I’d like to take a moment to talk about one of my major hobbies: Dungeons & Dragons. I am the Dungeon Master in two weekly games, and I play in a bi-weekly one. I really do enjoy running my games, and those campaigns have been going for a solid 8 years combined. One is set in the world of Tal’dorei of Critical Role fame, and the other is set in my own homebrew world, Rhomeria.

 While I love both games and the players involved, I have a soft spot for my homebrew. It’s a world I created ages ago by coming up with a long history of how the nation-state of Rhomeria was founded. I planned out cities, towns, and hamlets, drew out maps of some of them, and started to recruit friends to play.

Why am I talking about Dungeons & Dragons? Ultimately, because I believe that my work and play in these games is in a very large way the reason that I am a writer, and my style, and I wanted to share my story.

My style as a Dungeon Master is very roleplay heavy. To me, the point of the game is to tell a collaborative story with a group of friends. My job as the DM is not to railroad, but to open a door and guide my players through it. The players choose their path, and I find ways to weave the story I’m telling with their actions. This means that the players never quite know what’s ahead… but neither do I.

The core skill of this style is structured improvisation. I have a very loose plan of story beats that I need the players to experience. That’s the structure. The improvisation comes from subtly suggesting which path leads to the story.

As an example, my story needs my players to investigate a farm full of cultists. However, they are currently exploring an abandoned mansion at the edge of town. I can give them what I call a “push” by having one of the rooms be an office, which will naturally lead the players to investigate. As a reward for a good roll, I present the push as a sheaf of documents including a deed to a farm, or perhaps a map with locations circled, so something along those lines. A “pull” would be more of a direct line, such as a guard or mayor directly telling the players to go to the location.

In the example, the only structure was knowing that the players needed a destination. The actual machinations to entice them to choose that destination is made up on the spot. The players can indeed miss the push as well! They could roll too low, or perhaps skip investigating the office, or even collect the sheaf of papers and not read them. That’s all part of the fun!

This directly influences my style of writing. I plan out very brief and simple plot points and story beats in a very, very rough and loose outline. That’s my structure. My characters take the place of my players, and I do my best to imagine their personalities, whims, and wants. I let the character inform me what their choices would be, and I do my best to write it down.

This means that I tend to write straight through my works; I start at the beginning, and I end at the finale. It’s exceedingly rare for me to write anything out of order. The improv nature of the bulk of my writing means that loose outline often gets pushed, pulled, and malformed with time. By the time I reach the end of the work, I’m often far away from where I expected to be.

 As for my desire to be a writer, I’ve always told stories of one kind or another. When I was a kid, I was always in my head, imagining complicated fantastical worlds to explore. I let that part of me fall by the wayside as I grew up, tired of being bullied for being different, tired of not being able to make a difference in the world. I let my artistic side whither and languish. Dungeons & Dragons reminded me that I used to be good at being creative.

So it is in large part thanks to tabletop RPGs that I rediscovered the spark of creativity. Let this be a reminder to everyone that it is never too late to start writing. The same goes for painting, sculpting, singing, and any other creative endeavor. We are complicated, complex, chaotic creatures and we need to remember that we need to be well-rounded in order to survive.