Even if you've never actually played or seen anyone play Dungeons and Dragons, you probably have seen the fantasy roleplay game parodied on TV. Mainstream media often portrays D&D players as nerdy boys or sad, unfulfilled adults living in their moms' basements. We're going to get a few things straight and educate you about what D&D is REALLY like. Let's take a look at what you should and shouldn't say to a D&D player in college.
1. Shouldn't: "What are you escaping from?"
It's a common stereotype that people only play D&D as a form of escapism from real life. Doesn't it make sense to imagine yourself as a strong, sword-wielding hero if you're actually a sad, lonely, unaccomplished man? This is rarely the reality of D&D players, who in my experience are normal college students who discovered a particularly fun game to play. In fact, most players I've met either design their characters after themselves or add in extra flaws to make the character more interesting and compelling. D&D is no more a form of escapism from an unfulfilled life than TV, videogames or reading. But is is extremely insulting to ask what D&D players are escaping from because you're implying not only that there is something seriously wrong with their lives, but also that they do not have the maturity to tackle their problems head-on.
2. Should: "Who's your character?"
This is a very polite and friendly question. Even if you know nothing about Dungeons and Dragons, you probably know that the players create characters that they roleplay throughout the game. The player you're talking to likely spent a lot of time and effort making their character useful, funny and memorable, so they'll be happy to discuss it with you. And, in the process, you'll likely learn more about the game.
3. Shouldn't: "Don't you hate being the only girl in a room of single guys?"
Actually, my party is exactly half girl, half boy and all of the boys have either had girlfriends recently or currently have girlfriends. So no, I can't hate being the only girl in a room of single guys because I am not, and therefore cannot hate it. Additionally, being the only girl would only be a problem if the boys were relentlessly hitting on me or thinking less of me as a fighter. I generally play with my friends and won't stand to hang around boys who insist on more than friendship, so I never would play with boys who continually hit on me. I would also never befriend anyone who thinks that a girl can't role play a fighter as well as a boy can.
4. Shouldn't: "Isn't that the thing nerds play in their moms' basements?"
This question is a bit less offensive than the others on this list because it suggests that you've honestly only ever seen the game portrayed on TV and know nothing else about it. It's also not extremely accusative, which opens up the doors for the player to explain to you what the game is really like. However, it's still accusative and shows that you rely entirely on TV stereotypes to judge an incredibly popular game.
5. Should: "I've heard of that but never really understood it. What exactly is Dungeons and Dragons?"
Yes, thank you, you person with an open mind. If D&D was exactly what was shown on TV, then it would be the lamest and most shameful game in all existence, and no one would play it. However, real D&D is nothing like what is shown on TV. So what is D&D like? It's just like those imaginary superhero games you used to play on the playground: you say what you want your character to do and then roll a die to see if your character was successful or not. This adds in chance and skill factors, since otherwise every player would be invincible. Additionally, you have a Dungeon Master who controls and role plays as all enemies and non-party characters you come across. Because of the very few constraints, your character can do literally anything. My character once invented the cell phone just to take a snap of my pet slime swimming around in a puddle. One person once convinced a town he was a god because his dog successfully did four backflips in a row. When I say anything, I mean anything.
6. Shouldn't: Nothing. Just an expression of poorly-hidden disgust.
This implies all kinds of insults. It's implying that the player is doing something wrong and shameful and that you in turn are doing nothing wrong or shameful. If playing a fun and intelligent game with friends counts as shameful, then I can't imagine the looks you must get for watching certain TV shows alone at three in the morning.
7. Shouldn't: "Fantasy's not my thing. I'm more of a sci-fi person."
Though D&D is traditionally a fantasy game, it can be literally anything you want. You can't buy official game material that is non-fantasy, but there are countless "home-brewed" (fan-made) versions online with genres in, well, anything you can imagine. You could play as superheroes in the DC/Marvel worlds or inside a particular Disney movie. I can guarantee that there's Star Wars D&D out there. If you wanted to, you could play in the world of Orange is the New Black. As long as you're into fun, D&D is your thing.
8. Should: "Can I join?"
Yes, you can absolutely join. You can try it out for one session and see what it's like — the group will show you the ropes, and you'll likely gain a lot of new friends and learn a lot. It's easy and free to join a D&D party (the term for a D&D group), and you can easily join in the middle of a campaign (the continuing story-arc made up of many sessions). Just be sure to figure out what type of campaign everyone else in the group is playing. You may have stumbled across more serious players who'll want you to take things seriously, or you may have stumbled across my party, which has featured, of many things, a penguin, a goat, a dragon born who dies every session and an indescribable dwarf who once tricked people into thinking she was a nun.
9. Shouldn't: "I think it's time you grew up."
This is one of those questions that is so bizarre, accusative and nonsensical that it takes a minute for me to even respond. First of all, you have obviously never played D&D if you believe that the game is PG. In fact, depending on who you play with, it can be on par with Cards Against Humanity, which is why I can't name the vast majority of funny adventures my campaign has had in this article. Second of all, D&D requires far more mental fortitude and creativity than any other game I've ever come across. The entire game is inside your head, and your character can do literally anything that comes to mind, so the sky is the limit. There have even been TEDTalks on the benefits D&D has on problem-solving skills. I find this question particularly hypocritical, since the person asking is likely to watch "adult" shows that are utter garbage, or else engage is far inferior board games, video games or apps on a regular basis. I don't judge your character based on what media you consume, so please don't judge my character based off of a game I play.
10. Should: "Wow, you must be really smart to handle all that math."
Actually...no. I mean, yes I'm smart, but no I don't handle that much math. D&D is really nothing but simple addition and subtraction, and even then you can just ask your Dungeon Master to handle all the numbers for you. I realize that things can seem a little scary when you get into the realm of 120-sided dice (yes, that's a thing), but a 5th grader should be capable of easily playing.
11. Shouldn't: "I didn't realize you were a nerd."
Why, yes, thank you for noticing. I didn't realize you still lived in the 80's when that was still an insult.
12. Should: "Awesome! I'm a nerd, too!"
Now that sounds a bit more like the 21st century.
13. Shouldn't: "Why don't you come partying with me and have some real fun?"
I am perfectly capable of going out on my own, thank you, and do not need a knight in shining armor such as yourself to allow me to see the light. There is a reason that I prefer to spend time hanging out with friends and going on hilarious adventures: because I enjoy it far more. Not because I'm shy, not because I have no friends who like to party, but because I sincerely believe that D&D is more fun than any party you've been to.
Dungeons and Dragons is possibly the most misunderstood game of the past century, and many people do not hesitate to get on their high horse and judge D&D players without actually knowing anything about the game. But you can help combat this prejudice by being respectful and open-minded to the most famous fantasy role play game of all time. And who knows? You may find that you learn a lot about the game. And maybe someday we'll roll some dice together. May the 20's be with you.
Lead Image Credit: Elizabeth Robinson