The unlikely appeal of Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. Credit: Alamyin action.

We were in the heat of the action against evil nagpa– a powerful vulture wizard. We were exhausted. We’ve already lost members of our party – our thief was mauled to death by a monster camouflaged as their cat girlfriend. Our cleric suffered from an overwhelming spell that left him with the mental capacity of a child. The ranger was shooting arrows at the wizard. My character was playing her magic bagpipes as loud as she could, but to no avail. When all hope seemed lost, a bright light pierced the darkness. He was our wizard! His well-targeted spell saved the day and the wizard fell lifeless from the sky.

At least, that was what it seemed to us.

If a stranger had entered, they would have seen nine adults sitting on beanbags in a college dorm. We were a group of friends who got together every week to tell a collective story about characters we had invented. The only physical object we had to complete our words was a sheet of plastic on which we had drawn a map. The rest existed in our minds. We were playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Although D&D was popular before the pandemic, interest in the game has increased dramatically over the past couple of years. From 2019 to 2020, Wizard of The Coast, the company that owns D&D, saw a 35% increase in revenue. Recently, it has been featured on TV shows such as stranger things and The Big Bang Theory. In January, Amazon Prime will launch The Legend of Vox Machina, an animated show based on the D&D adventure from Critical Role, a group of voice actors who play D&D professionally. Next year, Hollywood will release a live-action Dungeons & Dragons movie starring Chris Pine, Hugh Grant and Regé-Jean Page.

So what is D&D and why is it so appealing? It was created in 1974 by American game designers Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It’s a tabletop role-playing game, where a group of people create characters for a fictional world. They choose what their characters do, a set of rules determines the outcome of their actions, and their choices directly shape the story, which may involve real dungeons and real dragons, but doesn’t have to. When I play D&D, I’m part storyteller, part improv, and part adventurer.

There are a lot of rules in the game, which can be intimidating for new players, but once you start playing everything becomes self explanatory. You can find starter packs at hardware stores and booksellers, or you can join a local club. There are seven role playing clubs in london, including an a French speaker.

The appeal of D&D is its relative accessibility. Compared to games that require you to buy miniatures like Warhammer or online role-playing games that require high subscription fees like World of Warcraft, D&D is a cheap pastime. You don’t need any financial investment to start playing. Most clubs will provide or rent all the equipment you need. There are plenty of ways to spend money on the hobby if you want to, but there are also ways to play the game for less.

Besides rules and dice, you can tell your stories without any props – this is called “mind theater”, or you can make the game as visual as possible. Some do this by creating physical terrain, buildings, and realistic figurines representing their characters, which they use to play out their story in real life. Others do it online, with apps that let you create a fully immersive digital experience with realistic scenery and sound effects, and player-controlled digital avatars. Wait, does Mark Zuckerberg know D&D?

But D&D is not the metaverse. Yes, the game offers escape, but it is basically collective. You can’t play D&D alone; it is a fundamentally social experience. It’s also not a competition – you can only win or lose against monsters or villains. The people you play D&D with are your teammates, not your enemies. You decide on a common goal to achieve together.

Why revival now? Maybe it’s nostalgia. The pandemic has had people yearning for simpler times, so it only makes sense that people are rediscovering this weird game. D&D has been around since the 1970s, and it’s come a long way from its first publication to its current popular form, including a period of being falsely linked to Satanism – due to the game’s fantasy setting and storytelling. free form where basically anything can happen. , some Christian groups have criticized D&D for allegedly promoting taboo themes such as devil worship, witchcraft, suicide, and murder.

D&D has always appealed to me with its story. While there are plenty of other role-playing games out there, it’s commonly recognized as the first modern role-playing game, and the fact that it’s been around for nearly 50 years is, to me, a sign of its quality. In the global uncertainty of the pandemic, D&D is the kind of reliable entertainment I need.

However, the most obvious reason for the spike in interest is that the world is in dire need of an escape. People’s mental states are suffering in a global pandemic. What better way to cope than pretending to be magical heroes together in a high fantasy world? The key word is “together”. D&D offers a great way for people to bond with family and friends, or make new friends.

By playing D&D, you connect with people and learn to solve problems together, which the world needs more than ever.

Anna Han Jin participated in the Prospect Internship Program. To apply, email

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