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Famous People Who Play Dungeons & Dragons

Although it was widely seen as a relic of the past until "Stranger Things" catapulted it back to the forefront of popular culture, "Dungeons & Dragons" never really went away. The iconic roleplaying game was co-created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, and by the early '80s, it had become a genuine phenomenon, much to the concern of worrisome parents. The organization Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD) sprang up, and authorities began to link the tabletop fantasy game to occult practices (the so-called Satanic Panic was in full swing in the States, and baseless accusations were aplenty). The media continued to point fingers at "D&D" throughout the '80s, embarking on what Gary Gygax described as "nothing but a witch hunt" during an episode of "60 Minutes."

By 1985, up to four million people were playing "Dungeons & Dragons" on a regular basis. Many defected to video games as home consoles improved during the 1990s — but not all of them. As "D&D" faded from the limelight, groups of dedicated players kept it alive, running their campaigns and keeping up with the latest editions of the game. Some of these players now live in Hollywood, where "Dungeons & Dragons" has become popular again in recent times. The fact that a roleplaying game is gaining traction in a town full of actors isn't particularly surprising, but many of the names on this list will no doubt shock you. The following famous people are all mad about "Dungeons & Dragons."

Vin Diesel made a film about his D&D character

Vin Diesel was playing "Dungeons & Dragons" back when "maybe a thousand people in the world knew what the word 'internet' meant" (via Uproxx). The action star is a huge fantasy fan, and he got to live the dream in 2015 when he starred in a film based on a character he created for a "Dungeons & Dragons" campaign. "For the 30th anniversary [of] 'Dungeons & Dragons,' the company at the time asked me to write the foreword for the book," the actor told Uproxx. "I talked about my experience growing up playing 'Dungeons & Dragons' religiously. I even talked about a character that I had named Melkor — a name that obviously I stole from 'The Silmarillion' — and [how] that character was a witch hunter."

Screenwriter Cory Goodman (a fellow "D&D" player) decided to write a script about Diesel's character. They changed his name from Melkor to Kaulder, and "The Last Witch Hunter" was born. It wasn't the first or the last time that Diesel mixed work with "D&D" — he is known to encourage his co-stars to play, and he apparently had quite the party going while filming "The Chronicles of Riddick" in 2004. "I was literally playing 'Dungeons & Dragons' with Judi Dench and Karl Urban at nights after shooting," he said at the time. In 2021, the actor and his kids played a game with Ruby Rose, who was given the "D&D" name "Ruby Rolls" by Diesel's son.

Joe Manganiello runs Hollywood's hottest D&D game

Joe Manganiello runs the "Dungeons & Dragons" campaign that everyone in Hollywood wants in on. A longtime lover of the game, the actor was involved in the development of a Dragonlance screenplay back when Warner Bros. owned the "D&D" movie rights. It never got off the ground, but that didn't dampen his passion for the game — Manganiello got back into "D&D" big-time while working on the project, and word quickly got around. "All of my other friends found out I was playing again," he told Variety. "I'm working out with my trainer, and he's like, 'You know that I was huge into Dungeons & Dragons?'"

It got to the point where so many people were asking about it that he decided to become Dungeon Master (DM), the player who runs and narrates the game. Over time, the number of his party grew, and so did the number of props in his game room, aka the Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon. Manganiello has even been on the super popular "D&D" web series "Critical Role," where he made a couple of guest appearances as his character, Arkhan the Cruel, in the show's first campaign (which was subsequently adapted into an animated series, "The Legend of Vox Machina"). "A lot of people I get a chance to work with who are in the entertainment industry are either relatively new or wanting to be introduced to it," "Critical Role" DM Matt Mercer said of Manganiello. "He's from old stock."

The Big Show looks forward to D&D all week

Joe Manganiello's "D&D" group started out relatively small. He recruited his brother and a handful of friends that loved "Dungeons & Dragons" as much as he did, and that group included former WWE superstar Paul Wight, aka The Big Show. Wight wasn't available to take his seat at the table right away, but he joined the party after booking a TV show in Los Angeles. "He said, 'Hey bro, I'm gonna be there for a few months, save me a seat bro, I'm bringing my dice, we gotta play,'" Manganiello recalled during a Variety feature on the star-studded "D&D" gang.

Wight still remembers the moment he first saw Manganiello's game room, a former wine cellar that he's transformed into a home dungeon with stacks of "D&D" paraphernalia, from mounted dragon heads and dangling beholders to mind flayer plaques. "The first time I walked into the dungeon down there and saw everything, I was blown away," he said. "I was like, 'Oh my god, I've spent my money the wrong way, why didn't I do this?"' His hectic work schedule and size have always stopped him from having an active social life, but The Big Show feels right at home playing "D&D." "I don't fit in anywhere — I go to the movies, three people behind me can't see," he said before revealing that he looks forward to his "D&D" games all week long. "You think about what's going on, the adventure."

Tom Morello compared D&D to high stakes poker

A man who is "on the Mount Rushmore of guitar players of all time," according to Joe Manganiello, Tom Morello joined the actor's "Dungeons & Dragons" group not long after The Big Show. Like the former WWE Champion, Morello was stunned by Manganiello's epic game room. "You would not believe Joe's dungeon," he told Variety. "There's nothing that could occur in the game that someone could come up with on the spur of the moment that isn't in some box." According to Morello, you could turn your character into a weasel if you wanted, and Manganiello's response would be: "What color weasel?"

Morello revealed that "D&D" is always on his mind in the days leading up to the next game — he can't help but wonder about what new twists and turns the DM may come up with. A game of "Dungeons & Dragons" at Manganiello's house is "similar to what a high stakes poker game might be like," the Rage Against the Machine member said. "It's a game where friends gather, that's taken deadly seriously and is a lot of fun — but it's serious. It's very serious. We're on an adventure that I think about a lot during the week." The guitarist often sets aside time for "looking stuff up," he admitted, keen to absorb as much new "D&D" knowledge as he possibly can before reentering the fray.

Vince Vaughan played D&D on Zoom

Once Tom Morello had his foot in the door of Joe Manganiello's dungeon, he was determined to let a few of his buddies slip through and find a seat at the table. First across the threshold was Vince Vaughn, who plays a human divine soul sorcerer named Kasin in Manganiello's game. "I got introduced by Mr. Morello," Vaughn told Variety. "He was kind of giving me books and talking to me and was kind of like, 'You should check this out.' We went on a trip, and he brought ['D&D'] stuff with him and slowly got me interested." The actor wound up joining a Zoom game with Morello as DM to pass some time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vaughn wasn't a total newcomer to "Dungeons & Dragons." "I used to play as a kid," he told the Los Angeles Times, adding, "It's just so fun and nerdy." But the rules changed somewhat since his early experiences with it. The fifth and most current edition of the game has been the gold standard for years, though 2024 will see the introduction of some new, updated rulebooks, which fans have been referring to as "D&D 5.5e." Vaughn will have to learn a bunch of new rules to keep up to date, but judging by how much he enjoys the game, he probably won't mind. "I have to tell you, man, it's a blast," he told the Times.

Deborah Ann Woll has her own D&D show

Widely known for her turn as Karen Page in the hit Marvel series "Daredevil," Deborah Ann Woll fell in love with "Dungeons & Dragons" after becoming a star. "My whole life is exposed in some way because of my career, and 'D&D' was this comfort zone where no one could judge me," the actor told D&D Beyond in a 2018 interview. She quickly became comfortable in the role of DM, enjoying the lack of barriers that come with traditional acting. "Not even like in great live theater are people in the palm of your hand like that for storytelling," she said, adding that there's "something so visceral and exciting about it."

Woll now co-hosts a web series called "Relics and Rarities," which focuses less on the action-heavy side of "Dungeons & Dragons" and encourages more use of the imagination. Rather than weapons, players start with seemingly everyday items that come complete with unique magical traits. "For me, it's creativity," Woll told Inverse. She later added: "I like the idea that you get a spool of thread, it has a minor magical property that allows it to be extra special. That is all I wanted. I wanted to say, 'These are the items, and they're only powerful in the way you use them.'" Daredevil himself Charlie Cox took on the role of a half-elf rogue arcane trickster when he appeared as a guest on one episode to play "D&D" for the first time. (Cox and Woll discuss this in a Geek & Sundry interview, available on YouTube.)

Patton Oswalt's drunken dwarf Stumphammer is legendary

Sadly, Patton Oswalt's "Dungeons & Dragons" group was forced to split up back in 2004 when work commitments meant that he just didn't have time to play anymore. Still, stories from the campaigns he was involved in are still told to this day thanks to Chris Hardwick and Brian Posehn. Described as "Hollywood's geek laureate" by The Hollywood Reporter, Hardwick —best known for fronting AMC's "Talking Dead" — was a member of this legendary party, as was Poseh, who recurred as geologist Bert Kibbler on "The Big Bang Theory" and now hosts the popular "D&D" podcast, "Nerd Poker." According to both men, Oswalt was a dedicated player who took pride in bringing his character to life.

"Patton played this drunken dwarf character named Stumphammer who would make up beer-hall songs about all the characters in the game," Posehn told The Hollywood Reporter. Hardwick also remembered the songs fondly, saying, "Playing with comedians is such a gift." Hardwick's character was kind of boring by comparison: "I played Neutral Good Wizard, Patton was a drunken dwarf who would spontaneously burst into song, and Posehn was a ninja who loved pickles," he once told AV Club. But he loved the games they shared nonetheless. Still, Oswalt dusted off his dice for a "D&D" charity event in 2021, a year of fantasy for the actor: He voiced Pip the Troll in Marvel's "Eternals" and Lord Pyrantin in the trippy animated masterpiece "The Spine of Night."

D&D shaped David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Joe Manganiello was already starting to worry about the size of his "D&D" party when Tom Morello came to him with another suggestion. "One day he said, 'Hey, there's this guy in my kid's carpool that wants to play,'" the actor recounted to Variety. "I said, 'I don't know, man, the group's getting kind of big, who's your friend?' He said, 'His name's Dan, he co-created 'Game of Thrones.'" That was more than enough to secure Dan "D.B." Weiss a place at the table, and he did what any good partner would do. "While we were playing one night, Dan was on his phone," Manganiello said. "I kinda get testy when people are on their phones when I'm DMing, so I kinda looked over, like, 'Hey man, what's up?'"

On the other end of the phone was David Benioff (the other guy behind "Game of Thrones"), and he was threatening to "divorce" Weiss if he didn't wrangle him a seat at the table. Benioff was welcomed with open arms, and, like Weiss, he brought a wealth of "D&D" knowledge to the group. Weiss once told The Hollywood Reporter that he "played compulsively for years" and that "Dungeons & Dragons" helped him figure out what he wanted to do in life. "It was my first experience with world-building," he said. "You'd see hundreds of 'what if' scenarios play out in real-time as players attempted to achieve their various goals."

Stephen Colbert and D&D go way back

Most people are now well aware that Stephen Colbert is a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." The late-night host even had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo appearance in 2013's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and loves to chat Tolkien with whoever will listen. But did you know that he's just as into "Dungeons & Dragons"? Colbert has discussed the game on his show several times, usually when speaking with other keen players. He told Patton Oswalt that he "grew up when a nerd was a nerd" and was playing "Dungeons & Dragons" back when the rulebooks were still softbacks that were easy to copy and share on campuses. When Joe Manganiello appeared on his show, the pair spent the entire time talking "D&D," despite the fact that the actor was supposed to be promoting the movie "Rampage."

Colbert told Manganiello that he hadn't played "D&D" since his college days, but that's no longer true. He got brought up to scratch on 5e by none other than Matt Mercer when the pair teamed up for a "Critical Role" charity special in 2019, with the talk show host taking on the role of a half-elf bard named Capo. He really hit it off with Mercer, who loved hearing his stories from back in the day. "I was at GenCon when the Dungeon Master's Guide was released," Colbert revealed. "I have a copy signed by mister Gary Gygax."

Ashley Johnson started out on a sitcom

An actor by trade, Ashley Johnson is the only person on this list who is actually more famous for her "Dungeons & Dragons" exploits than she is for her onscreen ones. She got her first taste of performing as a child, playing the part of Chrissy Seaver on the ABC sitcom "Growing Pains." She went on to appear in shows like "Roseanne," "ER," and "Ally McBeal," and she also played the daughter of Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) daughter in the 2000 rom-com "What Women Want." By this point in time, Johnson was voicing the character Gretchen Grundler in the hit cartoon "Recess," and it was her skill as a voice actor that led her to fame via the huge "D&D" web series, "Critical Role."

Johnson was a total "D&D" novice when she joined "Critical Role" (which raked in just under $10 million on Twitch between August 2019 and October 2021, a leak revealed). "I think at first I didn't really know how much roleplay was involved with 'D&D,'" Johnson told D&D Beyond. "Maybe that was just our particular game ... I was thrown in with this amazing group of people that just throw themselves into their characters, and I think to start, I was just kind of playing me and figuring things out and figuring out what a cleric is." Johnson's cleric character, Pike Trickfoot, went on to become one of the fan favorites from the highly successful first campaign.

Dan Harmon prefers D&D to video games

"Rick and Morty" co-creator Dan Harmon started playing "Dungeons & Dragons" when he was "around 12 or 13 years old," he told Entertainment Weekly. "The most valuable thing about it is its incentivization of collaborative, spontaneous storytelling. It really blurs the lines between reality and fantasy in your mind in the way a video game being realistic simply can't do." His love for the game led to him locking horns with the producers of his sitcom "Community," who were not impressed when they discovered that he had snuck an episode about "D&D" by them. "After the table read, the Sony suits wanted to meet me in my office about the script," Harmon told The Hollywood Reporter. "They actually said to me: 'We wish you had turned this in earlier so we could have thrown it in the garbage. You just can't say the word 'goblin' this many times per page.'"

When Harmon was fired as "Community" showrunner ahead of Season 4 (he would return for a 5th and final season following a ratings slump), he started putting more energy into his already popular podcast, "Harmontown." He liked to include "D&D" segments, inviting friends along to play. They proved popular, and the segments became the basis of "HarmonQuest," a partially-animated show that follows their hilarious campaign. The likes of Aubrey Plaza, Kumail Nanjiani, Nathan Fillion, and OG "D&D" player Patton Oswalt guest-starred on the web series, which ran between 2016 and 2019.