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The Daily Wildcat

 

Dungeons & Dragons mania: With new movie, Tucson gaming store prepares for influx of new players

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A Dungeons & Dragons kit displayed at Tucson Games and Gadgets. (Photo by Joseph Flores El Inde Arizona)

Dungeons & Dragons has once again risen to popularity in the media, with Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and Paramount Pictures’ “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” that opened in theaters on Friday, March 31.

Tucson Games and Gadgets has capitalized on the popularity of D&D with its “Dungeons & Dragons Experience” hosted at their Park Place Mall and Tucson Mall locations at 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“We have people playing D&D in here almost daily,” said Shane Terpstra, the general manager of the Tucson Mall location. “A lot of D&D happens in this store, and at all of our stores.”

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy role-playing game created by Ernest Gary Gygax and David Arneson in 1974. Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast bought the game in 1997. 

The game is story-driven, with the Dungeon Master creating a story for other players to go on a quest with their characters, who have a unique skill set, using dice and math to get through the story. 

The fifth edition of the D&D player’s handbook was released in 2014 and designed to help new players learn the game. 

“Everything that was 3.5 edition was very rules complex. Fourth went easy on the rules complexity,” Zachary Swanson, a Tucson resident and Dungeon Master who has played the game for several years, said. “Fifth edition brings back a lot of the rules of the previous editions and simplifies the craziness of that edition.”

TGG, which specializes in tabletop games and offers play space and board gaming events, hosts a boot camp for new players to learn the game.

“My Wednesdays and Saturday nights are geared for beginners,” Terpstra said. “We always have a beginners table.” 

Terpstra believes there is a strong community in Tucson that loves to play Dungeons & Dragons, and with the movie coming out, he ordered extra books to keep up with an anticipated increase in game sales.

“I like writing, I like the idea of storytelling,” said Jessika Plymesser, a Tucson Games and Gadgets store clerk and D&D player. “The idea of making a story that you’re a part of that can help others be inspired. I just love that idea. Plus it’s so much fun.”

The game also has grown more in popularity with the COVID-19 pandemic as people were ordered to shelter in place and sought new hobbies and passions to fill the time. 

Dana Busenbark rolling her dice to advance the quest while playing Dungeons & Dragons on March 18, 2022. (Photo by Joseph Flores, El Inde Arizona)
Dana Busenbark rolling her dice to advance the quest while playing Dungeons & Dragons on March 18, 2022. (Photo by Joseph Flores, El Inde Arizona)

“I think it probably really picked up over [COVID-19]. There was nothing else to do. You couldn’t go anywhere, you couldn’t do anything,” Dana Busenbark, a teacher and D&D player since the first edition, said. 

As the game continues to grow, veteran players are encouraging people to join the quest as it brings important life lessons and social skills. 

“It really is a communication thing and social skills,” Busenbark said. “It teaches the kids to think outside the box. Here’s the problem you’re presented with; how do you get out of it?” 

D&D’s popularity has led multiple studios to green-light projects that adapt the fantasy game on the big and small screens. 

“Now we’re seeing D&D pop up in pop culture because a lot of these people who create media played it when they were young, loved it and have fun memories and a lot of nostalgia about it,” Terpstra said. “It’s the largest role-playing game on Earth at the moment.”


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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