Writing and roleplaying are very different storytelling mediums. Writing is a solitary affair, with lots of time spent perfecting a piece before any audience sees it. Roleplaying is a collaboration between game master and players. But there are many lessons from one that apply to the other, particularly if you’re a GM/DM.
“Five Lessons Writers Can Learn From Roleplaying Games” is a great article on what GM/DMs can learn from writers – and vice-versa. But it’s also a short course on how things you “learn” from TV, movies, books and comics – largely subconsciously – about plotting, storytelling and character, are often bad lessons indeed.
As anyone who has run a lot of games knows, all it takes is a group of smart players (and they usually are that) to demolish your best laid plans and take your carefully plotted adventure off in directions you never expected and quite often, couldn’t have anticipated. This is why my games have always been run more as improv theater than according to painstakingly constructed narratives. Long, long ago, I learned that no dungeon plan survives contact with the players (and by “dungeon plan” I mean, pre-designed story structure and prepared environment).
So, I tend to have a general idea of what I want to do (as GM), present the players with some choices which aren’t very good at all – and one or two which make sense – and then sit back and watch what happens. I make adjustments along the way as needed. Granted, this is not something a new GM/DM might feel confident doing, especially with jaded, experienced players, so I get why some GMs/DMs flounder badly when things go off script.
Anyway, this article provides some great insight into the mindset of players and GMs, and how it all effects the overall gaming experience.
– Lrak, Mayor of Trolltown
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