Thanks to cultural phenomenons like The Big Bang Theory and Stranger Things, we’re beginning to see the likes of geek culture spreading more and more into the general population’s day-to-day lives, with Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons becoming more popular by the day. Tabletop gaming has enjoyed a rich history, with board games like Monopoly always being a family-friendly pastime and video game alternatives like the ensemble of Jackbox games finding their way to more homes across Steam, the PS Store and the Xbox Marketplace.
It’s Dungeons & Dragons that is the most interesting case study though as it’s always been viewed as the pinnacle of nerdiness; the last stop before becoming what society generally deems as being a geek. The growing popularity appears to be a mirror to the general acceptance of video games, though that enjoys a billion-dollar place in marketplaces across the globe. Even so, with the rise of entertainment channels like Dimension 20, Adventure Zone and NADDPOD, it’s clear that there is a rising trend. There are even the likes of special events where celebrities gather around the table, making it much more socially acceptable for people to get familiar with the many dice of D&D.
This has been helped in no small part by the user-friendly fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, or 5e D&D, which is largely becoming the only version of the game that people know of. Paired with an ever-growing community of friendly players who always welcome new players and the general freedom that both being a PC (a player character) and a DM (a dungeon or game master) offers players, Dungeons & Dragons is picking up steam and gathering legions of new fans by the day.
The comparison to video games is no accident either as what was once only found in ‘the basements of nerds’ is now celebrated and explored in pop culture. This new found surge of ‘geek culture’ isn’t isolated to the breakout success of such franchises as the MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) but it’s certainly helped by it. It’s not hard to imagine crossovers of these cultural methods of entertainment, especially as the aforementioned Monopoly has always embraced pop-culture for its own tabletop gaming (such as the Marvel Monopoly, Rick & Morty Monopoly, and so much more). So, with this in mind, let’s explore a combination made in the nirvana of geek culture; video games with Dungeons & Dragons.
Here at Spur Creative, we love exploring video game culture with massive props and fantastic sculptures, but today we wanted to explore the worlds of D&D. We wanted to see just what the perfect D&D party would be made of, using some of gaming’s most beloved characters. Break out your D20s, ladies and gentlemen, as we’re about to explore Video Game’s Greatest D&D Party.
The Adept Party
- Cleric (Life) – Aerith (Final Fantasy 7)
Largely considered one of the strongest classes in D&D (with some DMs refusing to have players use them), Clerics can serve as spectacular healers as well as exceptionally adaptable fighters. They’re often proficient in heavy armour, capable of wielding swords & shields and can manipulate magic in a variety of different ways, almost making them a chunk Swiss army knife, but they can also be fine-tuned for specific purposes.
Enter a Domain of Life Cleric; the archetypical healer, and a class that feels like it’s custom-made for Aerith. A fan favourite from one of history’s most beloved JRPGs, or games of all time for that matter, Aerith is the tragic love interest (to a degree) of the protagonist Cloud (to another degree; it’s a four-disc long story) and one of the first party members you enlist in Final Fantasy 7. Largely considered the primary healer, being one of Final Fantasy’s ‘white mages’, Aerith is all about healing spells, party-supporting Materia and the planet’s lifestream, as in, really about the planet’s lifestream.
Throughout the story, it’s revealed that Aerith is the last in a long line of an ancient, god-like people (much like the Aasimar) with a connection to the life of the planet itself. However, as innocent her intentions, as pure as heart is or as prodigious as her healing abilities, it didn’t help when her time came. Spoiler alert for a game two decades old, but the primary antagonist, Sepiroth, swiftly put an end to Aerith’s life well before her time, making her unlikely to be an incredibly high-level character.
Conclusion: If you’re not on Team Tifa, Aerith would make for a great healer for an adept party.
- Ranger (Monster Slayer) – Aloy (Horizon: Zero Dawn)
Rangers are a special kind of class, those that are more often than not fairly specialised. In D&D, many often dismiss the Ranger class, stating that players should either pick a ‘Fighter with a bow’ instead of being a ‘Druid-lite’ character. However, they do offer plenty of boons to a party, especially those looking to tame and traverse the wild environments of many campaigns, and when we think of wild environments in games one particularly beautiful example springs to mind; Horizon: Zero Dawn.
Though young, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s protagonist, Aloy, is an experienced hunter and survivalist. Much like your classic Ranger, Aloy is more than proficient with a bow & arrow, as well as an array of handcrafted & eccentric guerilla-style weapons. It’s hard to consider Aloy as anything other than the creature-killing speciality subclass of Monster Slayer, granting her advantages and particular skills against her prey, such as, say, a strange device that showcases the weaknesses of gigantic robotic monsters.
Throughout Horizon: Zero Dawn Aloy proves that she’s an impressive fighter, a capable stalker of prey and even a wise & understanding diplomat. However, she’s still fresh out of an isolated upbringing, born into a superstitious and ostracising society, and overall a small human struggling to survive in a world mostly filled with vicious, gigantic mechanical monsters.
Conclusion: This dichotomy makes Aloy an exceptional warrior, one that’s more than capable of joining an adept party, but not mighty enough to rub shoulders with the legendary hitters on this list.
- Monk (Way of the Sun Soul) – Dhalsim (Street Fighter)
Essentially every world in D&D is created with some pretty awesome items and weapons in mind, whether it’s in the mind of the DM or the players, Knowing that there are swords that can scare off zombies, bows that can fire giant shards of ice and mauls that can summon ghost pirates, it can seem ridiculous to pick a class that uses their fists, but there are plenty of badass moments that you can live out when your character’s a Monk.
Fighting games have an almost unfathomable amount of hand-to-hand combatants that could be considered a Monk, but one of the clearest choices that springs to mind when thinking about fighting monks is one of Street Fighter’s longest-running combatants; Dhalsim. Dhalsim is no stranger to unarmed strikes, as well as many Monk-based skills like Flurry of Blows or Step of the Wind, each of which provide excellent hand-to-hand combos and quick dashes away from opponents, but what truly makes him an unquestionable Monk would be his affinity with the subclass, Way of the Sun Soul.
Dhalsim may appear to be nothing more than a toned shaman who can easily handle himself in a brawl, but what truly sets him apart from his Street Fighter counterparts are both his unorthodox stretching abilities (which, as far as we’re aware, there are no Gomu Gomu no Mi fruits in D&D) and his master over fire; breathing it out at will and utilising it effectively enough to counter series-favourites like the Hadouken.
Conclusion: Incredibly versatile and considerably good at balancing magic and physical combat, Dhalsim would be an invaluable addition to an adept party. However, stacking him against harder hitters in Street Fighter, like M Bison and Seth, shows that he’d be a good level, not a stupidly high level character.
- Paladin (Oath of Heroism) – Link (The Legend of Zelda)
One of the most beloved classes in D&D, Paladins are exceptional choices for those who want to serve as Jack of All Trades; whether they feel like roleplaying as an incredibly religious, pious soul, a scorned & vengeful maniac or even just someone who prays to a talking, omnipotent chicken. Capable of dealing plenty of magical damage with ‘smites’ as well as healing their comrades with Lay on Hands, Paladins are pretty versatile warriors, and when it comes to versatile warriors in gaming there are few out there that beat Link.
Technically an unnamed protagonist, The Legend of Zelda’s Link has been amazing gamers for over 30 years. From its humble origins that began with an old man in a cave giving a child a sword to the genre-rocking masterpiece that saw you exploring a beautiful, wild world, The Legend of Zelda has been an almost flawless series (leaving out Link’s Adventure 2, Skyward Sword and Navi) that has put gamers in control of a mostly mute elf that’s capable of swinging a sword, shooting a bow, flinging a boomerang, utilising magical relics and…Well, the list could go on for quite some time.
Blessed by Hyrule as the chosen one, no matter where you land in the convoluted timelines, Link is undoubtedly granted some powers by the gods; even if he does have to constantly prove himself time and time again. By wielding the legendary Master Sword and imbued with the Triforce of Courage, there’s little that can stand in the way of Link; save for some angry chickens, average-sized walls and attempting small talk at parties.
Conclusion: It’s hard not to consider the Hero of Hyrule a master-class character, except for the fact that most of his power comes from items and boons picked up along quests. Still, he’s no slouch as a warrior, so would be an exceptional adept-level Paladin.
The Experienced Party
- Fighter (Scout) – Joel (The Last of Us)
In D&D, it’s almost a trope to have beginners play Human Fighters, whether it’s due to their ease-of-use or simply due to a lack of imagination. In the case of gaming’s Fighter, this trope isn’t adhered to as it would be hard to describe Naughty Dog’s morally grey protagonist, Joel, as anything but a Fighter.
As ‘The Last of Us’ properly kicks off 20 years into the end of modern civilization, Joel would undoubtedly be an experienced combatant; one who keeps on constant alert, relies on scouting when outside city walls and has become grizzled after years of arduous survival. Adapting to competition with bandits, the infected and even other survivors will have made Joel proficient in almost anything he could get his hands on to use as a makeshift weapon,
A lifetime fighting, surviving and adapting in the hellish and bleak world of The Last of Us would definitely grant Joel a wealth of boons and experience, but he wouldn’t be without his limitations. As fit and capable as Joel is, he’s no longer in his prime and so would likely not be as formidable as a higher-level party member.
Conclusion: If Joel can survive a hellish, post-apocalyptic world with a handgun, a Molotov and a can of scissor pieces, he can fight well in an experienced party.
- Rogue (Assassin) – Widowmaker (Overwatch)
The Rogue in D&D is often portrayed in an incredibly basic archetype; a sneaky person who loves stealing things. This, however, is the vanilla character creation of Rogues, and experienced players often know just how diverse the class can be, ranging from the haunted Revived to pirate-style Swashbucklers, as well as one of the most potentially insidious subclasses in the entire game; the Assassin.
There are plenty of brilliant assassins throughout gaming history, such as Agent 47 and Ezio Auditore, but our money’s on one of gaming’s most interesting assassins; Overwatch’s Widowmaker. For a long time Widowmaker’s past, much like the rest of Overwatch’s cast, was shrouded in mystery, yet piece by piece information has come to light. It’s a long story, but Widowmaker has undergone reprogramming, brainwashing, and a wealth of wet work to establish her firmly on the side of ‘evil’.
With a powerful weapon like Widow’s Kiss, abilities like Infra-Red Sight and tools like her Grappling Hook, Widowmaker isn’t just capable of ruining an enemy team but dealing some serious damage against monsters. Keeping her distance whilst delivering devastating shots are the name of the game for Widowmaker, and this kind of proficiency can prove that Rogues can do so much more than just pick your pockets.
Conclusion: As anyone who’s been wrecked online by a skilled sniper can attest to, Widowmaker has the potential to take out anything troubling the party from a long distance; combining her background with the Assassin subclass makes her an incredible Rogue for an experienced party.
- Warlock (The Great Old One: Pact of the Chain) – Joker (Persona 5)
In the world of D&D, a Warlock isn’t limited to just being a male magic user; they are the manifestation of magic potential. Whether they gain their use of magic through a bond with a sentient book or a deal with Cthulu himself, Warlocks are a unique type of spellcaster; being bound to limited spell slots, yet having those spell slots be extremely powerful and able to recover much quicker than conventional spellcasters.
While it’s easy to label Joker as an Arcane Trickers Rogue, he fits more comfortably into the mysterious and ever-powerful Warlock class, especially when utilising the Pact of the Chain eldritch evocation. Granted powers by an enigmatic force (such as being unlocked by Igor and the Velvet Room) that can take on many powerful forms (like, say, a compendium full of different Personas), a Pact of the Chain Warlock has plenty of potential to rock the world and, dare we say, break the chains binding society.
Many past inclusions of the Shin Megami Tensei series (Atlus’ parent series of which Persona spun off from) straight up labelled the Personas that the protagonists and Joker utilise as devils and demons, at least, when they weren’t just becoming demons themselves (such as in the underrated Digital Devil Saga) or fighting alongside them (just like in one of the main Shin Megami Tensei Games, like Nocturne). With this in mind, saying that Joker is gaining his power from an external, demonic force, wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
Conclusion: A perpetually adaptable, quick-witted and cool-headed leader who is just at home exploring dungeon-like environments with a party as they are on a supernatural battlefield? Joker sounds like the prime candidate for an experienced D&D party.
- Wizard (Evocation) – Vivi, Kamek (Super Mario)
When you say ‘wizards’ usually one image springs to mind; old men with long, white beards, big pointy hats and gnarled looking staffs. Gandalf has more or less created the archetype for wizards, but in D&D you have the potential to reinvent this stereotype with your own take on the classic spellcaster. After all, it’s infinitely more interesting to play as, say, a Tiefling (a demon-like humanoid race) who became a Wizard in their quest to find the perfect Fireball spell or even a Tortle; much like Kamek.
Kamek’s career on the dark side of Mario’s traditionally sunny world began in the mid-90s, serving as Yoshi’s antagonist in Yoshi’s Island and Baby Bowser’s primary caretaker. This parental, advisory position to King Koopa has been consistent throughout the years, with Kamek acting as everything from a formidable boss in the Paper Mario series to a friendly game show-style host in the Mario Party series. However, even as he’s handing out commiserative stars to the losers of Mario Party next to Toad and Toadette, it’s undeniable that Kamek has a firm grip on magical power; constantly using the Levitate or Fly spell on his broom and evoking potent (and, some could argue, Sony plagiarizing) magicks against the Mario brothers.
Despite being a hardy Tortle (or, rather, a Koopa), Kamek is still a Wizard, one who can take a good degree of licking yet still not sturdy enough to fend off a barrage of cranial stomping from Italian plumbers and their assortment of allies. His strength doesn’t come from his blue-robed body though, but his mind; a particularly sharp tool that’s seen Kamek hold an unshakable position of power in Bowser’s kingdom for decades.
Conclusion: This experienced spellcaster is nothing to sniff at, utilising magical abilities swiftly and seemingly without the need for any spell components. Thanks to this, Bowser’s right-hand man would be a brilliant Wizard for any experienced party.
The Master Party
- Barbarian (Path of the Storm Herald) – Kratos (God of War)
Now we enter the realm of the gods; literally. Even from a low level, Barbarians are well known as the tanks of any parties, being more than capable of taking a lot of damage (the infamous Rage ability halving any physical damage for one) and dealing even more on the battlefield. If a Fighter is considered a versatile but simple tool, the Barbarian can easily be classed as an efficient sledgehammer; one that’s capable of dealing even more damage, or helping the party hit a lot harder, with the various subclasses available.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Kratos is one of gaming’s greatest Barbarians. Sure, you have classic characters like Golden Axe’s dwarf, but when modern gamers think of an unstoppable force of brute strength that can mow down mobs and destroy deities, they have to think of Kratos. The ‘Ghost of Sparta’ spent much of his gaming career simply being an angry, angry man who pummeled his way to godhood, and yet it was within his latest game, God of War for the PS4, that we saw just how deep and awesome he is as a character.
Few could argue that this towering behemoth of a demigod would be anything but an extremely high-level character, one that would have no trouble taking down god-like foes (previously with a grudge, of course) and would seldom be slowed down by foot soldiers or monsters (the stopping power of the Sentinal feat, the unforgiving barrage of attacks of the Savage Attacker feat and the overwhelming power of the Great Weapons Master feat springs to mind).
Conclusions: Combine all of this with the magical boons of such iconic weapons as his late wife’s axe, the Leviathan (a frost-driven weapon that rings of the Tundra variant of Path of the Storm Herald) with his raw, god-like power and no one could bring the fight to your foes better than Kratos.
- Druid (Circle of Twilight) – Bayonetta (Bayonetta)
Masters of the elements, of nature, and even forces beyond this plane of existence; Druids can be complicated characters to play but they can also bring the thunder down hard, figuratively and literally. Far from simply being robed figures who appreciate nature, in D&D Druids can be juggernauts that can adapt to almost any environment. Subclasses of Druids can vary as much as the seasons, ranging from the fun fungus-based Circle of Spores to the superb spirit-based Circle of Shepherd.
However, these aren’t the subclasses that best showcase the magnificence of everybody’s favourite witch; Bayonetta. One of the only surviving Umbra Witches, Bayonetta is exceptionally powerful, often relishing her battles with the demonic, angel-like Angels of Paradiso. Incredibly proficient in dealing damage both long-range and close-combat, especially against her chosen foes that resist the natural cycle of life & death in the cosmos, Bayonetta fits almost as well into the Circle of Twilight subclass as she does into her hair-based clothing.
Bayonetta’s greatest strengths lie in her flawless mobility, her skills with her custom weapons, and her immense charm. However, where her compatibility with the Druid class is best exemplified is her Timeless Body perk, in which high-level Druids can extend their lifespans many, many times over.
Conclusions: Bayonetta makes for a formidable foe, yet still has some room to grow. The Timeless Body class feature, along with the potential to be overwhelmingly powerful, makes Bayonetta well-worthy of supporting or fighting side-by-side with a Master-class party.
- Sorcerer (Runechild) – Yennefer (The Witcher)
It’s not uncommon to be a little confused when first approaching D&D, especially when considering the magic-focused classes. One common question can be “what’s the difference between a Wizard and a Sorcerer?”, and while these may seem like purely semantic differences, in D&D they offer wildly different playstyles. While a Wizard will be one who trains and studies to use a wealth of different magicks, a Sorcerer will be naturally blessed with the ability to wield and customise spells, which brings us to the infamous Yennefer of Vengerberg.
Before she was perpetually enchanted with the scene of lilacs and gooseberries, Yennefer was a deformed and abused child who, unbeknownst to her, had untapped Elvyn magic within her. After this power was brought to the surface and mastered, Yennefer quickly reformed herself both physically and in status, making a name for herself over the decades of extended life her magic afforded her. By the time she first crossed paths with the titular Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, she was an immensely powerful Sorceress.
Yennefer’s magical abilities aren’t the only weapon she has in her arsenal, as she’s proven herself to be a shrewd and cunning diplomat, a genius scholar and even a capable commander on the battlefield. With a flick of her wrist, she can annihilate lesser men and monsters with destructive spells, enchant an entire room with both her charms and guile and easily transport herself and others over great distances with immensely powerful portals, proving that she’s a master of magic.
Conclusions: As long as she isn’t distracted by a certain cat-eyed warrior or the thought of a stuffed unicorn, Yennefer is a true force to behold. However, as talented and potent as she may be as a master of magic, she believes she still needs greater power to truly achieve her wants and desires.
- Bard (College of Satire) – Dante (Devil May Cry)
One of the greatest misconceptions with Bards in D&D is that they need to be musicians. Sure, Bards are traditionally depicted as singing, lute-playing minstrels, but in D&D a Bard can simply be a creative mind who frequently expresses themselves. For example, you can determine you’re a Bard through dance, by making cocktails, or performing card tricks. However you decide to express yourself as a character, your Bard can be a charismatic tour de force; or in the case of Dante, you can express yourself by being awesome at everything.
Portrayed as being so powerful, skilled and lucky that virtually nothing fazes him, Dante is the happy-go-lucky and cool-as-permafrost protagonist of the Devil May Cry series. Throughout the years he may have shifted his personality somewhat (with cringe-worthy lines from Devil May Cry 1, to having a stoic lack of personality in Devil May Cry 2, to settling on his whimsically wonderful iteration in Devil May Cry 3) but essentially every version of Dante sees him being utterly in control of every situation. Whether he’s firing round after round into demonic hordes, rocking a magical, devilish guitar in Hell or dancing like Jackson with an absurdly stylish hat, Dante is supremely stylish and always brings results.
Though he may portray an aloof behaviour, the half-demon is capable of slaying gods. Bards are known as being more than capable of being a master of all trades, as well as being the most charming characters in their respective worlds. Like any high-level Bard, Dante is an expert in handling powerful magicks, wielding mighty weapons, and supporting allies, or in this case, his party; and no one embodies the word ‘party’ quite like Dante.
Conclusions: As a man who has fended off the entire Underworld from invading Earth single-handedly, Dante would be a comfortable fit in a party that was filled with gods and legendary heroes. Whether it was through martial art prowess, his litany of Devil Arms or just through his raw charisma, Dante could handle anything D&D could throw at him.