'Dungeons and Dragons' has found something its early fans never expected: Popularity

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The days of hiding away in a basement rolling dice and playing “Dungeons and Dragons” in darkness is over.

More than 40 years after the first edition of “Dungeons and Dragons” hit shelves, video platforms Twitch and YouTube are leading a renaissance of the fantasy roleplaying board game — and business is booming.

“DnD has been around for 45 years and it is more popular now than it has ever been,” said Greg Tito, senior communications manager, at Wizards of the Coast. In each of the last five years, sales of “Dungeons and Dragons” merchandise has grown by double digits.

The company, owned by toymaker Hasbro, attributes this massive sales boom to the launch of the fifth edition of the game in 2014 and to “Critical Role,” a weekly show on live streaming video platform Twitch that features voice actors from TV shows and video games playing “Dungeons and Dragons.”

“You now no longer feel alone, you now no longer feel like that outcast,” said Matthew Lillard, actor and co-founder of Beadle and Grimms, a gaming company. “You are surrounded by people like you. There is a Twitch community. There is a story being told out there that is something that you love and there is no more of this fear of loving that thing out loud.”

The newest edition of “Dungeons and Dragons” centers more on storytelling than previous versions, Tito said, allowing players to focus more on narrative than the technical game mechanics.

“The fifth edition is a remarkable edition that is a lot easier to engage with as a new player and it really supports changing rules,” said Deborah Ann Woll, actress and dungeon master of Geek & Sundry’s “Relics and Rarities,” a “Dungeons and Dragons” show. “I love that they are very much like this is a guidebook and a blueprint and if you want to do something else or can’t remember a rule, just make it up. I like that they aren’t rigid.”

The fifth edition was so well-received by fans of “Dungeons and Dragons” that sales that year grew double digits. And that growth has continued, Tito said. Wizards of the Coast doesn’t disclose exact sales figures for the brand.

“When a new edition for a game like this releases, there is that flurry of activity, people get really excited about it and then, historically, that excitement has waned,” he said. “The fifth edition has completely blown that model out of the water. With the release in 2014, it has grown and only continued to grow. Every kind of statistical model we’ve been able to to use from the history of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ has been broken at this point. So, we are in uncharted territory.”



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