So recently I decided to try running a D&D campaign. I have been a nerd for some time, so obviously I’m into D&D as well. Even been reading some of the lore for some time now. I will say it again: RA Salvatore and Dragonlance both are guilty pleasures I am not guilty to admit to. Sure, they lack a lot of nuance and complexity, but they are pretty fun.
But this post isn’t about my mancrush on Drizzt Do’Urden or Raistlin Majere.
When reading D&D 5e’s main book, I found a list of books that inspired or influenced Wizards of the Coast, and found, to a sense of both shock, joy, and horror, that many of them I had not read. I have never read Jack Vance. Some of the books and authors I’ve never heard of.
But I do recognize a few.
And this got me thinking.
When I was younger and DMing my first D&D games, I would just throw everything at my players. Every monster, without rhyme or reason. I’d pit them against minotaurs and oni in the same time. I treated it like a game.
Not like a narrative.
Now, one might make the argument that, yes, D&D is just a game. Campaigns are just roleplay session, in the same way that a couple teenagers might loosely tell a story through an online chatroom or forum. I’d argue that, while they aren’t wrong, the critics miss the point. To someone who wants to be a a writer, every storytelling experience is an important step along the road to being ready for the big leagues–publication. Bookstores. Books you would be proud to show your parents.
As someone who wants to be a writer, I realized how little grasp I had over a key aspect of fantasy: world building. Consistency. You shouldn’t place monsters in a place just because of a random dice roll. You should think about the location. What kind of dungeon are the players in now? Why was it built? The woods–is there nothing here? Just animal life? Why? Did the forest grow over some ruins from an older civilization?
Things to consider as a DM.
Things to consider writing fantasy.
Things others considered when writing theirs.
One of the influences on both new and old D&D is the Elric Saga, which I read a few months ago eagerly. I finished it a week or so ago. IT was so hard reading Michael Moorcock’s narrative. It read like a D&D game, sure, but the execution of the ideas–and they were huge ideas and concepts–felt sloppy.
But it read like the campaigns I used to run.
Rule of cool. Dark and edgy stuff. Random powerful fights with epic scales. Every kind of monster imaginable.
I want to be a better storyteller than that.
I haven’t read much of Moorcock’s more recent stuff, but, from what I understand, he was around my age–slightly older? slightly younger?–when he started to write the Elric books. My age, already published.
That’s an inspiring thought.
I don’t know where this post was going, but I know where it lead. I need to roll up some good characters, plan a good campaign…and write with more thought put into my everything.