A Life Playing D&D


A woman named Bronnie Ware wrote an article based on her work in palliative care on the top five regrets of the dying. These regrets included the following:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Jane McGonigal, the writer, researcher, and gamer, discussed these regrets in her excellent TED talk on the game that can give you 10 extra years of life. In this talk she discusses how gaming can help address all five of these regrets.

In no game is this more true than Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s quite possible that, when we look at the small things that form together to build a happy life, D&D can be high on the list. This might surprise us. It might even disturb us if we’re too closely rooted to the ideas that other “more important” things should have a greater impact on the happiness of our lives. Yet if we think about it, the fact that we get so much joy playing D&D might not be all that surprising at all.

A day in which we play Dungeons & Dragons is a great day.

When we consider McGonigal’s talk, it’s not hard to see how playing D&D can address all five of the regrets of the dying. When we play D&D we live true to our nerdish ways. We enjoy and relax while we’re playing it. D&D is a wonderful way to express ourselves. Most importantly, D&D helps us stay close to our friends and meet new ones. D&D makes us happy.

“Find what you love doing and do it until you’re dead. For me that’s going to Rushmore.”

– Max Fisher, Rushmore

No doubt the same could be said for golf or tennis or many other forms of sports and entertainment. Board game groups are popping up all over the world, bringing in players who never would have considered it before. When we sit at a table surrounded by the smiles of our friends and family, we might say we live for those moments.

We live in a world full of expectations of what a life well lived looks like. Money, sex, career, kids, travel, possessions — there are hundreds of social benchmarks people strive to reach, often destroying the things that might otherwise matter in the process. Only we can decide what matters to us. To me? I’ll die happy if I run and play a hell of a lot of D&D.

Back in 2010 I wrote about running and finishing a level 1 to 30 4th Edition D&D campaign and how it made me feel on its completion. In some weird way it felt like I had completed my life’s work. I had put a lot of energy into that campaign and finishing it is something I will always remember. Running it took so much work that I don’t think I’ll ever run a four-year campaign like that one again.

Many look at the big accomplishments in peoples’ lives and likely scoff at the idea that running a D&D campaign can fulfill someone’s lifetime goal. This article likely won’t convince them otherwise. Yet many people can have everything they think defines a highly successful life and still be miserable. Others can be happy with almost nothing. What we each decide matters to our lives is the ultimate freedom we’re given the minute we’re born.

For some of us, we know we’re in the right place doing the right thing when we’re playing D&D.


  1. Hear Hear! Great read!

  2. Well said!

  3. ironregime says:

    Life is short. Let’s make as many good memories with friends as we can.

  4. I love Fight Club because the point of the film is to LIVE and prioritize what really matters in life. That’s how I live. I make no excuses for pursuing gaming and free time as much as possible.

  5. I, for one, am in total awe of you being able to run a D&D campaign for four years. I’ve never run anything that long. Now I’ve got something to shoot for!

  6. All games are not created equal. I love to play Scrabble, but I won’t think back and laugh about a moment in a game I played weeks ago. I like poker, but I wouldn’t smile thinking about a new idea on how to play in the game next week.

    I just got into D&D a couple months back, after decades of being interested (but never having a group). Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but for someone on the autistic spectrum it has been an amazing way to be imaginative and express myself without the personal risk. Playing a 4 year campaign is just as much of an accomplishment as building a small boat in your garage, or bowling a perfect game, or whatever hobby makes you happy.

  7. chris sauer says:

    Well said! Don’t usually comment but that was beautiful.

  8. Well said sir!

  9. Aye! A life lived doing the things one loves, and learning along the way would not be a wasted life.

  10. Brendan says:

    Like it.

  11. Recently I’ve started blogging and doing YouTube videos about gaming and just general geek and nerd culture. This is relevant to this article, because I used to be an undercover gamer. For me the 1st rule of gaming was we don’t talk about gaming.

    I have recently started talking to my non-gamer friends about my hobbies which was an epiphany for me. Because everyone of them were like yea I kind of new you were into that stuff and here I thought I was keeping this great big, dark secret. Go figure.

    Now that I’m no longer worrying about what others think I’m able to enjoy what I enjoy that much more. So I’d say “yes” Dungeons & Dragons can absolutely enrich and add fulfillment to ones life.


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