By Miranda Brit
Bored of being at home? Tired of playing the same old games over and over again? How about some Dungeons & Dragons (D&D for short)? It’s fun for the whole family, and it’s an excellent writing aid to boot.
What does D&D have to do with writing, you ask?
More than you’d think!
D&D, along with other roleplaying games (shortened to RPGs), has a lot of overlap with writing. I’ll cover my three favorites here.
First off, character. Few places provide better practice getting into a character’s mindset. Each D&D player develops a character to play as you’re encouraged to personalize: create a background, find motivation for your adventuring, and choose a specific fighting style that fits them. The game rewards people who play up their roles, helping refine speech patterns and personality. The best part? Other players are doing it, too, so you don’t feel insane talking in weird accents. (Or is that just me?) D&D is probably the closest thing you can get to acting and improvisation without actually joining the theater.
Second, creativity. I’m not just talking about setting or description. D&D players are given a limited set of tools and a lot of rules to follow. To accomplish your objective, you have to figure out how to use your specific skill set to survive and move the story forward. However, there’s a catch. The success of your actions is left up to a dice roll.
“I want to attack the monster!”
“Roll for it.”
And what the dice say go. Roll high: success! Roll low: failure, and now it’s the monster’s turn. Often, you can get backed into a corner, and that’s when you get creative. I have never MacGyver-ed so hard as when I’m in a pickle, out of both materials and options. Even if your main characters aren’t that resourceful, we authors need every ounce of creativity we can get our mitts on.
Thirdly, the game encourages you to take a format and make something unique. D&D is steeped in tropes, traditions, and structures that trace themselves back to The Lord of the Rings. The rules and formats may look repetitive at first glance. Still, players take these cornerstones and build their own castles from them: each unique, different, and almost unrecognizable. In a world where nothing seems new, and everything’s been done, it’s comforting to see a living example of how you can take a basic plot and turn it into a journey that you and your friends will never forget.
And let’s not forget, the beloved DragonLance novels started out as a series of Dungeons & Dragon modules. If you don’t know the Heroes of The Lance, well, get to reading, my dear adventurers!
If you join the band, you will be in good company! A lot of famous authors and other entertainers play RPGs: George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Linsay-Abaire, Poet Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), even TV personality Stephen Colbert (The Late Show), and actor Vin Diesel (Fast and the Furious).
Give it a shot. I won’t judge. In fact, let me know when you’re playing. I’ll bring my dice bag!