March 1, 2019

Now available for pre-order, the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is a stroke of genius because it feels like an inevitable pairing. Netflix’s nostalgic hit show features characters regularly playing D&D and even a monster resembling a Demogorgon from the tabletop role-playing game.

With a May 2019 release, the themed set comes with an adventure “created” by Mike, one of the characters from the series, Stranger Things character sheets, and two Demogorgon figures. But the gaming tie-ins don’t stop there: In April, an ’80s-themed Stranger Things version of Trivial Pursuit and a mini arcade console with classic games and several Stranger Things-themed titles, will ship out.

The show has even been credited with sparking renewed interest in D&D. Stranger Things debuted in the summer of 2016, and the following year, D&D had its biggest sales year. Coincidence? Probably not.

But there are other reasons for the game’s recent resurrection than just the popular TV show. Because of the internet, countless online resources on D&D have become available in the last few years., When Stranger Things piqued viewers’ interest, they could easily learn more about the game.

Back in the 70s and 80s, this was definitely not the case. If you heard about D&D, you’d have to hunt down the thick Player’s Handbook and get an expert to teach you. Today, the internet offers potential players accessibility and community with videos, basic guides, and forums.

And let’s not discount D&D liveplay. People playing live is broadcast through podcasts, YouTube, and Twitch offer both a form of entertainment as well as an opportunity for newbies to learn more and more about the robust game in a low-stakes, fun way.

Podcasts such as Critical Hit and Nerd Poker have been broadcasting their gameplay to a growing audience for a decade, not to mention the newer comedy podcast The Adventure Zone. The live Twitch series Critical Role dates back to 2015 and has become a pop culture force in its own right, spawning merchandise, a comic book, and an art book. HarmonQuest has Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon play with guests in front of a live audience, which then gets turned into an animated episode.

Let’s cast Arcane Eye on this: The new D&D pairing with Stranger Things is a perfect fit, but the game’s newfound popularity shouldn’t solely be credited to the show. Sure, there’s a good chance that Stranger Things helped expose D&D to a new audience, but other factors were likely intertwined as well, from the accessibility, resources, and community that an advanced Internet now offers to potential players, of which, we now know, there are many.

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