Why Dungeons & Dragons is Good for You (In Real Life) | Ethan Gilsdorf | TEDxPiscataquaRiver

  • Published: 22 May 2016
  • The quintessential nerdy pastime of Dungeons & Dragons (also called D&D) can actually be the secret to life success. How? Ethan Gilsdorf shows us how this groundbreaking game involving communal storytelling, dice-rolling, and imaginary adventures in lands filled with dragons, quests, elves and evil wizards actually gives us powerful tools to combat the perils and challenges of reality.

    Journalist, memoirist, essayist, critic, poet, teacher and geek Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of the award-winning travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms. A former Paris-based food and film critic and travel writer, and now based in Providence, Rhode Island, Gilsdorf covers and comments on pop culture, geek culture, the arts, travel, media and technology, and writes essays for The New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Salon, Wired, Art New England, and WBUR, among dozens of other magazines, newspapers, and websites worldwide.

    A prize-winning poet, Gilsdorf is also co-founder of Grub Street's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), and teaches creative writing at Grub Street, where he serves on the Board of Directors. Follow Ethan’s adventures at ethangilsdorf.com or Twitter @ethanfreak.

    This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at ted.com/tedx

Comments • 1 610

  • Matt Gray
    Matt Gray  5 days back

    Wasted a speech about DnD on diversity. Wasted

    • Brett Sigler
      Brett Sigler  6 days back

      I love DnD. I have depression and DnD helps me escape my depression.

      • Tim Emmerson
        Tim Emmerson  1 weeks back

        As of January 11th, 2020 there have been 416 people who have down-voted this video, and over 25k who have up-voted. I pity those 416.

        • Easter Morgan
          Easter Morgan  2 weeks back

          Where did the D20 come from

          • Gavin Clark
            Gavin Clark  3 weeks back

            This is all true, but my friends still tried (and foolishly succeeded) in killing the local emperor. Valve plz fix

            • Chris Young
              Chris Young  1 months back

              Playing since the 80's, AD&D is Life! Every interaction you have with someone is an encounter, just depends on how you want to play it....and the randomness of the rolls. I can't wait for freaking retirement D&D, gonna be glorious!

              • Simon Oliver
                Simon Oliver  1 months back

                not really a good example of accepting diversity - using the word 'spaz' even about yourself

                • Guitar73 T
                  Guitar73 T  2 months back

                  I mean. What are sports if not a make believe battle simulation? A movie, a play? All make believe

                  • Charles Myers
                    Charles Myers  2 months back

                    Very well said.

                    • The DizzMeister
                      The DizzMeister  2 months back

                      I've just starting DMing (poorly) for my 10 year old son. He is hooked. I'm just making this stuff up as I go. He's the best.

                      • Raemond Coleman
                        Raemond Coleman  2 months back

                        I have memories of D&D going back to '79 when I started playing. They exist in my head as real things. They aren't stories I read or movies I saw - they are real events I took part in. I love these memories and all the people I've played with and continue to play with.

                        • David Wainio
                          David Wainio  3 months back

                          Empathy training machine he says .. and yet these days we gamers refer to most groups of characters as "murder hobos".

                          • sheriffderek
                            sheriffderek  3 months back

                            Great talk. I think that the 800+ pages of reading are a little barrier of entry compared to buying Doritos! haha.

                            • Francis Olieberg
                              Francis Olieberg  4 months back

                              im stuck on an island with no D&D players to be found

                              • ObiWanBillKenobi
                                ObiWanBillKenobi  4 months back

                                “The biology of elvish maidens.” 😏

                                • Selim Tuncel
                                  Selim Tuncel  5 months back

                                  Who starts with 4 hp?

                                  • Anna Baldur
                                    Anna Baldur  5 months back

                                    Not sure if the person reading the talk will ever read this, but... You sound like you're an amazing DM!

                                    • Kody Pearl
                                      Kody Pearl  5 months back

                                      Amazing thanks for sharing, lots of heart you brought tears to my eyes.

                                      • Oleksiy Alkhazov
                                        Oleksiy Alkhazov  5 months back

                                        This is the first and only time I consider playing dnd (though imma tes oblivion fan). This speech was in- wait for it -spiring!

                                        • Strategos Kakos
                                          Strategos Kakos  5 months back

                                          Anyone else just want to go back, grab the troll corpse, hold it in front of the party (I mean it is large or huge sized) and let it soak all the arrows from the trap?

                                          • Seth Lester
                                            Seth Lester  5 months back

                                            21:26 "You slay the dragon with a single blow"

                                            My DM has been doing it wrong. He only gave me crit against the dragon. I should've known that a level 1 can slay Tiamat in one slice with a short sword as long as he rolls a nat 20.

                                            • Mark Rude
                                              Mark Rude  5 months back

                                              I always get players who use captive goblins to set off traps.
                                              Buncha murder-hobos.

                                              • Brandon Musser
                                                Brandon Musser  6 months back

                                                How about we just break it down into what it is empathy.

                                                • Brandon Musser
                                                  Brandon Musser  6 months back

                                                  I agree we need more of it and this may be the way to teach it or maybe figure out a way to get it through to the youngest

                                              • Jhonny Silva Martins
                                                Jhonny Silva Martins  6 months back

                                                Because I can be a Paladin using two shields as weapons and have a third spiky one on my back.

                                                • lockstepsavior
                                                  lockstepsavior  6 months back

                                                  I've been DMing since 1987. I have gotten to "play D&D" a grand total of four times. I really hate being the DM, but no one else ever wanted to do it, and I was the one who had all the books, so it was me. Now I'm so bitter and jaded towards all of it that I can't even summon the energy to want to play, in the age when a group is as close as answering a post on reddit. I talk about my experiences and how I feel towards the game and the people who play it now, and I'm called a gatekeeper, salty, even an incel.

                                                  I've got no friends to play with now. No friends at all, really. Just people I work with and the missus, who tries to understand and just doesn't. I don't have the words to explain how taken advantage of I feel. Like I gave all those people so much fun when I ran those games, and I wanted to be part of that fun, but I couldn't, because I was on the other side of the screen. They got to delve the dungeons and slay the dragons, while I got to keep records and act out the agony of their victims, again and again and again.

                                                  It probably doesn't make sense to anyone else. A person would read this and think, "Man, this guy could use some drugs and counseling." and I would not disagree. But the thrust of this piece, that D&D is "good" for you? Maybe for some people. But I feel like all it has brought me is pain and alienation. Even in the thick of the game, I was alone and separate from people that were pretending to be my friends as much as they were pretending to be elves, and it hurts me to this day.

                                                  • jon reid
                                                    jon reid  6 months back

                                                    Congrats on leveling up to 18 nerd =}

                                                    • Eric Avelino
                                                      Eric Avelino  6 months back

                                                      i would prefer so much playing d&d over presenting romeo and juliet in high school

                                                      • Dave Rivers
                                                        Dave Rivers  6 months back

                                                        Interesting that Joe Manganello isn't on the famous D&D players. Check out Jocks Ex Machina on YouTube.

                                                        • Johnny Rico
                                                          Johnny Rico  6 months back


                                                          • PhantomGamer28
                                                            PhantomGamer28  6 months back

                                                            Omg I live in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire

                                                            • James Schwarz
                                                              James Schwarz  6 months back

                                                              I kept rolling low for my melee attacks and my axe snapped on a zombies head

                                                              • qdllc
                                                                qdllc  6 months back

                                                                Too bad he’s making references to Lord of the Rings and not D&D...which are very different from each other.

                                                                • Daniel Montes
                                                                  Daniel Montes  6 months back

                                                                  Playing a C/N sorcerer/rogue, I once convinced a fellow PC that he had given his “crush” (another PC) a cursed bracelet from our most recent loot. So convincing was my story that even the DM was confused and had to have a private meeting with me to determine whether or not we had talked about some cursed item beforehand. With the DM now on my side, even the player (all the player) were (and to the best of my knowledge still) convinced that he had given her a cursed bracelet and that she could never take it off without risk of “dire consequences”. It was left to my character to find a way to remove the curse. Which, of course, he agreed to do, but could not until after we completed the adventure. He promises to continue looking for clues in the tunnels we were in, but was not very hopeful given that nature and origins of the curse and bracelet seemed to be unrelated to our current situation. D

                                                                  Btw. This situation created a deeper bond between the other two PC’s and the two player ended up together IRL.

                                                                  • Daniel Montes
                                                                    Daniel Montes  6 months back

                                                                    I once played at a gaming convention. There was a DM that brought the same “series of death traps” dungeon and pregenerated characters to the Con every year with updated rules for the latest incarnation of D&D. As a group we players traversed death trap after death trap. When the allotted time arrived for the game to end, all the PC’s were still alive.

                                                                    After the game the DM called me over to talk to me. He told me that he had run this dungeon at every Con sense it started. Never had every character lived. Often every character died before time was up. Never did anyone make it as far as we did in the dungeon. He told me that it was because of my unorthodox use of spells as a sorcerer and my coordinating the other characters that we accomplished these feats. He told me that he was torn between asking me to never again join his game and insisting that I be at every one. In the end he told me that I could join any time and he would hold the sorcerer for me. Sadly, I was never able to make any of the future Cons.

                                                                    The DM told me that a particular trap (the giant toilet bowl) always killed every party member that entered that room. On this particular occasion, every member of our party was in the room when it flooded. Everyone lived because of my use of spells.

                                                                    • Animebryan2
                                                                      Animebryan2  6 months back

                                                                      D&D can be a fun learning experience, just don't take it too seriously & lose that distinction between fantasy & reality like Tom Hank's character did in the movie 'Mazes & Monsters'.

                                                                      • Zak
                                                                        Zak  6 months back

                                                                        easy! try to talk to the troll, release/unchain him, in return for his freedom he helps slaughter the true bad guys in the castle,of which he hates anyway due to being abused and enslaved by them u.u

                                                                        • Tim Sheridan
                                                                          Tim Sheridan  6 months back

                                                                          Very nice presentation met some of the most intelligent and unique and lasting friends playing back in the day

                                                                          • Stephie Mae Illustrations

                                                                            Its unfortunate he didn’t bother to mention any of the women that played d&d as kids in his list of famous people who play. Deborah Ann Woll, Judi Dench, Felicia Day, Drew Barrymore... 😕

                                                                            • Aingeal Jackson
                                                                              Aingeal Jackson  6 months back

                                                                              I was some where between 8-10 when i first played D&D. Course i had the attention span of well... A young kid and my mom, uncle, god mom, and step dad found me annoying and killed me. But now, im getting back into it with my partner and both our friends and families and its great having this to share with our new players and our veteran players, and even our most hesitant player is opening up and becoming more confident in her choices.

                                                                              • ShinyShinxTV
                                                                                ShinyShinxTV  6 months back

                                                                                Fellow Nerds, LETS HOST A DND SESSION

                                                                                • Gemmel
                                                                                  Gemmel  6 months back

                                                                                  I had a difficult youth, one of my fondest memories was after being shunned by my family because I left the cult of JW's was finding the game AD&D(1988). I remember going home after playing with my ribs aching because of all the laughter. It was the only thing good thing in my life at the time. (Life has much improved since).

                                                                                  • K H
                                                                                    K H  6 months back

                                                                                    Man those closing words were powerful

                                                                                    • Hiba M Khalbous
                                                                                      Hiba M Khalbous  6 months back

                                                                                      Can I like this more than once, please?
                                                                                      I never got to play this kind of games and I'm introducing myself to this world recently, but... Oh God this is beautiful!
                                                                                      And the part about his mom is heartbreaking 💔 I had my mom whole and attentive for 22 years of my life and i still feel lost without her now..

                                                                                      • Kaggy Karr
                                                                                        Kaggy Karr  6 months back

                                                                                        Is it just me or this background really looks like synthesia video.

                                                                                        • Snack
                                                                                          Snack  6 months back

                                                                                          What kind of troll uses and axe all that would do is limit them

                                                                                          • mats graffiti
                                                                                            mats graffiti  6 months back

                                                                                            9:00 NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY!

                                                                                            • Ilithilich 101
                                                                                              Ilithilich 101  6 months back

                                                                                              D&D has made a real comeback lately. Really happy

                                                                                              • karsten69
                                                                                                karsten69  6 months back

                                                                                                Who else would totally play LotR monopoly D&D?