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TTRPG author and exercise aficionado Steve Huynh wearing workout gear while crouched in a large empty room Photo courtesy of Steve Huynh

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Dungeons & Dragons-themed workouts put fantasy twist on fitness

TTRPG author and fitness fan Steve Huynh has merged his two hobbies

Dungeons & Dragons may not seem like an obvious place to get inspiration for fitness, but tabletop RPG writer and fitness aficionado Steve Huynh has found a way to combine two of his favorite hobbies into a new workout guide.

The Manual of Gainful Exercise is a new fitness guide written by Huynh, which features workouts inspired and named after various subclasses in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. The workouts are organized by those subclasses and by Challenge Ratings, or “CR,” on a scale of 1-20. The suggested regimens vary greatly from beginner workouts that just require you to go outside for a certain amount of time to more intense physical movements and lifts.

Huynh is a TTRPG writer and designer based in Toronto who has been playing Dungeons & Dragons since high school. His passion for exercise, however, did not develop until after college, when he joined a fitness group that helped him fall in love with it.

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“I realized that I was finding community, and that really motivated me, because I was at a certain level [and] they were at a certain level, and we just kept boosting each other,” Huynh said in a recent interview with Polygon about his exercise manual.

While the manual was written with Dungeons & Dragons fans in mind, Huynh hopes that it can help bridge the gap for anyone struggling to reach their fitness goals.

“In my personal experience, the majority of people out there have some fitness experience […] but I would say a lot of people just kind of are missing something,” Huynh said. “My hope is that this text helps people figure out where that gap actually exists. […] Hopefully, that kind of helps people get out there and start achieving their goals.”

Huynh also focuses a lot of his manual on accessibility across body types and experience levels, because he hopes that beginners can learn to find joy in their bodies.

“I try my best to talk about accessibility, because I think people should know there’s at least people out there who are trying to deconstruct the systems,” said Huynh. He hopes that, especially for beginners and relative outsiders to fitness, his manual will “help kind of galvanize them to understand that their fitness journey, their goals, their joy — they are their own, and it might not fit this mold that people want.”

Huynh also hopes to use Dungeons & Dragons as a lens to help examine the fitness world more critically and make it more accessible for others — as well as more fun.

“I think I can use Dungeons & Dragons to continue talking about the toxicity in fitness culture,” he said, as well as “how athletes should view and frame their own fitness journey, and focus less on aesthetics and more on joy.”