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THE WRITE GAME – THE FORGE

Indeed. It has been a  seminal influence on my fictional writings, but not just upon my writings. It also greatly influenced many other things I did or am still doing in life, everything from detective work to my inventions.

I also learned a great deal about things like map-reading and ambush setting by playing D&D.

 

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The playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is one of many authors to have gleaned skills from Dungeons & Dragons, now 40 years old. CreditÁngel Franco/The New York Times

When he was an immigrant boy growing up in New Jersey, the writer Junot Díaz said he felt marginalized. But that feeling was dispelled somewhat in 1981 when he was in sixth grade. He and his buddies, adventuring pals with roots in distant realms — Egypt, Ireland, Cuba and the Dominican Republic — became “totally sucked in,” he said, by a “completely radical concept: role-playing,” in the form of Dungeons & Dragons.

Playing D&D and spinning tales of heroic quests, “we welfare kids could travel,” Mr. Díaz, 45, said in an email interview, “have adventures, succeed, be powerful, triumph, fail and be in ways that would have been impossible in the larger real world.”

“For nerds like us, D&D hit like an extra horizon,” he added. The game functioned as “a sort of storytelling apprenticeship.”

Now the much-played and much-mocked Dungeons & Dragons, the first commercially available role-playing game, has turned 40. In D&D players gather around a table, not a video screen. Together they use low-tech tools like hand-drawn maps and miniature figurines to tell stories of brave and cunning protagonists such as elfish wizards and dwarfish warriors who explore dungeons and battle orcs, trolls and mind flayers. Sacks of dice and vast rule books determine the outcome of the game’s ongoing, free-form story.

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Dungeons & Dragons has influenced a shelf full of writers. CreditEthan Gilsdorf

For certain writers, especially those raised in the 1970s and ’80s, all that time spent in basements has paid off. D&D helped jump-start their creative lives. As Mr. Díaz said, “It’s been a formative narrative media for all sorts of writers.”

The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the “weird fiction” authorChina Miéville (“The City & the City”); Brent Hartinger (author of “Geography Club,” a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (who still enjoys role-playing games). Others who have been influenced are television and film storytellers and entertainers like Robin Williams, Matt Groening (“The Simpsons”), Dan Harmon (“Community”) and Chris Weitz (“American Pie”).

With the release of the rebooted Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set on Tuesday, and more advanced D&D rule books throughout the summer, another generation of once-and-future wordsmiths may find inspiration in the scribbled dungeon map and the secret behind Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

Mr. Díaz, who teaches writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his first novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” was written “in honor of my gaming years.” Oscar, its protagonist, is “a role-playing-game fanatic.” Wanting to become the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien, he cranks out “10, 15, 20 pages a day” of fantasy-inspired fiction.

Though Mr. Díaz never became a fantasy writer, he attributes his literary success, in part, to his “early years profoundly embedded and invested in fantastic narratives.” From D&D, he said, he “learned a lot of important essentials about storytelling, about giving the reader enough room to play.”

And, he said, he was typically his group’s Dungeon Master, the game’s quasi-narrator, rules referee and fate giver.

The Dungeon Master must create a believable world with a back story, adventures the players might encounter and options for plot twists. That requires skills as varied as a theater director, researcher and psychologist — all traits integral to writing. (Mr. Díaz said his boyhood gaming group was “more like an improv group with some dice.”)

Sharyn McCrumb, 66, who writes the Ballad Novels series set in Appalachia, was similarly influenced, and in her comic novel “Bimbos of the Death Sun” D&D even helps solve a murder.

“I always, always wanted to be the Dungeon Master because that’s where the creativity lies — in thinking up places, characters and situations,” Ms. McCrumb said. “If done well, a game can be a novel in itself.”

What makes a D&D story different from novels and other narratives is its improvisational and responsive nature. Plotlines are decided as a group. As a D&D player, “you have to convince other players that your version of the story is interesting and valid,” said Jennifer Grouling, an assistant professor of English at Ball State University who studied D&D players for her book, “The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games.”

If a Dungeon Master creates “a boring world with an uninteresting plot,” she said, players can go in a completely different direction; likewise, the referee can veto the action of player. “I think D&D can help build the skills to work collaboratively and to write collaboratively,” she added. (Mr. Díaz called this the “social collaborative component” of D&D.)

Ms. Grouling also cited “a sense of control over stories” as a primary reason people like role-playing games. “D&D is completely in the imagination and the rules are flexible — you don’t have the same limitations” of fiction, or even of a programmed video game, she said. A novel is ultimately a finished thing, written, edited and published, its story set in stone. In D&D, the plot is always fluid; anything can happen.

The playwright and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire, 44, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Rabbit Hole,” said D&D “harkens back to an incredibly primitive mode of storytelling,” one that was both “immersive and interactive.” The Dungeon Master resembles “the tribal storyteller who gathers everyone around the fire to tell stories about heroes and gods and monsters,” he said. “It’s a live, communal event, where anything can happen in the moment.”

Mr. Lindsay-Abaire said planning D&D adventures was “some of the very first writing that I did.” And the game taught him not just about plot but also about character development.

Playing D&D has also benefited nonfiction writers. “Serving as Dungeon Master helped me develop a knack for taking the existing elements laid out by the game and weaving them into a coherent narrative,” said Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic and author of “My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.” “And yet you were constrained by the rules of the D&D universe, which in journalism translates into being constrained by the available, knowable facts.”

Mr. Lindsay-Abaire agreed that fictional worlds need rules. “For a story to be satisfying, an audience needs to understand how the world works,” he said. “ ‘The Hunger Games’ is a perfect example of: ‘O.K., these are the rules of this world, now go! Go play in that world.’ ”

Over and over again, Ms. Grouling said, tabletop role players in her survey compared their gaming experience to “starring in their own movies or writing their own novels.”

As for Mr. Díaz, “Once girls entered the equation in a serious way,” he said, “gaming went right out the window.” But he said he still misses D&D’s arcane pleasures and feels its legacy is still with him: “I’m not sure I would have been able to transition from reader to writer so easily if it had not been for gaming.”

THE COLLEGES TO COME?

Following up on the LARPful post. This could be an excellent stimulus for the imagination. Especially for writers. artists, actors, and perhaps even scientists who wanted a free-flowing environment to conduct chemical and physical experiments and make observations in a fun environment.

I can also see this being transformed easily into a Vadding Experience (the exploration of both modern and older ruins), that is LARPing could be used an an environment to train Vadders.

And finally this could also be easily used as a platform to develop ARGs (Alternate Reality Games and LARPs) and could even be used to train participants in Real World Skills (TSS: Transferable Skill Simulations) and in subjects such as ancient technologies and history.

So this could also easily become a GPAD, a Game of Personal Advancement and Development.

Anyway as far as the current Crowdfunding Project goes Claus, Good Luck and Godspeed. To you, your partners, and participants.

 

HABIT RPG

I’ve just started doing this today. And although I think it is weak in some respects I have also found it useful and may continue with it.

It might be worth investigating on your part as well.

HABITRPG

ROLE PLAY TO THE RESCUE

Yeah, no duff

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

 

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

When you hear about role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, you probably picture a dimly-lit basement filled with people in silly robes rolling dice, but there’s much more to it than that. Not only are role-playing games incredibly fun, but they can actually teach you skills you’ll use in the real world.

When I first heard about role-playing games, I immediately thought it was something that was just for the nerdiest of nerds out there. I could only imagine how ridiculous it would feel to sit around a table with other people and act like someone—or something—else, pretending to fight goblins and dragons. The entire premise just sounded way “too geeky” for me—even as someone who was way into video games and other “nerdy” things.

Fast forward a couple years, and I found that I was completely wrong. As soon as I took a moment to strip away the facade of monsters and swords, role-playing games revealed themselves to be something far more interesting than other traditional games. Behind the fantasy adventures was a fun social gathering that required you to think on your toes, solve problems, be creative, and ultimately learn how to become a team player. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s because it’s like every job out there. It turned out that it really wasn’t about the dungeons or the dragons at all—it’s about thinking critically and working like a team.

Now I indulge in role-playing games as often as I can. It’s nice to have an escape from the toils and troubles of the real world, but with every game session I play, I find that I actually learn something as well. Maybe it’s about myself and the way I think, maybe it’s something about one of my friends that brings us closer together, or maybe I just find a new way to look at something that I hadn’t thought of. I’ve learned that role-playing games are about more than playing a game, and more importantly, that they are for everybody.

The Benefits

Playing Cultivates Creativity

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Creativity is the bread and butter of role-playing games. They have a certain quality that allows you to transcend typical game interactions. You have real freedom and the ability to move the story forward how you see fit. There are rules for each game, but they are merely the skeleton to whatever story you and your team want to create.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to activate our brains, and role-playing games do this incredibly well. When we tell stories—or experience them—our brains have to process language, the cause and effect of events, and also relate it to our own pre-existing experiences. While you’re playing a role-playing game, your brain is firing on all cylinders.

It’s good for you, the same way socializing or reading a book is good for you. In fact, as Jon Michaud of The New Yorker explains, reading comes with the territory:

…D. & D. is a textual, storytelling, world-creating experience, a great apprenticeship for a budding author. But, more fundamentally, you cannot play D. & D. without reading—a lot. Ed Park, in an essay on D. & D. (included in the anthology “Bound to Last”), celebrates the magnificent vocabulary of the game… Combined, the player’s manual, the Dungeon Master’s guide, and the monster manual (the core books of advanced D. & D.) add up to four hundred and sixty-eight pages of small-print, double-column text. I read them with studious devotion and headlong glee. Almost immediately, television all but disappeared from my life.

Before Michaud started playing, he spent his days watching TV while his grades were plummeting. As soon as the fantasy of D&D came into his life, however, that all changed. Michaud even goes so far as to say that Dungeons & Dragons “saved his life” because it got him on a better life track after reading more and finding something that excited him. Perhaps it won’t save your life, but it can still enhance it. As you play, you’ll develop creativity in a way you might not have experienced before. Whether you’re running the game as the “Dungeon Master”—controlling what happens to the players—or simply playing as one of the characters, your storytelling ability will increase.

Dungeon Masters—also called Game Masters in some games—must be particularly good storytellers. Even if you’re using a pre-made adventure with most of the work already done, you still have to be ready to come up with dialogue and personalities for the non-player characters, and be able to vividly describe the world your players explore. As a player, you have to find ways to make your character more interesting by creating personality quirks or a rich backstory.

Role-playing games force you to draw from what you know and create something that you and others can enjoy. A lot of famous creators have been influenced by Dungeons & Dragons as well. Comedian Stephen Colbert, writer George R. R. Martin, comedian Robin Williams, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and Community creator Dan Harmon all played at one time or another. Storytelling is the one of the most basic creative skills that you can draw on for so many other skills, and being a good storyteller can even make you a more charismatic person. Dive in to another world and see what kind of cool stuff you can come up. You might surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Playing Levels Up Your Social Skills1

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

When you think Dungeons & Dragons, you probably don’t think social skills—but once again, that’s a stereotype that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Role-playing games are 100% social. You need to be able to talk to other people, express how you feel about certain situations, all in a group of people. Role-playing games come with a social network built directly into them.

Sure, to an extent, video games do the same thing—but it isn’t quite the same. Role-playing games bring the interaction right to your face, no screens between you. Plus, you get to hang out with your friends. Before and after a play session, you can catch up with what they’ve been up to and share what’s going on in your life. Once you know the rules for a particular game, you can easily make new friends too. You can hop into other game groups and make new friends; the process being easier because a giant plot of common ground is right out in the open. Making friends when you move can be really tough, but you can hit up a local game and hobby shop to see if there are any groups looking for more players.

This engrained social network can be particularly helpful for kids too. Making new friends can be more difficult for some people, and the forced social interaction of role-playing games can help them find people that share their interests. Additionally, kids and adults alike can use role-playing games to combat shyness. Players are given a mask in the form of their character that allows them to feel less vulnerable. Using my characters as a vehicle helped me feel more comfortable talking to others. Over time I got over shyness and felt comfortable cracking jokes and starting conversations on my own. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being shy, but for those that do want to get out of their comfort zone a bit, role-playing games can offer some help.

Playing Encourages Teamwork and Cooperation

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Most role playing games don’t end in a “win” or a “loss”, but they still require teamwork. The events depend on players’ actions, just like any other game, and failure to work with other players will guarantee a not-so-fun time. Role-playing games are designed from the ground up to be cooperative and it can be a lot of fun to play a game where there are no winners and losers.

A lot of games strive to be competitive, but life can be competitive enough, and role-playing games provide a refreshing change of pace. Additionally, learning to be a team player is highly important in the professional world. You take on a role at work and do the things that you’ve trained to do, and it works the same way in a role-playing game. Your character normally has a particular skillset, and that fills a role on a diverse team. Just like at work, if you don’t do your job, the whole team can suffer for it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that role-playing games are as serious as work. They can just help you learn the basics of working with others. You get a feel for how you handle interactions in stressful settings. Maybe you’ll find that you’re a good leader, choreographing a perfect battle where nobody gets too hurt. Or maybe you’ll find that you’re more of a support-type, ready to jump to someone’s aid when they need it. Perhaps you can just think outside the box better than your peers, and figure your way out of complex situations. There are no good or bad roles, just the roles you can fill. By learning to play with a team, you can learn how to work with one.

Playing Teaches Problem Solving Skills2

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Problem solving is what makes the world go ’round and role-playing games are filled to the brim with it. Layers upon layers of problems stand in front of you and your fellow party members. You could be trying to solve a riddle, while navigating a labyrinth, while deciding the best way to take out a band of goblins, while trying to solve a murder mystery, all while preventing a dark lord from taking over the kingdom. Talk about problems.

Role-playing games and their campaigns are problem after problem, all just barely solvable. As each event of your game unfolds, you’re forced to think on your feet and react. You develop some improvisation skill and feel a rush whenever your group finds a clever way to tackle a tough problem. In fact, some of your most memorable moments will likely end up being times that you felt like your back was against the wall, but you managed to pull through using your wit.

Learning how to solve problems develops your critical thinking and can help you approach problems in the future with the right mindset. In role-playing games you’re simultaneously the chess player and the chess piece. You learn to see problems from multiple perspectives and realize that there’s always a light at the end of the dark, goblin-filled cave.

Playing Is Fun

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Seriously, playing role-playing games is an absolute blast. Try this: Imagine a time in your past that you did something that felt a little silly. Maybe you were at a party, or maybe you had a couple drinks and hit the dance floor at a wedding. Something you were worried about being embarrassed about it at first, but as soon as you gave in, it was some of the most fun you’ve ever had. That’s what role-playing games are like.

Half the fun is letting go of the heavy world around you and playing like you’re a kid again. You sit down at that table and suddenly you’re running around the playground, having adventures and saving the world. Can you honestly say that fun like that isn’t for everybody?

How to Get Started

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Getting started can be the toughest part, but there are some things you can do to make it a lot easier. Unfortunately, there’s no way I could even come close to explaining how to play all of the role-playing games out there, but I can point you in the right direction.

First, you want to find a game that would interest you. The world of role-playing games can be very overwhelming, but it also means that there is literally something for everyone. If you like sci-fi, there’s plenty of that. If you like fantasy, there’s plenty of that too. Vampires? Check. Werewolves? Check. Super heroes, Lovecraft, zombies, aliens, Star Wars, wrestling… You name it, there’s probably a role-playing game for it. Heck, I’ve even played a role-playing game based around the movie Mean Girls (and it was, like, so fetch). So don’t worry if Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.

Do some research and see what you can dig up. Google “[thing you like] role-playing game” and you might be surprised at what you find. Certain games are going to be more popular, however—which means it might be easier to join or start one of those game types—but see what you can find that excites you. If you’re not into the world the game is portraying, you’re probably not going to enjoy yourself. As far as recommendations go, check out Fate, Pathfinder, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Call of Cthulhu, and (of course) Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition. You can even get a large taste of what D&D is like without paying a cent. If you’re still lost, hit up a game and hobby store and ask around. You’re sure to get more recommendations than you’ll what to do with.

When you find something that interests you, see what materials you need. Most role-playing games require that you at least own a copy of its player’s manual. Some games may require additional books as well, so make sure you’re getting what you need. These books can be very expensive—usually $40 and up—and the go-to, Amazon, won’t necessarily hook you up. Shop around online and check local game and hobby stores to find the best deals. You can also find digital versions of almost every current game and those can be significantly cheaper. There are a few other things you’ll need to play as well:

  • DM or GM guide: The Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) usually can benefit from having this additional book.

Dice: You’ll usually need more than the standard six-sided (d6) dice. Some games require sets of their own special dice. Always check to see what you need.Character Sheets: You can normally find these in the back of the player’s manuals, but you can also find them on each game’s web site for free.Pencils: Not pens—especially if you’re just starting out.A table: The more space you have for books and character sheets the better. Some people like to use grid mats and figurines, but they aren’t completely necessary.People: Alas, you cannot play these games alone. Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s not nearly as fun. Two people will work in a pinch, but a group of four or five tends to be way more fun.

Once you have all of those things, you need to read. A lot. Role-playing games require some investment. The rules for each game can be complicated, and even though you shouldn’t let rules be the focus of your game sessions, you should get a basic idea of how they work. If you know someone that knows how to play, ask them to teach you! They’ll likely be glad to show you the ropes. They may even have their own group and invite you to join, even if it’s just for a few sessions so you can learn.

In the same vein, it doesn’t hurt to ask around if you’re looking for a group to play with. If none of your current friends play, ask around your local gaming stores. A lot of stores have regularly scheduled sessions in-store, and it’s a great way to learn to play without having to buy a rulebook or convince your current friends to come play with you. At the very least, someone might be able to point you in the right direction. You can also find playgroups online. Web sites like Meetup.com can help you find other people in your area that are interested in playing the games you want to play. It never hurts to check out the forums of big role-playing game publisher web sites—like Wizards of the Coast or Fantasy Flight Games—in search of players, either.

Lastly, if you’re having trouble understanding how things work, YouTube is your friend. You can find countless videos of real gameplay and rules explanation for whatever game you’re interested in. Watch a few games and you’ll start to see how the flow of a game should feel. This can be especially helpful if you want to run the game too.


Role-playing games are fun, exciting, and can actually help you learn a thing or two. So get out there, find a group, and don’t let the concept overwhelm you. Ease into the games and you may even make some new friends along the way. Role-playing games really are for everyone, especially you.

Photos by PublicDomainPictures, OpenClips, Dan Catchpole, Michael Harrison, Benny Mazur, potential past, Benny Mazur, Sean Ellis.

 

GAMING AS A MEANS OF UNDERSTANDING THE REAL WORLD

After many years of both observation and experimentation it has been my conclusion that the real reason games are superior to most neuroplasticity (or even educational) programs (no matter how good in design) is because games are by both design and play active and fluid, whereas most neuroplasticity and cognitive learning programs are essentially passive and static.

I don’t think it is a secret to anyone that the more you involve the body and the senses and the mind and even the soul (psuche) in conjunction with whatever subject matter is to be learned the more easily will that subject matter be later recalled and the more deeply it embeds itself into the memory.

Whether most people realize it or not most games are active tactile as well as mental in nature, and even in things like Role Play there is a huge amount of engagement with the imagination in a wide range of input fields (imagined sights and sounds and smells), not to mention the large amount of involved social interaction.

So whether it is the visual and tactile stimulation of a video or computer game, or the tactile and social and imaginative interplay involved in a role play or even a board game what is learned is much more visceral and applicable later on to the Real World. (And if you cannot carry what you learn to the Real World then what you have learned is pragmatically useless.)

Consciously or subconsciously the impressive sight and sound and the imagined impulse and acted-out (role-played) solution is a far superior problem solving exercise than is the static learning and answer format.

Games are alive in ways that most cognitive learning programs are not, and cannot be, unless radically redesigned to be directly applicable both to the Real World and to the entire human being.

So the solution to this problem is an obvious one, learning techniques that are active and tactile and sensory and that engage at problems as if they were Real (for the mind has a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy at the very moment of actual employment) are far superior to didactic and dialectical and other such static learning techniques.

Especially when it comes to skills mastery and skills employment gaming is far more vital and functional and efficient than mere instruction and static learning practice techniques.

That’s just the way it is.

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