A year ago, I would never have thought that I would be a part of a Dungeons and Dragons group. I’m a nerd, I can freely admit, but I am a particular type of nerd – the kind that knits and reads Agatha Christie and does crossword puzzles. I’m not that type that my husband is. He’s your typical gamer, so DnD was not a stretch for him. (If you’re not familiar with DnD, it’s a tabletop fantasy role-playing game.)
My first taste of DnD was when our friend Richard put on a one-shot. By the time we started playing, it was late (by which I mean it was nine o’clock), and I was falling asleep. I also did not roll well, so I didn’t really get to do anything. Later, my husband and I began hosting a DnD group on Sunday nights. I didn’t participate, but as I sat in the corner and knitted, I kept noticing how much fun the group was having. After about two months of hosting, I finally joined the group, and now Sunday nights are the highlight of my week!
DnD can be extremely beneficial to writers for a number of reasons, but the two reasons I want to discuss are the following:
- Helps character development
- Helps plot development
Helps Character Development
The namesake character for my novella series, Mara Stormwind, was developed as my DnD character. I had the character of Mara roughly sketched for years. She did not yet have a name, and many details of her life were not yet sorted out, but I knew I eventually wanted to write a book with this rough character outline. When I decided to begin playing DnD, I had to develop a character that I would roleplay. I chose that rough character and began developing Mara. To develop a character for DnD, one must develop a backstory, characteristics, appearance, etc. In short, one must develop everything needed to develop a character for any other story. The great thing about DnD and what it can do for character development, though, is that DnD gives you a chance to play your character. What better way to get to know your character than to pretend to be her. In playing Mara, I had to develop her speech and determine exactly what she would do in situations. Before I began writing Mara’s story, I had five months of experience being her; therefore, when I began to write, I knew what she would say or do and when and how she would do and say it.
Most of the other character in Mara Stormwind are from our game as well. I was able to get to know these characters extremely well because I spent months getting to know them through my friends’ depictions of them.
Helps Plot Development
When I began working on Alexis Halvard, the protagonist for my novel, I started by developing her as a character for DnD. This forced me to get to know her, but I am still struggling with her story because I have not played her. So, my husband is setting up a few one-shots for me to help me get to know Alexis better and to help develop sections of the plot.
What I have primarily been struggling with is writing sections of plot revolving around Alexis’s participation in a thieves’ guild. I’ve been struggling with how she enters buildings, disarms traps, sneaks information out of the building, etc. My husband put Alexis in a situation in which she had to determine how to achieve a goal: sneak into a house and steal information. By roleplaying this situation, I was forced to think as Alexis to determine what she would do. I discovered that she forgets to check for traps, which she is always warned to do before opening doors. When guards approached her at one point, I had to determine what weapons she would use and how she would use them. By roleplaying, I had to describe my actions, in turn giving me the words I need to write those actions. After just one session, I am better prepared to write one of those scenes with which I have been struggling.
One quick word about using DnD as inspiration in writing: Be sure to credit the DM’s. They put a lot of work into setting, plot, dialogue, and a lot of other details. I am so appreciative to Nathan for the inspiration he provided for Mara’s story (as well as my friends who allowed me to use their characters) and to my husband Jarrett for his help in developing setting as a background to help develop Alexis’s plot.
If you’re interested in learning more about DnD and how it can help your characters and stories, send me any questions, and I’ll be happy to answer.