In this post, Writers Write looks at how Dungeons & Dragons can improve your writing.
Games like D&D are great for writers. There’s no game without a story, and that’s the driving force. Sir Terry Pratchett, Gerard Way, and Greg Grunberg have all played it before.
Have you ever been a Dungeon Master?
It could change your writing.
About Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing game, and it’s played on a map instead of a board. One player is chosen as the Dungeon Master, who narrates the game, and writes the events.
Play is turn-based, and highly descriptive. Players choose their characters, and can give them attributes (like strength and agility): this is your character sheet for the rest of the game.
Dungeons & Dragons requires guidebooks, rulebooks, and dice. Dungeon Masters track players and their stats, scores, and in-game events. Events are often decided by the Dungeon Master, and it can change the whole game.
Outcomes of these events, like battles, can be rolled for by players.
Games are creative, lengthy, and never quite have to end!
Thanks to YouTube account The Dungeoncast, you can learn the most basics of D&D in five minutes.
Here are 5 essential writing skills you can improve with Dungeons & Dragons.
5 Writing Skills You Can Improve With Dungeons & Dragons
Successful Dungeons & Dragons campaigns are creative, or they aren’t going to work very well.
You have to be original, and come up with new things: Dungeon Masters create much of the game from thin air.
Without it, the other players have no direction. They’re lost on their own. That’s a bad game, and a bad Dungeon Master.
Did an Orc show up, fighting you? Do you need to find Seven Keys, and then move on? Did someone steal your gold?
Writing is about ideas, and how they act or react to different things.
Games will test players (and their characters) in many new situations. It’s your game, where anything can happen.
Writing Tip: Nothing is too weird, especially when playing (or writing). Be as creative as you can, and be as original as possible. You only have new ideas once you get away from older ones!
Every Dungeons & Dragons game is something new, and building worlds is an important skill if you want to be a good player at the table.
Players create certain parts of their game as they’re playing, and it evolves. Made up things include the world where campaigns are taking place, though also includes situations and plots that influence the world. The world of Dungeons & Dragons can change, and does.
Worldbuilding can be difficult, especially when on its own. Dungeons & Dragons makes it into a game, where you interact with the world you’ve made.
You don’t have to be Tolkien to make up your own world. But you have to know how to be creative. It’s one of the rare games where creativity can include almost anything.
Writing Tip: Map out some of the locations that appear in your stories, then write something about them. This is how writers learn, and it’s how players play.
Dungeons & Dragons is driven by the story, which the Dungeon Master has to create as the game gets played.
A Dungeon Master has power over the game’s plot, just like writers have in their stories. Like the banker in Monopoly, the Dungeon Master makes (or breaks) the game.
Author Sharyn McCrumb told the New York Times that she always wanted to be the game’s Dungeon Master: ‘[…] that’s where the creativity lies – in thinking up places, characters, and situations.’
Writers do the same thing!
If you can play Dungeons & Dragons, you might already know a few things about a great plot.
Writing Tip: Stuck on a plot point? Roll the dice, and leave something to chance.
Terry Pratchett might be one of the most well-known Dungeons & Dragons players, though he didn’t stick with the game longer.
According to Pratchett, the game just became too much for him to keep track of.
‘There were too many monsters. Back in the old days, you could go around a dungeon without meeting much more than a few orcs and lizard men. Pretty soon it was a case of bugger the magic sword, what you really need to be the complete adventurer was the Marcus L Rowland fifteen-volume guide to Monsters and the ability to read very, very fast.’
Dungeons & Dragons is huge, and still growing. For some players, it adds to the thrill, but not everyone loves its expanding nature.
Unless you’re a huge fan, you could lose track.
When you write, never have too many plot turns, too many characters, too many words. Nothing should ever overwhelm your reader (or editor).
Writing Tip: Edit to improve. Almost always, this means you have to reduce things. Readers, writers, or players should never feel like they’re going to lose track of your writing.
Dungeons & Dragons thrives on good description: the Dungeon Master is the player leading others through, and they are the ones who describe the story or scene. Writers also need this skill. Stories need description.
‘Show, don’t tell’ is common writing advice, but it’s also a good saying for Dungeon Masters.
For each thing players encounter, the Dungeon Master has to adapt. Improvising is encouraged, and you’ll learn a lot about how to capture attention.
Writing Tip: Choose something mundane, and then describe it using a random keyword. For example, describe an apple as a weapon. Tell aliens what poker is. Describe, dear writer, describe.
The Last Word
In this post, Writers Write explored the world of Dungeons & Dragons for writers. Writers Write is an excellent resource for writers (and we have more about dragons for writers).
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:
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- Here Be Dragons – In Fiction
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