I am in control of my actions and reactions, not how they turn out, not the things around me, not the problems I face. Only my actions and reactions.
Turns out, the system for D&D combat is a really good tool to help navigate life.
Hear me out.
In D&D (5e), when you’re in combat, your character has only three things they can do on your turn; an action, a bonus action, and movement.
An action is usually something like making an attack or casting a spell, or even holding an action until something else happens (other actions include hiding, dashing, interacting with objects, and so on). A bonus action might be to take a potion or even another attack if you’re one of those classes.
Here’s the thing though. I can choose to attack, but my dice roll determines how I do. If I roll low, no go. If I roll high, hurray! I succeed. I choose what to do, but I can’t control what happens (not until someone develops a wrist technique for rolling dice how you want – I’ll keep you posted on that).
So in life as in D&D.
In life, I can only choose my actions and movements. I can choose whether to pursue this relationship, take that job, move away, move home, write this book, start that blog, exercise, etc. It’s all up to me. What I can’t choose is what happens with it. Maybe I move to a new city and it doesn’t work out. Maybe the relationship doesn’t pay off. Maybe the book is a glorious flop. Or maybe not. I have no way of knowing.
However, also as in D&D, I can stack the odds slightly in my favor. In D&D you use a d20, or 20-sided die, for most ability checks and attack rolls. You roll the dice and add your modifier. A fighter class, for instance, will have a higher chance of doing something strength-based so they will have a higher modifier, and a likelier chance of success. Say they have a +4 modifier, on a d20 that increases the chances of meeting the target number by 20%. Not bad. Magic weapons, spell effects, and other items can also increase the chance of success.
How can I do the same in real life?
Education is one step, and I don’t necessarily mean organized education, although that can help in certain circumstances. But if you want to succeed on your taxes this year, doing some research and learning how to prepare your taxes is essential. Or learning that you can afford someone to prepare your taxes for you.
You might learn a new language, which helps your chances of getting a coveted job posting abroad.
You might get a certificate in the area of your choice, vastly increasing the odds of getting a job in that field.
Health is another way to stack the odds in your favor. Having more energy, both mental and physical, will help you in any endeavor, whether it’s personal or professional. Being emotionally stable is another huge benefit in work and in life, and though that might require some investment (hey, training in D&D ain’t cheap), it’s well worth it.
How far can this metaphor go?
Well, D&D is a cooperative game, designed to run best for groups of 4-6. A solo player won’t be able to handle much, as their skills aren’t going to be balanced. That’s just how the game works. You can’t be a rogue and a wizard and a barbarian and a cleric. You will have your strong points offset by weaknesses. Everyone does. But in a party (support group of friends/family) everyone is made stronger. You can tackle higher level puzzles, traps and monsters because you all work together.
As in D&D, as in life.
I think this is one reason why people love D&D so much. I’ve even heard (through rumors), that some psychologists treat it as a great place to work through personal issues. Home-therapy, anyone? At the very least, it can teach a receptive player how to cooperate in the face of danger (and believe me, the stress of a combat situation feels very real), how to have interpersonal conflicts in a healthy way, creative problem-solving and a lot more.
D&D is a great metaphor for life and a great tool for how to live it.
Or maybe I’m just looking for any excuse to repackage my problems as dragons.