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‘Not Black Leaf!’
Dark Dungeons by J.T.C.


This comic is right out of late 1970s American Christian mythology. A raven-haired witch of a middle-aged adult sits behind a dungeon master’s screen and conducts a fantasy role playing game. The thief, Black Leaf, is declared dead and that player gets upset. The girl across the table Debbie, has a cleric, Elfstar, that has just advanced to 8th level. After the session the dungeon master approaches the cleric’s player and offers to initiate her into a coven.

On page 5 we have 13 robed Satanists welcoming Debbie as ‘Elfstar’ into their cult. As someone who has played and designed RPGs I doubt very much if the typical role player has the self-discipline to follow through with cultic observations. It is significant that the author points out that the name of the character is essentially a doorway to the occult. Of course, the author saves Debbie from damnation through the narrative device of empathy, which is his standard trope. Debbie finds out that Marcie, the player of Black Leaf, has committed suicide. This and a serendipitous meeting with a hunky Christian evangelist saves Debbie from the cult. Of particular interest is how ‘sorcerer-like’ the man who saves Debbie is, appearing to cast a banishment of demons spell on her on page 21.

I know this all seems ridiculous to you role players. But, I did have a role playing experience as the GM in the late 1970s in which I hosted a group of three ‘born again’ Christians of the Pentecostal denomination. Normally players try to manage a character, as one would the queen in a chess game. Occasionally there is the role player who likes acting out a character in a storyline, but that is a slim thread in the experience, or at least was back then in the genre’s infancy.

These three Christian kids went crazy. The preacher’s son generated a paladin character [a Christian-based hero template], and then played him as a total psychopath, killing everything in his path. The tall black kid rolled up a wizard character and played him like a diabolical Robert E. Howard sorcerer, eating hearts of victims, etc. The other kid tried management style play, which essentially devolved into him enabling the two whack job serial killer characters.

I think that there is something about the person that is so easily roped into a restrictive counter-intuitive religious experience that does make them susceptible to the role playing experience in a way that most players are not. Evangelical Christians know mind control, technically and/or intuitively, depending on their place in the hierarchy. I can well understand how frightening role playing is for such people. I saw it firsthand. It was like watching people drinking whiskey and snorting cocaine for the first time. It was just interactive fiction, and it was still disturbing how murderous their fantasies were. They all overdosed on the experience quickly and stopped playing because they could not let go of their fictional persona when not actually playing.

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