The Comback of D & D

A few years ago, my brother told me at his weekly game day he has with his friends, they started a campaign of Dungeons & Dragons.  Being a junior in high school, I was really getting into my near-peak of nerdom and realized I really wanted to join a campaign of my own.  Unfortunately, I had to wait another solid two years to join my first campaign (which lasted only about a month or so), due to just not being able to find other people to play with or someone to create/run the campaigns.  However, two years later I’m now joining a new campaign, and have found a real appreciation for the game and all the components.

For those who don’t know, this is a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG), where players gather together and create characters based on different fantasy classes (like wizard, fighter, cleric--holy healer--etc.) and races (elf, orc, human, etc.) and play as these characters, going through campaigns created by the dungeon master (or DM).  This game first started in the 1980s, with only four separate classes and elf counting as both a race and a class (now it’s only a race).  If any of you have watched the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, you’ll remember the kids playing the first edition of D&D with Finn playing the DM.  Campaigns can last anywhere from one session (either a few hours, or like in the pilot episode, nearly 12 hours) to months and years long--it depends on whether the DM chooses to play from a premade campaign or “homebrews” their own (which is what my first DM chose to do, and it was really fun).

Within the past few years, tabletop RPGs like D&D (and others like Pathfinder and Polaris) have come back in a surge of popularity, along with the rise of nerdiness and geekery.  Science fiction and fantasy have had a major boom in mainstream media within the past decade or so; long gone are the days of being bullied for liking Star Wars.  Closer to the backburner of this popularity, tabletop RPGs are still coming back and bringing friend groups close together by hanging out every week or so.  Playing D&D lets you live like the fantasy creature you always loved as a kid (or now): you can be the wood elf you always imagined, or fight for the good or like the heroes of old and be praised by the god you worship.  Through your character, you get to do whatever you want and live the life you never get to live in modern day reality: fighting monsters, getting and spending gold pieces, and rolling polyhedral dice to see how well you can interrogate, steal, or befriend any creature you encounter.  Some classes give you options to have an animal companion or even talk to animals!

Tabletop RPGs, and specifically D&D, has made its way into quasi-mainstream through social media and pop culture: Stranger Things made it as a way four boys are close friends, gaming YouTuber ProJared created “D&December” where he posts videos every December on both his channels solely on the RPG, and podcast The Adventure Zone has the McElroy brothers (and their father) play their own campaign that any fans or podcast listeners can watch in on what a tabletop RPG is really like (hint: it’s not at all as serious as you expect it to be).  When you see a heavily-fantasy based system that can be a lengthy game, it can be very intimidating and worrying about all the elements that come into a tabletop RPG: roleplaying well, successfully rolling time and time again, battling every session, leveling up, and using a limited amount of spells well?  It’s a lot!  But seeing familiar faces laughing and saying “my character’s name is Taako [pronounced like “taco”]” leads to more positive feelings to such a system.

If you know of a campaign near you, or this article leads you to want to reach out, do it!  You’ll never know how quickly you can join a campaign, or what will go on once you join.  With so many different races and classes to choose from now, you’ll want to try so many different combinations and will always have new ideas.  Playing D&D is so fun, and honestly getting your very first (or second...or twelfth) set of polyhedral dice is so exciting, especially with all the different patterns and finishes.  I’m joining in potentially two different campaigns right now, and I’m so excited and am having so much fun filling out the different character sheets (which you can find here for the newest and most-used edition of D&D 5th edition).  If you’re reading from college, there’s a Facebook group for New Paltz’s very own D&D group where you can join in a huge campaign split up for different times. It’s currently on hiatus, but it’s always a good thing to take the survey there in case it starts up soon and you can start your first (or next) campaign soon.