How playing a weekly game can form and strengthen.

Even if you and your friends haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) before, you probably have some vague idea of what it is.
(Editor’s note: You have watched Stranger Things, haven’t you?)

The core of Dungeons and Dragons is this: you create a character and make an adventuring party with the other player’s characters. The Dungeon Master or DM leads you through the game, putting monsters or villains in your way, rewarding your character with cool magic items, and creating a world where your characters can do weird and awesome things and be heroes if they want to.

Think of it as a collaborative storytelling game!

As long as the game lasts, everyone is living inside a sort of friendship bubble and working together to tell a fantasy story within the confines of the narrative that the DM has created. And yeah, sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) the game is way weirder and filled with more shenanigans than a typical high fantasy story, but that’s because the purpose of the game is to have fun, and tell your own kind of story!

Right now, I play in three campaigns where we try to meet and play weekly. It’s a great way to see my friends, and stay invested in their lives, but I don’t always know everyone I play with at the start.

In one of the games I play I knew everyone going in, but in the other two, most of the people I met for the first time at the first session. Luckily, D&D is kind of the world's most effective team-building exercise.

You form bonds with other characters as you adventure through dangerous places.

Losses and wins are celebrated, stories are swapped on the road, and you learn about each others’ often tumultuous pasts.

You have your friends' backs, and they're there to help you achieve your goals. It’s actually really beautiful to watch these relationships develop over the course of a game.

And even though all of us are playing characters who are not ourselves during these epic highs and lows of high fantasy, it’s easy to see the real people shining through.

And yeah your character might be a half-demon who can do magic through the power of song and sarcasm, and you might be a theatre kid who- wait, no, yeah, same thing. Your characters essentially hold parts of you in them, and often it’s the parts you wish you projected more.

So, getting to watch your friends be who they wish they could be in the real world is actually really endearing, because don’t we all want to be better people?

Sure, you’re going to become closer with some of the people you play with than with others, because that’s just how friendships work. And It’s through this absolutely weird game that you get to see your friends how they want to be seen. You understand that their characters would do whatever it takes to see you succeed, and you can’t help but think the real person would do the same.

I want to be clear that the game I’m talking about here is not always universal. There are some groups that are not for you, because sometimes people are assholes and decide to be gross and use this method of storytelling to live out some power trip and take over the game. I want you to know that It’s okay to leave games like that, and hold out for one where everyone wants to play the game in a way that is safe and fun for all parties.

If you’re reading this, and have had a terrible experience with other players, I am so sorry.

No one deserves that, and I hope those few don’t turn you away from the game forever.

The game I am talking about doesn’t have to be this mythical thing (yeah yeah yeah, we fight dragons but that’s not what I mean). You don’t have to find your “forever people” to play with, and you don’t have to end the game with newfound lifelong friendships. You can simply go and play with a group of people who love the game, and love friendship, and want to tell an amazing story that everyone gets a part in.

That’s what I love.

The game tables where everyone leaves feeling respected, and happy knowing that they got to be part of something incredible. A story that only those at the table will know and hold on to, but a great story nonetheless. Those are the kind of games I’m talking about.

D&D is all about telling an amazing story with friends. Sharing an adventure. And being in a community with people who want to have fun playing a game where they can be whoever they want.

Only your small group will ever understand the impact of the game you played.
But that’s why it’s hard to not make friends out of people like that.

And that’s why this game is something truly special.

Mara Franzen