Joe Manganiello, left, and Deborah Ann Woll help unveil the new Dungeons & Dragons storyline, "Waterdeep: Dragon Heist" during a live streaming event at the Line 204 Studios on Friday, June 1, 2018 in Los Angeles. Credit: Jordan Strauss / AP Images for Dungeons & Dragons

In a time of social distance, many of us are looking for ways to go on safe adventures. Roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons can be a way to digitally gather with friends to assemble your party and embark on a fantastical adventure of riches, glory, and friendship. Not only is it an opportunity to safely be whatever or whomever you want for a few hours, research shows that these games can promote cooperation, compassion, and even mental health. On June 26 and 27, Mabel Wadsworth Center is doing just that for the LGBTQ+ community with a virtual Pride Dungeons & Dragons event.

Tabletop roleplaying games bring together improv, storytelling, and strategic gaming into a cooperative adventure. Dungeons & Dragons has been played all around the world since it was first published in 1974. Throughout its growth, it’s become increasingly diverse and inclusive.

Players are encouraged to create their own diverse backstories without limitation. In the world you create together, players are not bound by real-world social constructs and are given the opportunity to be whoever they want to be regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ability, or any other identity. Every player comes in on a level playing field. The infinite options allow you to play any character you can imagine while feeling as powerful and important as everyone else at the table. These games can be a freeing, empowering escape.

Beyond this freedom, roleplaying games have shown added benefits like increased empathy and improved social connections. They create opportunities to be imaginative and take on alternative perspectives — something that’s often difficult but extremely beneficial. The collaborative, community-building nature of the game can help players socialize on a higher level — improving understanding of ourselves and improving our social and interpersonal communication skills.

These games can even promote mental health. Cooperative problem solving can increase endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which can help improve depressive symptoms. People in the queer community are more than twice as likely to experience mental illness than heterosexual adults, so having outlets that improve mental health is important. Playing games like Dungeons & Dragons is not only fun, it’s also good for mental and social health, which are vital to the LGBTQ+ community.

The goal of the virtual event with Mabel Wadsworth Center is to give Maine’s LGBTQ+ community a safe space to participate in tabletop roleplaying during Pride. Even with the same storyline, every group will have their own unique experience adventuring through this fantasy setting filled with magic and mystery.

They sought out both Game Masters and players for the event(s) from the community to sign up for the event. The sessions will all be the same one-shot campaign that will last approximately two to four hours. The session will give new players a chance to learn the game and give the more experienced players the drive to start a new campaign.

So if you are part of Maine’s LGBTQ+ community and looking for a safe space to slay monsters, be a hero, and win all the gold in cooperation with some fellow adventurers, look no further than Dungeons & Dragons. If you’re new to D&D and looking for ways to start a game, Wizards of the Coast, the creators of D&D, has great resources, pre-made adventures, and even ways to play online. Or you can virtually gather your own party and begin your great adventure!

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LaRae LaBouff and Samantha Bullard, an artist, are volunteers at the Mabel Wadsworth Center.