While we might love Vince Vaughn as Wes Mantooth in Anchorman or Freddy Funkhouser on Curb Your Enthusiasm, his most personally cherished role could be that of Kassin, the human divine soul sorcerer, when he gets together with other entertainment industry insiders for a rousing game of Dungeons & Dragons in actor-writer Joe Manganiello’s basement.
As Variety reports, the True Blood star—who also has a D&D-based clothing line and is an official consultant to the publisher of the roleplaying game that’s become a cult classic since its 1974 debut—has served as dungeon master to an eclectic group of Hollywood luminaries who’ve been playing out a D&D adventure, or campaign, for two years now.
Other members include Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello (Kimathi Stormhollow: mountain dwarf champion/forge cleric), WWE star Paul “The Big Show” Wight (Ullac Jotunn: half stone giant psychic warrior), Game of Thrones cocreator Dan Weiss (Hugo Ledbetter: moon elf assassin), and League of Legends story designer Ryan Verniere (The Ghost of Jericho Blackwing: formerly a human death cleric).
While the initial crew consisted of just a handful of players, it grew as word of the epic campaign, the War of Dragons, began to spread.
“In an interview, [Morello] had talked about playing Dungeons & Dragons and that this group, this mysterious group that plays in Hollywood, had reached out to him to go play,” Vaughn told Variety. “And at first I said, ‘That kind of seems a little crazy. Are you actually going to go do it?’ And then Tom did, and he came back and said he had a blast and it was a lot of fun. We were hanging out, and he was kind of luring me in. I didn’t really realize it, but he was kind of giving me books and talking to me, like, ‘I think you should check this out.’”
Whether they’re physically navigating Manganiello’s basement dungeon full of castles, towers, and other D&D accoutrement using hand-painted miniatures of their characters or—in the wake of COVID-19—playing remotely via apps like Zoom and Roll20, the regular gatherings are more than just a game for these questers: It’s a much needed mental journey that can occupy their minds for the entire week.
When Wight first heard about the game, he told Manganiello, “Save me a seat, bro. I’m bringing my dice.”
He tells Variety, “I don’t fit in anywhere. I go to the movies, three people behind me can’t see. I don’t have a social life outside of work because I’ve worked five nights a week for 25 years all over the world. … [During the week] you think about this game, the adventure—‘How many spell slots do I have? Where are my hit points? Where are we going to be? What if this happens? What if Joe comes up with this? Oh, man, I really hope he doesn’t come up with that.’ It’s really good for the brain all week long.”
Morello agrees that it can be all encompassing, saying, “It’s similar to what a high-stakes poker game might be. 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.”
Indeed, D&D hysteria once reached such a fever pitch that Tom Hanks was enlisted to warn us of its addictive nature:
Still, if you want to play D&D with Manganiello, he’s offering up the chance to a lucky supporter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
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