What we’re obsessed with right now: Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy role playing game, is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.
Thanks to shows like “Stranger Things” and podcasts like “Critical Role,” Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy role playing game, is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

Become the hero of your own story, all while discovering the real magic of friendship


San Diego Union-Tribune editors and writers share what they’re currently obsessing over.

What I’m obsessed with: Dungeons & Dragons

OK, nerd. Why?: Have you ever picked up a book or started a movie and then came to hours later feeling like you’d just returned from another world? Dungeons & Dragons casts a similar spell, except you and your friends get to craft and experience its magic together. It is a wildly fantastical and often-humorous role-playing game that hinges on team work and imagination. In its most condensed form, the game is about donning a persona of your choosing and going on an adventure. You might become a wood elf ranger who, bow in hand, decides to explore a forgotten realm. Or maybe you’re a dragonborn sorcerer whose wild magic is a menace to your enemies — and sometimes your friends. That’s the make-believe part. But the relationships you’ll build and the ideas you’ll explore while you play are quite real.

The basics: You step into a damp cave, your footsteps muffled by a mysterious hum lilting up from the darkness. What do you do? The freeing answer in D&D is anything you want. The game master (or dungeon master) is in charge of describing the world and presenting scenarios, but players bring that world to life through their choices. Do you laugh in the face of danger and charge in? Do you softly hum back? Do you cast a spell to light the way? It’s up to you … and the dice. Players forge their own paths through the decisions they make, but it’s the dice that determine how successful they are.

A word of advice: Lean in to failure. In many games, the object is to win. But in Dungeons & Dragons, the goal is to experience. It doesn’t matter if you flub a roll while charging at a dragon or pickpocketing a noble or persuading a wizard. In fact, those misses often fuel the game’s most memorable moments. Every outcome leads you somewhere new, and every path is filled with its own kind of wonder. That’s a pretty good perspective to have outside of D&D, too.

How do I get started?: Roll for initiative. I’m kidding, although that phrase does kickstart most combat encounters. (You’ll learn about that later.) The easiest way to get into the game is to play it. Thanks to popular shows like “Stranger Things” and cult-favorite podcasts like “Critical Role,” D&D is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. These days, it’s pretty easy to find a nearby Dungeons & Dragons meet-up. But if strangers — and the pandemic — make that option feel risky, you can always pick up a starter set and peer pressure a couple of your closest companions into trying something new. Even if you decide it’s not your thing, you won’t regret the experience. And with a little luck of the dice, you just might discover that you’ve been the hero of your story all along.

D&D starter sets are available at local bookstores and on Amazon.