pervert its use or character; thereby using it for evil. This perversion or distortion is sometimes blatant, but more often very subtle. Satan, as the father of all lies (John 8:44), is a master of deception. For this reason we need to define more clearly just what a lie is... If something is not 100% the truth, even if it's 99% the truth, that 1% of falsehood makes it all a lie; a weapon in Satan's unholy arsenal. All the best lies contain a whole lot of truth. Fact #2: Knowing this about the Devil's character and strategies, it is extremely important that we use only The Truth as our absolute point of reference. God revealed his truth in the person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and in His written Word; namely the Bible. This alone is our final authority on all matters of life and faith.

Fantasy Role Playing (FRP) games have seen an unbelievable surge in popularity over the last two decades, since the introduction of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in 1973. The only way anyone could not at least be aware of some FRP's, is to have lived in total seclusion for years (maybe synonymous with being over the age of 35). Over the last twenty years we have heard sporadic and sensational (true) news reports of FRP players that have gone off the deep end, killing others, and often themselves. Newspaper and magazine articles abound, books have been written and more than one movie has been made about this game . No one denies these facts, but everyone offers reasons.

When God created man he wanted us to imitate Him. From the old to the new testament God tells us to "be holy, because I am holy." (Leviticus 11:44,45; 1 Peter 1:16). This is the highest role that God wants man to play in life. But our Creator didn't stop with telling us to imitate Him. God directed the apostle Paul to tell his readers to imitate him; as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 4:9). In Hebrews we are instructed to "imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." (6:12) and to further point out our need to imitate these men and women of faith, we are told to "Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (13:7). Elsewhere God even implies that we imitate some of His animal creations, like the ant (Proverbs 6:6). With God ordaining this type of role playing for our betterment and knowing that we need to study, learn and research the roles we are to play, He not surprisingly left us guidelines. Our highest form of study is to mediate on God's Word "day and night, so that {we} may be careful to do everything written in it." (Joshua 1:8) and in a broader sense, we are told to restrict our study to "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." (Philippians 4:8 - We can have an open mind; but not an empty mind). These truths are the basis of God's ordained role playing and give us our standard by which to test all roles we seek in life.

All players of the popular FRP's (ie. D&D, Advanced D&D, Arduin Grimoire, RuneQuest, etc.) will tell you that violence, murder, mayhem, rape, magic and supernatural could be the key words used to describe the majority of the games. At best some of the characters may be aligned as "good" or "lawful" (often meaning that they employ sanitized or more rule-bound methods of carrying out the same things that "evil" or "chaotic" players do). Priest can be evil, neutral or "good" serving any deity (sometimes fictional, but often based in historical or pagan mythology and worship). Although the games vary some, few would deny that the most powerful players are those that can cast spells or practice magic (ie. priests, wizards, etc.) and generally evil in orientation (as they are bound by less "rules"). Of course the most powerful person in the game is the Dungeon Master or "god" and "creator" of the imaginary world. Life and death ultimately rest in his or her hands along with the "fate" and chance of the dice. These themes and thoughts fill the mind of the players, for at least the hours of the game (often 4 - 12 hours long); as the game, for the most part, is played in the imagination of the players.

Role playing went wrong in the Garden of Eden. There Adam and Eve, who were created to imitate God, were seduced into believing that they could be God (Genesis 3:4). The penalty for this destructive role playing was death.

Every FRP player who has gone off the deep-end, resulting in murder, rape, suicide, etc. and some that don't get that far, have been a result of going beyond imitating their character, to believing they could be their character. Obviously this extreme is wrong and the evil results that have followed have testified to this fact.

Although the extreme of role playing gone wrong occurred with Adam and Eve wanting to be God, the Bible points to other examples that are not as blatant. God's people, while headed to the promised land, were instructed to "not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the (pagan) nations there." (Deuteronomy 18:9) Knowing mankind's penchant for needing to know why, God spells out some of the practices these nations were involved in. Verses 10 and 11 list everything from human sacrifice, divination and sorcery, to witchcraft, casting of spells and communicating with (demonic) spirits or the dead. The Lord clearly says that "anyone who does these things is detestable" (verse 12) to Him. Ultimately anyone who rebels against God, by not following His commands, has learned to role play like Adam and Eve - playing God with their life by ignoring their Creator.

But it's only a game! So what if I learn to imitate characters that do all these evil things? My involvement in a FRP is all just for pleasure and relaxation. Besides, these same topics, especially violence, are common in our music, movies and media - what's the difference?

Nothing. There is no difference. Just because it has become common place does not make it right. As the Bible says in Romans chapter 1, many have "exchanged the truth of God for a lie..." (verse 25) resulting in a world increasingly full of, and comfortable with, sin. Again, God even listed some of this sin. Homosexuality (verses 26-27), "wickedness, evil, greed and depravity", "envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice" (verse 29). The following verse (30) characterizes them as "insolent, arrogant and boastful" and that "they invent ways of doing evil". Verse 31 tells us that taking pleasure in, or approving of, those that do these things is the same as having committed them (check out 2 Thessalonians 2:12 also). It's no wonder that filling our minds with these thoughts automatically prevent us from fulfilling the highest commandment to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37-38).

But this means I can't have any fun?

Only in living for the Lord and trusting in Jesus, who said that "The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10), can we experience life the way it was meant to be. To think that we can do it our way, better, is to be falsely playing the role of God and Creator; rebelling against the one true God -- hanging out in the Dungeon of Satan's lies.

Part 3: The Roles Being Played.

Part three is provided in five sub-sections. Section A examines Dungeons & Dragons and direct take-offs, Section B Goth Clubs, Section C profiles Camarilla, Section D scrutinizes the role of modern comics books, and section E covers the increasingly popular, and related, MAGIC ® card games.

Section A

Having possibly been introduced to it by explicit Dungeon & Dragons comic books, re-runs of the television cartoon by the same name, or even movies including The Dungeon Master, children comprise the majority of D&D players. As far back as 1980, Geoffrey Smith in Forbes cited 10 to 14 year-olds as 46% of games sold and 15 to 17 year-olds accounting for a further 26%. While the trend towards younger players continues, it's often those who have played it longer who become the most intensely involved.

The multitude of spin-offs, competing products and more advanced versions testify to the money-making potential of these "games". All promotion is not just commercial. Because of the mental stimulation of memorization and calculation employed within, some schools have authorized or promoted the playing of these games for their (often advanced) students.

Although D&D is played in the mind, with the roles and action left mostly to the imagination, a flood of guide books and manuals work to guarantee that certain elements will always remain. Why? As the Official Advanced D&D Dungeon Masters Guide, by creator Gary Gygax, informs us "if Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is to survive and grow, it must have some degree of uniformity, a familiarity of method and procedure from campaign to campaign within the whole." Gygax goes on to tell the Dungeon Masters that though they create their respective worlds and reality -- they are bound by the "set of boundaries for all the 'worlds'" as defined by him. This assures that torture, dismemberment, murder, mysticism, dualistic white and black magic and twisted values of "good" thieves and assassins or even "evil" clerics will remain the norm.

Every "good" Advanced Dungeon & Dragons player can rest assured that their learned "Magic spells will function in a certain manner regardless of which world the player is functioning in. Magic devices will certainly vary, but their principles will be similar." (Pg. 7 Advanced D&D DM Guide). Magic is a virtual necessity of the games. With good, evil and neutral players all capable of drawing upon the same energy and spells - authenticity is desired. "New Spells might pose a small problem, as it will require some study on your (the DM's) part, but most of the burden can be shifted to the player. When desire to research a new spell is stated, inform the player that his or her character must carefully draft the details of the spell, i.e., you must have a typed copy of the spell in the same format as used in the Players Handbook. Only when this is in your hands should you consider the power of the spell... Once you have the details of the spell, compare and contrast it with and to existing spells in order to determine its level and any modifications and additions you find necessary in order to have it conform to 'known' magic principles." (Ibid., Pg. 115). It is this "research" that has led numerous players into occultic reference materials and practice. All spells utilized are best memorized as they must be recited upon use. Whether the themes of rebellion, or the blatant practice and imitation of witchcraft, D&D and the like are clearly defined by scripture as sin. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft..." (1 Samuel 15:23) "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-- meditate on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

Section B

Excerpts from a Boston Globe article (October 28/95) provide a general overview of Goth Clubs. Most Goth clubs are centered in larger municipalities where they can draw from a larger pool of aficionados, yet many solitary individuals play the same roles without formal interaction. Younger teens who cannot gain access to the clubs often form their own Goth-type cliques. Additional comments are in italics.

While the rest of New England (or should we say North America) prepares for its one night of ghoulish pleasure, there's a group for whom every day is Halloween. Thriving in its embrace of all things dead and dying, Boston's gothic underground is very much alive.

Gothic is a world of its own, a communal aesthetic of fashion, music and the arts that shares the same fascination with the macabre as the much-maligned literary genre. Its real-life habitués move through the city streets, drawing stares and snickers for their mortician's pallor and unique garb that mark them as distinctly as uniforms do soldiers. Black is always beautiful on these souls. It is the primary hue of the flowing and fanciful garments that often accentuate the style -- a wraparound cape, say, or high boots. Black hair dye, eyeliner, lipstick and nail polish tend to seal the look for either gender.

There's a sublime thrill in being able to dress up in wickedly fun style at any time, not just at the insistence of a calendar or urging of silly commercials, said Benjamin Palmer, 21. "In Gothic horror story, everything about the whole reality is slightly twisted, slightly darker than you would expect. People in this scene see the darker part of their lives in nearly everything they do."

Three nights each week, the club draws hundreds of goths from throughout the region. At the club, NH college student Shane Ouellette said, "you don't get stigmatized for how you look." This club is a haven from a world that often perceives "goths" as freaks and oddballs. They endure the taunts and looks because they say there's a freedom that non-goths will never know, that what's cause for celebration on October 31 is, for them, just as much fun on, say, July 17. They are mostly young and often well read.

For the past two years, A. Dominy Cusraque, 27, has been overseer of "Hell," a monthly event at the club for kindred goth spirits who enjoy role-playing and other adult games. "It's like a carnival," he said. "People walk in and feel instantly at home." Disc jockey, Chris Ewen, explained: "In Boston, the goth scene has rejuvenated itself over the last two or three years. There have always been waves of it, even back in the late ''70s, but it's strong again." The club is the sanctuary, but the DJ booth is the altar. "I think a lot of people get afraid when they see a bunch of people walking around dressed this way," Ewen said, gesturing to the club's main dance floor. Below him, couples move in funeral garb, swaying to music from rock groups with dark visions such as Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Coil, and Death in June. Occasionally. for a flash of nostalgia, Ewen might play a dance track from Ministry, a Chicago band whose song "(Everyday Is) Halloween" became something of a gothic anthem:

Well I let their teeny minds think

That they're dealing with someone who is over the brink

And I dress this way just to keep them at bay

'Cause Halloween is everyday.

Ten or 15 years ago, most of the people at the club might have been regular devotees of the midnight madness of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," the camp film classic. Androgyny is accepted here as a pleasant change of pace, said Mimi, 31, former director and performer of the live "Rocky Horror" show in Harvard Square. "It's very forthright."

Goths also congregate in the electronic salons of the alt.gothic Internet newsgroup. These lines of communication keep the goth scene alive in small towns like the one where Palmer grew up. He read pop-goth authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Anne Rice before the information network opened his eyes to Artaud, Maldoror, and Lautreamont. The electronic connection is important because most of the people at the club, Palmer said, "Were the lonely freak in junior high school or high school, with maybe one or two friends. People band together because they're not accepted by anyone else."

Society promotes Gothic themes of death, dismemberment, Vampirism, etc., during Halloween as "harmless" fun. Hollywood and book publishers market the same themes big-time and we wonder why people answer the advertisements. The Goth followers, who are children of the one "who had the power of death (Hebrews 2:14)" are merely imitating their father, the devil, and his fascination with death -- in contrast to the life found only in Jesus Christ. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?" (Romans 6:16) Our separate publication on Halloween provides additional details on the themes associated with that day.

Section C

Excerpts from a Swing Magazine (04/95) article entitled Necking in the '90s. Additional comments are in italics.

A new breed of vampires has invaded over 100 US cites and an unknown number in Canada . Is it more than just a game?... Part Goth-club and part geek-fest, Camarilla is the latest incarnation of the Dungeon & Dragons-style fantasy role-playing game, where players create characters using a complex system of rules, and then act out scenarios with one another as each works toward a personal quest. Traditionally, this was all done with dice and number crunching, almost exclusively by nerds. The main skill was creating a strong "character sheet" -- the list of numbers defining one's strengths and weaknesses that is used by the "storyteller" (or Dungeon Master) , the game's referee, to determine the outcome of conflicts. Characters can succeed at their quests or die trying, but no one really wins or loses -- the story just goes on. The object of the game is to make it all as exciting as possible.

But Dungeon & Dragons took place around a table. Players simply spoke about what they were doing: "I walk up to Lord Julius and plant my feet firmly in front of him." In Camarilla, this is all acted out -- sometimes with very real results.

Camarilla is perhaps the most bizarre expression of the current vampire craze, bookended by best selling novelist Anne Rice on one side and the AIDS crisis on the other, the game is one of the fastest growing alternative social scenes since the rave, spurred on by the growth of the (computer communications) Internet and the popularity of Goth-clubs (where black is the in color and macabre is the norm) , and drawing participants from groups as diverse as Deadheads, computer nerds, theater jocks, high-school students, trust- fund kids, and gay cliques.

Whereas at a gathering of D&D, the geeks would get to talk about kissing girls or having sex, at the Elysium (Camarilla gathering) everything is acted out in glorious flesh and blood. One player explains, "It's one of the things we get off on in the game. The heightened eroticism." (Player alias) Julius' knowledge of the occult and skill at crowd manipulation... often give him the upper hand in forging alliances and instilling fear.

Illustrating just another symptom of the unreality being sold to our society, Camarilla is a logical progression from mind games like D&D, and Goth clubs. Whether in thought or in deed, all these lusts of the flesh are sin against God. "The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Romans 13:12-14)

Section D

Younger children almost always begin the slide to D&D, Goth or Camarilla type fantasy with the so-called innocent medium of comic books. Comic books are to younger readers what often horror and goth novels are to older teens and adults. This is not to say that only young children are reading today's comic books. More titles are being produced annually for more "mature" readers -- but the easy accessibility and relatively lower cost of this medium provides younger viewers with a readily assessable supply of these marketed fantasies. Although decidedly different than the other forms of active fantasy participation we have reviewed in the preceding sections, comic books provide the information, themes and images to fuel a similar private fantasy world. No matter how graphic novels are in text (and some are very graphic), ultimately the imagination is required to provide the visual images. Modern comic books assure a uniform visual image with nothing left out.

If it's been a few years since you've scanned the host of comic titles at your local corner store, allow us to take a moment to provide a very brief summary of a few.

Marvel Comics is the home of numerous titles and characters including the Silver Surfer (super powered super-hero) and Warlock (a cosmic sorcerer -- also the feature character in The Infinity Crusade and The Warlock Chronicles). In the episode entitled Resurrection (For the Soul of ShallaBal) the story line has Warlock and the others fighting with the devil in person for the soul of one he has captured. Using Warlock's magic he (of course) overcomes the devil. Lines include such fantasy classics as, "As long as life goes on there are no happy endings." This one issue includes 10 full page ads for Dungeon & Dragons (TSR) products including The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game, The Advanced D&D Tome of Magic, Dragon Lance, Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms (Manual and Novels), The Interactive multi-media Dragon Strike Game and more. Include a couple more pages for Marvel Comic ads (so you can buy more of the like) and you are left with only 23 actual story pages of mysticism and mayhem. Just another average comic book.

Marvel Comics' The Infinity Crusade (featuring a host of super heroes, mutants & magic users) begins on the first page with a New Age goddess surrounded by religious symbols including a cross. Her words are "Greet the second coming, the dawn of the goddess! From this temple we will cleanse the spirit of the universe, my chosen ones! The sins of the past will be purged, and once again the supreme one will smile on this reality. My children prepare yourself for enlightenment!" Throughout The Infinity Crusade mini-series Biblical parallels are repeatedly associated with this New Age goddess - spiritual themes are very common among most titles; as magic is presented as a desired spiritual power. One Warlock Infinity Watch comic had Adam Warlock (the sorcerer) crucified on an Egyptian mystic cross (the ankh), then rising from the dead three days later, proclaiming these final words "And so with my good works complete... I returned to the stars. Ego assured me that all would now be well... I was a fool"

Other titles include: Dr Strange - Sorcerer Supreme, X-men, Ghost Rider, (Horror Novelist) Clive Barker's three comic endeavors; Saint Sinner, EctoKid and Hokum & Hex, Samuree - Mistress of the Martial Arts (one episode "Kill the child and you can save the whole world"), Morbius - The Living Vampire, The Wedding of Dracula -- Blood Rites, The Scarlet Witch, Urth4 -- Elementals (Used in Sorcery) vs. Machines, and don't forget Dragon Strike by D&D's parent company TSR -- "Quest with me then! To this den of evil where we will find Teraptus and drive a stake through his heart!"

Excerpts from a Canadian Press article (Times-Transcript, Oct 7, 1995) will help illustrate the growing influence of these comic books. Comments are again in italics.

When comic book giant Stan Lee first put pen to paper and created the X-men in the early 1960s, he had no idea that the adventures of mutant superheroes would become a cult classic. Now Marvel Comics' the X-Men have surged again, with U.S. sales of about 50 million copies a year and two million in Canada. The X-Men have turned into big business for Marvel, with some 16 comic titles (Generation X is the latest), licensed products including dolls, trading cards, video games, an animated TV show and a Hollywood movie in the works.

Beyond adolescents and pre-teens, the X-Men are also big with the nursery school set and elementary school children, thanks to the popular TV show on the Fox network. For children, these dark, powerful anti-heroes strike a compelling and vivid chord. Fantasy play and power are big issues for eight to 10 year-old children says Joseph Byrne, a child psychologist at Izaak Walton Killam Children's Hospital in Halifax (NS, Canada) . Stories about superheroes essentially help children deal will all kinds of internal struggles, says Dr. Norman Doidge, head of psychotherapy at Toronto's Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. "Children are drawn to them with gusto because they deal with the facts of life, many frightening... also they deal with the fact of death, and children's sense that only god-like superpowers might save them or those they love from finality."

For parents who worry about the impact on their children of the X-Men's dark, violent nature, Doidge points out that it's because children are aware of "their relative powerlessness" that they focus on aggression. That aggression can be used for both good and bad, and children have to learn to master that, he says. (End of excerpt).

If by now you have few concerns regarding the themes found in these comic books, start reading again on Page 1 of this booklet, taking care to read all the scripture references. Remember that a parent's scriptural mandate is to "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6)." This stands in contrast to society's fantasy that we can expose children to all these things and hope they can determine the way they should go as they grow-up."

Since most of these titles are now available at corner and grocery stores, children don't have to look hard to find them. Once they have become attached to them, the next step is often to the local comic shop where hundreds of additional titles and back issues await. The vast majority of comic shops across North America are also the same shops carrying specialized Fantasy Role Playing games and accessories -- see any connection?

Section E (Magic -- The Game, That Is)

A card game. Collect the cards, play the game. The more cards you have, potentially the better your game. Some cards are rare enough they are considered an investment; like collecting old baseball cards. Yet these are anything but sports cards -- unless you consider destruction, death, magic, and mayhem to be a sport.

The game is called Magic: The Gathering ( M:TG ). A Seattle-based company called Wizards of the Coast Inc. virtually created the concept of collectible card games. Since 1993, the company has sold internationally more than two billion M:TG cards in eight different languages with more scheduled to follow. The privately owned company has made creator Richard Garfield a millionaire many times over.

Interviews and inquires, those published and made personally, with card & comic shops -- in both the US and Canada -- confirm that this game is extremely popular. Judging from the requests made for information by youth workers and pastors, it also appears to have gained extensive popularity even amongst church going teens. As with any popular rage, there are of course competitors and take-offs all clamoring for a piece of the success. With names like Vampire: The Eternal Struggle and Vampire: Dark Sovereigns , it's easy to see that the same concepts of mysticism and magic are likewise integral. For the purpose of this examination we will stay primarily with the original.

Like it's ancestor and close relative Dungeons & Dragons , M:TG incorporates random elements and strategy. To understand the game a little background is necessary. If the following detailed description seems elaborate and potentially confusing -- welcome to the world of fantasy role playing games. As players of virtually all forms of FRP's will tell you... "It's not that hard once you played it a few times."

First a general overview of the decks: The full colored, illustrated, cards are divided into two basic types: lands and spells. The lands cards are swamp, forest, mountain, plains and islands. By using -- called tapping -- a land, a player gets a point of "manna" which can be spent to cast a "spell" card of the corresponding color. Swamps provide black manna, forests green, mountains red, plains white, and islands blue. Each spell color has a certain primary characteristic as well. Black cards are good anti-creature cards, green contains lots of natural creatures but few direct damage cards. Red has mystical creatures and features like dragons and fireballs for direct damage. Blue distorts or alters other kinds of magic but has few creatures or direct damage spells. White is mostly for protection or healing. The more powerful the spell the more manna is needed to cast it. Additionally there are artifact cards requiring no specific manna color and legend cards, which are extremely powerful, requiring multiple manna colors. The order in which the cards are played may be completely random or "tuned" using specifically selected cards.

The goal: Each player has 20 life points. The first to eliminate the other's points wins (ie. the loser dies). Unlike prolonged and ongoing D&D games, Magic games may last only 15 to 30 minutes. Some prefer big decks of 100 to 120 cards, while others smaller and faster decks of 60 to 80 cards. The game's portability and popularity mean an opponent is never hard to find and it's easy to strike up a game anywhere.

Starter decks are approximately $12 Canadian, but numerous expansion decks are available and one can't forget the numerous specialty add-on cards like the extremely rare Black Lotus which now sells for up to $250 US. Other cards sell for $20 to $50 each. While researching this article, we picked up a card, together with it's accompanying comic book on clearance at Kay-Bee toys for 47¢ (regularly $1.50 US). Fancier hard cover comics, which feature digitally merged cartoon drawings and realistic images, plus (don't forget) the card, sell for almost $9 Canadian.

Here in Moncton, and in many other centers, local tournaments are regularly posted. The tournament allows you to try your deck against many others. One larger tournament of 80 persons was held at the University of New Brunswick this past spring. But these are small peanuts in comparison to the $200,000 world tournament in Seattle this past summer. The world tournament featured players from 28 countries with a 1st place prize of $26,000 US. A burgeoning support industry includes numerous magazines, a promised computer version, and the ultimate world-wide promotional tool -- Internet Web Sites. Things only appear to be growing. A promised 1996 Pro Tour sponsored by MCI Telecommunications will award more than $1 million in prize money and scholarships at various events.

So what's the problem with this game? Carrie Thearle, a company spokesperson, in a published interview (08/31/96) insists that the game avoids most of the concerns about satanic or demonic influence that have been attached to other role-playing games like D&D. "We've heard things here and there," said Ms. Thearle about such controversies. "Most comments are short lived." While noting that this game enjoys popularity among many young players, and also acknowledging that there may be a few scary looking black cards, she downplays stories of schools banning this game -- relegating them to being schools and parents just trying to get their kids to do their homework.

So is this true? How about the name Magic ? We didn't set out to find the worst or the best in this game -- merely to sample some of it from a number of perspectives. Here's what we have found.

The expensive comic book and card we picked up was entitled Fallen Angel: A Magic Legend. The enclosed card, also entitled Fallen Angel , with an action sub-title of Summon Angel, states "Sacrifice a creature to give Fallen Angel +2/+1 (power) until end of turn." The comic book makes sure the player is aware this fallen Angel was only unwittingly tricked into falling and capable of being restored to it's original demi-god status. All fallen angels are graphically shown to require regular blood sacrifices. Angels, fallen or otherwise, are shown to be able to be summoned by people with the proper spells and incantations. Speaking of graphic, this comic is filled with images of blood, swords (including two close-up portrayals of bloody swords pierced through torsos), skulls, magic spells, and the standard fare of many modern comics -- females of disbelieving proportions in scantily clad attire.

The cheaper comic we picked up happened to be issue #1, Ice Age On the World of Magic: The Gathering . It's supporting card was called Bone Shaman with an ascribed action of Summon Giant. This evil looking creature is portrayed on the card holding a human skull. The comic featured much of the same fare... Death, spells, and summoning demonic creatures being the primary themes.

The things we have talked about thus far are not just incidental or occasional themes within Magic -- they are the heart and soul of this game. Without the mystic elements the game theme could not operate.

Perhaps company spokesperson, Carrie Thearle, has never read the game description provided by Assistant Editor, Jeof Vita, in issue #1... "Players who favor manipulative and deceptive game play can use blue magic to frustrate opponents... The black magic, a popular choice, is the magic of death and decay -- not for the squeamish! " Elsewhere he clearly stated, "The game itself is a duel between two players who represent the most powerful magicians on the fantastic world of Dominara. Both players are Planeswalkers (mast magicians) who take turns casting spells that will both defend their ground and defeat their opponent."

Some of these card spells even have prescribed literal actions (we would hope, delineated from fantasy actions like "sacrifice a creature" we previously mentioned). The Chaos Orb card, a "mono artifact" tells the user to "Flip Chaos Orb onto the playing area from a height of at least one foot. Chaos Orb must turn completely over at least once or it is discarded with no effect. When Chaos Orb lands, any cards in play that it touches are destroyed, as is the Chaos Orb ."

When examined in it's entirety, this card game is no more than a new packaging for the exact same themes as utilized within D&D and other fantasy role-playing games. Where D&D , etc., were played almost exclusively as mind games, M:TG has followed the style of more recent incarnations to present a more visual game. The pictures and descriptions on the cards, combined with comics and support magazines, like The Duelist , leave little or nothing to the imagination.

It takes little Bible knowledge to understand there is everything wrong with a game whose core themes and imagery focus on...

Power & Manipulation

Spells, Magic, Sorcery

Summoning Spirits

Maiming & Killing

Death & Destruction

Sexual Imagery

"Good" versus "Evil" magic.

When any individual's fascination, focus and fun are based on these things, the result cannot help but be harmful. With increasingly younger children being exposed to these themes this becomes one more contributing factor to the ongoing desensitization of violence and sexuality in our society.

The spiritual results may be perhaps the most devastating. These contents will overwhelm Biblical and pure thought -- as our flesh seeks gratification in these very themes. The door these topics open is one that, for many, leads to the world of dabbling experimentation and sometimes embrace. (See Colossians 3:5-6, Ephesians 2:1-3, James 1:13-15).

On a more positive note. We need to point out that a company by the name of Cactus Game Design Inc. has created a collectible card game entitled Redemption . This game also features rare and uncommon cards and additional expansion decks (ie. The Prophets Expansion Set with 105 new cards). What makes this game unique is the world view it is based upon. Although in some respects it plays like Magic, etc., all the cards are based upon Biblical concepts. In this game there are heroes and evil characters in multiple brigades (colors) with a goal of rescuing lost souls. Unlike the equal opposite good-evil world view of the secular games, there can never be a tie in this game. Should an evil character and hero be equally matched they both may lose their life, yet the hero is declared the winner in laying down his life for the lost soul. The illustrated cards generally all have a Bible verse on them, along with the play instruction, title, etc. This game does not feature the graphic violence, mysticism, etc., of the secular games. Like any game "based" on the Bible, there are places where the concept may break down a little. Overall it is a good attempt to offer a more wholesome alternative to the evil mind set and themes of M:TG. Perhaps it's best usage is as an alternative to offer to those already caught up in this gaming trend. My personal feeling is that parents, especially of younger children and non-players, may want to consider whether they want to introduce their children to this game genre at all.

Redemption game designer Rob Anderson ends his mission statement (taken from the 14 page rule book) with this statement. "All of the concepts for the cards come from the Bible. We have tried to give a Scriptural reference whenever possible and practical. Some concepts in the game spread out over multiple chapters in the Bible and cannot be printed on a single card. If a card creates a question in your mind, look it up in the Bible and read the relevant verse within the context given in Scripture. We have tried to be Biblically accurate. If you find a mistake, please write to me and let me know."

Quite a contrast between the motive and focus of Redemption and that of M:TG . What's your focus? (See also Galatians 6:7-8, 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 1994-1997, Third Edition. This electronic version does not include graphics which are found in the printed booklet. Feel free to duplicate as long as the source is cited.