Thanks to shows such as “Stranger Things,” “Freaks and Geeks” and now a “Rick and Morty” crossover comic book, the tabletop role playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, has grown from ultimate nerd status to a more normalized past time with friends.
However, many still don’t know exactly what Dungeons and Dragons is.
Dungeons and Dragons started off in 1967 as two guys, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, decided to personalize their fantasy wargames with stories of individual exploits of heroes. From there, the game has allowed players to create their own worlds and monsters to fight.
“It has been a source of inspiration for artists of many kinds, but more importantly, it has enriched the lives of tens of millions around the globe, offering a chance for anyone to experience fantastic roles and situations very different from everyday life,” the official website for Dungeons and Dragons said
Traditionally, the Dungeon Master is the one who creates the story and leads the group, often referred to as a campaign.
“I started playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was a freshman in highschool, but I had to stop due to personal conflicts,” freshman Simon Hamilton said. “I’ve always been super into video games and sci-fi movies growing up. One of the first things I ever learned to say was ‘ring of the lords,’ which was my way of saying ‘Lord of the Rings.’ ‘Lord of the Rings’ was probably the biggest influence that got me into Dungeons and Dragons.”
For others, they didn’t get to start playing Dungeons and Dragons until college.
“I started wanting to play DnD in high school, but I could never get a group together,” junior Philip Kendall said. “I started playing after I met my current roommate and best friend Nathaniel, who volunteered to Dungeon Master our first game, I instantly fell in love with the game after that.”
The rules for Dungeons and Dragons are simple: there are no rules, only suggestions. While there are books, websites and more dedicated to giving campaign ideas, it is ultimately up to those playing. The type of world and monsters in the campaign are up to be changed and manipulated to the players and Dungeon Master’s whims.
“My most recent campaign is based on the anime ‘RWBY’ and is being Dungeon Mastered by my friend William,” junior Lindsay Fares said. “We haven’t done much along the lines of the actual campaign just yet. Right now, we’re in the middle of nowhere battling creatures called Grimm. But, there’s so much more in store than we realize.”
Campaigns can last from anywhere from a few hours to years. One Dungeons and Dragons podcast, “The Adventure Zone,” went on for four years with one campaign. This does not even consider the planning ahead of time by the Dungeon Master.
“I haven’t Dungeon Mastered yet, but I do plan to next fall,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had the world for this campaign thought out for three years or so. It’s an open world, which means I’m dropping my players off, giving them a nudge in the right direction and see how much they mess it up in the best way.”
While there are suggestions for how to build the world, when it comes to character, there are a few more regulated ways to make characters and monsters.
In traditional Dungeons and Dragons, there are four main races to choose from, though there are many more with their own strengths and weaknesses. These common four are human, elf, dwarf and gnome. Then there are classes, such as fighter, wizard, cleric, rogue and ranger.
“My favorite character is a Tiefling wizard named Sϋn,” Hamilton said. A Tiefling is, in simple terms, a half demon. “He is a flamboyant, extravagant mercenary who does what he wants, when he wants.”
However, not all characters have to be the good guys.
“My latest campaign is one I'm actually DM’ing,” Kendall said. “The players are actually playing as villain characters bent on world domination, taking down kingdoms as they overrun the country of Grado.”
For monsters, they usually fit in the world they are based in. Again, in traditional Dungeons and Dragons, there are plenty to choose from with their own powers. Some of the most noted include: the Beholder, a giant eye with 10 more eyes coming off of it and a fanged mouth; the Displacer Beast, which is a big cat with two tentacles protruding from it’s back and the Gelatinous Cube, which is basically the Blob from the 1958 horror film, but in cube shape.
Dungeons and Dragons has been referenced or alluded to throughout pop culture. Many TV shows often have an episode where a version, or a made up game similar to Dungeons and Dragons is referenced, sometimes becoming a major plot point for an episode.
One example is in the second season, episode 13 of the Disney show, “Gravity Falls.” The episode was titled “Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons” where the characters were sucked into a version of Dungeons and Dragons.
“I like that they made the episode as nerdy as possible, both making fun of D&D nerdery and embracing it,” alumnus, senior writer and producer at Disney XD, Scott Jones said. Jones worked on the promotional work for “Gravity Falls.”
“Weird Al only helps the nerd cred. The infinity-sided die is a great touch, but wouldn't you think of infinity possibilities, an evil wizard showing up seems pretty tame.” Jones said.
Jones may have only played Dungeons & Dragons once, but he does appreciate the game.
“I love that at its core, it's a storytelling game. I'd love to play it - or any pen-and-paper RPG again,” Jones said.
While the game is still slightly obscure and a symbol of nerdiness, it has risen in popularity. The creativity allows for those of all walks of life and interests to find a game which suits them.