A fun little project

Question: I was reading an article on how to write a good fantasy novel and I came across an idea that struck me as odd and was something I never thought of doing, but actually sounded like a pretty fun project to me. when the author of this article was saying how important originality is, he stated (rather rudely) that it would be a horrible idea to write a novel based around an rpg agme like DnD that you and your friends played. But I thought, what more unpredictable of a plot can you come up with? I thought, if nothing else, that it would make a very interesting venture to let the dice take you for a joyride through a fantasy world and put down your adventures on paper, especially if the game was started for the sole purpose of being fodder for a book. But I really want an expert's opinion. So what do you think? Any credibility? Thanks!


Answer: While it's not impossible to use such a game for inspiration, there are a number of pitfalls to watch for.

1. Who designed the dungeon? If you are the dungeon master and have written all the modules/adventures, that's one thing. But if someone else has then you would be violating their copyright. D&D is not a blank slate. The adventures are laid out by someone in advance, so they are actually quite predictable.

2. D&N and many other games - because they are just games - are often pretty shallow emotionally. Characters tend to be one-dimensional, and all with identical goals. Players do not have to wrestle with nearly the range of issues in a game that they would in real life. They have nothing much at stake. Losing a character is no bigger loss than losing a sports trophy.

3. Similarly, people in real life do not tend to grow in power and skills the way they do in a game. Pain affects them more. They have interests that do not revolve around killing monsters, finding treasure, and gaining experience points - all of which are pure self-interest. In fact, you could argue that D&D characters are largely sociopathic.

4. D&D adventures do not have the same kind of story arc that a dramatic work of fiction does. The games are intended to be episodic. A character can theoretically go on forever, advancing from one quest to the next. Good fictional characters are driven by a need to resolve an inner problem. Once they have done so, their story essentially ends (happily or not).

5. Games are designed to be addictive, always dangling a carrot in front of the player. Real life doesn't do that.

Some writers have used tools not unlike what you're suggesting in order to give themselves a sequence of random bits of meaning or symbols out of which they can construct a story, but the best tools have more emotional and philosophical depth than RPGs. Tarot is one such tool. The I-Ching is another. Even astrology has more potential, IMHO.

Personally, I prefer the Dramatica software, since it was specifically designed with stories in mind (though it may be the most complex method).

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