The school where I currently teach has two week-long sessions of project-based learning: one in January after holiday break, and the other the last week before school lets out. Students can design their own projects, even go off-site to work, but many students participate in teacher-led projects that they show off at exhibition at the end of the week.

This year, I conscripted my friends Ben and Andrew to help me run a Dungeon Master Boot Camp where students would learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons, and also discover how to run their own campaign. It’s day two, and the D&D fever is catching!

I’d known for awhile that there were kids interested in the game, and at least two gaming groups currently running, but I thought, why not bring all those interested together, teach them how to be a good gamer and DM, and how to have a quality experience with the game? Then they can look around the room and see who their fellow gamers are in the school and start some games over the summer with other local kids.

Things are going very, very well! As soon as Ben, Andrew and I completed the quick game play demo, the students were foaming at the mouth to start playing!

One question you might ask is, “How did you get permission to do this?”

Because guess what? It’s good teaching.

Really? Dungeons and Dragons in the Classroom?

Yes, and here’s why:

  1. Despite fears of the 70s and 80s, D&D does not promote violence, antisocial behavior, or “demon worship.” Some people might have a problem with the fantasy world (which does include a pantheon of gods) but these would be the same people who think kids shouldn’t read Harry Potter. Bring it into the classroom at your own risk, I guess, but you know your own student population and whether this would be an issue or not.
  2. The game is about collaborative storytelling. It’s a great vehicle to teach about plot, conflict, and character development. Just today Ben showed a student a website about the Hero’s Journey to help them shape the module they were working on.
  3. There is a surprising amount of reading and math involved that students are more than okay with, because it helps them craft a character and play the game. Yay for sneaking in the learning!
  4. It helps students activate their “mental movie,” the images conjured by their minds’ eye. This power of visualization will enhance their enjoyment of reading regular books.
  5. The game promotes compromise and teamwork. If the player characters can’t work together and collaborate, they won’t live long in a hostile world of monsters!
  6. When students are preparing to become Dungeon Masters themselves, they have to use a great deal of critical thinking and imagination to plan and execute a mission for other players. They need to be aware of game mechanics, character quirks, and multiple outcomes for the quest.

I Can’t Just Stop Teaching to Run D&D in the Classroom…

Okay, here are some other suggestions for how to incorporate it in different ways.

  1. Make grammar into an RPG. Have your students create characters, and guide them through adventures where they have to solve grammar puzzles to get treasure or defeat enemies.
  2. Modify an RPG and set it during a historical time period that you want to teach about (like the Civil War). Have the class role-play through different situations and historical events.
  3. Use the concept of role-playing to teach character education. Have students assume different roles (such as bully and victim) and then discuss to access their feelings.
  4. Have students role-play as characters from a class book they’ve read and play out a scene that wasn’t written in the book.