True Tales from Stranger Things: My Hellfire Club

Stranger Things helped thrust Dungeons & Dragons into the mainstream, but it also touched on a lot of gamer archetypes that I found in my high school group.

strangerthingskids.jpg

One of the things that makes Stranger Things so compelling for later generations of gamers is that we see our younger selves on screen. Let's start with the most weirdly accurate parallel: me.

The Mike​

Beyond having the name in common, Mike was also the host of most of the Dungeons & Dragons sessions for the group. My house was too, at least partially because my home life was the most stable. You found out pretty quickly who was able to have kids over their house and what was going on there when you played every weekend together.

Additionally, Mike was the forever dungeon master for the group. I DMed continuously, and was only a player when we tried other role-playing games, with one exception (described below). Eventually, I was the only one who had a girlfriend who played with us.

Unlike Mike, when I do play D&D I tend to play complicated characters: artificers, clerics, wizards.

The Eleven​

I met my girlfriend in my junior year and high school, as it turned out she was a role-player like me. She was also a writer (there was a lot of overlap those days), and so we had a lot of common. She was also my prom date. She joined my D&D campaign in the later years.

Like Eleven, my girlfriend didn't fit in with most groups socially, but she was no slouch either. She was a lifeguard, an accomplished writer and artist, and a huge fan of comic books. For me, her superpower was being interested in role-playing games (and willing to date me!).

Our Eleven was fond of playing monks, rangers, and rogues, emulating her favorite superhero: Elektra.

The Dustin​

Despite D&D's reputation as being for uber-nerds, my group was more a collection of outcasts who didn't fit anywhere else. Only one of our gaming group, who I met in typing class, fit the archetype of a super-smart gamer, and he was a certified genius. He had internships with aerospace companies and full scholarships for university. He even had a long-distance girlfriend like Dustin.

Our Dustin played two different characters: an elven ranger and giff fighter.

The Will​

Will is the quiet kid who loves to play, but NEEDS to play because it's the positive thing going on in his life. Will's the kid who suffers most when the group breaks up, but because he's quiet the other players don't necessarily notice how hard it is for him.

I've written previously about my friend Joe, who passed away of a heart attack in October 2020. Joe played faithfully in every one of my D&D campaigns, and when I finally threw in the towel in gaming with my high school friends he was the one who had no means of connecting with me: he was barely on Facebook, didn't have a vehicle, and rarely traveled out of state. The end of our gaming was effectively the end of our relationship.

Joe was fond of playing dwarves: fighters or clerics. It's somewhat comforting to me to see Will come through the other end of his tribulations (of which there are many in Stranger Things). I like to think that Joe might have too, if he still had a network to support him.

The Lucas​

The emotional heart of the group, Lucas does the most growing up during the series. He transforms radically from being the stalwart player to branching out on his own. This causes strife within the other players.

Our Lucas similarly started out as a shy, overweight kid who loved martial arts and drawing manga, and matured into a fit, popular guy who had his own car. He would drive any of us anywhere, show up at all hours to help, and could always be relied on in a crisis.

So it was a shock when he started going to clubs and didn't want to play D&D anymore. We didn't realize it at the time, but he had shifted social groups and we hadn't moved along with him.

Our Lucas loved playing monks and paladins, and often multi-classed characters who were both.

The Eddie​

Described by the Stranger Things wiki as a "full-on nonconformist metalhead" and avid D&D player, I knew an Eddie who had a scary reputation but was a sweet gamer who stuck by his friends.

Our Eddie had it tough. He was the only one of us who smoked, was a metalhead, had long hair, and he was a big kid (possibly, like Eddie, having been left back, but we were afraid to ask). We only played at his house once, and it was clear our Eddie didn't have a fun home life. But he was loyal to his friends, and being his friend came with some level of protection -- he slammed one of my bullies into a locker once.

Our Eddie always played evil characters like antipaladins and assassins, and when he DMed our one game it was just a non-stop arena of evil characters slaughtering each other. With a tumultuous home life, he moved often, so he only hung around for a year (a season, in Stranger Things terms), but he made a very strong impression.

There are many more character archetypes than listed here and far more players (my group reached 12 at one point), but it's interesting to see how much Stranger Things got right.

Your Turn: Do you recognize gamers from your group in Stranger Things?
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

aco175

Legend
My neighborhood had more kids my brother's age which was 2 years older than me. It wasn't a problem since I got to tag along in most things, but I learned that I needed to be the thief most of the time since I was told to open doors and go first. In high school the older group mostly broke up and was totally gone by their graduation so a new group formed with others from HS that I knew. Having a car at that time helped get people together or meant that we could travel farther than the neighborhood.
 

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Just got done watching this. My age is the exact age of the show's plot, so it brings back great memories. I must admit, though, while I enjoyed the vast majority of the show, the ending few episodes of season 4 reminded me of why I really dislike Steven Kingish stuff - the melding of science and spirituality and things that really make no sense in some ways at the end of many of his stories. The Satanic Panic stuff was spot on, I remember a teacher angrily grabbing B2 Keep on the Borderlands from my books with a mean face to this day.
 

Mezuka

Hero
We had:
  • A guy from a rich family living far away but made the trip, with his car, to our lower class neighbourhood.
  • An anti-social guy who wanted to kill things, all the time. We played at his house.
  • A shy guy who lost his father young. Played druids and rangers.
  • A genius who went to study at MIT.
  • A skinny metalhead who only played Halfling thieves.
  • And me the forever DM who needs to play, even after 41 years.
 

Mezuka

Hero
Just got done watching this. My age is the exact age of the show's plot, so it brings back great memories. I must admit, though, while I enjoyed the vast majority of the show, the ending few episodes of season 4 reminded me of why I really dislike Steven Kingish stuff - the melding of science and spirituality and things that really make no sense in some ways at the end of many of his stories. The Satanic Panic stuff was spot on, I remember a teacher angrily grabbing B2 Keep on the Borderlands from my books with a mean face to this day.
Did he give it back? That is called theft... unless he wanted it for himself because he was closet D&D player!
 

dave2008

Legend
Yes, when Eddie appeared in the latest season I instantly got texts from my group about who fit that role! It was so obvious no one needed the text.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Did he give it back? That is called theft... unless he wanted it for himself because he was closet D&D player!
In that era teachers taking stuff from you was just normal. I had multiple packs of corn nuts (unopened) taken from me and once the teacher who took them then proceeded to eat them in front of me just as a lesson to never bring outside food into a classroom.
 

Von Ether

Legend
My first group was:
  • The kid whose parents just divorced
  • The kid experimenting with drugs and didn't have a great home life.
  • The other socially awkward kids writing song lyrics
  • I was the weirdo who was prone to outburst until I started playing.
I don't remember what classes we played as I was the forever GM.

Unlike any of the kids in the show, I eventually the National Guard and went to college.
 


GuyBoy

Hero
1976-1981 at school:
Two of us from tough backgrounds and also both sporty and army cadets (it was peak Cold War). Ended up as best friends. As large rugby players, we were able to “divert” possible bullies who targeted some of the other players.
One metalhead (played bards and called one of them Blackmore, one Gillan)
One quiet lad who went on to be a vicar
Two mathematicians (both ended up as maths professors, one at Cambridge). One of them told me about some game called Caverns and Wumpi and said computers were the future. Huh, what did he know!
One lad who was tragically killed in a car crash a couple years after leaving school. Somehow, D&D memories always bring his memory alive. RIP Paul.

We all got on well and loved the game.
 

Thoth11

Villager
Stranger Things helped thrust Dungeons & Dragons into the mainstream, but it also touched on a lot of gamer archetypes that I found in my high school group.


One of the things that makes Stranger Things so compelling for later generations of gamers is that we see our younger selves on screen. Let's start with the most weirdly accurate parallel: me.

The Mike​

Beyond having the name in common, Mike was also the host of most of the Dungeons & Dragons sessions for the group. My house was too, at least partially because my home life was the most stable. You found out pretty quickly who was able to have kids over their house and what was going on there when you played every weekend together.

Additionally, Mike was the forever dungeon master for the group. I DMed continuously, and was only a player when we tried other role-playing games, with one exception (described below). Eventually, I was the only one who had a girlfriend who played with us.

Unlike Mike, when I do play D&D I tend to play complicated characters: artificers, clerics, wizards.

The Eleven​

I met my girlfriend in my junior year and high school, as it turned out she was a role-player like me. She was also a writer (there was a lot of overlap those days), and so we had a lot of common. She was also my prom date. She joined my D&D campaign in the later years.

Like Eleven, my girlfriend didn't fit in with most groups socially, but she was no slouch either. She was a lifeguard, an accomplished writer and artist, and a huge fan of comic books. For me, her superpower was being interested in role-playing games (and willing to date me!).

Our Eleven was fond of playing monks, rangers, and rogues, emulating her favorite superhero: Elektra.

The Dustin​

Despite D&D's reputation as being for uber-nerds, my group was more a collection of outcasts who didn't fit anywhere else. Only one of our gaming group, who I met in typing class, fit the archetype of a super-smart gamer, and he was a certified genius. He had internships with aerospace companies and full scholarships for university. He even had a long-distance girlfriend like Dustin.

Our Dustin played two different characters: an elven ranger and giff fighter.

The Will​

Will is the quiet kid who loves to play, but NEEDS to play because it's the positive thing going on in his life. Will's the kid who suffers most when the group breaks up, but because he's quiet the other players don't necessarily notice how hard it is for him.

I've written previously about my friend Joe, who passed away of a heart attack in October 2020. Joe played faithfully in every one of my D&D campaigns, and when I finally threw in the towel in gaming with my high school friends he was the one who had no means of connecting with me: he was barely on Facebook, didn't have a vehicle, and rarely traveled out of state. The end of our gaming was effectively the end of our relationship.

Joe was fond of playing dwarves: fighters or clerics. It's somewhat comforting to me to see Will come through the other end of his tribulations (of which there are many in Stranger Things). I like to think that Joe might have too, if he still had a network to support him.

The Lucas​

The emotional heart of the group, Lucas does the most growing up during the series. He transforms radically from being the stalwart player to branching out on his own. This causes strife within the other players.

Our Lucas similarly started out as a shy, overweight kid who loved martial arts and drawing manga, and matured into a fit, popular guy who had his own car. He would drive any of us anywhere, show up at all hours to help, and could always be relied on in a crisis.

So it was a shock when he started going to clubs and didn't want to play D&D anymore. We didn't realize it at the time, but he had shifted social groups and we hadn't moved along with him.

Our Lucas loved playing monks and paladins, and often multi-classed characters who were both.

The Eddie​

Described by the Stranger Things wiki as a "full-on nonconformist metalhead" and avid D&D player, I knew an Eddie who had a scary reputation but was a sweet gamer who stuck by his friends.

Our Eddie had it tough. He was the only one of us who smoked, was a metalhead, had long hair, and he was a big kid (possibly, like Eddie, having been left back, but we were afraid to ask). We only played at his house once, and it was clear our Eddie didn't have a fun home life. But he was loyal to his friends, and being his friend came with some level of protection -- he slammed one of my bullies into a locker once.

Our Eddie always played evil characters like antipaladins and assassins, and when he DMed our one game it was just a non-stop arena of evil characters slaughtering each other. With a tumultuous home life, he moved often, so he only hung around for a year (a season, in Stranger Things terms), but he made a very strong impression.

There are many more character archetypes than listed here and far more players (my group reached 12 at one point), but it's interesting to see how much Stranger Things got right.

Your Turn: Do you recognize gamers from your group in Stranger Things?
I need to do this for my gaming group growing up. Loved this article!
 

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