Strangers Things: 10 Dungeons & Dragons References Most Fans Missed

Everyone's favorite '80s homage series is back for another season, once again rolling a natural 20 on nostalgia for the era of New Coke, The Never-Ending Story, and of course, Dungeons and Dragons. When Season 1 of Stranger Things premiered, Lucas, Mike, and Dustin were deeply engrossed in their campaign, a campaign that Will has been tirelessly trying to resurrect for the entirety of Season 3 with little success.

Dungeons and Dragons is so integral to the lives of the young main characters in Hawkins, that every supernatural foe they've faced so far has automatically been named after a creature or monster from the game. One could even say the entire series is one long D&D campaign. Since its debut in 1974, the tabletop strategy game involving a party of players collaboratively going on quests has only increased in popularity, making it a juggernaut of pop culture. Here's all the references to the game in Season 3 that most fans missed!

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Erica Sinclair in Stranger Things 3
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Erica Sinclair in Stranger Things 3

Like most D&D campaigns, the party of adventurers begin their quest by meeting in a "tavern" to collect allies, organize their strategy, delegate tasks, and dole out their loot. In this case, Steve, Dustin, and Robin continue to meet at Scoops Ahoy (their "tavern"), eventually recruiting the fast-thinking, rogue-ish Erica who proves to be a member they cannot do without.

Meanwhile, Will the Wise and his band of players continue to gather in their "tavern", aka Mike's basement. Their successful adventuring doesn't really begin until they recruit Eleven and Max, the "wizard" and "paladin" they'll need if they want to discover the source of the Mindflayer.


After the players have assembled their group, the DM will usually have them embark on a "dungeon crawl". This is one of the most iconic aspects of D&D as it involves a dark labyrinth or maze of rooms in which the troupe will surely encounter "Dungeons and Dragons". Players may collect loot or find buried treasure, both of which happen when the Scoops Ahoy group cracks the Evil Russian's code and finds a way into the labyrinth beneath Starcourt Mall.

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Elsewhere, Joyce Bayers, Hopper, and Murray Baumann wade through their own "dungeon crawl" with a series of maps drawn by Baumann, who always seems as though he could be a big D&D fan, and would have been great at hand-drawing battle grid mats.


Without Eleven's mind-bending powers and incredible feats of strength, there's no way her party would be able to combat the Mindflayer. But as the "wizard" of the group, El has the ability to seek out their greatest foe using a common spell used by magic wielders in D&D; scrying. This allows El to see any creature on the plane of her existence, and is how she's able to determine where Billy, the first "flayed" victim of the Mindflayer is.

The more familiar a magic wielder is with their target, the easier it is for them to locate them, but Eleven has to exercise caution like any good spellcaster. The more she looks for Billy, the more of a chance he can look for her, a hard lesson El learns when he manages to sense their connection.


Though Will spends most of his time dressed in wizard robes and declaring himself "Will the Wise", he possesses a power that's most often associated with the Ranger class. When cast, Detect Favored Enemy allows a Ranger to sense a malevolent presence around them. They can decide who that enemy is, based on their environment or the level of threats around them.

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Will seems to gain this ability without desiring it, as the Mindflayer selected him, providing a perpetual link between itself and his awareness. While it's certainly a great power to have, and it's helped him warn his friends about dangerous situations, it's become more of a curse than a special ability for poor Will.


While some D&D players think that playing a Bard is boring, Dustin embraced it in Season 3. The bard, like musicians that went to battle with the troops of Ancient Rome and Colonial England, exists to provide a boost of courage to those about to face their enemies. The bard also improves morale, and often creates the rallying cry to arms that will mean the difference between victory and defeat.

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When it's time for the final showdown against the Mindflayer, Dustin's mellifluous chords are what flood his friends with confidence, even if they don't want to admit it. His newfound hobby (developed at summer camp) is worthy of the best of a bards abilities when it helps his party solve the final puzzle.


Like the Demogorgon in Season 1, the Mindflayer is a direct connection to a supernatural monster from D&D. It may not look like a titanic pile of bodyparts and red goo, Mindflayers (or Illithids) do have tentacles that protrude out of their ugly faces, and strong psionic powers. Like Star Trek's Borg species, they operate in a hive-mind, and feast on the brains of their victims.

Mindflayers have been known to communicate telepathically, and use mind control on living hosts to do their dirty work for them. That's why Billy, Heather, and the rest of the Flayed become nothing but fodder at the end of Season 3 when the Mindflayer feels it's ready to make its final attack.


While we've established that the Mindflayer is based off of the intelligence-eating Illithids, who resemble Davey Jones more closely than they resemble the giant mantis-like creature made out of red goo. But aside from having psionic powers and the ability to use human hosts to do its bidding, it also resembles another creature in Dungeons and Dragons; a flesh golem.

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A flesh golem is a collection of stolen human body parts, stitched together to create some sort of ghoulish and mindless monsters that are somewhere north of 500 pounds. All of the Mindflayer's "Flayed" eventually become assimilated into its final form, making it a gigantic version of a sort of flesh golem.


Though he may not resemble the minion of the Illithids visually, Billy has all of the qualities and behaviors of an Intellect Devourer. Intellect Devourers usually resemble what they do; they look like a giant crusty brain walking around on four demon legs because they feed on the sentience of their victims. They take over a host or body on behalf of their Mindflayer masters, becoming instruments of evil.

Billy is the first of the "new Flayed", taking over what happened to Will in Season 2. He's a mindless automaton, whose only purpose is his master's will. Intellect Devourers consume a creatures memories, which is why when trying to find Billy in the Underdark, Eleven encountered remnants of his memory as a child in California.


Ok, so Billy and Heather don't exactly have the tight, leathery skin of real juju zombies based on their first appearance in the Monster Manual II in 1983, but the Flayed are a reference to these particular undead. Juju zombies may look like rotting, reanimated corpses in D&D, but they were designed to serve as undead minions, retaining all of the abilities and skills they had when they were alive. Will even uses a few in his D&D campaign with Mike and Lucas.

Billy, Heather, Tom, and the rest of the Flayed are able to still walk, talk, and behave as they did before they were taken over by the Mindflayer, which allows them to blend into Hawkins without arousing suspicion. Eventually, they get assimilated into the Mindflayer itself, unlike real juju zombies.


Though kids throughout the '70s and '80s just wanted to play D&D for fun, there were plenty of concerned citizens that felt its themes were too dark and disturbing for children. When a series of incidents occurred in the late '70s where children performed violent acts or disappeared, believing themselves part of real D&D campaigns, the fantasy game was labeled "Satanic".

The paranoia regarding D&D is even mentioned in Season 3, during the epilogue that describes the events that have occurred in Hawkins. This panic lasted in the United States well into the '90s, though popular fantasy and sci-fi films helped to partially dispel the alarmist nature of the game.

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