Tabletop roleplaying isn’t just known for having benefits for its players — it’s being used for those benefits in therapeutic contexts. For instance, Dr. B works with social skills roleplaying groups through Aspiring Youth, something you may have heard him talking about on the official Dungeons & Dragons podcast.
Wheelhouse Workshop is another Washington-based group that offers social skills roleplaying groups. Last year at PAX South, founders Adam Johns and Adam Davis talked about the work they do with kids and teens and illustrated just how powerful tabletop RPGs can be for their players.
Check it out:
The panel’s Q&A is also up on YouTube, and while those can sometimes be awkward, this one’s well worth a watch. It gets into more detail about how skills can be built through intentional play.
For the most part, Johns and Davis play how many of us play, with a bit more focus on building players’ strengths. But in the Q&A, Johns brings up a point that can be contentious in the wider roleplaying community: the benefits of being able to rely on dice and stats when a player lacks confidence in their charisma or intelligence.
He describes a scenario where a player wants to convince an NPC of something but doesn’t have the confidence to spiel out a convincing argument on the spot. Rather than calling that a failure, Johns might ask for a little more information, then let the player roll to see if they succeed.
By helping that player succeed without forcing them to roleplay convincingly, Johns is able to help them build confidence in their own skills. The next time they face a persuasion check, he might ask a little more of them — and they might also find it a little easier.
Johns, Davis and Dr. B are all trained professionals, so don’t try this at home. There’s nothing wrong with using your game to stretch yourself with characters that explore your weaknesses or expand your strengths, though — and it never hurts to build a play environment where everyone feels like they have a chance to contribute, grow and succeed.