Triple Crit is proud to be hosting the November 2012 Role-playing Game Blog Carnival on a topic well-suited to the blog: Writing in RPGs. National Novel Writing Month is well underway by now, and National Game Design Month will be running alongside it, so writing is seemingly on everyone’s mind for the rest of the month. We gamers know that it’s a yearlong curse, and we struggle with it weekly if not daily.
Whether it’s prep, history, flavor, descriptions, notes, or logs, writing is an essential tool in the arsenal of the GM. So too for players, who are famous for writing lavish character journals, backgrounds, and even novels chronicling their alter ego’s adventures. Not to mention all those freelancers and designers who write the core rules, settings, and supplements we consume inasmuch as our wallets allow.
While role-playing at the table is an actor’s affair, the plot behind the campaign and the foundations of the systems themselves is very much in the purview of writers. Yet the process isn’t nearly the same as it is for regular old storytelling. (If that were true, boy would my life be easier.) Writing a regular novel is different from writing a Forgotten Realms/Dragonlance one (where you can “see the dice rolls on the page”), which is still more different from writing a campaign or adventure. It takes some adjustment to go from GM to writer and vice versa, and some of us end up straddling the divide.
So what about you, RPG Bloggers? Why do you write about games? In what form does writing crop up in your campaigns? What’s your process, your stumbling blocks, your passion? How has writing helped you or your table? Or is writing more like a CR 8 Succubus whose torturous, siren song hurts so good and dominates your very being?
The topic holds a special place in my heart, since writing is the reason I got into role-playing games in the first place.
I wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic participant at my first game some four plus years ago. I played Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft, had participated in and even run play-by-post RPGs, sure, but Dungeons & Dragons? Pen and paper gaming? No, I wasn’t that kind of geek. Yet.
My then-boyfriend, himself a theater geek and budding wordsmith, instead tried appealing to the writer in me: “It’s like writing a novel, only you’re acting it out with other people,” he said, and I was hooked. It certainly seemed easier to get players to portray the cast than to have to handle them all on your own.
So I rolled my second-ever character* and pored over the 3.5 corebooks as my cohorts instructed me in the evils of the upcoming 4th edition. We escaped from the Keep, rolled dice into the wee hours of the morning, and collapsed in various states of disarray in his friend’s apartment. Ah, summer.
Disappointed by the DM’s lack of creativity, I embraced the medium and immediately set out to become a Dungeon Master in my own right to tell the stories I wanted to play. Having written serial fiction, short stories, and the beginnings of novels since I was in elementary school, I approached the task much the same way I did my books. I was well-versed in world building, and devised elaborate histories, races, countries and conflicts, but realized that DMing at the table was a skillset all its own.
I kept writing, but primarily worked on my delivery at the table, getting as much GM experience under my belt as I could. Now that I’ve seen a marked improvement in my games–even though I’ve still a lot to learn!–I’m refocusing on the writing aspect as I work on my own projects (Magnificent Seven, Sasarindo, the LARP Scenario Writing Guide, etc.). I’ve been reconsidering the book idea Andy and I were tossing around, and hopefully once I graduate college for good I’ll have time to re-write the outline and start going at it.
Then there’s those novels I intend on writing, someday. Sigh.
As the Carnival goes on I’ll be talking a little bit more about my experience with the creative process, the differences between novel planning and campaign planning, as well as some of the overlaps. Gamemastering is essentially writing a story with dice instead of words, but both passions still dovetail in wonderful ways. If it weren’t for my games, I wouldn’t write nearly so much, and if it weren’t for writing, I wouldn’t be gaming.
What’s your story?
* The first was with 3.0 back in 2002 at a slumber-party with my girlfriends, but we didn’t end up using our painstakingly-crafted characters. The idea of a dungeon crawl just didn’t appeal to us at the time, which was all our friends’s older brother had shown her how to run. If it had been more like the anime we consumed on a voracious basis, I think I would have gotten into the hobby much sooner.