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Writers inspired by D&D, from the NYTimes

Everyone’s linking to this NYTimes piece about a whole generation of writers who were influenced by playing D&D when they were young, and they offer a nice, broad cross-section of writers. It’s not just sf/f people, but literary writers and playwrights and plenty of others, too.

It’s a nice article, if a bit fluffy (which, what else would I expect, given the subject). I’ve said before that gaming had an influence over me, especially because it taught me that the characters I was so used to seeing in movies, books, and on TV did not seek advantage as ruthlessly as characters played by actual people who were invested in their success. The old standby is the spy escaping from a holding cell, knocking out a guard, and not taking anything from the guard’s body, not a weapon, communicator, key, nothing.

More interesting to me is that the authors seemed to have a much more theatrical/improvisational experience in their gaming. We spent So. Much. Time. going room to room killing things, with little more story than that. In fact, we’d play so much that it was impossible to make up an actual story, and when I tried I often found the players utterly uninterested in exploring any of it.

By the way, we played “The Fantasy Trip”, not D&D, because we though the armor class rules were incredibly stupid.

Anyway, I continue to believe that, with the right players and genre, an rpg session could be worthwhile art. Not just “I bash the orcs” sort of thing, but an actual exploration of character in a partly improvised narrative, with added random outcomes due to die rolls and an earned ending. They could even do the closeup camera thing for the die rolls, the way poker shows show the players’ hands. The two-part Tabletop episode was a good proof of concept, even if they didn’t take the narrative beyond “I swing my mace at the skeleton.”

If you watch that video (I thought it was interesting) you’ll see that the story is compelling when the players have their characters talk like themselves. When they try to talk pseudo-medieval fake fantasy stuff everything becomes stilted and awkward.

Anyway, I’m a little envious of the writers in that article, because the games I played as a kid never managed to pull together any kind of story. In college and afterwards, things were better, but not in those early formative years.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2014 08:49 am (UTC)
I'm really excited for the full season spin-off RPG show that's going to happen.
Jul. 14th, 2014 12:08 pm (UTC)
I Have Ideas about how it ought to be done.
Jul. 14th, 2014 01:12 pm (UTC)
So do I, Brain, but where will they get the woodchipper?
Jul. 14th, 2014 11:02 am (UTC)
Most of mine had stories even from the beginning, even if the story was simple (rescue-the-princess-from-bad-guys type of stuff). By the time I was in my late teens they had pretty complex stories and the evolution of the world of Zarathan and the rest of my multiverse was well underway.
Jul. 14th, 2014 12:09 pm (UTC)
Ours were largely "There are some bandits to the north of town." Of course, there were no farms anywhere, just lonely hills and monsters to fight.
Jul. 14th, 2014 03:42 pm (UTC)
We were more LotR types, so epic quests became the norm very quickly.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )