A Hero’s Journey: Taking Heroics Learned in TTRPG to the Real World

Text reals A Hero's Journey in front desert sunset

It is no secret that the United States experienced a terrible affront to our democracy on Wednesday, January 6th.  What was intended to be a peaceful transition of presidential power instead became a platform for a group of extremists to terrorize our lawmakers in an attempt to meet their demands. It is times like these that I’m reminded of a quote from one of my childhood heroes, Fred Rogers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

This advice got me through several traumatic experiences when I was growing up.  Now that I am older, I feel it important that I myself become the helper that others can turn to in time of trouble.  If you have been following the blog, you may have seen my previous article about Taking the Party Outside.  While this article will hold a similar theme, I intend to expand upon some of the ideas I discussed prior.

Adventuring parties tend to step in when others can’t or won’t.  This is a key aspect that separates the heroic adventurer from those around them.  They seek out danger or injustices that exist and work collectively to right them.  Not all parties operate as heroes, but for those who do, these tend to be skills or attributes that define them.

They are Vigilant

A trait that heroes tend to rely on is their level of vigilance to potential dangers.  In Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons, this is often portrayed through active and passive Perception, Investigation, and Insight.  These skills can be developed and used in the real world to find people or causes that need help.  If you see a sign of danger or an injustice either planned or being carried out, take appropriate action to eliminate the threat.  Be sure to do so in instances you are equipped to handle, and seek assistance whenever possible.

A lone wolf can easily find themselves overwhelmed, which leads us to the next point.

They Collaborate

Heroic parties tend to forge alliances with like-minded groups while they work to right the wrongs they’ve discovered.  They might join a hero’s guild, gain favor with various political factions, or even deploy a call to action, and seek assistance to their own causes.  While we aren’t likely to have connections with a powerful Archmage or Knight Captain, there are still resources we can access to aid us in our efforts.  There are several non-profit organizations that work to correct illegal and cruel treatment of minority groups of all kinds.  Groups such as the ACLU, NAACP, and Amnesty International have been fighting the good fight for decades (or longer).  They are always looking for helpers, whether that means pointing them in the direction of an injustice they can fight, a donation or resources they can utilize, or joining up and becoming a volunteer or member of the organization.  Not only is there power in numbers, but often there are opportunities within these groups to help in a way you may not otherwise have access to alone.

One trait that both heroes in TTRPG and the ones within these groups tend to have in common is …

They Set an Example

Remaining vigilant, and collaborating with like-minded individuals to fight injustices and protect others from harm is certainly the mission of most heroic parties, but it isn’t the complete picture.  It is also important that a hero sets an example to those around them.  A party that prevents a band of mercenaries from raiding the local village hardly seems heroic if they threaten harm to the local shopkeeper for refusing a discount.   And while some situations may require drastic actions, it is generally in the best interest of the party to act in the manner that inspires the change they wish to promote.

This is equally (if not more so) imperative in the real world, where actions tend to speak louder than words.  If we want to see each other treated with dignity and respect, we must treat others with that respect.  Unless of course, we are dealing with fascists.  Fascism must be stopped at all levels by the best means available.

Which leads to the last point of this article …

They Don’t Let Small Problems Grow Larger

Heroes understand that even small injustices can fester if left alone.  A small troop of bandits can develop into a multi-national thief’s syndicate if left to their own devices.  A corrupt politician can rewrite the laws of the land until a representative is elevated to a despot.  Even when it is easier to let a sleeping dog lie, the clever adventurer knows that all injustices must be stopped.

This is also true in the world today.  Small, cutting remarks are employed by some as means to test how they will be received by colleagues or peers.  When the intent of the statement is questioned, it is often played off “as a joke” and was not intended seriously.  It is crucial that the instigator understands that jokes that divisive, hurtful jokes lead to an environment where abuse is tolerated, and are therefore unacceptable.  Do not let someone play off jokes that serve to harm others.


The world we live in is in just as much need of heroes as the worlds we inhabit during our Tabletop Role-play sessions.  We must remain vigilant to potential dangers as they arise and work together to thwart them.  We cannot let small injustices lie, lest they grow into greater threats.

We can no longer afford to take the hard work of others for granted.  The best thing we can do is connect with our allies, roll up our sleeves, and help the world shine a little brighter.

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