Benefits of Playing Dungeons and Dragons

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Dungeons and Dragons is loads of fun, but there are real-life benefits to playing this role-playing game.

In many ways, Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things is responsible for the comeback of Dungeons and Dragons. Many people have recently discovered what D&D devotees have known for decades–playing Dungeons and Dragons is fun!

But this tabletop role-playing game can teach you important life skills, as well. In this article you’ll find several real-life benefits to playing Dungeons and Dragons, as well as some general information about the game and why people love to play it.

Ready to dive in? Let’s get started.

What Is Dungeons and Dragons?

Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop role-playing game where players work together to create a story. One player acts as the Dungeon Master (DM), who serves as the referee and storyteller for the game. The DM maintains the setting and plays the role of the non-player characters (NPCs).

The other players act as the heroes that interact with the setting, the inhabitants, and each other. They must collaborate in combat, problem-solving, exploration, and gaining treasure and knowledge. Players can earn experience points (XP) to level up and gain power.

Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974 and was responsible for the popularity of modern role-playing games. Recently, there has been increasing interest in these games as the original players are now adults rediscovering their childhood favorites. It’s also been helped by the theatrical release of the Dungeons & Dragons movie by Paramount Pictures in 2023.

What Are the Benefits of Dungeons and Dragons?

Make Friends

You can’t play Dungeons & Dragons alone. Playing games together creates a sense of camaraderie and friendship. D&D requires the group to work together to tell a story and reach a common goal, so everyone has an important role.

In fact, research suggests that when groups of diverse people work together to overcome challenges and endure difficulty, it tends to build a greater sense of loyalty.

Sometimes the friendship precedes the game, but D&D can also form friendships. For instance, there are online forums or game groups that allow you to meet up with other Dungeons & Dragons fans. You might even find your next gaming group!

Watch author Ethan Gilsdorf as he explains how this game helped him navigate difficult times and build social skills:

Learn Cooperation

While I enjoy competitive games as much as the next person, learning to collaborate with others is a key to building character.

Cooperation is key for the players in D&D, but the Dungeon Master (DM) also needs to interact with the other players to make sure everyone can succeed and enjoy the game.

Even in the early stages of the game, players decide how they want to set up the game. If a player wants to add a backstory to their character that could affect the gameplay, that player must collaborate with the DM and the other heroes to work it out.

While playing, participants make shared tactical decisions, like whether the rogue should spend time picking locks to save the hostage or join in the combat to defeat the enemies. It requires you to understand the strengths of other players and where to best use them.

There’s a balancing of individual needs and goals with the common goal, which reflects real-life scenarios.

Additionally, players have to learn social skills outside of the gameplay. For instance, it’s no fun when someone takes forever on their turns or when a player insists on taking all the glory in combat. Listening to others’ ideas and being respectful are valuable social skills that extend far beyond Dungeons & Dragons.

Improve Listening Skills

Listening is an important part of Dungeons & Dragons. You have to pay attention as the DM tells you stories about people from faraway lands. You are expected to remember the key points. You must also listen to your fellow players as they narrate their actions, so you can respond accordingly.

But it’s not just the characters that must actively listen; it’s also the DM. When groups make a decision, the DM must be ready to act on what they’re saying. Although there will be times when you need to take notes or look things up, those should be intentional and brief. The DM isn’t nearly as effective if they aren’t good listeners.

Listening sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s actually difficult to sustain that level of attention over a long period of time. Dungeons & Dragons is a great way to train your attention span. Of course, if you get tired during a gaming session, you can always take a pizza break!

D&D will boost your listening skills, which will come in handy when you’re in school or at work.

Develop Problem-Solving Skills

D&D can help you develop some seriously impressive problem-solving skills. You’ll learn how to solve just about anything, whether you’re playing as one of the heroes or the DM.

In fact, the entire premise of D&D is players working together to succeed in solving a series of challenges set within a fantasy world. Part of problem-solving is knowing how to use available resources. You’ll get plenty of practice using spells, weapons, and abilities to defeat the bad guys.

Some of these problems arise in combat, but they can also be subtle. Clues and objects that you come across in your adventures could come in handy in other contexts. Could that cryptic message hold the key to making your way through a booby-trapped dungeon?

You’ll also learn how to work through problems and accurately assess a situation. Your friends might see something you don’t. Can you learn from them and start to make connections that may be difficult to see at first?

Just like in real life, there might be more than one way to solve a problem in the game. When you approach the king to release your friends from prison, you could use your silver-tongued eloquence to persuade him, or you could cast a magic spell. Or you can just avoid the king altogether and use your lock-picking skills to help your friends achieve the ultimate jailbreak.

Dungeons & Dragons can boost your problem-solving skills through making connections, discovering alternate paths, and being prepared. If only all adults could have the kind of problem-solving skills that D&D players develop!

Cultivate Empathy

Role-playing games like D&D force players to step into someone else’s shoes. You’re basically trying to live as that other person while playing the game.

What happens when people learn to view the world through a different perspective? They develop empathy. Players are forced to interact with others, most of whom are vastly different than themselves. All sorts of creatures inhabit this fantasy world, and D&D presents some tough moral problems to solve.

Life is complicated, and D&D reflects that. That evil dragon might have a reason for being so fiery, and you might find yourself pitying some unexpected creatures.

Dungeons & Dragons will benefit players as they learn to empathize with others.

Mental Health Benefits

Dungeons & Dragons is not only fun, but it also has some real mental health benefits. D&D provides an opportunity to develop social skills, build confidence, and learn to express themselves.

There are also therapeutic benefits to D&D. Therapists have started to use D&D in therapy to help fight anxiety and depression. Plus, as kids play Dungeons & Dragons, they develop important life skills, such as role-playing, character development, and conflict resolution. Many of these are central elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a common treatment used by mental health professionals.

According to Dr. Raffael Boccamazzo, D&D might help boost confidence, lower social anxiety, and develop self-esteem. The game creates a role-playing experience where there are no real-life consequences to failing. As a result, players are more likely to take calculated risks that help them gain confidence.

It can also help kids (and adults) cope with stressful situations where they have little control. Ethan Gilsdorf discusses how D&D helped him deal with his mother’s crippling illness and get through a difficult time during his adolescent years.

It makes sense that a game like D&D would have mental health benefits. While most people don’t go into the game thinking, “This will boost my self-esteem,” the mental health boost is all the more reason to play D&D and encourage others to play.

Flex Your Creativity and Imagination

Even though Dungeons & Dragons is considered a board game, it doesn’t actually have a board. Instead, the game is mostly played in your imagination. Enter this fantasy world with your mind and create characters that act out scenarios.

Role-playing is central to D&D, so a healthy dose of imagination is not only helpful, it’s essential. D&D will force you to flex your creativity to come up with worlds, objects, and characters. You can follow a pre-written adventure, but even then the DM must use creativity to adjust the story.

Players must develop backstories for their characters. This requires creative skill. What motivates your character? How would they respond in combat? Why are they headed to Stormwreck Isle? The deeper the backstories, the more rich and rewarding the game experience.

In addition to coming up with characters, the Dungeon Master and players must act out the scenarios that take place in the fictional campaign. Test your improv skills as you come up with solutions in the moment!

If you’re looking for a game that can boost your creativity, you can’t beat D&D.

Practice Math & Logic Skills

D&D gives you a chance to practice logic skills and basic math, which is great for kids and adults, alike. If it’s been a hot minute since you’ve done probabilities, addition or subtraction, or using cardinal directions on a map, you might benefit from playing D&D.

Players must be able to calculate attack points or how many hit points they have in relation to other characters. When kids play D&D, they’re developing those basic math skills in a fun format. Much better than a boring set of problems in a workbook. Where else can you use math to kill evil goblins?

In addition to math skills, players must also use logic to form strategies. They have to anticipate what their opponent might do in response to an action. The ability to think through the possible outcomes of a decision is a next-level skill for real-life situations.

Improve Language Skills

Dungeons & Dragons helps you improve your vocabulary and reading comprehension. Improve your ability to express your thoughts by describing what you see as events unfold. This game is rich in vocabulary, so it can expose you to plenty of new and interesting words. Plus, the DM must be able to read fairly quickly and understand what they’re reading.

If you want your oral expression, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills to soar, try playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Is Dungeons and Dragons Fun?

There are an estimated 13.7 million D&D players worldwide, so a lot of people believe so!

Now don’t get me wrong, Dungeons & Dragons isn’t for everyone. But if you’re having trouble deciding if it’s for you, consider the main elements that make up the game:

  • Role-playing: D&D allows you to play a fictional character. You can act out your own character development as the game progresses. Find more RPG games to play with friends or with your kids.
  • Combat: D&D has plenty of combat for those who enjoy fighting battles. For some people, this is the main draw, whereas for others, combat is secondary to other elements.
  • Storytelling: At its heart, D&D is all about the story. Players develop the narrative together as they move through the scenario or make up their own.
  • Exploration: A large part of the game play is exploring the fantasy D&D world as you complete missions and earn experience points (XPs).
  • Challenges: Solving puzzles, fighting formidable foes, and overcoming obstacles are important parts of D&D. If you enjoy taking on a challenge, this game is for you.
  • Socialization: D&D has a high level of player interaction. It’s a game played cooperatively, so you have a chance to connect with others over the course of the gaming session.

If you prefer highly competitive, individual games that move quickly and don’t require much in the way of imagination, you should probably avoid Dungeons & Dragons. But if any of the above components sound fun to you, you should definitely give D&D a try!

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your reasons, Dungeons & Dragons is a game that has a lot of benefits. It’s great for everything from critical thinking to social-emotional development. If you haven’t played before (or it’s been a while), grab a copy and get ready to roll!

Find more dungeon-crawler games for your next gaming session.