Just a few days ago, I read an article called “An illustrated guide to why grown-ups are playing Dungeons & Dragons again” by cartoonist Josh Kramer. Josh and his friends started playing Dungeons & Dragons pretty recently and it got him thinking about why D&D has seen such a huge resurgence.
He illustrates the entire piece beautifully and you should totally check it out. The article really resonated with me because I experienced a similar situation recently. I have been a long time roleplayer, but just last week my gaming group started a new campaign with a brand new player, Debbie.
Debbie calls herself “Gamer Adjacent.” She’s always been into geek culture and loves a lot of things that comes out of games like movies, books, etc. but she hadn’t played a lot of video games in her life and she’d never had the chance to try roleplaying before. She was enthusiastic, but also a little timid since she had no idea how to play. Her nervousness and excitement reminded me of when I first started playing D&D in college. It wasn’t the first time I had been exposed to roleplaying, but it was the first time I felt welcome to join in. That wasn’t always the case.
When I was about 7 or 8, my father took me to a gaming store. He knew that I was a fan of the local renaissance fair and I suppose he thought a place called The Dragons Den would have stuff that appealed to me.
He was right. I looked around and fell in love with the minis, the books, the posters, the dice; pretty much everything. I wanted it all, but he would only buy me one thing, so I went home with a shiny, new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium Volume 1.
I read the crap out of that thing. Suddenly, whenever I played pretend, instead of being a pirate or a soldier, I was a knight; fighting displacer beasts and dodging eye-beams from beholders on a quest to save my village… or living room, or whatever.
When I got to high school, I finally found a few people who played D&D. I thought it was my moment. I had finally found my people! Sadly, I was wrong. They wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl. These were friends I hung out with all the time. I really thought I was a part of the group. It was devastating at the time and really soured me on hobby. I packed away my compendium and tossed my dice in the back of my closet in disgust.
I wouldn’t pick up my dice for another 7 years, when my college friends invited me to my first real game. I was nervous about trying to play again. Would they accept me? What if I over-committed to my character and they made fun of me for caring too much. Should I do an accent? How much should I talk? All of these questions rattled around in my head, but, thankfully, everyone was really helpful and fun to play with. Many of the people in my first gaming group were women and, coincidentally, that has been the case ever since. I have gamed with plenty of guys, but it is really cool that more women are starting to play.
So what makes people like Debbie and me want to get involved in D&D? What has really pushed so many people to pick up the game in the past few years? Josh illustrated several people’s reactions giving reasons such as the prevalence of fantasy in our movies to the inclusion of gaming in mainstream shows like Big Bang Theory, but the one reaction that resonates with me is Nathan Stewart’s response when asked about the latest edition’s popularity.
For me, this is a huge part of part of loving roleplaying. I am a total introvert. Before I started roleplaying, I would rather have hidden in a box or disappeared into the woods than spend the day socializing. There’s something magical about taking on a character, though. It gives an incredible freedom that you may not normally experience. I’ve been able to be loud and brash, cold-hearted, fierce, anything that my character calls for, even if it isn’t how I’d normally be.
Playing a game face-to-face and creating these shared stories brings people together and gives the whole group a sense of camaraderie and belonging. We can freely emote with the safe layer of padding that a character provides. You can be goofy, or angry, or fall in love, or mourn, or completely lose your mind, and at the end of the session, it all falls away and you and your friends have something special that you now share.
I think roleplaying is a fantastic hobby and I’m super excited to have the chance to share it with a new player. In the end, Debbie did an amazing job. She really got into her role and brought a lot of energy to the group. I can’t wait to see where Debbie goes with her character and what new things she’ll discover about herself through gaming.
If you’ve never played a roleplaying game, now is a fantastic time to try. There are a ton of systems to play in and an ever-growing community of players of every level of experience. So, my advice? Get your friends together and try out a starter scenario. You never know what fun you’ll have till you try.
You can read Josh Kramer’s whole comic over at Washington Post. It’s funny, relatable, and really hits on why people everywhere are getting back into the game.
Are you a roleplayer? How did you get into it? Why do you think Dungeons & Dragons is growing in popularity now? Let us know in the comments below!
Comic by Josh Kramer/The Washington Post