RPG + story=?

rpg-fiction-vennSo what does happen when you combine RPGs and story? (And I’m talking about the tabletop kind here where you are all physically located in the same room and can see the other people you’re playing with.) I don’t know either. That’s something I’m wanting to explore with this blog.

I’ve been playing and GMing RPGs since 1980.  I’m married to an RPG gamer. My child is a third generation RPG gamer. As you can guess, RPGs are a huge part of my life. When I don’t get to play, I get twitchy and nervous unless I have some other way to channel that energy. Writing fiction is one way.

I’ve always wanted to write fiction. As a teenager, I imagined myself as a Writer (cue deep voice echo audio effect).  Everything I wrote was going to have Meaning. It would be emotionally powerful and an accurate depiction of the dark side of human nature and people would realize that SF/F could have Depth and be worth reading (this was during the late 70’s and early 80’s: SF/F was not accepted by the mainstream). And I would help lead the vanguard by writing the breakthrough novel that appealed both to the (Intellectual) general public as well as the SF/F crowd. That that novel would be a grand opus, a sweeping work of….do you want to strangle me yet?

As I went through college I discovered that far from wanting to write the greatest watershed novel, I wanted to get paid for what I wrote. So began the “hack” period of my life. I wrote RPG-related articles and booklets1 and submerged my desire to write fiction completely into my games.

My problem has always been plot: I came up with great characters and situations, but what the characters did after that was a complete mystery to me. So I would make my characters NPCs, throw my PCs into the situation I had in mind, and stood back to watch them go. Each time, the PCs did things I had never even conceived of. This helped keep the fiction bugs at bay for awhile.

But a couple of years ago, my gaming life started into a dry spell. At that time I had a character, Galen Gerhardt,  in one of our games that intrigued me. The GM had hinted at a more unusual background than even I’d given him and the game was grinding to a halt due to Real Life considerations. But I wanted to find out more. I decided that I would use Galen to learn to write fiction. Yes, I was going to write  a story “based on a game I played.”2 Commence eye rolling now.

So that’s what I want to focus on in this blog. If you look at the Venn Diagram above, I want this blog to sit in the “green zone” at the intersection of RPGs and fiction. As I said in my first post, I’m not really interested in syndicated game fiction. What I’m more interested in is the how-to and experiments you get when you combine the yellow and blue zones. I’ll talk about narrative in RPGs and how I’m using it (or not) in the AD&D game I’m running, about how players insert narratives into games, how you can use game events in your fiction writing, and anything else I can find that relates even remotely to my theme.

And I’d love to hear from you. Where do you draw the line between game and fiction or not? How does your writing inspire your games and how do your games influence your writing? I would love to have guest posts (even if you’ve never written anything before) or just opinions in the comments.

1 You can see some of my work at DriveThruRPG and RPGN0w
2 Line is from filk song called “Fantasy Writer” by the LA Filkharmonics. It’s on the album In Space No One Can Hear You Sing. It’s definitely worth a listen, if you can get hold of a copy.

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