The Stigma of Dungeons and Dragons

Yet, when I discuss a form of entertainment that allows complete control over the tales we encounter, I always adopt the usual stance. The one of the slightly sheepish.

I don’t know why I do it. But I know, almost unconsciously now, that I do. Whenever someone asks about my hobbies, the three words, dungeons and dragons, always leave my throat as a hurried and quiet mumble.

The stigma that has somehow become attached to a game that allows for rich flowing imagination, moments of inspired improvisation, deep realms of storytelling, and brings people together in a social environment that is rarely matched, not to mention ridiculous levels of fun, has always left me a tad dumbfounded. That slight mockery in the tone of the questioner upon hearing those three words, the delicate roll of the eyes at the thought of me rolling a few dice, before generally they slump before a TV to watch regurgitated soap opera plots or vacuous reality shows. Generally.

Really I should be shouting about my love for Dungeons and Dragons from the rooftops!

It’s a weird one that’s for sure. Readers get lost in adventure and romance when cast adrift upon a sea of black ink, movie goers live out other lives for an hour or two before the big screen, TV takes us on little journeys, and video games allow us some control over the tales we encounter. All are accepted forms of entertainment, little derided, and free from mockery. Yet, when I discuss a form of entertainment that allows complete control over the tales we encounter, I always adopt the usual stance. The one of the slightly sheepish.

I don’t have this issue with my adoration of the board game. This one I proudly declare from the rooftops, this one I’m happy to adorn myself in suitable game related attire! And strangely people are generally very open and engaging on the subject, “Oh, we love board game nights!” talk of getting the family together once in a while for a little dice rolling and card flipping fun. It’s usually the more mainstream games, but, they appear to be, or at least feign brilliantly, interested in the sort of games that sit upon my shelves. There are no rolled eyes or cupped sniggers.

As someone that has always had a spot in my life for a tabletop RPG, dating back to my school days, but who only recently ventured back to the genre, I wonder if the tide is finally starting to turn, and are these games slowly edging further into mainstream acceptance?

I ask because my own return to this brand of gaming goodness was inspired by the Geek and Sundry YouTube show, Critical Role.

Here we can watch a merry band of voice actors and friends gather to play some D&D. I clicked play tentatively, unsure what to expect, and then within a few minutes I was lost in the perfect mix of personality and storytelling that spilled from the screen. This was like D&D the way I had always envisioned, with players allowing themselves to become deeply interwoven to the plot threads, with a sense of humour that shone through, and with that wonderful, unmissable, and rich friendship that filled the air throughout every single show. I became an avid viewer, and found my own fires for the game further stoked.

From here I watched various other little slices of tabletop RPG games being run, and I began to wonder if these shows are the catalyst that pushes D&D and other games of its kind into the mainstream spotlight? I hadn’t played in many years, but now, here I was contemplating a return. And, a few months later, I made the return, running Pathfinder and then D&D for my family, for my own children, and they adored it.

I wonder if there are others making a return to the most incredible gaming platform that is the tabletop RPG on the back of these shows? I hope so. Not because it’s a game that needs to be in the spotlight, or because it needs the acceptance of others as a respected form of entertainment, but more because it is a great tool for bringing a family together, unleashing imagination, and telling some truly unforgettable stories.

Critical Role opened the door for me. It reminded me how special these games can be, and how fun these nights of play always prove. Some will of course never understand. Perhaps it’s just too outlandish as a tabletop game, maybe it appears too complicated on the surface, and instead they will always be happier filling their game time passing GO and collecting £200. There’s nothing wrong with that, anything that gets people around a table together as friends and family is generally good. For others though, we would rather pass through the mountains and forests, leave the £200, and head straight for the real treasure, gold, silver, and incredible tales of adventure, love, loss, and laughter. All ever-present within the pages of D&D and the limitless imaginations of its players.

In other news, that me in the opening paragraph, that was the old me. I now state proudly my love for these games, my love for family time, and my everlasting love for a good yarn or two. Oh, and I still watch too much Critical Role.

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