How Dungeons and Dragons Relates to Narrative Writing

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Hot for Teacher by Van Halen, Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin)

I had the coolest moment yesterday.

At about 7 pm, three of my roommates and I sat at a table and I led a Dungeons and Dragons session in the world of my books.

If you haven’t been with me the whole time, you’ll probably want to read this earlier post in which I talk about D&D as a great way to develop characters.

Still, this was a unique experience. I had a trilogy I started but never completed, in which a trio of heroes fight back against an evil deity who’s enslaved both them and the creatures that exist in their dreams. In the end of it all (spoiler alert!) one of the characters sacrifices himself to deal a death blow to the evil god, destroying it and freeing the land from its curse.

Fast forward five hundred years, to the time period in which my D&D campaign takes place. That savior character is now a historical and religious figure – the Jesus of this fantasy world. Those who did not participate in the final battle against the evil god Mwn have been exiled into a harsh foreign continent, where old prejudices have slowly festered against the people who were once their kin. And the entire world is on the brink of a civil war that could end a peace that’s lasted 500 years.

Okay, enough creative masturbation. The point is, through the flexibility afforded by the rules of Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve been able to extend a world that previously only existed in one discrete time period and place. I get to answer questions like, What happened after Pelekarron died? and What kinds of changes in racial tensions would occur after the end of the books? I even get to see how technologies and societies have advanced in my world over five hundred years of exploration.

Herein lies another great benefit to anyone playing D&D and also writing, especially fantasy and science fiction writers – being able to work on a narrative. In my case, it was an extension of a previous narrative, but it doesn’t have to be just that. You could create your science fiction world in a hybrid D&D game – my roommate has done just that for a different campaign – and play it out, seeing your vision realized through character interactions and plot development. And then you could write books based off of the world, having made any necessary changes after seeing it in the testing sandbox of D&D.

Screw you, Reed! You’re always talking about SFF books, but I’m a romance/mystery/graphic novel/European ancient civilizations textbook writer. You give me no help with my genre.

Yeah, you’re mostly right. I write almost exclusively SFF, and a lot of my advice is tailored to other writers. But here’s a free tip for anyone doing any sort of narrative fiction (sorry, my European ancient civ textbook writer followers).

D&D can help you understand suspense and pacing.

If you’ve a few of my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve had problems with pacing. It seems like my previous works haven’t kept audience’s attentions because I, like many fantasy writers, move glacially through the plot of a given project.

Now contrast that to this first D&D session in which, a half an hour into the session, a massive pirate ship slammed into the harbor of a busy port town, catching itself and several nearby ships on fire and expelling a seemingly endless stream of pirates out into the town for my D&D party to fight. There was an immediate, relentless pace to the session that, at one point, had one of my players actually screaming.

(Okay, she’s a naturally loud person, but that’s not the point.)

Picking up on what makes for a captivating D&D session has helped me understand what can make for a captivating novel. That relentlessness, that momentum, that keeps a person engaged in a five-hour session can also keep a reader engaged in a 120,000 word book.

And that, friends, is something any writer should take to heart.

So basically what I’m saying is everyone should play D&D.

Yours, nerdily,

-R.R. Buck

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2 thoughts on “How Dungeons and Dragons Relates to Narrative Writing

  1. That’s awesome! I find games like that and video games, are great to help out with writing. Though I’ve never played D&D I play my fair share of games that have influenced my writing in some way or another.

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  2. It’s not new to draw writing inspiration from RPG games and settings! People have been doing it (and some quite successfully) for years! I think the biggest challenge for writers is to FINISH what they started. I, myself, have been a victim of this tendency.

    But, alas, technology has a fix, and WordPress is but one of the conveyors of that fix. Not only does it give a platform to write and freely publish, it gives an opportunity for others to provide feedback, guidance, and encouragement.

    I started a few weeks ago writing a story in blog-form: first person narrative format, in the form of the character’s journal. The story is in my Neuith setting, and the character is a Tabaxi, which is a cat-like humanoid who is discovering the human world. Check it out here: https://indysligo.wordpress.com/

    I’d love to see your story, and perhaps follow your character(s) through the trials and tribulations of your world!

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