I knew nothing about the show until I opened my Netflix account the day it premiered and saw it there on the home page. I sometimes put series on while working on my computer—I have two monitors set up—so I clicked it with no expectations and thinking of using it just as background noise while I worked.
What a big surprise!
The first couple of minutes I saw this typical lab scene where something has gone terribly wrong and poor "Scientist Number 1" dies a horrible dead. OK—I thought—seen it before. So I kept working while watching. But next, there are these kids playing D&D in a basement and, obviously, that instantly caught my attention! I stopped what I was doing to focus on the scene, and I cracked open with laughter!
First of all, it drew back memories of those first glorious days, when me and my buddies played with the bare minimum (I mean, look at the kid's DM screen!). Second of all, I'm reading thru Out of the Abyss and will be DMing in a couple of weeks, and here it comes Demogorgon on the show! And third, the DM kid is called Mike, just like me!
And that's what kept me going thru the entire series. The kids point of view as role-players. And the way our stranger hobby help them cope with the terrible—and cool—things happening to them. This is really well express in this Polygon article. So I rather direct you to it.
But I don't want to review the series, or spoil it. If you haven't seen it and you love role-playing games... what are you waiting for?
Instead, my intention here is to turn back the spotlight, as it went from the tabletop to the TV and now back to the tabletop—am I making any sense? As I watched the series, I kept viewing the characters as player characters. And imagined how cool a tabletop session with this story could be. I was, of course, thinking specially about the Apocalypse World engine—by Vincent Baker, cause the system is so story-driven that pieces fall instantly into place.
The PlaybooksOf course the idea is to play this story of a small town next to a secret government lab, when suddenly a boy gets spirited away. I would have think of a playbook for that character too, but since is supposed to be gone I'm not sure I can include it as a player, but if that were possible that playbook would be The Lost.
The Boy. A kid, friend to the Lost, and the one that connects with the Weirdo. Together with the Best Friend, the Lost, the Nerdiest—and later on, the Weirdo—they form the Party.
The Best Friend. A kid, best friends with the Boy. Member of the Party. Doesn't trust the Weirdo at first, maybe he's kind of jealous.
The Nerdiest. A kid, member of the Party. He's the nerdiest of them all, the brains of the Party. He thinks the Weirdo is so cool! He also has a crush for the Sister.
The Weirdo. A girl with weird psychic powers. She connects with the Boy and joins the Party. She can contact the Lost. She's been a victim of the Lab researches and experiments.
The Sister. The older sister of the Boy. She's lost her best friend too, so she wants to find it no matter what, specially because she feels responsible. She teams up with the Brother in looking for the missing persons. Has a big crush for the Boyfriend.
The Boyfriend. The popular guy at the School. He's kind of a jerk, or at least tries to pretend he is. He's sincerely fond of the Sister. He may be more than meets the eye.
The Mother. The desperate mother of the Lost, she will do whatever it takes to bring her child back. She feels the Lost and kind of contact him, people starts to think she is crazy because of this.
The Brother. The older brother of the Lost. He feels responsible for his brother disappearance. He's good with a camera, and he's also smart and sensible, but introvert. He forms an alliance with the Sister looking for their lost persons, he kind of like her too.
The Sheriff. The Sheriff of the town, he's lost her child not long ago, so this case bring back those feelings. He will do whatever it takes to bring the Lost back, even braking the law or making pacts with the devil.
The Professor. A science teacher. He's the tutor of the Party, and their source of information for complicated stuff. He's a little naive and not a man of action.
The Fronts and ThreatsAnd of course we need forces to confront our players and make their lives interesting.
The Mirkwood. A small section of forest outside town, The Party used to hang out here in their self-made fortress. Now is a place where strange things happen. Impulse: to scare, to freak out.
The Lab. The secret military lab where the portal to the Upside Down was open due to experiments with the Weirdo. Impulse: to deny access, to control.
The School. Kids and teens of course have to go to the school. Here they can find all kind of threats too. Impulse: to ostracize.
The Upside Down. An alternate place of existence, next to our own, but invisible to us. A dangerous and scary place. Impulse: to trap, to infect.
The Bullies. A group of kids and teens that make the life hard for the Party and the Brother at School. Impulse: to humiliate.
The Mad Scientist. The man in charge of the Lab, he cares little for the life of others and is only interested in pushing the boundaries of science. Impulse: to dissect.
And last but far from least...
The Demogorgon. The big scary monster, the stranger thing the characters have ever seen. A bloodthirsty dangerous creature native to the Upside-Down. Impulse: to feast.
There you have it, this is how I organized or catalogued the series as I was watching it. It is an interesting experiment—going as I said, from tabletop to TV and back to tabletop again. I guess it will remain just at this stage. But who knows, strange things can always happen.