Now nearly 50 years old, roleplaying is more popular than ever - and Hasbro wants to capitalize on it by bringing its wizards and warriors to TV, movies, gaming consoles and even virtual tabletops.
AAs Cynthia Williams settles into her bearskin chair, three dragons stand watchfully over her shoulder - each no taller than 30cm but no less terrifying, with plastic flames shooting out of their mouths. The glass cases that line the room are filled with more terrifying creatures shrunk into plastic miniatures: ogres and devils and hobgoblins. Drawers pull out to reveal hundreds of 10-, 12-, or 20-sided polyhedral cubes. Where outside a jumble of letters adorns the wall, a hidden message lights up at the touch of a button: "Whoever gains access will be rewarded."
This is the game room at the Seattle area headquarters of Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division that publishes the fantasy role-playing gameDungeons. Williams, who was hired as unit president in February, exudes enthusiasm for her new post, but her first encounter with the game she now oversees was bittersweet.
“My very first experience of wanting to playDungeonsIt was back in the '80s," says Williams, 55, who grew up in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, "and there were some of my male friends in a basement and I wanted to play, and they went like, 'No , you can not play. It's not for girls.' I'm really excited that's not the case anymore."
In fact, it is around 40%D&DPlayers are now female, according to a 2020 Wizards of the Coast study conducted with market research firm Newzoo. And surprisingly for a game that's about to turn 50, the players are young. Supported by aimportant rolein the hit Netflix seriesstranger things, 24% of D&D players are between 20 and 24 years old, 18% between 25 and 29 and another 18% between 30 and 34. Celebrities such as Joe Manganiello, Deborah Ann Woll and Vin Diesel have praised the game. andD&DBooks often appear on bestseller lists. A blockbuster will be released next yearD&Dvideo game oneBaldurs Gate III— the latest in a series that has sold more than 5 million copies — plus a big-budget theatrical filmDungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez. Both properties sport officialD&DLicenses from Wizards of the Coast.
Overall, Wizards of the Coast estimates that 50 million people have played the game since 1974, and while Hasbro isn't breaking outD&DAs a segment in its public filings, it noted that 2021 represented the ninth consecutive year of growth for the game. That estimates UBS analyst Arpiné KocharyanD&Dnow accounts for $100-$150 million in annual sales.
That's just a small fraction of the $1.3 billion in net income that Wizards of the Coast posted last year, and looks even more modest next to Hasbro's $6.4 billion. butD&Dgrowing rapidly, with increasing revenuereported 35%Introducing in 2020 from 2019 and moreD&DProducts that sold in 2021 than when they were released in 2014. And it's part of a phenomenally profitable unit in which Wizards accounts for 72% ($547 million) of Hasbro's 2021 operating profit."D&Dis, I think, the poster child for our Brand Blueprint strategy,” said Chris Cocks, who made a mark on the importance of the division when he was promoted from Wizards president to Hasbro CEO earlier this year. Outsiders also become aware. An activist campaign by Alta Fox Capital Management unsuccessfully tried to spin off Wizards this year.
"When Chris and I first had our conversation about this role," says Williams, who replaced Cocks at Wizards in February, "I thought they had passionate fans, and that's a good place to start. ... [But] when I looked at the numbers, I thought, 'Yeah, that's a deal I want to be a part of.'"
DDespite these impressive numbers,Dungeonslooks just like a missed opportunity. Steeped in canonical western literatureBeowulf(ca. 900) to the medieval tales of King Arthur - not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien's novels in the mid-20th century -D&Dintroduced a modern generation to fantasy worlds of swords and sorcery. But while it was the basis of a 1980s cartoon and a mixed bag of video games,D&Dremained at its core a publishing business, selling a series of richly illustrated hardcover rulebooks supplemented by novels and ready-made adventures.
As D&D modestly trotted along, countless other fantasy properties jumped off the page and into mainstream culture. Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of Tolkien'sLord of the ringsearned nearly $3 billion at the global box office, won 17 Academy Awards, and has a prequel series streaming on Amazon Prime. George R.R. MartinsA Song of Ice and FireNovels have inspired two HBO series, and the 11 films based on J.K. RowlingsHarry PotterBooks have grossed $9 billion worldwide, more than 60 timesD&Dthe annual income of .
„D&Dfans are watchingGame of Thronesand just seeD&D- that this belongs to someoneD&Dcampaign that was transformed into this on-screen experience," says Jon Peterson, author of TheD&DstoryGame Wizards. "Maybe that's part of itD&Dis not like a series of novels;D&Dis a platform for your creativity.”
D&Dwas revolutionary when it was first released, and it still bears little resemblance to what most people would call a game. Players generally work together, not in competition. There is no winning or losing. A "game" - actually more of a narrative - is rarely completed in one sitting and sometimes unfolds over months or even years. No board or game pieces are required. The game exists almost entirely in the minds of its players.
The action goes something like this. One player, known as the jailer, narrates a scene for the other players, each playing a fantasy character - say, a dwarven fighter, a human monk, or an elven wizard. Perhaps they are standing in front of a narrow entrance to a cobweb-covered cave. Players decide what to do next, limited only by their imaginations - maybe brush aside the webs, light them with a torch, or just charge through them - and the dungeon master uses a rulebook and dice to set the determine consequences. Giant spiders might swarm the party, or they might discover a secret: a hidden door or a casket filled with gold.
"Anything can be tried," says Peterson. "The freedom and scope that that gives is one of the things that I think really sets this apart from what you get out of [a video game like]World of Warcraft, where you can go into a tavern, but you can't actually light it."
D&DThe creators of , the late Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, cut their teeth at wargaming, using dice and miniature figures to recreate famous military battles. They had modest expectations for their new fantasy game. Selling a thousand copies "meant you had a real hit," says Peterson. Game publishers weren't interested either. "They laughed at those manuscripts when we sent them to Avalon Hill," says Robert J. Kuntz, who worked on the projectD&Din its early years as a reference to the biggest name in wargaming.
Gygax started self-publishingDungeonsfrom its Wisconsin basement by a new company, TSR, in 1974 and sold a thousand copies in ten months. By 1979, the game's core rulebooks were selling over 300,000 copies a yearDataexcavated by Ben Riggs, author ofkilling the dragon. Then came mass media hysteria unprovokedly associating D&D with demon worship and witchcraft - which of course had the effect of boosting sales among the game's young audiences.
"The rocket took off," says Tim Kask, who joined TSR in 1975 as its first full-time employee. "We all grabbed a fin and went to the skies." In 1983, TSR sold nearly 1.9 million copies of its core rulebooks and posted revenues of nearly $27 million ($79 million in today's dollars).
However, there were problems behind the scenes. TSR's employees were mostly young and inexperienced in business. Financial troubles and mismanagement were rampant, especially after sales slumped in 1984. A partnership with Random House brought the company's products to major bookstores, but became a weight around its neck. A power struggle between shareholders resulted in the company changing hands in 1985. Massive rounds of layoffs became an almost seasonal phenomenon, recalls Tracy Hickman, a TSR game designer in the 1980s. During the 1990s, TSR sold a number of books for less than the cost of production.
Makes his problems worse for most players,D&Dwas a one time purchase. The players bought a rule book - and that was enough for a lifetime. Sure, TSR updated the rules occasionally, but nobody had to play by the second edition (1989) rules or use any of the company's pre-made game scenarios. In the absence of a guaranteed pipeline of repeat customers, TSR lashed out. There have been games based on other properties, including TV shows likeall my childrenandPerry Mason. The company launched a fiction division and licensed products such as beach towels and shrinky dinks.
By 1997, TSR was heading for bankruptcy. Wizards of the Coast, which at the time was a gaming industry juggernaut as the publisher of the trading card gameMagic the Gathering, intervened and bought the company for about $25 million, or about $46 million in 2022. Two years later, Wizards sold to Hasbro for $325 million, the equivalent of $573 million today.
NIn the early 25th century, the idea that "the future is digital" might seem obvious, but apart from a few licensing deals,Dungeonshas largely focused on selling physical books. Williams knows that needs to change - and with a resume that includes stints at Microsoft's Xbox video game outfit and Amazon, she has the perfect background to lead the charge.
"I'm inspired by what I've seen in so many games as a service," she says. “Today it is a publishing business. I think we will expand beyond that.”
In May, Hasbro paid $146 million for the D&D Beyond website, a licensed compendium and set of tools for playing the game. Williams sees the site allowing for more direct sales to players, starting with printed and digital book bundles. The site will also play an important role in the game's growth overseas, where D&D has been held back by the difficulties of printing and distributing physical copies of books. Of D&D Beyond's 10 million registered users, 85% are from North America, and approximately 75% of Wizards' total sales are made in the US, Canada and Mexico. Wizards saw an opportunity and announced this year that it had regained direct controlD&DReleases in French, German, Italian and Spanish and would also release a Brazilian Portuguese version.
"D&D as a game, as a lifestyle, has the potential to help people feel more comfortable with themselves and express themselves more."See AlsoHow to play Dungeons and Dragons for beginnersHow playing Dungeons & Dragons has made me more creative and compassionateA Beginner's Guide to Playing Dungeons and Dragons"Now It's Cool": Why Dungeons & Dragons Will Put You In Touch Again(Video) VECNA ISN'T THE MAIN VILLAIN OF STRANGER THINGS!! #Shorts
More broadly, in August, Wizards unveiled One D&D, a three-pronged strategy for which, in addition to building the D&D Beyond platform, the game rules will be revised (which would correspond to a sixth edition).D&D50th anniversary in 2024 and the development of a "digital gaming experience". That will includea virtual tabletop, allowing a traditional version of the game to be played online.
These digital initiatives offer a lot of new sales potential. Dungeon masters will likely be able to purchase pre-made maps, as well as visual and sound effects. And other players will - perhaps for the first time - have a real incentive to invest their own money. Just like video game fans like itFourteen dayslike to spend 99 cents on ingame avatars and special weapons,D&DGamers may be willing to spend some money to give their fantasy characters their true colors.
video games likeBaldurs Gate IIIand movies likehonor among thieveswill also play a major role in expanding the brand. Hasbro's 2019 acquisitions of games studio Tuque Games and television and film production house eOne will allow Wizards to create these types of properties in-house without ceding profits to licensees. A scripted TV show is already in development.
How big is the chance? “Look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe—it's TV shows, movies, merchandise, video games, virtual reality, amusement parks, and real-world experiences,” says David M. Ewalt, a formerForbesReporter and Author ofD&DstoryOf cubes and people. "Can they really pull this off? I do not know. But I think they're the best place to try that they might have ever been."
The entertainment strategy has its risks: video games and movies are expensive to produce, and the brand still shakes off the stigma of the widely distributed 2000 filmDungeons, which reportedly cost $45 million to make but only grossed $34 million at the worldwide box office.
Another challenge: diversity and inclusion, topics of particular interest to the game's young fanbase. The work of art inD&DHis early releases featured predominantly white characters and sexualized women. Wizards made a conscious effort to change this in the currently available fifth edition, but critics have noted that the game's use of "race" - a character's species, such as a gnome or an orc - can reinforce stereotypes. For example, all drow or dark elves have traditionally been portrayed as evil.
Wizards appears to be trying and hosting discussion boards with fans after promising to encourage diversitya blog post 2020. And while some efforts have been derided as lip service — like pasting sensibility disclaimers on culturally insensitive books for sale — Williams insists she's serious about "creating a culture where everyone can be their best" and "to get more people involved". the party."The Player's Handbooknow specifically tells readers, "You don't have to limit yourself to binary notions of sex and gender."
„D&Das a game, as a lifestyle, has the potential to help people feel more comfortable and express themselves better,” says Williams, who finally got the chance to play the game this year with Cocks as the dungeon master. "It's amazing how far it's come since someone first told me I couldn't play when I was in that basement. I'm super excited.”
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Each season's Stranger Things big bad is inspired by the classic Dungeons & Dragons monster manual; while Vecna's true backstory is more complex, he's no different. “In this case, it was Vecna, who really wasn't a character until the '90s,” Matt says.How accurate to D&D is Stranger Things? ›
What edition of Dungeons and Dragons was Stranger Things based on? The books they show in the series are all from Basic D&D(BECMI basic, specifically) and AD&D (aka 1st edition). The monsters they name things after, like Demogorgon and the Mind Flayers, are all classic D&D monsters from those editions.What version of D&D are they playing in Stranger Things? ›
Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game first published in 1974. It is a popular activity with Mike, Lucas, Will, and Dustin, who play the 1983 Expert edition of the game in Mike's basement.Why does Stranger Things use DnD? ›
Like the DnD character, the Stranger Things monster was once a human with powerful magical abilities who later becomes an evil creature capable of terrible things. Both versions of Vecna use secrets as vulnerabilities to destroy whomever they please.Is the demogorgon in DND? ›
Demogorgon first appeared in the original edition of Dungeons and Dragons, in Eldritch Wizardry (1976), and has appeared in every subsequent edition of the game. He has also appeared in other Dungeons & Dragons products, such as in the novel Archmage by R.A.Is the Mind Flayer a real D&D monster? ›
In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, illithids (commonly known as mind flayers) are monstrous humanoid aberrations with psionic powers. In a typical Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, they live in the moist caverns and cities of the enormous Underdark.Who is 11 DND? ›
Eleven – Mage
Seeing as Eleven is a talented and powerful hero with supernatural powers that connect her to an underworld, and allow her to save or destroy the world, she's the only pick to hold the mantle of magical Mage in the Stranger Things universe. No other D&D class would fit this Stranger Things hero.
Still, the data is convincing. According to im-a-puzzle.com, Google searches for “how to play Dungeons and Dragons” shot up by 600% since the first seven episodes of Stranger Things season 4 dropped on Netflix on May 27. Searches for “Dungeons and Dragons starter sets” went up by 250%.Is DND good for mental health? ›
D&D is good for mental health.
Games are fun, and it's no surprise that having a good time helps your mental health. But the benefits of playing Dungeons and Dragons go deeper than just fun. D&D provides an opportunity for players to develop social-emotional skills, build confidence, and learn to express themselves.
Who is Vecna? The big bad of Stranger Things season 4 is a humanoid monster with black skin and movable vines that protrude from his entire body. While he lives in the Upside Down, Vecna can psychically reach into the human world, kind of like the Mind Flayer's connection with Will.
When Eleven, a child test subject from Hawkins National Laboratory with psychokinetic abilities, made transdimensional contact with the creature, a gate between dimensions opened at the lab. The creature then set foot in Hawkins, and began hunting, killing and kidnapping various local townspeople.Did Eleven create the upside down? ›
There's been debate as to whether or not this scene implies that Eleven created the Upside Down or merely opened the first gate to it. But according to Millie Bobby Brown, the Upside Down existed before El ever meddled with it. “I don't think that she created the Upside Down,” Brown told Variety in June.Is demogorgon from D&D or from Stranger Things? ›
In Seasons 1 and 2 of Netflix's Stranger Things, the residents of Hawkins, Indiana are terrorized by a strange creature known as "The Demogorgon". The kids at the forefront of the show may have repurposed the name, inspired by the monster from their D&D campaign.Are all the villains in Stranger Things from D&D? ›
While Stranger Things' villains are not exact copies of the D&D monsters they take inspiration from, the characters on the shows are avid players of the iconic tabletop game, as were the series' creators, the Duffer Brothers, in real life.Is Vecna more powerful than the Mind Flayer? ›
Everyone is claiming that Vecna is stronger than the Mind Flayer but that just isn't true.Can Demogorgon speak? ›
While Stranger Things' Demogorgon is a screeching interdimensional monster with a flower-face of death, D&D's Demogorgon is a “Demon lord” who calls itself, “the Prince of Demons,” according to a Dungeon & Dragons page. This means the D&D Demogorgon can speak, unlike the one on Netflix.Is there only one Demogorgon? ›
Eleven holds the power to defeat the monster using her telekinesis powers, but she is also part of the reason it landed in Hawkins in the first place. There are multiple Demogorgons, and they can be trained to become stronger and even more murderous, which viewers see the Russians doing in season 4.Can you eat a Mind Flayer? ›
If you manage to eat a mind flayer corpse, you gain either telepathy or 1 intelligence point, with a 50% chance of each. You can sense their presence remotely, and if you have telepathy they can sense yours. Occasionally they will concentrate and release a blast of psychic energy.What are mind flayers weak to? ›
The mind flayer, however, does. It can compel other monsters to form an offensive line, it can psychically debilitate anyone who tries to charge it, but it knows what its one real vulnerability is: archers. Mind flayers resist magic, but they don't resist arrows.Does the Mind Flayer still exist? ›
The Mind Flayer, it turns out, isn't even its own being at all. Instead, it is a living extension of Henry Creel's will, which he can use to possess other beings. Here's what Henry told Eleven during their final confrontation: At first, I believed you had sent me to my death.
Eleven is a Sorcerer, due to her magic coming from her bloodline.What would Eleven be in DND? ›
4/10 Eleven Is A Telekinetic Sorcerer
It is not a stretch to think Eleven would be an Aberrant Mind sorcerer, one of the most difficult D&D classes. These spell casters have power from an otherworldly source and access to the psychic-flavored Psionic Spells.
A score of 10 or 11 is the normal human average, but Adventurers and many Monsters are a cut above average in most Abilities. A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20, and Monsters and divine beings can have scores as high as 30.Which is more popular Witcher or Stranger Things? ›
Netflix came out of the gate strong with it's newest series The Witcher, and the show has quickly picked up a big following not only in the United States but also internationally.Which is more popular umbrella academy or Stranger Things? ›
The latest streaming rankings from Nielsen have The Umbrella Academy unseating Stranger Things as the most-watched show among the six major streamers.Are you a nerd if you play DND? ›
It's tautological; the definition for “nerd” for many people is, in some part, “someone that plays Dungeons & Dragons”. Actually, modern use of the term “nerd” has expanded quite a bit, and now it is widely applied to anyone that has and exuberant knowledge of a subject.Is DND OK for kids? ›
Game play requires both math and reading skills, encourages teamwork and turn-taking, and gets kids see the world through someone perspective, which helps to develop empathy. Dungeons and Dragons promotes all sorts of positive social skills that kids can apply not just to the game, but to their day-to-day lives.How long do DND humans live? ›
Age: Humans reach Adulthood in their late teens and live less than a century. Alignment: Humans tend toward no particular Alignment. The best and the worst are found among them.Is DND child friendly? ›
“D&D (and other tabletop RPGs) are great for kids,” Rachael says. She points out that playing these types of games helps kids learn important social and emotional skills like: Empathy. Tolerance.Who was 001 in Stranger Things? ›
Who Plays 001 on 'Stranger Things'? Dr. Martin Brenner, played by actor Matthew Modine, conducted experiments on a number of children at Hawkins Lab.
A new season 4 theory suggests 001/Henry Creel/Vecna is actually Eleven's real father – and it low-key makes sense.Who is the biggest villain in Stranger Things? ›
Demogorgon - Season One/Three/Four
Demogorgons are not just one of the scariest Stranger Things villains, but they're also one of the most original, terrifying creatures ever to be seen on TV screens. They did kill Barb, though, so fans won't be happy until they're all dead.
The monster wants revenge after Eleven stopped its spread into our world. It was clearly displayed in season 2 that the Upside Down and its inhabitants harbor a grudge against Will for escaping in season 1.Why did Eleven touch The Demogorgon? ›
Eleven was told by Dr. Brenner to "make contact" with the Demogorgon, possibly because he was keen to have her search alternate dimensions to find Henry again.What did The Demogorgon eat before? ›
Background. The Demogorgon was feeding off an egg in the moment before Eleven made psychic contact with it.Who is Eleven's dad? › Can Demogorgons open gates? ›
When Eleven opens her portal in season one, she does it through simple psychic contact with the Demogorgon. That Demogorgon can open its own portals without killing anyone. Then there's the Russian machine under Starcourt Mall that uses a big laser to open a gate.How did 11 open the gate? ›
She was placed in a sensory deprivation tank at Hawkins National Laboratory which allowed her to become immersed in a deep psychic state, amplifying her abilities. When Eleven touched the Monster, the Gate cracked open in the wall of the tank room.Is Stranger Things based on DND lore? ›
Stranger Things is based on Dungeons and Dragons lore, so it's surprising Matt and Ross Duffer aren't “particularly great” players. Here's why the Duffer Brothers reference D&D in Stranger Things despite their minimal ability to play the fantasy game.Is Stranger monsters based off DND? ›
Stranger Things from Netflix debuted in 2016 and introduced Dungeons & Dragons to a new generation of players. The show has had an undeniable influence on D&D as the characters name the monsters from their home games: the demogorgon, the mind flayer, and the lich Vecna.
How Dungeons & Dragons Inspired 'Stranger Things' and Season 4's Undead Villain. The Duffers explain how they broke the rules of D&D to bring Season 4's villain to life. The Upside Down is coming for you.Did Stranger Things get permission to use DND? ›
As part of this, the franchise team commissioned new concept art for Vecna and put a story guide together they could give to Netflix for them to use or not. In other words, the Duffer Brothers had access to Vecna's D&D lore, so it's up to them on how much of it they wanted to use.How tall is the demogorgon? ›
Adult Demogorgons are bipedal and reach a height of approximately 6 - 10 ft. They possess immense strength, being able to knock a door off its hinges and pin down an adult human with ease.Is the demogorgon real? ›
No. The Demogorgon, also known as the Monster, is a predatory humanoid creature that originated from the parallel dimension known as the Upside Down. It is a fictional character in TV series Stranger Things.Who was the villain in Stranger Things 2? ›
Henry Creel, also known as One, Vecna, or the Mind Flayer, is the main antagonist of the Netflix original series Stranger Things.Who is the most powerful villain in Dungeons and Dragons? ›
The beholder gangster Xanathar is one of many villains added to Dungeons & Dragons in its fifth edition. Beholders are greedy, venal creatures like Hutts in Star Wars. A villain species from as far back as the original game in 1974, they are one of the most powerful monsters in the game.Are there multiple Demogorgons? ›
Eleven holds the power to defeat the monster using her telekinesis powers, but she is also part of the reason it landed in Hawkins in the first place. There are multiple Demogorgons, and they can be trained to become stronger and even more murderous, which viewers see the Russians doing in season 4.Is the Mind Flayer still alive? ›
It's swirling around like crazy, so this was a hot tip off for the big bad monster's whereabouts. But the truth is even more sinister. With all of this it was clear that the Mind Flayer had survived the end of Season 3, which kind of makes sense when you think about it.What is Demogorgon weakness? ›
1 Answer. The Demogorgon's weakness is fire.What race is the demogorgon? ›
Demogorgon was the first of the tanar'ri, a chaotic and misshapen creature formed from the primal fear of mortal souls.
Demogorgon (the D&D monster is a singular entity, so there's no need for a "the,") first appeared in 1976, in a supplemental rulebook for the original edition of the iconic roleplaying game.