The Power of Intentional Interactions
Using Dungeons & Dragons as tool to help tweens & teens grow is incredibly empowering as the game is built in a way that allows for a deep amount of personal growth and reflection. When I see a child jump into game as their new character, I watch them transform–it takes a little encouragement sometimes–but as they learn more about the game, I find them asking what their character would do in a situation and I know they’re heading in the right direction. Being able to step into someone else’s mind develops empathy and allows players to work with their personal struggles at a distance.
As a powerful example of this, in my class last week, our Monk, whose main weapons were his hands, took some high damage as he continued to punch a stone giant. Despite the pain his character was feeling, he was able to impose some disadvantages onto the giant while helping his fellow adventurers–things like preventing the giant from being able to react (attack) when the adventurers moved out of his attack range. This was huge as some of the adventurers had taken quite a beating and were close to falling unconscious. After the Monk imposed this disadvantage, several characters escaped the giant’s reach towards safety. Instead of being grateful, though, the Monk’s, friends were giving him a hard time for purposefully taking damage. This hurt both the Monk and his player who came to me the next day to talk about it.
We talked about what the player, would like to see, as well as what Rosu, the Monk, would want to see. We spent our check-in time talking about the player’s and Rosu’s goals and the group agreed their comments were not kind. They apologized, but I could see there was still a struggle for both the player and the character.
The next day, I set up an interaction for Rosu–to give the player some distance from the struggle and let Rosu take up the challenge. As the group rested, Rosu woke up to find an Elven woman reaching out to him. His friends and the camp was completely gone. The sickness of the forest they were investigating had cleared up. She approached Rosu and told him that his friends left him and solved the problem without him while he slept. They abandoned him, as they didn’t need him anymore. She promised him a friendship free of mistakes where he could forget about them.
To my surprise, (but a delight, as it was just what we all needed at the table to push our learning further), Rosu took the Elven lady’s hands and followed her. Moments later, he found himself enslaved to her and her god. The mirage dropped and the forest was still sick. The rest of the party then woke up and couldn’t find Rosu. I’ve never seen a group hustle harder than they did to find him. They battle creatures, got lost in a maze, and kept up hope to find him. Eventually, as they began a fight with a 5-headed monster, their battle cries helped Rosu break free from the curse he was under and they fought a hydra together. The characters all hugged Rosu, terrified of almost losing him. The players all smiled at each other and shared happiness at solving a mystery. A deeper understanding of kindness and the impact words can have on other people registered in all of them.
Not only did the player get to work through the feeling of betrayal as Rosu, the rest of the table had a chance as their characters to see the consequences of their words and actions. Their panic was genuine and the sense of urgency that they instilled in their characters showed just how much they cared for both Rosu and his player.
On our final check in of camp, I asked them to share one positive thing they learned about themselves. The player said that he learned that friends sometimes make mistakes, but it’s better to have those friends than empty promises of perfection. Each child talked about how he/she learned they could make friends and how valuable that friendship is to them.
As they battled the final enemy–a green dragon–they encouraged each other, had each other’s backs, and listened to each other as they, eventually, watched it fall from the sky.
Roll Play Lead is all about creating opportunities for growth within a fun game and at a safe distance. It is always a joy to watch the children become friendly with one another, but seeing them realize the importance of their friendship brings it to a different level. Whether they are battling the monster that appear in the game or those in their minds, Roll Play Lead is here to provide support to tweens and teens as they become better versions of themselves.