WARNING: The following contains spoilers for So I’m a Spider, So What?, streaming now on Crunchyroll.
Despite having no actual connection to it, So I’m a Spider, So What? -- the latest addition to the isekai genre -- has many parallels to the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. From its fantasy setting to its fun gameplay mechanics, the anime portrays the D&D player experience in a variety of ways -- not only as inspiration to DMs for potential monsters to include in-game but also in the way it mimics the player side of adventures.
Earlier episodes of the first season compare more to players learning the general ropes of D&D; however, more recent episodes also highlight what it’s like for players to encounter NCPs and affect future events in the storyline. In this way, So I’m a Spider reminds players of how they can appear to NPCs and why interactions with them are important.
Many facets of the show mimic a D&D player’s experience. Once she awakens as a spider, the unnamed protagonist (also knows as "Kumoko") goes through what many D&D players do at the beginning of a game: She must learn about her surroundings and new abilities via trial and error and investigation. Furthermore, not only does much of the season take place in a labyrinth reminiscent of classic dungeon crawls, but the level-grinding Kumoko does in the caves mimics leveling-up via XP in D&D. In addition, as Kumoko defeats monsters and gains new skills, her consciousness splits into “parallel minds” that handle specific abilities, allowing her to “multi-class," so to speak.
Meanwhile, the human characters show the importance of assembling a strong but varied adventuring party. For example, in Episode 10, "Who Is This, Geezer?” the hunting party in the labyrinth display different specialties in combat. Buirimus uses druid-like magic to summon animal aids to keep the "Nightmare of the Labyrinth" (aka Kumoko) at bay while the wizard Ronandt prepares a teleportation spell for their escape.
This teamwork is also important in D&D. Parties that are too heavy on one class may not do well. For instance, groups without healers won’t last long in most battles. Still, a diverse party usually has a “tank” in battle who deals the heaviest blows, as evidence in Episode 3, "Earth Wyrm (Dragon), Bad News?.” Kumoko’s reincarnated classmates fight a dragon that interrupts their schooling, and while they make decent progress against the opponent, the lesser dragon Fei delivers the deadliest blow and wins the fight.
Outside of combat scenarios, So I’m a Spider also amusingly addresses how higher-level players may appear to NPCs. In Episode 14, "You’re Rebelling?" I’m Depreciating,” Kumoko finally escapes the labyrinth and encounters a carriage being ambushed. She briefly contemplates her options before attacking the bandits to save the local lord of Keren County and his family -- even healing their butler. Since her actions aren’t common for a monster, the locals of Sariella equate her to a fabled arachnid companion to their Goddess and begin to worship Kumoko, even bringing her fruit in exchange for healing sick children. Kumoko’s one decision to fight humans for XP turns her into a local hero.
However, being revered backfires. Earlier on, when she first leaves the labyrinth, Kumoko emerges into a fortress in the Ohts kingdom, which she destroys completely while fleeing with the human soldiers there. Despite telling herself to try and “hold back,” she levels the fortress, clearly not knowing her own strength in relation to the world around her. For higher-level D&D players, it’s important to remember your strength in comparison to NPCs, especially to gain trust or obtain information crucial to the campaign. Some players might roleplay as assertive or even aggressive, which may work in certain situations, but sometimes knocking on a door can turn into kicking it down or punching a hole through it too quickly, making objectives more difficult.
Episode 20, "This isn’t my fault, is it?” also highlights Kumoko’s less-than-perfect judgment. A diplomat from Ohts comes looking for the “Divine Beast” (as the locals call her), to inflict punishment for destroying the fortress. When Kumoko does not go with him willingly, the diplomat sends assassins after her. Kumoko kills them quickly then telepathically kills the diplomat from afar. He dies in the Keren County lord’s home, which prompts Ohts to declare war against Sariella with support from the Renxandt Empire and the Holy Kingdom of Alleius. Here again, Kumoko forgets her own strength and accidentally starts a war over killing one “NPC” of the anime.
For D&D players, it’s advisable to consider how one might appear to NPCs in the campaign, especially at higher levels. Appearing god-like, as Kumoko does to the Sariellans, could work to a party’s advantage in certain situations -- particularly if they need to be in a community’s good graces to avoid conflict or capture by an enemy. Kumoko’s “take out the trash” mentality is certainly entertaining, but it does have major consequences in the bigger picture, as So I’m a Spider viewers have seen thus far. Still, her grit and determination are admirable, and may even lead to her rectifying this new conflict in future episodes.