“Okay. There are three goblins about 15 feet in front of you. Everybody, roll for initiative.”
This scenario is familiar to D&D players and fans of Stranger Things as well. “Dungeons and Dragons” is an incredibly immersive role-playing game created in 1972 by Gary Gygax, and is still widely played today. An estimated 13.7 million people play worldwide, and that number is still growing every day.
Although there are many rules and lingo to learn, D&D is really easy to get into. If you’re playing with people you know, D&D will almost always draw you in; all it takes is the tiniest bit of imagination. D&D is likely the lowest costing game with the highest qualitative value, second only to a deck of cards. Everywhere you go there are so many D&D groups and customs. Our high school is not an exception.
In D&D, there are two major roles. The Players, who create a character to play the game with, and the Dungeon Master, or DM, who uses dice to create a world for the players to act in. Together the players must use teamwork and strategy to defeat monsters and explore dungeons.
Many students who play the game say that D&D has actually helped them academically. The game requires quick mental math, writing skills, acting, and teamwork.
“My math skills have definitely improved. There are a lot of calculations you need to do when running the game. My writing skills have also improved,” said Eric Daniels, a senior who has been playing D&D since middle school.
Online shows such as Critical Role and The Adventure Zone have also helped increase the popularity of D&D around the world. Such shows include big name voice actors, like Matthew Mercer and Laura Bailey, from currently popular media like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and the latest Gears of War, which has helped the hobby become even more mainstream among the younger generations (Millennials and Generation Z).
Because of D&D’s new-found popularity, many assumptions about the type of people who play have been put away. For a long time D&D players were looked at as nerds playing in their mom’s basement, and although that stereotype is still floating around, more and more people are understanding that anybody and everybody can play and enjoy D&D.
“It [D&D] is great. D&D puts you outside of your comfort zone, but you make a lot of new friends,” said Daniels.
Junior Ricky Guariglia said, “I was scared to bring up D&D with people at first. What I found out though was that people you wouldn’t expect to like D&D are already familiar with it or have played it before.”
One of the main aspects of D&D other than rolling dice and slaying monsters is role playing. This might put people off of D&D, and it definitely has before, but that is part of the fun. As Daniels said, it puts you out of your comfort zone, but that is important. It allows you to experience new things that you might not have done before.
Everybody role plays differently. Some joke around and don’t take it seriously. Some don’t really role play, they just are themselves but play from their character’s perspective. Some role play as if they are their character, and some even role play with a voice to represent their character. This makes every D&D experience different and unique, and that’s part of the fun.
Playing D&D is an experience wholly unique and limited to D&D itself. You cannot hope to get the same experience from another game. D&D is D&D, and nothing else is. Even if you might be on the fence about it, it is so much fun. As mentioned earlier, there are so many groups who play Dungeons and Dragons and one of them is bound to make a great time for everyone. It is more than understandable if you never end up playing D&D, but that might make us a little sad. It is so much fun and we think that everyone should give it a try at least once.
D&D isn’t just restricted to the table either. If someone wants to, there are electronic alternatives which come in the form of video games. Of all of the D&D video games, Baldur’s Gate is the most similar to the experience that you would have playing real D&D. There are other D&D based games (Neverwinter Nights, Tales From Candlekeep, and more) but these are not quite as immersive or D&D, such as Baldur’s Gate.
While D&D is pretty undeniably popular between younger people, adults who had played D&D in the ‘70s when it originally came out had lost some accessibility to it. That is, until Stranger Things season one came out. The show began with scenes of playing D&D in the all of the character’s basement late on a school night. The game’s nostalgia, coupled with ‘80s retro music and imagery, reignited that spark for the original D&D players.
Nostalgia is an incredibly powerful concoction of longing, happiness, warmth, and more, and ’80s nostalgia has definitely been a trend in modern entertainment recently. This has given the game a second wind, as those longing for the “good old days,” which included rolling strength checks and fighting goblins and witches, have the ability to resurrect those memories.
Playing D&D through text group chats, “Discord” groups, Skype calls, or programs such as “Roll20” is a perfectly acceptable, and extremely easy substitute to the four-plus hour-long sessions in real time. However, it definitely is not the exact same experience. People can pick up play at any time and can simultaneously continue their everyday life as they would.
Everyone should give D&D a try. With how flexible stories and character building is, and how well structured the gameplay feels, there is something for everyone in this hobby.
This story was originally published on The Lance on November 15, 2019.