RPGBOT.Podcast S2E60 banner Stranger Things

Stranger Things as a Window into Dungeons and Dragons – RPGBOT.Podcast S2E60

Show Notes

WARNING: This episode contains spoilers!

In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss Stranger Things and its representation of Dungeons and Dragons and the people who play. Stranger Things has introduced a wide audience to the wonderful world of Dungeons and Dragons, but without a guide it may be difficult for curious viewers to find their way into the hobby. We explain the tropes, the references, the themes, and how you can find your way into D&D.

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Materials Referenced in this Episode


Ash  00:01

We need, like, the Stranger Things music for this episode.

Randall  00:04

papapa papapa papapa papapa papapa. It’s the best I can do. That’s all I got.

Ash  00:15

It’s beautiful. I loved it.

Tyler  00:17

Just add some vague synth in the background just wow, wo wow!

Randall  00:23

I got a wawa pedal out, get the guitar. I love that. Like, I can actually… I want to listen to that as an album. Just, you know, the same 8 notes over and over again. It’s gonna be fantastic. Welcome to the RPGBOT.News. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra!

Tyler  00:39

Hi, everybody!

Randall  00:40

And Ash Elie! Hey, guys.  All right. Yeah, Tyler, what are we gonna talk about tonight?

Tyler  00:46

Well, today we’re going to talk about Stranger Things. Now. This is a… this is somewhat of a departure for this podcast, but Stranger Things is a wonderful window into Dungeons and Dragons thematically, as a concept, like, the lives of people who play it. And just for someone outside of the hobby, Stranger Things is a remarkably good window into a lot of the things that make Dungeons Dragons special.

Randall  01:18

Yeah, it’s kind of a funny thing, like, Stranger Things is hugely popular. And everybody loves these nerds that everybody in the 1980’s hated.

Ash  01:26


Randall  01:26

So we’re all watching them play. And I think you know, fivey has been wonderful for bringing folks to the hobby. I have to wonder if anybody has tried to do like any market study to say like, how many people are actually picking up 5e because they watched a Netflix series and they’re like, “yeah, no, those nerds seem pretty cool. Let’s try it!”

Ash  01:42

Well, I don’t know exact figures. But I do know that Stranger Things did a lot for the optics of D&D. It definitely brought it back into lexicon and back into the consciousness. And I think it was a good it was just really serendipitous timing, that it came out at around the same time that 5e did. Like, 5g came out in 2015. I believe… is that right? 2015? Yeah. And strange things first season dropped 2016. And then you had the perfect storm with like Critical Role and actual plays. And that’s what kind of caused this whole D&D renaissance that we’re currently undergoing in. There definitely is, like, people know what D&D is now, even if they don’t play it, they know what it is. Which even just a few years ago, before Stranger Things, I don’t think a lot of people probably wouldn’t know what the hell you were talking about.

Randall  02:33

Or if they did, they would think like, oh, that’s that game from the 80’s.

Ash  02:37


Randall  02:38

And not realize like, No, this is something people are still actually doing now. And in fact, more people play today than they did back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Ash  02:45


Tyler  02:46

before stranger things the best representation in media that I could point people to of, like, people actually playing D&D was E.T.

Randall  02:56

When the pizza arrives?

Tyler  02:57

Yeah, the pizza arrives. And the older kids are playing D&D, drinking Mountain Dew, and eating pizza and, like, that is flawlessly represented the D&D experience right there.

Ash  03:08

Yep. Yep.

Randall  03:08

And representing the 1980’s, the entire, like, room was filled with smoke. And so, like, everything you were watching, it was like the hazy light, the smoke clearing out over. It’s like, do they bring a fog machine in for the D&D game? Nope. They’re gonna die from cancer. So let’s do a little bit of a peek behind the curtain. So we’re recording this at a time where the first part of season four has come out. We are not all completely caught up because some of us like to savor. It isn’t me, I rushed through it as quickly as I can push, um, push my family.

Ash  03:38


Randall  03:39


Tyler  03:39

I was not warned that there would be spiders, and that has slowed me down.

Ash  03:43

I’m sorry that I outed you there. Well, that was my bad.

Tyler  03:47

It’s fine, it’s fine.

Randall  03:50

But so let’s, let’s talk a little bit about our plan with the structure, what, we’re gonna do this in an episode. We want to talk about seasons one through three. We might allude to a couple of things that have happened in season four already. And then once the second part of season four comes out, we’re actually going to go through, we’re going to listen to that. We’re going to append anything, if like, any big opinions change, or if anything, we’re just like, super awesome. We have to talk about it. We’re gonna come back, and we’ll talk about it. And then that’ll, that’ll close this episode. So I want to ask this question, and then I want to use this almost like as we frame it. A lot of folks have talked about, and I feel like there’s a lot of content written about, like, you know, you know, which class is Mike and what class is El, and like, these sorts of things. And I think that’s interesting. I want to offer this and I want to see if somebody wants to make an opposing argument. I believe that Stranger Things, the series, is the embodiment of a tabletop campaign, if your setting for the campaign was 1980’s suburban Indiana.

Ash  04:47

I think that is true. Yeah.

Randall  04:49

Yeah. If I challenge you, like, yeah, let’s tell this story. Let’s put this together. Let’s play that game. This is the story that you would tell me. And so I want to talk about the setting. I want to talk about the characters. I want to talk about the tropes, the appearances, like, references that pop out. And really I think it makes sense to open with the setting. Okay. So what if you want to play a TTRPG0 set in the 1980’s? Okay, who were going to be the bad guys in 1980’s? Who were always the bad guys? The scientists!

Ash  05:15

Or, more broadly, the government.

Tyler  05:17

Government scientists. Yeah.

Ash  05:19


Randall  05:19

It was usually those. Yeah. Well, I mean, those are the worst. Let’s face it. That’s like, you know, those are your your, you know, tier four monsters in the 1980’s, your government scientist. What are they doing that’s terrible? I don’t know. Experimenting on kids. Yeah, that does sound terrible.

Ash  05:32


Randall  05:32

Like we should totally, you know, psychological thriller sort of thing going on. It’s like, how do we represent that they’re doing something psychological to children? I don’t know, alligator clips in their hair? Is that… Is that gonna get it done?

Tyler  05:45

That feels spooky. Like, indecipherable, like, what is that thing that they’re putting on that person’s head? I don’t know. Looks spooky. Don’t trust it.

Randall  05:52

But we attach them to a seismic sensor, so obviously, something terrible is happening. And then like, Okay, you get through the scientists and it’s like, okay, the scientist we played it out. We, you know, if you throw another scientist at me during this game, I’m going to stab you in real life. Okay, second 1980’s bad guys: Russians.

Ash  06:10

Russians, yeah.

Tyler  06:12

The height of the Cold War. Everyone’s still scared of the USSR. Yeah, you got American scientists and then the upgrade to the scary Russian scientists.

Ash  06:21

The natural progression.

Randall  06:22

Even more heartless because the voice sounds harsh to our American ears. A little bit of sadness. What’s old is new. Here we are in 2022. But, I digress. Yeah. And, like, what are the things that you love to have in your D&D campaign? Do we have cultists?

Tyler  06:36

I mean, a lot of good D&D games will involve some cultists who are, like, doing some weird, bad magic stuff to do bad things.

Ash  06:44

But do we have cultists in Stranger Things?

Randall  06:45

So we talked about, you know, we’ve watched a little bit of early season four. There’s totally the, you know, the Satanic Panic is like already coming out.

Ash  06:53

Oh, for sure. For sure. Yeah, but in the first three seasons? I don’t know. I don’t know.

Tyler  06:59

Yeah, I don’t remember, I don’t remember the Satanic Panic being mentioned at any point in the first three seasons. But also at the time, playing Dungeons Dragons and stuff was something that the boys did, like, in Will’s basement and that was about it.

Randall  07:15

No, that’s fair. That’s fair.

Tyler  07:16

Sorry. I guess it’s Mike’s basement, isn’t it?

Randall  07:18

It is Mike’s basement.

Tyler  07:19

Getting setting details wrong already!

Ash  07:24

Let’s be honest, there’s… there’s a lot of stuff in that show.

Randall  07:27

Yeah, a lot happens very quickly. I don’t think Will had a basement. But, you know, Jonathan had a kickass radio. So that was pretty cool. And the last thing that I’ll call out, like, if we’re actually going to play in this setting, it has to be a low magic setting. It’s not going to feel authentic if, you know like, I’m… I’m dressed as a Ghostbuster riding my bike down the street. Go, like, you know, 14 neighborhoods over because that’s what you did. You left when the sun came up, and your mom told you not to come home until the sun went down. In the middle of my bike ride somebody hurls a fireball at me. That’s not authentic. That’s that’s not what we’re looking for. Of course, you have to have like a little bit of magic.

Tyler  08:02

I think isolating the whole story in, like, in a small town and in Indiana. Small stakes, local area, not a lot of, like, strangers coming through. So, like, it keeps the setting very self-contained. Keeps the story in one place. And yeah, the characters aren’t tempted to go wandering off to other places very frequently. And then season four happens.  Yeah, then season four happens.

Randall  08:29

We have a budget? What?

Ash  08:32

Let’s go everywhere! Everywhere!

Tyler  08:36

Yeah! And, yeah, just having the the absolute absence of anything magical or paranormal really makes anything even slightly out of the ordinary feel very different. So, like, in in your typical D&D game, it is typically a, like, fantasy, magical setting. Like, there’s unicorns and dragons and wizards slinging fireballs and all that stuff. So, like, if you walked through town, and somebody was like, I’m going to use this magic to chill my drink or something. I don’t know. You look, that’d be like, ah, that guy spent some time learning how to do that and that doesn’t startle me. But yeah, small town, Indiana. Somebody pulls out some magic to do anything. And we’re like, that’s, that’s weird. That’s different.

Ash  09:18


Randall  09:19

Well, and even like flipping it on its head. In the beginning, like, in season one, all of this was insane. It was crazy to talk about. And so there’s a little bit of, you know, they’re young enough. And they have the, the imagination to buy in pretty quickly. The kids do. The older, you know, the teenagers. They come by it a little bit more slowly, but they come by it eventually. And the adults basically think they’re crazy and they don’t, they almost don’t want to communicate about it. I say that to say like that’s a realistic way of handling the roleplay of being in a no magic setting and all of a sudden having these paranormal activities start happening around you.

Ash  09:56

You mentioned that the adults really don’t believe it, like, it takes them a while to get on board. With one exception: Joyce Byers. Joyce is like one of the first people to get on board that Will is in an extra dimensional plane and that the the body that comes out, spoilers if you’re not caught up, is not actually a Will. It’s a fake body. Even though everybody thinks she’s out of her mind. So that is interesting.

Tyler  10:23

I suppose we probably should have led with a spoiler warning. This entire episode is going to be littered with spoilers for the entirety of the series. So if you’re, if you’re planning on watching the series, we’re going to ruin things for you. And I’m very sorry about that.

Ash  10:37


Randall  10:38

On the flip side, it’s a wonderful series. Pause this and go watch. You… we’ll still be here.

Ash  10:43

Yeah, then come back and listen. Let’s wait.

Tyler  10:54

Okay, have you had enough time to watch four seasons of a TV series?

Randall  10:58

It was great, wasn’t it?

Ash  10:59

It was awesome. Yeah.

Randall  11:00

I’m so glad you’re back.

Tyler  11:01

So let’s talk about the characters a bit. Yeah. So the series opens on the four boys: Will, Mike, Lucas, Dustin playing Dungeons and Dragons in a basement. And, like, that is a quintessential D&D trope. Now, since the 70’s and 80’s D&D has moved out of basements and is played basically everywhere. Game stores, libraries, bars, people’s kitchens. A lot of D&D is played online these days. You know, post-pandemic world. But that image is still very, like, iconic to D&D. Mike is behind the Dungeon Master’s screen. The other three boys are the players. Mike is telling the story. Like, there, there’s drama, there’s combat, there’s the big scary monster that pops out and we’re immediately introduced to like the first direct reference to D&D canon, which is Demogorgon. And we’ll come back and talk and touch on the monsters later. But like, those four characters are essentially the core party. The party being, like, these are the adventurers who are going to go and do the things and, like, more characters are added. There are other parties that are kind of adjacent and interact and stuff. But that sets us off on this wild adventure from that, like, here we are. This close-knit group of friends taking on bad guys together.

Randall  12:38

And it’s funny because even in the first season, we talked about, like, they’re kids, and they have a fantastic imagination. Looking back with the lens of like the Satanic Panic, one of the things that parents who were against this talked about, or adults, I guess, I should say, who are against this talk about is the idea is like, oh, you know, the kids can’t differentiate between reality and fantasy. And they think that their fantasy world is real. Well in this case, their fantasy world became real for them. You don’t know, that te upside down doesn’t necessarily represent the, you know, the Shadowfell. It doesn’t necessarily represent the Feywild. But it’s something like that it’s it’s a adjacent plane with portals that we can stumble through and there are terrible things lurking and their friends lost in it, and they know that. You know, the Demogorgon, was it actually the Demogorgon? You know, was it… help me, Demogorgon is a demon…? Yeah. And so they they fight this thing, but it wasn’t, you know, the creature they’re fighting wasn’t Demogorgon. And where that creature came from wasn’t the Shadowfell or the Feywild. They call it the “Upside Down” in the game and that stuck. But for them, their fantasy world became real and they had to play this out in real life. You know, there was even in I think anybody who’s watched series is probably right about it, thought about it, talked about it. There’s that fantastic scene at the opening where they’re, they’re having this combat, and they’re debating about what to do, right? You know, first of all, it’s like, oh no, you know, hopefully, it’s not the Demogorgon, not the Demogorgon. Mike’s like, “it’s the Demogorgon!” And everybody starts panning, the energy goes up. And like if anybody has been at the table and had that experience, it’s awesome! And if you’ve had that experience, you knew it! Like, you saw that, like, yeah, they got it. And then it’s Will’s turn and Will has to decide what to do. Does he heal? Or does he blow it away? And there’s that drama and they’re building up to that climax of like, what’s he going to do? What’s he going to do? What’s he going to do? He goes to the fireball. Now think about what happens when Will leaves and will goes home. Till gets into a bind. He has the choice of running. He has the choice of hiding. Will goes for the gun!

Ash  13:27


Tyler  13:27

The Demogorgon is a demon prince. The, the miniature that they use in the show is actually really accurate. It’s it’s like a 12-foot tall humanoid creature with to baboon heads and instead of arms, it has to, like, split green tentacles. Demons, they’re crazy, wacky chaos monsters that want to eat stuff. 11 years old, goes out to the shed, loads of rifle, and he’s like, “alright, this is happening.”

Ash  15:12

Let’s do this.

Randall  15:13

Yeah. And like that that window into the character. And the boys, of course, realize that later. Ot’s like, well, what would Will do? Well, Will would attack because that’s what we’ve seen him do. You know, this was their fantasy laying out in real life.

Ash  15:26

Yeah, it is interesting that you bring that up, because one of the interpretations that I could see of this series is… I don’t know ifyou guys were big into Goosebumps. But there was this… There’s this book called “The Blob That Ate Everything.” And essentially, the premise was, this guy was writing a novel, and what he was writing sort of came to life. And you could kind of see the same thing with this, that anything that they… their D&D sessions kind of come to life. Obviously, in an interpretive sort of way, because it’s no coincidence that the villains that are in their games, with the exception of the Mind Flayer, show up as villains of that particular arc. Like, the Demogorgon becomes their main villain of season one. Vecna, that they find the beginning of season four, becomes their main villain. But we’re not going to talk about season four. But it is kind of that interesting idea of this is a D&D game that has come to life.

Tyler  16:25

Jumping back to the characters. Yes, I 100% agree. The game has come to life, we’ve got this core party and the, like, the these four characters in the show, are also kind of this source of knowledge about the paranormal things that are beyond regular reality. So like, they have that frame of reference to use for all these creatures when stuff gets weird. So a monster shows up. They immediately name it the Demogorgon. Season three, people’s brains start getting taken over. And Dustin’s like, yeah, mind flayer. Yeah, obviously,

Randall  17:01

Even Season Two, the creature reaching out and, like, possessing Will. And he needed to get rid of that, right? That was the mind flayer

Tyler  17:07

That’s right. I forgot they named it the mind flayer in season two.

Randall  17:09

And then in season three, it’s back and it’s expanding, right? And even, like, that was… their logic. I’ll be blunt. On the one hand, it kind of feels like a storytelling device. It was beautiful. It was really great. On the other hand, like, flawless like you nailed it. They’re like, Okay, well, we made the analogy to the previous creature that it was the Mind Flayer, and it possessed Will. But we got it out of Will. If it were still here, it would look for a new host. Now who’s a jerk?

Tyler  17:35

Who’s a jerk that we just introduced and we’re not emotionally invested in?

Randall  17:39


Ash  17:40

It is the way the mind flare takes over people it is kind of like ceromorphosis, for those who aren’t familiar with the term.

Randall  17:48

Talk about that, yeah.

Ash  17:48

yeah. So in fifth edition, well in Dungeons and Dragons lore, mind flayers don’t naturally reproduce. Instead, what they do is they subject a person to ceromorphosis, in which they take a tadpole from their elder brain brine pool, and they insert it into a person’s orifice, which in season three was a person’s mouth. And also kind of in season two, because that’s what the mind flayer did to Will. He even coughs out little worm things. So the worm borrows its way int your… into your skull, eats your brain, and sort of inhabits it, turning you into a mind flayer. It’s a horrible, grisly fate, but it is kind of… it is kind of what the mind flayer is doing in Stranger Things.

Tyler  18:35

Yeah. And notably, there’s no real way to recover from it. Like the fact that… the fact that they managed to rescue Will from the mind flayer was kind of an aberration. Yeah, nobody else comes back from that.

Randall  18:49

And the call out, I would say is that, you know, for the Demogorgon and for the Mind Flayer the monster isn’t really the Demogorgon, the monster isn’t really the Mind Flayer. But it’s a useful analogy that I think is is helping to tell the story for the audience and it is setting the tone and the expectation for generally what you’re going to get with this creature in the season. I love that as a storytelling device.

Ash  19:11

Yeah, exactly. Each of the monsters I think you can, you can sort of view as an allegory or a metaphor for the the struggles of… basically. growing up. Coming of age. Basically, like, I think Stranger Things is essentially the quintessential 80’s coming of age story, which we’ll get to later about, like how it basically encapsulates the 80’s. But each of the monsters represents a different sort of problem that people will obviously come into contact with as they grow up, as they get as they get older, as they come in contact with things that, you know, young teens and preteens have to deal with. So I feel like the Demogorgon kind of represents the uncertainty of youth and… this is a, this is a wide swing. So I hope you guys will come with me on this.

Randall  20:07

Keep going. I want to hear this.

Ash  20:08

But I think it is also a metaphor for puberty. I think it is. So it is… not necessarily, like, the good parts of puberty or like the funny stuff we think about puberty. But like all the scary stuff. Like, my body’s changing, things are happening to me that I have no control over. And the Demogorgon just doesn’t really have a consciousness, it is just base instincts. Base survival instincts, which can relate a lot to, you know, puberty. And it’s no coincidence that one of the characters who dies from the Demogorgon dies at a teen party where teens are having sex. You can interpret it in that sort of way. It’s also just represents, like I said before, it’s just like, the uncertainty of youth and like all this scary stuff, you’re now… you’re, you’re at the threshold of adulthood, that you’re coming out of your childhood where you you were just kind of allowed to do whatever, and didn’t really have any responsibilities. Suddenly, you now have responsibilities. Saving the world being one of them, apparently. But yeah, I don’t know. What do you guys think?

Tyler  21:23

I could definitely see it. And if there’s anything I know about puberty, it’s that you can harm it by catching into bear trap and setting it on fire.

Ash  21:32

Yes, absolutely.

Randall  21:34

This does stop the process. You’re right.

Ash  21:36

That’s called the abstinence.

Randall  21:45

Quick, something else!

Tyler  21:46

Quick, something else! Yeah, yeah, I can definitely see the comparison there. So like the demo- the Demogorgon comes in, and then stuff in this tiny end of town where nothing ever happens… Everything starts happening, like, as soon as the Demogorgon comes out. Like the secret conspiracy of the scientists comes out. Crazy disappearances, like, all these all these characters that apparently have intertwined backstories start interacting, like… Change.

Randall  22:17

And the… so part of this is Demogorgon wasn’t the only bad guy running around, right? So there were actual agents running around killing people, which is only confusing because the agents are like, “Wait, did you get that? I didn’t get that one. Did you kill that one? Why is this person missing?” And it becomes this awkward thing. But again, our party knew because they were doing their own investigation. They were digging in, you know, they were doing their history checks to say, oh, yeah, Will would totally go for the gun. Therefore, there must have been a bad guy. And it must have been 12 foot tall. Like…

Tyler  22:47

I mean, that’s another great D&D trope. It’s the the party of intrepid unlikely heroes from, like, diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences coming together, pooling their skills to overcome incredible odds. The party of four kids, like, they’re not equipped to fight monsters. The older teens, I believe in season one…

Ash  23:11

Jonathan and Nancy?

Tyler  23:14

Jonathan, Steve, Nancy, yeah, the three of them, essentially, like they at least super briefly formed the party that ends up fighting the Demogorgon head on more successfully than anybody else does. And then, Hopper and Joyce, like the adults party. So like you have these three independent parties all, like, collectively working against the same problem. But like they all share that theme of our backstories are intertwined in a few ways, like we are tied together by circumstances. But we all come from wildly different places. And we’re coming together to solve this problem. Maybe because we don’t have a choice.

Randall  23:53

Yeah, I mean, so I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of motivating the youngest groups quest. Like, you know, what are they attempting to achieve? Part of this is they find El and El gives them clues. El’s able to give them some hints on where it’s heading, and also gives us a little bit of magic. So that’s exciting. Yeah, pushing them off to the side. So Jonathan, wants to find his little brother, Steve wants to impress Nancy, and Nancy wants to do the right thing. And Nancy also, well okay, two things. Nancy wants to do the right thing, which leads her to working with, helping, talking to Jonathan. Nancy also wants to not be the perfect goody two shoes for once in our life, which makes Steve exciting. But I think Steve wanting to impress Nancy is enough to kind of bring him into the quest where it’s like, do I actually care about finding Will? Not really. But, yeah, I’ll hang around for you know, a session or two and we’ll see where this goes. With the adults. You know, similarly, I think they’re pretty aligned. Right? Hopper feels personally responsible because it’s his town. You know, he’s the small town sheriff and he also has had his own personal loss. And so seeing a child go missing is hurting him. He cares about Joyce as a friend. And Joyce, of course, wants her son back and doesn’t truly believe he’s gone. So all of that put together kind of motivates why each of these parties is going in their direction. I do want to say, one of the things I feel like they do amazing in every season, is they open up these quest lines. And in the first season, you kind of felt how they were related. And you could tease it out. I feel like pretty quickly. Probably the evil scientist torturing the children is related to the evil monster in the upside down space coming around and doing terrible stuff. Like I want to go to season three. Season three opens with, I want to remind you, we literally got a clear the rats from my basement quest.

Tyler  25:46

Oh my gosh, it does!

Ash  25:47

It’s true. It’s true.

Randall  25:48

Nancy and Jonathan get a hot tip that this crazy woman has rats in her basement and they’re fascinating. And they’re like “We gotta go out there and we got to see these rats!” And they go, and it leads to them, like going on a chase. And everybody’s like “you get off that rat story!” And they’re like “no! Rats!” And in the beginning is like, how is this related? This isn’t related at all. Elle is trying to spy on her boyfriend and stumbles into the quest of “something’s wrong with Billy.”

Ash  26:16

Yeah, it’s classic D&D.

Randall  26:17

Yeah. At the mall, the evil Russians make their appearance. And Dustin and Steve and Robin. Robin gets introduced. You know, they’re like, well, we’ve, you know, Dustin intercepted this code previously, and now we’re trying to decode it. And what do you know, because we didn’t want to have to deal with travel, because travel sucks in tabletop gaming, let’s just say the evil Russians are in the mall, where we’re decoding the message. That’s gonna make this a lot easier to deal with.

Tyler  26:42

And that’s… to go back to the the party thing, they did a really good job, keeping the individual groups of characters small at any given point. That’s another classic D&D thing. Your typical party will be like three to five people, usually. Any bigger than that, and the game starts to get kind of kind of difficult to play. So it’s pretty common for like, yeah, we’ll just split the party and have multiple games running. Season four, the party of the kids is, like, the kids. Season two, Maxine gets introduced. The, like, the kids split off a little bit.

Randall  27:19

I’m gonna pause a second. You said season four a moment ago. Season one the kids are just the kids.

Tyler  27:23

Yes. Sorry. I was thinking the… four kids. Numbers are hard, folks.

Randall  27:27

There’s so many of them.

Tyler  27:29

Yes. At least three.

Ash  27:30

Yeah. It’s like one to infinity.

Randall  27:34


Ash  27:35

Yeah! Decimals?

Randall  27:38

Yeah, the rational, the irrational.

Tyler  27:41

Season two, the party, the parties get shaken up a little bit. And perhaps my favorite “a party comes together” story happens in season two. Lucas is like, “I have this problem that needs to be solved. I am on the plot hook way before anybody else. I’m trying to get a party together to go address the plot hook.” And he sees Steve Harrington outside is like “you, me, we’re going on an adventure. Do you have that spiked bat from season one?” And congratulations, they’re now a party for the next… The remainder of the show. Like, those two are stuck together, just because.

Ash  28:20

They’re a great party! They’re a great party.

Tyler  28:23

Yes! And it was purely coincidence. Like, this was the equivalent of you all meet in a bar. It’s like you’ll meet on the side of a road in suburban Midwest America.

Randall  28:35


Ash  28:35

You mentioned before, Randall, how each of the members of the party, like, the teenagers and the kids and the adults have a different reason for fighting the Demogorgon in season one. It’s it’s almost like the Demogorgon is more like change for people. Because obviously, for the kids, you know, we can… we already talked about that. But for the teens, it’s more about like trying to decide who you ultimately want to be. Steve realizes he doesn’t want to be the jerk jock anymore. He wants to be something more. Nancy doesn’t want to be the spoiled rich wasp that her family is essentially grooming her to be. She wants to be a working person. She wants to, like, you know, get her hands dirty. Jonathan doesn’t want to be the weird guy anymore. And then for the adults, it’s more about kind of coming to terms with their past. Because for Joyce it’s like coming to terms with the fact that she has insecurities about how she’s raising her kids essentially in a broken home. And for Hopper it’s, you know, the death of his daughter. But I think that will feeds into what makes good villains in a D&D game is if you can make a villain personal on some level for your character for your party, they’ll be more invested in fighting that monster.

Randall  30:00

Another thing, like, towards the point of good storytelling, you’re assigning… you’re assigning the motivation and the transformation of the characters to the Demogorgon. And really like the Demogorgon forces these things to manifest, is what I would say. So we talked about this during Spookctober last year, the idea of like, how do you build malaise? How do you build dread? And I’ll say that like, what what the creature did like, when the creature is actually there, the creature is super active, you know, it’s really hard to fight. It’s tough combat. You do not want to get in a room with the Demogorgon. What they do with that throughout the season, is always build that dread. And it affects all the groups in different ways, and kind of this manifest for everybody in different ways. The thing that we can take away from this as storytellers, as Game Masters, is use your monster to create the air that you want to have for a given session. Whether that means maybe the monsters in the next room, whether that means it might appear at any moment, or whether it means that, like, psychologically, like, maybe you can’t trust anybody around you. Because you’re BBEG has, you know, spies in every room or is you know, literally like if it’s if it’s the Mind Flayer, literally is controlling folks and affecting how they’re having interactions with you.

Ash  31:17

So speaking of the Mind Flayer maybe we should touch a little bit on how the Mind Flayer and the Demogorgon have like how the Mind Flayer kind of shakes things up as opposed to the Demogorgon. And I feel like with the Demogorgon… I feel like going back to the D&D analogy, like, the Demogorgon is definitely the the early level sort of monster that’s threatening a town sort of thing. It’s pretty basic. It just attacks, that kind of thing. Whereas the Mind Flayer is like a whole arc villain. The vampire or the Necromancer that’s sort of pulling strings behind behind everything. And in fact in season two, they never actually really fight the Mind Flayer. They fight its servants and its minions. In most of season three they don’t either do that either until the very end. It’s more about his his servants, “the flayed,” so to speak.

Randall  32:10

Yeah, and then, right, multiple parties come together for the fight because honestly, that was probably like a tier three monster when they’re all more than likely tier two.

Ash  32:17

Yeah, exactly. It’s a, it’s a high CR. You need all the help you can get.

Tyler  32:22

The thing with the fireworks in season three, like, they’re in a place, and the plot presents to them “Hey, what if there were fireworks conveniently right here?” And Lucas is like “the plot has presented us a potential solution to this problem that I am now going to seize on” and everyone else’s like “what are you doing, man? What are you doing?” And Lucas is like “No, no, listen to me. There’s logic here. The plot has given us an answer. Let’s please take it.” And as it turns out, Lucas was right.

Ash  32:57

It is a very quintessential D&D experience. You go into just a shop and like we need to get some health potions and stuff, and all that other stuff. And then you got the Ranger who’s like, “Hey, guys, there’s some like bombs over here. I kind of feel like we should get some of those.” Like, we don’t need… What are you doing? We need health potions. We’re all hurt right now. Like, yeah, but I think we should probably get some bombs.

Randall  33:22

It’s literally Chekhov’s Gun. Right?

Ash  33:24


Randall  33:25

You know, and for folks, I’m sure everybody at home is familiar but let’s say it anyway. The idea of Chekhov’s Gun is basically, if you present a gun in the first act of a play, you have to use it in the second act. And I think it’s it’s a… the more general interpretation of this is that writers don’t waste words. When you’re writing for the stage, when you’re writing for the screen, you don’t waste words, you don’t waste things. If there’s something cute in the background, I might be there for entertainment, it might be an Easter Egg for somebody. But more often than not, it’s part of the plot. There’s a reason that that particular prop. Like, that prop didn’t just show up one day. There was a reason it was there. And I say that to say like, bring you back to this. Yeah. Why Fourth of July? Why wasn’t it set in the winter? Maybe the whole thing was they were looking at it and saying, I want to have this awesome fireworks display because I think that’d be an awesome way. Like, you know, “mortar combat!” Like this sort of thing. It’s what they were going for. And so they said “well, okay, what do we do? We’re gonna we’re gonna set this during Fourth of July. We’re gonna set it there in the middle of the summer. Also explained what the kids are running around ree and not in school. Great!”

Ash  34:28

Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I think Chekhov’s Gun is super important. And not just for books and movies and stuff. Obviously, we can’t, we can’t… not waste words in D&D because it’s organic storytelling in the moment. We can’t plan everything out.

Randall  34:44

The word wastage is actually pretty high. I’m not gonna lie.

Ash  34:46

Oh, 100%. But I think that there are ways to sort of Chekhov’s Gun certain things that your players do. So for instance, if we… if this we’re going off the premise that this is, like, an actual D&D campaign that someone is running. And Lucas is the ranger. And he’s like I found some, I found some bombs here. And you hadn’t really planned for that, like, you you didn’t hadn’t planned for him to find bombs and like, you know, keep them. Give him an opportunity to use those bombs. Like, don’t don’t give people this this awesome magical toy or powerful weapon and then never give them an opportunity to use it. Because sometimes players forget that they have things and, like, they’ll be desperate, a bunch of people are down and it’ll be like, “Hey, do you remember all the bombs you got?” “Yes! I do remember that!” And suddenly, they turned what could be a harrowing moment into a very cathartic, awesome moment.

Tyler  35:47

The the Chekhov’s Gun thing in D&D can also be kind of difficult because players aren’t as predictable as actors in a TV show or characters in a book. Players will frequently look for that, that Chekhov’s Gun concept in places where it’s clearly not found. Like, the players go into a store that Dungeon Master didn’t expect. And they’re like, “Okay, who’s the guy who runs the store?” The DM’s like, “ah, picked at random. This person’s name is Phil.” Like, all right, Phil, we have decided is now the most important person.

Randall  36:23

Phil, I need you to close the shop early today. You’re coming with me, buddy.

Tyler  36:27


Ash  36:28

Yeah, that happens a lot. And sometimes what I do is I just roll with it. Is that like, if my player… one time, in one of the games that I was running, they met the king for the first time. They loved the King and I had the Queen next to them, and she wasn’t really saying a lot. One of my players insighted her and, and I said, she’s hard to read looks like maybe she’s, you know, not… playing things close to the vest. And they suddenly decided that she was the evil person. She was the big, bad evil guy. I hadn’t intended that at all. I just didn’t have a plan for her. And I was like, Okay, this is canon, now. I’m gonna use this.

Randall  37:05

Let’s write that down. Write that down.

Ash  37:06

Yeah! So people are always afraid that that someone is going to predict their plan. I think you can also just be like, even if you hadn’t planned for something, that is now part of the plan because it makes players feel like they’re smart for figuring it out. And they’ll feel good about it.

Randall  37:06

Okay, I hadn’t pieces together till you just said that. I was talking a second ago about this idea of, like, you know, at the beginning of every season, they kind of call out, it’s like, oh, obvious, it’s the Demogorgon and Will must be trapped in the upside down. And they’re like, yeah, no, that’s totally what’s happening. You know, with the Mind Flayer arc, like in season three, it’s like, well, obviously, we kick the Mind Flayer out of Will. So he’s returned for vengeance, and he wants to kill us. But because he couldn’t possess Will, he must possess somebody else, we should probably start looking for that person. Right? And you’re like “way to nail it on the first guess!” But again, like if we go to the D&D storytelling analogy, that’s exactly what good DM’s do. It’s like, that is an awesome theory. We’re gonna be looking for a wheelbarrow in five minutes, but now like, ya know, the Queen’s totally the villain, and we need to solve this. Absolutely.

Ash  38:06

Yeah. Yeah.

Randall  38:06

Let’s do what you said. And so, as a DM, Tyler has said this quite often, it’s like, “that’s a great idea. I need a bathroom break.” And then you run away and you write the rest of the story is funny. Like, that’s kind of what they’re doing. Okay, it’s not what they’re doing, because they have a writing room. But I almost wonder if there’s a little bit of meta there.

Ash  38:26

It does kind of feel like there’s a DM running things. Whereas the DM is just like, “that’s a really cool idea. That’s what’s happening now.” And it because it, it really does feel like an actual D&D game that’s come to life. Like, you have convenient place to things. You have wacky villains that that are conveniently in your town and within walking distance. You have side quests. You have monsters that have a pretty predictable plan, if you think about it. This, it’s just fun. Yeah, that’s… I think it’s a really good representation of what a typical D&D campaign kind of goes like.

Randall  39:06

All right, folks, you don’t have to do anything. You stay right there. What we’re gonna do, we’re gonna hit pause, and in just a moment, we’re going to resume. And we want to spend a little more time talking about season four. Alright, so 1, 2, 3. And we made it back, folks. Me, personally, I piggy-backed from a pizza dough freezer to get here.

Tyler  39:36

Wonderful! That’s gonna make no sense for people who haven’t finished season four yet.

Ash  39:41

Well, then you shouldn’t be listening to this! Go away!

Randall  39:45

We’ll wait for you to come back. Hit pause. We’ll be here. Okay, good. You watched it. No. So all the meta aside, we did the first part of this, we told you we talked about seasons one through three. We hit a couple of things that were in season four. But we really wanted to wait and talk about season four. And some of the key themes, once everything has come out. And at the time of this recording, everything’s out. Everybody in the team has watched it. And yeah, we’re now ready to talk about it.

Tyler  40:14

So at this point in the story, like, all of the characters, all of the main protagonists, like, they have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on. They know that the upside down exists, they have a loose understanding of the mechanics of the upside down, and how one gets in and out. So, like, this is very much your, your experienced adventuring party. They’ve been around the block a few times, they’ve seen a few monsters, they know what they’re doing. And season one, it was very much like, “weird stuff is happening. What do we do?” Now it’s season four. It’s like, okay, weird stuff is back. What did we do last time? Let’s do that.

Randall  40:52

Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because it was even like a recurring thing. Early in the season, they’re talking to Eddie and they’re like, Okay, look, Eddie, we know that you’re a commoner, you’re basically level zero. Don’t worry. We’ve seen this stuff before. We’ve dealt with it several times. Which, unfortunately, didn’t sit well with Eddie because Eddie decided to become a leveled character.

Tyler  41:11

Well, that’s the that’s the classic trope. If you, if you give the character a last name, they’re instantly promoted to character levels. So, like, he was just Eddie. And then they’re like, Okay, Eddie, we’re gonna fill you in on the backstory. Your name is now Eddie Munson, and here’s the plot.

Ash  41:27

And every DM knows, and something that I tell my players is like, if you want to give your companion class levels, that’s fine, but it also means I can kill them now. Which is exactly what we saw.

Tyler  41:48

So, okay, so let’s talk about Vecna. The Big Bad of season four. For people coming to stranger things without that D&D frame of reference. Vecna is a long standing very important character in D&D lore. Vecna dates back to like the oldest, oldest editions of D&D, the original setting that Gary Gygax built. Vecna was this evil wizard who rose to power and became a god of secrets and magic and took over a huge portion of a planet and then got bored and started conquering the multiverse. So Vecna is like one of the biggest bad’s in all of D&D. Now they hit on this a bit when they’re playing with Hellfire Club. Like, they they find the cult of Vecna at the conclusion of the campaign, and Vecna reveals himself like one missing eye, one missing hand. That is Vecna. The, like, missing hand and missing eye are a big part of his lore that we won’t get into today. But yeah, they’re easily summarized as a spooky, evil spellcaster, who wants power and control by any means, cannot be reasoned with. Irreconcilably evil. And just, in a lot of ways, like just perfect big bad.

Ash  41:53

Yes. And it makes a lot of sense that they reveal that Vecna is ultimately the big bad of the entire franchise. It was a weird idea that he was just a five-star general of the Mind Flayer. Didn’t make a lot of sense. This makes sense. It makes sense that he would be behind everything. Although, point of order, because my inner nerd is going to come out. Um, actually, Vecna as they displayed him in the tabletop role playing game was not actually a thing until the 90’s. So tut-tut-tut. Bad Duffer Brothers.

Tyler  43:41

Yeah, that’s a good point, actually. There have been a few chronology breaks in season four.

Ash  43:47

For sure.

Tyler  43:48

At one point, two of the characters fist bump, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a thing until like at least 2010. And I thought “immediately unwatchable.” Cannot….

Randall  43:58

You’re ruining it, stop! It’s wonderful! No, I, I wanted to call out for Vecna as a villain, as they’ve done with every other villain, right? Go to the Demogorgon. The characteristics of the Demogorgon in D&D are not quite what the Stranger Things Demogorgon is, but you can see aspects of it. It does appear to be this demonic thing. It appears to work alone. Initially. We eventually run into other Demogorgons. Kind of push that aside. The Mind Flayer even more so. The fact that it’s something that is affecting and invading people’s minds. There are traits there that if you look at a D&D mind flayer, you say, okay, look, I see the inspiration of this. There, there are parts that fit. And then we’re finally to vegna where, you know, you called it exactly. Eventually got so bored, started conquering the multiverse. Saw humanity or, you know, the Forgotten Realms, at least, as something that it could subjugate, which is very much what Henry Creel slash one slash vecna wants to do to everyone. Yeah, and going back to Vecna’s backstory, like, it’s really almost one-to-one. Vecna was a powerful mage who, through trying to increase his own power, basically became a lich. And it’s sort of similar with Henry Creel, only instead of he was a powerful mage, quote unquote. But unlike in, in D&D, his downfall and his transformation to the monster that he is wasn’t through his own choice. Well, not totally, but through the actions of 11. Also, in our first part of this series, I did mention that Vecna could perhaps be construed as an allegory for teen suicide. And I do think I am right on that. And it’s confirmed in the story, because when Max is trying to provide bait for Vecna, she basically goes into her whole ideas of suicide. And she says a lot of the things that people rationalize who are suffering from major depression, rationalize about, like, just put me out of my misery. I’m a burden to others, you know, it’s my faulty he died. Classic thoughts. As someone who’s had those thoughts before, I relate so hard to that. So that’s what makes Vecna a compelling villain. Not just that he’s well-written, but also that he kind of embodies an evil of society that hits close to home, let’s say. Yeah, and for a show that does a lot of things that are… living in the 80’s, right? Like, the the whole Satanic Panic, this is something that they covered. It became, like, a major theme in the show. It’s like, oh, well, obviously, you know, Satan is really here. And these kids are channeling Satan and demons to cast these spells. Because when… what’s the jerks name? I’m forgetting it right now.

Ash  46:23


Randall  46:23

Jason, perfect. Yeah. When when Jason sees Patrick, like, fly in the air and start crumpling it isn’t, “oh, I should reconsider what’s happening.” It is “Oh, obviously, yeah, no, magic is real. But magic comes from Satan. And these kids are satanists. And we should probably kill them.” Which, if you follow that line of thinking, why Jason, you know, wants to buy guns and kill everybody. Okay, I guess, I guess makes perfect sense. But I say all that to say for all of the things that they really are trying to capture of like living in the 80’s. I think this one point on, you know, teen suicide and depression, not just for teens, but for everybody. Because I think we all kind of look and we see ourselves even if we’re older, in these kids. We kind of empathize with what they were going through. This is really something I think that it’s great that they’re calling out in media.

Ash  47:32

Yeah, no, 100% I agree with that. And you mentioned Jason. And what’s interesting about Jason, and one of the things that makes him compelling. If you look at him, he’s kind of a deconstruction of the classic hero archetype that was popular in the 80’s. Like karate kid and stuff like that. A guy who has a vendetta against a person who wronged him in some way, or who he perceives as wronged him in some way. If it was an 80’s movie, Jason would be the hero. But he’s, he’s taken… his dark side is taken up to 11. And we see the other side of it, and how his, his obsession with wanting to be the hero. His confirmation bias, let’s say like, like, Randall was saying, when he has Eddie cornered, the guy who he thinks is worshipping Satan, only when he has him cornered, does his friend Patrick rise into the air and get killed. So of course, he’s gonna think that Eddie is responsible. And he’s just unwilling to accept any other explanation because “I’m the good guy. You guys are the bad guys. And I’m the hero.”

Tyler  48:34

I want to touch on the Satanic Panic a little bit, because that was touched on… Like, like, early in the series, and like, it kind of became a, like, underlying running a thread. For a while in the 80’s and 90’s, the Satanic Panic was a big thing. And it was this mass hysteria where all of these things that people generally didn’t understand and trust were consdered… were, like, viewed as Satanic and scary in various circles. And when I say “everything,” I mean, like daycares were accused of being satanic cults. Like, it was, it was a weird period in American history. D&D, Dungeons and Dragons, like, was a subject of this moral panic. People who didn’t know what the game was saw it, like, saw the iconography, like, if you look at the cover of the second edition monster manual, it’s it’s an efreeti, which is a fire Genie. Looks very demonic. Holding a person. Like, ah, that’s that’s a little intimidating. If I didn’t know any better, that looks a little spooky. The second edition supplement deities and demigods came out and, like, kind of added fuel to this. So that was just honestly poor timing. And there are other problems with that book, but… Different, different issues. Different issues. Was this the one that had like the pentagram on the cover? No. The issues, the issues with deities and demigods were mostly copyright violations, actually.

Ash  49:58

Oh, lord.

Randall  49:59

So the lawyers got involved. So you know it’s… exactly.

Tyler  50:01

They had to reprint it with like half the content removed because it was deities from other people’s fiction that wasn’t public domain.

Ash  50:09

The 80’s, y’all. It was a weird time.

Tyler  50:13

Anyways, so so people who didn’t know what Dungeons and Dragons was, saw it as, like, this is foreign and different. We have no frame of reference for this. People we trust are saying this is Satan worship. Like, there, there was a 60 Minutes thing on D&D being terrible for children and leading suicides and stuff. And, like, there is absolutely zero evidence that that is the case.

Ash  50:36

I expected better from you, 60 Minutes.

Tyler  50:38

Yeah, I know, right?

Randall  50:39


Tyler  50:43

The books were like 100 pages each and the time. They could have read one!

Ash  50:48

Yeah, I know, but that would require reading.

Randall  50:52


Tyler  50:52

Anyway, so. So for people who who are coming into dungeons and dragons, there is no Satan worship as part of the game. There is no basis in real-world religions or practice thereof. Like there, there are some references depending on the setting.

Ash  51:08

That’s… not exactly true. Abrahamic faiths…

Tyler  51:11

I mean, there’s borrowed concepts, but like, no one’s coming in here and be like, “Yes, I’m going to open the player’s handbook and I’m going to gain satanic magical powers.” Like, that…

Ash  51:19


Tyler  51:19

That’s not a thing. I’ve been playing… I’ve been playing this game for 20 years. If there were real satanic powers in here, my life would be very different.

Randall  51:29

Also, more people would be playing.

Ash  51:30

Yeah! I would, I would take satanic power the instant. Are you kidding me? Don’t clip that out of context.

Tyler  51:43

Too late, it’s on the internet.

Randall  51:45

That’s going in the soundboard.

Ash  51:47

Oh, god. My life is a nightmare.

Randall  51:54

I was a kid, you know, growing up after this time period. So I’ll say that I was born in ’86. And so, there you go, those are my dates. I was a kid growing after this time period. I wasn’t allowed to play D&D, to play Magic the Gathering, any of these things. Because that conversation from the 80’s basically was something that’s still stuck through my household to the point where if I were still to bring these things up to my parents, I would still kind of get the like, “I don’t know about all these things,” which is a really weird dynamic, I’ll say. There were people who saw this who just couldn’t understand it. And I think it’s really more generally, like, if you consider this part of the counterculture. All the people who were just opposed to that, and wanted to lump it all together to say it’s like, well, you know, that’s not… you know, I want football playing and basketball playing altar boys who walk old ladies across the street and wear letterman jackets. Because that’s what good kids do. And, you know, they take their sweethearts to prom, and they buy ice cream and share milkshakes. vYou know, and we saw it with Eddie Munson, right? Like, he’s wearing his metal shirts. He plays guitar. You know, he’s talking about Black Sabbath. And he’s talking to Black Sabbath about Steve and Steve’s like “What?” Come on, man. And you’re supposed to look at that and be like, all those things are awesome and we know they’re awesome now. How did people not realize they were awesome, then?

Ash  53:20

Well, the thing is about it is that, I mean, it’s understandable to why people would think that. Because, like Tyler said, because of the iconography that was used, and also D&D, from the outside, it has a kind of cult aesthetic to it. There’s using all these jargons, there’s this dogma that everybody sort of has to practice, and stuff like that. So it is, it does have it from the outside looking in, you can kind of see it as kind of an insular cult. And especially, there was this whole movement in the 80’s, thiss counterculture movement, as a response to the sort of prim and proper return to good old American values in the Reagan era that the youth was doing, which was sort of embracing this satanic imagery. Like, you mentioned Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath, who was famous for that.

Randall  54:08

Started as a folk band, ironically.

Tyler  54:10


Ash  54:11

Yeah, I know. It’s weird. And then they graduated to biting the heads off bats, but that’s beside the point.

Tyler  54:18

And now we can hear Black Sabbath playing on the radio in grocery stores.

Ash  54:22

Yeah, and nobody bats an eye. But it’s… people, people want their kids to be normal, or their version of normal and successful. And seeing them like say, “Yeah, I don’t really want to do that” and just kind of, like, slacking off. Not really paying attention in school. They want to blame someone. It’s obviously not going to be themselves. What’s the easy “other” thing? You can’t blame sports, because everybody likes sports. So you blame metal because nobody likes metal. Well, only a few people like metal. And this D&D thing which, you know, only a few people… So, you know, you “other” the thing that is not popular, or that makes people be different. Like, that’s the reason why my kid is worse. That’s why my kid’s a bad person. It’s not because of anything I did. No, no. No, I’m a good parent.

Tyler  55:18

Speaking as a parent, speaking as someone who’s grown up with D&D. If, if Stranger Things and maybe this podcast episode are your first exposure to D&D, Dungeons and Dragons is very, very good for children. Like, there’s a lot of studies on it. Reaches critical thinking, math skills, social skills, interpersonal skills. It’s a very, very helpful growing tool socially and emotionally. You know, in a lot of ways, D&D really does make people better people.

Ash  55:49


Tyler  55:49

And yeah, there. There are no actual satanic powers that come from D&D. Otherwise, the three of us would have them and… I don’t know. What does one do with satanic powers? Can you fly?

Ash  56:01

Yeah. And I think you get a free cat?

Tyler  56:03

Oh! I have one of those…

Ash  56:06

Well, maybe it talks? I don’t know. If Sabrina’s to be believed? Yeah, there you go. I would do that.

Randall  56:18

Yeah. People at home: don’t think too hard about that.

Ash  56:20

Yeah. Yeah. Just to add on to what you were saying, Tyler. But, yeah, just to add on to what you were saying, Tyler, I do think that it is very helpful, not just for kids, for a lot of people. It helps you form bonds that are stronger than they would be otherwise. It gathers people together. And this is something that I haven’t talked about a lot, but I am neurodivergent. I am high functioning autistic. And it helps me socialize with people in a way that is always kind of awkward or uncomfortable for me. I mean, not that D&D is like that. I’m saying, usually, it’s uncomfortable and awkward for me, but in D&D, I can relate to people in a medium that I understand. So if you’re like, “well, I don’t know how to socialize my neurodivergent kid,” I think D&D is the way to go. It helps them relate to people in a way that makes sense to them. We have an episode in the backlog about D&D as a tool for neurodivergent people. We’ll link that in the show notes. Strongly recommended. Easily one of our best episodes.

Randall  57:18

Yeah, definitely. 100%. And also say, like, generally, one of the things that we try to do with kids, especially when they’re young, is that cooperative storytelling. Well, what happens next? And then, you know, this is something that teachers work with students where it’s like, “okay, can you tell a linear story?” is one of the first skills you learn. D&D is a fantastic opportunity to practice that repeatedly, where there’s a rule set to bound and then it has all the other benefits that we’ve talked about already. So D&D is awesome. I feel like we’ve established that. So you finished season four, and you’ve watched it. Let’s say you’re not so familiar with D&D, but you’re interested, you want to learn more. And you’re looking at this saying, what parts of these experiences can I have if I play a game of D&D? And I think that’d be fun to get into. So, essentially, we had the villain, and we’ve had lots of villains. This villain has what we like to call a “lair.”

Tyler  58:21


Ash  58:23

Lair actions!

Tyler  58:24

Yes. Uh… Oh, yeah. Lair actions. Great comparison. Okay. So the lair is just where the bad guy lives. So in this case, it’s in the upside down in the spooky old house on the hill.

Randall  58:36

The Creel house.

Tyler  58:37

The Creel house, yeah. So that’s where Vecna lives. When, when the character is eventually reached the house, like, house is full of those, like upside down world tentacles that they don’t want to touch. And then, you know, once they get far enough in that they can’t run away, the tentacles attack. Like, yes, lair actions like Ash said. Yeah. Generally, if you can avoid fighting the bad guy in their lair, it’s a good idea. But it seems like Vecna doesn’t really come out of his lair. So they kind of have to go to him.

Ash  58:57


Randall  59:08

Yeah, it’s the only place that they knew they could find them. And I think that leads to another classic D&D trope: The plan.

Tyler  59:15


Randall  59:15

We know it’s time to fight the… we say BBEG. We mean the…

Ash  59:20

The big bad evil guy.

Randall  59:21

Right, the big bad evil guy. It’s time to fight them. So we need a plan. Now what are we going to do? Well, we’re going to position these people here, we’re going to get these things. So what are the party do? They went and they said, well, we need guns to fight. They built molotov cocktails. They, they sawed off shotgun. They’re like “isn’t this illegal?” “Yeah, but I don’t care” because they were at a party. Two of them made spears. That one, I’m still thinking about, right? Like, you just bought a bunch of guns, and you’re like… you know what we need? Spears. Spears are gonna be great.

Tyler  59:47

They bought one gun. Remember, these are a bunch of, like, at most. Well, I guess Steve had just graduated, but like at the oldest, 18.

Randall  59:55

And he also worked in an ice cream shop and a movie shop. So he’s not exactly rolling in it.

Tyler  59:59


Randall  1:00:00

You know what? You’re 100% right. They only had the one gun that they used. In my head, like, I had the 80’s montage where it’s like, oh, but obviously they’re like, they’re packing hand…. No, you’re right. It was one gun. Okay. So they had the one sawed off shotgun. They have the Molotov cocktails. They made their spears, and they had this convoluted plan, and you’re watching it, because it’s good TV. It’s great storytelling, right? We do that every time we invade the bad guy’s lair. And then what happens when we invade the bad guys lair is the bad guy does the very first thing. Our entire plane is completely ruined. And we’re all like, “Ah, I don’t know, just hit ’em!”

Ash  1:00:35

Yeah, that is 100% what happens in D&D. And they also make one of the classic blunders in D&D: Never split the party.

Tyler  1:00:46

Yeah. Okay, so… So for people coming to D&D from Stranger Things. First piece of survival advice anyone should give you is “never split the party.” The game fully expects that you, your entire party, so it’s like all the players in the group, the main characters, you’re together when you’re facing violence. So, like, you’re fighting monsters, you’re fighting a dragon, you’re going into the bad guys lair, you gotta have your whole party there. Otherwise, the game is set up to beat you. So the very first thing that they do is alright, we’re gonna go into the upside down and immediately split the party. Now, in the context of a TV show, it makes way more sense, because there’s too many characters for them to all, like, okay, let’s march 8 people up the stairs into Vecna’s lair. If we all crowd together, we might all be able to get a good look at him in the attic. So yeah, TV makes way more sense. Don’t do that when you’re actually playing D&D.

Ash  1:01:45

Otherwise, you might die like Eddie.

Tyler  1:01:47

Yeah, pretty much.

Ash  1:01:49

Or Max.

Randall  1:01:51

Well, okay, so another trope, right? Like, we have lots of ways of bringing somebody back to life. And so you can have that event of like, I’m down. So we talk a lot about fifth edition. We’ve talked previously about death. We’ll link to the episode on death. Long and short of it is, I don’t know if there’s any Princess Bride…. I don’t know if there’s any Princess Bride fans sitting at home. But yeah, there’s different levels of death.

Ash  1:02:14

He’s only mostly dead.

Randall  1:02:18

And so yeah, Max was only mostly dead. And 11 was able to save her, we think. It’s going to be really interesting to see it

Ash  1:02:27

Looks like she’s brain dead.

Tyler  1:02:30

Okay. All right. So I’m gonna make a prediction for season five here. So.

Ash  1:02:34

Oh, I wan’t wait.

Randall  1:02:34

Is this based on D&D Lore?

Tyler  1:02:36

It sure is.

Randall  1:02:37

Okay. All right, go ahead.

Ash  1:02:38

I know where you’re going with this and I can’t wait.

Tyler  1:02:40

Alright, so: in previous editions, there was a spell, an effect cold “soul jar” which would let you take someone’s spirit and, like, their mind and spirit out of their body and put it into a container. The body would generally stay alive and in stasis while the brain was off somewhere else. So in the, in the final episode of season 4, 11 visits Max in the hospital, goes into her brain, it’s a completely blank, black void. She’s unable to find Max anywhere in there. And we are left to assume, yes, she is in a vegetative state, she is brain dead, Max will not be coming back. But! Soul jar. I’m thinking, season five, they go into the upside down, find Max, bring her back. And they have to bring Max back out to close the gate.

Ash  1:03:33

That’s, um… that’s not a bad theory. And something that supports it is… okay, so… we can go hog wild with this. So it is said by Dr. Brenner, that Vecna consumes the souls of the people he kills. But since he didn’t exactly kill Max, from his curse, we could say that it was only partially successful. So maybe, instead of her spirit becoming trapped in his body, he got caught in something along the way. And so I think her being upside down is right. Maybe it’s in an object or a different creature or something. I do think that there’s a lot of evidence to support that, and that is a very good theory.

Randall  1:04:18

I can imagine like the central conflict being that they find a way to shut the gates and end it. But 11 basically says, I will not do it until we get Max out.

Ash  1:04:26


Randall  1:04:26

And even people fighting about it. Like we’re gonna have like an Avengers: Civil War style thing where somebody is like “we have to save humanity kids.” You know, Hopper’s like “11. You know, I can’t have this.” And 11’s like “Nah. Can you levitate? Get out of here.”

Tyler  1:04:41

Okay, slightly wilder prediction: Max is gonna mind control a Demogorgon.

Ash  1:04:46

Oh, hell yes. I love it! I hope it happens! I hope it happens.

Tyler  1:04:52

That that is the other thing that you can do with soul jar. So the the purpose of the spell is you cast soul jar, take your own brain out of your body, put it into a gem or a an urn. The “soul jar”, quote unquote. And then when another person comes within range of that, you can forcibly take over their body.

Ash  1:05:12

It’s a very fun spell.

Tyler  1:05:13

Yeah. A little creepy.

Ash  1:05:17


Randall  1:05:18

I now want to see Dustin riding a Demogorgon into combat.

Ash  1:05:21

Yes! It has to happen, now! It has to!

Randall  1:05:27

Duffer brothers. If you’re sitting at home, you’re listening to this, just… you know. Reach out.

Ash  1:05:30

Yeah. Give us Dustin on a Demogorgon, you cowards!

Randall  1:05:36

Well it’s what every has been leading up to if you think about it really.

Ash  1:05:40


Randall  1:05:41

For longtime listeners, we know you love tabletop gaming. You’re super into it. You know, the content that we put out. If you’re somebody who’s listening to this because you really like Stranger Things and you were curious more about D&D, and you were looking to learn more, you thought this would be a fun podcast. First of all, hope it was. Second, I’ll let you know: We put out a four-episode podcast arc, about learning to play D&D Fifth Edition. And it’s really good content if you want to learn about any kind of tabletop. In addition, RPGBOT.net has a ton of great resources about learning to play, learning to DM. Let’s say you’ve got a group of people who are interested, but nobody’s ever run a game before. I think we’ve got everything to get you set up straight.

Ash  1:06:20

Yeah. And I will also say, is there a better seller of D&D than that one scene with Eddie, and they defeat the Vecna? And he says, “This is why we play.”

Tyler  1:06:31

Exactly, exactly perfectly, right. Like I saw that and like, “Yep, I’ve had that experience a few times. Yeah.”

Ash  1:06:37

It’s a great experience. And if you want to have an experience like that, you will. It can happen.

Randall  1:06:44

Just buy good dice.

Ash  1:06:46

Yeah, buy good dice. Ugh, my dice hate me.

Randall  1:06:53

Awesome. All right. Well, if you’ve enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts, and read us on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It’s a quick free way to support the podcast and helps us to reach new listeners. You’ll find links in the show notes. You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes as well as on RPGBOT.net. Following these links helps us to make this show happen every week.

Tyler  1:07:18

I feel like we talked about a lot of things. Some of them were stranger.

Randall  1:07:23

I made a small mistake, but it wasn’t a monumental mistake. Black Sabbath didn’t start as a folk band. They were a heavy blues band.

Ash  1:07:32


Tyler  1:07:33

Is that a thing?

Randall  1:07:34

It is? Well… Oh, okay. The name of the band was “the polkatolk blues band.”

Tyler  1:07:42

Okay, that’s a pivot.

Randall  1:07:44

the good stuff like go listen to like the I’ve listened to the early stuff when I just want to know like, “What the hell was going on?” Like I kind of want to do the history of it. And it is not… it is not what you would expect it to be. You’ll get in, like, there’s a lot of talent. You can hear like the raw talent that’s there.

Ash  1:07:45

They were so lame! I mean, they’re all talented. Yeah, for sure.

Randall  1:08:06

And then… but it isn’t… I don’t know. War Pigs, right? Like, War Pigs is so fun and it’s… okay.


  1. Rokkas July 31, 2022
    • RPGBOT July 31, 2022