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The Dungeons & Dragons Game That's Been Going On For Decades

Dungeons & Dragons is one of the most popular tabletop role-playing games of all time. Since it first came out in 1974, it has grown into a global phenomenon, and it has even been adapted into multiple platforms in the fantasy genre, including multiple novels and video games. (Some of them better than others.) It's also getting a film adaptation with an acclaimed director in Chris McKay. The game's lengthy playing time is one of its most recognizable features. Countless TV shows and movies have joked about long Dungeons & Dragons game sessions last. It's easy to see how these campaigns can go on for weeks, months and even years, since players are only limited by their imaginations. But many games reach natural endings, because real life obligations get in the way. 

But one Dungeons & Dragons fan might just have the most impressive campaign of all time: History professor Robert Wardhaugh has been running the same game for almost 40 years. He started it in 1982, and it's still going strong today. Given how much the world has changed in that time, this longevity is quite remarkable.

Playing the same D&D game for 38 years

Robert Wardhaugh's long-running campaign began in 1982, he explained in an interview with CNN. Though his game is almost forty years old, there's seemingly no end in sight. "One of the things that sets my game apart from all other games is that the only thing that's going to limit it, I suppose, is my lifespan," he stated. Even then, it might not end: he shared that his daughter, now in her teens, has been playing the game since she was a kid. So, theoretically, she could take over as the Dungeon Master. Wardhaugh also described how his game — which has gained some media attention in the past — has allowed him to connect with his students in a new way. "Now, every class I teach, I have students coming up to me and they seem a bit shy and I know exactly what they're going to say and what they want to ask me. In a weird way, it's opened me up in class, to my students, to a different conversation."

Wardhaugh's game has persisted despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to services like Zoom, the campaign can continue via virtual meetings. "My players keep pointing out to me, there's now more sessions than there's ever been because of Zoom," he explained. By hosting multiple sessions a week, the professor's game is still going strong.

A magical mixture of fantasy and realism brings new life to the game

Wardhaugh's passion for Dungeons & Dragons has stayed with him since he fell in love with the game in high school. Throughout his game's run, it has grown from a group of four to one that contains almost 60 people. Ordinarily, many people play the campaign at Wardhaugh's house, but even before the COVID-19 pandemic, he streamed meetings, and some players called in from the United Kingdom, per CNN. Naturally, Wardhaugh's game has changed a lot over the years, so it looks quite different than typical Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. As a history professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Wardhaugh combines his passion with real-life history with his love of the game, to create a unique mixture. 

"My world [in the game]  is an alternate Earth, so you can be Roman, you can be Greek, you can be Sumerian, you can be Babylonian, you can be First Nations," Wardhaugh expressed. Combining fantasy and history has allowed Wardhaugh to create his own world, and this magical realism is just one factor in the game's longevity.