Tuesday, 30 July 2013

What I have learned about myself by playing D&D

Dungeons and Dragons has one of the most rewarding "you get out what you put in" ratios of

Dallas Kasaboski
anything I've ever experienced. It can be an intense battlefield, or a quiet mystery, and a game can take place in 1 town, or an entire world. The things your characters experience not only level them up, but also level up the players. Often, while you're exploring the deep dark caves, or deciding what to do next, you're exploring yourself. Here's what I have learned/emphasized about myself since playing.

How I would act in certain situations
D&D is a role-playing game wherein you act the part of a character you create. Often, you must decide how to react in the face of situations which usually go beyond what most of us consider reality. As a player, you are constantly confronted with decisions and while your character may be very different from you and is in fact not you, these choices resonate both with player and character alike. When my character decides if he should kill that tyrant, steal that loot, or save that town, my inner monologue considers what I would do in that situation. Regardless of heroics or villainy, the choices my characters face interact with my own personal moral code. Fantasy is a great way to expand upon reality and while I'm not likely to encounter such extravagant circumstances, having thought about them prepares me and has made me reconsider what I thought I knew about myself.

Appreciation of my senses 
I have always been aware of my senses, but nothing makes you appreciate something as suddenly not having it. In one campaign, my character was struck blind by an axe swing. While 4th edition D&D can go a little overboard in making a character diehard, this was an incurable blindness. I spent a lot of time in and out of game thinking about my other senses. I paid attention to the smells and sounds around me and became more acutely aware of taste and touch. Thinking about how my character would get around and function gave me an insight (see what I did there? See what I did there?) into the life of a blind person. I'm not saying I know what it feels like, exactly, but I've studied it, imagined it, and even tried it to a minute extent. Now, I'm aware of smell and sound as quickly and nigh-accurately as sight. I can get a decent idea of my environment without seeing it and have trusted to navigating blindly. It has made me mind my surroundings (thanks Liam Neeson) and know when something's amiss. I can now track smells and sounds with pinpoint accuracy and getting around is a lot easier.

A side effect of this is that it helped improve my mental map. Forced to demand descriptions from other players and ask for details of non-visual senses from the DM, I became quite good at mental map generation. I can now navigate a room easily after 1 look and don't need light to get around, provided it's not a busy, or changing, area.

Whether it be getting around in the dark, down a glare-filled street, or finding a store or library by its smell, playing blind has taught me to appreciate and use all of my senses.

How I feel about gods
In Dungeons and Dragons, the gods are legendary, as part of the world and its history as anything else, and their existence is often confirmed by their actions. The gods intervene, give power, take sides, and so belief in their existence isn't as important as it is in our world. I like to think of them as a lens or filter, as they offer a unique way of seeing and acting in the world. A player who denies the existence of the gods would be thought stupid or insane and so, non-belief comes in the form of not trusting the gods for help.

So where does that leave me? Well, the first thing I noticed was that I was carrying my agnostic/atheistic perspective into my characters without realizing it. I played a Runepriest who didn't know which god his powers came from, a fighter/paladin who believed his god only helped those who helped themselves, and recently, a paladin who demanded verification, direction, and even an audience from his god.

I wanted to do something different with Kalgar, my Kord-worshipping paladin. (Whose adventures can be followed here) I wanted him to have faith, to believe, and to have his devotion be as clear and absolute as possible. I wanted to explore this side of myself and this side of spirituality. I had to take a step back from my own beliefs and think more about the gods and my character.

And what have I learned? Kalgar is a divine warrior with a strict moral code who is unflinching in the face of danger or religious hardship. I have come to realize that I too live by a strict moral code and that I have more in common with the faithful than I first suspected. I have learned that faith has its rewards and that any belief must be checked, challenged, and allowed to change.

And that's it for now! We here at D4sign love D&D for all that it has to offer. Whether it be coming up with cool character concepts, fighting combats, or exploring a dark corner of ourselves, Dungeons and Dragons has much to offer and I hope to continue growing, learning, and playing in the future!

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