D&D Therapy || Mayim Bialik

– Hey Grokites! Today we’re going to grok
how Dungeons and Dragons can serve as family therapy. Dungeons and Dragons,
commonly known as D&D, was created in the early 1970s by two presumably very bored men named Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. They created a world of heroic
fantasy based on battle war games and the individual
exploits of heroes, but D&D wasn’t the first of it’s kind. Before D&D, there was
something called Chain Mail, created by Gary Gygax, and another one of his
bored friend, Jeff Parren. And before Chain Mail, there
was Playing At The World, created by John Peterson. Why am I mentioning all these games? I’m told that if I don’t, everyone who loves D&D will hate me, so I want to cover all my bases. All those things existed before D&D. Okay, here’s how Dungeons
and Dragons works. While there are pre made
adventures for those of you who don’t want to do the
creative heavy lifting, generally speaking
there’s something called a dungeon master, or a DM,
and he or she creates an adventure that you insert yourself into. The DM might set the stage for the game by saying something like this, ready? – You all arrive on the
docks of an abandoned city. – Or… – Now you wander into a
forest, covered in moss. – Or… – You all wake up from
your nap to find yourselves handcuffed and being transported
through your own town. – It is an open ended game
of communal story telling. The DM has some rules an
guidelines for what you should do and where things should go,
but for the most part it’s literally about you making
decisions and the DM, on the spot, spontaneously deciding how other characters would react. Okay, for example, the DM might say; You find yourselves on a desert island, and it’s to you and your
group what you want to do. Do you wanna look for a boat? Do you wanna seek shelter? Do you want to make something to eat? Whatever you want, it’s up to you. And even though the DM may
have an idea of where he or she wants the story to go,
everything is totally spontaneous and there’s no formula, which is awesome. If you like formulas, you
might not think it’s awesome, but if you don’t like
formulas, it’s awesome. You can use a battle map,
but you don’t need to, and there are miniature
figures that you can use, but you don’t need to use them either. So basically, if all you
have is your imagination and a set of D&D dice, you’re good to go. So what’s my D&D history? Well, my brother played in the 70s, but I was never allowed to join in. As an adult, I always wanted
to play, and I tried to play once with a group of actors,
but I was really intimidated by their experience, and their
skill with improvisation, and the voices that their characters did. I just, I didn’t feel like I fit in. I took a few years off, gazing lovingly at my
Dungeons and Dragons dice from time to time, wondering
when I would get a chance to have an adventure again
that didn’t intimidate me. I feared it might be
never, but then one day, a marvelous thing happened, my children got old enough
to play Dungeons and Dragons. Oh glorious day! Huzzah! Huzzah! Geek celebration of the highest order! Who enters the scene? Rob. Rob is our DM, and I play a campaign, me, my nine year old, and
my almost 12 year old. What addition do we play? I know you’re all wondering,
fifth edition, yo! We rolled up our characters
the old fashion way, just dice and a piece of paper. No algorithm, no computers,
old school paper and pencil, character sheet, boom. We chose names for our characters,
and we made quite a bit of fuss about how awesome we
were going to be as a team. I’m a war cleric, which means
I’m like a religious warrior, and also, I’m a healer. My older son is an elvin rogue. He’s a dark elf, which means
he can’t really see in the day. And in real life, he’s a
true, good human being. He’s a rules follower, but he’s playing a sharp
tongue assassin in our game. My younger son is a six
foot, five inch dragon born, which means he’s half dragon,
half human, obviously. Here are the unbelievably
incredible things that happened when I played Dungeons and
Dragons with my children. Number one, it became like therapy. Basically, D&D brings
out the truth in you, like who you are, who
you wish you could be, what are your strengths,
what are your weaknesses. Based on how I make decisions
about how my character should behave, and how we
should behave as a group, I have learned that my strengths are patience, and cautiousness. And based on how scared I get
when confronted by goblins, and how confused I get when
I try to decipher clues that my DM leaves for me, I’ve
discovered that my weaknesses are fear and lack of logical thinking. For my sons, this has become
an opportunity to show bravery, heroic might, and beauty of conquest. We’ve had to work together,
and solve problems together. We fell into a river, and we had to figure out
how to get out together. My foolish first born, elvin
rogue assassin son went on this stupid mission, and he was
attacked by zombies and I had to bring him back from the brink of death, and we were high fiving and
cheering like we just won big at the races. We felt togetherness, we felt closeness, we were doing something amazing together. We had fun, it was like good therapy. Number two, we have learned
how to manage unpredictability. This may come as a surprise to you, I’m not really an open ended person, and neither of my sons are either. We like rules, we like
structure, we like schedules, and we like lists. D&D has forced us out
of that way of thinking, and it has loosened us
up, or it’s tried to. A few times, when the DM would guide us
towards a set of choices, I would get so frustrated
that I would start to cry, like, for real crying at the D&D table. See, if the DM were to say; do you want to take the river path, or do you want to take the mountain path? Then I would know, I have two choices. But he doesn’t do that, cause
that’s not how D&D works. He basically just says;
what do you want to do? And you have to create the
options with your mind. Wow. Even though I’m a creative
person, this is hard for me. This is a different set
of muscles to exercise. It was good for me and my
boys to live in a place of wonder and possibility, as we went on this journey together. Number three, I haven’t felt like the most connected mom lately. I have been working a lot,
I’ve just felt out of step. I feel like they’re more
comfortable with their dad than they are with me, and I know that some of
that is age appropriate, but this Dungeons and Dragons
campaign has shown me that there are ways that I can
drawer closer to my boys in ways that we’re all comfortable with. We now have a language that’s all our own. After the session, we
talked about how it went, and what we want to do next time, and what we could have done different. It’s literally all we can talk about. It’s special, it’s ours. I know not every mom or dad is gonna be interested in playing D&D. Not everyone is into war hammers,
and dragons, and goblins, and trolls, and bags that
can hold more inside than it looks like they can
hold on the outside, wow. And I know that not
everyone is as enthralled with a beautiful set of D&D dice as I am, those people might not have seen my dice. But for this mom, I have
found something I love, and that love grows every
time I roll the dice.


  1. Not bored. Genius. Now we need a better Tom Hanks movie about D&D with the quote “There’s no crying at the gaming table!”.

  2. Thank you for inspiring me to do my research paper on the idea that d&d can be a form of therapy, and I hope you don't mind me citing this video for a general reference since it was the thing that inspired it. Also, thank you to Youtube for autoplaying at 2am in the morning while im kept awake, worrying about said paper lol.

  3. Cool, you said 'Grok" I have never heard that outside Stranger In A Strange Land and a Linda Goodman book (Gooberz I think). Played a little D&D in past it was always fun.

  4. Thank you for posting this. I just started playing d&d last week. It gets me out of my head for awhile. I plan on sticking with it for as long as I can. Thank you Mayim. Happy gaming.

  5. To those that are timid or shy about this concept known as D&D. Its overwhelming i know but its ok. Trust me, anyone that plays this game WANTS to show you. The books are large and have lots and LOTS of text in it, but as long as you have a basic idea of what the fantasy is your dm will walk you thru for as long as you need to.

    To those that are into D&D its a chunk of their lives they are very proud of. And once you know how the magic happens, they can start to tell you the events that have taken place and epic (and i mean truly epic) moments in their lives that make no sense in our mundane world.

    Also dragonborn aren't ~technically~ half dragon. But the line conveys exactly what is intended and anyone can imagine what that means. But great vid. I wish you 20s and wonderful stories in your future.

  6. Interesting. I've always equated D&D with ouija boards and seances, etc. I didn't realize there is a practical and light side.

  7. Mayim Bialik, I too am a mom who started playing with my boys over a year ago. They wanted to learn how to be DMs before DMing for friends so their dad & I became players for them to test their skills. I always wanted to play. My oldest is running a game from the book but my youngest decided to create his own world story. So we are actually playing two games switching off with whomever wants to DM at the time. Oh, and 72 year old grandma plays too. But my main point, we too have grown closer as a family. It is truly amazing. We have actually fought fiercely in game or I should say our characters have fought fiercely, but out of game we are good. It's actually made my boys mature faster and learn more relating skills, and just so much more. So I agree with you, it is therapeutic and in a way that is better than paying for a therapist.

  8. Hmm. Could it be she attempted to play with Matthew Mercer and group and that’s what made her initially nervous. Oddly enough, DnD has been used a therapy tool for years. Especially for individuals with socializing problems (shy, anxiety, etc). RPGs have been in my life since before xyzzy actually opened the door. It’s highly recommend if you want to have a fun creative based game night.

  9. My husband (30) and I (26) just started playing as an escape from real life. Its been an amazing adventure. 💚

  10. Oh no! If my D&D character reflects my inner self, that makes me worry. I'm a tank of a dwarf cleric – who tends to "accidently" kill bosses with one hit. <facepalm> The rest of the party tries to keep me from doing so – you know, so we can interrogate them…

    So I think I'm a pacifist who is compassionate – but I'm playing these characters who go in there and fight all out, with all the sass.

    What an interesting dichotomy. Will have to discuss with my family. Thanks @Mayim

  11. I love watching other people play D&D. I watch shows like Dice Camera Action and Heroes & Halfwits religiously and I care about the characters almost like they're real people. And I would love to play the game myself, but I am terrified of other people. Especially strangers. I managed to get as far as finding a local place in town where they play D&D once a week, but when the day came, I couldn't go. Just the thought of going up to a group of strangers and asking to play with them and the dreadful fear of them saying no is paralyzing.

  12. Following nature. Play is for practicing skills. I cringe when people play an online game and deny all the potential depth by saying it's just for killing some time. It's depressing, and what it does kill is my motivation to play with them, for it makes me feel like I'm just an NPC and my job is to distract them from themselves.
    6:41: It sounds like your dice are two die four.

  13. Hi, thanks. If your family continue enjoying RPG in the future I have a suggestion. There is a game called Deadlands. I won't go too in depth but it incorporates US folklore and the events surrounding the ACW into a supnatural steampunk. Although I'm unsure how this would impact on a 9 year old, please check it out and perhaps stash a copy for later. I have experienced many RPG's with friends and this one is undoubtedly a resounding hit with all. I learnt so much about your/US history and had an absolute blast.

  14. 🙂 Thanks to you Mayim, I finally know how "D&D" works!
    Yes I'm a HUGE "Star Wars" geek and like old school "Star Trek" t.v. and movies but I never got into "D&D"…you've got
    me curious about buying a set of my own dice! 😉 🙂

  15. Aeon article about how role-play intelligence is vital to AI.


  16. I loved the video, I find it wonderful and inspiring. I have studied neurology Q. Physics, love the Big Bang theory etc… To see you with your family and the story as you tell it I just find it heartwarming, thank you for sharing. You are a blessed lot. Keep it up people like you for me make this world a better place.

  17. Mayiam, I'm sure you've heard of Critical Role. https://geekandsundry.com/shows/critical-role/ It would be amazing if you ever got invited and/or decided to guest on the show.

  18. I've only played D&D a few times (all were short) but I would love to get into it with my family, unfortunately I don't anyone in my area who plays D&D style games & I'm pretty sure my children would not fare so well in a (more professional/game store) setting.

  19. Enjoying your YouTube channel. Like you I am delighted that my sons are old enough to play D&D. We homeschool and it is part of our curriculum because it develops so many skills and is fun to play. Now, as a parent at the table (I DM for my wife and kids), have you had to deal with struggle between wanting to parent your child and wanting to “parent” your character? Let me give you an example, one of my sons chose to play a rogue who is obsessed with shiny things — this led his character to steal from the group (i.e. sleight of hand check rolled a Nat 20 taking a bag of gems from the loot). As the DM, the dice and I let him do it. Let’s just say there was some metagaming as a consequence and some concern about letting my son “get away” with stealing. Have you had these moments? And what did you do? (P.S. I am jealous that you met Mark Hamill. The closest I’ve come is having him like one of my tweets.)

  20. I'm so glad I found this. Too bad it took until April of 2018. You're awesome, Mayim, and I really look forward to watching this!

  21. DnD is awesome! But I also find improvisation and role playing to be difficult sometimes. I love playing with my friends and going on adventures though, must be dope to get to do that with your kids! Thanks for this video, it's an honor to grok with you 🙂

  22. "Lack of logical thinking"? Seriously?

    The only character I played P&P was my half-elf ranger Sydherian. The game was Naheulbeuk (a french parodic mp3 saga for D&D-like RPers). Sydh had god-like DEX very soon. She dodged everything (thanks to the stats, my dice rolls are terrible), crit almost all the time. Until she failed to dodge once. Critical hit. A dagger in the heart. One shot by a mere bandit. She came back using her Fate Point (no healer :/). Got it back by one-shooting the strongest creature our DM could come up with. Then the Pyro-Wyrms stopped adventuring.

    RP probably wouldn't have worked in my family.
    I had the chance to be raised by a roleplaying mother. But… we never played P&P together. We didn't even try. My early video games experiences showed how much I cared about optimization and logic, she wanted something more spontaneous and elegant. We knew, without talking about it, that our love for RP was one more wall between us.
    She was afraid of messing things up with her smart, introverted, indecipherable girl. So we stayed "confortably" on each side of the wall.
    It's all about the (lack of) will to take a chance on the other before it's too late.

  23. Started playing D&D with my seven year old, and my four-and-a-half year old. The seven year old is reading pretty well on her own now and loves the game. It's helping reinforce her reading skills and basic math concepts. The younger one is…just…hilarious. Their party (including two NPCs) were stopped at the side of a road before venturing in to try and track down a bandit group that had abducted the daughter of a minor noble. I asked my son what he wanted to do. He said, "smash." To everyone's delight, his fighter spent the next several minutes savagely attacking a tree until he knocked it over.

  24. I spent years while my son was a teenager wondering just what it was he did all day in school, because it certainly wasn't schoolwork. Later, all his gaming went online, and eventually went into just the story-telling aspect with less and less role-playing. I watched this video several months ago, and wondered if our adoptive grandson/nephew was old enough to start playing. He is, and we're currently working on our characters. Knowing my son's evil elf mind, I'm a bit worried about just what all he's going to do to us. But, we're all looking forward to starting the campaign. My grandson is on the Autism spectrum with a lot of instability in his life, but all three of us are very much looking forward to playing.

    Thanks so much for making this video and reminding me that D&D is still out there, still fighting monsters and making heroes.

  25. Oh I laughed about the part when Mayim said that the DM has a general sense of what's going on and has 'rules.' Whenever I played with my friends when I was young, by 30 minutes into a game the DM had thrown up his hands and said, "I give up trying to create plot devices for you. All of you just screw everything up and my hours of backstory is now out the window"

  26. I started playing D&D because of your advices. Not only I feel more connected to y 9 yo and to my husband. But I really got to know my son's actor talents and his beautiful healer soul. Thank you, Mayim! Love you!

  27. Omg I only heard of D&D in the big bang theory I didn't thought it was real😂😂😂😅😆 have to try it sometime I like the idea of family therapy

  28. Now imagine engaging your kids on a deeper level and playing out games that have them think through real world problems like war and peace…..as in John Hunter’s ted talk on Teaching the World Peace Game. What great lessons we could teach our kids around a “wisdom table”.😊

  29. I was quoted in a local paper for saying that "role playing is like reading a book. Only you are the character, so you make the decisions." Or something like that.

    My husband and I RP almost daily, we have a complete world separate from reality that we hit up a couple hours a day. Our #1 rule is "you have to be able to logically explain it." Meaning, yes, we have vampires, dragons, changlings, elves, demons, angels, gods, mortals, werewolves, magic users, constructs, AI, and cyborgs…but they have to work for their abilities, or work to refine their natural talents, and they must fit the characters self story. An example of this, a non magic user can't suddenly become a magic user. Though with time, they can learn alchemy and create potions.

    Anyway, it's complicated, but oh so simple,…which is why I feel bad when friends say "we should RP, what system do you use?" Um,…all of them? Yet none of them?

    The first line in most RP books is "if something doesn't work for you, change it." So I get frustrated playing with people who are too rule bound. But we all play to have fun. TY for not calling d&d immature, satanic, or stupid.

  30. Awesome to hear about DnD from you Mayim!!! I used to play since my 10 years old (22 years ago). But now a days my friends no more play (it's not because they don't like anymore…it's always about time, and excuses haha). And now watch you and your family, your kids, playing together, it's amazing and inspiring… 😀 Super!!!

  31. That was awesome! I'm in the same boat (but without kids), where I never got to play D&D or Magic the Gathering as a kid, and now everyone seems to be uninterested or too experienced = one day I'll find my group though ♥️ or have kids I guess lol

  32. I just found this while searching how to play D&D with my kids, I have never played but started listening to "The Adventure Zone" and I feel like I NEED to play now! Thank you for your encouragement! Now just to get a beautiful set of dice!!!

  33. Q: Wouldn't that game be against Jewish religion because it warships monsters and beasts? Dare I say devil worshipping!?

  34. One of my friends always enjoys this with his group, I wished I could join his game–alas, they're in Missouri 🙁

  35. I wish I could love this video. My husband and I play D&D and we have recently had our son join one of our groups. All 3 of us are introverts and D&D helps us come out of our shell. I love that you got your boys involved.

  36. I just played a game similar to D&D last night called 7th sea, pirates and sailing and booty and stuff. I have also played pathfinder and 13th age a lot too, and its honestly really good for anxiety. I tend to have memory problems, which I'm (hoping) is just because of anxiety, so I do fumble a lot when I try to think of ways to do things, but having a good group also helps because we start bouncing ideas off each other and interacting more deeply than I'm used to in most cases. I mean, for a couple hours I honestly feel like I don't have anxiety sometimes. We're laughing, spewing references and quotes and things, so its great fun.

  37. How as a child of God would you every bring or play this with ur children when will you bring out the ouija board?

  38. I played when I was in college. Some nights, we'd start our game right after dinner, and stay up until 4AM playing.

  39. This is such a lovely video and a great representation of the closeness a group can gain from doing something fun, creative and collaborative 🙂 Well done!

  40. Megan Smith boff or whatever her name is she doesn't deserve to sign with anybody. She is a major thief and stole most of my money. God has my back and not hers. You reap what you sow Meghan. I wish I didn't know megan Smith. She is spoiled rotten and has been trying to make my life hell.

  41. My character its a Dragonbron Druid in a quest to collect 5 magical staffs, his master in the nature arts talked about the first druid, who using those same staffs challenge a god's judgement upon a innocent city. Even though that druid sacrificed his life the judgement was stopped, so now my character is in search for them or some kind of power capable of changing the very mechanism of destiny, which he hates so proudly.
    He was a dragonborn who did the only thing a dragonbron should never do, he run from the battlefield after seeing his friends dying as fast as flies against a power so big even the whole clan could be decimated, when he returns he was exiled by his crimes and the clan went to war, making him the last of his kind. Since that day he doesn't quite understand how the destiny its so brutal, mercyless and stupid, the kind falls and the wicked always has the advantage, the dumb it's heard and the wise is forgotten. Thats the real quest for ZARATHOR THE CICLOPS RIDER, a quest to fight the order of a world that he doesn't acknowlege and probably never will.

  42. Awwww. This story is so damn cute, so happy for you. On the low… kinda wanna try it with my kids when the day comes 😀

  43. As a fellow mom, I LOVED this! Mine are 2.5, 4.5, and 6.5 so I am looking into ways to ease them in! My boyfriend and I found the My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria; and although I have very little experience with d&d I want to GM this for my kids!

  44. D&D is the best therapy ever. It is like meditation, only better. I am currently a half-orc female bard in our current campaign

  45. I always end up with people who say "I wanna get laid." That's the first thing he wants to do when he finds himself on a deserted island with the rest of the group.The man was a pervert. He even had beady eyes, like lots of perverts.

  46. I love situations where your players HAVE to play because they're your kids or your students or whatever. Everyone who plays the game know how frustrating it can be to get a consistent group to run a campaign.

  47. I played D and D in the 80s. Tried to join the local club but got blackballed for being a girl. Finally found the Jewish brother and sister up the street who were equally left out. We had a ball together. I am still friends with Rebecca and David though we don't play any more.

  48. I have been playing d&d since 1980 a6 13 years old. I am now 50 years old and still play. I have been a Dm for many people. I play dungeons and dragons online, now. I still love the good old days of paper and dice

  49. My boy's are too young…. But I can wait…. Have you ever try "the black eye" or "shadow run"? These were my pen and pepper games bevor I get pregnant….

  50. I grew up with a great set of friends in high school. We were all in band and also played lots of board games, then my buddy found two that we played a ton: Axis and Allies and D&D. What was amazing was the fact that we played at my buddies house during the weekend nights or holidays and his father (divorced) worked nights but trusted us to behave, which we did. It was a great group of kids from HS band, a couple popular kids and goth types. We all were drawn together having fun playing on adventures. Everyone took turns as DM and it was a blast.

    However a couple of our players went to an evangelical church and when the preachers wife heard we were playing D&D, she called a meeting of our parents to tell them we were playing with the devil. During the meeting she went on how we were casting spells and selling our souls. It was ludicrous and several parents rolled their eyes at this woman. At one point one of my friend's mothers stood up and said how ridiculous the whole argument was to begin with. At one point she said well at least we weren't partying and drinking…or is that what you want. The group of us cheered her and that was that. Unfortunately it took away a number of our players but we kept on with our group.

  51. One of my many favorite Big Bang episodes was when Sheldon DM’d a special D&D game for Bernadette, when she was pregnant. In the game, men had babies. Since D&D was mentioned so often, I also thought the cast members had played from time to time to unite the cast.

  52. I can't get my family to play any kind of game as a family except for my father that likes chess.

  53. Mayim, My wife and I have been playing D&D, on and off for years, and we love it. However, we cannot convince our four daughters to play. Any suggestions?

  54. I'm 11 and play d&d and I'm the dm in my campaign
    my friends and i were thinking that we could play the tyranny of dragons which is about an cult of dragon were bringing the queen of dragons:TIAMAT
    but it didn't came out because it was supposed to come out in october 22 2019 and you should try play that adventure until it comes out.

  55. in the late 80s early 90s, all we used were character sheets, dice, miniatures, and some graph paper for the DM. and it was ON

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