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Why Novelists Make Great (and Terrible) Game Masters

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Last weekend, NerdCon: Stories came to Minneapolis to celebrate storytelling in all its forms. As a featured guest, I got to give a talk about narrative structure in my favorite medium for telling stories: tabletop roleplaying games.

 By UfofVincent (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ever since I discovered tabletop RPGs, I knew I wanted to be a game master. I wanted to be the person on the other side of the screen, the one who devises the adventures and portrays the world to the players. Coming as I did from a fiction-writing background, I thought it would be a pretty easy switch: I could use everything I’d learned about three-act narrative structure to plot well-paced campaigns, and I was practiced at coming up with compelling characters and antagonists. How difficult could it be to switch gears? After all, the only difference was the inclusion of players and dice.

Both of which, you might have heard, are wildly unpredictable.

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