The Misinformed

2007 October 14
by Vanir

For that reason, one of the things we’d like to do here at Stupid Ranger is to help people understand what it is to play in a roleplaying game. How it’s a good social activity, how it builds good teamwork skills, how it’s just a lot of fun. We know most of our audience probably already plays D&D, but we’re hoping if one of you would like to enlighten someone else a little about roleplaying games (either to soothe their fears or to get them interested in gaming), we’ll have some good stuff for you to pass their way. We’ll be doing more articles for new gamers and more about gaming itself – because the only thing more fun than playing D&D is sharing it with another friend.

Campfire Stories
When I was growing up, there was a lot of controvery surrounding D&D, what with people associating it with the occult, the Devil, teen suicide, people casting real spells (WTF?), and God only knows what else. Clearly, I was playing wrong or I’d have accidentally barbequed my little sister with a Fireball by the time I was twelve. Perhaps I just didn’t blaspheme hard enough to get that kind of dark power.

Thankfully, my parents were reasonable people and let my brother get the purple D&D Basic Set when I was pretty young, which I read quite a bit long before I ever played. In fact, I was already quite familiar with the source material when I heard anybody was scared of it. I was fortunate enough never to have encountered anybody who was outright opposed to D&D on “moral grounds” until high school. I was working in the media lab, and one of the perks of working there was that I got to make free photocopies for myself. I’d been playing AD&D 1st Edition for a little while, and I was convinced I could create a better player character sheet than TSR so I was frequently copying off some design I’d made. The secretary working there didn’t know what it was for until I brought in a copy of the Wilderness Survival Guide to make a copy of some page with something or other I wanted on my PC sheet, and when she saw the cover said “DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS” she flipped out.

“I can’t let you copy stuff like that in here, it’s Satanist and you shouldn’t play those kind of games!”

I knew the WSG pretty well, so being the smartassed 13 year old that I was, I decided to shut her up the best way I could. I turned to a page in the book and handed it to her. Well, I should say tried to hand it to her, she acted like it was made of acid and wouldn’t touch it, so I just shoved it in front of her face.

“This page is nothing but tables about how long it will take you to build a campfire. OOOOH SCARY!!!”

At the time, I didn’t realize exactly how hilarious it was that I was using 1E’s incredible capacity for ridiculous anal minutiae in its own defense. The thing that really amazed me, though, was that it worked. The secretary’s forehead wrinkled and her eyebrows drew close together as if she was a caveman looking at a disco ball for the first time, and then she grunted and said “well, I’m just saying”. She probably still was afraid of D&D and I can’t honestly remember if she ever spoke to me again, but she never bothered me about my D&D books ever again.

The Age of Reason

These days, it’s a lot easier for us gamers than it used to be. I don’t know if I’d call us “mainstream” (nor am I sure I’d like to!), but more and more I think the average joe knows D&D isn’t about sacrificing goats and little children to the Ancient Ones for the Blood Harvest, and I haven’t personally been hassled about anything D&D related in many years. However, there are still those out there with some really odd misconceptions about what we do, and their reactions range from the blind fear of the early 1980’s to just thinking its creepy and weird and never knowing what they’re missing.

Dealing With People who Just Don’t Get It

Up to this point I’ve been really sarcastic about this whole business, but if you ever DO meet someone who has some radical misconceptions about D&D and is causing you problems, that isn’t a good idea. Here’s some tips:

  • Don’t Be A Jerk
    Nothing takes the wind out of a judgmental person like their opponent being a really nice guy. Scared people take the slightest thing and tack it on to their negative impression of you, so be very nice,very polite, and very respectful. You won’t regret doing this, even if they never come around to seeing it your way.
  • Their Opinion is Valid Too
    Even though you think they’re completely insane, everybody’s got a right to their opinion. It’s a lot easier to convince someone that you’re not a cultist whackjob if you’re not up on your high horse. Talk to them as a person and let them know you understand where they’re coming from — and that you disagree and are open to discussion about things if it would make them feel better about things.
  • Don’t Expect Instant Results
    Some people have really strong beliefs about things, and are afraid enough that they think they have to save you from yourself. You’re not magically going to change their mind by talking to them for five minutes. Be cool and stay open to dialogue, even if it happens over and over again.
  • Just The Facts
    The Escapist is a fantastic resource for how to soothe people’s fears about roleplaying and dispelling a lot of the old strange misconceptions. I highly recommend you go there. It’s a good read, and it will arm you with what you need most when you meet someone who’s scared of D&D — the plain, boring, incredibly nonthreatening truth. Nobody who’s ever seen a real game of D&D could possibly think we’re up to anything diabolical, other than the sacrifice of several pizzas on our convenient countertop altar. Just ask the Dead Alewives.
  • Be Excellent To Each Other
    You represent gamers in your misinformed friend’s eyes, so if you’re nice it’ll start to chip away at the idea that you and everything that you stand for are awful. Make us proud, soldier!

Anybody here have stories about your dealings with the Misinformed? We’d love to hear them — especially ones with positive outcomes. Until next time!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Joshua Jabin permalink
    October 14, 2007

    I’ve honestly never encountered anyone who had any serious moral objections to D&D (at least no one who expressed them to me). I’ve talked to quite a few people who worried that people might get too caught up in it, and become more focused on the game world than on the real world. Since I actually know people who are far more concerned with their current D&D campaign than with the fact that they have pathetic, dead-end jobs and aren’t going anywhere with their lives, I would say that that is a fair concern.

  2. Yax permalink
    October 15, 2007

    I think I’m more disapointed when I’m associated with the socially inept D&D geek than with the occult real-life fireball spellcasting satanist.

  3. Jenette permalink
    October 22, 2007

    I always thought WOTC should follow Palladium books example and put a big bold disclaimer on their front page to the effect that the book is a work of fiction and they do not support or condone the use of drugs violence, pratice of the occult blah blah.

    Then anytime someone runs into a D&D fearing person they can show them the front page of the book and let them read for themselves in black and white the company doesn’t support or condone unlawful behavior and the book has nothing to do with the occult, satanism or sacrifice.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS