I remember about twelve years ago, when I first discovered Dungeons & Dragons – not playing it, just looking at the rulebooks at bookstores and enjoying the pretty pictures – my mother told me that she felt taking on roles in RPGs "left you open" to demonic possession. This weirded me out, because she’s a very liberal, anti-establishment lapsed Catholic, albeit with a mystical worldview. She based her assumption on a friend’s daughter who played Vampire and got involved in the then-popular goth subculture; this young woman had a history of mental illness, and if she ever acted out her problems through the game, those problems were there to begin with and just looking for any outlet. I suspect my mother had also heard some of those alarmist reports from the ’80s about RPers committing suicide.
For my part, I’ve rarely had an opportunity to actually play D&D or any other tabletop RPG, but my mere exposure to such games has had such an impact on me I barely know where to begin. Poring over various Monster Manuals and Fiend Folios piqued my interest in world mythology. Delving into the worlds of Planescape and its fractious Factions opened my mind to philosophy and new ways of thinking (I like the Athar, personally). My immersion in words and statistics improved my literacy and math skills. Wandering the lands of Ansalon, Faerûn, and the Flanaess broadened my own creative horizons.
Without D&D, my world would be a far poorer place. I’m forever indebted to the late Mssrs. Arneson and Gygax for their gift to the world.