Friday, January 16, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons as my Creative Outlet

I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone who has not just played, but actually run, a Dungeons and Dragons game. Or any other roleplaying game, for that matter, but it is a wonderful creative outlet. You get to create worlds. Not only do you get to create worlds, you then get to tell stories in them, collectively, with your friends and see how they enjoy what you have created.

Of course, it is possible to get too carried away with it, to get too lost in your own world (literally) that you forget that the game is about fun for everyone, not just showcasing your creations. So you have to be careful that you focus on the fun and on making a rousing, compelling story, rather than just how clever you are. You also have to not get too attached to a particular villain, or even ally, nor to the "best laid plans" of said villain, because clever players, or even stupid players, can make those plans go astray or even wipe out said villain. Some DMs (dungeon masters to the non-nerds out there) might fudge things to let a star villain get away or let the plans continue, but I really don't. I think it is more fun to let things go in unexpected directions, then run with it. For me, the best recurring villain is one that comes organically out of the play. It isn't the big bad evil guy (BBEG) at the end like some video game boss monster. It is the random guard who just won't go down and who manages against the odds to escape, only to show up later and cause trouble. Maybe the guard eventually becomes a BBEG all his own. Or maybe he just lasts for a few more encounters. Recurring villains are fun when they recur from non-forced events.

I really like to write. But I like to write with at least some purpose. That's part of why I blog. I know when I write here, at least a few people will read it, and maybe even comment on it. It doesn't feel totally pointless, like writing on a piece of paper and then dropping it in the wastebasket.

Writing something for a game is the same way. It will be seen, at least in part, by others. They won't get the whole picture, and sometimes I wish I could just explain it all, but it is also fun to just let it unfold. I never have time to detail everything out, and you never know what direction the players will take anyway, so there is no way to cover all contingencies. You have to think on your feet. Some DMs just railroad players onto set paths or even one set path. I think that gets boring. A lot of published adventures have tracks like that, though the good ones don't, and admittedly, a lot of players help things along anyway, because they want to stay on the tracks and see where the adventure will lead them (and with the limited playing time we all have as adults, they just don't want to spend too much time off the track or flailing about if there's a mystery to solve or a kingdom to save).

Unfortunately, lately, I have had little time to do much world-building. That is starting to change, as evidenced by my increased blogging. I may start world-building again. I'd really like to. Right now, I'm running one game through the first Pathfinder series from paizo. It is really good and the players are having fun with it. I like a continuous campaign over a series of unconnected adventures, though when I do my own designs, I do enjoy to alter and string together published stand-alone adventures. That can work really well.

Another creative outlet with gaming is for when I play a character instead of running the game. Invariably, I come up with an interesting, sometimes outlandish, character concept and then really run with it. I do "write-ups" after each evening of playing, usually written in first-person perspective, like a journal, and then I end up with a record of the game from that character's perspective. The longest one of those I have would probably be longer than a published novel. The only difficulty with that is it is sometimes hard to keep up with the writing and so it can be uneven. But it is fun and it helps me get into the head of the character.

I try to encourage players in my game to do the same thing, by offereing bonus experience for doing so. Some take it, some don't, usually based on time. Those can be enjoyable to read.

I have them all online, actually. The stories. Even a wiki of the world I created. Maybe sometime I'll link to them from here if someone asks.

1 comment:

Larro FCD said...

"...because clever players, or even stupid players, can make those plans go astray or even wipe out said villain."

Heheh. I will classify myself as both. Well, maybe not "stupid". I remember one time while playing Vampire: The Masquerade, I'd created a Malkvaian Ghoul who was utterly insane, demented and unpredictable and I played him that way; he was so fun to "get into character". He managed to derail every event scenario our Storyteller had crafted (only because that was the nature of my character). We really had a blast though and so did Claude (that's what I named him). Poor Claude was very short lived. He perished by the end of the night's gaming session by no one's fault but his own. He went out with a bang!

I've "DMed" myself, though my niche game was Warhammer Fantasy by Games Workshop (though I think it's changed hands now). However, my first gaming experience was indeed D&D (which is likely true for anybody else in our age group).

It is indeed useful (and refreshing to switch roles between GM (I have gotten used to using "Game Master" from Warhammer) and PC.

I like the journal idea (wished I'd endeavored to write all the adventures down that I'd played) :(

And please do post those links. I'd be very interested to read them.