RPGs and novels – where gaming and writing intersect

The last few months saw the release of newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the granddaddy of the entire tabletop roleplaying game industry. As someone who has played roleplaying games (RPGs) pretty steadily for the last 33 years, this is kind of a big deal. Or, at least, it was supposed to be (more on that in another post).

Fantasy gaming has been a big part of my life. I met my best friend because of D&D, my wife plays, my son plays, and I’ve introduced a good number of people to the hobby over the last three decades. When it wasn’t D&D, it was Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or Runequest, or Vampire, or Call of Cthulhu, or Ars Magica, or Star Wars, or Marvel Super Heroes, or…

One question that I get asked a fair bit by those who know I’m a roleplayer is whether any of the characters or setting of the Tales of the Undying Empire series is based on anything that has happened in any of my games.

The answer, regretfully, is no.

I saw regretfully, because it seems like all those games would provide a rich vein that I could mine for ideas, personalities, settings, etc. It should be so easy to take elements of my past campaigns and weave them into my novels.

But the truth is that the setting of the Undying Empire was created specifically for the purpose of the novels. As was each character who appears in the novels that I’ve written so far. My gaming and my writing are separate parts of my creative mind, and that’s likely how they will stay.

Because of the flip side of the question is whether I will use the setting of the Undying Empire in any future games I might run. And the answer to that is also no.

Writing, for me, is a joyful experience. I love writing with a passion. And part of the writing experience is exploring the world as I create each new story. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve created no detailed maps of Ythis. I have a single rough sketch, on which I’ve noted key locations from the books which I have already written. But the city, the world, is still a mostly-blank canvas.

If there is one thing I will do everything in my power to avoid, it’s to detail the world and then try to fit my stories into it. That the antithesis of how I want to create the world of the Undying Empire. I know the broad strokes, and I have the details where I need them.

For the purpose of a game world, there’s not enough there yet. And there won’t be enough for a long time. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s going on in Ythis, and that’s just one city in the Undying Empire. And the Empire only covers a good portion of one continent.

So for me, there is gaming, and there is writing. They use many of the same mental muscles, but they are used in very different ways. Roleplaying is a social hobby, a chance to collaborate and interact. But writing? That’s a different animal entirely, and I need it to be different.

Novels based on roleplaying games are fairly common. What do you think of them, or the idea in general? If you’re a gamer, do you read novel tie-ins? Does it enhance your gaming experience, or your reading experience? And if you’re a writer who also games, how does one affect the other for you?

Leave a comment and let me know. There’s no one right answer for everybody, and I’m interested in hearing your opinion.

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