FL/RPGWW/NANOWRIMO- or How I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew

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Its NaNoWriMo time.

For those readers not familiar with this acronym, this is – National Novel Writing Month. An annual event lasting the whole of November for writers to encourage us to attempt 50,000 words in a month – no research, no editing, no worries – just write.

This is my third year of taking part. Previous  years I wrote a sci-fi story and a historical/magical realism story. This year it’s fantasy.

Plus…

It’s RPG Writer Workshop month. A new pilot programme being run by Ashley Warren to help gamers write a ‘one-shot-game’ before the first week in December. Game writers range from absolute beginners; never played TTRPG (Table Top Role Playing Games), to those who have already had work published and sold.

This is the first time -obviously – and although I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for around 30 years or so, I am WAY behind with the changes that have taken place in this scene. Plus, it’s all online, so digital comms, chat rooms, etc are a challenge!

Plus…

FutureLearn  is currently running a course title, Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People. It’s running throughout November only and it’s something that will be useful for the job I am employed in – Learning Support Assistant.

This is probably the easiest of the three as I need no tools, except my laptop to access the course.

I have to say, I do not know how many people are on each of these courses, but combined, it’s thousands – NaNoWriMo itself gets around 500,000 writers enrolling. As someone who is not au faix with Discord, or chat rooms, or, let’s be honest, any digital technology beyond TV’s before the advent of the remote control, I do struggle, but people are so helpful. Really. The number of times I’ve posted in the wrong place, been unable to find something, couldn’t do whatever needed to be done – someone has ALWAYS come to my rescue.

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Things were getting heated in the chatroom. 

However…

I hadn’t really thought this through when I signed up for all these online courses. In previous months; the build up and promotion of these courses, I had paid very little attention to the time they all took place.

Of course, I just had to do NaNo again. And wouldn’t it be cool as a writer to be able to design/write games and sell them? Yup – sign me up for that too. And what opportunities are there for what essentially boils down to free training?! Most industries provide staff training, but that little extra you do yourself always goes down well. So, yeah, I’ll do another course to help me do my job better.

So I find myself now, a mere 9 days into November, staring at blank docs. A kind of numb terror creeping up on me….how am I ever going to get 50,000 words written before the months end? How can I read a whole new rule-set for games and make a decision. How do I complete ‘Thinking Diary’ when my brain is turning to cheese? How can I go to work and give my best to those who rely on me? I know, thinks I, I’ll write my blog – as if I don’t already have enough writing to do -but the folks will be waiting for something, some pearls of wisdom, some amazing insight into creativity and gardening – phtuh! – no pearls here folks – brain, cheese = panic…

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What if I get some hideous cross-over like in a 50’s B-movie!!

Characters from the RPG workshop sneaking into the NaNo story and developing depression!

The low mood student wends his/her way into the game writing and ruins the jolly humour!

My NaNo protagonists burst free and run amok amongst the comments section of well-meaning, kind-hearted people studying on FutureLearn, swords flailing, and continue the charge into the RPG workshop, dog-lock pistols ablaze – there’s bullets and documents flying…people fling their laptops aside as a black-eyed soldier leers from a video of a gentle soul telling his tale…nascent character ideas from the minds of newbie gamers are quickly laid to rest by a swift and smartly placed stiletto blade…and the Dark Order find an in-road during all the mayhem and the seeds of disorder are planted and then the NPC’s take over and…and…

Genre Mashups. Image from Indiereader.com

but that’s never going to happen!!!!

Or is it…

Oh, hey, remember that pearl of wisdom? Let me know if you find it! Right, I’m off to dig a hole and scream into it.

 

Getting into TTRPG Writing

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Image curtesy of  @TTRPG Twitter

You all know I write stuff. ‘Course I do, I write this blog for one. Had some stuff published. Done posts for other blog sites.

So, what’s this TTRPG Writing all about Alex?

Table-top Role Playing Games. As opposed to LARP- Live Action Role Play (kind of like historical re-enactment societies, but with fantasy, and monsters, and probably more drugs!) or RPG in relation to video games (which I also spend quite a bit of time on)

It does what it says on the tin – you play it on your table, like a board-game, with dice and little pewter figures (painted or not), and maps, well some maps, sometimes.

I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for nigh on 30 years – oh, my wasted youth!

I have been DMing campaigns for about 10 of those.

Then a pal sent me a link to – https://morrus.podbean.com/e/8-whats-an-rpg-freelancer-worth/

What? People get paid to write gaming stuff? Thinks me. Of course I knew people wrote all the initial games books – Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Rulebook, Monster Manual, blahdy, blah blah – but get paid?

To write new ideas?

To create new monsters?

And magic items?

Really?

Wow!

But how do you do it? How do you actually go about writing a game for others to play? To sell? What’s the process? How should it look or be presented?

Who does what to whom and when and how?

I haven’t a feckin’ clue!

I have been trawling the internet for three days – and it seems there is some sort of D&D gaming conspiracy going on! *Sh! Don’t talk about it otherwise more writers and creative types will muscle in on our patch.

Today I discovered – Life as a Hired Gun: Freelance RPG Writing https://youtu.be/U7EXayaK-TQ

and I thank those guys (John Bennet, Keith Ryan Kappel, and Christopher Hunt), for sharing their experiences and suggestions.

I’m going to start putting a few posts up here as I go along to share what knowledge and experience I gain on my path to becoming an #RPG writer.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey – who knows where we will end up – roll a D10 and we could run into a brick wall and fall at the first hurdle, twisting our ankle and hobbling back home shamefaced – or – we could vanquish the mummy of apprehension and discover the giant glow-worm of enlightenment!

Huzzah!

Now, where did I put my +2 Bow?

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The female Archer is more deadlier than the male...

Let’s Play Dungeons and Dragons!

Running a D & D Game Is Much Like Writing a Story

I was recently asked by some young uns, how to go about playing Dungeons and Dragons.

There is literally tons of stuff out there for new adventurers; books, gaming stores, not to mention the dragons horde of information on the internet! In the past, everything had to be written down; by hand! I have kept quite a lot of my campaigns and characters, but I have also dumped a lot over the years.

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DM-ing with the advent of computers!!!!

But starting out fresh can be daunting, and this group were all ‘newbies’, none had played and none had acted as DM. How to help? By the way, I am talking about old-school, table top role playing game here, not online.

Okay, so first things, let’s get that idea out of your head about the ‘typical’ D and D gamer – we don’t all look like the cast of Stranger Things or The Big Bang Theory – see my post Why You Should Play Dungeons and Dragons; February 15, 2017. I have been playing for 30 years; so not a teenager!

Initially, we had one DM (Dungeon Master) and he was the boss, in charge, god almighty as far as the players were concerned. All games came from bought modules, all games were set in dungeons, all floor-plans were bought pieces. All decisions were the DM’s and the final word was his alone. Not any more.

What I recommend if you’re just starting out –

  • Get everyone in group to read at least something of the basic rules. Don’t give one person the responsibility, or the power! Go and look at this site for EVERYTHING: http://dnd.wizards.com/
  • Maybe start with a bought module – or find one online. N.B:only the DM will have access to all of this.
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D and D ready made game – there’s plenty out there.
  • Dice – you will need as a starter pack – 1 six-sided, 1 four-sided, 1 eight-sided, 2 ten-sided and 1 twenty sided. You need 2 ten-sided (2d10) as you will be rolling percentages sometimes. N.B: some people become obsessed with collecting dice, and still can’t find the right one when it’s time to roll!!
  • Figures, you need little people. These can be bought from specialist shops, or again, online. Why not hold a miniature painting session before beginning a campaign!
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“Look! Over there! More tiny people!”
  • Get a blackboard; you really do not need to pay for little packs of card corridors, rooms and caves. Draw it as it happens. You can create aerial views, maps and plans, draw objects in elevated view if verbal description not working.
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Player: “Whats that?” DM: “A boat! It’s a boat! FFS!”
  • Character sheets, try and get all players to make them the same, you can find templates in D & D books or online. We have kept pretty much to the original design for 3 decades.
  • Use your laptop if you can’t describe stuff – there are billions of images you can find on the internet, this will help create the ambience for your players; “You round the corner and your bullseye lantern picks out this only two feet away!” *show them picture of hideous creature.
  • I do recommend you buy a copy of the D & D Players Handbook; General Info as well as the D & D Players Handbook; Magic Users. Ours fell apart and mutated into folders – but – they’re still the same one’s from years ago that we use – it’s all we need.
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Players Handbooks
  • A box to store your crap – dice, figures including NPC’s (none player characters), pencils, erasers, chalk, board wipe, post-it notes (I have these so players or DM can pass private messages – you don’t always want everyone knowing what you’re going to do).
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Any old box will do to store the accoutrements that WILL build up.
  • Start with a small campaign. Games can last as long as you like, but if you don’t plan they can drift for months (even years!) aimless and endless and ultimately boring. Based on playing one game night per week of approximately 4 hours, have it last two months tops. Being DM can be hard work – which is why everyone needs to learn the rules and not rely on this individual.
  • Don’t be afraid to look up rules as you go along – we still do this, in fact, we had one player who could never remember which dice to roll whenever he needed to make a roll. Keep your D & D rules handy, keep the Magic Users manual on the table too – no-one can ever remember which spell does what and for how long.
  • Discuss, don’t argue. There is nothing more destructive to a new gaming group than arguments. People get very passionate about their characters, and if the DM is perceived as being too draconian and kills everyone off, then you’re not going to want to play again.
  • DM is the Dungeon Master, who will run the campaign and also voice the NPC’s as well as adjudicate the game. Probably best to have someone who doesn’t mind remembering more rules than everyone else and taking responsibility; for at least your first few games.
  • Rules are made to be broken, this is tough. You might have a player who is quite the expert on certain weapon types and brings this reality into the game; “My ranger should be able to shoot down the Drow elf with a single shot as the crossbow fires at 200 mph and it’s tip can penetrate…” yadda, yadda, yadda. WE KNOW, but this is a game and sometimes the damage and range of some weapons seems a bit off. The melee and weapons are designed so you won’t die straight away – if you want to kill the NPC’s with a single blow, then the DM is well within his/her rights to make NPCs that do the same!!! However – if you all think a particular rules stinks, then change it – so long as you are all in agreement.
  • Most importantly – have fun!

Running a D & D Game Is Much Like Writing a Story

After a while, you might want to write your own campaigns, we do. We each take turns to DM, which means it keeps things fresh. It also means that you know everything about the story, because you wrote it! When you decide that you want to try creating your own campaign, please realise this isn’t a light undertaking. It takes time, you must do research; because you know one player will ask what Counsellor so-and-so looks like, whats the written language, where can I buy such-and-such, How tall is this, how wide is that etc, etc. You are writing a story that the gamers are taking roles in, each quest should have a beginning, middle and end (at least in your own mind). Make the first one simple, for example – information from bartender is that there’s bandits in them thar hills and there’s a reward for their leaders capture.

If there is one piece of advice I would give wannabe DM’s its this –

you aren’t god, you’re entertaining the others!

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Characters are always worth a revisit.

Why you should play Dungeons and Dragons.

There has been a lot said about this fantasy table top role playing game (RPG) over the decades, from the 80’s when it was deemed ‘anti-Christian’, to the 90’s when it became ‘Satanical’ and into the 00’s  when it was played by ‘nerds’. Now I want a go…

A little background…

The game was originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR)

Regarding the view that it promotes anti or irreligious feeling, influences teens to be drawn to commit suicide or even murder, I strongly object. If you look at statistics showing deaths as a result of ‘religious wars’, you find the numbers reach into the thousands, even millions. The Crusades alone were accountable for up to 9 million deaths (according to some sources).

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule, to recapture Christian territory and defend Christian pilgrims. The term “crusades” is also applied to other campaigns sanctioned by the Church.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

 

death-toll

This is a section of an image of the Death Toll Comparison Breakdown from Wait But Why site is a fascinating accumulation of statistics. http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/08/the-death-toll-comparison-breakdown.html

 

So it seems that war in the name of God was, and is acceptable, and by default, so are those deaths.  My research led me to discover a total of 130 deaths attributed to D and D – the large majority of these were suicides. I am not taking away the fact that it is always tragic when a young person takes his or her own life- and over 90% of these were male, but looking deeper we will find that there was an emotional even mental health issue at play here.

130 is a long, long way from 9 million, so should we ask ourselves, if people played games instead of following a religion, might we not have less death on our hands?

The view that Dungeons and Dragons (or D & D) leads young players to become involved in Satanism and Satanic rituals is also unfounded nonsense. Many members of Christian churches were up in arms about D & D in the 90’s as it was deemed a ‘gateway’ to the ‘darker’ side. The vast majority of these concerned parents were American. Reading some of the comments, or news reports of the time reminded me of those black and white info films they used to show of the dangers of smoking cannabis – ‘Reefer Madness’ is a fine example,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbjHOBJzhb0

and is laughably naive to anyone today who  views it today. The knee-jerk reaction must have been invented by the Americans, as anything that they cannot comprehend immediately, or that does not fit into their clean living, white picket fenced world is deemed evil.

I’d like you to take a look at what others have said about playing D and D, don’t just take my word for it – after all, I’m one of those ker-razy people who play it!

Craig Hallam is an English writer. I have met him on a couple of occasions, and I can tell you that he is a very lovely man; kind of word, polite and friendly; he used to be a nurse – how decent can you get. He plays D and D. Visit his page “How D&D helped my writing – I’ve found it’s a massive help to maintaining creativity. When my books are stumbling… and I can’t get my Auth-on, D&D has been exactly what I’ve needed.” https://craighallam.wordpress.com/tag/dungeons-and-dragons/

Ethan Gilsdorf is an American writer, poet, editor, critic, journalist and teacher – second decent human career. He plays, or played D and D. And can explain a lot better than me, why you should play the game. I GAVE A TEDX TALK “WHY DUNGEONS & DRAGONS IS GOOD FOR YOU (IN REAL LIFE)” Ethan Gilsdorf explains the positives, for himself, of playing the game, and why it can be good for you too. http://www.ethangilsdorf.com/ethanfreak-blog/2016/5/25/igave-a-tedx-talkwhy-dungeons-dragons-is-good-for-you-in-rea.html

Playing D and D, I have learnt about so many things I did not learn in school. My knowledge base has expanded. Why? Because when you are the DM; Dungeon Master, or in my case Mistress, you are tasked with writing a scenario, or story if you will, that will not only fit the players, but challenge and entertain them, not for a couple of hours, but possibly for weeks on end! And if you veer away from the ‘traditional’, rule toting aspect; like we did, you better find something to keep your players playing.

Research, research, research.

I reckon I could teach university students a thing or two about how to research.  Because we moved from the original themes of dwarves, elves, wizards, dungeons and, er, dragons, we have to work with each other – collaborate – on what we all wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the experiment doesn’t work, but mostly, it is still fun. In fact, now I come to think of it, in over 25 years of playing (Yes, you read that correctly TWENTY FIVE YEARS), we have to my knowledge only had 3 games with dragons in them!

Where/when have we played?

By this, I do not mean what time and what room in the house, I am referring to game scenarios. After the traditional scenario/setting, we have played; an all Dwarven world, post-apocalyptic Mad Max style world, 12th century Damascus, World War II, the future ( space, cyberpunk, extra-terrestrials), Discworld influenced landscapes, Time Bandits influenced game, horror film influenced games, pensioners, demi-gods, siblings, postmen!! The variations go on and on.

You can see how the imagination is tried and tested – excellent for an author.

So, to me and my ‘team’; some of this might surprise the sceptics amongst you:

We’re all of us, over 50 years of age.

One of us is a professional musician and educator.

One supports the elderly.

One supports students with learning difficulties.

One of us is in the IT sector.

One of us is a support in the community.

One is an artist.

We’re all parents.

And we drink tea at ‘half-time’.

In conclusion, I have nothing against religion per say (you have no clue as to what belief system I follow if any) and I am deeply saddened by the death of anyone under the age of 50. But a table top role playing game is not the reason people fall by the wayside in one form or another. It encourages fair play, comradery, storytelling, imagination, patience, acceptance to name a few aspects. And its great fun!

What about ‘the nerds’, I hear you ask…

…well, that goes without saying.

 

 

10 Good Reasons to Play D&D by AMERON (DEREK MYERS)

http://dungeonsmaster.com/2010/11/10-good-reasons-to-play-dd/