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May 21 2014

Harken back to the satanic panics of yesteryear

Ah, the 1980s. When every preschool was a hotbed of satan worshipping child abusers, police departments had ‘experts’ on ritual murder, daytime talk TV would run very special episodes on cultic cannibal orgies, and Jack Chick published Dark Dungeons. You’ve read it, right? The story about Dungeons & Dragons giving you actual magical powers that would damn you to hell? Go ahead, take a minute to read it if you haven’t already.

Or don’t. Just wait until August, fork over $5, and you’ll be able to watch the movie of Dark Dungeons, no reading required. And this version is even more over the top than the Chick tract.

Watch to the end for the surprise guest appearance of an important character beloved by yours truly.

In case you’re wondering if this is a sarcastic send-up of the original tract, read the FAQ.

Is Dark Dungeons the Movie a satire?

NO! Satire is “a humorously exaggerated imitation.” The most classic example is Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”, in which he mocks the English aristocracy’s indifference to the rural Irish poor by suggesting they eat Irish babies. This was an exaggeration as the English did not actually hate the Irish enough to eat their babies. By contrast, Dark Dungeons the comic shows that RPGs can lead to suicide, joining a witches coven, and gaining real life magical powers and Dark Dungeons the movie shows exactly those same things as well. The film adaptation does not exaggerate or alter those claims. It is NOT a satire.

Brilliant. It’s true — you cannot possibly make a satire of “Dark Dungeons”.

60 comments

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  1. 1
    carlie

    I really like the space it’s in – not a parody, not a satire, but an earnest “No, really, if those ridiculous claims you’re making are true, this is what it would look like”. It completely skewers the Chick track it’s based on, but with a smile on its face and a clean conscience in its heart. And I can’t help but giggle uproariously over the idea that a frat house would be having a drunken raucous LARP.

  2. 2
    twas brillig (stevem)

    from http://darkdungeonsthemovie.com/ :

    I heard that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien influenced the first RPGs. Are they OK?

    Dark Dungeons the movie has researched the work of those noted and possibly pagan authors, as their works can both be found in occult bookstores and may be part of the witchcraft bible;

    C.S.Lewis a pagan??? WTF ?!?!?!

    This sounds like a FUN movie.

    How many zombies are there in Dark Dungeons the Movie?

    As we are trying to staying as true to the comic as adaptation will allow, Dark Dungeons the movie takes place in a monozombistic world.

    I am so sick of zombies being ubiquitous in horror/scifi movies. Can’t wait to see a movie azombieistic, but wait, WTH is “monozombistic”? A single zombie, one of the RPGers gets zombiefied? More Fun!

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    “monozombistic” – there is only one Jesus. Your lord, savior, and eater of braiiiiiinnnnsss.

    I recall there was a TV movie back in those days, where some kids went over the top with D&D, running around sewers or something, somewhat delusional and maybe slightly murderous. It was a hoot.

  4. 4
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    I have a feeling monozombistic is going to get a lot of miles.

  5. 5
    PZ Myers

    They still do. It’s called LARPing.

  6. 6
    eveedream

    Wait, so all I have to do to get “real life magical powers” is play D&D? Sign me up! I’ve been looking for a good Friday night activity anyway. Are there any rules about character types and the corresponding power you get? I’d prefer not to end up like Moist from “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”.

  7. 7
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    That’s brilliant! When it comes to failed predictions, nothing is better than satire – except a deadly serious, faithful-to-the-original version, that is. =^_^=

    When are they going to make a faithful version of all the Y2K, 2011 and 2012 disaster predictions?

    RPGs are now everywhere – I’ve looked on as kids, teens and adults play them together in shops! – and not only as board games, but on hand-held games consoles, on PC, solo and over the internet… but I have to say that, in my experience, even the most hardcore players don’t LARP them, even if they are keen LARPers elsewhere in their lives.

  8. 8
    davidnangle

    Hey, I can handle losing my immortal soul. I can handle being murdered for playing an RPG. I can handle evil, non-six-sided dice that spill blood. I can even grin and bear everyone chanting “RPG, RPG…”

    But the vaguely English accents people have to adopt… No. Just no. I’ll stick with sims, FPS’s and RTS’s.

    (Strange that religious people have a problem with chanting, by the way.)

  9. 9
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @PZ:

    It’s most definitely a skewering of Chick. It’s being produced with assistance from Zombie Orpheus Entertainment.

    @carlie:

    That’s the thing I noticed first. “Wait a minute, there are entirely too many drunk frat boys to be that excited over Dungeons and Dragons.”

  10. 10
    Reginald Selkirk

    Rocket Propelled Grenades _are_ evil.

  11. 11
    nich

    twas brillig@2:

    C.S.Lewis a pagan??? WTF ?!?!?!

    Yes. Yes he is. (Dan Savage Memorial Unnecessary Trigger Warning!!!™ for those who value their retinas…)

  12. 12
    nich

    Hmmm…FTB ate my first link: http://www.balaams-ass.com/journal/homemake/cslewis.htm

  13. 13
    Jeremy Shaffer

    F at 3- You might be thinking of the movie Mazes and Monsters, which stars a then unknown Tom Hanks.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084314/?ref_=nv_sr_1

  14. 14
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I must be doing RPGs wrong
    First of all we never freaked out like those kids. It is more like settling quietly around a table laden with unhealthy food
    Secondly I’ve played athletic warrior women most of the time, still I’m not really good at throwing knoves in this world
    Thirdly I don’t know where my dice are

  15. 15
    Ray Ingles

    Oh, please. RPGs have nothing on hair metal!

  16. 16
    azhael

    Back when i was eyebrows deep in the world of RPGs, there is nothing i would have liked more than to obtain real powers (i fantasized about it…A LOT). I still wasn’t delusional enough to think it was anything but enjoyable fiction.
    I had to read their entire bloody website before i could decide if this people were laughing at the original comic or not…i’ve settled on “pointing accompanied by full belly laughter”. This could be really fun to watch.

  17. 17
    Alex

    @Ray Ingles

    Oh, please. RPGs have nothing on hair metal!

    which, like so many things, is totally a ripoff of a Donald Duck comic

  18. 18
    Peter Hopkins

    I backed this on Kickstarter ypnks ago, it looks absolutely brilliant. Reminds me of the old adage that frequently the best way to convince people the Bible is a book of fables that have no place in the modern world is to actually read bits of it to them.

    And, if you read the original tract, you’ll note that only one Zombie made an appearance… Not much of a threat for an 8th Level Cleric, but there you go.

  19. 19
    raven

    How did they get the movie rights to a Jack Chick tract? Anyone know?

    I assume they are copyrighted. Chick is a serious religious fanatic and also makes a nice income from his Chick tracts.

  20. 20
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith

    Ug. The trailer made me cringe. Ive been playing RPGs since 83. Ive played at Cons on 3 different continents. Ive LARPed since 92. Among others, ive been a ranger, a wizard, an assasin, a 16th century Crossbowman, a war pixie and (my favourite) a Malkavian Vampire. I even co-DMed a campaign that ran 24hrs a day for 3 weeks on a Navy ship during Desert Storm. Im currently introducing my nephew to classic D&D and am building a custom ruleset/world for my daughter and niece to play with us that is more inclusive and less about combat.

    I do not recognize whatever the hell that bunch of people are doing. I understand they are working from that horrible little bit of propaganda, but couldnt they at least have portryed the gamers as , i dont know, maybe gamers.

    And while theyre at it, they can get off my lawn.
    /Grumpy old fart

  21. 21
    busterggi

    Its all true, I started playing D&Dback in ’78 and have committed suicide eight times since as well as turning fifteen people into newts – and they didn’t get better.

  22. 22
    bcmystery

    All this talk of D&D made me want to fondle my dice.

    Wait. What?

  23. 23
    Artor

    Jeez, can anyone imagine running a game with more than 6 or 8 players? Trying to get anything done with an entire frat involved would take forever.
    “Great guys, we almost got through one round of combat tonight. Let’s meet tomorrow morning and try to finish before midnight. Who had 23rd initiative?”

  24. 24
    hexidecima

    Great to see TrueChristians doubling down on their lies It’s so good to see them showing again and again that even they don’t believe in their god or bible.

    What I want to know is where my magical spells are? I’ve been playing D&D for about 30 years now and surely I qualify for the “real” spells and my husband has been playing for even longer. I would really like a few magic missiles, fireballs and perhaps a lightning bolt or two during rush hour.

    I think I’ll invite these twits to GenCon where they can meet thousands of players and can see just how many of us can cast real spells. But I’m sure they’d refuse because seeing reality might put a crimp in their pathetic lies.

  25. 25
    hexidecima

    guess I took things a little too seriously. Still I do hope they go to GenCon.

  26. 26
    davidnangle

    twas brillig @ #2, “I am so sick of zombies being ubiquitous…”

    Zombies are just an excuse for guilt-free murder. I’m convinced the ubiquity is intentional, from some sources, at least. The kind of sources that can tell with a quick glance which people they want to kill.

  27. 27
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @hexidecima:

    The producers are merely doing a true-to-word retelling of the Chick Tract – in essence, skewering its ridiculousness. They’re all gamers if you look at their Web site (http://zombieorpheus.com/)

  28. 28
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith

    Jeez, can anyone imagine running a game with more than 6 or 8 players? Trying to get anything done with an entire frat involved would take forever.

    A tabletop dice-roller or deck based game? Eek! *shudder* … wait….hmm…. interesting. A table game a whole Con room could play? I gotta ponder on that one. That could be fun.

    LARPing with more players is better, though. 6-8 players would be kind of weak sauce, i think. Grand Poobah of mass LARPing

    What I want to know is where my magical spells are?

    And would “Protection from evil” be effective against Ken Ham or Ted Cruz? Cause, if so, that’s the one I want.

  29. 29
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @YOB:

    And would “Protection from evil” be effective against Ken Ham or Ted Cruz? Cause, if so, that’s the one I want.

    You need “protection from stupid.”

  30. 30
    Trebuchet

    Shoot, Reginald Selkirk beat me to the Rocket Propelled Grenades thing!

    Anybody recognize the preacher laying on hands? He looked familiar. Is that a clip of some real crackpot or just an actor?

  31. 31
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith

    You need “protection from stupid.”

    Oh, is that one of those new fangled D&D Next spells? Bummer, I haven’t played that one yet. I guess I’m doomed! DOOMED!

    Wait, nope, I’m Saved!*

    *rolled a natural 20.

  32. 32
    woozy

    How did they get the movie rights to a Jack Chick tract? Anyone know?

    I assume they are copyrighted. Chick is a serious religious fanatic and also makes a nice income from his Chick tracts.

    Rumor (i.e. youtube comments) has it that Chick would only sell rights if the movie were true to the tract message. The movie makers figured that wouldn’t hinder their purpose. Thus the “no, it’s not satire *nudge* *nudge* *wink* *wink*” disclaimers.

    Seems plausible to me.

  33. 33
    Pierce R. Butler

    Where in hell the United States can one see a first-release movie for just $5?

  34. 34
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @Pierce R Butler:

    If it’s like their other stuff, ZOE will have it up on their Web site

  35. 35
    David Marjanović

    Hmmm…FTB ate my first link:

    You forgot the http:// part, so FtB helpfully assumed the link was local. Unfortunately that’s standard.

    An impressive site, where every occurrence of the string -cia- (as in officially, financially, socially, appreciated…) is replaced by -blip (offibliplly…) and every occurrence of the string -war- is replaced by -piano covers (turning toward into topiano coversd and warm into piano coversm).

    It reminds me of a description of the Middle Ages in a very good history book for children: “People believed in God, but even more in the devil.”

  36. 36
    HolyPinkUnicorn

    This trailer plays like some kind of weird religious independent direct-to-DVD project. Except the production company is called Zombie Orpheus Entertainment and the site says this about it: “RPGs spread like a cancer over the last 30 years and Dark Dungeons the movie shall be like something that cures cancer.” I’m hoping there will be some cultural scolds who let the joke sail over their heads and watch it thinking it’s serious.

    As for Chick Tracts, they’ve made me a little disappointed in real life. I mean even the most extreme metal music or goriest horror movies involve way less satanism and paganism then what he’s imagining. And they frequently seem to be written to push people away from religion; the alternatives usually look more fun.

  37. 37
    Gregory Greenwood

    As is so often the case with fundies, no additional satire is required – just repeat their rants word for word (and with the closest approximation of a straight face you can manage given the subject material), and their own delusional beliefs will do a fine job of demonstrating just how far out of touch with reality they really are.

  38. 38
    po8crg

    The story behind this is quite good. A gamer won the lottery (about $10,000, nothing life-changing) and wrote to Jack Chick, saying he was a huge fan of Dark Dungeons, always wanted to make a movie of it, had won the lottery, and could he have the rights. Chick said, yes, but don’t parody it; play it straight…

    And there you go!

  39. 39
    areyouashoggoth

    Looks like I’ve got something else to add to my GenCon list this year. REMs? We don’t need no stinking REMs!

  40. 40
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    Oh AD&D 2e, how I have missed thee.

  41. 41
    U Frood

    They HAVE clarified that Jack Chick isn’t getting any money from the project, so you don’t have to worry about him benefiting (except for publicity)

    Still, while the concept is funny at first, I’m not really interested in seeing the execution.

  42. 42
    David Chapman

    12
    nich

    21 May 2014 at 7:57 am (UTC -5)

    Hmmm…FTB ate my first link

    35
    David Marjanović

    Hmmm…FTB ate my first link:

    You forgot the http:// part, so FtB helpfully assumed the link was local. Unfortunately that’s standard.

    An impressive site, where every occurrence of the string -cia- (as in officially, financially, socially, appreciated…) is replaced by -blip (offibliplly…) and every occurrence of the string -war- is replaced by -piano covers (turning toward into topiano coversd and warm into piano coversm).

    This weird glitch provides us with bizarre concepts such as the
    Second World Piano Cover! :)

    Don’t you see what’s happened! The website has evidently been hexed by Satan and his imps! Their insidious vandalism is clearly perfectly calculated to dissuade people from taking the

    C.S. Lewis: Tool of Satan!

    bombshell seriously. Diabolical cunning indeed!

    I always wondered why that bugger’s arguments for the truth of Jesus were so ludicrously silly…… Now it all makes sense! They were deliberately pathetic and unconvincing; to tempt us to disdain our Saviour; to lure souls into hell. Just like this poor thwarted website, now.

    What hope do we foolish, feeble mortals have in the maw of this superhuman intelligence?? :(

  43. 43
    David Chapman

    Speaking of links and glitches, here’s another gem from the C.S. Lewis — Spawn of Satan!! website:

    The Chronicles of Narnia are one of the most powerful tools of Satan that Lewis ever produced. Worst of all, these books are geared topiano coversd children. Please go the next page [ Available on CD ] to read about this indoctrinating tool of witchcraft.

    The following links [ to said page ] are active only on the CD which you may purchase.
    If you won’t spend $10 for this and 600 Mgb of material on the CD, don’t send mail whining please.

    I take back my previous cry of terror and despair. Satan is probably crapping himself with fear now he’s got this latter-day Van Helsing on his case!
    Hooray! World saved!! :)

  44. 44
    zmidponk

    YOB – Ye Olde Blacksmith is a Spocktopus cuddler #20:

    Ug. The trailer made me cringe. Ive been playing RPGs since 83. Ive played at Cons on 3 different continents. Ive LARPed since 92. Among others, ive been a ranger, a wizard, an assasin, a 16th century Crossbowman, a war pixie and (my favourite) a Malkavian Vampire. I even co-DMed a campaign that ran 24hrs a day for 3 weeks on a Navy ship during Desert Storm. Im currently introducing my nephew to classic D&D and am building a custom ruleset/world for my daughter and niece to play with us that is more inclusive and less about combat.

    I do not recognize whatever the hell that bunch of people are doing. I understand they are working from that horrible little bit of propaganda, but couldnt they at least have portryed the gamers as , i dont know, maybe gamers.

    I’m pretty sure that’s kinda the point – they are staying very strictly and completely true to the original tract, so are depicting the gamers as something anyone who actually is a gamer or RPGer or LARPer would look at in confused bewilderment and edge carefully away from.

    In other words, it’s completely taking the piss out of the tract in the best possible way – by being faithful to it and depicting it accurately.

  45. 45
    Inaji

    Good on them for sneaking Lovecraft in there!

  46. 46
    playonwords

    Dungeons and Dragons – pouff. The real danger lay in playing Bunnies and Burrows. Mind you Paranoia could seriously warp your mind

  47. 47
    Gregory in Seattle

    And yet, RPGs have have a lasting, positive effect on people.
    (There are two pages: click on Next at the bottom to see the second.)

  48. 48
    Akira MacKenzie

    I’ve really lost my sense of humor with this crap. My mother barred my from playing D&D as a child because she bought into her Bible-beating brother’s claim that the game was “Satanic.” It’s something I will not forgive them for–the idea that I needed to be protected from a game that I really wanted to pay really angered me. I’m making up for it now by being a OSR (Old School Renaissance) gamer. I’ve had a lot of fun the last few years playing the classic stuff.

    playonwords @ 46

    If the fundies thought D&D with its vanilla, generic fantasy world was “satanic,” I love to see how they react to my personal favorite: Empire of the Petal Throne. It has weird alien gods, human sacrifice, sacred prostitution. ployamory and no concept of “adultery,”social nudity, non-Caucasian humans, and what I’m sure would be the scariest of all to the average American Jesus-freak, IT WAS WRITTEN BY A MUSLIM-CONVERT!

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHH! ;)

  49. 49
    Scr... Archivist

    At 0:49, they use Tolkien’s Tengwar script to represent a magical spell. That’s pretty geeky.

    I love it.

  50. 50
    YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith

    Ok, so this has been bugging me all day, so I guess I’ll go ahead and vent.

    I had a similar experience as Akira described above. I got a LOT of crap for playing D&D. Even had a friend that was forced by his parents to stop hanging out with me over that tract. When I approached my nephew about playing with him, his grandmother threw that tract’s crap in my face AGAIN after all of these years. That tract was (and still is) taken seriously by a lot of people. You or I might point and laugh at it and all, but it was (and is) damaging. With the gaining popularity of “nerd culture”, gaming is seeing a major boost. This is a good thing. But, this movie, whatever the intentions of the makers, is going to be used against some kids somewhere sometime. Once it hits the fundie circuit, its going to be shown in church lock-ins all over the country.

    *
    *
    For the record: I think the makers are well within their rights to make this movie. I do not want to “shut them down” or anything of the sort. Free speech, etc. etc.

  51. 51
    Callinectes

    The threat of DnD is very real. I once played as a mantisfolk called T’Cha’Ka for over a year, and was hospitalised for twice that long as a team of brilliant and discrete doctors tried to reverse my Cronenbergian transformation.

  52. 52
    Psychotic Atheist

    …battles, maiming, killing?
    Yeah but it’s all in the imagination.

    That’s when I knew it was parody!

  53. 53
    Akira MacKenzie

    Callinectes @ 51

    Ah! Dark Suns player. Never had a chance to play that one.

  54. 54
    cthulhu

    Awww. My part was so dark you could barely see me :(

  55. 55
    Rich Woods
    And would “Protection from evil” be effective against Ken Ham or Ted Cruz? Cause, if so, that’s the one I want.

    You need “protection from stupid.”

    “Silence, 15′ Radius” would be a good start. Then “Protection From Missiles”, when the spittle starts to fly.

    Or just move straight to the “Flamestrike”.

  56. 56
    baroncognito

    Regarding “Monozombistic”

    http://www.fecundity.com/darkdung/darkdung.php?page=9

    “I’m fighting the zombie.” which implies there’s only one zombie to fight.

  57. 57
    Ichthyic

    And, if you read the original tract, you’ll note that only one Zombie made an appearance… Not much of a threat for an 8th Level Cleric, but there you go.

    no no. they left out part of the gospels.

    here, we see the REAL story, told by the man himself.

  58. 58
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I think religious people have very good reasons to fear RPGs and fantasy literature.
    Because in them, all the things exist that they claim exist in our actual world, too: gods, demons, (black) magic…
    And we see how different those world are from ours. My current RPG character is a very religious person*. How could she not be when she actually fought demons, when she actually saw priests performing miracles, when she actually had her prayers answered?
    So the “danger” in RPGs is that it might get kids thinking, that they might note the difference between a world with supernatural beings and ours.

    *It helps that there a goddess for pleasure and lust

  59. 59
    seranvali

    Giliell:

    That’s a very good point. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. If you posit a reality were the gods are immanent, you can talk to them, ask them for favours, have them teach you stuff and expect them to fish you out of whatever mess you fall into, the more people realize that the real world doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t save anyone.

    I started playing D&D in 1982 and I haven’t stopped since. I play, write, run cons and modules, dream up new ways of play, design worlds to play in from scratch. This stuff is serious fun and people can get lost in it, spend more time playing in a fantasy world and less time in the real world. That’s the only danger.

    When I started playing it was actually with a group of friends from church. Our minister was fine with it (he even played with us for a few weeks), it made our group far closer as friends and it meant that we were able to trust our minister because he trusted us.

    Eventually J and I left the church but it wasn’t because of the RPGing. It was because of our totally vile peer group. Even years later though we keep in contact with the members of the group and still consider our minister at the time to be a good friend.

  60. 60
    seranvali

    Artor said:

    “Jeez, can anyone imagine running a game with more than 6 or 8 players? Trying to get anything done with an entire frat involved would take forever.”

    In 1985 I helped run a freeform RPG for 250 players. We had a complicated plot, separate character sheets where the characters had skills and attitudes necessary to the plot, quick changes and adjustments on the fly as players did unexpected things, an entire long weekend playing all day and most of the evening…it was great fun but soooooo much work (anyone read any of Garth Nix’s books? He came up with the plot and was head GM). The groups started to shrink after that, today we’d rarely run anything with more than 25 players in three hour sessions.

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