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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

RPGs: Writing School?



Well, folks, sorry...I'm a bit late again. This post shoulda been up a bit earlier today. Well...oh well. I was up late reading A Dance With Dragons, so I guess that makes me awesome. ;) (By the way, for all of you who follow A Song of Ice and Fire, the book is so far shaping up to be very, very good. Though maybe that's just because I've been missing the characters who popped back up.) Anyhow, I thought I'd talk a bit about an interesting facet of roleplaying games that I noticed: how they can teach core principles of writing.

Risus: Defining Characters
As one of my friends (Hauskii from the mech campaign, to be precise) pointed out, the lite RPG Risus is a great example of a game that helps you distill writing down. Risus forces you to define a character in terms of colorful traits, which it calls "clich├ęs". Ragnar the Viking might be a "Viking (4), Cook (3), Swashbuckler (1), Explorer (1), Opera Singer (1)". From those five traits, you get a nice, clean picture of what the character is like. When writing, you need to give characters strong, distinct traits that help to set them apart. Nuance comes later.

Wushu Open: Rolling With the Punches
In Wushu Open, all action is governed by the Principle of Narrative Truth: when a player describes something happening, it happens. No more of this "I try to jump over the chasm" nonsense. In the words of The Matrix: "Stop trying to hit me and hit me!" Rolling the dice only determines the impact of the action, not its success. Sometimes, in writing, we're afraid to have characters actually do something. We have to be reminded that they need to rock the boat a bit, and throw around some muscle (figuratively speaking); that's what causes things to happen.

FATE: Aspects Everywhere
FATE is a character-rooted ruleset that makes "Aspects" an important part of the game. Your character's Aspects can be used to do cool things in the middle of the game, but they can also be leveraged to "compel" your character to do not-so-beneficial things that are also in line with their nature. Not only that, but Aspects aren't limited to characters. They can be put on weapons, given to locations, and even used to apply effects to a setting, such as the Aspect "It's On Fire!". Those Aspects can then be tapped or used to compel characters. In writing, it's important to remember that characters don't have a monopoly on character traits. There's Aspects everywhere, just waiting to juice up the story.

What sorts of tips and tricks for writing have you found in RPGs?

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