Dungeons and Dragons, and roleplaying on a larger level, is starting to make waves. It’s always been known for its unfortunate reputation as this incredibly nerdy, awkward thing that people do in their basements, never seeing the light of day. But as times change and as it skyrockets in popularity, it’s slowly becoming the new frontier for storytelling today. Also it’s just really fun.
For the uninitiated, Dungeons and Dragons (or D&D) is a tabletop, roleplaying game where players act as characters they’ve created. They are then thrust into a story constructed by a game master (GM), who guides them through quests, battles, and the typically insane antics that a group of players get up to. The success of your choices is decided by the roll of a dice, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you either sit back in triumph or you’re scrambling to fix your failures.
Traditionally played in person, the stories created belonged only to your small group of friends, never going beyond a few feet outside. What’s changing today is that these complex stories are being shared online, as D&D campaigns are being streamed on platforms like Twitch. And what’s pushing the envelope in storytelling is the interaction and engagement that live-streaming platforms bring, and which creators on these platforms are using to their advantage.
One such example is the work of a game master on Twitch that goes by the name “Arcadum”. Having created a deep, complex world, he recruits other streamers on the platform, each with their own audiences, to play campaigns within it and with each other. By doing this, it invites collaboration, interaction, and community, both between other streamers and the audience.
With these D&D sessions being played live on a weekly basis and interwoven into a connected world, Arcadum and other GMs like him create a form of episodic storytelling that demands attention from the audience. Forcing you to engage by seeing how characters in other campaigns have affected the story, you can’t help but become immersed in the world and catch up on past sessions. Viewers can also interact live via the chat, reacting or giving suggestions to events as they happen.
Roleplaying and interaction between other streamers has also skyrocketed on Twitch this year, recent examples being Rust and GTA V roleplaying servers, drawing in one million concurrent viewers. Roleplaying in and of itself is a form of live improvisation, and it’s at its best when you can play off other like-minded people. What streaming platforms like Twitch bring is that interaction with the roleplayer themselves, shaping what it is and what it can become.
However, what the fictional worlds of D&D and video games best offers is a limitless world of possibilities that aren’t hampered by reality, giving you the ability to do ridiculous things and be ridiculous characters. Normally, you’d never be able to fight a demon, build a colosseum, or manage a fast-food crime ring, but roleplaying offers all these possibilities for entertainment never seen before. The only limit is your imagination, and it’ll be exciting to see where roleplaying can go next. For now, all we can do is join in and enjoy the ride.