D&D&D (Dungeons & Dragons & Directors) Research Paper

Research Paper

“Will the skills that I develop by being a Dungeon Master (DM) for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) be helpful to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director?”

My ultimate career aspiration is to eventually become a Fiction Film/TV Director.

One of my hobbies is playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). This is an RPG (Role Playing Game) where a bunch of friends sit around a table in someone’s dining room (or basement if you live in America) often consuming snacks and rolling dice, while going on awesome adventures slaying dragons and getting in trouble with the city guard at the same time. One element that I also enjoy is that, in addition to creativity and skill, your actions also rely on dice roles, which gives them a challenging but enjoyable unpredictability. Which means that you can lift boulders while also breaking your leg kicking down doors. On occasions this can give it a comedic element which also appeals to me. Just last week I saved a village from an evil dragon, got proclaimed a hero, but, thanks to a bad dice roll, got knocked off my horse – all before tea-time!

In this paper, I propose to investigate whether D&D is just a good nerdy excuse to create a great story, eat snacks and have fun with your friends, or whether it is actually, as I would suggest, completely nurturing and furthering my ability to become a good Fiction Film/TV Director.

As well as playing D&D, I am also a Dungeon Master (DM), that’s the person who creates the world that the players explore. As DM I also have to create the story, explain to the players what their characters are seeing, improvise and act out all the Non-Player-Characters (NPCs) who interact with the players’ characters. I have to ensure continuity of the story and the world. Since games are usually set in Fantasy type realms, easiest described as sort of medieval, I can’t let a player suddenly have their character pull out a mobile phone to use. Except that, actually, I can let them do that if I want, since I’m the one who created the world, so in one way I can do what I want. But my players will soon get unhappy with me if I am too inconsistent. Or if I suddenly have one of the monsters, that the players are fighting, have a weapon that it didn’t have at the start of the fight. So, consistency and continuity matter.

For some time now it has been occurring to me that many aspects of what I do as a DM have echoes to me of what I see Fiction Film/TV directors talking about doing when I watch behind the scenes videos, e.g. in “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” which was 8 episodes of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and, in particular, roundtable discussions lead by its producer Jon Favreau and often featuring the directors. Some of these aspects that seem similar to me between being a DM and being a Fiction Film/TV Director include telling a thrilling story and setting up shocking twists that wow and amaze the audiences/players, creating a rich and full world that the main characters will interact with and have their story told in, and having the final say during filming or the D&D session. A main skill of both DMs and Directors is being able to keep everyone involved on track and bring the best out in the people involved, whether it be keeping everyone engaged and active in the D&D session or bringing their best to the production side of the filming.

Many people would already recognise the usefulness of D&D when it comes to the narrative and setting of films set in fantasy worlds such as the Lord of the Rings films. Something that D&D has and relates to the work of all the people I’m talking about, is that it really amplifies, cultivates and nurtures a strong understanding of the power of myth, mythology and mythic figures. Indeed many of D&D’s monsters stem from mythological creatures. It’s not just about fantasy because fantasy is ultimately about the power of myth. There is a common factor in that it should be no surprise, I suggest, that it creates film makers of this kind because what it clearly does is to bring a strong sense of narrative but also an alternative narrative that might also be characterised as mythologising. It also gives an immersive example of Propp’s Narrative Character Theory, for example with heroes, villains, helpers, princesses etc.

However, I would suggest that there is a usefulness to D&D that goes beyond and deeper than the narrative and it being set in a fantasy realm and which is as true for a Director directing a film set in the “real” world, such as the James Bond films, as it is for a full on “fantasy” film such as Lord of the Rings, and I want to delve deeper than the usefulness of the fantasy and narrative element. I am talking about what are often described as “Soft Skills” such as leadership and problem solving, and soft skills that are more specific to the role of Director (and a DM) such as improvisation and world building, whether the world is similar to our own world, a fantasy one or indeed a combination of both such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is independent of the genre a Fiction Film/TV show is. And while there are many differences between the two roles of DM and Director, I feel that the many similarities in the skills required and developed with both roles will be helpful to me in my eventual career aim of becoming a Fiction Film/TV Director. But am I right in feeling this? I am genuinely curious to find out. I am keen to do anything that will help me in my ultimate goal to become a Fiction Film/TV Director. And as an added extra, it would be great to be able to justify playing D&D, and in particular being a DM, as being “to help with my career”, and not just “nerding out with friends”.

So, my Thesis Statement is “I believe that being a Dungeon Master (DM) for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is helping me develop specific skills that will be helpful to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director”.

Method – what I plan on doing to help me decide if I agree or disagree with my Thesis Statement
I will find out what skills are necessary and are developed through playing D&D as a player, since pretty much all DMs start out as players. I will find out what additional skills a DM needs and develops, compared to being a player. I will particularly look at those skills which are useful in the real world, like teamwork, problem solving, creativity to name a few.  I will research these by Primary Research – a survey of people who play D&D and/or are DMs – and by Secondary Research – online searches, especially YouTube since my initial research when deciding if this was a viable Research Paper topic showed me that the main platform for discussions about D&D/DM skills is YouTube.

I will also research skills generally accepted as being necessary to be a good Fiction Film/TV Director. Again, I believe that online searches will yield the most useful information, which is advantageous since we are currently in lockdown due to Covid-19. I will also see whether there are many people in the Creative Sector who either play, or played, D&D, or have been DMs, and see what their comments are, and if they are useful.

I will compare the skillsets of DMs and Fiction Film/TV Directors to see if there is a significant overlap.

This will allow me to decide if I agree or disagree with my Thesis Statement.

In my survey (add link here) I started by asking a few questions to establish whether the respondents had any experience of D&D, and also whether they had ever been a DM. This was to help me understand the context of their answers since if they had no experience of D&D then their answers regarding D&D would be less relevant. 95.7% of my respondents (22 out of 23) had experience of D&D so that meant that I was happy that the one person who hadn’t experienced D&D wasn’t going to skew the rest of the results to a significant degree. I decided not to remove their responses from my results because they are doing my course and so I knew that they could have relevant insights into my later questions about the film industry. 16 out of the 23 people had been DMs so that was helpful in getting opinions for comparing skills learnt just through playing D&D compared to those from actually being a DM.

I had a question asking what skills people thought were needed to be a D&D Player, another question asking the same for being a DM, and a third for being a Fiction Film/TV Director. I put “what skills are required” rather than “what skills do you develop” since I felt it was a more straightforward to understand question, and any skills required tend to get developed though playing D&D or being a DM, in the same way as for a Director skills get developed through doing the job. I asked this so that I could see what overlap there is between the three roles of D&D player, DM and Fiction Film/TV Director. I also asked if people thought these skills were transferable.

Creativity, imagination, communication, being flexible, being analytical (I’m including problem solving in this) and teamwork came up repeatedly for all three questions and are also regarded by many respondents as being transferable. Some skills were repeated for D&D and being a DM, like role-playing. However, I noticed that some additional ones were more overlapping between being a DM and a Fiction Film/TV Director, such as planning, organisation, improvisation (which also came up a lot in the YouTube videos that I watched about Directors and others in the Film/Creative Industry talking about how D&D helped them), thinking in the long run, world building, good knowledge of the world that they are creating, technical knowledge (either of D&D rules for a DM or equipment for a Fiction Film/TV Director), good visualisation and the ability to share that visualisation with others, leadership and people management, to name some.

A Dungeon Master’s job is to apply the rules of D&D and give the players a world in which to explore as well as a catchy story to follow. Some of the key skills that respondents said that are required to be a DM are:

  • Creativity
  • Planning
  • Organisation
  • Good story telling
  • Improvisation (both of Non-Player-Characters and also problem solving)
  • World building
  • Successfully conveying the image they have in their head to others
  • Team Building and encouraging others to get the most out of themselves and the game, e.g. helping players feel comfortable acting out their characters i.e. role playing.

These are all skills that are also vital for a Fiction Film/TV Director.

There were so many skills mentioned in all four of these questions that I can’t list them all here, but it really showed me both about how many real-life skills D&D and being a DM allows you to practise, and also that there is a really big overlap between the DM skills and those that a Fiction Film/TV Director needs.

Regarding my survey, it was useful that 22 out of 23 of my respondents have played D&D because it gave them a context for my question of whether it is easier for someone who has been a DM to be Fiction Film/TV Director. Nobody answered “No”. 2 people said they didn’t know, the rest said “Yes” or “Maybe”. Many of my respondents were from my Film/TV course or had prior Film knowledge so that also gives them a better context and knowledge to answer this question than your average person.

I was encouraged that my survey appeared to back up my Thesis Statement, although I recognise that none of the respondents actually are Fiction Film/TV Directors. So the next step was to research what Fiction Film/TV Directors said and other people working in the Film/Creative Industry.

I watched a lot of videos where various people in the Film/Creative Industry discussed real-life skills they developed from D&D generally. Some of these were TEDx talks, and I stuck to people in the Film/Creative Industry, for example Jim Zub, a Canadian comic writer for both Marvel and D&D and Ethan Gilsdorf, who is amongst other things a writer and performer. Some points that Jim Zub made were that it allowed him to practise many real-life skills in a safe, risk-free environment. This meant, for example, that he could try out different, often innovative, out-of-the-box problem-solving approaches without it really mattering if he got it wrong, and experiment with different moral challenges. He learnt that collaboration and teamwork almost always give a better result in problem-solving than a selfish approach. He made the point that this is almost impossible to do in the real world, since all your previous failed attempts would have consequences that they do not have in D&D, since all the players are in the same boat. Worst case scenario in D&D is that your player dies, and you have to make a new one. Ethan Gilsdorf echoed these sentiments. This effectively virtual risk-taking practising is an example of one of the many skills that you can try out in a safe way in D&D. This even more true for the DM, who is not only acting out Non-Player-Characters in a similar way to the actual players but is also having to take risks with the world they have built. Will the monsters the DM has chosen or even created prove too strong and kill all the players? Will the players call the DM out on inconsistencies in their world building? Can the DM foster a spirit of cooperation? Better to experiment with these in the setting of D&D rather than on a film set.

A combination of skills that I found mentioned in many places are empathy and tolerance. There are a huge range of different races withing D&D worlds, from dwarves and elves to trolls and humans. These different races are recognised as having different abilities. Usually, the best way for a group of players to solve problems is to work as a team, respecting and utilising these differing abilities. And because of the immersive nature of the game, players also often have to interact with a wide range of different races of Non-player-characters, depending on how the DM runs the game. The DM usually sets the tone as to how these interactions will affect the outcome. A DM who models and develops their own tolerance and indeed celebration of diversity helps and encourages their players to do the same. This is good practise for the real world (as Jim Zub said) and particularly for a Director in this day and age navigating and celebrating diversity on their film sets.

Two of my tutors, Nargess and Nick, taught us about character backstories, and how important they are for storytelling. Backstories are a huge part of D&D, again driven by how much the DM encourages and helps the players to create backstories for their characters and by how much the DM uses the character backstories for the characters and also creates backstories for Non-player-characters. As a DM I have learned that the more I encourage my players to think about, understand and act within their characters’ backstories, the more believable and consistent the immersive story becomes. This is also true for a Fiction Film/TV Director, whose aim is to keep the audience believing in all the characters, invested in their fates, and thus keeping watching. As a DM I have learned the improvement this makes in a D&D campaign. I learned both from my own games and from watching online campaigns such as those by Critical Role.

And also, technology is developing rapidly to enable films to become an even more immersive story-telling experience. I have previously discussed with my tutor Nick about the huge number of special effects people involved in the film 1917, which are creating an even more immersive story-telling ability for Fiction Film/TV Directors. People with experience of D&D, especially DMs, are very well suited to understanding how to make good use of these developments in an immersive narrative.

Many people regard D&D players as being a bunch of “nerds”. But I would like to see anyone call Vin Diesel a nerd! An American filmmaker and one of the world’s highest grossing actors, Vin Diesel credits his many years playing D&D as playing a large part in his success. In an interview with Absolute Radio, he describes D&D as being the art of storytelling and imagination, and “the training ground in some ways for one’s imagination, and in many ways influenced the way that I produce film.” He also said, in relation to a conversation that he was describing that he had with Cory Goodman (writer of The Last Witch Hunter which stared Vin Diesel), “We were geeking out about Dungeons and Dragons and its influence on us and its influence on several big Directors in Hollywood.” Although I couldn’t find a reference where he mentions exactly which Hollywood directors he was meaning, the reference to “big Hollywood directors” implies that they are successful ones, and, given his own success, Vin Diesel is probably mixing with successful Directors. So that adds evidence to me that many successful Directors have played D&D, and Vin Diesel says that it influenced the way he produced film.

Vin Diesel mentioned, in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, that he had been asked to write the forward for the 30th Anniversary book of Dungeons & Dragons. Jimmy Kimmel asked him “Did you do it?” to which Vin Diesel looked at him as if he were crazy and replied, “Of course I did! How are you not gonna?!” Vin Diesel was so proud.

I found out that Steven Spielberg is a “massive D&D nerd” and used D&D to help him cast the roles of the children in E.T. by having the children play a game of D&D and seeing how they interacted. This caused him to reject one of the auditionees as not being a good fit.

Jon Favreau – I found out that not only does Jon Favreau love D&D, he also has said that he credits his D&D playing with developing his world building, creative and improvisation skills. In 2008 he said, “it gave me a really strong background in imagination, storytelling (and) understanding how to create tone and a sense of balance.”

He also said, “It did help me because when you build worlds for making like a superhero movie or dealing with CGI and even filmmaking, between that (D&D) and the experience that I got from doing improvisational comedy, it’s like you’re putting on a show, you’re setting something up or improvising as different characters in a game… all those things in the back of your mind when you’re on a film set”. Jon Favreau’s words would certainly seem to confirm my Thesis Statement.

Also, in the YouTube video “Why is D&D so popular again?”, the Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony) who directed Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, are keen D&D players. I found two great quotes from them. Joe said D&D is “…a really good exercise for your imagination, that’s why we love it” and Anthony added “Yeah and who could resist unconventionally sided dice?”. Two other quotes from Joe Russo are, “there’s something really empowering about conjuring stories with other people, it’s at the heart of everything we do, that’s one thing that’s really special about D&D” and, my favourite, “If you want to make movies, go play D&D”. This last statement of Joe Russo very strongly supports my Thesis Statement.

In the same video, Taliesin Jaffe (voice actor, player in Critical Role with Matthew Mercer, see below about Matthew Mercer) makes a very interesting point. “We finally have all the kids who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons are now at that age where they’re making films, they’re writing books, they’re now not just consuming the media but they’re influencing and directly creating the stories that they want to see in the same way that the Spielberg’s and George Lucas’s of the 70’s and 80’s were taking all of their Pulp heroes and all of that sci-Fi that they consumed as kids and all these people coming through the industry now and all the creators are taking all of these things that they learned playing the game when they were teenagers and starting to apply that…” These words confirm that there are a large number of people who play/played D&D in the Film/Creative Industry.

Joe Manganiello, an actor/director runs an “A-List Celebrity Dungeons and Dragons Group” in Hollywood. This includes people such as Vince Vaughn (actor/producer/screenwriter) and “Game of Thrones” co-creator D.B Weiss amongst others. Some recurring guests are the other co-creator of “Game of Thrones” David Benioff and “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, and many more. Joe Manganiello is the DM, and he even has a professional role as a consultant for D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. Again, this confirms that there are a wide range of people, including directors, who play D&D.

And Joe Manganiello also said, about D&D, that “I didn’t play D&D and go, I wanna be an actor. That happened independently. I made films and that’s how I got into acting, but unbeknownst to me, especially when I started producing and breaking stories for pitches and scripts, I realized all of those muscles I developed from game mastering as a kid. So, in hindsight, it was absolutely instrumental in my development as an artist.” He mentions how D&D has been instrumental for many of his players in the careers, and how he was developing characters and character backstories long when he was young, long before he entered the Film/Creative Industry. Joe says that as DM he is like a showrunner. This comment echoes so many people in the Film/Creative crediting D&D as being instrumental in their career development, and now Joe is a DM too.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, Joe and Stephen spent the whole interview talking about D&D. Joe makes the comment that “My house in LA is the LA Hub and all the writers, directors, comedians, actors, we all started playing again.”, again more evidence that a large number of people in the Film/Creative Industry play/have played D&D.

Ashley Johnson (another voice actor and Critical Role player) stated that “this game has helped me to better connect with people”. Being able to connect with people is not only a vital skill for a Fiction Film/TV Director on set, it is also a vital skill for getting to be on set in the first place, since we are frequently told how important networking is to getting on in the Film/TV Industry.

Stephen Colbert, who developed an “intense” interest in D&D when he was young, credits D&D for his talent at character creation. Creating characters and directing actors to turn characters from a page into believable characters on screen, who evoke emotions in the audience is a major part of being a Fiction Film/TV Director.

When I researched skills needed by Fiction Film/TV Directors, the overlap with many of the skills that I have already outlined for DMs was huge, for example

  • Flexible Creativity,
  • Written and Visual Storytelling,
  • Decisive and Problem-Solving Leadership,
  • Communication,
  • Genuine Interest,
  • Active Contributor,
  • Empathy,
  • Respect for Diversity,
  • Integrity and Honesty

To be fair, some Directors are or have been “successful” without the last three, but I think in this day and age they are becoming more important, and they are attributes that we need in future Fiction Film/TV Directors and are certainly skills and attributes that I want to have.

Oscar Winning Director Ron Howard says “Ultimately you are the storyteller” which is as true for being a DM as it is for being a Fiction Film/TV Director. D&D is about as immersive a way of doing storytelling as you can get. Gaming as a whole could be described as immersive storytelling, but I believe that D&D is even more immersive than online games since when you are role playing you put your whole self into your character – many players and DMs create different voices for their characters and bring along props – and the DM has to provide an environment that supports players to be able to feel comfortable with this level of immersion.

If you look at many directors, both D&D-players and non-D&D-players, they all have their own unique directing style – Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Christopher Nolan, and J.J. Abrams to name a few. And in a very similar sense to unique directing style, Dungeon Masters have their own unique DM styles.

An obvious DM to look at is Matthew Mercer (voice actor), the DM for the extremely successful D&D live streaming show “Critical Role”, where Matthew Mercer DMs for a group of about 7 players (all other voice actors). He is widely known and liked amongst the D&D community. In my research I found that he has also produced a series of YouTube videos on how to be a good DM, and many of the skills, hints and tips that he outlines could just as well be relevant to being a good Fiction Film/TV Director. For example, some of his hints and tips are:

  • doing your research and making notes of key elements, keep these notes with you
  • be organised
  • create believable, consistent worlds
  • having a clear understanding of the world you have created
  • explaining and describing to the players (actors) what their characters can see in any given setting
  • being flexible regarding how your players (actors) act out situations, whilst knowing the limits of the narrative that need to be kept to for consistency with past or future parts of the narrative
  • paying attention to details, consistency and continuity
  • presenting the narrative in an exciting and engaging way to keep your players (audience) coming back for more
  • creating a good team atmosphere to get the best out of everyone
  • you don’t need to memorise all the information available, but you need to apply it
  • bridge the world between the players (actors) and the world (fantasy or otherwise) that they are in
  • Be creative, especially when problem solving narrative issues
  • Be a good storyteller and story creator
  • Ability to improvise
  • Judge which risks to take and which not to take, when to try something new and when tried and tested is best
  • Be dedicated – a lot of hard work is required.
  • Communicate accurately but concisely when time is of the essence
  • Be adventurous

to name some.

All these hints and tips could just as well be given to aspiring Fiction Film/TV Directors too.

Matthew Mercer is but one of the many amazing Dungeon Masters out there, and they all have their own unique DM style. This is another link that Dungeon Masters have with Directors. They are also the head of the projects and the person people look to when things go wrong or they have questions, and it’s their job to research and find the answer to those questions.

Due to the overlapping skill set that directors and DMs have it’s no surprise that there are many directors and people in creative industries who have played D&D. Some of these include Jon Favreau, Matthew Lillard (Shaggy in the 2002 Scooby Doo movie), Gerard Way (creator of Umbrella Academy), Dan Harmond (writer for Rick and Morty), Pendleton Ward (creator of Adventure Time), Anderson Cooper (American Journalist, talked with Stephen Colbert about it on a talk show, “an obsession that’s lasted well into adulthood”), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception), Patrick Rothfuss (was a guest in Critical Role and author of The Name Of The Wind), Vin Diesel (Fast and Furious, very keen D&D player), Chris Weitz (Director/Screenwriter/Producer e.g. Golden Compass), Stephen Colbert (played when younger, delighted to play D&D with Matthew Mercer for charity and has even mentioned D&D in his talk show several times), Mike Myers (actor/director – Mike Myers, Vin Diesel and Robin Williams took part in the 2006 Worldwide D&D Game Day) and how could I leave out Matthew Mercer himself (DM on Critical Role as well as voice actor for McCree from Overwatch and Levi from Attack On Titan). There are many more, but I think this gets the point across – a lot more people in the film industry including directors play or played D&D than most people think.

In this Discussion/Conclusion section I want to start by discussing dice. I have mentioned dice several times, they are beloved of many D&D players, not least since, as Anthony Russo said (above) “who can resist unconventionally sided dice?”

In D&D you use a variety of “unconventionally” sided dice, usually six or seven different ones. These are a D4 (4-sided die), D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20 and a “percentile” D10 die. Dice may not seem relevant to my Thesis Statement, but I suggest that they are. I mentioned in my Introduction that I like the “enjoyable unpredictability” that the dice bring. They are rolled for almost all actions in the game, to see how successful an action is, for example, how hard you hit something, how hard something hits you, how well you sneak up on someone, whether you are successful in persuading someone to change their mind or maybe give you an item – pretty much for anything you can think of, the first thing the DM says is “roll for that”.

I would say that, in real life, growing up, I didn’t really embrace unpredictability. In real life, unpredictability is frequently challenging. It’s easy to worry about getting something wrong when things are unpredictable. However, unpredictability is a major part of D&D, imposed by the dice rolls. But, as Jim Zub (Canadian Comic Book Artist) said, in D&D you get to practise lots of things safely that would be more challenging in real life. And because of the dice rolls, you get to practise the knowledge that many things will be unpredictable and how to handle that, both the feelings before the event and then how to handle it, for example, quick thinking, timely problem solving, teamwork, prioritising, staying calm when you can’t actually come up with an immediate solution.

As hard as everyone tries to predict the unpredictable, unpredictability is just an inescapable part of Filmmaking – in the UK just think about the weather when filming outside for example.  And a phrase that is spoken a lot about the Film/TV Industry is that “time is money” and how important it is to stay calm under pressure whilst not forgoing all the attention to detail, particularly when you are in charge as the Director. To be fair, some people can just do all that naturally. But I would say far more people find unpredictability challenging. D&D gives you the opportunity to practise handling unpredictability over and over again every game session, which often last about four hours each, that’s a lot of practise. And although D&D games are pretty immersive, intense experiences, at the end of the day they ARE just fantasy role playing games, and no one is really going get fired, ruin the film, ruin their career by making a wrong decision.

I have become much calmer at handling unpredictability through first playing D&D and handling what the DM and the dice threw at me, and now when I am DM by being in charge of smoothly finding solutions when those same dice roll against me, my monsters and my Non-Player-Characters. I may have to scrap a whole story line that I have planned and am excited to see the players play out, in the same way that a Director may have to make the call that a certain scene just isn’t working out. When I made my GCSE film, Serebrus Serum, I was really pleased with my footage of the car “zooming” along that I had shot. I had loads of shots, too many really, and I initially wanted to put loads of them in. But my tutor said I needed to cut that part down in time by half. I was devastated, I was so attached to all those shots. He told me that you need to find a way to invest emotionally in your film, but still maintain a separation in order to make those hard decisions. And he was right, my film was improved by leaving out some of my precious car shots.

But it’s hard to do. Ron Howard said, “You have to understand one thing about directing, that every project you get involved in, ultimately, is just going to find its way to break your heart”. However, playing hours and hours of D&D particularly as a DM, has allowed me to practise this emotional investment still with a separation, since the dice add this random element, and this is amplified when you are in charge of the whole game and world. And as Jim Zub said, practising things in a safe, fantasy environment allows you to then transfer those skills to the real world. I have learned that unpredictability CAN be enjoyable, not always feared. This is definitely a skill that will be helpful to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director.

Ron Howard also said “Collaboration fails all the time. Everything we do in this process fails all the time.” Failure is by its very nature unpredictable. If we can predict that something is going to fail then we should be doing something to stop it failing. So, handling failure and unpredictability are inextricably linked, and I have had lots of practise in how to handle both as DM, and I am starting to be able to transfer those skills into real life.

A quote from masterclass.com about directing is “A Director is a person who determines the creative vision of a feature film, TV show, short film or other production. They have complete artistic control of a project”. From my research, I would agree with this, and say that is could also be said about a DM running a D&D game.

While all these people use the creative skills involved in D&D to help them with their creative career there are many people who haven’t played D&D and have very successful creative careers. However, I feel like D&D still helps with the creative mind and helps to hone the skills to be a director.

The overlap between the skills needed to be a good DM and successful Director are huge, and whilst there are other ways to gain and develop these skills, I believe that D&D is as fun a way to develop these skills as you could find. And as new technology is rapidly developing to enable special effects to enhance immersive storytelling even more, I believe these many of these skills are going to become even more important.

I think I have proved to my own satisfaction that my Thesis Statement is true, being a Dungeon Master (DM) for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is helping develop specific skills that will be helpful to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director. Thus, my passion for Dungeons & Dragons is simply better preparing me to become the kind of Fiction Film/TV Director that we are going to need in the future.

I can do no better to end this Research Paper than to repeat a quote from Avengers Infinity War and Endgame Director Joe Russo, “If you want to make movies, go play D&D” – so please excuse me, I’m off to play Dungeons and Dragons.



D&D Vin Diesel


Vin Diesel talks Dungeons & Dragons with Absolute Radio


Vin Diesel on Dungeons and Dragons


Why is D&D So Popular Again? (ft. The Russo Brothers, Deborah Ann Woll & More)


Joe Managaniello Runs An A-list “Dungeons and Dragons” Group


Inside Hollywood’s Elite Dungeons & Dragons Club


Manganiello & Stephen Discuss “Dungeons & Dragons” Only


Joe Manganiello’s “Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon”


Defeat Your Demons with Dungeons & Dragons


Raised by Dragons Jim Zub TEDx


Why Dungeons & Dragons is Good for You (In Real Life) Ethan Gilsdorf TEDx


Critical Role1 : Campaign 1 (playlist)


GM Tips (Geek & Sundry, Matthew Mercer, playlist)


Anderson Cooper Admits His Dungeons & Dragons Obsession


Stephen Colbert’s D&D Adventure with Matthew Mercer (Red Nose Day 2019)


John Favreau on Dungeons & Dragons and Chris


Storytelling and Technology Jon Favreau Tedx


D&D Taught US How To Run Great Teams


Ron Howard Teaches Directing Official Trailer


Ron Howard Screenwriting and Directing Masterclass