Dungeons & Dragons mania: With new movie, Tucson gaming store capitalizes

A Dungeons and Dragon kit displayed at Tucson Games and Gadgets. (Photo by Joseph Flores El Inde Arizona.)

Joseph Flores, El Inde Arizona

Dungeons & Dragons has once again risen to popularity in the media, with Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and Paramount Pictures’ “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves” opening in theaters on March 31st, 2023.

Tucson Games and Gadgets has capitalized on this popularity of D&D with their “Dungeons and Dragons Experience” hosted at their Park Place mall and Tucson mall locations, at 5 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday.

“We have people playing D&D in here almost daily,” said Shane Terpstra, the general manager of the Tucson mall location. “A lot of D&D happens in this store, and at all of our stores.”

Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy role-playing games created by Ernest Gary Gygax and David Arneson in 1974. Hasbro’s Wizard of the Coast bought the game in 1997.

The game is story driven, with the Dungeon Master creating a story for other players to go on a quest with their characters, who have a unique skillset, using dice and math to get through the story.

The fifth edition of D&D player’s handbook was released in 2014 and designed to help new players learn the game.

“Everything that was 3.5 edition was very rules complex, 4th went easy on the rules complexity,” said Zachary Swanson a Tucson resident and dungeon master who has played the game for several years.  “Fifth edition brings back a lot of the rules of the previous editions and simplifies the craziness of that edition.”

Tucson’s Games and Gadgets which specializes in tabletop games and offers play space and board gaming events, hosts a boot camp for new players to learn the game.

 “My Wednesdays and Saturday nights are geared for beginners,” said Terpstra. “We always have a beginners table.”

Terpstra believes there is a strong community in Tucson that loves to play Dungeons and Dragons, with the movie coming out, he ordered extra books to keep up with an anticipated increase in game sales.

“I like writing, I like the idea of storytelling,” said Jessika Plymesser, a Tucson Games and Gadgets store clerk and D&D player. “The idea of making a story that you’re a part of that can help others be inspired, I just love that idea. Plus it’s so much fun!”

The game has also grown more in popularity with the COVID pandemic as people were ordered to sheltered in place and sought new hobbies and passions to fill the time.

“I think it probably really picked up over COVID, there was nothing else to do, you couldn’t go anywhere, you couldn’t do anything,” Dana Busenbark, a teacher and D&D player since the first edition.

Dana Busenbark rolling her dice to advance the quest on March 18. (Photo by Joseph Flores, El Inde Arizona)

As the game continues to grow, veteran players are encouraging people to join the quest as it brings important life lessons and social skills.

“It really is a communication thing and social skills, it teaches the kids to think outside the box, here’s the problem you’re presented with, how do you get out of it?” said Busenbark.

D&D’s popularity has led to multiple studios to greenlight projects that adapt the fantasy game on the big and small screens.

“Now we’re seeing D&D pop up in pop culture because a lot of these people who create media, played it when they were young, loved it and have fun memories and a lot of nostalgia about it,” said Terpstra. “It’s the largest roll playing game on earth at the moment.”

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