5 Reasons You "Shouldn't" Play Dungeons & Dragons
Updated: Oct 19, 2018
Everywhere you look, geeks and nerds are coming out of the basement and rising to power. They’ve taken over television, spurring the rise of such fantasies and superhero shows as Game of Thrones, Daredevil, and The Flash. They’re behind the successes of tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. And they’re winning acceptance for many of the activities that used to turn kids into social pariahs—Dungeons & Dragons among them.
Nowadays, you’d almost think Dungeons & Dragons has become cool. It’s become commonplace in popular shows such as Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory, and groups like Critical Role and Force Grey who can boast hundreds of thousands of views for their live-streamed games.
Here are 5 reason why Dungeons and Dragons isn't quite as "fun" and "interesting" and "one of the greatest games I've every played in my entire life" like everyone seems to think it is:
5. It's So Cool That It's Not Cool
Everyone knows that once something becomes too popular, it just isn’t cool anymore. And with so many stars coming out recently to talk about the impact that Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop role-playing have had upon their lives, there’s just no more of an opportunity to be that cool outsider in the pointy wizard hat.
According to sources that would know, those pointy hats have been filled for years by such Hollywood A-listers as Dwayne Johnson, Drew Barrymore, Vin Diesel, Stephen Colbert, Mike Myers, Jon Favreau, and D.B. Weiss (of Game of Thrones fame).
4. It’s Too Much Like Homework
The rumor is that Dungeons & Dragons is a game of fantastical adventures, one that temporarily allows you to become a righteous paladin, a clever rogue, or a mischievous warlock with demonic heritage. It’s supposed to let you undertake heroic quests, delve abandoned tombs, lead armies into battle, and unravel dark mysteries. However, all of this storytelling potential hinges upon a set of strange polyhedral dice and some basic math.
Sure, it’s not too hard to perform your basic addition and subtraction, but you’ll do a whole lot of it. And the more you look into the game, the more you realize it’s built upon a whole underlying layer of probabilities and combinatory efficiencies and other math-like things that—if you’re not careful—you might start making decisions based upon arithmetic.
Should you wield a two-handed great-sword (average of 7 damage per hit) or pair your long-sword (average of 4.5 damage) with a shield to reduce your chances of getting hit? As the dragon’s getting ready to breathe fire at your adventuring party, which of your mage’s spells is likely to make a more positive contribution? The cone of cold that might damage the dragon or the teleport spell that can get everyone out of harm’s way? The answers to those questions are rooted in math… math that you just might master if you play too much Dungeons & Dragons.
3. Role-playing Can Make You Crazy
Isn’t there something inherently crazy in pretending you’re some magical halfling or a dancing half-orc bard? Well, yes, there is. At least, that’s the result of a survey conducted by anthropologist Peter G. Stromberg.
Stromberg summarized his findings in an article for Psychology Today that “role players do in fact have very powerful experiences of becoming lost in the fantasy of the game.” But he goes onto point out that this is the same experience people have when they get caught up in a novel or when children lose themselves in pretend play.
Stromberg argues that role players are exercising their imaginations in powerful ways, and such an exercise of imagination is “not only the basis for play, it is one of the fundamental cognitive capacities that makes human ways of life possible.”
2. It’s Too Much Like Therapy
Not only do we risk learning math when we play Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games, but we also risk developing empathy for other people and taking the sort of risks that help us improve ourselves.
As stated by Ethan Gilsdorf, John Arcadian, and others, role-playing provides us with a safe place for social practice, a place where it’s okay to take risks and to fail. Since it’s just pretend, there’s no harm in playing the chivalrous and heroic knight… but in acting “as if” you were such a character, you build yourself toward that potential. Likewise, by imagining yourself as a type of character other than yourself, you improve your ability to empathize with others.
In fact, the social and therapeutic benefits of role-playing have been so well researched and established that counselors have started using tabletop role-playing in their therapy sessions, often to great success.
1. You have to hang out with other people
We all like to be heroes, but in Dungeons & Dragons this often means facing powerful villains, orcish warbands, or demonic hordes that are just too powerful for us to tackle on our own.
See, the problem here is that Dungeons & Dragons is a team game, and it constantly thrusts you into situations where you have to work together with the other members of your party. As Ethan Gilsdorf so cruelly reminds us, your character’s strengths—as great as they may be—are only part of the solution, and you have to rely upon other characters. You need your fighter, your mage, your trap-finder, and your healer.
It’s the same sense of teamwork they’ve established in more than 20,000 United States schools where educators have utilized fantasy role-playing—in the form of Classcraft—to get students invested in their mutual success.
And that sort of leads us to the real, underlying problem with Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy role-playing—it just comes loaded with too many “big idea” lessons and rewards.
We have to learn how to work with other people? Do math? Imagine ourselves as other characters? Socialize? No thank you. We just wanted to kill dragons and loot their dungeons. No one told us we were also signing on for all this other "cool" stuff…