Let’s Ponder Role Playing Games And The New Riverdale Secret

by Erik Amaya


In the world of Riverdale, familiar brand names are curiously avoided and replaced with similar sounding names. This week, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) made reference to a “TGI Thursdays,” for example. But more relevant to the season is the show’s take on Dungeons & Dragons; a seemingly weird mix of RPG, card game, geo-caching and LARPing known as Griffins & Gargoyles. And it seems the creators of Riverdale are taking their inspiration from Mazes & Monsters, an early 1980s movie featuring Tom Hanks about the D&D scare at the time.
More on that as it becomes relevant to Riverdale.
In the meantime, though, the emerging lore around G&G will be key to this year’s mystery, the identity of the Gargoyle King. Who ever this person — who is definitely not Edgar Evernever — might be, they are playing at something truly dangerous. And if the scene in Hermione Lodge’s (Marisol Nichols) office is to be believed, all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again. Or, at least, the show is setting up the flashback episode set to air in two weeks. But it also suggests at least some of the Riverdale parents were intrigued by the game back in the 80s, when it was presumably new and tied tied to Satanic rituals.
Which means it might be time to talk about the D&D panic in the early 1980s. When then pen-and-paper role playing game was still new, it became a magnet for controversy as parents began to blame the game — with its references to magic and demons — for a string of suicides. Religious groups seized on the notion immediately and created a panic in certain circles. While investigating the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III in 1979, private investigator William Dear suggested Egbert was playing a live action D&D campaign which went to far. The media took his supposition as fact. When Dear found Egbert, a 16-year-old boy attending Michigan State University, the young man admitted he disappeared into the campus steam tunnels to kill himself. Dear kept this secret until 1984, four years after Egbert eventually shot himself. In the meantime, novelist Rona Jaffe wrote Mazes & Monsters with the Egbert case in mind. Both it and its 1982 film adaption added fuel to the fire. Eventually, Dungeons & Dragons became a more respectable pastime and is now published by a major games company. It’s also largely freed itself of the stigmas it once had.
But in Riverdale, those stigmas appear to be alive and well as Dilton Doiley (Major Curda) posthumously becomes its representative and all of the imagery tied to it leads to, as new corner Dr. Curdle Jr. put, “the true heart of darkness.” To say nothing of the Gargoyle King Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) encountered in the woods. Also, by putting the game in the hands of outcasts like Dilton and Ethel Muggs (Shannon Purser), the show recalls a time when D&D was underground and its players subject to ridicule. As hard as it might be to believe, there was a time when Vin Diesel would never have admitted to playing the game for fear of being shamed.
And it seems that shame is also an element of Riverdale‘s treatment of role playing games.
Meanwhile, there’s also the seizure issue to consider. When Betty and Jug confronted Ethel about finding the missing scout in Dilton’s bunker, she collapsed in a similar manner to Betty a few nights before. Although, it should be mentioned Ethel raising her arm was far more creepy. The presence of Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison) in the room — who previously mentioned Betty’s seizure — was a not-too-subtle hint that The Farm may be related to the seizures, Dilton’s use of G&G and his apparent suicide.
Further cementing the connections is Hermione’s mention of Dilton’s blue lips, a detail not lost on people like Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) and Tom Keller (Martin Cummins).
Back with the teenagers, it’s somewhat disappointing to see Cheryl revert to the Head Bitch In Charge. The notable lack of Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) may have something to do with it. Also, it’s clear from the jump that Kevin (Casey Cott) should just stop fooling around with Moose (Cody Kearsley). He’s never going to be able to come out to his father and the whole thing is just a set-up for tragedy.
Oh, also, Archie (KJ Apa) did some stuff, but this plotline is the least interesting of the lot. That’s why they tried to spruce things up by having the River Vixens show up at the prison yard.
So let’s ponder if Archie’s storyline will ever get interesting as we watch a preview of next week’s show. Betty begins her initiation into The Farm as Jug begins his first G&G session. Archie ends up in the ring and Alice (Madchen Amick) and F.P. (Skeet Ulrich) end up in bed. Also, Veronica (Camila Mendes) opens her speakeasy under Pop’s, but it seems opening night will not go smoothly.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays on The CW.

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