Why Are D&D Geeks So Excited About Stranger Things?

They say to write what you know. There are different ways to interpret that, not all of which I agree with. But I do believe that if you're going to include something from a language or culture in your work which you're unfamiliar with, you'd do well to do a lot of research, but you'd do better to run your project by someone fluent in it. Otherwise, you may end up with something like I.SEOUL.U. Here's another example, also taken from my time in Korea.

mashimaro.jpg

I saw this picture all over the place when I first arrived in Korea. It mesmerized and baffled me. Eventually, I was able to reverse engineer the process that led to this in my mind.

The joke, I'm assuming, should have read as follows:

NAME: MASHIMARO
HEIGHT: SHORT
WEIGHT: FAT

So how did the creator come up with the bullshit you see in the picture? My theory is that he or she simply looked up the Korean words in a Korean to English dictionary and copied the first thing they saw. This theory is backed up by the fact that many Korean verbs are simply the adjectival forms of root verbs. Consequently, the verb will be listed in the dictionary rather than the adjective.

And while I applaud this person for actually going to the bother of using a dictionary (I've seen far worse butchery of the English language in Korea), he or she might have benefited from the reaction of a native English speaker.

"The fuck?"

"The fuck?"

I feel a similar process took place during the creation of the Netflix show, Stranger Things. When it came out, my Facebook feed was abuzz with excitement that there was a new television series on the air about kids who played Dungeons & Dragons in the 80s. Naturally, I had to check that shit out.

It's a wonderful show full of nostalgia and batshit crazy Winona Ryder. What more could a child of the 80s ask for? But all the hype I read about the D&D aspect of the show left me wanting, and feeling a little sad for those who were hyping it.

Yeah, it's nice that our hobby gets a positive nod in the mainstream media, but did they really do it justice?

My first clue that something was amiss came in the very first episode when one of the kids tells his mom that they were wrapping up a ten-hour campaign.

"You call yourself a nerd? You're dead to me."

"You call yourself a nerd? You're dead to me."

That was no campaign. That was a session. While that may seem nitpicky, it made me wonder if the show's creators, or anyone on the set, had actually ever played any D&D.

I didn't let such a minor detail bother me. The real disappointment came much later. I went on to watch the rest of the first season over the course of two nights. It was a lot of fun. But then I got to the end of the last episode, and the hairs on the back of my neck started to bristle once again.

In a scene which mirrors the opening gaming scene, the kids are back around the table. Snacks, drinks, dice, the whole works. And the Dungeon Master pulls out the miniature for the Big Bad, this time a hydra, which the party has to fight.

In the first episode's session, all of the players are debating whether Will should cast a Protection spell on himself, or cast a Fireball spell at the demogorgon.

In the final episode, however, there isn't a whole lot of deliberation. Poor Will's been stuck starving to death in a parallel universe and being hunted by a real monster for the past seven episodes, and is justifiably ready for whatever proxy retribution he can get. I get that. I've gone into gaming sessions with my real world baggage ready to murder the shit out of some orcs.

"Please don't take this personally. Verizon really fucked me over today."

"Please don't take this personally. Verizon really fucked me over today."

The fight begins. Will rolls a 14. The fight is over.

Wait, what?

That's right. With one roll of the die, Will singlehandedly defeats the hydra. No magic resistance. No saving throws. Nothing. The other two players didn't get to do jack shit. Hell, not even the hydra got a chance to attack before it was incinerated.

fail hydra.jpg

I understand that the whole scene is there just to demonstrate that the kids are getting on with their lives and doing okay. Likewise, I understand that nobody wants to watch a six-hour long battle played out on a sheet of fucking graph paper. That's what podcasts are for.

I might have overlooked it if the scene began in the middle of the action. Not knowing what happened prior to that, it would be reasonable to assume that the hydra they were all fighting had already been damaged enough by the time we're watching that fourteen hit points' worth of additional damage could have done it in.

But that's not what happened. We got to see the whole goddamn thirty-second boss battle, uninterrupted from the time the DM put the figure on the board to the time the players were over-enthusiastically cheering over the outcome of the shittiest D&D battle to have ever taken place in the entire history of the game.

Again, I enjoyed the show, and am eagerly looking forward to the next season. And I want to be excited that Dungeons & Dragons is a part of it. But as a gamer, I feel let down. I'm not asking for perfection, or even a whole lot of effort really. But if a show is going to feature D&D as such an important aspect of the characters' lives, I feel like the creators would do well to show a little more respect to the game and the culture surrounding it. 


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Title picture courtesy of makeitstranger.com.