5 Ways Playing Tabletop RPGs Make You A Better Person
I've played video games for most of my life. I was convinced that as far as entertainment goes, playing on a console or PC was as good as it gets. My experience with Dungeons & Dragons was limited - I'd played a single session when I was around 10, which lasted all of 30 minutes. I played the Neverwinter Nights games for PC, which used a variant of D&D's 3rd edition ruleset but I certainly didn't consider myself a "D&D guy."
About 2 years ago, a friend of mine who works at Riot Games said he was planning on running a campaign with the newest ruleset. It would be an original story he created (called "homebrew" in insider-D&D-speak). I decided to dive straight in - I bought the 5th edition Player's Handbook, and created my first character: Belroth Brightscale, the Dragonborn Paladin.
Basically, he looked like this (Source: LRPC Wiki)
We played two sessions before the campaign was put on a permanent hiatus.
Still, it stuck with me. The two sessions that I played were possibly the most fun I've ever had playing a game. My character's dislike for half-elves was put to the test, as they made up more than half of the party. I attempted to intimidate a book. I eventually bought the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide as they were released, as well as several campaign sets.
Fast forward a bit, I'm in my second year of college. I thought it'd be a good idea to run the Starter Set, The Lost Mines of Phandelver with classmates who had never played the game before. I went the full nine yards - I prepared maps, designed additional storylines, and even ordered custom miniatures for my players. Unfortunately, the year ended and some players moved away for job opportunities. But we had experienced a bond that was completely unique to us - no one else could ever have played the game the same way we had.
As someone who's pretty quiet and keeps to himself, playing had made myself more open and vulnerable than I have in a long time. If someone (including me) failed at something due to a dice roll, laughs were heard around the table. There was no judgment between us, just good old-fashioned fun. With that, here are 5 ways Tabletop RPGs can improve your life.
1. It develops your problem-solving skills.
Your party (consisting of a fighter, rogue, and sorcerer) has just barely escaped from a pack of
ice zombies gnolls and are a little worse for wear. The fighter is barricading the door you just escaped through with his body, as it shudders from impacts coming from the other side. Currently, you are looking down a dark hall illuminated only by smoldering sconces, placed every 15 yards. Your rogue senses are telling you that there's more to this hall than meets the eye. Your mind races with a few options to consider.
- Your party could make a run for it, and possibly trigger some traps that could do even more harm.
- You could scout ahead, checking for traps and disabling them. This might take some time, which is a precious commodity as the door begins splintering.
- Leave the fighter to their fate, sacrificing them to save the rest of your party. Hold the door!
- Your party can take a stand against the gnoll horde, using the narrow hallway to diminish their strength in numbers.
Your DM asks again: What will you do?
In life, you often have to make hard choices. It sucks, but it happens. You can't possibly please everyone, but knowing how to tackle a problem is the first step to solving it. D&D does the same thing, albeit within a different framework. Being able to weigh all the possible options and pick the one with the least negative consequences is a vital skill for life.
2. It builds teamwork, both in and out of the game.
Let's say you're fighting an ogre - not terribly bright but very strong. This ogre is currently looming over your wizard, who can deal tons of damage but doesn't handle close encounters well. You, as a barbarian, can take a beating. You decide to do what you do best: insult that ogre with all the panache you can muster, and switch its focus to you. Your DM asks you to make an Intimidation check. You end up rolling a 19 and you successfully draw the ogre's attention. Taking the cue, your wizard (who you later learn was one hit from going down) launches a torrent of frost at the creature's back, freezing it solid.
It's hard to be a jack-of-all-trades (unless you're a bard). In real life, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Some people are great speakers, while others are physically strong, possess great insight, or have an entire encyclopedia inside their head. Even so, there are times when even the best of us fumble with what we're good at. That's when it's important for you to be ready to support people close to you when they stumble. As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one (unless you're fighting a hydra).
3. It fights anxiety and depression.
First, I'll point out the fact that there have been studies that explore the positive impacts that roleplaying games have on mental development. From first-hand experience, I know the positive effect that Dungeons & Dragons has had on my life. It got me to reach out to people.
A good Dungeon Master knows that you should take special care to make sure every one of your players has their "wow" moments. Like I described in the previous sections, setting up your players and seeing how they work through problems is rewarding for everyone involved. Some players are less open to roleplaying their character, which is perfectly fine. Over time, watching other players with more extroverted personalities will gradually get them to come out of their shell.
For people suffering from anxiety or depression, D&D creates a space that shows that it's okay to not be perfect. It's okay to fail. In some cases, it might even be better! In my experiences, natural 1s (a worst case scenario die roll, which usually precede a spectacular failure) often create more memorable moments than natural 20s. That's the beauty of the dice: it's not your fault that your character shook an orc's hand instead of chopping it off. Sometimes, stuff is out of your control and it's not your fault.
Finally, a huge part of good D&D comes from the "yes, and" school of thought from improv comedy. When the story of a campaign is collaborative instead of competitive, people will be more willing to contribute because their suggestions add value to the experience.
4. It broadens your horizons.
The king of broadening (and painting) horizons.
When a game has creatures as weird as these, a good imagination can be a very valuable asset. Dungeons & Dragons combines traditional fantasy tropes with cultures and mythologies from all over the world. It also introduces a multitude of characters with different goals, worldviews, and situations that will put the moral fiber of the most committed adventurer to the test.
I asked some friends how their experiences with tabletop RPGs have changed the perspectives of those who participated. /u/Ryuutakeshi (who is also DMing a campaign I'm in) gave me this anecdote:
Well, we used it as a way to encourage roommates to socialize together, bring people out of their shells, and give them a worldview they wouldn't have had otherwise.
When we first started, a friend was [deeply religious] and was very much against the deity system of D&D. Ironically, D&D helped her relax her judgement of other faiths.
Yep, something as simple as a game of make-believe with dice softened this person's rigid beliefs. On several occasions, voice actress Marisha Ray (who plays the half-elf druid Keyleth in Critical Role) has said: "If everyone played just one game of D&D, the world would be a better place." I find myself agreeing.
5. It's a great way to flex your creative muscle.
When I was a teenager, Eragon was a widely popular series. What really spoke to me was that the author was only 18 when the first book was published. I figured I was pretty creative, and loved fantasy enough to write my own series and make millions. Needless to say, I was wrong. I had a huge world planned, but couldn't quite figure out characters or motivations that would be believable. So, I forgot about it. But I kept my notes and ideas. /u/aquaricat, one of my party-mates for a campaign I'm in feels the same way:
For me, it's been a way to get some creativity going again. [I] used to do a lot of writing, always have a thousand ideas bouncing around in my skull, but I've been stuck behind writer's block for a long time. D&D and DMing is becoming a bit of an outlet for that.
When I started playing D&D, I discovered that the right medium for the story I wanted to write as a kid wasn't a book - it was a campaign setting. Instead of writing characters and motivations, my players would do it for me. In a sense, a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting is only the outline - the players are the crayons – and they love to color outside the lines.
Do you have an interesting idea for a villain you'd like to see in your favorite TV show? Put it into D&D. Do you have a "what if" scenario in your head that you need to see resolved? Put it into D&D. Even if it turns into a giant dumpster fire, you're better off for having done it.
Do you have experiences with tabletop gaming that you'd like to share? Share away below!