Three ways playing Dungeons and Dragons improves family dynamics

Do you have a family game night? I have heard of families getting together on a Sunday afternoon after a meal and playing cards, board games or video games. It’s hard to find something that everyone enjoys. Sometimes families simply put money towards dinner and a movie. All those are popular and fun, but think about this.

When you watch a movie or play a board game, you are being entertained. This is a form of passive entertainment. You take in the fun and that’s all well and good!

But what if you shared the creation of that entertainment with your friends and family?

Dungeons and Dragons is a collaborative role playing game. Three ways to collaborate means we engage, entertain and entrust.

Engage

When we sit around the dining room table, the coffee table or outside on the patio, we face one another and engage. Armed with a pencil, paper and imagination, you are part of the storytelling process in the game. The Dungeon Master, who operates as the storyteller, referee and other characters in the game, sets the fictional stage where each of the players around the table build upon the ideas infusing their own created characters as heroes of the tale. Each game lasts from 2-4 hours with breaks and with about 3-6 players, the most interesting and exciting adventures can unfold!

Entertain

Telling stories requires your imagination, along with collectively sharing that imagination with others. This means you entertain! You may not consider yourself a comedian, but each of us have some form of creative energy whether humor, descriptions of brave deeds, revealing hidden backstories or simply sharing in the laughter. As opposed to simply watching a movie, you make the movie. Using tried and true techniques of improve such as the “yes, and” method, you actively listen to what’s going on, engage your part of the story and entertain your fellow travelers. This level of creativity rewards your brain with the feeling of success.

Entrust

Most people have a fear of public speaking. Role playing games can be daunting at first because so many questions arise in our minds.

  • Do I have to talk with an accent?
  • What if l say the wrong thing?
  • How will I know if it’s my turn to speak?

The truth is role playing comes more natural than you think. No one around the table is trying to impress or outdo anyone, and there’s no pressure to give a stellar performance. Much like anything, practice makes your art better. The Dungeon Master should be like a guide helping your stretch your acting skills and build creativity. Remember, if you’re having fun, you’re doing it right. There’s no real “right” way to be creative. Think of it as a pool party. If you just show up, you may be nervous about getting in, but once you see others enjoying themselves, you’ll be tempted, even if to dip in your feet, to join the party.

This leads to a surprising level of trust between you, the Dungeon Master and your fellow players. We build bonds over time by telling stories around the campfire. For as long as our civilization has existed, we have told stories in one way or another. Some stories were factual, some were exaggerated for effect, some written and some transformed into memorable songs. Either way, at it’s heart, Dungeons and Dragons is primarily a way to tell stories. You become a better story teller. You become a story maker. This builds trust between those you care about the most, because you begin to ask yourself, “what stories am I telling now?” And believe it or not, this greater level of awareness happens all while you are having fun!

So, consider this your new recreation! Dungeons and Dragons can become a great family pastime and what a wonderful way to express yourself creatively. With no instrument to learn, or serious rules to memorize, you can just jump in and explore the world of role playing games.

Photos used with permission by Wizards of the Coast

3 pillars of playing Dungeons and Dragons

To explain Dungeons and Dragons, according to the Dungeon Master Guide by Wizards of the Coast, the 5th edition builds adventures off of 3 pillars. These 3 pillars help guide the storyteller, or dungeon master, in creating exciting settings, peoples and items to make this go from a a simple game to a narrative adventure. When adding in the randomness of dice rolls and the creativity of other players at the table, there really is no limit to how much fun this pastime can be. While reading through this, first, you must understand 3 truths about the world of fantasy, in that the world is primarily unexplored, hostile and incredibly diverse. When you factor in that most of the plane has been city built upon ruins from the past, or the entire terrain has been altered due to some tampering with the laws of physics, then you can find much to be discovered. Also, when you think about all of the conflicts between deities, otherworldly beings and even nature having a personality, this then fills the world with competing beings, also known as monsters, possibly inducing combative situations. The last principle about the world in which to engage, is that humans, although plentiful, are one of many races on the plane. Between elves, dwarves, dragons and extra terrestrials, this means your average dinner party brims with customs and manners worth discovering. Interactions become humorous and moving. I hope you enjoy learning about the 3 pillars of playing Dungeons and Dragons.

The world is an unknown place

Exploration of uncharted lands requires adventurers to saddle up and head out into the great blue yonder. Between wilderness and new civilizations, when the world presents interesting locations, players can use their time exploring people, places and things that grabs their attention.

I think these encounters channel up the most imagination in players. A good dungeon master presents a living breathing world to not only explore, but to actively engage and alter the setting. No one wants to touch the backdrop scene only to find that it is made from cheap cardboard and paint. When a player says “I want to dip a bucket into the abandoned city well”, ensure to make it worth their while! If you don’t know what one may discover down the well, then allow the players to assist in the building of that world. Maybe the water has a strange property that gives a clue as to why the city inhabitants evacuated so long ago, therefore aiding the adventures on their quest. Maybe the well links to a basement in the noble’s manor, and a guide presents itself to walk with the players for a time, giving history and lore along the way. Maybe the well looks mundane, but later on, awakens the curse within the city causing a hideous otherworldly being to rise from the ground. If only the players could have read the warning sign!

The world is a hostile place

Between encountering exotic lands and peoples, sometimes adventurers will be required to retrieve weapons to defend themselves. At times, a quest begs the adventurers to oppose a villain using force. Since the world, especially in the wild, presents as hostile, players may find themselves in a situation where they might be on the menu for some hungry monster. Even the natural order that we commonly think works together competes for territory and resources. When you add extra planar beings in the mix along with other worldly entities, worldviews don’t always match up. Players often descend on the food chain and will need to defend themselves to prevent experiencing digestion. Combat may not also be resolved with death, for parlay sometimes brings the best results. Deals can be struck and bonds can be formed. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In a pond of threat, players may realize that it’s not about fighting the big fish, but getting the attention of the bigger fish. That being said, protecting your friends against pure evil, brings out self sacrifice, noble strength that makes a story move us to tears.

The world is a diverse place

It’s not all pit traps, lava monsters and hordes of undead zombies. Social encounters bring Dungeons and Dragons from a game to a theater. The dungeon master plays parts as the townspeople, nobles, tribal guide, or alien emissary and the players act out their respective parts as the adventuring heroes encountering the world. Sometimes social encounter go well and the king hands favor to the players and sadly, at times, these encounters end with the village chasing them out of town. Beware that even a friendly game of cards could end in loss of life! Did you really mean to make a joke about the orc’s mother? Roll for initiative.

If a fellowship of heroes find the world, discovered, safe, and predictable, what would be the use of leaving the comfort of hearth and home? Although, Dungeons and Dragons can be used to tell any tale, even one of simple folk playing out their lives after the war, rebuilding, the story teller must keep in mind these 3 pillars, exploration, combat and social interaction, and like a good book, the setting, conflict and characters keep us entertained for years to come.