Let me start out by stating that I have nothing against religion. I was a religion minor in college, and am myself a Christian. However, either Jack Chick is a nut-job or he is being satirical and no one gets it. How does Jack Chick relate to a blog about role-playing? Read on and find out.
Jack Chick seems to have no grasp on the difference between fact and fiction and apparently believes that Dungeons and Dragons is real life. Extending this observation, I can only conclude that he believes tribbles are in his pantry and hobbits live in The Shire. I came to this conclusion after reading his tract entitled Dark Dungeons.
In this tract, Chick starts by illustrating a – more or less – typical Dungeons & Dragons session. After a few panels though, it turns into something that Dali might dream up while on and acid trip. A character dies and another player yells at them to leave because she "doesn’t exist anymore". The dungeon mast er takes the new player to her coven and tells her that D&D is really a tool to teach witchcraft. The player whose character died later hangs herself.
I am not even sure where to being with this tract. Okay, lets start with magic as portrayed in D&D versus how Jack Chick portrays his view of how magic should work in a role-playing game. Jack Chick believes that the spells in D&D are real and that learning how to cast them allows players to use them in the real world. Lets examine this through a dissection of the ubiquitous D&D and AD&D spell "magic missile".
I have chosen to examine this spell as it has existed in every incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ever published as far as I am aware. Also, this is a first level spell meaning that all wizards / mages / sorcerors whatever TSR / Wizards of the Coast are calling them at any give time can cast it from the very beginning of the game; this means that almost all players will be familiar with it. The description states that this spell summons a projectile weapon of some sort; the exact details seems to be left up to the player’s imagination. I always think of a rock or a ball of glowing blue energy, but I have known other people who have thought of it as a shimmering arrow. In the 2nd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, it is described as a "glowing arrow". The "Player’s Handbook" from 3rd edition however says that the spell creates a "missile of magical energy". The 4th edition "Player’s Handbook" states in the flavor text that it is a "silvery bolt of force" which is relatively nondescript. However, elsewhere, it states that even this is just a suggestion if you do not want to come up with how it looks when your character casts it. In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Player’s Handbook, it describes the spell as creating "missiles of magical energy".
This vagueness and flexibility of the description, coupled with the fact that people disagree on what it looks like, would seem to indicate that the spell is not real. If it were, then people would have seen the summoned projectile and would all mostly agree on what it looks like. I am not sure about you, but I certainly have never seen a magic missile – or a magic anything for that matter.
Furthermore, the description for the ritual is extremely vague. The 2nd edition of Dungeons & Dragons mentions nothing about how to cast it this spell. Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition states that it requires something to be spoken and some hand gesture (called verbal and somatic components respectively) but does not indicate what these components are. The 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons specifies that this spell is cast at will with the implication that there are no components. The description in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition specifies that there are verbal and somatic components – as in D&D 3rd edition – but not what they are – also as in the other edition.
Given that the method of casting a magic missile has changed with each version, it can be assumed – at least by logical people – that the spell is not real. If it were real, one should be able to use the same method consistently to cast it and not have the ritual change every five to ten years. Also, in D&D 4th edition, one does not even cast a spell – the missile is brought into existence "at will"; I do not know about Chick, but I have never been able to will something into existence. And, even if it were real, there is not enough information to be useful in either of the two editions mentioned that even mention verbal and somatic components.
Next, I would like to address Chick’s views on how players react when their characters die. I have known many people whose characters have died during the course of an adventure; in fact, I have even lost a character in battle once. I am certainly still alive, and no one that I have ever played with has killed himself as a result of a character’s death. Or to put it bluntly, it is just a friggin’ game! No sane person would kill himself over a game. Although, since this thought has occurred to Chick, it is probably better for him is he does not play. Actually, in light of this, seeking psychiatric help for his inability to tell reality from a game probably would be a good idea in his case.
Finally, I feel I really should address his views on the roles of the dungeon master and other players. The dungeon master – or dm – is the player that describes the setting of the game, runs all of the non-player characters (NPCs), and manages most of the mechanics of the game. The dungeon master in the tract lets players tell them what is happening for instance, "my spell of light blinds the monster" is said by one of the characters in the opening panel. Only the dm would be a ble to make the call as to whether the spell blinded the monster. The new player yells at the player with the dead character and tells her that she is actually dead. And, unless I am misinterpreting, it appears that the dm and the other players run her off. This incident would never happen in real life or most people would quit playing after a couple of sessions. Secondly, dungeon masters would either tell the player to roll up a new character and then they would rejoin the game, or the party would resurrect the dead character using a scroll, spell, or going to a temple not order the player to leave. The dm might politely suggest that the player step out of the room for a few minutes while the other players’ characters receive information that the dead character would not hear in order to prevent meta-gaming.
Meta-gaming happens where a player knows something that his character does not or when a player knows something that the other players do not, but their character is not with the rest of the group. In these cases, the character would not be able to contribute knowledge even thought the player could. This can be a serious issue in some groups and would be a valid justification for politely asking a player to step out of the room for a short time.
Why does Jack Chick hate role-playing so much? Did he play a couple of sessions but was kicked out of his group and now seeks revenge against the entire pass-time? Did he believe that if he played, he would actually be able to cast "real" spells, was disappointed to find out that this is not true and now seeks to destroy the game. Or is he just an insane man who cannot tell the difference between a game and reality? I have no idea.
Regardless, if you would like to read more about Jack Chick’s insanity, I have also written about Chick’s views on music. Also, be sure to check out the parody tract "Darque Dungeon". It is a parody of "Dark Dungeons", has references to music and role-playing, and is one of my favorite imitation tracts.