I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came out, along with all sorts of other RPG’s along the way (Palladium RPG, TMNT & other Strangenesses, Werewolf, Rifts, and the list goes on). If you remember how THAC0 worked, you understand. Way back in the early days, it sure wasn’t like it is today. Back then, if you played games like that, you were pretty far from cool, to say the least. And women playing the game, they were few and far between. Gender equality wasn’t really what you saw when you looked at a D&D gaming group. The old bunch of nerdy white boys was the typical group. Oh, how the times have changed!
These days, all the cool kids want to play in a D&D campaign. It’s accepted, no, it’s respected now. I can remember having trouble finding enough players to have a decent sized party to play with. Now? Turning them away at the door. Sorry, no room in my game, and I’ve got a waiting list. Bribes might get you in, but there’s no guarantees. So what the hell happened?
A couple of things seem to have played into the rise in DND’s popularity. First, the release of 5th edition made the game far simpler to learn for new players, and began the rise in numbers. Live campaigns like Critical Role drew in viewers, both existing players and those with interest in the game, and that created a lot more new players. And then Covid came to town, and the lockdowns happened. People stuck at home with nothing to do… turned to DND and other games, learning and playing online via video chat which let them get some amount of socializing in and connecting with people (which is a big part of the tabletop roleplaying game experience).
Another big influence is the film industry, more specifically the quality that fantasy set shows can be made these days. Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and others have shown that these settings can now live on the screen as vividly as they have lived in our mind’s eyes. Which has now led us to a new Dungeons & Dragons movie being released with a pretty impressive cast. If the movie does well (the trailer I’ve seen so far look incredible to me, as a D&D fan my fingers are crossed – pleeaasssee don’t be like the other DnD movie) then this could be yet another boost to the game’s popularity.
It feels like a golden age for Dungeons & Dragons players and fans alike. We played back when it wasn’t cool, and would still be playing anyway, but it is nice to be the kid at the cool table now.
Contributed by Jason Brunette