Like most people, I could tell stories when I was a wee little lad. Unfortunately, most people I know either lose or fail to level up their storytelling abilities during middle and high school. I inadvertently maintained and grew my skills through D&D.
D&D may seem like an unconventional route to becoming an author, but it played a pivotal role in fueling my creativity and raising my understanding of what makes a good story. Like in any good novel, every D&D campaign requires motivations, challenges to overcome, and background characters.
CREATIVES WHO PLAY D&D
Many famous story tellers loved D&D. To name a few, we have Joss Whedon (TV & movie writer), David Lindsay-Abaire (play write), Junot Diaz (2008 Pulitzer Prize winner), Cory Doctorow (Sci-Fi), and Sherman Alexie (memoirs).
D&D transports players to richly detailed and immersive worlds. As a dungeon masters I created captivating settings, complete with landscapes, cities, cultures, religions, and histories. Through collaborative storytelling, players contribute to this world-building process, shaping their characters' interactions and leaving lasting marks on the narrative landscape. In many ways, the random directions that players would take their characters act the same way that my written characters disregard my plans.
Creating a D&D character goes beyond choosing a race and class. It involves crafting a backstory, defining motivations, and envisioning a personality. As the game progresses, characters evolve, grow, and face challenges that shape their identities. The collaborative nature of D&D encourages deep exploration of a character's psyche, allowing players to develop multifaceted individuals.
MOTIVATION & CONFLICT
Storytelling thrives on compelling motivations and conflict. In D&D, characters embark on quests, face adversaries, and overcome obstacles, all driven by their unique goals and desires. As a dungeon master, I had to compel the players to follow my roughly outlined plan. As the players navigated the challenges I set out for them, I learned the art of creating engaging narratives that keep them engaged.
D&D is a deeply imaginative experience. My players and I vividly described their worlds and characters. From the eerie sounds of a haunted forest to the smell of freshly baked bread in a bustling city, attention to aesthetics and atmosphere elevated the storytelling experience, immersing participants in a world that felt authentic and captivating.
COLLABORATION & IMPROVISATION
Role playing thrives on collaboration. We worked together to overcome obstacles and weave individual storylines into a cohesive campaign. Improvisation played a significant role, allowing unexpected twists and turns to shape the tale. Through group storytelling and quick thinking, players learned to adapt, think creatively, and embrace the spontaneous nature of the narrative.
Powerful narratives evoke emotions, and D&D is no exception. As my players became invested in their characters and the story, they experienced a range of emotions—joy, triumph, sorrow, loss, and suspense. This emotional engagement strengthened the connection to story and fostered a sense of connection and understanding, both of which are necessity attributes for a fiction writer.
EMPOWERMENT & EMPATHY
D&D empowered us to explore perspectives beyond our own. Stepping into the shoes of different characters allowed for a deeper understanding of diverse motivations, personalities, and life experiences. This empathetic exploration nurtured a broader view of the human experience and fostered creativity in both storytelling and real-life interactions.