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Nerdarchy > At The Gaming Table  > D&D and Roleplaying Games Through Critical Illness

D&D and Roleplaying Games Through Critical Illness

I have been a gamer since the age of 14 when I could understand the rules in the old second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. I’ve played through many editions of D&D without a thought, enjoying the ability to take on a new role or create a new world. Here unfortunately is where things take a drastic turn. On April 18, 2016 I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer, which at current date is at stage 4. A lot of people have asked me how I dealt with it, what did I do, etc. I kept gaming. I ran Savage Worlds and D&D games. I also played in D&D and Pathfinder games. I’ve had the good fortune to play in games here on Nerdarchy not to mention unMade Gaming.

D&D critical illness roleplaying

D&D and other roleplaying games offer players a chance to step into another’s shoes and freedom to engage with the world from their perspective.

Freedom from critical illness through roleplaying

Many of you are probably a bit confused at this point about why I would keep and worry about continuing to play a game in my condition. It’s very simple really — freedom. Roleplaying games give you a sense of freedom. You’re no longer a sick person with some form of illness. You’re Gorgak the Mighty, or the cunning Eldecarte Lequare moving things through space.

A roleplaying game lets you live in your imagination. You can escape the sickness or whatever plagues you for a short while and feel alive and excited again. The point of a roleplaying game is to be someone else. This allows someone to hang up their illness like a coat on a hook and just have fun. This is vital for people who struggle with critical illness. Many people will never know you’re ill, and because of that sometimes when we need help or someone to talk to, we get trapped in a prison of our own mind and can’t reach out. However, give us some dice and a character sheet and we’ll go toe to toe with a dragon. It’s the least of our worries.

The freedom and escape aren’t the only things we need though. We almost desperately crave the social aspect. When you become labeled critically ill or a patient, many of your friends fade into the background, no longer knowing how to act around you. Suddenly your once vibrant life with all kinds of social interactions drastically changes. This is especially true if your illness puts you off work. When you sit down at a gaming table though, it’s completely different. You are welcomed, people will get you drinks, check and see how you are and chat about last session when the cool thing happened. Gamers in general tend to be one of the friendliest groups of people around. They accept you’re sick and that’s fine. Be sick. jJst don’t miss hitting the dragon because he is hurting the paladin badly.

Gaming has given me a lot of strength over the last few years. Without my friends I’ve made through gaming, my mental state might have already crumbled, and I may have lost this battle. Roleplaying games and D&D are the last place I ever expected to find healing but it’s there. If you know anyone struggling with Illness, I implore you, invite them to the table. Keep asking until they show up. The voids it fills are amazing. I never expected to find renewal in a game but its there. The game is the core, then the people it brings to you is just amazing.

When you get to where I am, and you look to the sky and ask, “What do I do now?” go and chuck dice. Let the pressures go away for a while. You don’t have to be sick all the time. Sometimes you can be a wizard. Keep the dice rolling friends, you’ll be surprised what it will do for you.

Cheers folks! Let your rolls tell your story.

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James Leslie

Long time RPG enthusiast, I first started with D&D back when I was 7, then jumped back into it again at 14 when I could understand what I was reading. I've tinkered as a story teller in many different game systems from Gurps, to Vampire, to most recently in Savage Worlds: Rippers Ressurected, though I've never forgotten my love for D&D.

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