How Dungeons & Dragons Saved My Life

When I was at my lowest, Dungeons & Dragons saved me… Those are words I never expected to type.

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As some of you regular readers may remember, I took a break earlier this year to tackle my own poor mental health at the time - entering therapy after silently suffering in a pretty toxic workplace. My friend invited me to their game of D&D, and out of the awareness I quite literally had nothing else going on, I accepted. 

For those who don’t know about D&D, it is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game - which pits you and your fellow players with the challenge of working your way through a storyline, told to you by the Dungeon Master (your other friend who is basically playing God throughout the experience). The decisions you make all have an element of chance to them, and that is where your dice come in - dictating just how things go, varying from critical hits in combat (rolling a ’20’), to throwing your sword across the room when taking it out its sheath (rolling a ‘1’). 

Now, I’ll be honest… I Went in a little pessimistic, expecting to not enjoy it, but entered with an open mind and a Mountain Dwarf Monk named D’Fwan Holderhek. In writing this character, I did what many new players did - basically rewriting my own history as a back story, from being given too much responsibility too quickly, to failing and losing it all.

And then the first session happened, which I must admit was one of the most fun evenings I’ve ever had. The game I joined don’t know I’m writing this blog, so hopefully it goes to show how much it’s helping me and (most importantly) how much I’m loving it so far.

It’s taken me a while to figure out why it’s amazing… At the end of the day, it’s a rather complex tabletop game with stories of wizards and trolls, which requires a lot of time and investment on your part to actually immerse yourself into.

But after a few weeks of thinking, I’ve come to three reasons why I (personally - know everyone loves it for different reasons) have really connected with D&D:

Escapism

Whatever life you live, it doesn’t have to be your only life. You could escape, just for a short couple hours each week, and all it takes is some imagination and a set of dice. Sod the 9-5 weekday job, you’ve got orcs to kill.

Playing with friends

This one is kind of obvious, but one that bears saying with the friends I have. Growing up, settling down, buying houses and starting families inevitably take up a lot of your spare time. So to have something to commit to, where we all meet up and have a laugh is pretty sweet.

Positive Psychological Projection

This one isn’t so obvious… Let me explain.

While I get the idea of psychological projection is not a positive behaviour, I use this phrase purely for the notion of putting yourself into another character. D’Fwan is me…minus the fact he’s a Mountain Dwarf, but you get the point!

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By projecting myself onto him, it essentially puts me as a person in these fantasy situations, and effectively test some of the more anxiety-ridden parts of me in a safe space - decision making and leadership, communication, problem solving and actually speaking out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still learning the ropes - constantly leaning over to my friend to clarify what I’m adding up for a History Check or Constitution Saving Throw. But this is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually felt invested to the point of committing, learning and getting better at a game. It’s been a long time since GTA Vice City on PS2, where I was hooked on memorising the map for body armour and wanted level reducing locations. And here I am, just as driven as back at 11-years-old.

It’s a game that can go from downright bonkers to teeth gritting levels of tense in a matter of seconds, and I have no doubt I’d be at a very different place in my mind if my friend didn’t invite me to his game. I love it and shout out to anyone else who does.

Thanks for reading.

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