D&D Activity - Bullying Roleplay

Materials :

  • D&D Modeled Character Sheet
  • Black markers, pens and coloring pencils
  • Drawing paper pad
  • Table and comfortable seating
  • Inspirational objects (stickers, Legos, toys, etc.), optional

Instructions :
Setting the scene:

Using the client’s D&D Modeled Character (see activities) as the protagonist, create a fantasy world where he is a beloved hero or upstanding citizen. Use what you know of the client’s bully situation to set up a ‘boss fight’ scenario. For example: If an adolescent (bully) is making hurtful statements about the client on Facebook, have the client discover a troll or orc is spreading rumors about the hero (D&D Modeled Character Sheet) throughout the fantasy world or kingdom.

Part 1:

Have the two characters "meet" and give the client the following options: Fight, Talk, and Run.

If Fight: The troll/orc has higher strength and deals more damage. The troll/orc wins and sends the hero to the hospital to refill his health.
If Talk: Encourage the client to come up with the dialogue but say that the client’s character’s charisma/intelligence/level is too low and the troll/orc ignores him. Ask the client to choose again from the three options until he chooses to fight or run.
If Run: The client escapes.


After the encounter, reflect with the client on the first part of the activity. Take note of how the client is coping. Mention that there are things that the character can do to improve his statistics before trying again.

Part 2:

Offer the client the following options:

Go to the gym to increase strength
Go to the library to increase intelligence
Go to a teacher or counselor to increase charisma

If gym: Tell the client his character’s muscles grow bigger.
If Library: Use this opportunity to provide psycho-education on bullying, such as what can lead to people becoming bullies (use troll/orc instead of bully). For example, tell the client his character learned that trolls/orcs could benefit from gestures of friendship.
If teacher or counselor: Use this opportunity to teach your client skills to cope with bullies. Frame the interaction as the client’s character learning how to cope with trolls orcs. For example, tell the client that his character can try to find common interests with the troll/orc.

Part 3:

Have the two characters "meet" again and offer the same options: Fight, Talk, Run.

If Fight: The troll/orc still has higher strength and deals more damage. The troll/orc wins and sends the hero to the hospital to refill his health - Return to Part 2.
If Talk: Encourage the client to come up with the dialogue. Use this opportunity to have him use the psycho-education material to avoid fighting or become friends. If satisfactory, end the exercise.
If Run: The client escapes - Return to Part 2.

Target Population:
Children and teens of developmental level between six and 15 years who are being bullied or cyber-bullied.
Expected Results and Troubleshooting:
Using this exercise will allow clinicians to deliver psycho-education materials to young clients through their previously developed D&D characters. By using fantasy, the client will be able to think critically about real-life situations while minimizing the anxiety of their current struggle with bullying. They will be able to practice interacting with their bully in a safe, fantasy world where there are no real consequences to making the wrong choices. Through practice and reflection, this exercise will hopefully empower the client to assertively work through their social difficulties. It is possible, however, that the client will not be engaged with the activity or they find it too transparent. Regardless of their interest in the activity, this provides optimal role-play practice and practice taking someone else’s perspective.

Related Works:
Betz, U. K. (2011). What fantasy role‐playing games can teach your children (or even you). British Journal Of Educational Technology , 42 (6), E117-E121. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01209.x

Blackmon, W. D. (1994). Dungeons and Dragons: The use of a fantasy game in the psychotherapeutic treatment of a young adult. American Journal of Psychotherapy , 48 (4), 624-632.

Enfield, G. (2007). Becoming the hero: The use of role-playing games in psychotherapy. In L. C. Rubin (Ed.) , Using superheroes in counseling and play therapy (pp. 227-241). New York, NY, US: Springer Publishing Co.

Swanson, A. J., & Casarjian, B. E. (2001). Using games to improve self-control problems in children. In C. E. Schaefer & S. E. Reid (Eds.), Game play: Therapeutic use of childhood games (pp. 316–327). New York: Wiley

Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.

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