Real World Benefits of D&D

D&D isn’t just fun, it’s actually good for you

By Puzzle

Lockdowns may have given us the perfect excuse to sit our PJs all day and eat dry cereal straight from the box but they also created a very real lack of connection. Online TTRPGs have helped quite a few of us bridge that gap and have exploded in popularity since March of 2020 but being confined in your home isn’t the only reason you should try it for yourself. I’m relatively new to D&D, having only started when lockdown began, but here are a few reasons I think it’s worth your time.

I’ll be drawing from various research papers in order to show you that D&D isn’t just fun, it’s good for you! There will be full links to any papers cited if you’re interested and they’re well worth a read.

1. Connection

My personal experience with online D&D has allowed me to meet so many awesome people. Even now while lockdowns are easing for many of us and we’re finally able to go outside again, we still have regular games and created some great memories together.

Anecdotes are one thing, let’s see some of the research I promised. There are studies that have shown D&D to be beneficial in maintaining friendships and facilitating positive communication. In their 2013 study [1], Aubrie Adams looked at the effect of D&D on communication. In the study, two siblings participating in this study would argue constantly with each other outside of the game. However, while playing Dungeons and Dragons they worked together to benefit the rest of the team.

The players were doing more than accomplishing imaginary tasks; they were engaged in camaraderie exemplified by the high level of warmth and affinity displayed”

Positive social interaction is crucial for our mental health, even lowering our risk of conditions like dementia. We can also live happier as well as healthier lives when we’re able to communicate and confide in people, allowing us to feel safer and a sense of belonging. D&D shines through as an excellent way to build these skills.

2. Cooperative, not competitive

Collaborative problem solving is a cornerstone of D&D, there’s no PVP, that’s not why we’re here.

Completing the mission is paramount and while role playing a little tension between some characters can add to the experience, the goal is to achieve success as a team.

This can even spill over into collaboration with people outside the group you play with, in a Brazilian study [2] a participant and their little brother bonded over researching Greek mythology to flesh out their character. The interest in mythology grew into a hobby for this younger sibling and it became a subject they bond over, wholesome (and educational) stuff!

3. No limits

So, you come to a wall. How are you going to get past it? Even something as simple as this is going to get your imagination going, are you going to climb? Dig? Smash through it? Find a door? Have the Goliath ball up the Halfling like a piece of paper and yeet them over?

While video games are a preferred decompression method of mine, the limits are definite and there’s no getting around them. In D&D the limits are much more malleable and if you can make a good enough case to the DM (and the dice are on your side) the only limit is your imagination.

In a 2018 study [3] by CU Boulder and Icahn School of Medicine using fMRI, it was proven that flexing your imagination has tangible benefits. 

Imagination is a neurological reality that can impact our brains and bodies in ways that matter for our wellbeing”

 The study focused on reducing neural and physiological responses to pain and showed that by imagining a positive scenario you can dramatically reduce these responses. In one case the pain response from the mild shock was negated entirely. This shows that imagination isn’t just daydreaming, it’s a tool that when strengthened can help cope with all kinds of pressures and stresses, both physical and mental.

Where better to refine the skill of imagination than a game which encourages you to go deep in order to problem solve in fun and interesting ways?

4. Who do you want to be?

Creating a new character is one of my favourite elements of D&D. Having that seed of a character in your mind and bouncing ideas off the other players and DM to help that seed germinate and then watching it grow as you play is immensely satisfying. Having the chance to try out new interactions as an entity apart from yourself in a socially low-cost manner is also very useful.

Seeing the world through another person’s mind can help develop your sense of empathy, this is actually a technique therapists use. Drama Therapy is a technique used to help people explore difficult feelings and experiences from a different angle in order to draw positive outcomes like increased empathy.

“When we allow for spontaneity and imagination to speak for us, new ways to tackle problems and to think about issues can be found. For this reason, creativity can often be the key to unlocking change in an adult’s life.” Emma Dawes, Drama Therapy Specialist

Spontaneity and imagination are in almost every facet of D&D, from character creation right the way through to the epic final showdown. The very essence of role play is inhabiting another mind, seeing things differently in order to reach a solution or conclusion you may have missed but your character didn’t, allowing you to empathize with the people around you in your life just that little bit easier.

5. It’s fun!

If you got all these benefits from playing dungeons and dragons but it felt like slogging through a chore then nobody would every do it. A common theme that comes up in multiple studies is that the players want to keep coming back to play the game, and it’s obvious why. The amount of fun this platform of play provides in astronomical, whether you play a pre written module or a well-built homebrew you are almost guaranteed to have fun, even when it goes horribly wrong. Let me give you an example…

Playing Rime of the Frostmaiden we were tasked with ensuring the Dwarf running for Town Speaker didn’t achieve the position. He had some shady contacts and we found he had assumed a false identity but we need proof to discredit him.

We spent a long time going over a plan to search his house covertly in order to find some solid dirt on him, the session ended soon after.

Smash cut to next session, our DM has spent a whole week building this session on the insane assumption that we would enact the plan that took us an hour to formulate and we’re ready to go. We knock on the door, have a small back and forth with this Dwarf and then for no good reason, the Cleric (me) kicks in the door, throws a javelin at the Dwarf and initiates combat with this Dwarf and his 4 well trained friends.

After taking me prisoner, the Dwarf makes a speech to the crowd that formed after hearing the ruckus about how we came to assassinate him and my group are making excuses for me, calling out that this Dwarf is really quite dodgy but not having the proof because somebody didn’t follow the plan.

I pull the only card I have left.

“I challenge you to trial by combat, let the Gods decide who is lying.”

I’m a Grave Domain Cleric, not especially suited to combat and this guy is a seasoned soldier. I think I’m dead, my group think I’m dead, the DM thinks I’m dead.

Our Rogue asks for the duel to start at dawn while I’m guarded by a mix of the group and the Dwarf’s allies, they agree. The Rogue and Druid then set about getting this Dwarf absolutely hammered in the tavern, plying him with drink after drink to hamper his performance but the Dwarf is hardy and handles his booze.

And so, patient reader, we come to the duel, the two parties make their speeches and battle commences, watched by the whole town. By virtue of rolling higher Initiative, I get to go first and open up with Hold Person and… it works. He is frozen in place, toppling over in the snow, paralysed. I then very bravely smash his head in with a mace, over and over, chipping away at his not inconsiderable health until he finally is reduced to zero HP.

I give a rousing speech about the Gods being on my side while sweating profusely and not quite believing what happened.

This whole situation is dealt with expertly by the DM who, as I mentioned, built this session around a heist, not a duel. One idiotic decision by a player derailed the whole thing and yet still we had a great time and this story (among an embarrassing number of similar stories that involve me making… executive decisions) lives on.

To summarise, D&D has real benefits wrapped in a skin of fun and it is entirely worth your time. If you’re still unconvinced then try watching some gameplay or story time videos on YouTube, I recommend Puffin Forest and Dingo Doodles.

If you’re ready to learn but turning up to a session at your local game store is too daunting or there isn’t a game store close then finding a beginner friendly game online is easy.

The way I found my first ever game was Reddit, you can drop into the r/roll20lfg and either find one of the many posts offering to teach D&D or make a post yourself, the community there are friendly, helpful and accepting of all people. However, you decide to go about getting into your first game, taking the leap into D&D and its amazing world will gift you countless hours of fun and a myriad of benefits, you won’t regret it!


[1] Adams, Aubrie S. (2013) “Needs Met Through Role-Playing Games: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of Dungeons & Dragons,” Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research: Vol. 12 , Article 6.



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