Who Plays Tabletop RPGs?
Celebrities Who Have Played D&D and Other Tabletop RPGs
When Dungeons & Dragons burst out of gaming circles and into mainstream popular culture in the late ’70s and early ’80s, high school and college students gravitated to it and other tabletop RPGs, as did bright kids and curious adults. Even when its popularity waned in the ’90s and ’00s, lots of people kept playing. With renewed interest in the hobby, people of all kinds are coming out of the woodwork and declaring their love of roleplaying.
I’ve played tabletop RPGs with soldiers, real estate agents, CEOs, auditors, software developers, retail employees, artists, grad students, managers, and people from all walks of life. Who plays tabletop RPGs? It turns out there are quite a few celebrities who have played D&D and many less-known games. Here are a few of them. This isn’t a list of people who are rumored to have played tabletop RPGs – these are all confirmed with solid sources.
Joe Abercrombie – The author of The First Law fantasy series played D&D, Middle Earth Role-Playing, RuneQuest, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in his youth. In a 2014 Reddit RMA when asked if he’d played D&D, he replied, “I have played more roleplaying games than Gary f***ing Gygax.” He has also stated, “It’s probably not much of a revelation to observe that many of today’s leading writers of fantasy share my deep roots in RPGs.” – source – image from original by Arild Vågen under CC BY-SA 3.0
Cory Booker – The United States Senator (D – New Jersey) and former mayor of Newark makes no secret of the fact that he played D&D in his youth. In a recent discussion with Stephen Colbert he jokingly suggested he should get a game going in the Senate to help heal partisan divides. His last character was a 12th level human Fighter. In keeping with his reputation for bipartisanship, he didn’t declare the Fighter’s alignment. – source – image from original in the Public Domain
Mike Brown – 2009 NBA Coach of the Year and three-time champion as an assistant coach, Brown’s history with D&D is well known. Apparently he was a meticulous Dungeon Master in his youth. “His friends waited in the basement for hours while he took detailed handwritten notes on the newest module. To ensure the game board was up to Brown’s standards, he cut his own out of Plexiglas.” – source – image from original by Keith Allison under CC BY-SA 2.0
Ta-Nehisi Coates – He writes for The Atlantic, has authored three books, is writing the Black Panther comic, and credits D&D with opening up a world of possibilities. Reminiscing about his first character’s adventures in the Keep on the Borderlands module run by his brother Malik, he wrote, “The first time I rolled a magic-user who had one hit point. He was punched to death by the Mad Hermit. Fun times.” – source – image from original by Eduardo Montes-Bradley under CC BY-SA 4.0
Rivers Cuomo – The Weezer frontman famously mentioned the Dungeon Master’s Guide in the hit song In the Garage, and he and other members of the band have played more than a few D&D sessions while touring. “I gravitated toward the, uh … elven, or half-elven, something with high dexterity … a fighter-thief, maybe?” he recalls. – source – image from original by Peter Dzubay under CC BY-SA 3.0
Junot Díaz – Of his early Dungeons & Dragons experiences, the author of the Pulitzer-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao said, “We welfare kids could travel, have adventures, succeed, be powerful, triumph, fail and be in ways that would have been impossible in the larger real world.” He also called the game “a sort of storytelling apprenticeship.” – source – image from original by Christopher Peterson under CC BY 3.0
Vin Diesel – One of the most famous D&D players in Hollywood, Vin Diesel has written, directed, and starred in many films, including the Fast and the Furious franchise and The Chronicles of Riddick series. Diesel wrote the introduction to 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. When portraying the role of Xander Cage in the movie xXx, he wore a fake tattoo representing Melkor, his favorite D&D character. – source – image from original by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 3.0
Tim Duncan – Perhaps the greatest power forward in NBA history, the now retired Duncan has never hidden his love of D&D. The story may be exaggerated, but apparently when he first joined the San Antonio Spurs he wanted his teammates to call him “Merlin”. Duncan has stated that he values dedication, teamwork and camaraderie, attributes that suggest he’d be a great addition to any D&D group. – source / source – image from original by Keith Allison under CC BY-SA 2.0
Jon Favreau – The acclaimed writer/director says D&D gave him “a really strong background in imagination, storytelling, understanding how to create tone and a sense of balance.” Like many gamers of his generation, he put down the dice as he entered adulthood. In a 2008 interview he said, “Every kid has imagination, but at a certain age, that spigot gets turned off. I set it aside in high school. I really couldn’t do it now… There’s something in my heart — there was such a stigma to it.” Now that D&D is resurgent in pop culture, it would be interesting to see how he feels about it. – source – image from original by Eva Rinaldi under CC BY-SA 2.0
Reid Hoffman – The co-founder of LinkedIn not only played RuneQuest as a kid, he contributed to one of the game’s supplements. “When he was 12, Reid Hoffman arrived unannounced one Friday at offices of Chaosium, the game maker behind RuneQuest, the fantasy role-playing game first published in 1978. He thrust a manual, marked with his suggestions in red ink, into the hands of a game developer.” Whether he still plays or not, he recently supported a RuneQuest Kickstarter. – source – image from original by startupofyou under CC BY 2.0
Joe Manganiello – Manganiello has played a werewolf in True Blood, a bully in Spiderman, a male stripper in Magic Mike, and a supervillain in Justice League. The actor and producer is also a very visible Dungeons & Dragons advocate who has appeared in several D&D livestreams including Force Grey. Of D&D players he says, “All the kids I played with growing up were athletes like me. Everyone who plays these games is an intellectual. But they came in all shapes and sizes, including my jock friends.” – source – image from original by Eva Rinaldi under CC BY-SA 2.0
George RR Martin – Everyone’s favorite ruthless fantasy writer once ran a superhero campaign for a band of authors, using Chaosium’s SuperWorld rules for a band of other authors. This campaign led to his Wild Cards book series. In spite of the fact that there’s an officially licensed A Song of Ice and Fire RPG for Westeros-centered adventures, Martin is a vocal GURPS fan. – source – image from original by Henry Söderlund under CC BY 4.0
Thomas Middleditch – It’s appropriate that the Silicon Valley star plays GURPS, since so many actual Silicon Valley folks are into tabletop RPGs. Of playing GURPS, Middleditch says, “You’ve got your character sheets, you’ve got a bunch of really close friends, and you’ve got your gamemaster, and it’s one of the best experiences you could ever have.” – source – image from original by Daniel Benavides under CC BY 2.0
China Miéville – He’s a writer and activist now, but in his middle school days he played everything from D&D, to RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, Middle Earth Role-Playing, Star Frontiers, Traveller, Villains and Vigilantes, Paranoia, and Bushido. Of that time, he says, “I preferred playing to DMing on the whole. If I was going to DM, all I really wanted to do was invent the world. I was never particularly interested in people tromping around in it.”– source – image from original by Ceridwen under CC BY 3.0
David Mitchell – The acclaimed author of Cloud Atlas and Slade House played a lot of D&D in his youth, and he talks at length about its influence on him and other authors. Comparing tabletop roleplaying to the computer variety, he notes, “It was based on cooperation, and you only won if you worked together, and there was a generosity of spirit in not picking the pieces, or finding faults with, or wasting time on hunting for the inconsistencies within the whole enterprise, and that is something that I don’t feel you get on computer generated multiplayer games.” – source – image from original by Mariusz Kubik under CC BY 2.5
Elon Musk – It seems the enormously successful founder of Tesla and SpaceX still manages to sneak in a game of D&D every once in a while. South Park and The Book of Mormon co-creator Trey Parker played with Musk and said, “It was really fun.” According to Parker, when asked what sort of character he wanted to play, Musk immediately went with Human Paladin. – source – image from original by Steve Jurvetson under CC BY 2.0
Brenda Romero – This video game industry legend (Wizardry, Realms of Arkania, Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes, among others) played D&D back in the day and plays it (and other RPGs) now. In 2013 she tweeted, “Excited to play @13thAge! Started reading through last night. Looking forward to DMing a game soon.” When asked if she was new to tabletop RPGs, she responded, “No. Started playing D&D when I was 11. I’ve played a lot over the years.” – source – image from original by John Romero under CC BY-SA 4.0
Greg Rucka – The 3-time Eisner Award winner and author of comics from Lazarus to Whiteout, credits tabletop RPGs with more than just serving as an enjoyable pastime. “RPGs, in particular, have been an important part of my life in so many ways—as recreation, of course; as entertainment, as a means of escape, yes; and, honestly, as an enormously vital part of my development as a writer, and, I would hazard, as a human being.” – source – image from original by Artemisboy under Public Domain
Wil Wheaton – From Toy Soldiers to Star Trek: The Next Generation to Legion of the Superheroes to Leverage and Welcome to Night Vale, Wheaton has been in the entertainment business since he was a child. He has written frequently in blogs and books about his love of games, and introduced many viewers to a variety of tabletop RPGs through his TableTop web series. He has also been involved in several D&D live play productions and produced Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana, a setting supplement for the Fantasy AGE system. – source – image from original by Luigi Novi under CC BY 3.0
Deborah Ann Woll – The True Blood and Daredevil star loves being a D&D Dungeon Master. She has participated in many D&D livestream events and shows, including Force Grey. Of D&D, she says, “I think for people like myself who maybe are a little socially awkward, maybe don’t know how to interact with people who are extroverted, it’s something fun and active to do that kind of takes the pressure off yourself.” – source – image from original by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 3.0