Friday, August 16, 2013

Habits in my writing I have from playing D&D

D&D and Writing

I used to play PnP (Pen and Paper) D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) where a group of us would sit down with our books and miniatures and have adventures, roll a variety of dice and nom much snackage.  It was a lot of fun.  We spent just as much time chatting about our lives as we did actually playing the games.

Please don't let that be a dragon.

Now I'm a writer having adventures without a group, books, miniatures and dice, but still plenty nomming of snackage.  . . . It's sort of like a lonelier version of what I used to do I suppose.

I shall do karate to it

But there are habits we used to have in playing those games that I find myself including in my stories when I write.

What do you do?

"You enter a room.  In the middle is a golden idol sitting on a pedestal.  What do you do next?"

It's a question DM (Dungeon Masters) ask.  The DM describes the scenario, the room, the enemies, whatever.  It's the players' job to decide what they do from there.  (In this instance, you grab it, run from the boulder and reluctantly turn it over to the Nazis waiting at the entrance.)

As a writer, I do the same for my characters.  I describe the scenario and let them decide how they would react based on their personalities.  It's usually something I didn't expect and I find myself trying to come up with new ideas to counter their actions, just like with D&D players.

What do I do?  I charge of course!!!

Pick up your weapons!

Another thing I do is always make sure the characters pick up their weapons and supplies.  Often, in battle, someone will drop a weapon or pack so they can fight.  In a book, I suppose you assume the character just does it, but in D&D if you don't pick it up, you don't have the sword for the next battle!  It's part of the "What do you do next" thing.  The proper answer is, "I pick up my sword that the dire rat knocked out of my hand when it scored a critical hit."  Then I glare at the cruelly grinning DM and pop another Dorito into my mouth.

I know I dropped that dagger around here . . .

Who goes first, who goes last?

The habit that made me think to write this particular blog post is that I line up my characters' marching order.  This is a paragraph I just wrote:

Shahben led them up an animal trail through the trees.  Ceval stayed with him and it was clear the two had become fast friends.  Teluith walked behind Reben while Evien followed her.  Everyone else followed, with the most capable acting as rear guard.

I honestly don't know if I need to do that in the book, but it's vital in D&D.  A DM has to know where everyone is so that he can tell who gets to roll the first spot check to see the ogre cleverly hiding behind an aspen tree.

You can't seeeeeeee meeeeeeee.

I find myself always describing marching order in my books, but I don't think I've seen it in many other books.  Perhaps in Stephen Nowland's Aielund Saga.  But he's a long time D&D player like me.  I'm going to have to go back and see if his characters always pick up their weapons too.

I wonder how the reader views the marching order, or if they even notice.  I personally couldn't tell you in any of the books I've read, though I do remember getting confused at times as to the locations of characters in some books.  Hopefully it helps in my stories and doesn't act as a distraction to the reader instead.


I'm curious as to what readers have noticed in my, or anyone else's books, about these habits.  I'm also curious if other writers have other D&D habits they include in their books.

*Note:  All miniatures are Reaper miniatures painted by yours truly.

All my best,

John H. Carroll


Nicola Smith said...

hmmm, not an old D&D player but an aspiring writer. It bugs me if what I've pictured in my head in a story conflicts with what later happens. I describe marching order if it matters where people are because some action occurs. I just did it in a scene where two people had to be up front because one of them falls off his horse and gets his ass kicked while his best hope of being saved gallops off into the distance. In the example you gave, it would matter because who gets attacked by the ogre matters, and so does who helps him, who he helps, who's at the back and makes a quiet exit while no-one's looking, that kind of thing :)

John H. Carroll said...

That makes a lot of sense, Nicola. I'm pretty sure it's not important enough to list it as much as I do, I just can't seem to help it, lol.

David Friedman said...

My habits aren't from D&D, which I did a little of a very long time ago, but from SCA combat, which I did for decades. I visualize hand to hand fighting scenes, of which I have a few in Harald, my first novel, thinking with my body, so to speak--imagining myself as each of the combatants and feeling what I could do and what would happen.

John H. Carroll said...

I could totally see how that would make it's way into your books, David.

I get most of my combat knowledge from movies, sadly. lol I try to make it so it's not too unrealistic.

I believe it's true that everything we do in our lives influences us.

Lucy said...

I've noticed i do the same thing when i write. If i can't picture it one way i change it a bit so it makes more sense. i hate when things are thrown together with no order like that. it seems to me that a characters placement in a fight or even elsewhere matters to the story. For example the characters could be walking through town, it helps to know where they are if a conflict takes place. Or if there is a woman with them and they feel they need to protect her for some reason or if there is a mage/wizard/magick wielder. I guess it would be implied in those cases that they would be in the center being protected by the others but sometimes its not that obvious. i just would rather read about placement order or such things than have to try and guess where a person is. Like Nicola said its confusing when what you picture in your head contradicts with later scenes.

John H. Carroll said...

That makes a lot of sense, Lucy.

I like knowing where everyone is too. It's vital in battle of course, but I like knowing even when they're just talking as they travel.

Stephen L. Nowland said...

You know, I never really thought about order of travelling much, except in my first book where it just seemed natural to describe it. I guess it comes naturally after years of D&Ding :) Now that I think about it... yes, I'm sure I do it all the time, but with more subtlety than at first ;)

John H. Carroll said...

See, I haven't gotten any better at it, judging by that paragraph I just wrote. I think it works okay though because I never notice it in edits, just while writing.