Every Friday night I run a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game for my son and his buddies using the edition of the game I first played back in 1981.
Every other Sunday I run a game for my son and his buddies and some of my gaming buddies (read other 40-something geeks). We use the current (5th) edition of the game.
The Friday night game started with an old-school, open sandbox style module, but quickly has devolved into me completely making stuff up as I go. I do probably less than 15 minutes of prep for this game every week.
The Sunday game, I am running one of the published adventures for the 5th Ed. game. As written, it’s very railroady. And focused on running the players through a story.
The roleplaying game phenomena has an interesting timeline, which I won’t go much into, other than to say it has produced some distinct styles of play. I’ve spent plenty of time in the “collaborative story-telling” school of play (hell, one of the more popular RPG systems is called The Storyteller System), and as much time in the “it’s a game stupid” school. And in all the space in between those two extremes!
Oddly, I find myself mostly in the game-ist side right now.
Because I am currently writing a post about the similarities in my writing process and my gaming table.
Right… I probably should get to that.
What I have found… I’m at my best when I am mostly winging it at the table. This shouldn’t be much of a revelation. The best game I’ve ever run was nearly 10 years ago (yes I remember a single night of gaming a decade ago), and I’ve come to refer to as the Doppleganger Murder Mystery extravaganza. For that game, I created a handful of 7-sentence non-player characters. Gave the players a situation, and let them have at it.
Today, in that Friday night game, I’ve been known to create the dungeon whole-cloth as I’m drawing it out on the map for the players. No prep whatsoever. Just, what would be cool right now?
Sunday game with the pre-written adventure? We’ve spent 3 sessions in the “episode” that allows the most free-styling in the whole adventure. And next session will be in that episode at least partially as well. I don’t think there’s any coincidence there. (I obviously don’t want to leave this place). But even when we are “on the rails”, my favorite parts (and I think the players’) are random encounter rolls and when the players completely go bat-shit crazy off the tracks.
What this all comes back to… why am I surprised? Even as a Dungeon (Game) Master, I want the experience to match the players’. I don’t want to know what happens, and I certainly don’t want to know how things end. It’s a game after all. Not a story. <grin>.
But since, we’ve mentioned story. When I’m the Dungeon Master of my novels, stories, etc. I don’t want to know how the games end, either.
In both cases, with players and readers… I strongly believe, if I don’t know where things are heading there’s a good chance they don’t either. If they do? More power to them. They’re smarter than me. And I’m okay with that.
Both of my books are widely available, and I would love to have you as a reader. Universal links:
6 thoughts on “Tabletop RPGs and Writing”
Great post, Tony. Odd how writing off into the dark applies in so many life-venues across the board (no pun intended). My buddy and I just got back from a 2+ day camping adventure. At the nearest town, the wind was blowing hard and felt as if it was coming off a block of ice. And neither of us had really-cold-weather gear. But we went anyway, another hour out into the deep wilderness, with a “I guess we’ll see when we get there” attitude. It was frigid. Bitter cold. And wonderful.
Glad you had a good trip. And welcome back. And yes, I’m finding that the appeal of writing into the dark shows up all over the place in my life.
I recently read a book by a d&d dungeon master? Obviously the game really played into his writing…it was great, very much in the whimsical adventure style. Walk in the wild by Peter Thomson if you’re interested
I’ll take a look. Thanks. I haven’t ventured into any Sword & Sorcery type writing…yet.
Discovery writing to the end is certainly thrilling, as well as terrifying… It’s a continuous process of trying to uncover the gem within the rock, steadily chipping away.
And I believe, from the outset, even if you think you know the end you will probably end up surprising yourself by the time you actually get there. It will be dramatically different from your imagining.
Keep up the storytelling at the table and in the pages! 👍
Thanks for commenting Zsoro. It’s a lot of fun… “at the table and in the pages”