Written by Sarah Yoon
Trust is required in every step of creation, from working with fellow creatives to offering your work to an audience. In collaboration, you might be afraid that others will overtake the project—maybe they won’t respect your work and relationships will deteriorate under the strain. Sometimes the risk just doesn’t seem worthwhile. However contradictory this might sound, you need vulnerability to gain strength.
Creating collaboratively can be risky, but there’s another route. You can build the necessary skills for a healthy collaboration through D&D. This stepping-stone is a natural camaraderie builder, where each in-game interaction is a mini trust exercise.
Players create characters with free will, and even the game master can’t control their actions. They can be benevolent, crafty, or outright aggressive. Allison Oh comments that “Sometimes people will create a character that’s neutral but leaning toward evil, and so they’re going to be a lot harder to get along with in a group because they’re a lot more willing to backstab you because the money was right.” This brings variety to the game, sometimes welcome and sometimes not, which is why thorough communication is crucial.
Allison Oh’s long-standing D&D group builds teamwork through communication. When players create antagonistic characters, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the character’s situation and allow unwarranted aggression. So if they’re not careful, backstabbing within the game may become a personal grudge rather than an in-game act.
To avoid letting grudges eek into reality, Allison’s group pulls out of the story to ask, “We as human beings are [wondering]—are you okay?” Even if you can’t depend on a character, you must be able to trust the player. Reliable friendships are higher priority than the game. If a character acts oddly within the game, you can guess that deeper issues need to be addressed.
“Among the players in a D&D campaign, so much trust has to be built,” Allison comments. Each game teaches reliability and offers practice within a low-risk arena. You can stop playing at any time; you aren’t tied in by contracts or deadlines. With these elements in play, D&D solidifies the four essentials of collaboration:
Priorities: Keep interpersonal health on the forefront. This essential foundation allows any game or project to even exist, so treat it respectfully.
Expectations: The parameters of character alignment help you know what to expect within the game. “Create a character and give them motivation,” Allison says. “They’re called alignments in D&D…basically how bad are you willing to let your character be on a regular basis.”
Boundaries: Separate in-game from reality. Just as you need to see each play as part of the game rather than a personal affront, accept criticism or creative direction graciously.
Communication: Discuss each step forward to ensure that no grudges are brewing under the surface. Regular checkups help sort out potential issues before they become serious.