I haven't played since my early 20s (late teens?) but D&D was an enormously positive influence on my life and imagination.
Writers reminisce about Dungeons & Dragons (Thanks, Matt!)
Jay Lake, the author of ten novels including his most recent, Green, told me that D&D became a big part of his life as boarding school student.
"At boarding school, if you're good and fast with homework, and deeply socially and athletically inept otherwise, there's not a lot to do. I'd been to seven schools in nine years on three continents when I hit Choate Rosemary Hall," said Lake. "I possessed the kind of poor social skills that are almost hip today, but were a recipe for meat-grinder misery in the 1970s when too-smart, too-isolated kids didn't have ready access to the kind of virtual retreats we have today in gaming, programming and online life. Geek culture at the teen level didn't exist yet, except as a special class of victimhood. Combine that with a raging case of clinical depression, and I was a disaster waiting to happen."
Dungeons & Dragons provided a constructive way to pass the time for Lake and his friends.
"The alternate worlds and wild imagination of D&D gave me and my fellow misfits an outlet, and we had dozens upon dozens of hours per week to spend on it. Where else were we going to go? We lived in our high school. Think about that for a minute. Six or eight ferociously bright kids-Choate is one of the most academically competitive schools in the nation-with nothing to do but make things up to amuse one another, and D&D providing the framework."
Although those years have since passed, Lake still credited the game with providing a foundation he has built upon as a successful writer.
"Those three years playing D&D at boarding school did more to ground me in storytelling, plot construction, and sheer, raw imaginative throughput than any other single activity of my life. Today I'm a successful fantasy and science fiction novelist with ten novels and over two hundred short stories in print or on the way. I might have gotten to this point by a different path, but it would not have been the same journey,"