D&D: Writing you own Campaign

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What’s Dungeons and Dragons have to do with writing a story? Everything.

To those who aren’t familiar with D&D, I’ll give you a quick overview. Dungeons and Dragons is a table-top, fantasy, role-playing game set in the Forgotten Realms. Those familiar with R.A. Salvatore‘s Drizzt Do’Urden might know a little something about the world. For those who don’t know Drizzt then take a look at the popular show Stranger Things. Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will played D&D in the pilot of the show and even in the last episode.

The major component about the game is storytelling and that’s where this post comes in. For starters, there is ‘a lot’ to know about playing D&D but I won’t go into too much detail. Instead, I’ll focus on how to build your own campaign for what’s called a ‘home-brew game.’ This term just means that you made a game set in the Forgotten Realms. It can also mean that you created your own world and are simply using the game mechanics of D&D like the dice rolling, the encounters, etc.

I should also mention that I went to Compicpalooza 2017 and was able to take down notes on many of the panels. The topic for this post was selected from my many notes so, in essence, it’ll be an overview of the advice and tips that I received.

  1. There’s no order in building your campaign and that holds true with writing.

You can start with your characters (in this case it can be your NPCs – the many roles you’ll take on as a DM (Dungeon Master – the one who runs the campaign)). If possible, it’s best to add as many NPCs beforehand. If needed, ‘someone’ will exist for your ‘adventures’ to come talk to and you won’t have to manifest them on the spot and remember them later.

Or your world. Or an object players (the ‘heroes’) have to find or destroy. That’s for you to decide.

Perhaps even your antagonist. This can be from anything you really want – a blood mage or a dragon.

However, for those building your own world, the terrain/ the environment is something to keep in mind. Is it mountainous? Plains? Forest? The Sea? The adventure will depend on what kind of area the players have to traverse. Plus, it would also make the encounters (the ‘enemy/beasts) plays will have to fight.

For the world building, you don’t have to know how to draw a map. There are pre-made maps and map generators available. Like donjon; RPG Tools. There are a lot of resources online to make it easier.

2. Basic Fundamentals of the World

The more details you know about your world the better. Just like writing anything, it is best to know almost everything you need to know about your world. That way, you won’t have to make things up on the spot and possibly forget about it later. I’m not saying it’s bad to make things up but I find that it disrupts the flow of the story. Plus, if you do have everything planned then it makes the world seem more real. Not only that but if you know the relationships between towns or tribes then you can use that as a source of conflict (if needed).

3. Managing your players

It’s not really a rule of thumb but your players are what makes the story. As the DM, you create the story and basically, the players help you write it. The story may go on a different path that you intended but it’s okay. Plans are subjected to change. It’s not like the story went out the window or anything. The DM is there to help guide the players through the story. There has to be some level of control but don’t force them to stay on that path only. Let them explore.

Whatever you don’t use then recycle it for another adventure. I do that in writing all the time. I can’t use something in one story but if I can use it in another story, then I will.

Like any story, there are going to character backstories. As a DM, you can use these to create a different arc or build it into the story. Just give your players something to care about. That’s what the core is for any story. Keep them invested.

Final thoughts:

Have fun. If you’re not having fun then why would your players be?Don’t get caught up in the details. They’re more like guidelines.

Showing vs Telling (Part 1)

There are many post/pages out there and warn against the dangers of showing vs telling. I’ve read many of them and the information basically stays the same with variation on how it is told. Although the information is stored in the back of my mind, I continue to click on those articles to see if there is anything new that I should know. Even if I don’t learn anything new, it’s refreshing to know that my knowledge is being reassured.

When writing, I always want to be an active writer (more on that in a later post). In that regard, I like to pay attention to what I’m writing and making sure that I don’t summarize information or info dump in a paragraph. These examples I regard as telling. Instead, I try to sprinkle the information through the story.

I happened to look back on my project and I completely failed my knowledge. I read through the opening paragraphs and I cringed. I had info dumps and trying to tell the reader about the world. While I do confess that I started writing this story three years ago, I never really went back to look at the beginning until recently. It just amazed me how different my writing had gotten from then until now. I knew it happened but everything time I take a look at old writing, it hits me in the face.

So, here’s a few tips on how to avoid info dumps.

First, I like to make a rough outline of my chapters. It’s like writing a synopsis with the only exception that you won’t show it to anyone. This sounds tedious and repetitive but I have found it to be really useful. With that outline, you can decide where you want to put those world building sentences and other sentences that deal with your character and their life up to that point. Not only do you dictate where that information goes but you have a clearer view of where everything goes.

Second, I ask someone to read over my work. It’s nice to have an extra pair of eyes for anything. I’m sure if you have info dumps and the information slows down the reading then, someone is bound to tell you. You could always read it yourself when you take a few days off and reread your work. That way, you don’t have the story in you head and you can read like a reader.

Third, practice. You don’t win a marathon when you practice for only one day. You don’t send your manuscript out to agents on the first draft. Everything takes practice and so does writing. I don’t believe you can get really good at writing without failing a few times. If you make yourself become super sensitive over avoiding info dumps then it starts to become second nature to you and your writing is better off because of it.

Lastly, read. Reading is very essential to your writing. Without reading, you can’t soak up all the techniques other writers are able to pull off. Did I mention that their published authors? Yes, they are. So, bottom line read. Get to see what works and why it works and see if you can’t incorporate some of the same techniques into your own work.

What if you have any info dumps in your writing? Next week, I’ll be making a post on how to fix info dumps. Until then.