Game Hysteria and the Truth
by Michael A. Stackpole
The 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 some fun.
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.
Qualifications and History
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 teaching minor.
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
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
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 superhero game).
Where We Agree
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:
THE WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE AND HOW OF TEEN SATANISM WHO
1. Adolescents from all walks of life.
2. Many from middle to upper middle class families
3a Over or Under Achievers
3c Some are Rebellious
3d Some have low self esteem and are loners
3e Some children have been abused (physically or sexually)
WHEN does this occur? It appears the ages most vulnerable are
WHERE? 1. Public places such as rock concerts, game clubs in
communities or at school. 2. Private parties at a friend's home.
HOW? 1. Through Black Heavy Metal Music 2. Through fantasy role
playing games like Dungeons & Dragons (R) 3. Obsession with
movies, videos, which have occult themes 4. Collecting and
reading/researching occult books 5. Involvement with "Satanic
Cults", [sic] through recruitment 6. Some are bone into families
who pratice [sic] "satanic cult rituals"
TWO BASIC PRINCIPLES APPLY HERE "Law of Attraction" and the "Law
WHAT can be expected? 1. Obsession with occult entertainment 2.
Minor to major behavior disorders 3. Committing crimes and
status offenses such as: A. Running away B. Graverobbing (such as
bones) C. Breaking and entering to steal religious artifacts or
sometimes stealing small items to prove loyalty to the group D.
Defacing public or private property using "Satanic Graffetti
[sic]" or related Graffetti [sic] E. Threatening to kill (self or
others, self mutilation is very common) F. Aggression directed
towards family, teachers and authority figures G. Contempt for
organized religion H. Supremist attitudes I. Kidnapping or
assistance in kidnapping J. Murder K. Suicide pacts among members
of the group
WHAT can we do? 1. Document all information relating to occult
involvement (even if it does not appear relevant at the time) 2.
Keep an open mind 3. Stay objective 4. Never assume that an
individual is acting along [sic] until all other information
surrounding the case and individual has been fully investigated.
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] 6. Have a team approach, work
with a therapist, a clergymen and other helping professionals. 7.
Educate the community so that potential tragedies might be
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 Satanists.
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.
The Problem with Violence
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
Suicide and Games
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
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 marijuana."
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.
Occult Recruitment Objects
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 suicide.
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
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 (6,6,6)..."
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 popular game.
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
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.
Has Pat Pulling Ever Played a Role-Playing Game?
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
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
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
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 painted above.
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
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
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.
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
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 or Cleric.*
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 among gamers.*
4. Each character will have certain abilities or attributes such
as Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma, Constitution and
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
*No clue given on a proper answer and the relevance of this
question is doubtful.*
6. How long has he/she been playing the particular character
that he is currently playing?
*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 passa' in more
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
[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 significance.*
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 Techniques.
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
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
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
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 fans.
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
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 Pulling's investigations.
Do you need a license to manufacture evidence, or can anyone do
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
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
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.
"Lies, damn lies and statistics"
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 upon them.
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
With Friends Like These
Cassandra "Sam" Hoyer
Pat Pulling, during her odyssey through the Satanic
wasteland of Richmond, has come across some truly interesting
characters. Cassandra "Sam" Hoyer is one who claims that she was
raised in New England to become a High Priestess for a Satanic
Cult. Both she and Pulling appeared on a KFYI radio show in
Phoenix on Satanism.