The mental health benefits of Dungeons and Dragons sessions in the library
Published on: 07 February 2023 Author: Lucas Maxwell
In Children's Mental Health Week, school librarian Lucas Maxwell shares the pleasures and benefits of role-playing games.
I've run Dungeons and Dragons sessions in the high school library that I manage for over three years now, and in that time I've had the great opportunity to work with some amazing students.
I'd like to share with you some of the benefits D&D will bring. If you have been thinking about running Dungeons and Dragons in your library, I hope this helps you jump in, because it is a huge amount of fun!
Many of the students that I've worked with have, in my opinion, grown in confidence. I can see the difference. I know D&D might not be the sole contributor to this but there is no question that the game has provided an outlet for these students to express themselves without fear of judgement from anyone.
Also, the fact that the students are speaking through the eyes of another character or creature often lets them shed the anxiety or hesitancy that normally comes with speaking in front of a group of people.
D&D is nothing without teamwork. The game will fall apart in a second if the players are not working together. Their goal is to navigate and survive what is being thrown at them by the Dungeon Master.
There are scores of player versus player games out there, and as a Dungeon Master this is one of the first things I tell the players: D&D is not a player versus player game, and they will have to rely on and trust each other throughout every adventure.
Speaking of surviving what is being thrown at them, the players will often think of funny and creative ways to propel themselves through the adventure. Whether it's talking their way out of being accused of something they didn't do or getting away from a deadly creature, it will force them to be creative and use improvisational skills that they may not know they even had.
Players will often spend a long time creating backstories for their characters. In my experience these characters often become like beloved siblings that they care for very much. Players can be seen in the library poring over the rule books to develop their character's persona. It's a really fun thing to watch.
An important commitment
I run D&D twice weekly at lunch in the library. In the past three years the students rarely, if ever, miss a session. This is something that for me is unique, and I've been working with youths in libraries for 15 years.
I firmly believe this is because the students understand that D&D is a sacred time in the week where they have set aside an hour of pure fun in a space that they feel completely safe in. This means a lot to me when I think about what they may be going through in school or elsewhere, so to have this special event for them that clearly means so much is very powerful.
Here is a quote from one of our students:
'I love D&D as it offers escape and the opportunity to be myself. There is no judgement, characters can be weird and wacky and nobody blinks an eye! The group in the Library is definitely a safe space for me.'
If you are thinking about running D&D in your library but are feeling overwhelmed, I can be contacted on Twitter here where I can provide tips and strategies for playing in a school setting.
I have also written a book on this very topic! It's called Let's Roll and will be published with Facet Publishing in March 2023. Find out more and pre-order it here!