I Joined Four Different D&D Campaigns to Avoid My Own Trauma

Written by: Gage Tanzman

(Art by Marcela Longhini)
By Jaquelline Dalavash
Avid D&D Campaigner

Dungeons and Dragons has a reputation for being a nerdy game of dice, hexagons, and plastic figurines, played only by virgins who are also into Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and learning Dothraki from Game of Thrones. While I may also fit into all of these categories, I guarantee that my experience with D&D is not as nerdy as you would assume. In fact, D&D has joined stress baking at 2 a.m. and overextending myself to help others as one of my main trauma responses.

Everybody knows that when you make a D&D character, they’ve got to have some sort of capital T capital B Tragic Backstory. The best part about roleplaying these characters is that you get to avoid your own trauma by diving into theirs! The issue is, the escapism of living another person’s life where you can speedrun the mental healing can be addicting. I keep creating characters to avoid how anxious I am. There is no end in sight. But at least their Tragic Backstories in no way parallel my own life! I mean, using these characters to cope with my own internalized issues would be unhealthy and ridiculous. Their trauma is in no way a reflection of mine, I promise!

Let me show you how laughable that is! Take my high elf druid: she grew up alone in the forest learning to fend for herself. Now, she peacefully makes tea while the Wild Magic trapped inside her threatens to flare up at every emotional outburst. Can you imagine if that was a direct parallel to how my childhood forced me to become independent at a young age? Do you mean to tell me that this character is a metaphor for the ridiculous amount of anxiety I feel, which I struggle to mask and compartmentalize so as to not break down regularly? Because personally, I don’t see any connection.

You can’t even tie the Aasimar paladin who’s terrified of losing the favor of her god, thereby losing her magic and sense of identity! Religious trauma? Feeling dependent on a higher power that got me through hard times but now seems so distant? Please, that’s such a stretch.

The most wild accusation would be saying the pansexual tiefling bard I play is an allegory that I use to explore my own sexuality. There’s no way an extroverted party animal who sleeps with anyone he can in order to feel an emotional attachment could be in any way related to my life. I’m just a repressed bisexual who truly loves her straight white boyfriend but is waiting until marriage for sex and feels intimidated by every woman she meets! How would that lead to creating a character who is a sex-crazed pillar of confidence, free with his affection, never backing down from his fear of intimacy? There’s no parallelism at all!

I guess what I’m saying is that D&D really is a great way to destress and avoid the trauma from your past. That must be the reason why I keep creating characters, right? It’s certainly not therapeutic to untangle my own Tragic Backstory through roleplaying these characters that reflect different aspects of my psyche. Certainly not! Now, please excuse me while I roll a wisdom-saving throw to see if I can avoid all the psychic damage I’m about to take.

Assistant Copy Editor and Muir Ambassador at The MQ

When Gage is not pondering time and relativity, she is busy spreading kindness and laughter, not only through sharing sushi with her friends, but also by making fun of the human condition and our shared experiences. In an ideal world, Gage and her cat would be battling mean people and making the world a brighter place.

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