As you probably know by now, reading this blog, I really love role-playing games. They're one of the principal pillars of my free-time and have been for years upon years. RPGs remain the most consistent thing my friends and I do when we get together, even after a dozen different friend groups and almost fifteen years of role-playing under my belt. One of the things I love most about RPGs is the simple fact that I get to tell stories collaboratively with other people.
I'm a big extrovert. Once, my family went on vacation for two weeks, and I was stuck home by myself with barely any meaningful human interaction. I went a little crazy. That's one of the problems I have with creative writing. Telling stories is what I love, it's what I believe I was born to do. But sometimes it's difficult for me to closet myself away for several hours to write a book. I need people--I need to talk to them and hear their thoughts. I do some of my best thinking when I'm talking back and forth with someone. That's why I love role-playing games--it allows me to tell a fun story and spend time people I love at the same time (plus, those stories we create give me fantastic ideas for future stories I can write on my own time).
Over the years, my friends and I have created some amazing stories and memorable scenes that we'll still be talking about for years to come. Some of the coolest, most interesting characters have come from the minds of my friends and the interaction we had between the players as we ran the game. Role-playing games teach you how to tell stories, and to have fun in the process. There is rarely any fixed plot like a book might have, because of the wild cards that each of the players become. There are many stories that I thought were going one way, and because of one decision during the course of play, became something completely different. Some of the most touching moments between characters have happened while a bunch of teenagers sat at a table rolling dice and talking.
That's what I love about role-playing games. They are so simple, yet incredibly complex. All you need is a good set of rules, some dice for randomization, and people, and you're on your way. And the stories that can come out of a thing like that are wondrous.
I'll give you an example. In a Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition game I ran back in 2009 for a group of my teenage friends, the party was going through an abandoned university called the "Gnomish Academy of Magic", and came across a magical artifact on one of the shelves. It was a shrunken head, magically imbued with the ability to speak. The party started talking to the shrunken head, who identified himself as "Jimmy Do" (pronounced Jimmy Doe as in deer) and proceeded to take on a life of his own. We were all in love with Jimmy Do after one conversation, and he proceeded to be a part of every campaign we ever did after that. Somewhere in the story, our characters would meet a talking head and I would have the most fabulous time playing the character and talking in a funny voice.
And all of that came about because of one line of description in a magazine describing the contents of a room. Can you see why I like this so much? So many inside jokes have been created over the years, and so many stories have been told. And it all came about as a result of a collaborative effort of a few silly kids having fun with their imaginations.
The older we all get, the more intricate and complex the stories become, and the more we aim towards making our own settings and creating them unique rather than just mashing a bunch of Tolkien-esque fantasy tropes together. The story of Jimmy Do was part of the inspiration to create an entire universe to hold all of our various worlds for all of our various games, all connected by a mega-plot, and as we continue to play different games, we continue to shape and evolve the history of that shared universe.
So, here's a tip for all of you storytellers out there. Pick up a role-playing game that sounds interesting to you and start playing! You'd be surprised how much being a gamemaster or a player can help you with storytelling and character development, and how much fun it can be in the process. I've learned so much of what I know about crafting a story from being in the driver's seat of some of the ones we've shaped together. One of the most important things you learn is the value of shaking up your story with twists and turns. Because players will never take a story where you expect them to, you have to be flexible and good at improvising. I definitely haven't mastered that skill, but I'd like to say I've learned quite a bit over the years, and I'm much better at it now.
But, yes! Role-playing games are fantastic, and I think everyone should play them. They're so much fun and they get your imagination and creativity fired up--I've always found them to be much more fulfilling than playing any other sort of game. And they're probably a much more productive way to spend your time, especially if you want to tell stories like I do for a living.
If you're still not convinced you should try them, here's another blog post I wrote on why you should. I believe that is all! Thanks for reading.