James Dallas Egbert - The Dungeonmaster nonsense

Last Updated 22 March 2003.

For all those who ever wondered about James Dallas Egbert, the person whose story inspired the atrocious "Mazes and Monsters" film, here is the real story.

Date: Wed, 15 Jan 97 04:51:33 EST
From: GWGRUNT@VM.SC.EDU (Geoff Wingard)
Newsgroups: rec.games.frp.dnd,rec.games.frp.gurps,rec.games.frp.live-action,rec.games.frp.misc,rec.games.frp.super-heroes,rec.games.mecha,rec.games.rpg
Subject: Re: RPG's Under Attack by the Media, yet again

In article <32DC2930.35AB@ECSU.CAMPUS.MCI.NET> "Robert E. O'Neil" <RONIEL@ECSU.CAMPUS.MCI.NET> writes:

<BIG SNIP of previous posts>

>I remember the time that a guy at some college in the Midwest
>disappeared for two or three days. He played a lot of D&D
>and the press blew this way out of proportion. THey had the
>police checking in the sewers, the service tunnels under the
>campus, in the woods; they questioned his fellow players, accused
>them of taking the game too seriously and murdering him, ad nauseum.
>He reappeared the next school day -- he'd been shacked up with a girl
>and they'd been too busy to watch the news! ;->

Well, for those who don't know, it was the fall of 1979, Michigan State Univ. in East Lansing, MI, and the guy was James Dallas Egbert, III. He lived in Case Hall. I should know, 'cause I lived next door in Wonders Hall. I knew Dallas, but we played in different gaming groups and I didn't know him very well. The basic info above is correct, in that the Department of Public Safety (affectionately know as the DiPS!) went after the gaming connection whole hog when they found D&D stuff in his room. He did not reappear "the next school day," however. He was gone like 6 weeks or so. Like Paul Harvey says, "and now for the rest of the story."

Dallas was a "kid genius" that was pushed too far too fast. He was also very young to be living on campus, about 15 or so. What caused him to "disappear" was a complex weave of psychological and emotional problems, compounded by some very poor choices. He was grappling with his sexual orientation, and had come to the conclusion he was gay. He was under tremendous pressure from his family to fulfil their dreams of a straight-A super genius. Anything less than perfection was failure. And of course if he wasn't "straight" they would have considered that a failure, so he couldn't tell them. He was pretty much on his own in an adult world, without the emotional maturity to deal with the issues he was facing.

Dallas tried to escape the stress in the gaming, but it only delayed the melt-down that was coming. He had several gay relationships, but when people found out he was a minor, they wisely started to leave him alone. But this increased his isolation, and he became depressed and attempted to commit suicide. He failed. Seeking aid and comfort, he went to the people he knew in the gay community. By the time he reached someone, the police were starting the man-hunt to try to track James down.

Here's were the poor choices started to really compound the mess. Seeing the kind of hulabaloo that the disappearance was causing, and knowing what kind of vilification/crucifixtion of the gays in Lansing that would occur if word of Dallas' association with them would cause, the people he was with chose to hide Dallas instead of immediately turning him over to the authorities that were looking for him. Now, he was not being kidnapped, because he did NOT want to return to MSU. The adult gays were merely abetting Egbert's decision to run away from his problems, and they were covering up their involvement in a self-preservation mode.

Egbert was shuttled about quite a bit, but he was finally tracked down in Texas or Louisiana by a very persistent private investigator over the course of many weeks. By that time Egbert was tired of running, and the gays were tired of hiding him. If you want to know more, I recommend the non-fiction book, "The Dungeonmaster" that was written by the PI who finally found Egbert. Having been there at the time and knowing Dallas gave me a very interesting perspective on all the D&D angle rot. The game had NOTHING to do with his disappearance at all. But because of the notoriety it got in the press, the book got titled "The Dungeonmaster". Sheesh.

Sorry, but this media crap just hit a hot button and I wanted to set THAT particular record straight. I've been a gamer since '77 (Damn! I'm gettin' OLD! I remember when "Chainmail" transformed into the three digest size book boxed set of "Dungeons & Dragons" [Still have 'em, and they are NOT for sale!]) and I've seen damn near everything in the hobby as it has grown and grown up. If any o' you youngsters want to hear about the "old days" ... ;-)

Still Crazy After All These Years!

 +   "When the going gets WEIRD, the WEIRD get going!" - FIAWOL!   +
 +   Geoff Wingard   gwgrunt@vm.sc.edu    GWingard@sc.edu   +
 +                                   +
 +        B E E R                        +
 +       P I Z Z A                      +
 +     M I L K S H A K E S   The REAL Nutrition Pyramid!    +
 +    F R E N C H - F R I E S                    +
 +    C H E E S E B U R G E R S                   +


Another (yet another!) copyright discussion arose on the Traveller Mailing List in early 2003. Now, although I had been hosting the above message since May 2000, this reminded me to try and track down Geoff Wingard (a.k.a. "Grunt") for permission. I found that for the past eight years he has been one of the staff at Dragon*Con. This year (2003), he is the "Director of Autographs", an ominous-sounding title if I ever heard one. In addition, he helps run StarZone (a 14-year-old SF fan club in Columbia, South Carolina).

Here is Geoff's reply:

From:"Geoff Wingard" <sgt_geoff@hotmail.com>
Sent: Thu 20/03/2003 15:09
To: David Jaques-Watson <work address suppressed>
Subject: Re: The Dungeonmaster

Good evening David,

That is indeed my message, and I'm honored you felt it worthy of inclusion on your web site. You have my permission to keep it up on the site, I just ask that you update it by including my current e-mail address, so if anyone wants to get in touch they can.

Take care and thanks for tracking me down to ask!

- Geoff

STILL crazy after all these years.

Thank you, Geoff!

Return to Top of Page