Dungeons and Dragons! yes, that’s the handwriting of a ten-year-old boy. Actually, I think he was nine when he wrote it.
I didn’t stall because I don’t respect the theme or because I feel it’s unworthy in some way…but if any of you have spent time with an enthusiastic 5th grader, you’ll know that once a new passion takes hold, every month is the right month for their enthusiasm.
Someh0w (I swear I don’t know how) this appeared in our home over a year ago:
Ben was so excited…but he still needed someone to play the game with him.
Confession time: I’ve always been interested in D&D. When I was about Ben’s age I had to settle for reading a slew of Dragonlance Chronicles books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Back in the 80’s in my neck of the wood, D&D was definitely a gendered activity.
Maybe I also watched a bit of this truly terrible 80’s cartoon, which Ben has rediscovered and adores.
So I wasn’t hostile to the idea of Ben getting into D&D, but I was past the point where I wanted to immerse myself in the study of a new discipline. So my husband and I made him a deal. If he was the DM (Dungeon Master) and told us what to do, we would play with him. I will say that that D&D board game is an excellent introduction to the concepts of D&D. You get a story all outlined and ready to go, characters with their strengths & weaknesses and step-by-step instructions on concepts like facing a monster and fighting it and how to use dice to determine outcomes. But that’s only the beginning…
What has been amazing has been the way Ben and his friends have taken the concept of D&D as a jumping off point. Now one of them is the DM and creates their own campaign. Essentially, the DM outlines (privately) an entire story with countless possibilities. Each player creates his or her own character and (in their group, through negotiation) is assigned strengths and weaknesses. Then the DM narrates the story and pauses at places for characters to choose an action. When they remember, they roll dice to determine the outcome. It’s a game loosely based on D&D, which (as I understand it) is generally still linked to a physical board representing the dungeon or the map or some such.
There’s plenty to like about what D&D does for Ben, Jonah, Steven, Owen, Rayaan, and everyone else they’ve convinced to join in. As a writer, how could I not love a game that’s based on narrative, character building, and the power of story? In fact, of the current/former DM’s I know, one is a published author (hiya, Barbara) , one is a high school English teacher, and one is a highly creative, articulate, and outgoing mom. That last relates to the other skills D&D builds. You just can’t play if you can’t communicate well with others. They’re working on flexibility (things don’t always go the way your character wishes they would), compromise (sometimes several characters have to join forces), and long-range planning (they need to think through the possible outcomes before making a choice). In fact, my sister Rachel (the therapist) recommends this link from Salon.com on the value of D&D for one autistic boy.
So what more will we do for D&D month? Well, I may have promised to have a bunch of Ben’s buddies over for a campaign…or even to plot out a D&D club. I hear there may be such a thing at the middle school they’ll attend next year. And I told Ben I’d post on dragons and also on dungeons. He told me they have to appear together…but hey, I’m the DM of this blog!