I always love it when two of my interests converge, so I was incredibly excited when Lego announced they’d be releasing a D&D set to coincide with the game’s 50th anniversary. Lots of folks have dreamed of such a pairing of these two nerd hobbies, and fans have created countless unofficial builds; there’s even a Lego D&D subreddit! But an official product was always hampered by the fact that D&D’s current corporate owner, Hasbro, has its own modular construction toy in the form of Kre-O, whose D&D tie in sets never seemed to get into the mainstream. Apparently, the big profits that Hasbro got from D&D (and Magic: the Gathering) since the pandemic convinced them to partner with their sometimes rival, though, leading to an official contest on the Lego Ideas site.
Lego is not a stranger to partnering with big brands (most of their sets seem to leverage some IP or another these days…) They even branched into the world of gaming, with a whole Lego Games theme released for a few years in the early 2010s. The theme did not catch on, but it did produce a series of adventure games called Heroica. Not really D&D, these were more like the HeroQuest boardgame, where you would choose a character like a mage or barbarian with a set special and explore a map filled with monsters and treasure. Being Lego, though, the “board” were infinitely customizable; not only could you mix and combine the different Heroica games, you could bring in the rest of your Lego collection, only limited by your number of jumpered base plates! I bought a few of the sets when they came out, but due to their complex set up, I was only able to play them a few times with my adult friends.
Then, I had children.
It all started one blustery summer day when the family was huddled in the basement on account of a tornado warning, a not uncommon occurrence in the Midwest. Sitting around, waiting for the storm to pass, we were right next to our big shelf of boardgames (which every nerd household has, I assume). My oldest son, not quite 4, had just gotten a few easy-to-build Lego sets, his first “little Legos” after mastering Duplo bricks. Well, when he saw that there was a Lego game that HE HIMSELF could build, well, he was hooked.
As I’ve wrote about elsewhere, I’ve tried a number of different RPG and RPG-adjacent games with my kids, but I hadn’t thought of Heroica until then. MY son likes boardgames, but any RPG games that focused on grid-combat seemed a bit much for a young attention span, so I’d stuck with games that focused more on story: a StoryGuider hack, Amazing Tales, and the Cypher system game No Thank You Evil! All of these games are great, by the way, and I highly recommend them. Heroica added something to the mix. Instead of just lines on a paper, here were spaces and paths, a real easy way to get into the miniature aspects of roleplaying games. Awesome!
Now, I have also written at length about some of the educational aspects of roleplaying games, from literacy to math skills, but for my own quite young kids, what I love the most is how it fires imaginations and flexes those creative muscles. I found that the story heavy games worked best when kids have an input into the larger world and its story. And for a tactical game, Heroica offered that too. As much as we have played the game, we have spent much more time just making different maps.
I do wish that Lego had rebooted Heroica for the D&D tie in; but my idea didn’t quite make the second round. Still, I find the contest an interesting look at what makes the essence of D&D, in order to make an official D&D Lego set. Part of it is the “official” IP monsters, like Beholders and Mimics, of which there are many. Part is the actual stuff of play, from the books themselves to DM screens or dice towers. But for many of the submissions, the theme was: modularity! The ability to remix, infinitely, is perhaps the greatest commonality between Lego and D&D.
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