Nearly 10 years ago, my partner invited me to watch him and his friends play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). They were surrounded by multi-colored dice sets, Mountain Dew, Totino’s Pizza Rolls, and Nacho Cheese Doritos (Sponsor me!), while I sat on the couch and watched. They tried to explain to me the appeal: imagination and strategy, critical hits and natural 20’s, races like orcs and elves, and classes like rogues and sorcerers. My eyes glazed over with boredom. They started to roll their dice and within the first hour, I fell asleep.
The next session they asked me to try it and join in. Eight or nine years and 4 campaigns later, the game has consumed the majority of my weekends with no end in sight.
If you were one of, or knew, “those kids” in high school or watched Stranger Things, Community, or that old D&D animated series, you probably have heard of D&D. Nowadays the game is a lot sexier with its incorporation into pop culture and multiple available podcasts, YouTube videos, and live streaming services.
If you have not heard of it, D&D is a fantasy role-playing game first introduced in the 70’s. Basically, you and your homies are lead on different quest and adventures by a facilitator or Dungeon Master (DM). You all weave together a story that begins to unfold using your imagination, quick wit, and problem-solving skills.
If you do not have a lot of imagination, there are multiple handbooks and modules available to help you craft a world for you and your friends.
Are you still with me?
My resistance and admiration of D&D stem from the same places, which makes every session so damn conflicting. It involves interacting with other people, which I hate. It involves working together to solve problems, which I hate. It involves sharing your ideas, which I hate. Lastly, it involves thinking of things on the spot, which I hate.
Yet at the same time, I enjoy it because of all those things. It forces me to leave my comfort zone, interact in this fantasy world, and acknowledge or ignore the things I am afraid to do in the real world; I would never threaten a captain of a mighty ship or demand a king to tell me where he keeps his treasure. Aside from silly things like flirting with a barkeep or using prestidigitation to distract villagers as your party plans to steal gold, the composition of D&D allows you to think outside the box, teaches conflict resolution, and develop diplomacy skills.
One thing I struggle with is allowing myself to say an idea out loud. I am under the impression that everything I think is dumb, no matter what, so I often keep things to myself. D&D forces you to speak up, or else your whole party may fall into a spiked pit or be consumed by a chromatic dragon. It turns out, your ideas are not that dumb after all and you just earned some serious XP. This has definitely translated into my personal life. I still am hesitant, but I am more likely to speak up at my job or at home; I am often surprised by the words that are coming out of my mouth.
When I was providing therapy during my Social Work internship, I definitely considered using D&D as a tool to help children express themselves in a safe, fun, environment. My partner and I have discussed starting a practice with this concept in mind and I believe I recently read some places in the U.S. are moving towards this.
If you have a vague interest in D&D, I would suggest giving it a shot. Depending on the type of person you are or the type of people you surround yourself with, it could be totally awful and not fun at all. Or you could have a blast!
And if you are like me, you may be in a constant loop of not looking forward to it, wanting to stop playing, then realize you kind of had a good time, then hate it again.
If nothing else, you may also amass a pretty awesome collection of dice. My personal favorite part!
Now go charge your D20, keep track of your spells, and prepare to roll initiative.