Wednesday, January 18, 2017

RPGs & Writing - Imagination and Friends

I'm kicking off a series of posts about how playing role-playing games (RPGs) has affected my writing. This topic not only excited me, but other authors I know. I'm eager to have some of my writer friends share their experiences through guest posts too.

I've always loved writing stories. It can be a lonely venture, though. I used to play imagination games with my friends where we'd play out stories. Back then, I had never heard of RPGs. I didn't play my first Dungeons & Dragons game until I was in university. But I was already addicted to something else before then.

I loved playing PBeM RPGs. What are those, you ask? Play by email (or play-by-post) RPGs are games groups of people as their characters interact together in a predefined environment. Many groups have rules about not only the parameters of the world but also the conduct of the players and subject matter allowed.

I played in all sorts of groups. Most of them in Yahoo Groups. Fantasy, science-fiction, dystopian, and tons of Harry Potter groups. Yes, I do love playing in that world!
What I liked most about these RPGs was that I didn't know what the other players would come up with next. I loved the twists and turns, the weird surprises, and the amazing stories we created together. Since I'm a pantser, I reveled in it.

With all these different types of worlds, I was able to experiment with different writing styles and various characters. I discovered that I loved to write about relationships - be it romantic, friends, enemies, etc. It was the characters who attracted me and drove me to become the character focused writer I am today. (One of the most character driven groups I had been in was a dystopian called Descent Into Sin. Deep, dark stuff.)

While these RPGs helped to mold me into the writer I am today, there was something else I loved about them: the friends I made. These friends encouraged me to write more of my own original work and gave me the strength to submit it to various venues. I had my first short story published because of their support. And even to this day, over fifteen years after I started in my first PBeM group, I'm still in contact with some of these amazing people. Not all of them write or play anymore, but they have never ceased to be fantastic cheerleaders and super friends.

Have you ever play in a PBeM RPG? A tabletop RPG like Dungeons & Dragons? What were your experiences like?

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I would like to extend an invitation to any writers who have played RPGs. I'd love for you to guest post on my blog about your experiences. If you're interested, please leave your email in the comments below, or email me at


  1. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in my early teens, not long after the game began. (Yes, that was a few years ago.) I also played the Dungeon Master many times and it was always interesting to see how the players would take my perfectly planned story line and go off on all sorts of tangents. (I was very good at steering them back on target though.) I guess that's why I'm an avid plotter who doesn't worry if something veers off script. I know how to keep everything in place and can handle it.

  2. This kind of thing always seemed like something I would enjoy, but I never really got into it. Sounds like fun though and helpful for creativity and the writing craft.

  3. I played tabletop RPGs like DnD, but never PBeM. Not only did playing give my imagination a good workout, once I became the dungeonmaster, I even had to learn to process of developing stories, along with settings, backstories, etc. Very valuable these days.

  4. This is one of those things that I've always thought I'd love but have never had the chance to get into. My boyfriend plays weekly and loves it--maybe I'll try tagging along because it sounds so fun :)

  5. I'm just now getting into RPGs and played them as a kid before the term was commonly used like it is today. I think the ones I played as a kid was one of the things that made me want to write the fiction I do today. I got the card game Arkham Horror, based on HP Love craft's Mythos stories, over the holidays which is the RPG that I've been playing lately. (More like learning to play! Lol)

  6. Alex, players always take your plans for the story and go off in another direction! My pantser muse worked well in that. I was GM in a long running superhero game that went to the other side of the world and way outside what I planned, but the players loved what I came up and still talk about it eight years later!

    Madeline, it is fun, but it does take up a lot of time. I gave it up when I started writing full-time.

    Ken, that's awesome. Being the DM does work out the imagination!

    Meradeth, I bet you'd surprise yourself with how much fun you'd have! :)

    Steven, Arkham Horror is fantastic. I have the board game, but I've only played in one Arkham RPG. I managed to run away and not get eaten... or worse!

  7. I've never really played an organized game like that. I think I would have loved to play D&D, but I didn't hang out with anyone who actually played it when I was younger. I didn't even know you could do stuff like that online! I'm a big fan of video games in general. I see them as relaxing AND creative! I've had a lot of ideas spawn up out of a video game. :)

  8. I would love the twists and turns as well. Surprises make it so much more fun. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  9. I remember the days when we wrote together fondly. Occasionally, I would think about characters we left behind and wondered what happened to them (I believe we left Daemion and Ocean in quite a state.)

    I played DnD too but traditional RPGs feel almost a bit restrictive for me I. Comparison to PBEM. Perhaps it is because I am better at writing out plot and characters than acting them out.

  10. The closest I've come to RPGs are MMORPGs, which I only play to play with my husband. But I do find it fascinating to peek in on my sis-in-law's games.

  11. I'm not sure I've ever played an RPG, though my little brother certainly has. I always preferred the old-school computer and video games where one plays by oneself, as a character or not.

  12. I played D&D once, but it wasn't my thing. I'm too shy to do the group gaming thing. If I play a RPG it's a video game I'm playing alone.

  13. Great topic Christine. I love taking a closer look at the correlation between gameplay and writing. I can relate. I love games (when I have time for them, which is less and less these days). I've always been a big Magic the Gathering fan and also World of Warcraft. I can certainly see the connection in how we're getting develop story lines and worlds through games. Sometimes we get to develop the characters too. Thank you for sharing, great stuff.

  14. I've never played D&D, but I did for a while play an online game like the one you describe. It was based on a manga series I loved and I was one of the main characters. I found it difficult, though, because the character they assigned to me was a good guy (and really kind of innocent and naive), and I do so much better as a villain! Or at least as someone, er, smart? I eventually didn't have time to keep up with it any more.

  15. Krystal, I love video games too. I've played the Final Fantasy ones so many times!

    Anna, they do! :)

    Renee, Daemion and Odran, yes! We left them battling a huge evil coming out from the ground, I think. Heh. I agree with you about D&D. I tend to be the quiet one around the table.

    Loni, I've played those too. Such fun!

    Carrie-Anne, I do understand.

    Patricia, I'm shy too, but I do love the stories and how funny everyone gets!

    Emilyann, it is a fascinating topic. My husband was totally into Magic for several years. I played Warcraft back when it started out.

    M, funny how I enjoyed playing the villains more too!

  16. Oh, gosh, don't get me started on RPGs:) I ventured into the land of DnD once with a bunch of friends and it became a little too all consuming for a time. But it was still a blast! :)

  17. I never thought how that could expand your writing. It totally makes sense. I haven't played, but now I need to do some experimenting.

  18. I did RPGs in yahoo groups. Those were fun. It was before I began writing in earnest for myself. They were a blast and shoved me outside my comfort zone. I may not have written on my own if not cutting a few teeth on those first. I sometimes still fondly remember my characters. Maybe I'll have to revive them all in a story one day. :)

  19. Mark, it can be addicting!

    Holly, it's a lot of fun. :)

    Mary, you should! I have a few characters that I played back in the day who have popped up in my stories.

  20. I tried playing D&D when I was younger but didn't get into it very well- Then again as an adult I tried with a different game group and still didn't have a lot of fun. I have friends who play- but I have done role play in like yahoo groups- they were more one on one and erotic based- I was researching how tow rite sex scenes and a group allowed me in to work on my experience with writing sex. LOL Before that group my sex scenes were- and they kissed...and chapter- next day after they did their love making...and so on...which isn't really good. LOL So that group really helped me explore my writing side in a more erotic and romantic way.

  21. I always enjoy surprises in books. I've never role-played in games, but I have in other venues. It's fun and you never know what will turn up.

  22. I played some RPGs with friends in high school - MERP (Middle Earth), TMNT, and Justice League - and it was fun. I usually rolled characters that died within the first few steps of the campaing and that drove me nuts - nothing like spending a few hours on a character and then having her die in the first conflict a few more hours in to the game. Anyway, I did have one character who did well and who I had to give to another person to play because I couldn't make all the game weekends that year. I was irritated by rolling characters who died and I didn't take my first trip into TMNT role-playing seriously so I had a mutated chicken character - who I ended up rolling near-perfect strength and agility for - Super Chicken was born.

    I had a lot of fun with that character - even when someone else was playing her and then reporting back. :)
    Anyway, love this series topic!


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