Saying that roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons are childish is pure BALONEY. Nay, not bologna, the blue collar worker of processed lunch meats, which I’m sure some people enjoy. It’s more like pimento loaf. Everybody hates that stuff.
Saying that D&D is childish is PURE PIMENTO LOAF. Sure, my experience with D&D did begin decades ago when I was just a child, but I can unequivocally say that D&D has been a wonderful influence on my life, long into adulthood. In fact, I’d like to get more people playing D&D, so I share the following 7 reasons why you should be playing roleplaying games like D&D.
7 Reasons You Should Be Playing D&D
There is nothing more imaginative than D&D.
Imagine you are an elf. Or a shadowy rogue. Maybe you are a wholly boring and responsible stiff like I am, but when you get together with your gaming group, you become a gnome sorcerer with the ability to call lightning down from the sky.
Like many nerds, I spent my introverted teenage years in my mind, reading and writing. My tomes were Tolkienesque fantasy and Claremontian prose, both of which cut adjacent to my Western-thinking subconscious, imaginatively allowing me to become a heroic adventurer. I embarked on missions to slay dragons and delve through dungeons, driven by honor or at least an opportunity to get some loot and XP.
Many in our culture might dismiss our use of the imagination as wasted time–distracting us from the real world and proper responsibility–but us nerds know that D&D is a platform that supports shared imagination, and this has the ability to be deeply meaningful.
D&D is completely about imagination. Sure, there are rules, but they exist just to help structure it so that everyone’s imaginations are seeing roughly the same thing. Nurturing our imaginations is a wonderful reason to play D&D.
Roleplaying games can be extremely tactile as well.
But D&D doesn’t just live in your head, it’s also rolling dice and pushing miniatures. There is a physical element to D&D.
I estimate I use an electronic device about 25 hours a day, so even though I fully enjoy digital RPG tools like Hero Lab and Roll20, it’s also nice to kick it with the old school paper and pencil aspect of D&D.
There is something extremely satisfying about having a paper character sheet where there is a hole worn through the hit points box because it has been erased and rewritten so many times that the fibrous wood pulp failed its CON check. In fact, a great character sheet has that well-worn quality where the overall look is like a second grader’s homework after the dog got a hold of it, signifying many well-earned level ups.
And let’s not forget that an important word in roleplaying game is ‘game’, so framing up the imaginative elements is a system that allows you to chuck dice that make a satisfying clink clink clink sound across a wooden table. The cherry on top all are the hand-drawn dungeon maps and hand-painted miniatures that you can use to make your game even more tactile.
It’s wholly social.
The last time I played Adventurers League, there was a guy wearing a t-shirt that said You reading this t-shirt is enough social interaction for me today.
After a few minutes with the guy, you realized he wasn’t joking about his anti-social leanings.
But Bahamut bless him, he was there playing D&D. And over the course of the session, I saw him warm up, pick his spots, and become an integral part of the table.
I can relate.
I am introverted and when I was a kid I was extremely shy and withdrawn as well. Like any other kid I wanted to fit in and be normal, and I awkwardly and embarrassingly accumulated a list of failures when I tried to be cool. I was a nerd, plain and simple. I was more likely to get a wedgie than get invited to a party, which was well enough, as I was too scared and shy to cut a rug anyway.
But there is something wonderful about gathering around a gaming table, sharing stories, laughing, chucking dice, and cheering together at a much-needed natural 20. Surrounded by friends while playing a game where we pretend to be halflings and dwarves who battle evil can be important moments for us socially, even if it’s difficult to articulate.
I mean, let’s not get overly dramatic about this thing. After all, I don’t have scientific data to back this up, except that you already know it to be true in your heart.
My point is simply that playing RPGs is not nothing. Roleplaying games absolutely contributed positively to my social development as a human being, my real-life LG alignment, and certainly to my becoming a life-long geek. That is true for many, many others as well.
RPGs promote problem solving.
Throughout my high school years playing D&D, I learned that obstacles can be overcome through some very simple principles: creative problem solving, understanding systems, imagination, tactical understanding, and perseverance.
Sure, those principles were buried under piles of empty Coke cans and Doritos bags, but I learned them while surrounded by loyal friends, all while facing creatures likes dragons and beholders.
Whether it’s a wizard who is out of spells, a fighter forced to talk his way out of a pickle, or a villain that is two steps ahead and consistently befuddles the heroes, D&D puts us into situations where we need to scan our character sheet for creative options or lean on our fellow adventurers for help. These are good lessons.
And there is math, which is illustrative of solving problems within a structural, rational system. In fact, let’s do the math here to determine the measurable increase that D&D has toward promoting problem solving. 12 for Intelligence which gives us a +1 modifier. Add in a +2 for an assisted…or is that…well, I don’t really feel like doing math right now and this isn’t Pathfinder, so all I know is it’s a lot and….hand wave…I’m just saying that D&D promotes problem solving is all.
You already know the game well.
Let’s not forget that D&D has literally influenced nearly every aspect of geekdom. That’s called Hashbrown winning.
If you’ve played any game–tabletop or video–and you’ve leveled a character, had hit points, chosen a race or class, used a spell, added equipment or gear to a character, or used a term like ‘dungeon crawl’, then that game owes a debt to D&D. Compound interest over 40 years means that’s a biiiiiiig debt, so modern gaming owes a heck of a lot to D&D.
Indeed, it’s truly nigh impossible to overstate the influence Dungeons and Dragons has has on all of gaming, so let’s spare a thought for how well the basic framework of D&D is a part of our culture.
It’s not like D&D is an unknowable system written on cuneiform in the land of Ur, but instead of remembering that so many of the big ideas of D&D are second nature to us, lots of hand-wringing and nit-picking is made about the differences between systems.
Listen, I’m not saying there isn’t a level of minutiae to understand, but the gap between those details isn’t the Grand Canyon. It’s more like Gooney Otter Creek, where I used to play with my cousins as a kid. Heck, once my distant cousin Jackie got a good run and jumped clear from one bank to the next.
Of course, he also came up short a couple of times and got wet halfway up his britches legs, but the point is it isn’t a chasm that can’t be crossed. We know D&D, and others are more familiar with D&D than they might initially recognize. Let’s use that fact to help draw those on the fence into the hobby.
RPGs build writing and storytelling skills.
I don’t have an ounce of high school drama club in my blood. I typically drift off during the roleplaying aspects of D&D, only to perk up when initiative is rolled.
Still, I love the storytelling foundation of D&D, even if the last accent my character did was only mildly less worse than the last worst one I did. And the backstories I write for my characters are typically modeled after Chris Claremont X-Men, with little attempt at any creative pivots.
D&D tells wonderful stories, full stop. What’s more, the stories are shared among the people at the table.
And the professionalism of writing and story-craft is only increasing in roleplaying games as techniques such as Adventure Paths, Beat Structure, and Propp’s 31 are being adeptly used to provide an over-arching narrative structure to ground the dice-driven, improvised little details.
In short, if you want to become a better writer or storyteller, there are few better ways to utilize your time than playing D&D.
Let’s not overlook the obvious: D&D is fun. So, do we even need to go into detail on this one? Shouldn’t we instead use our valuable 5 minutes to look at videos of red panda bears.
Sure, D&D is seen as weird and nerdy. And I’m not uncomfortable owning that those two words described me pretty darned well during my childhood. It’s a big leap to play D&D for the first time. I get that.
But to a person, those who do take that step to play their first game step away having a wonderful time, wanting to play more.
That’s because D&D is fun.
Because of the reasons above (and more), D&D has had a tangible benefit on my life. Rather than mere escapism, there is a benefit of the fantasy world in daily life. Not only is D&D fun to play, but it is a source of great meaning.
If I had my druthers, I’d play D&D until the cows come home. But at some point we can’t have the cows do that. Those cows need to get jobs in the big city and become self-sufficient. Grow up, cows. Quit playing games in your friends’ basements, folks say.
But I encourage you to block off a time to rearrange your kids toys in the basement to make room for a gaming table, fire up Roll20 or similar online tool, then take the step to invite that co-worker, friend, or family member to give D&D a try.
There are a lot of good reasons to do so.