Castles and Cauldrons

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This article is about the fictional role-playing game. For the two-part episode, see Castles and Cauldrons, Part 1.

Castles & Cauldrons is a "fantasy role-playing game".

Overview

Castles & Cauldrons (C&C) is a "role-playing game" similar to the real-life game Dungeons & Dragons. While C&C does differ from Dungeons & Dragons is several ways, including vows of secrecy, it is a direct parallel to the real game. Both games are dangerous, bringing the player into contact with demonic, occultic elements.

Len Barclay

C&C was played by Len Barclay and Jimmy Barclay when Len visited him. Len played the game seriously, inviting Jimmy to play with him multiple times. The rules of the game dictated that it be treated as reality, and Len and Jimmy did this, going as far as to steal Donna Barclay's doll and cut themselves to summon a demon.

John Whittaker, who had been experiencing dizzy spells, explained to Connie Kendall that he believed it was connected to the game. Whit explained the dangers of the game to Connie, warning her about the dangerous spiritual effects of it. He later discovered that Len and Jimmy were entrenched in the game. After talking with Len's uncle George, Whit told Jimmy that Len had been in unhealthy relationships at home and was going to be meeting with a pastor for counseling.

John Whittaker made this comment about the game:

Some of the role-playing games may be silly and harmless, but a few of them are more than that. They start off innocent enough, then with time they turn into something dangerous. …They begin to consume the player's life.

John Whittaker, #123: “Castles and Cauldrons, Part 2”

This emphasized that Adventures in Odyssey was not condemning role-playing games in general, but particularly ones that condoned "Satan worship," like Castles & Cauldrons and Dungeons & Dragons.

Elements

Len's copy of Castles & Cauldrons came with the following items in a bag:

  • Castles & Cauldrons: A Role-Playing Fantasy Game: A book containing the rules to the game.
    • Included the details of how to defeat enemies in the game, and a rule about not telling adults about the details of the game.
  • Plastic props and costumes, including "swords and belts and... other things".
    • In Len's copy, these "other things" included a "Board of Talisman", which could supposedly predict the future.
      • The board was in a ritual involving Donna Barclay's doll to summon one of the game's characters. This is a parallel to a real-life demonic action.

Gameplay

Castles & Cauldrons began with Len assigning Jimmy a character to be. In this case, Len was called "Luther the Magician" and Jimmy was named "Jon-Del the Apprentice." Following the rules in the book, Len and Jimmy played — as far as anyone else knew — by swinging plastic swords in the forest behind the Barclays' house. The rest was a matter of "believing" in the action, to the point where the boys could see, hear, and feel the world of Castles & Cauldrons. Len repeatedly stressed that in order to play properly, players had to "become" the characters in the fantasy world, as if the events and surroundings were actually real things. This practice extended to acting out "real" spells and rituals, with supposed promises of real powers, and generally blurring the lines between the game and real life.

The events in Castles & Cauldrons relied on the players' imaginations and role-playing ability. Len, as the leader, exerted a large amount of control over Jimmy and the rest of the game, including making judgments about what "Jon-Del" would do. However, Len expressed such frustration when Jimmy made mistakes, and landed their characters in trouble, that some outcomes seemed to be beyond his power.

While talking to Connie Kendall, Whit described a "deeper commitment" by the players to the game, where the player would become the character he was playing and actually attempt to perform the magic involved in the game. Len acted this way while playing the game, reminding Jimmy that they weren't Len and Jimmy anymore; they were "Luther" and "Jon-Del."

Characters

Castles & Cauldrons had several dangerous (albeit imaginary) sorts of characters Len described. All these characters had some negative or demonic connotation.

  • The Black Monks of Benthrid: Vicious, thieving barbarians from the Woods of Aire. Len called them "Giants in black robes and veiled faces! Low, thick, gravelly voices that vibrate your inner being!" The Monks were "vanquished" by Len and Jimmy, sealed into "the Pit of Despair" by a victory incantation.
  • The Wizards of Kith: A group of wizards that required magic to defeat. They placed Len and Jimmy under a "spell," which required a ritual to break.
  • The Warriors of Enneldorth: A group of warriors who, while powerful, could not enter the "sacred ground" of Len and Jimmy's tent.
  • Shalman: A demon, described by Len as "the one who comes to help the game-players" and the one who "helps keep Castles & Cauldrons alive". Len tried to summon Shalman (with Jimmy as an unwilling participant in the ritual) in order to break the spell the two were apparently under. The ritual, involving elements such as Donna Barclay's doll, a "Board of Talisman," and a requirement of blood (all references to real-life Satanic elements), was interrupted by Whit before the demon could appear.

Popularity

Castles & Cauldrons was not itself a popular game. Only a small description of how others played the game was given.

  • According to Len, "back home", people who tried to stop games of Castles & Cauldrons were referred to as "Interferers". He claimed that one Interferer was "[driven] off" by the magic of the "Warriors of Warhaven", but dodged Jimmy's questions as to the particulars.
  • Len also claimed that the game was a gateway to magic and special abilities, including seeing through the eyes of birds, telekinesis, and "visions". Len repeatedly claimed that he had seen "amazing things" that he could not explain otherwise. When Jimmy pressed him for details, he became much more vague or insisted that Jimmy wasn't "ready" yet.
  • While talking to Whit about role-playing games in general, Connie mentioned that some of her friends played them and called each other by strange names such as "Hildrath" and "Beanspread" (saying the names with a chuckle) even outside of the game.

Known Players

  • Len Barclay, who played as "Luther the Magician", and insisted on being addressed as such.
  • "Medwin the Miraculous", another player who played with Len.
  • Len also mentioned "two or three princesses."
  • Jimmy Barclay, who briefly played as "Jon-Del the Apprentice", as was dictated by his cousin. However, after his experience with Len, and his exposure to the spiritual elements, he never wanted to set eyes on it again.