Roleplay as Writing Practice

Related imageMy whole life I’ve been into role playing games. It started in primary school playing Dungeons and Dragons in the library. We didn’t have dice or character sheets; all we had was the DM and a few friends and he would tell us if we succeeded or failed. That got old quickly as we had no idea what we were doing. Fast forward a few years and I meet Tom in high school who played D&D, Star Wars, ShadowRun and others every Friday night at the spare buildings at the Darwin University. We played D&D occasionally, but mostly Star Wars. I did that for a few years until I sort of got over it and started playing guitar and playing in a band. The whole time I played, up til that point, I had no idea what I was doing. No one told me how the game was played, and I never asked. I brought the ShadowRun core book, but it was far too confusing to work out. I didn’t play for about 10-12 years after that.

I moved to Brisbane and joined a roller derby league. I started talking to the merchandise guy, who said he’d been playing D&D for about 20 years and still did from time to time. After wrangling a few others in, we started a monthly session that’s now been running for over 5 years. We play Pathfinder, which is identical to D&D’s 3.5 edition. Last year Pathfinder created a new book that was Pathfinder in space called Starfinder. I instantly gravitated towards it. I bought the book, read the rules, watched hours and hours of YouTube videos about how to play it. I wrote my own campaign, which took weeks. I then drew all my own maps and got everything ready to run it. When the day came, I was nervous. I really enjoyed writing it, because it was different than writing a script or a book.

Image result for pathfinder dndAfter the game was done and everyone went home, I really didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t work out what it was. The design aspect was great, the writing of it was great, but running it was not fun for me. I wasn’t sure where I went wrong. So, I figured I would just be a playing character, instead of a dungeon master from now on. Then I started to notice that I was interested in the new D&D 5th edition. I’m not sure why, but I felt magnetized to it. I went to my local gaming shop and bought the core book. I read it, and watched some YouTube videos, read some blogs and noticed it had similarities to Pathfinder. I began writing a new campaign, learning from my mistakes and expectations from the Starfinder story. I was going to be less railroading and more sandbox. I think I had a direct line I wanted the players to walk, but role playing doesn’t work like that. You have to present a situation, then let them decide what they want to do, and improvise the rest. So, I gathered a few fresh newbies who had never played before, but wanted to, and I ran it. I really enjoyed it. I let them talk amongst themselves, I let them decide where and what they wanted to do and go.

The first campaign was 9 pages long and took 6 hours to play. I wrote the second one over a few weeks and it’s at 34 pages. I think because they were new, and I was new, we just worked out stuff as we went along. They fell for every trap I put out and I was inspired to write more. Writing role playing is so different from anything else. Being a writer, it makes it easier to describe the situation and the encounters, and I believe that is where the fun sits. They roll a dice to formulate the outcome, then I describe what happens off the top of my head.

With writing books, I get time to work on it, plan it, delete it, rewrite it, edit it, but with role playing you don’t. It’s off the cuff and exercises your mind. Good practice for writers.

~Mitchell

Mitchell is the author of Children of the Locomotive, Skellington KeyHeather Cassidy and the Magnificent Mr Harlow, and the Everdark Realms Trilogy

Visit Mitchell’s bio here

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