Just over the past month or so, me and a couple of friends got together the play some Dungeons & Dragons, old school style, none of that fancy-schmancy computer stuff. We’re talking actual pencils and paper, with sharpeners and erasers yo!
After spending an hour or so getting down to the character building, we finally got into the game. Suffice to say, we were hooked and continued our first campaign well into the wee hours of the morning with plenty of tense moments and lots of laughs. It gave me a whole new appreciation to the game as the DM (Dungeon Master) as well as a player. That’s why I decided to compile my top five reasons why playing D&D is good for you, this qualifies for any one of any age.
1.) Role Playing
Its always interesting and fun to be someone else, especially in a fantasy world where you can really go deep into their character and act out exactly how you think and feel they should . Combine this with other players and you have a real party going on. Role playing is essentially allowing a person to fill in the shoes of someone else, either a character they’ve always wanted to be or someone completely opposite to who they are in real life. This allows a different way of thinking and behaving, it gives the person the freedom to be someone else and opens up their mind to seeing the world in a way they normally wouldn’t be able to.
Much like how reading an auto biography gives you a front row seat to a person’s life, in D&D you are living your character’s life and you can decide for yourself how to grow him\her in the way you feel is right. Its as much your story to write as it is for everyone else. The feeling of crafting out their back story to describing their appearance is a very liberating one, and by doing this you are indirectly training your brain to be more adept in describing images as well as getting into the mind of your fictional hero. Think of it like a very basic level of method acting, the more you understand someone, the better you are in thinking like them and becoming them. In the real world, this develops your ability to understand people better and indirectly allows you to see their side of things clearer, as you can picture yourself in their shoes much easier.
2.) It Actually Makes Maths Fun
No, seriously it does.
Think about it, would you rather solve an equation between who has the most apples in their hands, or would you rather count down the possibilities of a magic sword setting an enemy ablaze?
Exactly. You see D&D works on a system of probability and calculation. The game’s mechanics work solely on the basis that you know basic arithmetic and can balance out probabilities for certain actions. Whether these actions are successful or not comes down to the roll of the dice. The only way the DM or players can affect their success is by how high their skills are which adds or subtracts points to the value of the dice roll. For example, the DM challenges the Warrior to jump a chasm, its a difficult challenge, so the DM decides with a 20 sided die; he needs to roll a 15 or higher to safely jump across. The players rolls and gets a 13, which means he failed, but because he’s trained in Athletics he actually gets to add +5 to that amount which totals to 18, therefore he is successful.
Nearly every action in the game, from checking for traps to flirting with the barmaid, the odds are all determined to scale with how much of a challenge the DM thinks is fair to place on the players. A good game offers a fair amount of challenge, not too easy nor too difficult, and the only way to balance a game of D&D is with good use of mathematics. This is actually a great way to teach kids percentiles and fractions as well as an introduction to the theory of probability. The way I see it, I would’ve paid much closer attention in Maths class if my teacher didn’t force me into thinking of Ali & Abu with 30 watermelons all the time, and instead showed me Conan and Merlin dividing up goblins.
3.) It Fosters Teamwork
D&D’s rules is well thought out to limit each character to a certain amount of abilities and strengths so as to balance the game for everyone. You can be great at certain things like a Mage skilled in magic spells; casting powerful magics at your enemies but are being held back by your weak body, where enemies can cut you down easily. This is where the strength of many can overcome the weaknesses of an individual. Taking the example of the Mage, he can keep enemies at bay with his Fireballs but as soon as an enemy gets too close the Warrior can defend him, likewise the Warrior would be overwhelmed by the enemies if not for the spells the Mage uses. Its understanding that you are not a one man army and that working together gets the job done better and faster.
This goes without saying that in real life, teamwork is important to everyone. In any work environment each person has their task and duty to fulfill, but the organization does not succeed entirely on that one person’s responsibilities, its the combined effort of everyone that pushes the company forward. Much like the Mage and the Warrior, a co-worker who comes in to help with your paperwork eases the workload allowing both of you to come out on top with your salary and free time as the prize. Knowing each others strengths and abilities is the key to overcoming the multitude of challenges in D&D and in life.
4.) Face to Face Communication
Now you must be thinking that this is a redundant point. Anyone can talk! That’s one of the most basic things parents teach their children as a baby. Why is this even mentioned?! I’ll tell you why. Because the basic act of conversing with people and strangers is becoming less and less common with each passing year. I’m not saying people aren’t talking anymore, I’m saying people are not talking face to face as often anymore. When you look at how easily we’ve traded our person to person socializing with a messenger window or chat bubble, you just might start to see why our parents keep saying that people today look so dead and lifeless.
D&D is a very social game, even if you’re playing with just one other person.There are so many things to see and listen, from the tone of their voice to the small gestures and body language they show. Socializing with people isn’t just the conveyance of a written message, its in the emotion and expression it was delivered in, something that emoticons rarely describe honestly. You can feel and empathize with a character much better when you can actually see their expressions and hear the way they speak. Players could run into an injured old man who was ambushed, they need to hear his cry for help, the voice of desperation and fear with a tinge of sadness, or perhaps anger and distraught. That’s how a DM gets his players invested in a game, by making it believable. He\she should do their very best in expressing key characters well. You wouldn’t enjoy a game of D&D very much if every NPC you met speaks in the same tone and voice would you?
This actually lets all the players involved be more attuned to understanding each others behaviors. It deepens your understanding of another person, which gives you a better appreciation of them for who they are. This adds to the game’s overall experience and also allows friends to bond, both old and new, where you can actually see a real smile, instead of an emoticon. 🙂
5.) Creative Thinking
The last and my most favorite point. I always believed that as a human being with the gift of a brain that allows me to dream and imagine, creativity is something that should not be ignored. We owe a lot to our creative abilities, from modern technology to amazing movies like Inception and The Avengers. It should be something everyone practices in their own way from sports to writing, constantly honing it to learn and explore the endless possibilities it has for us.
Which is why I love being the DM.
As the DM, I had the role of creating a world for my players to explore and have fun in. Of course, they’ll have ideas of their own, but its those ideas that allow me to create pathways to different outcomes and sometimes completely different results. I started out with a very simple guideline, there was a beginning, a middle and an end. How my players reach these parts of the campaign was entirely up to them, with me giving them concealed hints and guidance when needed. The campaign was designed to challenge them, but what challenged them was entirely based on their actions. One example, my group wandered into a dark. empty shop; rather than sleep in the inn, they wanted to scavenge for loot. Caught off guard from this choice, I worked around this by giving them what they wanted, but not without a fight. They ended up taking on a Zombie before finding a hidden chest with a Ruby and magical equipment. Suffice to say, it worked out well. The guys got what they wanted with some excitement thrown into the mix and I got to test out their strength as a team before deciding what other challenges I could throw at them.
The whole thing was made up on the spot. I did not anticipate them actually scrounging on the bad side of town in the middle of the night for loot, so I played ball and rolled with it. I was worried that I would have muffed up the whole game by drawing a blank and just insisting they go to the inn, but by keeping myself on top of their idea; I ended up sharing an enjoyable experience with them. Creative thinking helps in all sorts of situations, it lets you get in tune with your instincts and develops a faster reaction to solving problems on the fly.
This is beneficial to those who have jobs that require you to settle deals and need to resolve issues quickly or in different ways. And that’s my top 5 reasons why I think D&D is good for you. Its not that difficult to get your hands on a copy of the game. I got my red box basic 4th edition from my local comic book store down the road for RM90. And D&D has been around for a long time, you’ll find a whole community out there to get to know.
But enough talk, its time to roll for initiative!
Do you play D&D? Why not share your thoughts on it or some cool experiences you’ve had with me in the comments?