5 Stages of Playing D&D for the Fantasy Skeptic

wallpaper_TabletAll of us at Fandible have our niches. Daniel has all of the screens, Billy has the accents, Jesus has snotty children NPCs, and David has David Dice ™. I waffle between two distinct niches: The Adult, and The Fantasy Hater. So no one was more surprised than I was at how freakin’ much I’ve enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons 5E. You’ve already heard part 1, with highlights including my poor half-Orc being forced into a pink gingham dress and chasing goblins down because Gwen is the only one allowed to beat up her little brother, and I promise part 2 is going to feature even more fantasy-flavor. But I didn’t dive into this campaign totally gung ho. You’ve heard of the five stages of grief? Meet the five stages of playing D&D for fantasy skeptics.

Stage 1: Denial

As an RPG player, it’s impossible to entirely ignore D&D. The hobby wouldn’t exist as it does today (for better or for worse) without Gary Gygax. So instead when it comes up in conversation, you make polite excuses to change the subject. “A new edition of D&D is coming out? Interesting. But you know what’s really cool? Dinosaurs! We should play a game where I can train velociraptors to be in my motorcycle gang!”

Jurassic World Raptor Gang

Everyone is too distracted by your cool new idea, and the issue of playing D&D has safely been dropped.

Stage 2: Anger

But eventually you’re going to run out of dinosaur-based distractions, leading to the second stage. At this point, revert to your inner two year old and dig in your heels. Despite the temper tantrum you’re throwing, you are technically an adult, and you can do what you want with your precious free time.

the office no

Stage 3: Bargaining

Okay, your group tells you. No Dungeons & Dragons. There are issues with the system! Maybe we can ease in with something else. Dungeon World? Pathfinder? Each has advantages over D&D. Maybe there will be something there that you like.

If you play with Fandible, this is a terrible terrible lie.

is this hell buffy

Stage 4: Depression

Something is wrong with you as a role player, right? Everyone likes D&D! What’s wrong with you?! Do you even deserve the title of role player?

dug cone of shame


Stage 5: Acceptance

After being asked one last time to give fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons a shot, you relent for one more game session, reserving the right to hate it. But eventually you find a character class that isn’t totally hampered by magic. And the lovely DM works out the finer details of your character, finding the gimmick that mostly avoids the murder-hobo tropes for your party that have plagued so many other D&D tales.


And when it’s time to roll the dice…the experience doesn’t entirely suck. And then a goblin tries to fireman carry your fictional little brother into the dangerous outside world and you charge in, blades swinging, and you’re suddenly all-in, accepting that, at least for this story, D&D is okay.


I fully admit, I may be the last person in the RPG community to come around to playing D&D. You’ll hear the full Fandible review of Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition on Friday (Thursday for some of our Patreon supporters!), but if you’ve listened to part 1 it won’t be much of a spoiler to say that I’m all in, at least as far as this story is concerned. If I’m out at a convention I’m still going to be seeking out pretty much any other type of game, but at least with my home group, I’m comfortably in the fifth stage of being a D&D-playing fantasy skeptic.

Are any other fantasy skeptics out there? What got you to play D&D, or how have you managed to continue avoiding it?

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About the Author
A city girl with midwestern roots, Angela has been on the internet for far too long. A geek of many stripes, when Angela isn't pretending to be a different person every weekend she can be found reading, writing (that novel will come out some day!), or preparing for her eventual life as a crazy cat woman. Angela also blogs about gaming at the blog Gaming as Women http:///www.gamingaswomen.com

7 comments on “5 Stages of Playing D&D for the Fantasy Skeptic

  1. Mawdrigen says:

    See I like fantasy, but I truly hated d&d 3.5, why? So many feats making so many edge cases, meaning rules lawyers were the kings of the world. Does 5th ed deal with this issue?

    You and I do disagree on one fundamental though.


  2. JaredFromTacoma says:

    JaredFromTacoma Liked this Article.

    As someone who more or less really dove into GM/DMing in 4th Ed D&D (I know… I know…) I have a certain warm spot in my heart hole for D&D, but it has more to do with the fact that it’s a system that I can work with to craft my own fantasy universes in. I can’t say that I’m not a fan of Fantasy, but I’m very particular with it. Essentially take any generic fantasy setting, add a few healthy cups of “grimdark”, and I’m as happy as a Barsher in a room of unarmed civilians. But generally, settings like The Forgotten Realms, or even the standard Greyhawk setting just too sunshine and rainbows for my tastes.

    If they ever get around to it, you might be interested in the “Dark Sun” campaign setting. Essentially it’s Fantasy Post Apocalyptic where EVERYBODY hates magic users, and frankly, their highly uncommon (or at least well hidden), and you could easily craft some awesome stories and characters with magic merely being a distant antagonizing force. Anyhow, great article.


  3. Spencinator says:

    Well, I’m glad to see you enjoyed 5th Edition! I’ll admit I noticed the fantasy skepticism since around the time you played Numenera, and I was always curious why that was. Is it magic in general that irks, the oversaturation of the fantasy genre or a little of both?

  4. Barsher D Barsher says:

    Magic can get ridiculous. Well, that’s according to me. I can’t speak for Angela. Atleast with cybernetics and science (SCIENCE!) it has to be grounded in some form of reality. With magic, all you really need to say why something can do something is ‘magic’.

    It’s like playing Cops and Robbers with an annoying kid. “Hey, I just shot you!” “No, I deflected it” “How?” “Uh.. magic.”

    Now, that isn’t to say all magic settings are like that. Just some of the more crazy magical settings. As I said in an early post, I love my fantasy-lite games.

  5. Angela says:

    @Jared – I approve of this wall o’ text. The magic haters of Dark Sun sound like my people!

    @Spencinator – maybe one day I’ll dive into why I don’t like fantasy. But if I explained it in the comments, then I wouldn’t have a future blog post, would I? 😉

  6. Spencinator says:

    @Barsher I suppose that’s fair, though science fiction can be guilty of it too, it just frames the impossible stuff in a different way (psionics anyone?)

    I like my magic systems internally consistent, stuff like Mistborns metal based magics where you consume bits of trace metal and a certain effect then occurs when your body burns it or Shadowrun’s traditions /Spirit based magic.

    So long as the magic system has some form of causality to it and the author is consistent with the rules he set down on how the magic works, and the magic in question is low-powered or powerful but only in selects circumstances, I’m cool. It’s when wizards become magic utility belts that I get less excited (something Pathfinder and 3.5 are especially guilty of)

  7. Sam says:

    I do not have that luxury. I’m always the Gm never the player.
    Used the first letters of each players names
    Player-A & W : Neither are willing to try Dming
    Plyaer- D : Monty Hauls so bad that I had a +3 sword in one of there attempts at a game
    Player-J & G : Welcome this is your railroad. This is my plot, you don’t wanna go into the boxed canyon where you know there is an ambush? Well to bad the bossy NPC that you can’t ignore and/or can beat you up say’s to go that way…

    Needless to say this has force me into the role of always the Gm.
    And I hate Gming D&D. I also have a passionate dislike towards the d20 system for many reasons.

    Does that mean I disagree with this post? No I think it is perfect is summing up what is great about gaming, D&D, and all things tabletop.
    But D&D is not for me
    But now and then sometimes it is just ok for this adventure to be D&D

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