Since 1974, nerds and outcasts alike have found refuge in a world apart from ours, one with its own reality and mystery, but which exists wholly within their minds. I am, of course, talking about “the world’s greatest role-playing game” Dungeons & Dragons. These outcasts and nerds, who were once children and teenagers seeking sanctuary from an uncompromising world, are grown now, and most have either joined the established order, or have found a way to use their weaknesses as a way to achieve success in their adult lives. Some of these former adventurers still partake in the hobby, while others stopped long ago, but one thing is eminently clear in our modern day: things have changed since 1974, D&D is cool. D&D made a massive resurgence this year and has somehow secured a place for itself in the mainstream. Grab your sack of polyhedrals and a copy of Entertainment Today, because we’re running down the list of the 5 most famous D&D players!
Forget the one Ring to rule them all, this man has trotted a ring watched by hundreds of millions of loyal fans. Paul Donald Wight II, AKA The Big Show from WWE, is an old-school fan of Dungeons and Dragons, hailing from the early days of Gary Gygax’s Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). He’s recently joined a few other (literally) massive men for a campaign called Jocks Machina, based on the hit D&D show, Critical Role.
Another alpha-type personality, Manganiello is known for his roles in True Blood, the Magic Mike series, and now Justice League; he’s also utterly devoted to this hobby, and the Dragonborn oath-breaker paladin he plays, Arkhan the Cruel. Having played with Wizards of the Coast (publishers of recent editions of D&D) creative director Mike Mearls, and pretty much every other celebrity D&D player, Mangeniello is quickly becoming an emissary for “nerdom” in the mainstream. He’s played with some members of this list, geeked-out with others, and denigrated the chops of others still.
Those familiar with the video-game masterpiece, The Last of Us, are already familiar with this amazing actress and gamer for her work as Ellie. A stand-out on this list because of her gender, Ashley Johnson is representative of an increasingly enthusiastic female gaming sub-culture. One of three women in the cast of Geek and Sundry’s live Twitch role-playing show, Critical Role, Johnson started playing tabletop games with Pathfinder, before switching to the 5th, and most recent, edition of D&D.
That’s right, actor and producer for the Fast and the Furious and XXX series’, Vin Diesel is reportedly a huge nerd. He’s played with Matthew Mercer, voice actor and Dungeon Master extraordinaire, in anticipation of his movie Witch Hunter, but Joe Mangeniello insisted in his discussion with Colbert that he doesn’t know anyone who plays with Diesel regularly. All beef aside, we know that Diesel is familiar with old-school D&D, and no one can doubt his devotion to children’s toys.
Without a doubt the most famous name on this list, Stephen Colbert is possibly also the nerdiest. While it is widely accepted that he doesn’t currently play D&D, Colbert has several times displayed his impressive knowledge of fantasy lore both inside D&D and out. He’s chatted about the hobby with Patton Oswald, and Anderson Cooper, mentioning that he played D&D “the first week it came out”. But perhaps nothing can stand up to Colbert’s and Manganiello’s full-scale nerd-gasim wherein they hijacked 10-minutes of airtime in order to talk about old-school character creation, death saves, and a possible return to the hobby.
Dungeons & Dragons is published by Wizards of the Coast and is currently in year 4 of its 5th edition. WotC also produces the card game Magic: The Gathering, and airs its own role-playing shows weekly on Twitch.