Tech D&D Club takes flight

Dusty basements, beards, sweat and middle aged men still living with their parents – for years, this was the image stuck in the minds of most people anytime the words “Dungeons and Dragons” were mentioned, if they had ever even heard of Dungeons and Dragons before.

However, a recent trend has been emerging in pop culture where D&D is becoming far more commonplace, especially among teenagers and young adults. It has also started been growing in popularity with young women, a demographic which the tabletop roleplaying game was previously notorious for not attracting.

There are at least five currently operating groups of players at Tech, each comprised of groups between four and seven players who meet weekly to socialize, laugh and occasionally slay a dragon or two. Recently, some have put out flyers to try and attract more players to their games.

“In the past you would tell someone that you were playing D&D, and they would kind of look down their nose at you,” Will Johnson, president of the Tech Dungeons and Dragons Club, said. “There’s a lot less of that now.”

“Our main goal (as a club) is to get people who are running other games on campus to move their games to the D&D club,” Johnson said. “We recently got a sponsorship for the club, so there are some perks involved with playing with us.”

There are several factors contributing to the perfect environment for a "D&D Boom."

Wizards of the Coast, the publication group responsible for the release of Dungeons and Dragons merchandise, released the game’s 5th edition in early 2014. Contrary to the previous editions of the game, the 5th edition’s rules are dramatically simplified and more accessible, removing much of the math which turned off many potential players in the past. The company also took many steps to modernize the game, aiming to appeal to younger audiences.

In 2012, a group of D&D players Kickstarted a website named Roll20 to allow players to begin playing games with others from all across the world. The website's popularity exploded in 2016, when Wizards of the Coast officially licensed the website to use D&D.

Several D&D groups have begun sharing video of their gameplay sessions, some of which have become massively popular. “Critical Role,” a live stream of weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions, has a viewer base of over 69 million as of their 99th episode.

Even more recently, the Adventure Zone, a bi-weekly comedy D&D podcast hosted by the internet personalities Clint, Griffin, Justin and Travis McElroy, has garnered a massive internet following, with many pieces of fan artwork and writing expanding the show’s reach (and D&D at large) to groups who would never have been exposed to D&D otherwise.

These shows have inspired many young people to start their own D&D groups or join previously existing ones. 

Photo by Ian McLean