How ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ became the fantasy game for a new generation


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We may finally be back outside, but that doesn’t seem to stop the rise of Dungeons & Dragons. Growing in popularity over the past couple of years, the tabletop game has continued to thrive and grow during the lockdown. The ubiquitous geek game has naturally been helped by the isolation of the globe, leading to an increase in the number of people trying new things at home, many playing with family or friends playing together via video chat.

In recent years, fantastic mainstream entertainment – TV shows like Strange things and Game Of Thrones, video games like Skyrim, The witcher and Ghost of Tsushima—has simultaneously led to an increase in interest and hype around IRL gaming experiences in a similar vein. Basically being a geek is cooler than ever.

So what Dungeons & Dragons absolutely everything?

Well, it involves a group of people sitting around a table pretending to be warriors, mages, and elves as they embark on self-built quests and decide the outcome of battles and a number of other culminating events through dice rolls. One of the players is the Dungeon Master (aka DM), who uses the in-game instruction manuals and campaign guides to structure the adventure through its own narrative and rules. The games are intimate, inherently immersive, and at times mathematical, with the combination of blocky dice and your own imagination allowing for an unlimited level of freedom, real human contact, and role play that other games rarely offer.

It might shock you to learn that over 50 million people have now played Dungeons & Dragons nowadays. But it’s not just old minds playing it: #dnd has over 4 billion video views on TikTok, with people aged 20 to 24 now the largest demographic to play D&D.. And while gambling has been stereotyped as a male pastime in the past, the split between male and female (60% male, 40% female, the latter share increasing) shows how this is changing. . The game is also extremely popular with LGBTQ + gamers, with many POC-run streamer and podcast groups such as Rivals of Waterdeep and Three Black Halflings growing in popularity.

To learn more about D&D and its new wave of appeal, COMPLEX has teamed up with London-based digital artist, photographer and DJ Elise Rose. We attended a game between Elise and her friends and fellow D&D fans Kanika, Andy and Zac to find out how and why this tabletop game connects with them and millions of others like never before.

To learn more about Dungeons & Dragons, to access in-game resources, or to connect with the community, visit the official D&D website.

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