Just in time for Halloween: the animated Dark Dungeons

If you're of a certain age, you may remember the infamous Jack Chick tract Dark Dungeons. For those of you who don't, here's the tl;dr from the Escapist:

Dark Dungeons is possibly the most widely distributed piece of anti-game propaganda in the history of gaming. It was first produced by Chick Publications in 1984, during the heyday of anti-RPG paranoia, and print copies were available on request from Chick as recently as the mid-90s. Chick Publications, headed by reclusive comic author Jack T. Chick, also brings us booklets on the evils of everything from Catholicism and Buddhism to Halloween and reincarnation.  Chick takes no prisoners, and isn't interested in playing nicely; they'd much rather convert you to their narrow world view, and possibly get you to sprinkle the world liberally with more of their pamphlets. 

Dark Dungeons touches many of the bases of mid-80s anti-RPG paranoia. Most of the cliches and urban legends are here; the dark, seductive lady who acts as DM for a group of younger players, the gamers who identify far too much with their characters and become deeply troubled when a character dies, the "real spells" contained in the books, the obsessive playing at the cost of a healthy social or spiritual life, the eventual induction into a witches coven, and of course, the inevitable suicide. About the only legends they miss are drugs, rape, murder, and lead figures that scream when you throw them into the fire. But to be fair, you can only give so much story in 21 pages.

Now, for all of us… an animated adaptation from the mad geniuses at Boolean Union Studios that will amuse and delight you!

Part one:

Part two:

(via my friend Ariana, who has a fantastic story about how Dark Dungeons affected her life on her G+ thingy.)

33 thoughts on “Just in time for Halloween: the animated Dark Dungeons”

  1. Brilliant! I love that Dark Dungeon is getting a lot of satire traction lately. It was so ridiculous right from the start I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner!

  2. Was this:
    “the dark, seductive lady who acts as DM for a group of younger players”
    ever truly something that people on the outside tried to convince non-gamers was happening? Because if so, I’m surprised gaming wasn’t more popular because of it.

  3. Oh my god. I had no idea that even existed or that fundies had ever seriously campaigned against D&D. Hilarious!
    So I went and read the original here: http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.ASP
    I notice that in the last panel, after you pray to Jesus to forgive your “sins”, the next steps are to 1) read the Bible every day; 2) pray every day; 3) be baptized, go to church, become a member, etc.; and 4) tell others about this whole church thing.
    Notice nowhere in there do they mention that you should help the poor, be compassionate, and generally try not to be a dick. In fact, this looks exactly like a cult to me. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

  4. I grew up in the fundie circles where Chick tracts were common. A significant minority were handing them out and leaving them on park benches. Most of the rest were throwing them away as fast as we could g4et our hands on them. But they were like soft porn for the kids. A titillating glimpse at the forbidden.

  5. Unfortunately, I had a run-in with this particular Chic Tract. When I was younger, the parents of one of my friends told me all about how D&D was evil and would corrupt my soul. And, I believed them and all the other anti-hype about D&D and MTG. I wish that I had learned to think for myself at that time because I sure would’ve had a lot of fun playing those games. This is one of those hindsight is 20-20 situations for me.

  6. Lead figures scream when you thrown them in the fire? How have I not heard about this before?
    Was that supposed to make me want to play D&D less?

  7. I grew up with Chick tracts a-plenty. Reading them again now makes me laugh and cringe all at once. Talk about facepalm. The worst part about this one is that no one seems to question why a mother would allow her daughter to stay locked in her room for two weeks, therefore not noticing that she’d killed herself. Any chance it wasn’t the RPG that made Marcie feel all alone?

  8. This is wonderful! When we were young, my twin brother and I were the only people we knew who played D&D (yes, two player D&D was quite a challenge, particularly when one of you is the DM.) I remember talking about it in grade school to other kids and the crap we got in return. People were really afraid of “influences” and let us know. Our dad “had talks” with us about it.
    Needless to say, here we are almost 30 years later and involved in a years long gaming session with many friends, some who travel from another state every month to join us. My husband and I are about to start a second game, mostly online, with friends from across the country.
    And somehow, someway, we’ve managed to do it all without the help of the occult!

  9. “The lord shall provide. Now, who brought the gasoline?” — Wouldn’t the answer to that be “the lord”, seeing how he provides?
    These always made me laugh. In fact, it was the Dark Dungeons one that got me interested in D&D in the first place. :D
    A co-worker’s wife actually collects these little pamphlets. She finds them humorous, and wants to see if she can get them all…like pokemon.

  10. No, Marci, no! You didn’t have to do that!
    Is it wrong that I laughed?
    Wow. How ridiculous is this? (Not the parody, which is fabulous, but the actual tracts.) I grew up with this crap, and it’s just that. Complete and total crap.

  11. This.
    I grew up with religion, but always questioned it. When I was fourteen and sitting in church and realized that the great commission is completely rude, I couldn’t wait to get out of that environment. Because…yeah. Seriously. It’s all about church for most, not doing good works. Not all, I’ll grant you, but many. So sad.
    Also, is Debbie wearing a Members Only jacket?
    Because that amuses me greatly. ;)

  12. Lead figures were supposed to scream if you threw them in the fire?? Damn, I missed out! I wonder if it works with the plastic ones. heh.
    My mother (a devout Catholic) was really paranoid about D&D back in the 80s. I think she mellowed out about it, slightly, when she sat me down to watch one of the televangelists ranting about it, and made the mistake of quoting from one of the books… but the quote he was quoting didn’t exist. It was something about the goal of the game being to get all the treasure by killing off all your friends. I grabbed my PHB and showed my mom the page and paragraph that the guy was supposedly quoting from and asked her to show me what he was saying. I even looked in the DMG, just in case he got the book wrong, but nope. It was a total smart-ass response, but she got the point and I didn’t need to sit down and watch any more rants about the game.
    My father was of the opinion that I should get a job writing the games. My dad definitely had his great ideas. :)

  13. Unfortunately the damage it did was devastating. I was a teen in the 90′s and this shit is the reason I’m just now delving into D&D for the first time in my life.

  14. I’m very sorry that something like this kept you from gaming until now, Cal. As someone who was a teen in the ’80s and already playing D&D et al, Dark Dungeons caused a lot of problems for us as well.
    Which is why I’m glad it’s being satirized now. Because nothing in DD had to do with gaming as we knew it then. My first thought after reading it for the first time in 1986 was, “Wait, there are girl DMs!?” It would be many years, unfortunately, before that became a reality for me (isolated Northern community, I knew every gamer within 100 miles).
    So I get where you’re coming from, Cal, and I don’t deny it caused damage. Which is why I am enjoying its satirical demise now. And despite DD’s best efforts you found your way to role-playing games anyway. I’d call that a win; welcome aboard! You can play at my table anytime.

  15. Those were frickin’ hilarious! I did love that touch of a southern accent that the preacher dude had. Those fundies are nutbags!
    “The lord shall provide. Now, who brought the gasoline?” Too funny!

  16. I’m a corporate trainer for a company that still accepts plenty of check payments by mail. To this day, there are people who include a Chick (or other religious) tract in the envelope, along with the payment. We also get policitcal pamphlets, business cards, advertisements, etc. BTW: Most companies ask that you only include your payment stub and check. Want to know why? It costs a lot more to open the mail manually when other items are included along with the payment!
    I’ve collected those tracts found in payments. They’re a hoot! You wouldn’t believe how many tickets to Heaven I’ve recieved. I could take the whole community with me!

  17. Unfortunately, thinking like these horrible and laughable tracts is at the heart of the problems with evangelical conservatives today in America and elsewhere. If you wonder where people like Bachmann got her start proselytizing, look no further than these tracts and the support people who liked them gave her. It’s people like this that are used by others who have gotten themselves rich on others to push for ridiculous, human rights denying agendas and they have both money and power now in our government.
    In short, because stuff like this was not snuffed out back when we all thought it was just illogical, prejudiced, uneducated crap, we have reams of people causing things such as the housing bubble and preventing others from getting married and thinking dominionism is the way we must run our country.
    We can still laugh at this horrible crap but too many people in power with lots of money think like this.

  18. Watched this documentary online. While I don’t share his beliefs, I’ve always found chick tracts bizarrely fascinating and always wondered about their history.

  19. See? Now I find all this facinating. I went to a backwoods, home-grown religious school in the 80′s in the middle of the Southern Bible Belt (Mississippi, ya’ll). Oh, and by ‘backwoods’, I mean the building was put in a corner of the local farmer’s soybean field. Really. We’d watch him drive by the window on his John Deere in Bible/History class (the Bible *was* our history book).
    You can’t make up stuff like that.
    So I’d think we’d have been the first-in-line, git’em-hot-off-the-presses demographic for this sort of thing.
    But I’ve never *heard* of these tracts. Amazing. Now, I do remember a fire-and-brimstone pastor coming to an Assembly and lecturing us on the ‘Evils of Rock-n-Roll Music’. My favorite quote was the one about how “…the anapestic beat [two short beats, a long beat, then a pause] used by many rock musicians actually is the exact opposite of our heart and arterial rhythms [thereby causing an immediate loss of body strength].”
    But the ‘Evils of D&D’? We never got that one. Huh.
    In fact, my D&D experience much more resembles this article from Fresh Yarn than anything else. http://www.freshyarn.com/1/essays/davis_ninth.htm

  20. I grew up with a very devout grandmother who watched far too much PTL/Trinity/WhateverItIsNow. While I never saw the tracts, she believed what they were selling, and hated the fact that I loved shows like Highlander, Forever Knight, and X-Files. She was also wasn’t amused that I hung out with the comic book geeks, goths, and other gamers.
    On the other hand, I was active in my youth group at church, enrolled in the gifted program, and overall just a decent kid. I still played D&D and Vampire. But I knew the difference between real life and fiction — and, apparently, learned from a young age to think for myself.
    And ya know what? Still have my faith; still playing D&D. I’ve also added Star Wars and a couple of free-form Trek games to the repertoire, too. I valued my grandmother’s concern for me, but it was all a matter of trust — whether or not my parents trusted me to know the difference between reality and fiction. Thankfully, my mother did.

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