For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Role-playing: the writing which you will not read: In my youth I used to play a lot of different role-playing games. Over the past three decades I used to run a lot of different role-playing games, and not just one based on my gas-lamp fantasy world.
The games which I have run campaigns for include Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Champions, Castle Falkenstein, Bushido and Kult.
Kult, for those unfamiliar with the game, was set late in the twentieth century. It was a horror RPG, based, in part, on Gnostic ideas. It was a very original game. I’m not going to go too far into the description, just in case there are still people out there who might want to play it.
Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to review all of the RPGs which I have played or run in the past (that would be a very long list) but to say that a lot of the early writing which I did was in creating scenarios for games like Kult. I ran Kult so often that we quickly ran out of the published scenarios – and the few scenarios which had appeared in RPG magazines.
I was not going to let a lack of scenarios stop me from running a game which I enjoyed, though. I began writing my own scenarios for Kult. I think that, by the time that I reached a natural end to the campaign, I had a thick folder full not just of ideas, but fully scribbled out scenarios, featuring a host of characters who I had created specifically for the game.
Although the idea of each scenario was stand alone, I did try to weave scenarios and scenario ideas together, so that, while the player characters were dealing with the most immediate problem, other plot strands were continuing in the background.
I think that I cut my writing teeth creating scenarios for role-playing games. None of the scenarios were anything approaching literature – far from it – but it did get me writing, and it made me think about ideas.
I’m never going to publish any of the scenarios for any of the role-playing games which I ran. I don’t have the rights to those games, and I don’t want to be sued by whoever owns the rights to Kult or Champions or Dungeons and Dragons. Some of those companies can be very litigious. I might, at some time when I have nothing else to write, gather all of those old scenarios together and put them on my computer, possibly as a source of ideas for short stories or novels, or to be exhumed after I am dead. I have put just about everything which I have ever written on my computer, anyway. I may as well do a collection of my scenarios. Perhaps, some day, I will complete the unfinished ones, and get around to running a new Kult campaign.
Like I said, none of the writing had any literary merit, so you’re not missing anything. But all writing is good practice, and I think that some of the ideas from those early days must have filtered through into later novels and short stories. Don’t knock role-playing games; if you run them, you have to constantly keep coming up with new ideas.
Kult is probably the game where I wrote most in the way of scenarios, although the game was pretty free at times. I didn’t like to force players down one path, and always gave them options as to what the next adventure would be. But I was constantly putting down subplots, ones which would usually be separate from each other but which, depending what the players did, might interweave together.
I wrote stuff for Dungeons and Dragons, as well. All that stuff was set on the world of Oerth, which included the mighty city of Greyhawk. I scribbled down a lot of adventures set in that world. But mostly I ran the established modules. I think that I ran The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh at least three times. I loved that scenario, with its supposedly haunted house sitting atop a cliff top, looking out over the sea. I felt that it was one of the best introductory scenarios for beginning campaigns. And, hey, at the end of it the characters could use the house as a base of operations.
Castle Falkenstein was another campaign where I wrote a fair number of adventures. I’m not sure which of those I ran, and which I never got around to using. But I discovered a lot of them while going through my things. They were not very well written, though, and they were very derivative of a lot of other stuff (particularly James Bond). But I enjoyed running Falkenstein. I thought that it was an original game (certainly at the time when it was originally released).
There were a few other RPGs where I wrote scenarios, or outlines of scenarios, games such as Ninjas and Superspies. Some of these scenarios survive. But I reckon that I’ve kept less than I have thrown away, over the years. And, as well, there were all those scenarios and adventures which were never written down, but were made up as I was going along.
I don’t know, maybe I should collate all of those surviving scenarios together, read through them one last time, and mine them for ideas. There is no prose in any role-playing scenario, really, of any literary merit. But there may be plot ideas which would work in a short story, with the details changed so that I am not in breach of any copyrights.
Ideas can be eternal, after all. Change the names of the characters. Don’t have anything which is specific to an RPG. And rewrite – massively rewrite – what you scribbled down as an RPG idea twenty years ago.
You never know. It might work, and there might be some story there waiting to get out.