When I was a kid, my aunt ran a Christian book store in Cottonwood, Arizona. This was in the mid 80s and Dungeons and Dragons was just past the crest of its height. It was still popular enough that my aunt knew what it was, and warned my mother that she shouldn’t let me play it. The line of thinking was that playing games like Dungeons and Dragons somehow “opened your mind to Satanic influence” and that it “allowed evil spirits to come in” in the form of the make believe characters we played.
Back in the 80’s, if your kid played D&D, you might as well as pack up his belongings so he can move into the house that Satan built and start the adoption process for finding a replacement child. This line of thinking was given form in the Chick Track “Dark Dungeons”. Chick Tracks were these tiny little comics that churches would hand out warning the public about the dangers of various temptations that could lead you astray from the righteous path of God. Stuff like drinking, drugs, Catholicism, and of course, Dungeons and Dragons.
In just 21 short pages, Jack Chick weaved a cautionary tale of two girls who got sucked into playing Darkest Dungeons, a fantasy role playing game. This game, of course, was just a ploy to prepare them for “real magic’ and a life of Satanic gaming. I won’t spoil the story for you here, but I do highly recommend reading the short comic book for yourself here.
Even though the comic was laughable, even to my 11-12yr old brain, it also made D&D slightly dangerous, slightly subversive. This made the game all the more alluring to me. This allure still draws me to the games I like today, you can see that hint of danger in the art and style of game play in Dungeon Crawl Classics and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Even though I never met Mr Chick, nor did I ever believe in any of his crazy religious crap, he did influence, in some small way, my love of RPG’s. He inadvertently made them cool.
Jack Chick died on Sunday October 23, 2016. He was not a hero of the RPG community, if anything he was one of our more famous adversary in our rouges gallery of villains. I, for one, hope he died peacefully and acknowledge that while he was on the opposite side of the hobby that has shaped much of my life, he was still a part of that story. The irony of many people in the RPG community writing and remembering a man who hated our hobby is not lost on me, but somehow it’s fitting that we would be the ones to sing songs of our departed foes.
Godspeed Jack. If there is a next life, I’ll keep a seat at my gaming table open for you. We can play any RPG you choose, because they are pretty fucking cool.
You can check out the movie based on the Jack Chick track, Dark Dungeons here.