Writers describe the positive impact of D&D on their lives

Matt sez, "With that rocks-for-brains reporter in Boston trying to link campus shooter Amy Bishop's crimes to Dungeons & Dragons, I thought I'd take an opportunity to look at the good D&D has done for several writers I know. This is that article. By the way, I've been a D&D player for almost thirty years now, and have been a happier, more productive person for it."

I haven't played since my early 20s (late teens?) but D&D was an enormously positive influence on my life and imagination.

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,"

Writers reminisce about Dungeons & Dragons (Thanks, Matt!)


  1. The Guy Who Taught Me D&D murdered someone random, back about 1990, his defense was insanity and it was all part of a hitman type roll playing game he made (he tried to get our group into it but it didn’t sound like fun).

    But even if that was true it was because he was FN nuts, not because of the game.

  2. The guy who taught us D&D murdered someone at random back about 1990, his defense was it was all part of an assassination roll playing game he made (he tried to get out group to play it a couple of years back).

    But it happened because he was crazy, not because of the game.

    The game was a great creative/humorous outlet in our lives for years.

  3. Hmm…none of my fellow gamers harbored murderous intent, and the guy who taught me D&D—was my dad. Well, we taught it to each other, taking turns figuring out those original arcane pamphlets, making it up as we went along…

    For me, D&D helped me make lifelong friends, kept me from going nuts during college, and taught me a number of valuable lessons, such as: “Don’t assume everyone else is wiser than you” (I really should have spoken up when I suspected that trap…oh, well), “Be prepared” (50 feet of rope and iron rations), and “Keep your hand on your purse” (thieves will be thieves).

  4. I’ve found the people that play D&D are very creative or completely nutz. Only a few are both. The creatives get something more from playing than a ego rub.

  5. I play D&D and I have a massive social network of fellow players. Most of the sports folk at work don’t have the connections I do.

  6. Wasn’t there like a similar clip with Vin Diesel sam years ago? should be on the youtubes somewhere.

  7. Wow, RPGs in general taught me a lot. Both GM-ing and playing. Creative and joint storytelling, pacing, plotting, character development… And wow, as much as my parents hate to hear it, I learned an awful lot of practical life skills. How to problem solve, theoretical thinking, sharing and teamwork. As an extra-bonus I feel more prepared for when the zombie apocalypse hits ^^

  8. Although I never had the chance to play D&D until my college years–in an ironic twist of fate that only fellow geeks could appreciate, when D&D fever hit my school in 1981, it was the pastime of the popular crowd. I was, as it were, not cool enough to play D&D–in my case the connection between D&D and my present career is rather more starkly drawn.

    I literally owe my career as a freelance editor and aspiring novelist to D&D.

    In 2005, a friend somehow conned me into taking part in National Novel Writing Month. I figured I’d write a spy novel, because I was in kind of a Tom Clancy thriller groove at the time. I started plotting one out, but a week to go before NaNoWriMo started, I decided I hated it and it sucked and I wasn’t going to have any fun writing it at all. So, more out of desperation than anything else, I turned to D&D.

    I had also just finished, about a year before, DMing (and yes, it’s DUNGEON Master, not that generic, sissified GAME Master title, thankyouverymuch) a lengthy campaign with some friends of mine. We’d had a great time, and being a detail-obsessive DM, I had copious notes for everything that had happened. I’d always thought it would be fun to write up the campaign as a novel, just to give to my friends, and with nothing else in my pocket for NaNoWriMo, that’s what I did.

    The novel turned out (for the better) almost nothing like the game, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to write and turned out enormously better than I had any right to expect.

    That experience taught me that writing novels was way more fun than writing software documentation, so four years and four more NaNoWriMo novels under my belt I find myself with a new career.

    It’s not as profitable as the old one (yet!), but it’s so much more satisfying that my life is the better for it. And I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for D&D.

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