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I've had many experiences where the very fact of roleplaying triggered some concerned comment from the "uninitiated," likely parents or neighbors. Some examples:

  • A friend of mine hosted a Vampires session in a small square in his neighborhood, during a very nice summer evening. They played by candlelight (citronella ones, since mosquitoes are a bane where I lived). Neighbors were concerned that a satanic ritual was in progress.
  • I've been asked by my parents what kind of game this "roleplaying game" is, and "are you sure is not some kind of strange thing?" When I explained it to them, they didn't understand exactly how it worked. Ironically, my parents when young were crucial players in the deployment of the historical restoration of my city's Palio, which can be rightfully defined "LARP on steroids."
  • A friend of mine (a young but highly skilled medical doctor who had already saved some lives) was stopped by a preacher: he replied that he was not interested, since his god was already Bahamut, describing him as a good dragon. Clearly a joke, but the preacher cowered away saying that it was an evil plot of the devil.
  • Finally, on the net you can find plenty of material about this argument.

Now, we mostly laugh at these things. Personally, the best answer I was able to use as a comeback was, "The fact that you played a lot of Monopoly in your youth didn't turn you into an evil corporate executive who bankrupts friends and sniffs coke with their money."

My question is: has this situation happen to you? What is the best answer to give as a simple comeback?

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The Monopoly argument is made of sheer genius. –  Tsojcanth Aug 27 '10 at 12:15
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8 Answers

I also always used Monopoly as an example; only I always asked them if they thought Monopoly could be blamed for making people participate in insider trading.

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I played Tetris when I was a kid, and now I'm a construction worker! WHERE IS MY LAWSUIT MATERIAL –  Logan MacRae Aug 27 '10 at 12:41
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Although a lot of people you encounter in casual conversation might not be interested, there are some good academic responses that were written back from the days of BADD (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons). I recommend a chapter from The Satanism Scare edited by Daniel Martin and Gary Alan Fine called "Satanic Cults, Satanic Play: Is 'Dungeons & Dragons' a Breeding Ground for the Devil?"

There are a number of other references I can get, including a paper I've written in my graduate work, if you are interested.

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In the early 80s, we played AD&D, Gamma World and other games at the local pizza parlor in our town. Some concerned citizens/religious whack-jobs/folks got wind that we were doing that and started dropping off Chick Tracts with us. It was the heyday of D&D fear and I had friends with parents who would hear some crazy untruths about D&D and take away (and even destroy!) all their game-books.

But these folks -- whom we dismissed at first, really wanted to save our heathen butts. So eventually, we engaged them in conversation. They eventually claimed that anything you do with your time that doesn't glorify Christ is an abomination. They didn't have a good answer about the value of picking your nose or putting on your shoes. But they were actually civil and well-mannered. We tried to get them to join us for a game -- to tell us how it was sinful. They watched a bit but would never play. They also stopped coming around.

I like to hope that maybe they learned something and changed their priorities.

I haven't really encountered anything like that since.

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It's never happened to me, thankfully. I would add the excellent Pulling Report from Mike Stackpole to the pile of things you can show people -- it's somewhat dated now but it did a lot to help our image back in the 90s.

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Something I like to do is find a role playing game with an incredibly friendly face on it that is good to go for a single session. Don't present it as a role playing game, present it as you would present any board game. Then after the game is over "HAHA! you just played a role playing game!" That will teach most people their lesson.

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I can't help but imagine that this would actually be almost impossible to pull off in reality. It would be too easy for a person biased against RPGs to reason that since you refused to show them the rules, you must be hiding all the really bad stuff. –  GMJoe Feb 22 '12 at 6:06
    
@GMJoe: So play an RPG that doesn't look like it when you show the rules. (Dread, Monkey, Microscope, Fiasco.) –  Tynam Jul 9 '12 at 9:49
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Best comeback: "I'm an adult who is gainfully employed, pays my bills and taxes, and doesn't break the law nor do I encourage immoral or illegal behavior in others. That I choose a hobby that is, for me, an enjoyable creative outlet is perfectly acceptable. Reasonable adults allow that other reasonable adults can engage in activities they find silly, stupid, or useless without those people ceasing to be reasonable adults. They even realize other reasonable adults might have the same opinions of their hobby and laugh it all off as part of the human comedy."

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Most of them go away once invited to sit and listen to it. The older generation generally knew what a "radioplay" was, so I could describe RPGs as improvisational radioplays with dice to reduce player control of outcomes and prevent the old Cops-n-Robbers "I shot you!" - "No, you missed me."

After age 18, if I had a player under 17, I'd insist that a parent give permission. Many asked to sit in. One joined in.

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There are two different concerns, right?

The first is "is this activity harmful to the participants or community?". This is easily addressed, ideally through engagement and discussion or through authoritative references. This concern, even perhaps predicated on misinformation, is based on caring for others, which is laudable. Facts will sway them, so give them facts, ideally through participation or observation.

The second is "does this conflict with my spiritual beliefs?". Just walk away from these people.

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