Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dungeons & Novels

A nice chap in one of the Facebook gaming groups I endure brought up a subject close to my shriveled black heart and I'd like to address it here. In brief: Why don't I write fiction set in my D&D campaign setting(s)?

In not-so-brief:

I am a writer. Well, sort-of. I have been published in a few semi-pro venues. I've written a novel that I hope to have published in my lifetime, and am working on a number of others - along with a plethora of short stories. See that there? Only a real writer could get away with using "plethora" in a sentence.

Recently, I've also done a little freelance RPG work, and hope to do a lot more. See the left side of the blog for those RPG credits.

For as long as I can remember, I've written. I started my first novel at the age of 5 or 6. It was a ripoff of The Hobbit, but set on Mars. It was called "A Martian Adventure." I've always been torn between my two first loves: fantasy and science fiction. I was also illustrating the book, since I've supposedly been drawing (well) since the age of 3. But that's a blog entry of a different color.

I was probably about 9 or 10 when I started creating my first fantasy world. Here's the first monster I ever created for my D&D setting (I was never afraid to aim big):

Yes, I still have the handwritten page. I'm just that kind of crazy. I have just about everything I've ever written for the D&D game - though most of it has been transcribed to digital files and the original pages recycled.

Okay, back to my dubious point.

I create. All the time. On varying scales. I've come up with ideas for short stories and had them become milieus for entire novels and series of novels during development. I'm all about the details. The color. The texture. My D&D campaign setting is not about telling stories.

---Brief pause for effect---

My D&D campaign world is about providing a setting for boundless adventure. I'm not telling stories with it. I am presenting plot points and adventure hooks for players to follow where they may. Some DMs run their games as if they are writing a story. These games tend to be known as "railroading." Players tend to feel as if they are being led around by the nose from scene to pre-planned scene. To each their own. I don't enjoy that.

Could I write stories based upon my D&D setting and/or campaigns? Of course I could. And, maybe someday, I will. In the meantime, I am currently considering, developing, and writing roughly:

A dozen novels.
30 novella-length stories that could easily become novels.
100s of short fiction pieces - I genuinely cannot keep count of how many.
Dozens of microfiction pieces.
Along with 20,000+ words of random notes and blurbs designed to bookmark various concepts and thoughts for possible future development or inclusion in stories being written.

I can't help myself. But, for now, I prefer to keep my gaming concepts and my fiction concepts in separate worlds. It is easier for me. I have no shortage of marketable ideas. I do have a shortage of marketable time to develop the ideas. Writing something I know to be a story will help set my mind one way, while crafting material for a campaign setting puts me in a different frame entirely. To be honest, I don't want my D&D setting to form the basis of fiction right now. I like leaving it open and rife with possibility.

Both pursuits are a lot of fun for me. So is keeping them separate. Is my D&D campaign world of Avremier more interesting than my Snowglass "sixguns-and-sorcery" fiction milieu, or my Ophelian Age of Enwonderment "Wonderland-Cthulhu-Mythos-alternate-Victorian" fiction milieu, or my Age of Runes "modern-day-alternate-norse-myth-cosmos" fiction milieu? That's not for me to decide. My job is to present each one as best I can for others to (hopefully) enjoy.


  1. Great points about the difference in open-ended campaign worlds where players make decisions vs. decisions made by an author who is trying to stitch together plots and sub-plots. Makes a lot of sense, now that I think about it.

    I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only person who has many irons or stories on the fire at once (although I have nowhere NEAR as many as you!) I have tried to limit myself because I get distracted too easily. I've made a rule of plugging in to my fantasy novel as much as possible with occasional mental health breaks where I work on other stuff and get refreshed.

    Thank you for the post. I enjoyed it!

  2. Always nice to meet a kindred spirit. Thank you very much for reading, and for the stimulating conversation.