Twenty twenty-four marks the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. The game is more popular than ever. How can you tell? Actual Plays like Critical Role and Dimension 20 are playing sold-out arena shows around the world. Everyone has or knows someone who has a Hellfire Club shirt because of Stranger Things. At least 33% of you understand what “Challenge Rating 3” means. But, most obviously, government agencies are out here publishing D&D adventures to get people to pay attention to them.

If you’re extremely online, chances are you’ve seen the NASA (yes, THAT NASA) adventure The Lost Universe which combines the fun of Dungeons & Dragons with the information from a solid planetarium show. Not to be outdone, the Wisconsin Historical Society (yes, THAT Wisconsin Historical Society) recently released “Wisconsin Adventures” for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.

“Wisconsin Adventures” contains three short adventures that take characters from first through fifth level. The adventures use people, places, and things from Wisconsin history as plot elements. There’s even a section in the back that explains all the references for the folks who don’t remember that day in school. Most importantly, the adventures feature two of our most memorable cryptids as bad guys: Rhinelander’s own Hodag, and the Beast of Bray Road. (Sorry, Haunchyville, you’ll have to wait for the next edition.)

In my opinion as a professional game designer, the adventures are…fine. There’s a cute map of Wisconsin in the front reimagined as a fantasy kingdom, and the adventures do a good job of offering ways to resolve their stories beyond simply kicking open the door and slaying the monsters. As these adventures were designed with teachers in mind, they seem built for more peaceful resolutions that don’t involve a kid telling their parents how they beheaded a creature in history class and having to set up a meeting with the principal the next week.

More importantly, things like this show the strength of D&D as a marketing tool. I probably would have never checked out the Wisconsin Historical Society website and been tempted to pick up a set of dice without seeing this passed around the social media pages of some local game designer friends. If some people donate money to the agency by picking up the PDF or by picking up the Educator’s Package to run in class, then everyone wins.

For those of us who don’t have a Dungeon Master or a cool nerdy teacher in our lives, there’s still hope to see how the story turns out. The society is running the event at Lake Geneva’s Horticultural Hall on Sunday, April 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets to watch the action are available for $25, though tickets to play in the game have long been sold out. The event also includes a copy of the adventure and a panel discussion with one of the authors and various gaming luminaries from the area.

Lake Geneva was the birthplace of Dungeons & Dragons and remains a place where gamers of all ages come to show love to a game that means a lot to them. Whether conventions like Gary Con or events like this, Dungeons & Dragons still has its heart located in Wisconsin.

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About The Author

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Rob Wieland is a contributor to the Milwaukee Record. He is an author, game designer, and professional nerd.