With the recent huge success of Netflix original Stranger Things, the influence of Dungeons and Dragons is at the forefront. One of the most endearing characters in recent memory, Dustin, often reminds us of how reality (or the supernatural) can connect to D&D. The unabashed geekery of the show has allowed others to recall their own childhood D&D memories, some of which have continued on as a weekly tradition even into adulthood. I have been one of these people. Since movie to Japan, my game sessions of any sort have been limited, but I’ve binged a few times. Those who never experienced the wonders of tabletop role-playing of any type might not understand how these (presumably) late night sessions fueled by adventure, caffeine, salt, and sugar resonated with many for so long.
I’m here to highlight my own feelings on D&D’s continuing influence in the world and how I don’t see it fading any time soon.
No matter the time period, you can always get together with friends. And what better way to spend time with friends than to dungeon crawl, get assaulted by were-rats, and lose your cleric in the first five minutes! Yay!
But seriously, no matter the age, one can enjoy a game of D&D either for a one-off or for a long campaign. One thing I always enjoyed as a DM (Dungeon Master) was seeing how my players evolved, not only with how they played their characters, but how they approach the game in general.
It Allows Escapism in Its Purest Form
One thing that fantasy has always done for me is allow a dose of escapism to my life. D&D served that purpose before writing swamped my mind, all day every day. I remember in my teens if I had a crappy day at work or just a boring week in general, I always looked forward to a little weekend escapism. I usually DMed back then, so my week would sometimes be spent hammering out details of my upcoming game. Having other players excited about the sessions also made them worthwhile.
On Stranger Things, D&D was seen as a way for these kids to escape the everyday problems of life, whether it being bullied or being bored in a small town. I think a lot of people can relate to this and that was one reason D&D stood the test of time. People need escapism from reality now and again to keep them balanced.
It Brings Friends Closer Together
The games I played with my friends back in the day were some of the best experiences of my life. Not because we were getting iced by beholders or slicing off the faces of goblins. No, it was because our fantastical experiences brought us closer together. The same way people like to get together and watch sports or go shopping, D&D relishes in communication. It allows the normally shy person to become the raging barbarian or even step into the skin of other races and genders. This unrestricted way of communication allows friends to let their guards down more. In turn, the experiences in the game tie into reality. I still remember fondly some of my characters’ memories as if they were my own. And it’s always fun to talk about old sessions with old friends, perhaps rekindling friendships that have faded due to time.
It Scratches Numerous Creative Itches
Very few things scratch the creative itches of D&D or tabletop role-playing games in general. Since interviewing people for The Grim Tidings Podcast, we’ve learned that many authors got their start from D&D or something similar. This was their “gateway drug” so to speak into creating worlds, characters, and the like. I would even suffice to say that D&D is one of the purest forms of storytelling because it’s interactive. As a DM (or GM) you get immediate feedback from your audience and as players you can to influence the way the story plays out. This obviously leads many people to become writers, as it’s not always feasible to run gaming sessions for life.
I think my love for D&D spilled over into my Splatter Elf stories, as they often read like gaming sessions, albeit insane, blood-splattery ones.
This is also one reason I’ve become really interested in card games as of late. My goal is to try to create semi-casual card games with role-playing elements after having such a blast on my last visit home playing umpteen games. I think writers, as creative people, need those numerous creative outlets. It allows them to feed all the little nagging creative faeries buzzing around their heads. D&D serves that purpose so well, that it’s hard to find anything else that measures up.
It’s Insanely Fun
I’ve had people who never dreamed of playing role-playing games remark on how fun D&D was for them. It’s because of that capability to let loose and be someone else. Perhaps this is one reason people like to “party” so often. There’s this inherent human desire to let loose, to lower inhibitions. D&D does this by letting you do anything. Literally anything. Of course, depending on how forgiving your DM is, you could end up dead fairly quickly if you’re too daring.
Some of the most fun I’ve had was playing D&D, but it always relies on several factors:
1. Focused players-If the players are too busy chatting or not paying attention, this can derail a game pretty quickly. A game with good, focused players that rely on role-playing over discussing their stats or some other randomness, can be the most fun.
2. Good DM-A brutal DM can sometimes be fun, but if the players are always dying, it can get old quickly. A good DM, I feel, always balances challenge, choice, and action. Too much wandering around or feeling like your on rails can doom a session early on.
3. Group Dynamic-It often matters if people in your group actually get along. If you have some people that bicker a lot or a player that generally annoys other people, it can sour your games. Also having too big of a group can sometimes hamper moving the game forward.
The Replay Value is Endless
All in all, D&D, or any tabletop game, has the ultimate replay value. Often I hear of video games having “great replay value,” but nothing can top tabletop role-playing games in that regard. I’ve heard of some people who have had campaigns going for over a decade. It’s amazing.
One thing I hope about Stranger Things recent success is that it might introduce more people to D&D who never heard about it or it might encourage old players to break out their dice again. I know it’s made me excited about the worlds I created and have yet to create and those characters that have and will populate them.
Do you still play D&D or some other tabletop game? If you don’t, what made you stop? What was one of your greatest experiences? Share below!