Why I Wish I Had Played D&D as a Kid

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Photo: Michael Harrison Photo: Michael Harrison

Photo: Michael Harrison

There are many reasons that I wish I had played Dungeons and Dragons, or any RPG for that matter, when I was younger. Sure, it wouldn’t have garnered me much in the way of cool points, but I’d ostensibly revoked mine at the door by dressing like a hippie and burying my face in books.

Now that I’m involved in a few RPG projects, the most steady of which is our 4th Edition group (level nine Shifter Paladin, thankyouverymuch), I can see one major reason that grown-up me thinks D&D would have rocked. And it might not be the reason you think.

Sure, there’s narrative and story; there’s strategy and planning; there’s social and group dynamics. But the biggest reason I wish I had played D&D when I was a kid?

Simple math, my friends. Simple math.

I hated math growing up, mostly because it was the one subject I had to really, really work hard at. But maybe it was more than that. I recall in high school, a perplexed pre-calc teacher looking at me and saying, “You really don’t get this, do you?” during our extra tutoring session. Not exactly a confidence booster.

But I hated math from the beginning. And when I asked the age-old question about it (“When will I use it?”), I got the standard answers: careers in science and technology, checkbook balancing, blah blah blah. But I wanted to write about wizards and swords!

See where I’m going with this? If a teacher, a parent, a student, someone had said, “Actually, simple math is essential to playing a game where you can pretend to be a wizard with a sword,” I would have gone bonkers. I would have played the hell out of it. And I’d have gotten really good at simple math which, believe it or not, I never did. I relied on fingers through high school, and my calculator. And if you stink at simple math, you will inevitably stink through every subsequent level of mathematics thereafter.

Suffice it to say, after playing D&D weekly for over a year, my math skills are getting much better. As a defender, I take most of the damage in the group, and if I’m sitting there deducting hit points rather than actually rolling the dice, people are going to talk. I’m the only girl in the group; I’ve got to maintain my cred.

Unfortunately I was part of the generation affected by the awful smear campaigns against D&D in the 80s, and there was likely still an undercurrent of the occult, or whatever ridiculous assertions they were making that week, against the game. So chances are, no one was going to make that suggestion.

Now? Well, our kid just got his first set of dice, and he’s already using them to learn math. You better bet he’s going to rock that simple math when he gets older.

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