Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dungeon Therapy

Sometimes it really bothers me when people work out their real life problems in my D and D games. The best example is when we got tpk’d in my wife’s last D and D game going after the evil step grandparents who had kidnapped the young prince (Hint my wife and my parents do not get along). It was not so much my wife working out her angst in the game that bothered me. She is actually a writer and used the game to test ideas for her fiction. So, I knew she had an agenda with the game and for the most part it was awesome, because her stories are awesome. I actually kind of enjoyed having a place in her stories.

No what really bothered me was when I saw myself as the ineffectual prince who couldn’t stand up to his evil parents even to save his young son. I really didn’t like what that said about how my wife felt about me right then. I think the only worse time was when one of her characters who was married to one of mine, ran off with one of my roommate’s characters. When that happened I don’t think I talked to her for a week.

Tell me about your character background
On the other hand playing D and D can be quite cathartic.  Many of the characters I have played have let me work out some issues I was having in real life that I couldn’t work out myself. I think this is true for most of us. What is an insurmountable problem for Joe Gamer is just a speed bump for Malvan the Dark. At least it seems that way to me. Now if I could figure out why angry characters are so appealing to me I might have a whole book instead of just a blog post.

The question is when is it appropriate to work out your problems and when does it distract from the game. I have had some excellent encounters both as a player and a DM where I have put something of myself into the game. In fact I think some of my best encounters have had some skin in the game as it were. I think you have to put something of yourself into every encounter if you want to reach your players, or get the most out of your time playing.

The key thing to remember is that D and D is a social activity. It’s not a therapy session where you are paying to have someone help you with your problems. It is certainly acceptable, and even laudable to work out problems through the game as long as you aren’t ruining the fun for anyone else at the table. In most cases you are playing with friends or at least friendly acquaintances. As long as it isn’t egregious your friends should understand a little bit of dungeon therapy. As I said earlier it can even make the game better in small doses.

I have come pretty far from where I intended with this article. What got me started writing this was a call from my grandmother asking if I was ok. I’ll admit I have been having a bit of a hard time. If you read this you know that I have declared 2011 the Year of Suck. I think a lot of people are glad to be rid of it. However, I have no intention of drinking myself to death and so I was very surprised that she was so worried. I gathered she had seen my post on Facebook from my last blog post and got very worried. She is also one of those people who think Dungeons and Dragons is of the devil and caused people to commit suicide.

Ha ha ha you aren't a wizard now are you?
All of which reminded me of an adventure idea I had a while ago and never did anything with. The idea was to have a Call of Cthuhlu Dungeons and Dragons crossover where they call of Cthulhu charaters are roleplayers who play the dungeons and dragons characters. It’s all a bit meta to be honest. I was going to have something excape from the D and D world to wreck havoc with the call of Cthulhu world. Something that was a minor threat to an Epic level D and D character would be devastating to someone in Call of Cthulhu. The connection of course, beyond the obvious is that I was going to have a side plot where one of the character’s family sues for custody of his kids because he appears to be crazy and “worships Demons.” At the end though, it turns out the family matriarch, in this case filling in for my grandmother, is actually a demon in disguise.

Some monsters are worse than Raptors
I never did anything with it because I think it might have gone too far into dungeon therapy and not been fun for the person who I was torturing. I still like the concept though of peeling back the fourth wall and letting some of the monsters underneath roam free. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always “Yes and…?”


  1. Ok, in my defense, the elf was hot. And he wasn't the roommate, he was the leech who lived on our couch. The one I threw out because he was trying to get me to punch him. And I wanted to. In the face.

    Also, it was an awesome story. And the tpk was awesome, too. And there's a reason I'm not a DM anymore.

  2. I believe I stipulated that your stories were awesome, including (or especially) Tone Deaf. I have to say I'm a little glad you didn't run me through that one. It was hard enough reading it.