The Satanic Panic

I saw some tweets today about how some folks dealt with the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s, when concerned parents were afraid their kids were going to start running around in sewer drains and stabbing each other with swords. Or gathering in darkened rooms, casting spells by candle light.

D&D by candle light summoning demons
9th level DM summoning demons, or some shit

Obviously, we all know none of this stuff was true, but boy-oh-boy did some people get wound up! This is my “Satanic Panic” story:

Way back when, in the late 20th century, I was running a homebrew AD&D/Rolemaster mashup campaign (we were really into charts and detail back then!) for a few friends on Sunday afternoons. I’d spend the first part of the day with my family and then drive over to my friend’s place and we’d gather around the big card-game table in the basement (I know…).

One Sunday afternoon I was hauling my enormous duffel bag of D&D books and 3-ring binders out to my car, when a member of my extended family followed me out to the driveway. We had just finished a lovely Sunday Dinner with these extra guests and I had excused myself to gather my things and go meet my friends.

I hadn’t said where I was going or what I was up to, but apparently my sister had. The family member called out to me and indicated she wanted to say something. I stopped, walked back and prepared to listen. I’d already gone over the “there are no real demons or anything, Mom” routine with my parents, so I was curious as to what this next warning would be like.

She said, “I hear you’re going to go play Dungeons & Dragons.”

“Yep” (I was 20 years old…)

“You need to be careful, there’s lots of demons in there,” she said.

“No, it’s all make-believe,” I replied, “nothing to worry about.”

I could see the very real concern on her face now, as she reached out to me with one hand. “There are dangerous and powerful mind-control spells in those books. The Dungeon Master can make you do things.”

At this point I smiled, this was so silly. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “___, I am the Dungeon Master. If there was such a thing I’d be a 20th level Dungeon Master. Believe me, if there were mind control spells, I’d know about it.”

“Besides,” I continued, “Do you really think I would be living at home with my parents, driving around making deliveries for XYZ Regional Bank, making $7.50 an hour if I had access to powerful mind-control spells?

Her eyes got a big as saucers then. I suppose it had never occurred to any of the worry-warts that if this group of nerds had access to mind-control powers that we would use them for personal gain, rather than killing our friends.

I left her standing there and went on my way. My friends had a good laugh at the story. That campaign lasted almost two years, until I was made president of XYZ BanCorp and started spending most of my time in the diabolical headquarters atop the Sears Tower.

(I may have made up that last part)

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