What Being a Dork Can Teach Us About Writing

I’m going to put this out there now: I play Dungeons and Dragons. And I love it.



A lot of people dismiss this game as being the epicenter of nerdom. But not only is this game a ton of fun, in addition to being a great game for actors, writers, storytellers, fantasy-lovers, and generally creative people, it actually has a lot to offer in terms of life lessons. That’s right, D&D teaches us about life. And life includes knowing how to write.

I guess you knew that this would have to connect to the Writing Center somehow. But I can honestly say that playing D&D has taught me some important things about being a writer. Not just a fiction writer, either. D&D has taught me some great things about writing essays.


For those of you unfamiliar with the game, D&D (also referred to as DnD) is known as an RPG, or role-playing game. Its all about creating a role-play character that moves around the world, makes decisions, fights monsters, and (hopefully) triumphs in the end. For a brief tutorial, we refer to the British TV show, The IT Crowd:

All silliness aside, as Moss begins to explain, a large portion of the game is based on chance, which is where the infamous dice sets come into play. However, the ultimate success or failure of the characters is based primarily on making logical and well-thought-out decisions. And this is where writing comes in.

When fighting a monster in D&D, we could charge in blindly and attack with the first weapon we get our hands on. Similarly, when writing an essay, we could try to write it the night before it’s due, BSing our way through the topic and randomly inserting sources as we go. But is that going to give us the best sucess rate?

Sure, we might get lucky, and accidentally smash the monster to bits, or turn out a work of sheer brilliance. Or, in a more likely case, we might crash and burn. Or at least drive ourselves crazy in the process.

Just like when we strategize your next move in D&D, we need to think strategically about our approach to the paper.

Strategy- it rocks! Image from http://www.outsourcing-center.com

Consider what tools you have at your disposal: how much time do we have to write it? What argument will be the most effective? What kind of sources can we and should we use to support our arguments? What guidelines has the professor set up to help us? Ultimately, going in with a game plan, or at least a general strategy, will leave you with a better final result.

What else does D&D teach us? It teaches us to think creatively, in order to get outside the box and find a different, more effective way to approach a challenging situation.

In D&D, players are faced with situations that, at first, might be mysterious and potentially dangerous, or even ones that that they feel wholly unprepared for. Essay assignments can put us in the same place; we are left feeling totally at a loss, with no clear direction to go in.

This is where we need to think creatively. In D&D, a seemingly useless object (like a bar of soap, or a hand mirror) might be just what the player needs to overcome the difficult situation; they need only step back and survey their resources to find it. Similarly, when we feel totally stuck on a paper, all we might need to do is take a step back and revisit what we have to work with. What options does the prompt give us? What new ideas and inspiration can we glean from our research sources? What kind of argument could we make that would be completely different from anything we might have already encountered (maybe even something we disagree with)? When we endeavor to consider new possibilities, we can help ourselves out of the most difficult situations.

Finally, D&D teaches us that we are not alone. When the players encounter a hoard of goblins that only want to mount the character’s head on a pike, the player knows that he or she has other players who will help them keep their heads on their shoulders (figuratively and literally!).

And that’s where I come in. Along with the other writing tutors, I am here to help you out of tight situations. We will help you with everything from brainstorming a plan of attack to cleaning up the smears of goblin blood after the battle. No matter where you are in your paper, no matter how hard that paper might seem, we’ve got your back. And with us there, you WILL succeed.

So next time someone invites you to join them for a rousing session of D&D, don’t just dismiss the invitation as a “dorks only” zone; the things you can learn might just get you an A.

–Sammi, peer tutor