1. tcol4417

    tcol4417 Member

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Sydney, AU

    Here's a way to get into the groove

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by tcol4417, Oct 19, 2010.

    Now I'm aware of the Epic Nerdage stigma attached to this, but bear with me.

    I recently watched a video of a celebrity Dungeons and Dragons game from the Penny Arcade Expo (It's on YouTube) starring writer and developer Chris Perkins, actor Will Wheaton and career nerds Scott Kurtz, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik and it got me thinking about co-operative storytelling.


    When you think about it, entertainment mediums are something that we can trace back pretty far. Just as shamanic oral tradition created literature and stage created the silver screen, imaginary scenarios that kids created in their backyards with sticks and paper hats led to the creation of a primitive rules system to prevent everyone from creating "anti-everything shields", something that we now call a game.

    With regards to the modern video games we play today - from Shooters to platformers, from RTS to RPG - Dungeons and Dragons really is the ultimate ancestor of all of them.

    Anyway, that got me interested and I took a look at the story creating process and I stumbled into something interesting


    Being a D&D mod relies heavily on your ability to improvise because you can always depend on your players to do something that you don't expect. A Dungeon Master takes the roll of narrator while the players take control of individual characters, who may or may not behave as you intend them to.

    People who want to give their plots a little more flexibility might want to consider reading the D&D DM's guide which really has a lot more information than I could possibly post here (especially without plagiarising) because it gave me a lot of great ideas with regards to character development, plot development and immediate events. As I said earlier, D&D - at its core - is a co-operative writing activity and as DM it's your responsibility to carry the overarching narrative and the advice that they give is really handy.

    I had to stop reading after the first few pages because I had a 1,600 word idea that I couldn't risk forgetting, then a few more when I started reading it again. Even though it's a fantasy oriented text, you can still apply the storytelling principles to any genre.

    I don't suppose anyone here has developed some good material from a role-playing activity, have they?

    I haven't tried yet, but after what I've read so far (20 pages of a 200 page book) I'm really excited about what we might come up with.
    1 person likes this.
  2. w176

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Jun 22, 2010
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    LuleƄ, Sweden
    Too many, far to many have tried and failed miserably. The Dragonlance books are one of the few exceptions of this. "Writing excuses" have done a podcast on the subject worth listening to.

    Generally things do not transit smoothly when you try to adept between the two medias. A good book don't make a good interactive experience and a fantastic interactive story isn't the same as story that work in book format.

    But interactive medias is a fanatic way to develop a gut feeling and gut instinct for story and characters and character interaction and a understanding that a story is about the ever fleeing Now.In my experience it doesn't matter what kind of interactive experience you had, being it Impro theater, roleplaying, larping or playing characters online in some format. All og them will help you develop this set of skills in diffrent ways.

    But, something that in my experience is essential for the interactive experiences to really enhance you writing is read up on some theory. Exactly what kind of theory isn't essential as long as it fits your sort of reasoning. But you will understand how things work, and how things do or dont translate into writing if you do your homework as well.

    I personally recommend Keith Johnstones book "Impro. Improvisation for the theater" because it full of examples, theories, and explanation on everything from status too accapting and blocking in dialogue. But you could just as well get into the gaming theories at The Forge/Story now focusing om creative agendas or ot the Nordic scene larping theory Knudepunkt yearly publications. I even know picking up some of these skills and understanding from the pick up artist scene (no pun intended)

    But anything that goes into dept how mood, scenes, character, conflicts, tilts and stories are created and experienced -now- in an interactive media is a fantastic set of skills to add to you writing repertoire.
  3. helltank

    helltank Member

    Oct 21, 2010
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    It's possible

    It's possible, but I think it would be a little harder than your average fantasy story, hmm?
  4. HeinleinFan

    HeinleinFan Banned

    Jan 6, 2007
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    Well, yes, and I count role-playing as one of the activities that writers can do to learn more about how to make their characters seem like real people. (Other such include reading books, watching plays and character-focused movies or TV shows, and listening to people tell stories about neat or sad things they've lived through.)

    Role-playing has helped me directly to come up with material, and indirectly by providing insight. I've written an essay around free-form roleplay that a friend and I used to do back in high school. And as a writer for the Assassin's Guild at MIT, I've helped my co-writers to develop plotlines ranging from "Bribe the Spartan courier" to "Blackmail the nuclear physicist" to "Complete a ritual re-activating the alien Mecha which have been hidden in the jungles of Papua New Guinea." So, yes, role-playing has given me a chance to create some pretty neat storylines -- and, of course, to roleplay interesting characters myself.

    Role-playing has more subtly influenced my story-writing. In most cases, the interaction between players (as their characters) was incredibly useful, since much of modern writing focuses on the characters and what they go through over the course of a story.

    Personality is huge in both story-writing and in role-playing. If somene is eloquent enough to escape a dangerous situation through persuasion, or fast enough that they can use a single-shot Nerf foam-dart shooter to put down four armed enemies, or bold enough to hold off a roomful of foes while one's teammates revive and heal themselves . . . then I can use it in a story. If I watch a player beat his enemies through wits and guile, or see someone turn themselves in to a personal enemy because their enemy has become established as a Representative of the Gods, I can use those traits -- cleverness and respect for the gods -- in a character.

    And something else that's useful? When you role-play, you have to justify your character's actions. If you want to exile the Shogun's nephew, you have a reason. If you are wiling to risk your family's life by angering a deceitful god, you have a reason. If you refuse to lie, or refuse to do violence, or refuse to risk your livelihood, you have reasons.

    This is vital. When you write a story, you are creating several characters, some of whom are opposing your protagonist. If they don't act "realistically," your readers won't believe in your world, and they won't buy your story nor will they advertise it to other readers. Even the bad guy has weaknesses, doubts, fears, and justifications. There are times when every character will do things they later regret, or say things they wish they'd kept secret. All this makes them human, and therefore believeable.

    Obviously, not every writer has the chance to participate in this sort of activity. And such things are not essential, although I at least have found them quite helpful. But writers do need to learn how people act when they're in a tough situation, and I've learned a fair amount by watching role-players do their thing.
  5. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    The RPG mindset leads to somewhat cookie cutter characters. Role playing is often a starting point to inspire people to become writers, but RPG character creation is too intimately tied to lists of attributes.

    It may open up the imagination, but the nature of the characters is different enough that the RPG approach to character development will hold you back as a writer.

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