Friday, December 3, 2021

A strange Christmas gift in its day

Obvious picture of Satan
I've written many times over the years about how I was first introduced to the game Dungeons and Dragons in study hall my freshman year of high school.  In those early days, there was no particular stigma attached to it.  At least not in our rural community school.  As many jocks and football captains were playing it as nerds and geeks. It was just a popular fad game among many games. 

Nonetheless, there was also pushback against it almost as soon as I discovered it existed.  I remember the following year, my mom called me out of my room.   The 700 Club was on, and Pat Robertson had a guest on who was talking about the clear and obvious satanic inspiration behind this terrible game. Why just look at the cover of one of the books!  He spoke of how it warps kids' minds and leads them to suicide.  My mom asked if I had ever played this game.  She was happy to learn that I hadn't.  

So it was funny on Christmas that year when I unwrapped a hardbound book titled "The Monster Manual", courtesy of Mom  and Dad.  I chuckled then because I knew what it was.  I had a feeling my parents didn't.  They just saw the title, knew that I liked monster movies like most young guys my age, and picked it up for me at the old Walden Books.  

Not that I was unhappy with the gift.  I had seen the book before.  The other kids playing the game would bring that and other rule books with them to study hall.  The rule books were Greek to me.  Almost none of it made sense, and I couldn't get my mind around a game with no game board or playing pieces.  It simply didn't register. 

But the Monster Manual?  I would try to get them to lend it to me in study hall just so I could peruse the pages.  Never before had I seen something with that much art and that many entries.  It used to be that if you were interested in dragons, you'd have to consult three encyclopedias and five other sources to find perhaps a half dozen images or old wood carvings accompanying a few articles.  Vampires?  There was always Lugosi.  Lee was popular in those days.  Werewolves?  Mostly Chaney.  Though for aficionados we also could produce Reed.  For dinosaurs the world gave us Harryhausen. 

But so many pictures and entries about so many monsters of myth, legend, fiction and film all in one volume?  Never.  Most of the entries were of things I had never heard of before.  Wight? What's a wight?  I knew of dragons, but not so many.   I couldn't tell a golem from a grocery bagger.  But it was all there in a way I had never seen before.  Perhaps it was growing up in a small community with only a few thousand citizens and a library that could fit in most doctors' offices, but this was more info than I had ever had in one source about the subject.  

My sons often query me about that, given their love for all things sci-fi and fantasy.  How that stacked up compared to today.  I tell them there is no comparison.  Today, if I want to know anything, I Google it and then I am treated to endless thousands of CGI and digital images, not to mention hundreds of other, traditional pictures as well.  I can find a million articles on just about anything.  Everything can have a million different versions. Lugosi you say?  Lee?  How about Twilight?  Vampires as vermin scourge of humanity or beefcake hunks with ripped abs?   Why the options are endless.

I've heard people who are into the game say that the original book I received that Christmas was too sparse, too bland in its descriptions.  Too little information.  Perhaps it's because, even in those days, a full decade after the wheels came off the bus in the 1960s, we were still a relatively 'homogenous' society.  The entries I didn't know about I learned about, but the ones I knew?  They were familiar.  I didn't need a fifteen page write up to say what a vampire is or looks like, or a dragon for that matter.  That's because who ever wrote that book, and whoever else owned that book, and I shared a similar culture, heritage, and national ancestry.  It was enough to be vampire, and most would have a similar mental and cultural image. A fact that is no longer true. 

Why it isn't true is probably because of many reasons.  But I think it has to do with the fact that at some point in modern history we learned not only the United States, but Western Civilization as a whole, has no right to exist.  At some point, perhaps a court decision or some secret ballot, we were told that Western Culture could not exist, even while accommodating minority groups within its borders.  It simply can't exist. There can be no common values, no common culture, certainly no common religion, no common truths.  We had to tear down everything to accommodate everyone.  So said a movement that is no making it clear today that all must now conform to it, since it has no intention at all of accommodating anyone. 


  1. Well to be fair in my experience most dungeon masters ARE satan. ;) lol

    1. Heh. My boys would certainly agree with that assessment of me.


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