Controversies about Roleplaying: An Introduction


Dungeons and dragons 1980s by Pouazity

"Dungeons and dragons 1980s" by Pouazity is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Why have roleplaying games been subject to such close scrutiny?

Roleplaying games are based on ideas and imagination instead of physical actions, so they can be difficult to explain in ways that people outside of the hobby can easily understand. They often involve extensive rules, lore-rich fantasy worlds, and terms that are specific to the system at hand. It's easier to explain these games now, since popular video games and films have used many of the same tropes for years. You can also find actual play podcasts or video streams and use them as examples.

That doesn't mean everyone has played RPGs or will see their appeal. Over the years, tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons have received negative publicity when they were brought up during court cases involving violent crimes. Many people didn't pay attention to the outcomes of such cases, when other factors were shown to be far more important than any game. Additionally, the moral panic of the 1980s didn't just demonize heavy metal music; people also made wild accusations about roleplaying games. And although no evidence has been found that these games are harmful, old misinformation is still in the ether.

Tabletop RPGs have a large adult audience, but they also appeal to kids and teens whose parents might not have played such games before. Anything that minors partake in is likely to be heavily scrutinized at some point, not just by parents but society at large because we're supposed to protect young people from dangers. Parents have various concerns about the media their kids consume but may not know who to ask. And hearing old rumors can lead to concerns that might not have come up otherwise.

This section is aimed at exploring the benefits, pitfalls, and real life concerns about roleplaying games. I don't claim to be neutral, since I've engaged in roleplaying games for over half my life, but I'd like to help others gain a rational understanding of this tradition of entertainment. Instead of avoiding the charges against RPGs, I'd like to explore them with respect for gamers and those who have concerns about the hobby.


dice divider bar by Ramona

Table of Contents

Some Benefits of Roleplaying Games

You can get more than fun from gaming!

Concerns about Violence

A look at the 1980s moral panic in America

Some Pitfalls of Roleplaying Games

Common problems people have with RPGs

Further Reading (Links)

Articles on both sides of the controversy

Concerns about Occult Material

Are roleplaying games encouraging occultism?



dice divider bar by Ramona

Note: Although this section is written with care, it is not intended to be a college-level discourse on the controversy concerning roleplaying games. It is meant to be a resource, however, and there are many links provided on the Further Reading page. Many links lead to organized and carefully referenced arguments.


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