One of the best qualities of Dungeons and Dragons (commonly referred to as DnD) is that it brings a variety of people together to the tabletop RPG space. With such a wide range of players comes an equally wide array of reasons as to why each of us plays the game.
If you’re anything like me and stay up late pondering the mysteries of the universe, then you, too, have likely asked yourself “what’s the big deal with this nerdy-ass game, and why do I keep ignoring my family to play it?” Ultimately, what I have concluded is that most players possess at least one of seven reasons for playing the game.
If you or your friends (or girlfriend, or grandparents, etc.) have ever considered giving Dungeons and Dragons a try or wondered why people are even drawn to the game to begin with, then this article is for you. Read on to learn the seven reasons people gravitate towards DnD.
1) You Have a Vivid Imagination
Maybe you’re the space cadet who always drifts into an imaginary world during class. Perhaps your humor is extra dark or niche and not appropriate for some friends and coworkers. Or maybe you enjoy roleplaying harry potter erotica with that special someone under the cover of night (minimal judgement if you do). The truth is, most players come to DnD because it allows them to express their imagination and stories in a nontypical way. As a form of expression, DnD is top-notch.
In many cases, we as participants are accustomed to being passive observers of someone else’s story. A film or tv show we stream on Netflix; a book we read or a game we play. Some of these can offer varying degrees of freedom, such as the “choose your own adventure” genre, or a video game offering branching skill trees or plots. But at the end of the day, these freedoms are both finite and ultimately preordained by its creators. With DnD, however, you are given as much freedom as your Dungeon Master (commonly referred to as the DM) allows you. But more on the Dungeon Master later.
In Dungeons and Dragons, the words your character speak are not scripted. In fact, they are often not premeditated at all, and typically are reactions to unfolding events in real-time. Maybe your character is a pacifist and chooses not to fight a young enemy in the midst of a rumble. Or maybe you’re a warlord at heart who likes to punch his way through problems. Oftentimes video games will not only suggest one of these routes but instead quite literally force you to pursue those courses of action to progress through the campaign. Depending on your DM, however, your actions and wildest imaginations in DnD may be admissible, so long as probability and a little bit of luck with the dice are on your side.
Want to shoot the chandelier and drop it onto your enemy? Make a roll. Want to fast-talk your way out of a bad situation, or seduce your enemy with the rhythmic flexing of your pecs? Awkward, but make a roll. As long as your Dungeon Master is flexible and your skills and rolls align, you very likely can experience a form of immersion and creativity that you have long since reserved for your dreams.
2) You Enjoy Roleplay
While having a vivid imagination opens up the game to endless possibilities, many players’ interest actually lies in the execution of said possibilities. It is one thing to imagine your character performing a backflip off of a pegasus into a handstand to impress a beautiful sultana. It is another thing entirely to successfully roll an animal handling check into an acrobatics roll into a performance check, to successfully pull that feat off. And then there’s acting out the entire scenario. Herein lies the beauty of Dungeons and Dragons: whether you perform this feat successfully or not, the game almost always results in something fun and often memorable.
Were the scenario above in a video game, you may find yourself resetting the minigame or save file numerous times until you either throw your controller in frustration or cheat and force your way to success. Failure, by default, is not the desired outcome thanks to programming and creator intent (more than likely). But in Dungeons and Dragons, sometimes your favorite events in a campaign are the failures and the way you roleplay through them.
Let’s play out the pegasus scenario in both instances. Say you do roll the sequence of events successfully. You now get to describe your stylish, superhuman gymnastics in over the top detail, and then proceed to brag about it to the sultana through roleplay; “Oh, hey… didn’t see you there. In your palace. Oh me? Yeah, that’s how I always arrive on location before a big fight. Danger to the mac. Plus I really like to stick the landing, if you know what I mean.” Add in a wink or a healthy dose of ego, and this player quickly becomes the party member everyone loves to hate.
Now let’s play out that same scenario, but in this case, stoked in failure. You toss your first roll, an competent 18 in animal handling, and successfully guide the pegasus towards the ground, as you prepare for your dismount. Perhaps somewhat overconfident, you shout out to the sultana “You called, milady?” You roll the dice, ready to cleeve the heavens with your sick backflip, only to roll a three on the die with no bonuses. The Dungeon Master looks up, ready to punish you severely for your careless behavior.
He describes your acrobatic stunt distinctly, detailing how your herculean hero slips on the saddle as you leap off of the pegasus, causing your him to overshoot his flip and land at a 97-degree angle onto his ankle at 300% force. He screams out in pain, pleading for his companions (who did not fit on his pegasus and had to walk to the sultana’s palace, by the way). All this occurs as the sultana herself watches a grown man weep into the pavement of her grand courtyard, though she does not seem moved to assist you. To add insult to injury, her betrothed appears from just beyond the entryway, asking if her “court jester” is okay (referring to you, of course). He then shares his sick romantic getaway for the sultana, planned at the nearby sand dune resort she is known to adore.
Okay, so I really digressed here, but the point is: which one sounded like more fun, the success, or the failure? The answer for me is that both possess the limitless possibility for fun. If you are a fan of role-playing and making you or the other players laugh (or cry, or rage), then DnD is the perfect stage for you to do so. And that’s why many people come back to the game over and over again.
3) You Need a Break from Board Games
We’ve all been there. Monopoly, for the thirteenth or however many times. By this point, it turns out that you actually hate that game; it takes forever to end, and honestly no one has a good time playing it anymore. Oh, and apparently paying into the Free Parking lottery isn’t actually a thing. There are thousands of board games out there, and if you are getting bored with yours, it might just be time to switch to another game. For some people, though, that medium can just be tired or need a break as a whole. DnD can be an exciting departure.
Yes, perhaps you trade paper money for notes and stat sheets, or tokens for miniature character figures. Many of the elements are all there, but the difference is the game feels organic. You are not circling around the same board with the same finite number of spaces every game. If the DM decides there is a hidden grotto or a magic portal that does not appear on the map, then it now exists. This freedom to depart from the physical boards and pieces and sometimes even rules in front of you can be refreshing.
For me, I still love to play a board game from time to time. Playing DnD feels like a much-needed break, however, as many sessions have been played with nothing but our character sheets and a set of dice (and sometimes even less).
4) You Want to Think Faster on Your Feet
So, this one may not be the reason people join the game initially, but it is often one of the reasons people continue to play.
When I first started playing DnD, I assumed everything was planned and accounted for by the DM, and that everyone was operating in a very specific format and manner. The reality is, for both the players and the DM, this tends to be the furthest thing from the truth.
No one can read minds, and while some poor DMs will force you to stay on a very specific track in a campaign, most good ones will embrace the “yes, and” methodology and run with alterations and branches in the story as they happen. Players, as well, must learn to quickly adapt when a Dungeon Master throws an unexpected wrench in their plans.
The result of this style of gameplay has a somewhat remarkable impact on your real-world ability to improvise and problem solve and engage on the fly. When a dragon melts your sword with its flame breath, you have no choice but to think fast if you want to escape with your life. Likewise, when the party misses your clues or accidentally stumbles into the bosses lair far o early in the game, you as a DM need to be prepared to alter the course of the story, lest you abruptly end a campaign in tragedy.
Personally, I love how the game pushes people to improv more with each other. Whether it’s witty quips or problem solving under pressure, the game makes it acceptable not to know the answer, and to try to progress forward while making one up. Compared to real life, where everyone is afraid to admit that they don’t know the answer, or is paralyzed by inaction or hesitation, working on your improvisation skills can be a really fun and rewarding skill to develop. Plus, it just might come in handy the next time you’re putting out a huge fire at work.
5) You Enjoy Nonlinear, Creative Problem Solving
I’ve talked about how being imaginative and exploring endless possibilities can be both immersive and fun to roleplay, but another byproduct of these qualities of gameplay is that you may find yourself solving problems in new and creative ways.
Many a gamer know a thing or two about hunting a bounty or trading items to complete a quest. But sometimes in DnD, with the right amount of context and some creative thinking, you can create a solution in truly unique and memorable ways. Perhaps the bard plays a song from the enemy’s childhood. Or you disguise yourself as an NPC. Maybe you trigger some explosives in a mine to trap an imminent threat or challenge the monarch to his favorite game. With high enough skills and enough some leeway from the DM, you’d be surprised how many alternatives you usually have.
Of course, many groups will repeatedly try to use combat to force their way through conflict. And if that’s your style, that’s entirely okay, too. But with even a slightly reasonable player or two in your party, you’d be surprised just how willing your DM may be to let that encounter slide, and maybe even reward you with some valuable loot if you embrace some of the other possibilities.
6) You‘re Seeking New Friendships
Not a lot of explanation needed here. DnD is meant to be played with others, and as such, it is a great way to meet new friends. Surely anyone who is willing to pretend to be a halfing for three hours straight must be good people, right?
My reason for getting into the game started with the desire to make new friends. I called the local game store at the closest mall and asked if they had any DnD events. Sure enough, they hosted a weekly DnD night, and before long, the founders of our group grew closer and a group chat ensued, locking in our friendship for years to come.
DnD is nonthreatening and safe. If you’re looking to go out there and step out of your comfort zone, playing this tabletop RPG might just be the perfect start.
7) You Want to Be The Storyteller
In the beginning, you may just want to play it safe and play conservatively as a party member. You’ll learn the rules, learn the lore, and before you know it, you’ll be hooked. And that’s when it happens. You yearn for the dungeon master’s power.
Maybe you want to run a game, so you can see what the other side is like. Maybe you think there are issues with how your last game was run, and you are hoping to rectify them but running your own campaign. Often times in both cases, you have your own story you want to tell, and you’re eager to unleash upon a captive audience.
Whatever your reason may be, it’s very likely you’ll desire to put on the Dungeon Master cap at one point or another. Some people like to do it occasionally, while others love to assume the role consistently. Just know that with great power, comes great responsibility, and at least a reasonable amount of preparation is required to succeed in this new role. That being said, there is something quite satisfying in entertaining a group of friends with a world created by your design.
Okay, so there are probably more than seven reasons to play Dungeons and Dragons. The big takeaway here is that the reason doesn’t matter. If just one of the above scenarios sound like something you might enjoy, we here at Nat1 highly encourage you to give it a try.
Dungeons and Dragons can certainly have a stigma. But it is a game. Playing it makes you no more or less cool than spending 80 hours on the witcher or watching all eight seasons of Game of Thrones. So get out there, give it a chance, and let yourself be engrossed in all the possibilities.