If you already play Dungeons and Dragons, you likely already agree that everyone should play D&D. Maybe you don’t play and you are curious. What is D&D? Maybe the only version of D&D you have ever witnessed were those scenes from Stranger Things.
Or Freaks and Geeks…
It seems once we graduate from elementary school, move onto secondary schools, and eventually get a job, we forget to put time into stimulating our imagination. Work, Weekend, Repeat. We hit the bar on sixth to blow off steam, but pretty soon that gets too repetitive too. Existing becomes a mindless blur of elevator button dings mixing with front desk greetings and the incessant tapping from typing at desks. You come home exhausted, fix dinner, turn on the television to allow yourself to empty your mind. You get time to relax, yet you still feel unsatisfied, because there is something missing. That something is the ability to think, to let your mind wander into a faraway land or some distant galaxy. Maybe you read fantasy novels and so argue you have a means of escapism. Even when you read a fantasy, however, you are still lacking in creativity. That is, the means to create. You need a safe place to explore the “What if” and the “What happens when.” We are taught to give up on make believe at a certain age. We are taught that it is unproductive, but that is just not true. We desperately need outlets to utilize our imaginations, to explore uncharted territories with our friends, to experiment, and to learn.
D&D is a tactical role-playing game which requires spatial reasoning, basic math, and problem solving – skills applicable to your daily life. D&D shows you how to work in a team. It’s a known fact in the D&D universe that splitting up and flying solo could prove fatal for a player. Maybe you are someone who gets anxious at the thought of conversing with that Jim or Jane you just know you will never get along with at work. D&D is a game where you could learn how to deal with those people, and how to deal with people in general if you find you are socially anxious.
As a Dungeon Master, you must craft the world, describing it in detail in order to paint a cohesive picture within the players’ minds. It challenges the DM to question – what might I likely find in this location? How do I describe it? You will tap into your storytelling ability as you craft a series of scenarios for the players to encounter. Anyone who wants to hone their storytelling skills should play this game, because you are building something from the ground up. Moreover, you’re doing it often times on the fly. That can be a scary thought for a writer if you are used to hyper-planning or find you get stuck in writer’s block. The thing that is great about D&D is – the show must go on. There is no time for writer’s block. The game forces you to create. Embrace the “um, uh -” and go with your gut. Pretty soon you will find writing the first draft of anything – be it a novel, a play, a film, a game script will be one hundred times less daunting.
Just like you learn in an improvisation class, D&D also teaches you how to listen and practice “Yes and.” If you are not familiar with the “Yes and” concept, in improv 101 you learn how to accept others’ ideas and bounce off them, elaborate on them rather then cast them down to steal the show for yourself.
From personal experience, I can say the clarity I have in my communication with others has greatly increased since playing this game. I am more open, more willing, more ready than ever to tackle challenges that come my way. Although it is abstract, if you go about your day like a D&D campaign, like how you took down that Necromancer or that oafish Bugbear, dealing with life problems seem a little less frightening. If anything you know you have that one special day of the week where you can kick back and tackle demons. You have a place to vent.
For all you teachers and parents out there, Dungeons and Dragons is a great tool for teaching students. Studying up on lore, demons, rules, etc. is a great way to get kids to learn self-discipline and research. That may sound ridiculous, but when you are calling for a game one day a week (as per tradition for a D&D campaign) and kids have to be accountable for character back stories, leveling up their characters, keeping track of spells, and notes – all of that is great training in time management for school work (provided you tell them “treat your school work like you treat D&D”).
It does not stop with students, though. We should not stop learning as adults. We should challenge ourselves to think. Some of our jobs do not require utilizing the aforementioned skills, and we let exercising that part of the brain fall to the wayside. Maybe we aren’t as quick on the draw as we used to be because of that reason.
At the risk of my preaching D&D as pure pedagogy, on top of exercising your brain, D&D is just plain fun. You get to laugh, pretend, and tell stories with your friends. Did I mention the snacks? A D&D campaign should always be accompanied with tasty treats, and if you are playing on my home team – also beer! So go forth a play some Dungeons and Dragons. You will create deeper bonds with your fellow players than you realize, and it is so worth the journey. You may think it is too nerdy, too complicated, and too childish, but I demand a re-vote on those preconceived notions. It is not. And you are not too old to play it. All you need is some people, some dice, and some imagination.