Nerd groups tend to overlap, so it’s pretty common to find anime fans who are also into other traditionally geeky media like video games, sci-fi movies, and of course Dungeons & Dragons. Creating and exploring a fantasy world with your friends, entire plot elements hinging on rolls of the dice, stepping into the worn leather shoes of a half-elf rogue with a mysterious past and luscious hair worthy of a shampoo commercial... who could resist? So if you can’t get enough tabletop roleplaying in your life and wish anime could provide some of that same thrill without having to coordinate schedules and buy chips for everyone, here are five fantasy anime that Dungeons & Dragons fans will love!
1. Lodoss-tou Senki (Record of Lodoss War)
This 13-episode 1990 OVA is based on a series of novels by Ryo Mizuno, who adapted them from transcriptions of an actual first-edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign he played with his friends. It’s a classic D&D story – a young hero named Parn sets out on a journey with his cleric friend Etoh, assembling a motley crew of party members along the way and falling in love with an elf who may be the last of her kind. It’s especially charming because the whole thing is presented without a single speck of irony, complete with a sweeping soundtrack and gorgeous cel animation. If you find yourself enchanted with Lodoss’ world, there are a whole host of manga series, video games, books on tape, and even an entire original tabletop RPG (because the creators of D&D refused to create an expansion based on the series) to dive into. For old-school fans of both anime and tabletop games, Record of Lodoss War is a priceless gem!
2. Goblin Slayer
Goblin Slayer drummed up a fair amount of controversy when its anime first released in 2018 because of its unflinching portrayal of what would happen if a low-level party tried to take on enemies that they were woefully unprepared for. Only the sweet little priestess survives the goblin encounter mostly unscathed, since she’s rescued by the mysterious Goblin Slayer. This warrior is basically an edgelord obsessed with min-maxing, devoting his life to killing as many goblins as possible and going so far as to sleep in his armor so he can’t be caught unawares. He and the priestess walk the Earth, meeting other adventurers and murdering as many of the little green monsters they can find. If you’re looking for an anime that explores the grimdark side of D&D, this is the show for you!
3. Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (The Rising of the Shield Hero)
Speaking of grimdark, The Rising of the Shield Hero is an isekai that follows a hero who essentially rolled Nat 1s on all of his checks early in the campaign, so he’s stuck as a suspected criminal outcast who must claw back his reputation with only his wits and the few companions he’s managed to sway to his side. Naofumi is a decent person at heart, but he also owns slaves and is initially purely motivated by revenge, making him chaotic good at best (but more likely chaotic neutral) and giving further ammunition to the people who are trying to drag him through the dirt. If you’ve never played a chaotic character before, why not look to Naofumi for inspiration? Just try not to enslave any questionably underage tanuki girls if you want to avoid awkward moments at the table.
4. Itai no wa Iya nano de Bougyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu. (BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.)
On the complete other end of the spectrum is BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense, which thrives on the endless entertainment value of playing a cool-over-rule D&D game that allows for bizarre loopholes like flying over an obstacle with your pet turtle that you enchanted into a gigantic flying mount. In this anime, newbie gamer Maple becomes one of the top players in the MMORPG New World Online through sheer blissful ignorance, coming up with strategies that the game designers didn’t anticipate because she simply isn’t used to video game logic. She and her gaggle of friends form a guild called Maple Tree and have a grand old time playing the game in exactly the opposite way that it was intended. Forever DMs might have uncomfortable flashbacks watching Bofuri, but mischief-loving players will eat it right up!
5. Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus’ Bride)
The Ancient Magus’ Bride’s plot doesn’t play out much like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign at all, but its heavy emphasis on traditional European mythology is sure to inspire players and DMs alike. Depressed teen Chise has always seen odd creatures hiding amongst normal society, but it isn’t until she becomes the wizard Elias Ainsworth’s sworn bride that she discovers an entirely different world of fey creatures just barely separated from our own. There’s so much imagination on display here – dragons that turn into trees when they die, a long-standing conflict between nature-focused wizards and science-focused sorcerers, hand-carved wands that can turn their wielders into fast-traveling phoenixes... you should definitely take notes! Oh, and the anime itself is pretty good, too.
For even more fantasy adventures to remind you of your favorite campaigns and provide inspiration, be sure to take a look at Fairy Tail, Black Clover, The Seven Deadly Sins, The Slayers, and even My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom. But are there any anime that we’ve left out? What are your favorite D&D-adjacent anime? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!