2 years ago today I entered into a world that I had previously just been a witness to. For years and years, I had watched, listened to, and gifted items for 2 of my kids, Demetri and Soren, to play Dungeons and Dragons (DnD). As someone who has always loved fantasy novels and has a pretty active imaginary world of her own, I loved when DnD sessions took place at our house. I would listen in complete awe at the ability of Soren and Demetri to not only create characters but create whole worlds to delve into as they adventured the hours away with their friends. Wizards, druids, familiars, dwarves, necromancers, rogues, spellcasters, paladins, the list went on in the campaigns that they played. I was fascinated and yet also thought “There is no way I could ever play this. It’s so intricate. I can’t fathom creating dialogue or connecting with the stories so much to play for 3, 4, 6, or 7 hours. Love it for them. But, it’s not for me.” Never say never right?
During the pandemic, my family and I spent a lot of hours online together each week – zooming, playing games, and trying to stay sane. I also began to have LOTS of conversations with Demetri and Soren about DnD as they took their playing online. I became more and more intrigued. Finally, towards the end of 2020, I said okay to trying it. Demetri, as our dungeon master (dm), coordinated an easy-entry campaign that allowed me, Soren, my daughter, Kateri, my sister-in-law, niece, and nephew to bravely step into playing a family adventure. Considering my sister-in-law, April, plus Kateri and I had never played before Demetri was really the brave one. Learning to play online can be quite challenging, but we did it.
I was stunned by how much I fell in love with DnD. My first character, Enya, was a pretty straightforward neutral good druid with a hermit background. The coolest part about her was that she was Dragonborn. There were some super cool things about her character build. I loved learning how to play with her. But I really didn’t know what I was doing and it felt more like reading a character’s play instead of actually playing AS her. Play for me often felt stilted and just hard to figure out. I simply didn’t know enough. We played that campaign for about 10 months before time constraints for all of us made scheduling super hard to do and we stopped playing. All right when it was starting to get good and begin to make sense.
Fast forward 2 years, and I have now played in 3 other campaigns including a Star Wars one with other family members new to DnD. I also have 4 new characters in various stages of development for possible future campaigns. Each character is so different from the others and it’s super fun to play with different ideas. I watch DnD shows. I read DnD books. I have at least 7 full sets of dice and always want more sets. I have the coolest, dragon-skin-looking bag for my dice that I adore. I have hours-long conversations with all of my kids about DnD. My favorite weekend activity is playing DnD. And my current character is actually helping me heal some deep wounds I didn’t even know were there.
Tris (pictured here), my main character right now, is a complicated one. Aligned as chaotic neutral she definitely leans towards the chaotic. Recently banished from her people for a curse she didn’t know was placed upon her as a child, she is in a shaky, chaotic state of trying to understand who she is. Having grown up believing she was a druid and being trained as one, it has come to light that she is instead a witch with a hideous curse. Her wolf pup familiar, Gani, is the only thing she fully trusts and the only thing that truly feels safe. She’s not sure whether to go along with her new companions or go off on her again so that she doesn’t hurt anyone else. She is a swirl of emotion all of the time with a heart that believes in doing good for others but also a heart full of a lot of anger over how she has been betrayed.
Playing her feels like playing with my inner child who remembers being bullied as a kid; who remembers having imaginary friends who were wolves and horses, not humans; who remembers no understanding of how to fit in; who remembers thinking she was part of a group only to be pushed out without explanation. In a recent private conversation with another character, Madame Zandra, who she just learned is also a witch, Tris experienced profound love and understanding. The scene was more powerful for me than I could have imagined a scene could be. I cried in character and out of character, as healing acceptance was given to Tris. The fact that my kid, Demetri, as the DM playing the character of Madame Zandra, was the one who played out the healing love given to Tris left me with such deep pride for who Demetri is as a person and as a talented DM.
As I play Tris I am getting to fully dive into my imaginative side which I adore. All of the DnD I have watched with my kids has helped me understand how to fully enter into BEING my character while I play. It’s like playful, healing, persona work and I am LOVING IT!
As much as I love what DnD has become for me and for the healing I am allowing myself to move through in a playful, creative way, what I love the absolute most is what it has become for my kids and me as a family. We have something to do now together that we all not only enjoy but that we absolutely love. Do you know how incredibly awesome it is to have something like this with adult children? To have something that isn’t just a game to play but is really a passion for each and every one of us? DnD has given us a common language to share, even when there are other areas of our lives and their growing up that have pulled us in different directions. We get to revel in the creativity of each other. We get to share ideas, write stories together, and have a great time every single time we play. DnD truly is the BEST gift the pandemic gave to me and my kids.
So, my invitation to everyone out there is this. Be willing to be surprised by something new! That very thing that maybe doesn’t make sense right now, might just bring you more joy and connection than you ever could have imagined. It might lead to your personal healing and to healing relationships in a profound way. It can be easy to drift away from our kids as they grow. I am grateful that DnD has given me the joyful opportunity to grow closer to my kids in THEIR world. One of the BEST things I’ve ever done as a parent and as a person committed to her own growth was saying “Okay, I will try it.” I honestly can’t imagine my life without DnD. One of the biggest surprises of my life!