We have to thank Winona Ryder.
Without her, there wouldn’t be a Stranger Things on Netflix, and without Stranger Things, many more of us would still be laboring under the misconception that the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons is played by misguided, Satanist-leaning, quasi-criminal teenagers, and not the lovingly raised, nerdy-yet-heroic youngsters depicted in the show.
Back in the eighties, when Dungeons & Dragons was still in its youth, parents and priests were afraid kids would attempt suicide after being led down a demonic path by the game’s references to powerful devils (yes, Demogorgon was among them, nigh invincible). The truth was that D&D players only wanted to spur a white stallion into battle with a dragon, sword glinting in the sun, overcome the threat at great risk to life and limb, and rescue the damsel-in-distress (forgive the misogyny; we speak of a time past). Having the king name the day a holiday in your honor didn’t hurt either. But unlike the storybooks that the game was based on, the tale didn’t end there. You might take up the magical shield you found in the conquered dragon’s treasure trove and hire on with a few friends to protect a caravan, carrying cargo of an undisclosed nature on a dangerous mountain-pass journey, only to be ambushed by goblins and betrayed by one of the king’s men at the same time. And the circumstances of the game session after that would depend on what choices you made during the caravan adventure and how they turned out. And so on, until, back in the real world, college or work or (the Holy Grail) a girlfriend or boyfriend took you on to bigger things.
Teens 12 and up have a chance to try the game they’ve seen Eleven’s friends playing on the ‘Flix, at Dungeons & Dragons at TML (that’s Thomas Memorial Library, 6 Scott Dyer Rd). It’s a recurring Thursday group, from 4 pm to 7 pm each week. (The offer goes double for shy or quiet kids; we know they have big dreams and cunning ideas.) Joining the campaign is free, but registration is required. Contact Alyssa at email@example.com and bring whatever materials you have (manuals, dice, even just a notebook) to your first meeting.
And if you’re stuck for a character idea, how about creating one after Winona? Fantasy heroes certainly fight against bullying, and it is also sometimes beneficial to be a master of sleight-of-hand. Naturally.