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Once per Long Rest

Writing, role playing, and healing

Bards exist for a reason, and it’s not to seduce dragons

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Editor’s note: Once per Long Rest is a biweekly column chronicling the art of Tabletop Role Playing Games (TTRPGs) with reviews, recommendations, and coverage of anything nerd-related.

I am not the first to admit this, and I definitely won’t be the last, but writing sucks. 

There’s a certain discomfort that accompanies fishing an idea out of the sea of chaos in your head and putting it on a page. What if nobody likes it? What if you grow bored of the idea after it's gone too long without its chaos-based oxygen supply? What if you find a better idea after committing to the one you’ve picked already?

Yes, writing is difficult, but along with role-playing, it's also one of the best medicines out there. While these pastimes won’t end the pandemic, they might allow you to process the more confusing, painful emotions going on in your head.

Marie-Therese Sulit, an associate professor of English at Mount Saint Mary College puts it best in her 2005 essay “Through Our Pinay Writings: Narrating Trauma, Embodying Recovery.” Her essay discusses the history of trauma within the Philippines and its relation to writing and storytelling.

“Narratives of trauma, as the female personae of these particular writings consistently show, thus become narratives of resilience,” Sulit writes. “Embodied in this resiliency lies the promise of recovery and of peace.”

Writing about our trauma, whether it be the collective history of a colonized people or our own personal trauma, allows us to process events and emotions at our own rates. Even fiction can act as a medium for healing. Reading about or creating your own fictional characters can inspire you when they succeed, and may also provide alternative methods of processing tough situations in which you may find yourself.

“The act of writing becomes an act of surviving just as the act of listening becomes an act of witnessing,” Sulit writes.

Think about bards, who are the storytellers, musicians, and entertainers of the fantasy genre. Whether you think of bards as magical spell-casters or just musicians, there is one common denominator between the two: bards uplift spirits through storytelling.

In Dungeons & Dragons (DnD) 5th Edition, bards gain an ability at the second level called “Song of Rest.” The accompanying ability text says, “You can use soothing music or rotation to help revitalize your wounded allies during a short rest.” 

Mechanically, this ability is just OK. It only heals you a small amount compared to the healing provided when you take a short rest. However, it shows that storytelling has real healing power.

So here’s my recommendation: Write a campaign or join one. Tell stories about characters and communities that have both the ability and the room to grow.

Look at actual histories, especially those of colonized people, and retell those stories. What would they look like if interpreted from a different perspective? What would happen if the colonized people were on equal or greater technological footing with their colonizer?

In creating a character, develop a person who is complex and multifaceted. Think of their strengths and weaknesses and how they will process what happens on their adventures.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail; this is when both you and your character have the opportunity to learn and to heal.

Reach Development Editor Kyle Bender at Twitter: @avatar_kyle 

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