Writing for RPG Games

Image from wikimedia commons
Running games harder than it looks... Well, if you do it right I think.

Tonight I tried something new, DMing (Dungeon Mastering—a.k.a. leading a Dungeons and Dragons game) at a public store with absolutely no idea what I would be walking into (a friend asked me to help out). Due to a couple of factors I wound up running a game for all of one person, which was not the expected number. It was a bit... painful is the right word, actually...

I feel like I need to give a little background here about what DM/GM (Game Master)-ing is. For those who don't know, RPG's are basically games that combine group storytelling with dice and, usually, some form of math (which is fun, I promise). The dice/math aspect is meant to add randomness and unpredictability which makes the story a bit more interesting for everyone. As a matter of practicality, it works like this: "I'd like to hit the orc with my sword." "Okay, roll the dice. What did you get?" "I got x number (or in other systems this can be a symbol, etc.)" "Okay, you hit the orc." That's a very dry version of what happens, but that's the gist. In the real world it winds up being much more exciting. The fate of a character you invested your time in making, in writing up a whole backstory for, in being for a few hours a week, can hinge on a die roll. If you couch that in an involving choose-your-own-adventure story that can go anywhere, then you know what RPGing is.

When you run one of these things, you either use a pre-printed adventure (not my choice), or you write your own up; sometimes as you go along. It's that second one that I do. It fits, I guess, given that I write books, but the reason I write the plot-lines to these games is that I just find someone else's to be a bit restrictive. What if the players decide to do Y instead of X? If you write your own, you don't have to worry so much about this because if they choose to go off-plot you can just adapt.

So, getting back to the first thing from before, why was it painful? Well, I don't do well with single-player games of this kind. There is a kind of energy that builds up when you have 3-5 people joining in this kind of group storytelling. Everyone brings their own personality, their points of view, and their play style to the table. It winds up combining into something that is unpredictable, and therefore interesting, for everyone. When it's just you and one other person, you lose that energy and sense of belonging (which is definitely there. You and the rest are all making something together). For me, it sucks the life right out of the story. That's what happened tonight, and it's left a kind of bad taste in my mouth.

Don't get me wrong, I love writing for games as much as I love writing books, but I'm not sure this style of random grouping is for me. I'll give it another week to see, but instead of finding the "who will be at the table this week" bit that I thought would be interesting and horizon-expanding, I find I'm sort of dreading it.

Still, it's a learning experience no matter what. I'll see what happens next Wednesday.


Popular Posts