Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

Geek Week: Can D&D Make You a More Confident Person?

Welcome to the first installment of Geek Week here on my blog. I have decided to make a slight deviation from our regularly scheduled blog for something a bit different, maybe a bit more light-hearted than some of my previous posts. Some of the things featured this week are near and dear to my geeky heart.

Our first topic of geekdom is Dungeons & Dragons, or tabletop gaming in general. If you play Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, White Wolf, Star Wars, Shadowrun, anything D20, homebrews, or anything else, please feel welcome here. D&D is just one of the earliest and probably best well-known pen and paper role-playing games (RPG).

What do I like about role-playing games?

  • Collaborative Storytelling – Is anyone surprised?  The Game Master (GM) starts the adventure and guides it down the path, but the Players make decisions that can sometimes turn the story on its ear.
  • Dice – Or sometimes the story is shaped not by the people at all, but rather by the roll of the dice!  Ooo, randomness, suspense, and excitement!
  • Hanging out with My Friends – Especially when they bring snacks with them.
  • Having an Alter Ego – Characters you play can either be an extension of your self, an interpretation of yourself, or nothing like yourself.  My cloned, genius, force-sensitive pilot was exactly like me.  /grins

Can tabletop games contribute to a person’s success?

Sure, there are lots of skill you can develop through RPGs.  Telling a story and telling it well is an undervalued skill.  People who are entertaining can often gloss over weak points in that weekly management meeting and can draw some of the best talent to their team.  Selling your idea to others through improved communication skills.  When you have to sell the group on why they should agree to do your side-quest first, you know how important selling to others can be.  Just remind them of all the experience and loot they’ll get too.  Becoming more organized is obvious for GMs, as well as herding cats, er, I mean managing people.  Players are a diverse group, and represent all personalities under the sun.  Unlike recruiting for a company, you can’t always choose your gaming friends. (I can’t explain the phenomenon, but sometimes that one friend who is great to hang with ends up in the group and things just get weird.  You know what I mean.)  So reaching consensus to open the dungeon door can sometimes be a challenge.

What about if you are over 25, female, and not in a “cool” industry?

I work in a very traditional industry.  International logistics is not what the cool kids are talking about in school (although, if you want to have a job when you graduate, it is a good place to be).  When I am in situations with non-geeks and they ask me what I do, I talk about food that I cook and my daughter.  I don’t dare tell them that I play games – board games, video games, tabletop games, card games, computer games.  Oh, lions and tigers and bears, oh my, I don’t.  I’ve been mentioning the writing thing in select circles, but that’s a topic for another day.  If you are under 25 or a guy, I feel like you get more leeway with the “gamer” rep, but they’d look at me like I’d sprouted displacer beast tentacles.

Seriously, I feel like I’m getting outed every time I explain to someone new to ATL what Dragon*Con is.  I think tabletop games bring out some of the best qualities in people, and you can have experiences unrivaled by any other type of game.  There is storytelling, but there are also surprises along the way, and watching your characters and the world grow is amazing.  When a group talks about a long-running game, they talk about it like that have been through a challenge together.  They are a better team and are linked by their commonly shared experiences.  I want to tell people how fun it is, and that they should try it, but it doesn’t match my business-suit and patent-leather pumps persona, so I discuss something more palatable. /sigh

For gamers, have RPGs made you more confident and contributed to your success?

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this.  Do these kinds of games help us practice skills that have “real world,” or at least workplace, application?  Or are we just wasting our time like our parents told us, and should have watched TV instead?

16 comments on “Geek Week: Can D&D Make You a More Confident Person?

  1. Kira Lyn Blue
    April 8, 2013

    I think it’s a shame that there’s such a stigma to pen and paper gaming. I was briefly part of a Shadowrun game a few years back and was amazed at how involved the whole process is. Think about developing the character you intend to play: you have to research the rules, weigh the pros and cons of picking a certain class and decide where to place your trait/ability points based on what you know about your own play style and the rules of the game. This is absorbing information and applying it, something professionals do on a daily basis. It’s decision making and strategizing. And that’s all before you get to actually playing.

    You have to constantly evaluate the given scenario and decide what move you’re going to make. You have to work with your team mates. You have to use your imagination. I can’t see how any of that is a waste of time just because it also happens to be fun.

    The gaming group I played with was all coworkers and we played after work in one of the large meeting rooms. We were fortunate to work for a company who saw the value in encouraging the games :)

    • tracycembor
      April 8, 2013

      Shoot, how did I forget Shadowrun? That’s a great RPG; I was totally in love with that world when the second edition came out.

      Stragetizing is a big part of gaming, I agree. How do you want to interact with the party? What skills do you want to have? What weaknesses will you need to overcome? You need to go into it with a plan.

      Your company sounds awesome. If you don’t mind me asking, how many girls were in your gaming group? I have almost always been the only girl in mine, with the exception of one super-awesome campaign.

      • Kira Lyn Blue
        April 8, 2013

        It was all girls! Nope, I’m a liar. It was just me. I quickly gave up trying to talk any other girls into joining. The looks… the looks haunt me!

  2. foreveralexa
    April 8, 2013

    It sounds like you are pretty decided about those questions you ask! Of course interactive games are healthier for a person’s mind than watching television. I sort of understand what you mean about holding back the geek in select company, but only because it tends to bring up a lot of questions and biases. Once someone has gotten to know me (especially in a work environment), I’ll tell them anything they’d like to know, because I like who I am!

    • tracycembor
      April 10, 2013

      I wish I had your confidence, but I am worried about shocking people who already think of me in a certain light. And since I work in such an international office, it isn’t always worth trying to explain.

  3. mpskydog
    April 9, 2013

    I think this definitely has merit. No, not all gamers are going to build a good subset of skills or ‘open up’ to the world the same. But I think a lot of my natural people skills, ability to improvise and respond quickly to my surroundings, and just general openness to crazy ideas sprouted from my D&D days. My best friend got us into it, and I took a lot of chances I might not have otherwise, like going camping out of state for a 4 day gaming convention! (GenCon)

    I certainly didn’t stay cloistered in my room, with the curtains drawn against the light and become antisocial, that’s for sure.

    • tracycembor
      April 10, 2013

      It’s true that RPGs won’t turn introverts into extroverts, but I think there is still value in tabletop gaming. Some days it seems like all I use are my problem solving skills and ability to improvise. I also think it help promotes skills of working in teams.

      I’ve never been to GenCon, but I’m sure it’s a huge blast.

  4. Michael Allan Leonard
    April 10, 2013

    Excellent post!

    If you’re a writer, then a pen-and-paper RPG is a fantastic bootcamp to improve your skills.

    One thing that has helped me immensely in engaging in different RPGs (I’m a comics guy so TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes was a big deal when I was growing up — I still use some of the reference materials concerning superhuman abilities to this day) was that the idea of ‘balance’ — in other words, your fictional world, if it involves beings with fantastic abilities of some sort, has to have a set of rules you need to establish and adhere to in order to be fair to the reader. Your characters have to have clearly defined limits to their abilities / powers and they can’t just wax and wane because the plot suddenly calls for the hero to punch through a vault door, for example, or you need him or her to struggle lifting a car when two scenes earlier they tossed a tank around like it was a toy. Suspension of disbelief has to be carefully cultivated, and thinking of it in terms of an RPG ruleset is a huge benefit.

    I fall back on RPG ‘training’ all the time when creating characters or world-building, and once you’ve spent time telling a story where the characters sometimes are trying their best to not play along, that nimble thinking and ability to go, okay, fall back to Plan B or C helps get you past just about any impasse or roadblock the plot may throw your way . . .

    • tracycembor
      April 10, 2013

      Yes, that is exactly how I think about my characters. :D

      Oh, he’s good in this, so he needs to take this penalty. She’s an expert in this field, ooo, mega penalty! It also makes the writing more fun because you can’t go with the obvious solution to a problem. Clearly defining strengths and weaknesses helps me develop an ending to the story that showcases some character growth and overcoming some part of the penalty.

      Great points, thanks!

  5. Dirk Porsche
    April 10, 2013

    I grew up in a very small town, and their were not so many geeks around, so I never had the opportunity to play “offline” D&D when I was young. Now I’m old (somewhat) and busy with the live. But if I might stumble over a game I would be glad to participate.

    I’m in the IT department of a very traditional company. The outpost of geekery in the realm of hard numbers, if you will. I can share most of the geekish stuff with my colleagues, but even here are some limitations, I seem to be the only anime/manga fan around.

    And I can understand your hesitation to talk about the geekish things at your workplace. I do it likewise with the anime stuff. Why should I tell them, they are not interested, anyway.

    • tracycembor
      April 10, 2013

      Slightly off-topic questions: If you could play tabletop RPGs online, would you? Would you be willing to play with strangers (pick up group style) or only with friends? Would you consider playing games from the comfort of your sofa (Kinect style) and not just in front of the computer?

      Ooo, that’s tough being a geek different from the other geeks. I find that happens to me sometimes too when I’m the only girl geek with a bunch of guy geeks. Our tastes and preferences aren’t always in line. Still, I know who the real cool cats are. ;)

      • Dirk Porsche
        April 10, 2013

        Actually I played every D&D computer game I came across and read many books from the realms, so yes, I would do it. Just because it’s D&D, I love that universe. I would also play with strangers and pick up the group style. But well, it depends … I unfortunately haven’t that much time … and I like playing a monk … but I guess things would sort out.

        Sofa or Computer? Well I’m fine with both.

        I played online games before, and it’s just a matter of time, consistent behavior, kindness and integrity to become known (and maybe friends) with each other.

  6. Przemek Kucia
    April 10, 2013

    I play D&D now (once a week) and we’re starting a Pathfinder campaign soon. In the past I played d6 Star Wars which was the most fun around the table I ever had (competition includes obvious second and third bests ;)) – near the end we needed buckets for our d-sixes and developed pretty neat math skills xD

    The most valuable skill/treat for me is developed intuition for rules hacking, mathematical optimization and translating numbers of the sheet on a coherent background/story :)

    To little bit flip the theme – consider how much of a skill it would be to successfully introduce notgeeky people to gaming/geek culture, so one could be safe from being automatically scrutinized as a weirdo/nerd/geek. :D

    • tracycembor
      April 10, 2013

      Ooo, terribly jealous. Part of my D&D gaming group moved away from ATL, so my druid is gathering dust in her folder. Terribly tragic. She’ll go howl at the moon to console herself now. :P

      d6 Star Wars is the longest running campaign I have participated in. We started playing in mall foodcourts on Thursday nights when I was in high school. This year we started our fifth campaign, and our characters are five years older than the last campaign. The wild die concept has really made a difference in some sessions, and almost gotten some characters killed in surprising ways. Be sure the wookie doesn’t critically fumble his thermal detonator throw when you are standing in the same room with him. Also, using spaceship weapons on people when the ship is still docked is heavily frowned upon by the GM.

      There is a disturbance in the Force. I detect a min-maxer in our midst, or as you call it, mathmatical optimization. ;) That’s okay, only diplomacy missions for you until you learn your lesson.

      As for bringing notgeeks into the geekverse… You date a normal girl and successfully teach her to play video games, then we’ll talk. It is harder than you think. I’ve watched my friends try; it isn’t a pretty sight.

  7. rehanmemon1986
    April 11, 2013

    I’ve never played. Was never available in my country.How exactly do you say it helps boost confidence?

  8. Pingback: Geek Week: Is Nostalgia the Reason Adventure Time Is Awesome? | tracycembor

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This entry was posted on April 8, 2013 by in Geek Week and tagged , , , , , , , , .

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

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About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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