The Evil DM

The Evil DM
The Evil DM

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Is Dungeons and Dragons a Whetstone for the Mind

tl;dr link to video:

Kym Buchanan wrote an article published by Pop Matters titled, “Dungeons and Dragons is Cross-Training for the Mind”. There is a link in the description below. In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, Tyrion Lannister said, “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. That is why I read so much.”

How can you train your mind to be ready for a variety of mental challenge? General James Mattis, also known as “Mad Dog Mattis”, said, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” That warrior spirit can be embodied in table top role playing games. Many people deride players whose characters follow the mantra of “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” giving them the pejorative of “murder hobos”.

Table top role playing games can prepare people’s minds by giving them puzzles to solve and threats to counter. Players need to think, communicate, and collaborate. These skills stimulate the mind.

Kym Buchanan’s article says the readiness to respond to a new challenge is called “transfer”. The article defines the steps for transfer as recognizing essential clues about a problem, correctly classifying the problem, accurately recalling a promising strategy appropriate to that class of problems, and effectively applying that strategy. This brings to mind two very different approaches to “transfer”. I learned the first approach in math and physics classes. In order to prove a theorem, you had to understand the problem, determine what proof technique is appropriate for the theorem, then applying that technique. A second, and very different approach is taught in the military during basic training. Combat situations require almost instantaneous responses. For example, if your weapons jams, you need to be able to field-strip the weapon, clear any jam, and reassemble the weapon even in the dark. Another example is to know how to apply first aid quickly to yourself and others. I have heard that people who work in emergency rooms need to follow the same kind of instantaneous response when someone comes in with a serious injury. Table top role playing games teaches players to quickly respond to different challenges.

The DM or GM can throw a variety of challenges at the players. The DM/GM can change the challenge to meet the changing situation and abilities of the characters. For example, the DM/GM can increase the number of monsters the players face if the players find a powerful weapon.

The DM/GM can add ethical questions to challenge the players. For example, the party kills a horrible creature. As they loot the creature’s lair, they find the young children of the creature. The party needs to decide what they do. Should they kill the children of the horrible creature, or should they make them pets, or should they just abandon the children, or should they capture them and try to sell them, or should they just eat them? Each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

Tabletop role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons, can be a tool to provide stimulating situations to the minds of the players, sharpen their imagination, and teaching new approaches to problems.

Although I disagree with some of the points by Kym Buchanan, his article is well worth reading.

Pop Matters wrote an article titled, “Dungeons and Dragons is Cross-Training for the Mind”.