Dungeons & Dragons Is a Household Name Again

Kyle Newman, director of the cult classic Fanboys, recently coauthored the book Lore and Legends: A Visual Celebration of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game. The book chronicles the astounding success of the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset, which launched in 2014.

“This book explores D&D being nearly extinct in the early 2010s, up to now, where you’ve got 50 to 60 million people playing the game and it’s a household name again,” Newman says in Episode 555 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “So how did they go from 2 to 3 million people playing the game to 60?”

The D&D revival is due to a confluence of factors, including ’80s nostalgia, the rise of geek culture, and digital technology. “You’ve got D&D on all types of television shows—Community, Big Bang Theory,” Newman says. “There’s actual play, the Critical Role explosion, which contributed. There’s a tremendous ruleset that contributed to it. There’s the ease with which one can learn how to play D&D. You can go online to YouTube and learn how to play, and suddenly this game that seemed so complicated or taboo, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s just people getting together and telling a story and having fun.’”

An increasing number of celebrities have also declared their love for D&D, including Dwayne Johnson, Steven Colbert, and Drew Barrymore. Newman plays in a star-studded D&D campaign run by True Blood actor Joe Manganiello. “We were a few sessions in and then Tom Morello joined the group,” Newman says, “and then a few more sessions in and Dan Weiss joined—cocreator of Game of Thrones—and then Dave Benioff joined. The Big Show—the WWE wrestler—would fly in from Florida. Vince Vaughn joined the team. It was a very fun and boisterous group of people.”

Newman and Manganiello are also hard at work on an official D&D documentary, which is slated for release in 2024. “Next year’s the 50th anniversary, and the game is as vibrant and relevant as ever,” Newman says. “It took a family of people, a legacy of people, a lineage, to understand the tradition and continue it. So that’s what we really get into. You understand that this is a game not just made by one man, and it’s survived because of the people who play it and the people who love it.”

Listen to the complete interview with Kyle Newman in Episode 555 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Kyle Newman on The Hollow:

[Writer Hans Rodionoff and producer Mason Novick] called me up one Sunday morning and said, “What are you doing?” And I was like, “Oh, flying home tomorrow,” and they’re like, “No you’re not. Meet us at Starbucks.” So I go to the Starbucks on Sunday morning, and they’re like, “We need you to come to set. Our director has quit. The movie’s fully financed. We need someone to take over and shoot the movie. Let’s go.” And I was like, “I need to read it.” And they’re like, “No, no, we’re going to set now.” And sure enough, outside the door a white van was parked, waiting to take me to set.

Kyle Newman on D&D characters:

These characters—Van Richten and Tasha and Xanathar and Mordenkainen and Acererak—they weren’t invented for 5th Edition. These are people that were in their lexicon of villains and heroes that are cover stars again, and they’re finding new ways to make them relevant for a modern audience. So if you’ve never played it, it’s exciting and you get into it and learn about the characters, but if you have played it, then you know that Xanathar is not a character that was invented for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. He’s a character that has been around for a long time.

Kyle Newman on Heroes Feast Flavors of the Multiverse:

There’s exquisite photography and food styling, but on top of that there’s photography that captures these places, that isn’t about food, and trying to bring to life places like Shadowfell or the planet Krynn. We got to shoot at a northern California vineyard that has a medieval castle on its property, with its own dungeon and everything. … A lot of the book is not just about the food, but it’s about the lore and the traditions surrounding the people and the food. So it is a cookbook, but it’s also a sourcebook of sorts for the cultures and settings.

Kyle Newman on Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves:

The quality of the movie was incredible. You look at Rotten Tomatoes, critically it’s loved. Everyone who saw the movie really enjoyed it. I think it was just that the studio made a mistake releasing the movie. They pushed it a month and backed it right up to Super Mario Bros., which was the biggest movie of the year until Barbie. … All of the things that were in the control of the filmmakers went well. They made a good movie and people liked the movie. Was it marketed correctly? Was it released at the right time? That’s out of their hands, and that shouldn’t be a determinant in if you make a sequel or not.

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