Friday Favourite: 10 Good Reasons to Play D&D

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 22, 2013

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From November 16, 2010, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: 10 Good Reasons to Play D&D.

Have you ever had to justify your love for D&D? Did you stand up for the game or did you deny everything? Are you one of those gamers who proudly and openly talks about his love of D&D? Maybe you enjoy D&D but don’t need to give anyone another reason to know that you’re a nerd? Perhaps you’re a closet gamer who nerds it up behind closed doors, but refuses to acknowledge anything D&D related in front of your social peers or members of the opposite sex?

Over the years I’ve often had to defend my love for D&D to my friends, family and even my wife. In my article Confessions of a Gamer (written shortly after Dungeon’s Master was first launched) I dared to bare my soul and shout from the (virtual) rooftops that I play D&D and I was proud of it.

I realized long ago that playing D&D was nothing to be ashamed of; in fact I went to the other extreme and created a D&D blog so I could write about D&D every day. The more I thought about it the more I realized that there are a lot of strong up-sides to playing D&D. So for anyone who faces ridicule for playing D&D, here’s a list of 10 good reasons to play D&D.

1. Learn to Work Together

D&D is a cooperative game. In order to excel you have to work with the rest of your party to accomplish goals and overcome adversity. It’s not a forum for any one person to hog the spotlight and act alone. In fact the whole 4e motto is Never Split the Party. Learning to play well with others in a D&D environment is a good way to foster transferable, real-life skills that are easily applied to situations in your everyday life.

2. Solve Problems

After you’ve learned to work together you need to learn to solve problems. D&D is a thinking man’s game. You are often presented with challenging scenarios and have to come up with a solution given the resources at your immediate disposal. The good news is that solving these problems within the parameters of D&D is often a lot of fun. It’s rarely as simple as go from point A to point B or answer the riddle. The problems usually involve a combination of all the other skills and attributes we cover on this list. D&D has taught me that there is almost always more than one way to solve a problem, and that you aren’t always expected to take the predicable course of action. This has helped me in D&D and in real life.

3. Keep in Touch With Friends

I’ve played D&D with the same core group of friends for about 20 years. We play every Sunday night. Even though we’ve all moved out of the community in which we grew up, created lives of our own and started families, we still make the time to get together once a week to play D&D. In today’s society keeping in touch is easier then ever with email, cell phones, Twitter and Facebook, but there’s nothing like getting together face-to-face with your buddies once a week. I see the D&D guys more often than I see my parents or even my brother. That’s what I call solid friendship.

4. Learn Practical Applications for Math

Over the years I’ve come to realize that D&D involves a lot of mathematics. But don’t worry; it all makes sense in the context of the game. Every action that requires a die roll is an extension of a probability matrix. Every time you attack with your sword and roll a d20 you’re testing the probability and statistical likelihood of hitting the monster. When you decide to take one weapon over another because it’s got a better proficiency modifier or has a brutal property you’re thinking about probability and statistics. Every time you look at a battle mat and determine the size of your blast and who’s affected or not because of cover you’re applying the basics of geometry. The math isn’t in your face, but it’s there. Players will often number crunch to create the most optimized character. I’ve got news for you, that’s another in-game application of math.

5. Stretch Your Imagination

Although I’ve never actually seen a dragon or been held captive in a dungeon, I can picture what each looks like with incredibly accuracy. During a D&D game the Dungeon Master describes the setting and the events and it’s up to the players to try and imagine what these things look like. One player in my group often refers to it as Theater of the Mind, a term associated with old radio plays. The more detailed the descriptions the easier it is to picture in your mind exactly what the situation looks like. Today there are D&D-like video games that present most of the visual elements for you, but true D&D has always been and will always be played in the imagination of the people sitting at the gaming table.

6. Develop a Love of Reading

For many games the instructions are usually no more than one or two pages. The D&D 4e Players Handbook is 320 pages and the Dungeon Master’s Guide is 224 pages. Now you don’t have to read both books cover to cover, but assuming you did that’s just over 550 pages of reading before you ever play your first game. This is a game for people who enjoy reading. I read about three novels a month on top of magazines, news papers, blogs, comic books and D&D materials. My love of reading began when I was young, but my understanding and comprehension developed over time. Like any other skill, the more I practiced the better I got. I’m not a speed reader but I probably read a lot faster than most people and I’ll bet this is the case with many gamers.

7. Educate Yourself

Over the years I’ve taken it upon myself to make my D&D games as cool as possible. For no other reason than because it would make my D&D games more interesting I’ve read up on history, politics, geography, sociology, mythology, theology, architecture and art history. When was the last time you read a book or encyclopedia (or even Wikipedia) because you wanted to and not because you were doing an assignment for class? My love for D&D has motivated me to visit museums and art galleries. I’ve been cultured and educated in the process of fact-finding for my D&D games.

8. Escapism

Escape is one of the primary reasons that people watch TV, go to the movies, read a book, play sports and play video games. If you’re looking for a way to unwind and forget about you real life for a while what better way than to pretend you’re a totally different person. As this person you can do things that you’d never be allowed to do or in some cases never be able to do in real life. D&D makes it possible to slay a dragon, socialize with fantastic races like Elves, Dragonborn and Shifters, rescue the princess and cast magic spells. It’s a fun and easy way to be someone else, even if it’s just for a little while.

9. Meet New People

My core gaming group is made up of my high school friends. However, we’ve added a few new players to the group over the years as people moved away or left for school. Every time someone brought a new guy to the game table fast friendships were forged. When I attended game conventions like GenCon I meet new people from all over the world. Even playing D&D Encounters at my FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Shop) has given my opportunity to meet more gamers in my own community. I can truly say that there was almost no chance I’d have ever met any of these people if not for our shared interest in D&D. In fact two of the guys I met while playing Living Forgotten Realms at my FLGS are now members of my regular Sunday night game.

10. Have Fun

No matter what your reason for playing D&D, the one that should top everyone list is to have fun. After all, D&D is a game. It may not be the kind of game that has winners and losers, but it’s still a game. If you’re not having fun then you shouldn’t be playing. Above all else, D&D is a lot of fun.

The next time you’re looking for a good justification for why you play D&D think of this list and feel free to use any or all of the reasons I’ve presented. These were just the first 10 reasons that I thought of. I’m sure there are other great reasons I’ve inadvertently overlooked of just forgotten about. Tell us your reasons for playing D&D in the comments sections below.

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1 Joe Lastowski February 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm

These are great. In addition, I’d add:

– Let off steam in a controlled, safe environment. If I let out my road rage by killing a dragon instead of driving wrecklessly, everyone wins (well, except the dragon).
– Broaden your social understandings. By playing characters who may have different values, lifestyles, and situations than you do, you force yourself to see that there are more views than just your own, which makes you an infinitely nicer & wiser person, and also makes you more open to conversation with a wider variety of people.
– Build social self-confidence. I can’t tell you how many shy young players I’ve watched blossom through D&D. When developing social awareness, often it’s an easy mid-step to say “My character says this and that” for a while, until eventually they are confident enough to say “I believe this and that.”
– Learn conflict resolution. This one requires a decent DM, and an adventure that is more than a meat grinder (so maybe not Lair Assault), but I’ve seen this even in my most recent Encounters DMing. There’s a 12-year-old who always wants to kill anyone who disagrees with him, including NPCs like shopkeeps. The rest of the players are a bit more seasoned, and try to help him understand that there are other ways to deal with disagreement besides violence. I think a lot of us went through that process with our D&D careers. Our first characters had the most damaging spells/powers, or were the beefiest we could make them. Then, as we matured (in and out of the game), we started trying other character types, like the trickster rogue, or the pious priest, or the non-fireball wizard.
-Increase vocabulary. D&D has always been great for using words that are not common parlance in the outside world. We’ve all heard the Gazebo skit, and laughed because those players didn’t know what a gazebo was when they attacked it. But D&D has introduced me to lots of awesome words that, while I may not use them every day, I’m glad to know. Such words include: dwoemer, defenestrating, paladin, lycanthropy, lucubration, apotheosis, somatic, and many more. It’s cool to know words that others might not, and it makes you feel & look smarter when you can pull out a $5 word in $1 company.

2 dude February 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm

number 9 would be my favorite. iv meet so many new and interesting people that i would never have meet otherwise. and iv grown my self by not judging people so harshly. iv had to work with others and overcome difficult personality’s. and iv made new friendships and understanding of people. thank you Dungeons and Dragons!!!

3 Matt March 1, 2013 at 6:24 am

D&D can help you get and keep a job. For example, when asked about leadership/working well with a group skills (which is at just about every interview) any DM can say they have ‘managed’ a group of 4-6 people, excelled at conflict resolution, teamwork, team-building, thinking on the fly, managing time and other resources, as well as encouraged free exchange of ideas.

I have to second Mr. Lastowski on the vocabulary building.

I’ve been drawing since I was still in diapers, and I’m now in grad school for fine art. I’ve always been good at art-making. D&D helped that. Also, even people I know who claim that they “can’t draw anything but stick figures” have (Through DMing and dungeon design) been able to tackle complex things like maps, plans, mazes, etc. easily.

I love the fact that role-playing fosters empathy. It’s virtually impossible to be a sociopath and play D&D. The simple act of ‘being’ someone else for a few hours a week makes it easier to imagine what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

DMing (and playing) has made me much better at public speaking. I used to be so nervous in front of groups, I’d seize up. Now, I have no problem talking to large groups of strangers with confidence.

One can also not forget that D&D made so many things in our culture possible. Video games, even action games, use ‘Hit Points’. Fantasy and sci-fi are huge industries now, partly due to the popularity of games and books that wouldn’t exist, or would have faded away into obscurity if not for D&D’s cultural influence.

4 Sebastian April 2, 2013 at 8:36 am

3. Is the most important to me; I don’t think I’d see my friends nearly as often without this common interest to play D&D; for this reason I hope we’re still playing in 20 years time.

But while I find D&D more fun because it never gets boring (how could it?) I notice the same thing with online co-op games with people too far away to meet; when there is a new co-op game I talk to people I play with sometime 3-4 times a week. Because you chat and play at the same time.

When we get bored of a game, we sometimes don’t speak for a month.

Maybe it’s just my experience, but I generally find talking to friends more enjoyable when you’re also doing something, whether this is working together, doing sports, cooking, or indeed D&D.

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