One of the most important pop culture references in the world of Stranger Things is Dungeons & Dragons, the popular role-playing tabletop game that boomed in the '80s. In the world of Stranger Things, D&D is more than just a game, though — it's the connective tissue that binds out protagonists together and also serves as a surprisingly accurate way of naming and explaining the monsters that seem to keep attacking them. Spoiler alert: Don't read on until you watch Stranger Things Season 2. If you don't have experience in the D&D game, never fear: here's everything you need to know about Dungeons & Dragons in Stranger Things Season 2.
In the first season, Dungeons & Dragons really only bleeds into the kids' reality when a mysterious monster kidnaps Will and begins terrorizing the town. Mike, Lucas, and Dustin immediately begin referring to the monster as the Demogorgon, a powerful demonic creature within their Dungeons & Dragons game. But in Season 2, the D&D terms become much more prevalent, and they also help explain what the characters are going through and their role in the group.
There are a handful of D&D terms that come up throughout the second season that are super helpful to know about. Let's kick things off with an explanation of each of the kids' roles in their D&D party.
Early on in the new season, Mike informs new character Max of the roles each of the boys and Eleven hold in their D&D party. Even outside of the game, Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin refer to their friend group as a "party," the D&D term for a group of allied warriors.
Mike: The Paladin
Mike says that he plays as a paladin. In D&D, a paladin is a holy knight skilled in both combat and spellcasting. In the early game editions that the boys are playing, a paladin can only be of the lawful good alignment, which is perhaps the most telling element of how the character relates to Mike personally. We see that he is so committed to fighting evil that he can even be stubborn and set in his ways, especially when it comes to letting Max in the group.
Will: The Cleric
We also learn that Will plays as the party's cleric, a role mostly helpful for their healing abilities. Clerics are also notable for their domain over life and death, able to bring dead characters back to life and either repel or control undead characters. This aspect is most aligned with Will's actual experiences, seeing as he figuratively came back from the dead when he was saved from the Upside Down last season, and now can connect to the parallel dimension sporadically.
Dustin: The Bard
Dustin is the bard of the group, the role most versed in powerful spells and magic (after the mage). Bards are sorcerers that bring about their magics through artistic expression, usually music. We really haven't seen Dustin interested in any form of artistic expression though (Will seems to be the artistically gifted one), so maybe the reasoning behind his role as bard will become clearer in the future.
Lucas: The Ranger
Lucas is a ranger, the only member of the party without magical powers. Rangers are skilled hunters and woodsmen in D&D, and serve as powerful warriors in hand-to-hand combat. Perhaps the significance of Lucas being the ranger goes back to when he was initially the most skeptical of the supernatural monster in Season 1.
Eleven: The Mage
This one is probably the most obvious, but Eleven is the mage in the group's D&D party. The mage is the most powerful magic user in the game, which of course corresponds to the fact that Eleven has psychic powers in real life.
Another term that pops up a lot in Season 2 of Stranger Things is truesight. When the group learns that Will can see into the Upside Down during his catatonic episodes, they refer to it as his truesight. In D&D, truesight is a magical ability that allows the player to see things as they truly are, basically negating invisibility, illusions, or traps of any kind. But most relevant to Will's case, it also allows the user to see into what is referred to in the game as the Ethereal Plane, a parallel realm full of magic.
The Mind Flayer
At the very end of the new season, the kids identify the shadowy creature that's been torturing them as a mind flayer, which is a powerful warlock creature in D&D. In the game, mind flayers (also called illithids) are dangerous monsters with the ability to control minds. They puppeteer legions of mind-controlled hordes from the shadows, bent on world domination. Mind flayers reproduce by implanting their tadpole-like larvae into the brains of their victims. Sound familiar? Yep, it sounds like that slug thing that Will coughed up in Season 1 and Dustin's former pet Dart, as well as all the Demodogs and the Demogorgon from Season 1, were all early stages of mind flayers themselves.