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Is SHAKESPEARE the Future of Dungeons & Dragons?

On June 1st, Chris “DM to the Stars” Perkins, D&D lead designer Mike Mearls, and Critical Role’s own Matt Mercer will be at Meltdown Comics to reveal “the future of D&D” and a new storyline. What does this reveal have in store for us? The past few years of D&D have left us a few clues, so let’s see what we can uncover.

On June 1st, we will learn that the future of D&D is Shakespeare and Giants.

Bear with me! This is speculation, but there’s solid evidence here. Let’s take a quick trip back to 2014. Chris Perkins gave an interview at GameHoleCon and revealed some tidbits about upcoming D&D storylines. During that interview he made “allusions to a giants based story influenced by a Shakespearean play.” It sounds weird, but remember that the elevator pitch for the wildly-praised Out of the Abyss was “Demon Lords meets Alice in Wonderland.

But 2014 was a while ago, and no Shakespearean giants have emerged yet. Why is now the time? A German game distributor has leaked some information. Fansite Sage Advice D&D reports that a German gaming outlet fantasywelt.de has prematurely listed a new D&D hardcover titled Storm King’s Thunder. That’s an evocative name—it makes me think of Storm Giants, but why? Without context, the “Storm King” could be a storm sorcerer, or even Thor. Why giants?

As it turns out, this wouldn’t be the first time D&D has tried combining Shakespeare and Giants. In issue 78 of Dragon magazine (released February 2000), Betrayal at House on the Hill designer Mike Selinker adapted King Lear as 2nd edition AD&D adventure titled Lear the Giant-King, and cast the play’s pivotal characters as giants. Storm Giants. Fitting, as Lear features the most powerful storm scenes in the Western canon. Check out Ian McKellen’s astounding performance of Lear in this scene (Act III, Scene ii) here at about 1:12:00. Don’t be fooled by his white beard, Gandalf he is not.

What can we expect in the new storyline? With details so sparse, it’s hard to say for sure, but with the adventure’s supposed giant focus, it’s likely that it will be designed for higher-level characters, and focusing on a smaller range of levels than the earlier 1 to 15 storylines. In the GameHoleCon interview, Chris said “for the next [storyline], we’re going a little shorter, and for the one after that we’re going a little shorter still.” The first adventure he was referring to is the now-available Curse of Strahd, which spanned levels 1 to 10. Shorter still? Maybe an adventure path about fighting high-level giants will span only levels 8 to 15!

It seems clear that D&D is poised to return to giants and Lear in some form—if not on their June 1st announcement, then sometime in the near future. Maybe there will be some inspiration from the classic Against the Giants adventure series—now considered the beginning of D&D’s first-ever adventure path! Against the Giants was originally set in the World of Greyhawk. Will it be moved to the Forgotten Realms in the same way that the Elemental Evil storyline was, or will it remain in its home setting, much like how Curse of Strahd remained in the Ravenloft campaign setting? Will King Lear be the Shakespeare story that inspires this adventure, or will it be another classic, like Hamlet or… Romeo and Juliet?

Speculation is what the internet was made for! Let us know what you think will be revealed on June 1st in the comments or tweet it to us at @GeekandSundry!

Image credits: Wizards of the Coast, PBS

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