The lonely road stretched before the band of adventurers. Impenetrable forest lined either side of the road, dark and ominous. Before them the bulk of an airship blotted out the sun, unmoving, a ladder dangling down from it in silent invitation for the adventurers to climb aboard.
“I want to go through the forest.”
“We’re not getting on that thing. We’re going through the forest.”
“Dude, no. I just said the forest is impenetrable. Get on the airship already!”
Is this a conversation between an author and the characters in her head? Nope. It’s a conversation between a Dungeon Master and the players in his campaign. (And yes, we did get on the airship. After more arguing, and perhaps some Cheetos and Mountain Dew.) I’m proud to be a gamer, it’s a geek badge that I wear with honor. I started writing my first novel in 8th grade, and it was inspired by a story I’d posted online as part of a role playing group. Many of the stories I’ve written were for role playing games (RPGs). Some described my character’s background, telling the tale of where she’d come from and how she became a bard/rogue/weremoose/vampire. Others were meant as adventures or campaigns, plotted out for others to experience one game at a time. I learned a lot from my gaming days, and that’s the inspiration for this series. Whether you’re writing for a handful of people gathered around your kitchen table armed with dice and character sheets or for the fans who’ll read your book, the goal is the same: to tell an entertaining story.
There are many kinds of RPGs, and I’ve played most of them. Traditional pen-and-paper RPGs, also called tabletop (TT) games, like Dungeons and Dragons involve a small group of players, each in charge of their own character, who are guided through adventures by a Game Master (GM) or Dungeon Master (DM). Actions are decided by rolling dice—you roll dice to unlock a treasure chest, attack a monster, or spot a clue. Roll high and you succeed, roll low and you fail. Live action role playing (LARP) games involves a larger group of people playing their characters in an improv theater-like setting. They dress and act the part of their character, but actions like staking a vampire or looking for clues to solve a mystery are still decided by rolling dice or a similar system (the LARP I played used rock-paper-scissors). There are also many RPG video games. Many console or PC games involve you making a character and running him/her through the storyline. Dragon Age is a recent popular example of this. Massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft connect millions of players throughout the world.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Wow, you’re a huge nerd, Robyn. Is that the point you’re trying to prove?” Yes, I’m a dork, but my point is that there are RPGs everywhere, allowing people to create and experience stories in ways that are different from the static world of a novel. As a writer I’ve taken the lessons learned from playing and running these games to improve my writing. Thinking like a gamer allows you to look at your own writing from a different angle. In the next few weeks I’ll be covering world building, character creation, and plotting. I hope that these articles will be helpful, but if nothing else I hope you’ll be entertained by my dorkdom. ;)
So, have any of you played RPGs? If so, what game? Did you enjoy it?