The Rise & Return of Dungeons & Dragons

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Peyton Ludwig

In order to play Dungeons & Dragons, all you need is paper, a pencil, and dice (photo courtesy of Peyton Ludwig).

Back in the 80s, Dungeons & Dragons was immensely popular, but often stereotyped to only be played among the “nerd” or “geek” friend groups. Not only has the game made a resurgence in the last couple of years, but it’s also become a new “cool” game that most everyone wants to play.

Dungeons and Dragons is known as one of the very first TTRPGs, or Table Top Role-Playing Games. To put it simply, it’s a game to play around a table with friends where you take on the role of adventurers. Each player creates their own character to play in the game. There are all sorts of races and classes so that a player can customize their character and playstyle to their heart’s content. One person is the DM, or the “Dungeon Master.” They write the story for the players to pursue and control the non-playable characters and monsters of the campaign.

“I’ve both played the game and ran the game…You have to play the game for a while to be comfortable enough to DM. It probably took me over a year of playing to get really used to it, but I really love it. Planning out adventures for my friends is really fun,” said sophomore Paige Jones.

Throughout the adventure, the players are put through many different engaging scenarios, ranging from being in combat with monsters to maneuvering social encounters with non-playable characters. Many events, such as how well you complete a task or how accurate you are with an attack, are determined with a roll of the dice. Most commonly, the higher the roll, the better. This not only adds a level of challenge to the gameplay, but it also encourages players to be creative when things go wrong when they don’t get a roll high enough. 

“I think a lot of people assume [D&D] is a lot more complicated than it actually is. The only math is pretty much just dice rolls and simple addition. The real challenge and fun come in with the strategies, plans, and way you utilize your skills,” said junior Christian Wallace.

Dungeons and Dragons was first created in 1974 when Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson published the first ruleset of the game. By the end of the 80s, it was an intensely popular game with tens of millions of players but had somewhat of a social stigma to accompany it. It was considered very stereotypically “nerdy” and “geeky.” So why is it gaining popularity now?

One possible explanation is the rise of YouTube and Twitch playthroughs of the game. Popular YouTube channels like Geek & Sundry, OutsideXbox, High Rollers, and a whole host of others have very popular D&D campaigns. One of the most popular campaigns out of these is Critical Role, which has amassed 168 million views overall.

“I’ve watched so many playthroughs of [D&D] on YouTube, it’s one-hundred percent how I got into the game…Critical Role, Oxventure, and The Adventure Zone are some of my favorites,” said Jones.

Another factor is how the game has changed over time. With the newest version being published in 2014, the game is now in its 5th edition. The changes to the game have made it more streamlined, less complicated, and placing more emphasis on the storytelling aspect of the game rather than just the combat.

“The fifth edition is a remarkable edition that is a lot easier to engage with as a new player and it really supports changing rules,” said Deborah Ann Woll, DM of Geek & Sundry’s “Relics and Rarities” series. “I love that they are very much like this is a guidebook and a blueprint and if you want to do something else or can’t remember a rule, just make it up. I like that they aren’t rigid.”

Dungeons and Dragons is a fantastic time when you get the right group of people. Encouraging creativity, strategy, and problem-solving, it’s a game that’s enjoyable for hardcore players and newcomers alike. With much of the “nerd” stigma fading due to the resurgence in popularity in recent years, it’s a game that can be picked up and played by anyone.