The Moral Panic of the 1990s

In the early 90s the Satanic Panic reached Sweden. It was not just a fear of satanism and occult practices it was a general panic about RPGs and that they caused a moral degeneration of the youth. Not only that, it made them dangerous.

Some of the newspaper articles from that time. Many of them of course mentioning KULT. 

When KULT was released in 1991 it was like if Antichrist himself had been summoned into the middle of the comfortable Swedish society. Conservative and religious groups pulled out every argument they had to stop this age of degeneration.

KULT and Role Playing Games in general were said inspire demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic type rituals, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and much, much more.

A book was published called The Army of the Abandoned (De Övergivnas Arme) where two “experts” on the subject gave their view on the dangers of Role Playing Games. Their biggest warning was not only was the youth culture morally dangerous, there was also a big risk that it turned into a violent, militant, political movement. The evidence for this was the many rules regarding combat and weaponry in the books. It could only mean that they were secretly training for a military coup.

Yes you read it right. A whole army of role players would look at the weapon charts in Kult, read the rules for armed combat and explosives and then forge plans to take control over Sweden. Yeah… right. Let’s be honest. The ones I played with at least was not the most physical types back then.


The Army of the Abandoned (De Övergivnas Arme) a book about RPGs written without any facts or rhyme or reason explaining how dangerous RPGs were to society. 

Livets Ord, literally Word of Life, a christian megachurch in Uppsala (it may be viewed as a Swedish expression similar to Pentecostal elements in American Christianity), did see it as their mission to rid Sweden of RPGs and save the youth and get some nice PR at the same time since they were newly founded. They claimed that role playing games leads to satanism, sacrificial rites and suicide. A clear warning sign of this was if your teenage child was wearing dark clothes, had an interest in metal music, did not have an interest in Christianity, behaved disrespectful towards the parents, or just felt that he or she could not understand them.

Again, this sounds like pretty much every friend I had at that time. Yes, we were goth and we were angsty.

Ulf Ekman

Ulf Ekman, founder of The Word of Life (Livets Ord) and crusader against Role Playing Games and everything not strict christian. 

If that was not enough there was a murder in the small town of Bjuv in 1994 that was immediately tied to KULT by the media. The one that was murdered had played KULT with the two brothers that murdered him and it became a big scandal. The police that investigated the whole thing did not find any evidence that KULT had anything to do with the murder. But that was of course ignored. If you understand Swedish there is a very good radio documentary that goes into the detail of the whole affair of the Bjuv killing.


Headlines in the aftermath of the Bjuv Killing.

Everything just piled up and soon stores that sold the games where forced to remove all role playing games. You could only get them via mail order or from special gaming stores that only existed in the big cities. Also, the adults that read the newspapers were worried and many young people had the games removed from them and they had to play them in secret.

Kult became legendary in all this. It was so dark, so despised and so hated that it was this really special atmosphere to play the game. It felt adult, serious and almost forbidden. All the collective disgust and worry from the adult world had infused the game with a strange sort of power.

Of course, on a deeper level that we did not understand back then, the gnostic and occult nature of KULT was a thorn in the side of Christianity. Through history they have tried to wipe out everyone that tried to gain insight in those religious teachings. Now it appeared again like a ghost from the past but not as a religious sect but as a game aimed at rebellious and searching teens. Perhaps this was their worry. That the old gnostic teachings would flare up again?

In hindsight, the critics were of course wrong. A  militant coup orchestrated by role players never took place. They did not became violent outcasts in society. In fact, many role players became extremely creative and now have influential positions in the society with normal family lives.

So, it was a trial by fire where sadly the RPGs lost the battle but they won the War and is now stronger than ever.

KULT Rollspelet

The three books that made up the first edition of KULT. The Lie, The Madness, The Truth. If you ever doubt that words have power. Here you have the evidence that a Role Playing Game can influence a large part of a society to think that the words written within will destroy a whole generation and society as we know it.  

3 thoughts on “The Moral Panic of the 1990s

  1. Tack för en fin post, vilka intressanta år det där var. Vore kul och höra vad Didi har säga idag, om hon kan skratta åt det som vi kan.


  2. Haha, that guy on the Övergivnas Arme cover would’ve scared me, too, back in them days! 😀

    In all seriousness though, I think they were right to be afraid.
    Fortunately for us, however, they failed to stomp down on our hobby hard enough, or fast enough, or whatever else it might have taken to keep it down. Then again, by the time of these moral panics, it was arguably even already too late for them to (effectively) do anything about it anyways.

    [b]Roleplaying does foster independent thought, broadens horizons, teaches empathy, and opens the mind to alternate viewpoints, lifestyles, and beliefs.[/b]

    What oppressive, conservative organization, whose power is based on ignorance, intolerance, and fear, [i]wouldn’t[/i] have a reason to be afraid of such a “hobby”?

    Especially as you can’t even effectively buy it out, as it’s very hard to monetize.
    (At least the parts of it that I focussed on in the above description are. Other aspects – like the power fantasies, escapism, and other elements – are easier to capitalize on… and can be watered down, disney-fied, made harmless… see tons and tons of (mainstream) movies and videogames for case-studies of how that is done)

    I say, let them rightfully tremble in fear – if not of the Army of the Abandoned, so much as of the ever-growing Siblinghood of Liberated Minds! 🙂


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