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View Full Version : Stories and Roleplaying - Why don't they mesh?



Gan The Grey
2010-09-24, 08:50 AM
I've read quite a bit on the topic of writing, and a generally accepted no-no is the idea of writing a story/novel based upon a role-playing session/campaign. I'd like to know the playground's opinion on the subject.

Can a writer take a role-playing session/campaign and weave it into a successful story/novel? Why or why not? Why should this be avoided?

Prime32
2010-09-24, 09:01 AM
Why not? Some have even met commercial success.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve5rvM-YBac
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2vxlZkfW-Y


Wasn't Dragonlance based on game sessions too?

Concrete
2010-09-24, 10:30 AM
I've written stories inspired by rp-sessions, and sometimes just scenes from them, but I've never been able to convert a complete campaign...

Dairun Cates
2010-09-24, 02:36 PM
Why? Well, it can be done, but most of the time, it comes out as the plot for the first 2 ultima games... You know. The ones with Tie-fighters, time travel, laser rifles, and ridiculous pop culture references.

Lord_Gareth
2010-09-24, 02:51 PM
There are a couple of problems inherant in the attempts:

- Players do not always create three-dimensional characters. For that matter, players usually end up with pretty sociopathic characters when you stop to think about it for five minutes.

- Many RPG settings don't make internal sense. Now, there are some that do - such as the New World of Darkness, or Shadowrun - but others, like D&D 3.5, suffer from an extreme lack of sense-making, and this can harm your setting.

- Dialogue. Namely, you'll need to import some better varieties than what flies around your average gaming table.

Threeshades
2010-09-24, 06:09 PM
If you intend to write a comedy it has a good chance to work out just fine. as my little experiment here illustrates (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=151620)
I've made comics of our RPG sessions before but they never got finished, because I never finish any project I start. I yet need to find out why.

Dr.Epic
2010-09-24, 06:50 PM
Writers who try to railroad the campaign and don't take into account the fact the PCs have their own way of doing things will mostly likely write/plan a bad story. Just consider all the ("stupid") alternatives the players can take, plan for them, and your story will be fine.

Remmirath
2010-09-25, 12:48 AM
I think the main problems with it are that to do so effectively, you would probably have to keep a detailed log of each session (dialogue included), and that if something came up that you wanted to address that did not happen in the game, you'd have to either make a guess at what a character would do or ask the player. You'd also, of course, have to make sure that everybody in the game was okay with it. They might get annoyed otherwise.

I think it probably could be done well, it would just be difficult.

Quincunx
2010-10-04, 06:49 AM
Good roleplaying lends itself to several different voices clamoring for attention out of several different throats. Several different voices clamoring for attention out of one throat lends itself to ragged, uneven stories. (George R. R. Martin writes through many different characters but the voice changes very little. Every character probes its doubts in the same monologue to the same depth before reverting to action. This is a good thing, once the characters are differentiated enough, and his are.)

What you want to cultivate is the ability to ret-con and do it clean. Clumsy authors and DMs will grab onto every snippet of every session, nod, and proclaim, "Yes, that was my intent all along". Better ones will let a few events slip by unremarked and unimportant, but still having occurred.

Keveak
2010-10-04, 02:36 PM
Wasn't Dragonlance based on game sessions too?

My copies say so.

Originally they didn't plan on Raistlin charming one of the dwarf-but-not-dwarf thingies when facing that red dragon (They translate too much for the Danish edition so the names get confusing) but it happened in the session and they thought it too funny not to include.

Though, I do think they worked with the players and had them consider that they were writing books about the game :smallsmile:

Glass Mouse
2010-10-08, 07:54 AM
One of my favorite webcomics, Darken, is based on a D&D campaign, so it definitely can be done. In a recent debate, the author expressed:


Basically, D&D is a fine base for a story, but in a comic the way you tell a tale has to be different. People enjoy reading stories about people, telling them too, and when you're playing D&D, unless you're an awesome roleplayer, the interaction comes from you and your buddies, not so much your characters. I think things have gotten better the further I've strayed from the plot of the game, since while it was a really fun game to play, to have it told straight up as a comic wouldn't work as well.

I think this is pretty much the crux of the issue.

I've thought about converting my own RPG campaigns to comics, but...
- Every time a good joke is thrown around, and I think "ooh, that'd be worth sharing!", it's a meta-joke, or a player joke... or just random or cruel in-game. Very few jokes can actually be converted.
- An incredible amount of story is full of plot holes (when players blow up the rails, you kinda have to think fast), dramatic or cool moments are destroyed by player decisions or dice, many story tropes are subverted and not in a good way, etc. Stories are just a LOT less smooth in RPGs than in an actual novel/comic/etc.
- As someone else said, in a story, the focus and attention is generally on one person - or on the story. In an RPG session, the attention should be equally shared between all players. This can work well in a story (again; Darken), but it's something to keep in mind.
- Again, someone said it, but RPG characters tend to be not very complex. One-dimensional characters can be funny and cool for PRGs, but they're boring in stories.

So, yeah. I don't think an RPG campaign can be directly converted. But you can snatch the story and the awesome moments and the base of the characters and then mix it all together into your own work in a completely different medium.
Good luck.

Lady Moreta
2010-10-11, 12:03 AM
I think the main problems with it are that to do so effectively, you would probably have to keep a detailed log of each session (dialogue included), and that if something came up that you wanted to address that did not happen in the game, you'd have to either make a guess at what a character would do or ask the player. You'd also, of course, have to make sure that everybody in the game was okay with it. They might get annoyed otherwise.

This is very true. I am slowly in the process of turning my D&D campaign into a novelisation. I do take extremely detailed notes each session (I'm the only one who does). Our dialogue is very rarely in character, but any pieces that are, I try to record. Each of our characters are fairly well-rounded, and I tend to focus on mine, simply because I know her best.

When I have more written, I intend to show our group and ask them to let me know of any changes they'd like me to make to the characterisation of their character, or change any speech if I haven't done it quite right.

It is possible, but you do need very detailed notes. Especially for fight scenes. I started writing because we had a lovely fight at the end of one session, and I wanted to get it out on paper. I have ended up having to draw out each round of combat just so I can make sense of my notes. Timing is an issue too, when I read my notes and drew out the fight, and then wrote it out - it seemed to take forever. Then I counted the number of rounds - turns out the fight took less than a minute.

Biggest problems I have encounted:

Keeping the fight scenes flowing, showing everything that happened, but still giving it the feel of having taken no time at all. This is really hard.
Not sounding too 'D&D'ish. I have struggled (at the start at least) with the story sounding very 'here's me writing out my campaign notes'. Getting a proper 'story' voice takes a while.


I have most of what I've done so far posted on another site if anyone is particularly interested in reading it.

Darklord Bright
2010-10-11, 01:35 PM
My copies say so.

Originally they didn't plan on Raistlin charming one of the dwarf-but-not-dwarf thingies when facing that red dragon (They translate too much for the Danish edition so the names get confusing) but it happened in the session and they thought it too funny not to include.

Though, I do think they worked with the players and had them consider that they were writing books about the game :smallsmile:

Actually, my annotated trilogy copy states that while they ran the campaigns, the books were not based on them. Once in a while, something like the gnome bit got into the story, but they explicitly state that if they had based the books off the sessions, the entire party would have wiped above the gnome city trying to climb a rope down the well above it.

Anyways, the reason RP and stories doesn't tend to mix is just that it's incredibly hard to make something which works as an interesting plot line for a novel from the same events that the players found fun during sessions - not to mention the fact that even the most ardent of RPers still breaks out of character quite often. Good campaigns rarely make good stories, and good stories rarely make good campaigns without feeling railroaded.

Tira-chan
2010-10-11, 02:07 PM
One reason I've found for this is that it can be hard to get into the heads of other people's characters. In some ways, it's more like writing fanfiction than an original novel, in that you're working with other people's characters instead of just your own.

Another reason it's difficult is that roleplayers do not always behave in a way that makes for a good story. For example, they decide to randomly abandon all plot and spend three or four sessions fighting goblins that in no way relate to the overarching plot you've written up. Or take out the BBEG in one round with good rolls on their part and absolutely horrible ones on yours. Overall, players are often not to be trusted with acting out valuable plot points.

Zeofar
2010-10-11, 03:17 PM
It depends on the players.

In the right kind of game, there isn't any reason why it can't work.

But in a game where people don't care about, at least, staying within an arm's length of the plot, worry more about optimization than characterization, or just want to bash some monsters, it can't turn out very well. Mostly for the reason that this type of gaming doesn't even mesh with you telling any semblance of a story to them. Your players have to want and like railroading a little bit to enjoy a game that can be turned in to a story. If you find people who care as much about the overarching plot that you're creating as much as they do about their own actions, it can work.

By the way, I just have to say that I absolutely love Record of Lodoss War.

Lady Moreta
2010-10-11, 08:46 PM
not to mention the fact that even the most ardent of RPers still breaks out of character quite often.

I've actually found that this makes it easier to write. Most of the dialogue we have is out of character (or not very in character, due to most of us sucking at the roleplaying aspect of the game). It makes it much easier to write up, because I can just make up everything they say. I know the type of characters they are, so I can keep them pretty well in-character in writing.


But in a game where people don't care about, at least, staying within an arm's length of the plot, worry more about optimization than characterization, or just want to bash some monsters, it can't turn out very well. Mostly for the reason that this type of gaming doesn't even mesh with you telling any semblance of a story to them.

I guess this just makes my group fortunate. The DM has an overall plot worked out to get us right up to level 20. We all know about this plot (ooc of course), and we're all quite happy to let him run it. But he also comes up with a few things that aren't part of the overall plot - to just let us go nuts I guess. Gives us all the entertainment of trying to figure out which bits are significant :smallsmile: