We might finally be back outside, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the rise of Dungeons & Dragons. Steadily growing in popularity over the last couple of years, the tabletop game has continued to thrive and grow over lockdown. The ubiquitously geeky game was naturally aided by the globe going into isolation, leading to an increase in people trying new things from home, with many playing with their families or friends playing together through video chat.

In recent years, mainstream fantasy enterainment—TV shows like Stranger Things and Game Of Thrones, video games like Skyrim, The Witcher and Ghost Of Tsushima—has simultaneously led to an increase in interest and hype around IRL gaming experiences in a similar vein. Basically, being a geek is cooler than it’s ever been.

So, what’s Dungeons & Dragons really all about?

Well, it involves a group of people sitting around a table and pretending to be warriors, mages and elves as they embark on self-constructed quests and decide the outcome of battles and a number of other climactic events through rolls of the dice. One player is the Dungeon Master (aka DM), who uses the game’s instruction books and campaign guides to structure the adventure through their own storytelling and rules. The games are intimate, inherently immersive and occasionally mathematical, with the combination of polyhedral dice and your own imagination allowing for a level of limitless freedom, real-life human contact and role-playing that other games rarely give.

It might shock you to hear that over 50 million people have now played Dungeons & Dragons to date. But it’s not just the old heads playing it: #dnd has over 4 billion video views on TikTok, with people aged 20-24 now the biggest demographic playing D&D. And while the game has been stereotyped as being a male hobby in the past, the split between men and women (60% men, 40% women, with the latter share increasing) shows how that is changing. The game is also extremely popular with LGBTQ+ gamers, with a lot of very successful POC-led streamer and podcast groups—such as Rivals of Waterdeep and Three Black Halflings—booming in popularity. 

To find out more about D&D and its new wave of appeal, COMPLEX linked up with Elise Rose—a digital artist, photographer and DJ based in London. We sat in on a game between Elise and her friends and fellow D&D fans Kanika, Andy and Zac to discover how, and why, this tabletop game is connecting with them and millions more, like never before.

To learn more about Dungeons & Dragons, to access game resources or to connect with the community, head to the official D&D wesbite