The world has come a long way since the satanic panic around Dungeons & Dragons in the mid-80s. The fact that the popular TTRPG – which has become even more so following the release of its fifth edition in 2014 – was genuinely believed to be a gateway to the demonic may amuse today’s players but, as recently depicted in Stranger Things Season 4, it was real. So real, in fact, there was even a movie about it starring Tom Hanks. (Look it up, seriously.)
While the Netflix mega-hit isn’t single-handedly responsible for D&D’s resurgence – 80s nostalgia, the mainstreaming of geek culture, 5e’s instrumental changes, and Twitch streaming play a part – it definitely hasn’t hindered it. The show’s affectionate window into the past showcases the game’s best aspects: creativity, storytelling, and socialising. And it does it using the very age range that Bible-bashing moralists were most worried about it corrupting.
If you or your younger offspring are looking to get into the game, there have never been more avenues for you to do so. For older players, connecting with established groups or forming them via Facebook, Reddit, Discord, etc. is a decent starting point, with platforms like D&D Beyond, Roll20 and Dungeon Master’s Vault fantastic for virtual or blended play, as well as game management for both GMs and players.
However, if you’re after local, in-person options, here’s what’s on offer for both novice and experienced D&D players of all ages in Wales. West and north Walians will note that they are all in the south, unfortunately. Maybe someone should do something to change that in those regions!
Rules of Play, Castle Arcade, Cardiff
With branches in both the Welsh capital and across the border in Bristol, board game stockists Rules of Play run regular starter D&D sessions in-store, and, for a fee, will even come to you to put on corporate or party game experiences.
Firestorm Games, Sloper Road, Cardiff
Also in Cardiff and also running on Tuesdays – every other week – table-top and card game mecca Firestorm Games is running D&D Adventurer’s League sessions for up to six players at a time for characters levels 1-5. Tickets are just £3 and you can register here.
Geek Retreat, Cardiff, Newport & Bridgend
An ever-growing empire of ‘geek culture’ hubs, Geek Retreat has three locations in south Wales – as well as one in Bristol – and, naturally, has skin in the D&D craze. They run a mixture of events from Games Masters’ Workshops to beginner sessions to campaigns established players can join.
Fumble Folks, Cardiff & online
Operated by a trio of TTRPG-lovers, Fumble Folks is a community of like-minded gaming nerds with grand ambitions to franchise their own homebrewed world, Osasris. In the meantime, you can read tips on their blog or watch/listen to them roll dice together on Twitch and Spotify.
They’ve also begun running D&D sessions in partnership with Geek Retreat in Wales. Keep an eye on their events here.
The Role Play Haven, Cardiff Central & Cardiff North
The Role Play Haven was established over ten years ago in southeast London just on the cusp of the current board game revival. It soon became a CIC (Role Together) before expanding across England, Scotland and Wales, with two branches set up in Cardiff in 2018-19.
You can join games (usually for up to six players) ranging from official adventures like Curse of Strahd to homebrew campaigns to the critter-based Humblewood on Tuesday evenings and Sundays. Find games at the Cardiff Central branch (Arcade Vaults) here, and at the Cardiff North branch (The Old Church Rooms) here.
Community Gaming Hub, Caerphilly Create & The Aber Hotel, Caerphilly
The Community Gaming Hub runs social gaming activities geared towards young people and families. They currently have evening D&D sessions for groups of up to eight across two hubs in Caerphilly – Caerphilly Create and The Aber Hotel – for £2 between 5-7 pm and £3 between 7-10 pm, Mon-Thurs. More info here and contact details here.
D&D In A Castle, Lumley Castle, North England
While not in Wales, this one would make an incredible long-weekend getaway if you’ve got the cash to shell out for it. D&D In A Castle is precisely what it says on the tin – a three-day luxury holiday package including feasts, medieval-inspired activities, celebrity Dungeon Masters and a welcoming environment for newbies, set in the atmospheric Lumley Castle.
You can register here for their Sep-Oct packages and put down a deposit of $1,000 (about £800) towards a total fee of $2,850 per player (about £2,400 – prices are in dollars as they cater mostly to Americans).
If you’re planning on running your own D&D events in Wales and want them listed here, let us know by filling out our contact form here.
words HANNAH COLLINS