Books that appear in episode 5 of Stranger Things

Rolling With Stranger Things

Okay, I’m a bit behind. I don’t have Netflix, a situation I changed for a month when I saw Frank Mentzer offered to run the Stranger Things cast through a D&D game with his edition of the books, which appeared in the series. Just to recap, Stranger Things is a Netflix series of eight episodes set in 1983 with a Stephen King and Steven Spielberg influence. The thing that has set the Internet on fire is the use of Dungeons & Dragons as the frame of the series. This is interesting, since the time period would have been right in the middle of The Moral Panic. Currently, I’m only on episode five, where the books in question are finally shown.

Mentzer's invite

Screenshot from Facebook. Do this, Duffer Bros!

The Duffer Brothers who created the show were actually born in 1984, so I kept that in mind and have let a lot of modern D&D terms like “What’s your action?” and “Necrotic magic” pass. It’s much harder to pin down dates of phrases and concepts than it is to pin down a publication date. These are concepts the Duffers would have played with much later and I’m not one to criticize an obvious love letter to the game.

Then they showed the books the kids are going to use to solve the mystery. The series unique material was well done. It looked like it could have belonged in the source books, with an old layout and an ink illustration like it could have been done by Jeff Easley or Larry Elmore. It’s also quite thrilling to see Larry Elmore’s art from the Expert Set flash by, as well as the “wrong” Isle of Dread module paired to it. (As you can see above, I have the same combination, so I’m just going to be more gleeful about that.) Then my husband paused the video to show me the sheet music. There, sticking out from under the Vale of Shadows pages was the sheet music to Song of Goldmoon which appeared in the module Dragonlance DL1 Dragons of Despair (published 1984).

Only it wasn’t. It was the song, but when I looked later that night (because contrary to what people believe I don’t actually have all of this memorized. Just enough.), I saw it wasn’t the version from DL1, but seemed to be the version from Leaves From the Inn of the Last Home (Published 1987). Most interestingly, the part shown are the lyrics to the stanzas that seemed very appropriate to the situation the kids were dealing with when it came to looking for their lost friend.

I’ve begun to wonder now, perhaps what people see as mistakes and anachronisms, as the inclusion of Dragonlance would be, are being included on purpose. There may be a reason they picked the Mentzer edition over the equally valid and slightly older Moldvay version of D&D that would have been more likely for the boys to own. And if what I’ve read about the unanswered questions about the ending (shhh…haven’t seen it yet, but I’m guessing based on the D&D materials shown what happens) is true, then none of these anachronisms are a mistake and are actually seeded clues to the answers or perhaps even a second season.

1981 Moldvay D&D

Cover of 1981 Moldvay Basic art by Erol Otus. Low-res image used under the concept of fair use. ©Wizards of the Coast

I’ll leave this article with a little bit about my theory for people to think about. Consider this: the Mentzer edition of D&D is the only edition where Demogorgon, Prince of Demons, is not a prince, because Demogorgon in this version is female. Yet the idea of it having two halves at war with the each other remains.

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