RPGs: the Fantasy Author’s Gateway Drug to Writing

by | Jun 13, 2019 | Ask an Author, Games, Prose and Cons, Writing inspiration | 0 comments

This past weekend, I got together with the same group of guys I’ve been gaming with since the mid-’90s for some tabletop D&D action. Even though we’re all married (the last bachelor joined us married guys last fall) and many of my friends have kids, we sometimes go years without a campaign, and our monthly sessions may occasionally get cancelled because of life, we still keep finding our way back to our favorite excuse to get together.

And this time, it reminded me of my deepest storytelling roots: running a campaign for these guys.

Anyone who’s read my first series, Twinborn Chronicles, might know that when I first had the idea for the twinborn premise, I was considering running it as a D&D campaign. But I had just recently run a heavily story-driven campaign that had gone so far off the rails that it barely resembled the tale I intended to tell.

I so badly wanted to tell this particular story that I took a drastic step:

I eliminated the players from the equation.

Because, you see, fantasy writing really isn’t that far off from tabletop gaming. Replace the mercurial, meta-gaming, often off-topic players with actors who know the script, stay in character, and serve story first and foremost.

Personally, I think that from an author perspective, RPGs in general are a great proving ground, both as a player and a game master. You inhabit roles, see the (imaginary) world from many points of view, often from a perspective that feels like “the hero.” Getting used to group dynamics and portraying a variety of characters has been a crucial foundation for my writing career. Putting yourself into someone else’s boots/shoes/slippers/hairy feet lets you portray them authentically, rather than props for the “real” characters to use.

So, for me, Dungeons and Dragons (specifically 2nd Edition, even though I played a little AD&D before that) was my gateway drug to writing.

QUESTION: How about you? What was your first tabletop RPG? Or did you ever play at all? And did you find it applied to your adult life at all?

CHAT: Respond in the comments, or join in the Facebook discussion about tabletop RPGs: https://www.facebook.com/authorjsmorin/posts/2108985385894388

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