…or other table top RPGs,
No, seriously, you should. Although the high fantasy setting of Dungeons and Dragons isn’t what I write in my own stories, I strongly feel that playing the game is conducive to honing my creativity. My weekly sessions of fourth edition D&D can be compared to that of a few guys going out and having a poker night every week.
To those who aren’t familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, as well as any similar table-top roleplaying game, the premise of the game is to create fictional characters and send them out into a world to slay dragons, save the world, or pretty much anything else you can imagine. Each game usually has a different style and/or setting. D&D is fantasy, while Shadowrun is cyberpunk, and World of Darkness is ‘Twilight: The RPG’ (I kid, I kid.) An aspect of most of these games I need to explain to those who don’t know is that there are two different kinds of players in each game. There are the ‘Players’ these people follow the rules of whatever game they are playing and generate a character with flaws, strengths, background, and motivations. They decide what there characters do, and usually roll dice to see if they succeed or fail horribly. And then there is the ‘Dungeon Master’ or in most other games they are called ‘Game Masters’. (DM or GM is the usual shorthand for these roles.) Now there is only ever one DM or GM in a game and they are the ones who plan out and create the world the Players will explore. They set up challenges for the players to win against and leave treasure for those who don’t get maimed in the process.
Let’s start with the Players and why writers should try this. Most of the time a lot of thought and effort is put into the character they make. Even simple motivations can spark a wild imagination to come up with countless ideas for why your knight in shining armor has a vendetta against a thief. Perhaps he stole a family heirloom. If that’s the case then what is the history of this knight’s family that made it so important? How far will this knight go to reclaim it? Would he break an oath to retrieve it? Why did the thief take it?
Having to create these back-stories (sometimes on the fly) can be an amazing activity to help your imagination. But it gets even better, when you start to play the character, you have no idea how events might unfold and how well or poor the dice will role. The Knight might perish before even seeing the thief again or he might befriend him. My most recent character is a mountain barbarian named Witt who came down from the mountains after saving the life of a merchant. Sure I had ideas for how I wanted him to act in situations, but there was no way I could have known that one night he’d be throwing a jar of glow in the dark worms at a ninja. (It got even more entertaining when I rolled a 20 on my die. In D&D that is called a ‘critical’, meaning that jar REALLY hurt that poor ninja)
To play as the Dungeon master or Game master is an amazing practice in world building. To sit there and design the countryside and cities, to write down the history of empires that never existed. In the end you are putting more depth into a fictional world than some people put into the world’s of their books and that will help you in your own writing. Not only are you sparking your imagination, but you are having to deal with the players and their own imaginations. This can lead to new, wild, and imaginative ideas happening simply from a clumsy roll of the dice or an offhanded comment.
Head’s up: The next post is going to be another short story!