Inside Joe Manganiello’s Epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign – Variety


Regularly, Vince Vaughn, guitarist of Rage Against the Machine Tom Morello, wrestler Paul “The Big Show” Wight, co-creator of “Game of Thrones” DB Weiss and more meet in the basement of Joe Manganiello during hours. But they don’t play a poker game, hold a business meeting, or any other engagement that could bring these names together.

They play Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop role-playing game first created in the 1970s that has maintained a passionate fan base for decades. In the video above, Manganiello gives Variety an exclusive look at her current D&D campaign (dubbed “The War of the Dragons”), how it came together and how it and its players offer a creative and social outlet – and something to expect and to plan for the whole week.

Manganiello, whose good things include a clothing line inspired by the game, a dungeon in his house to play and a professional role as a consultant for the D&D editor Wizards of the Coast, started his current campaign about two years after learning the 5th edition. , the most recent version of the game. It plays an important role as shorthand DM – D&D for Dungeon Master, the person who creates the world, controls the characters not played by the participants and generally acts as organizer.

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Paul “The Big Show” Wight, Kyle Newman and Ryan Verniere.

The original group, which has since grown, included Joe Nick’s brother, writer John Cassel (with whom Joe co-wrote a Dragonlance script when a D&D-based film was at Warner Bros.) , “Fanboys” director Kyle Newman, “League of Legends” story designer Ryan Verniere and Crossfit Masters champion Ron Mathews. Wight, actor George Finn and Morello later joined, with Morello recruiting a particularly impressive rookie.

” One day [Tom] said, “Hey, there is this guy in my child’s carpool who wants to play,” recalls Manganiello. “I said,” Ah man, I don’t know, the group is getting a little big. Who is your friend?’ [He said,] “Oh, his name is Dan. He co-created “Game of Thrones”. “

With that, Weiss joined, and the group continued to grow. Morello also brought in Vaughn, a friend of his from Chicago, who, like much of the group, had played D&D when he was younger, but hadn’t picked up a game dice in years.

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Joe Manganiello and Tom Morello.
Courtesy of Joe Manganiello

“In an interview, [Morello] had talked about playing Dungeons & Dragons and that this group, this mysterious group, who plays in Hollywood asked him to go play, “says Vaughn. “And at the beginning, I said,” This kind of thing seems a little crazy. Are you really going to do it? “And then Tom did it, and he came back and said he had a lot of fun and it was a lot of fun. We were hanging out, and he kind of attracted me. I didn’t really realize it, but he was giving me books and talking to me like, “I think you should check this out. »»

In addition to those who meet regularly to play, the Dragon War has had a number of recurring guests. Among these, “Game of Thrones” co-creator David Benioff, who texted Weiss during one of their sessions, asking how many hit points the dragon they were fighting had – so naturally, Manganiello let him play for a while. The director of “Suicide Squad” James Gunn and Taran Killam, member of the cast of Saturday Night Live, also played in the dungeon of Manganiello before.

As news of the campaign got around – even inspiring a name drop in season 2 of Netflix’s “You” – it also attracted a number of works of art. Comic artist Juan Cabrera drew the characters, as did Chuck D from Public Enemy, and a passing person Mephit Man regularly paints personalized miniatures for players.

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Dragon War art by Juan Cabrera.
Courtesy of Joe Manganiello

(Click here for an enlarged version of the above.)

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Dragon War Art by Chuck D.
Courtesy of Joe Manganiello

((Click here for an enlarged version of the above.)

The group managed to continue their campaign in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, using standard video chat applications like Zoom, in addition to Roll20, which is designed to play tabletop and role-playing games remotely. But generally, they gather in the infamous Manganiello Dungeon, officially titled “The Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon” in honor of the founder of D&D.

“You wouldn’t believe Joe’s dungeon,” said Morello. “There is nothing that can happen in the game that anyone can find in the momentum that is not in a box. Like, the druid turned into a weasel, and Joe said, “What weasel color? “And then the weasel with red stripes [miniature] comes out. It’s pretty incredible. “

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Paul “The Big Show” Wight and George Finn.

But for the group, it has become more than a game. It is a coherent way to bond and spend time together, sessions often taking place until late at night.

Verniere remembers watching his grandparents and their friends play pinochle when he was a child and admiring the connections he saw between adults. For him, D&D now serves this same type of social goal.

“I remember it was just a magical thing to see these husbands and wives playing this game, rejoicing, bonding,” he said. “As a child, I knew I wanted something like this in my life, this sense of community. And this game – in a city that can sometimes be a bit wrong, let’s be fair – this game cut so much of that social noise. “

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Tom Morello, David Benioff, Vince Vaughn, Ryan Verniere and Ron Mathews.
Courtesy of Joe Manganiello

The campaign, Manganiello Marvel, has entered the zeitgeist, but it is still something very personal for its players. It is a source of social and mental stimulation, even at the end of the sessions.

“I’m not going anywhere,” says Wight. “I go to the cinema, three people behind me cannot see. I have no social life outside of work, because I have been working five nights a week for 25 years all over the world … [During the week], you think about this game, the adventure – “How many spell boxes do I have? Where are my hit points? Where are we going to be? What if this happens? What if Joe came up with this? Oh man, I really hope he won’t find that. “It’s really good for the brain all week. “

“It’s similar to what a high stakes poker game could be like,” said Morello. “This is a game where friends get together, which is taken seriously and which is a lot of fun. But it’s serious. It is very serious! We are on an adventure that I think about a lot during the week. “

Do you feel inspired? Here are some resources to get started, even by self-isolating. And for the chance to play D&D with Manganiello and visit the headquarters of Wizards of the Coast, all for a good cause, click here.

Materials and rules:

Basic rules set
Set of polyhedral dice
D&D starter kit
Player Manual
Dungeon Master Guide
Monster Manual
Character builder

Remote playback options:

Google Hangouts
Wizards of the Coast Virtual Dice Roll


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