Something unusual to consider
I’m not much of a gamer. I play a few stupid little puzzle games and card games on my phone. Every once in a while, I’ll play a mystery game where you have to solve puzzles to solve a simple mystery. And… that’s about it.
My kids, unsurprisingly, are much more into games than I am. They play Overwatch and Dragon Age. Even my husband plays Civilization 6 where he builds worlds. But it’s really my daughter who is the gamer in the family, so much so that she’s making a career out of it by becoming a game artist (all these computer games are really just incredible art and animation pieces). She also plays a “tabletop” game that you all might have heard of: Dungeons and Dragons.
DnD (as it is referred to in my home) has been around for decades now and is currently in its fifth iteration. It’s not only a game, but, really, a full industry. Both my daughter and her partner (who’s also an artist) earn good money by making digital paintings of other people’s DnD characters—apparently, it’s a Thing to have a painting of your characters.
I have played the game all of one time in a short “one-shot” where I and four other people got online and went on a quest. It was fun, but not something I was very eager to try again or really get into. I think I’m too much of an introvert—a huge part of the game the way my daughter and her friends play it is to put on an accent or a voice and really embody the character you’re playing. It makes it a lot of fun and more like play-acting than actually playing a game.
In essence, playing Dungeons and Dragons is more like playing make-believe for adults.
The fascinating thing about it, though, is the complexity of the characters themselves and the storylines they participate in. I recently was a guest in a DnD class on how to create characters for new players. It is co-run by my daughter and her partner on One More Multiverse, which is an online platform through which people get together and play these “tabletop” games (not just DnD, but there are many, many others in a similar vein).
It turns out that playing DnD is very much like writing. You need to create three-dimensional characters with an external goal (which is somehow related to the overall goal of the game) and an internal goal (a want and a need). Your character needs to have a detailed backstory and a wound that will color the way they see the world and react to it and their fellow players. The Dungeon Master (the person running the game being played) needs to create situations (conflict) which allows for each player to learn and grow so that each character in the game develops a complete story arc by the end. Naturally, there is a world to build (although it is confined to the rules of the game and the different types of characters available, but that still allows for, essentially, endless possibilities).
So why am I telling you all this? Because, as a writing exercise, you might want to consider playing Dungeons and Dragons. My eyes have been completely opened to this world. It’s an incredible way of getting to know your characters — by actually embodying them or having others do so. The key thing to playing the game, as I reminded the students of the DnD class, is to keep an open mind. Things happen in a game of DnD that you might not expect. These will lead to character revelations and just good fun—it’s really a lot like writing!
Do you play DnD? Let me know in the comments!