Once upon a time, teenagers were well-behaved models of decorum and restraint, content to spend their weekends tending to the lawn, bathing the elderly, and roasting weenies on the beach. But for some reason, in the 1950s, these idyllic American family values were kicked squarely in the nuts. Teenagers began acting crazy! Oh, at first it was just the occasional leather jacket or insolent cry of “Aaaaaay.” But before too long, those damn kids were smoking, drinking, dancing, and groping each other in parking lots. Then drugs were invented in the 1960s, and things just got worse!
Parents were desperate to find a cause for this widespread naughtiness, so they consulted with prominent psychologists, members of clergy, and U.S. Senators to get to the root of the problem. Oddly enough, “bad parenting” was never floated as a possible reason. Instead, the experts blamed the whole thing on rock and roll music, comic books, rock and roll music, drag races, marijuana, rock and roll music, violent Bugs Bunny cartoons, video games, and backwards messages hidden in rock and roll music. By the early 1980s, the kids weren’t behaving any better and the experts were running out of scapegoats, so they settled on Dungeons & Dragons.
Suddenly, there was a glut of books on the market about how Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D) markets black magic and Satanism to children, or how it drives them crazy and causes them to chase their friends through the sewers and hack them to pieces. And Jack Chick, with his wrinkled, liver-spotted elbow on the pulse of American culture, lost no time in rushing out his own pamphlet on the evils of D&D. The result was perhaps the most famous Chick tract to ever see daylight, Dark Dungeons.
Dark Dungeons is a cautionary tale about a cabal of Satanists who recruit members into their cult through role playing games, because apparently Hell is running a bit low on pasty nerds. When we open, the astonishingly hot Dungeon Master, Ms. Frost, is running a bunch of kids through a game of Dark Dungeons, which is apparently a lot like D&D, except it’s played on bathroom tile.
Here we meet Debbie, the Cindy Bradyesque protagonist who will soon be sucked into the chaotic abyss of witchcraft through the mystic power of funny-shaped dice. Sadly, Debbie’s friend Marcie doesn’t make the hellish cut, and she wigs out after her character in the game is killed. However, Ms. Frost thinks that Debbie has the right stuff and informs her that she has been selected to join her coven.
(One question that has plagued obsessive nerd types since this pamphlet debuted is What kind of character is Debbie playing? Early on, Ms. Frost refers to Debbie’s character as “Wizard.” However, she later informs Debbie that her “cleric has been raised to 8th level.” So some people postulate that maybe she’s playing a cleric named Wizard. But later on, the character’s name is revealed as Elfstar, which leads me to the shocking and somewhat scandalous conclusion that Mr. Chick has never actually played D&D.)
And so, thanks to the “intense occult training” of D&D, Debbie is initiated into the Temple of Diana. And judging from the decor of their inner sanctum, they’re obviously fans of progressive Canadian rock group Rush.
Debbie is absolutely thrilled to be a part of this dark and wicked collective, and loses no time unleashing the powers of darkness on her father. Her first spell? She casts “mind bondage” on the old man and makes him buy her more D&D books! Dungeons & Dragons may be a wicked gateway to the occult, but you have to admit that’s a pretty savvy business model.
Debbie and Ms. Frost begin spending more and more time together playing D&D and… well, not much else. No orgies. No rituals. No sacrifices. No black mass. Just an attractive older woman (who will be played by Lucy Lawless in my big screen adaptation of this tract) and an annoying little Bad Seed spending their evenings together, playing games. It’s starting to seem less like a wicked coven and more like some kind of Satanic Big Sister outreach.
But things take a sinister turn when Debbie goes to visit her friend Marcie, who has been moping around ever since her character was killed at the beginning of the story. And Debbie’s been so busy being EEEEVIL and stuff that she just hasn’t had time for her friend. So Debbie finally makes the trip over to Marcie’s house, goes up to her room, and makes the most hilariously grisly discovery ever!
Yes, unable to cope with the loss of her D&D character, poor Marcie has taken her own life. Debbie is shaken by this discovery and turns to Ms. Frost for guidance. Ms. Frost, who apparently isn’t your typical, cuddly Satanic high priestess, tells Debbie to get her priorities straight and quit whining about her pathetic loser friend. She suggests that Debbie let her character Elfstar take control, but somehow Debbie finds the inner strength to resist.
All looks lost for poor Debbie, until her friend Mike shows up and invites her to hear a lecture from a former witch who gave up all that silly, superstitious mumbo jumbo and decided to become a Christian instead. The ex-witch (a surprising cameo from TV’s Alex Trebek), delivers an impassioned speech about the virtues of book burning…
…and they do. In perhaps the most anticlimatic ending imaginable, Debbie comes to Jesus and attends a big D&D bonfire. And they all live happily ever after. I guess.
Since Chick couldn’t be bothered to wrap things up properly, I’m going to provide the final act. You’re welcome.
Mike is walking Debbie home after the bonfire when, suddenly, Ms. Frost appears before them. She shakes her fist at the heavens and screams, “Elfstar is mine! You cannot have her!”
Fortunately, Mike has the presence of mind to pray. Suddenly, Alex Trebek appears in a flash of golden light and says, “Get thee hence, Ms. Frost! I consign thee back to Hell!” Ms. Frost polymorphs into a Type I demon, but Alex Trebek pulls out his +5 Holy Avenger and uses it to cast Dispel Evil. Ms. Frost fails her saving throw and is consumed by Holy Fire. Alex Trebek casts Raise Dead on Marcie. As Debbie and Marcie share a tearful reunion, Alex Trebek nods knowingly, shapeshifts into a gold dragon, and flies off into the night.
Debbie marries Mike and has lots of children. Marcie hangs herself again in 2001 when her Everquest character gets killed. And God and the Bible and Jesus. The End.