I cast friends: How D&D changes lives

When most people think about role playing games, they might think of teen boys in braces and purple capes, screaming at each other around a small table. Others might think of the opening and ending of the first season of "Stranger Things," which, I suspect, has "Dungeons & Dragons" to thank for much of its greatness. Others still might think of darker things: possession, suicide, demon summoning, etc. These are what I call "stupid people;" their voices I like to ignore.

Unless you're in The Knights of Badassdom, you won't find a correlation between devil worship and D&D. Nor will you find one in "Pathfinder" or any other role playing game. Because they're just that: games. Games that, in my experience, have been nothing but a positive influence on the lives of others.

Getting Into The Game

I'm not going to lie, this is the hard part. If making a character sheet doesn't confuse you, playing for the first time will. There is a lot of math and dice involved, and you're bound to be overwhelmed at least once. But once you get it, you get it. The real fun can begin. What's interesting about D&D and other games like it is the kind of people it attracts: every player is different. Some people love combat, while others prefer to interact with other player characters. And there's a whole spectrum in between! The best part of the game is finding out how to have fun. Not only that, but it is a bonding experience: every time I'm in a session with a new group, I find myself eating lunch with them for weeks afterward. There's a new air about the person when you've spent that kind of time with them. It is the commonality between you, I guess. Or maybe that the friendships the characters build are mirrored by the ones you make over time.

Either way, D&D is an addiction: once you start, it is hard to stop. It helps immensely if you have an experienced friend to help you. If that person is the Dungeon Master, even better!

How It Helps

As I said earlier, I have grown a lot of friendships over my two years of experience. Of those friends, several have some form of depression or neurological disorder. One good friend of mine uses his character as a therapy tool, exploring himself in a fictional environment and rehashing it later with his counselor. Personally, it helps me connect with others. It makes the friendships I have stronger and helps me form bonds with those I haven't. Group dynamics can be challenging, of course. Whether it's time conflicts or personal ones, there will be times when the group will want to tear at each other's throats -- in game and out. But you learn to resolve conflicts that way, especially if you're a the DM. I know from experience how challenging it can be to keep everyone together, especially when feelings get hurt. That is when you talk it out; communication in this game is, like in life, the key to everything. I have learned problem-solving skills in-game that I never could in real life, and not just through slaying dragons: I have had to face my inner demons, too, as well as the demons of others.