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Building Stronger Friendships through D&D

by Mike on 5 December 2022

Keotep, a Patron of Sly Flourish asks:

Online tools, like Discord, create amazing opportunities to meet and play D&D with many new people from literally everywhere. Do you have any top tips on building online D&D friendships?

I truly believe that, not only is D&D important, but that D&D saves lives. Friendships are critical to our health — as critical as exercise and more critical than career advancement.

D&D is a fantastic way for us to build and reinforce friendships. It gives us a catalyst to get together regularly, break away from other real-world commitments, and get together to play.

2020 and 2021 saw many of us physically isolated. For many, playing D&D online became the way we continue with the hobby. Playing online helped maintain friendships around D&D even when we couldn't get together physically.

But it's hard to build deep friendships online. While social media makes us feel more connected, the bonds we create there are often weaker than those we make in-person.

So how can we build new friendships online and strengthen those bonds? I offer my own thoughts in this article.

If you're looking to build a group, read my article on Finding and Maintaining a D&D Group.

Prioritize Friendships

Pay active attention to your friendships. Deep friendships can sometimes just happen but in today's disconnected world and constant state of busyness, it can be hard. We can start by making it a conscious activity to build, develop, and maintain friendships. This means doing something, every day, to build and strengthen a friendship. Just like exercise. What can we do?

Help People

Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet people in a friendly and giving way. There are lots of ways to volunteer in the world of D&D including signing up to run games for online conventions, helping organize such conventions, or hanging out in Discord channels with the specific intent of helping solve peoples' problems. It's possible to meet other people who also like helping people. The friendships formed between those who regularly run or organize games for the Adventurer's League come up often. The AL organizers are a tight-knit group who have formed their own community.

It's really easy to fall into the pit of cynicism when dealing with people online. Put your cynicism away and become an ambassador for the hobby. Bring new people in. Be positive. Don't debate or argue. Run games for them. Find and befriend others who do likewise.

Track Casual Friends

When meeting people online, it's easy to lose track of them. When you meet someone in a game you enjoyed playing with, make a note of them somewhere. Write their username (and real name if you got it) somewhere so you'll remember it. Send them a note a day later and thank them for the chance to play with them. Maybe ask to join together in future games or offer to run a game for them sometime. Send a note to check in later, see how they're doing or bring up an interesting bit of news. Check to see if they're playing in other online conversations. If they're not getting back to you or you get the sense they're not as into the connection as you are, that's fine. Let it go.

Remember the people you enjoyed meeting. However you choose to do it, take note of them so you'll have the chance to meet them again.

Take the First Step

Building and reinforcing friendships can feel weird sometimes. It feels invasive for us to reach out to someone we're just getting to know. But it can be worth it to create a closer bond. Build up the courage to take that first step and reach out. Be aware that reaching out may result in no real connection and that's ok. It's still worth doing. Send a note to them. Ask them how they liked whatever game you played with them. Find a specific topic to bring up. See how the conversation goes.

Talk To Them

It's really hard to build meaningful friendships in just text chat. It can happen but there's a lot getting missed. Find a way to chat voice and, ideally, video. We're physical creatures and we build a stronger relationships with those we see and hear. Texting and online chats seem easy and comfortable but they're not building a strong bond. Really talking and seeing someone builds a stronger bond.

Playing games online together is a great catalyst for this. We want to use audio and video when playing online. It's easy to feel self-conscious about it and it takes courage to take that step of putting ourselves out there but it helps.

Run Games

Player's lament how hard it is to find a good group. That goes away when you become a DM and run your own games. Now, especially online, many players are looking to play games. Finding the players who gel with you and your style may be hard. Find out other tricks for building a great group in my article Finding and Maintaining a D&D Group.

Don't Be That Guy

Speaking to my fellow men here, building friendships isn't about seeking a romantic partner. Women often feel over pursued by men in situations like this. Many men often engage with woman stating they want to be friends, then get angry if the woman isn't interested in a romantic partnership. Be clear and genuine about wanting to build friendships. Don't reach out to people as a friend if what you're really looking for is a romantic partner. Don't be a creep.

Take the Effort

Take the effort to meet people, re-connect with people, and build stronger friendships. In today's world we're ever more connected and yet easily overcome by loneliness. Building friendships is important. It's worth our time as much as eating right and exercising. Give friendships the attention they deserves. Our lives will be better for it.

Special thanks to Dr. Megan Connell and Dr. Michael Mallen for their help with this article.

More Sly Flourish Stuff

This week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Empire of the Ghouls Chapter 2 Tips and Game Prep and Seven Fantastic Tools to Play D&D Online.

Last Week's Lazy D&D Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

Patreon Questions and Answers

Also on the Talk Show, I answer some of the questions I get on the monthly Sly Flourish Patreon questions and answer thread. Here are last week's questions and answers:

D&D Tips

Each week I think about what I learned in my last D&D game and write them up as D&D tips. Here are this week's D&D tips:

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