Real life is lame. Sure, there are certainly some high points, but more often than not, life is stressful or tedious. And students get an even bigger heap of stress and tedium than most—there are constantly deadlines to juggle, exams to prepare for, and huge life choices around every corner.
That’s why Dungeons and Dragons is the perfect pastime for students, or really anyone who needs an escape from the day-to-day drudgery.
What even is it?
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a pen and paper roleplaying game. That means that you don’t need a screen and a console, or even a board and pieces to play; all you need is paper, pencils, friends (or acquaintances, or even strangers if you’re not picky), and your imagination.
All of the action of D&D takes place in the minds and the words of the players. It’s a collaborative storytelling experience. The “dungeon master,” who runs the game, describes the setting and the challenges facing the players—maybe a dragon has kidnapped the king of the realm, for example—and the players, who have made characters with unique personalities and abilities, describe what those characters do.
The sky’s really the limit here. Unlike video games, which are constrained to limited programming, the characters can go about solving problems any way they can think of. Maybe the party wants to barter with the dragon, appealing to its reason—or maybe they want to sneak into the dragon’s layer through a secret tunnel, stealing the king back from under the dragon’s nose—or maybe they’d rather fight the dragon head-on, using brute force to save the king—or perhaps they’ll come up with something else entirely. That’s part of the fun of D&D, the possibilities are endless.
And while the players are describing their characters’ actions, and rolling fun, polyhedral dice that represent random chance, the dungeon master is weaving a story around them. The dungeon master responds to the characters and describes how the world reacts to their actions. This is where the magic happens—through this simple free-flowing back-and-forth, wars are fought, dungeons are delved lives are lived, and a story is created.
Getting the gang together
Now for the tough part: finding a group to play with. D&D’s massive levels of nerditude are sort of a double-edged sword. On the plus side, acknowledging and embracing the geekiness can allow D&D players to cut loose and disregard their inhibitions, leading to much more fun roleplaying. On the negative side, the perceived (sometimes rightly so) dorkiness can make it hard to find fellow adventurers.
Here are a few tips from a long-time dungeon master. Number one: Just ask! If you bring it up casually to a group of friends, there’s actually a pretty good chance that they’ll at least give it a shot. You can acknowledge the obvious nerdocity when you bring it up, just to break the ice. Try something like, “I know it’s really geeky, but I’ve been thinking about starting a Dungeons & Dragons game …” If you seem really excited about it, your enthusiasm might just spread.
When you think about it, it’s not really that big of an ask. Most friend groups are actually looking for excuses to hang out more—D&D is the perfect way to get all of your pals in the same room on a regular basis.
On the off-chance your friends aren’t enlightened enough to realise how much fun D&D could be (or if you don’t have any friends) there’s still hope, it’ll just require a little more leg-work. Gaming stores like Captain Nemo’s are a great place to connect with fellow nerds. If that doesn’t work, try finding people engaging in other nerdy pursuits—there’s a pretty good chance that someone who plays Magic: the Gathering or regularly reads fantasy novels will be receptive to the idea of joining a D&D group.
There’s always the option of posting fliers in the library or around campus, though it might be a little harder to separate the wheat from the chaff there. Alternatively, you can try to find D&D players in the comments section of this article online; Cuestonian readers are all awesome, so that should be a good source of cool, intelligent people for your D&D party.
Roll the dice
Once a group is gathered, the fun can begin. Most D&D games are just casual places for people to chat, eat food, and hang out. That’s the real secret of D&D—sure, there’s a game there, and it’s a lot of fun to create a story with other people, but the best part about D&D is gathering a bunch of friends and having a great time together.
D&D is basically free (there’s just a one-time purchase of books and dice), so it’s a lot more cost effective than a weekly bar night or movie night. Plus, there’s more active group connection going on during a D&D game than basically anywhere else. D&D players have to be engaged in the game, and with each other; the whole point of it is playing off of each others’ actions to tell a story. There’s no phones or distractions, the rest of the world kind of just melts away. All that’s important is you friends and your adventure.
When you’re roleplaying, you get to stop being yourself for a while. You get to be Melek, the mighty wizard, instead of Tim, the uninteresting student. You can forget about your next big exam, or your job, or what you’re going to do after college. You get to cast spells, and solve problems with your pals. D&D is a respite from the daily tedium. While you’re playing, you get to be powerful, and even change the world, all while having being actively creative with your friends.