Writing A Novel Vs. Writing A D&D Campaign.

I’ve set a deadline for myself. By the time I turn 31 on April 23rd my novel will be finished. I am talking final draft, not the first draft, as I only have five chapters to finish editing.

At the same time, I’ve become the Dungeon Master for my D&D group. Writing and developing a D&D campaign, at least, I thought would be simple compared to writing a novel. I thought since worldbuilding is so much fun, that it would be a walk in a park. Oh ho, no. It is a very different beast entirely. I wouldn’t say it is more difficult but it is difficult because it is different.

Unless you plan a whole campaign before you start there are no second drafts i D&D. You write what you need and move on. Most of it is improvised anyway especially minor NPC (Non-Player Character) names like the merchant or regular at the tavern your players decide to get into a fight with.

With the characters in your novel, you have complete control over their actions, personalities, and decisions. In D&D, the players are the characters and you have little to no control over them unless you want to make a boring campaign. On the other hand, it takes a lot more pressure off you to write good protagonists. That’s up to the players.

The world of a novel, especially fantasy, can be more organic. The rules are looser. With D&D, there are so many rules. You have to keep track of them for your players, your NPC’s, and the monsters they fight.On the other hand, D&D is supposed to be fun. It doesn’t have to be this deep exploration of human nature. There are no inner

On the other hand, D&D is supposed to be fun. It doesn’t have to be this deep exploration of human nature. There are no inner monologues to worry about. A D&D campaign, in fact, can be a lot more vague since the Dungeon Master isn’t the sole storyteller. The players can and will change the story. This can be both frustrating and freeing.

With a novel, though, unless you are a published author, it’s all on you. You have to sit down and write your story first draft then second draft then third draft then final draft. A D&D campaign is vaguer. You have to take into account how long a session takes, everyone’s plans for the week, what level the characters are at, and where they may want to go.

If the main villain of your novel is in a certain building of course your protagonist is going to wind up confronting him. Not necessarily so in D&D. The players might decide to burn that building down, as we decided to do in my friend’s campaign, instead of confronting the main baddie of that particular storyline who had story beats for us to follow.

It’s much easier, at least for me, to communicate through writing then it is through speaking. Therefore, theater of the mind is much more difficult to work with. I don’t need extensive maps for my novel because I can convey a scene with as many words as I need but with D&D, if they’re going into a dungeon I am definitely going to need a map because there is a lot to remember.On the subject of dungeons, if my protagonist in a novel is in one I can glaze over

On the subject of dungeons, if my protagonist in a novel is in one I can glaze over certain room if they’re not important to the story. Not so with D&D. My player may end up exploring every room of a castle and I need some kind of description, however short, for all of them.

The antagonists has to be one of the most difficult parts. Well, really, anything that involves balancing the game versus telling a good story is what is so difficult. A villain can’t be so overpowered that it is an obvious party kill but he can’t be so underpowered that any threat he makes, plot-wise, goes unappreciated or unconcerned. Same goes for just about any encounter or plot element of your campaign.

However, a D&D is more accepting of aspects you try to eliminate from your writing when it comes to a novel. Your players are inhabiting archetypes, so giving their characters typical archetypal stories is fine. Tropes, cliches, and parody is welcomed rather then eliminated in later drafts.

Plus, though novels don’t have to do this either, a D&D campaign can be silly and less serious. If you tell a good story in your campaign, you get validation every session by the joy your players are having A novel takes much longer to get that validation.

A friend, fellow writer, and former Dungeon Master himself tells me being a DM will likely make me a better writer. I can see where that stems from but what I get out of it now is combining my love for storytelling and worldbuilding with friends who I love to be around.

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The Coziest Fantasy Novels When You’re Snowed In.

The snow is falling, it’s too early to shovel, and you’re stuck in the house. The perfect time to go to a whole other world. I mean, that’s what fantasy novels are for, right?

Maybe you’re cold, tucked under layers of clothes and blankets, and sitting around your heater. You’re in that state that comes with blizzards, halfway between wakefulness and cozy relaxation. You’re awake but if you laid down now it might be the best nap you’ve ever taken.

Perhaps you’re not in the mood for the bleakness of certain fantasy novels such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series. Fantasy’s not known for its coziness but it has its moments.

Before it becomes darker in the later volumes, Harry Potter’s first three books The Philosopher’s Stone (or The Sorcerer’s Stone), The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban lean more towards children’s novels then the latter. Before Harry discovers the dark side of the Wizarding World and his past he gets to see the light side like a cup of warm hot chocolate.

But you’re all grown up, and you’ve already read through those enough times that you need something new. While Brandon Sandersons’s Mistborn and Stormlight Archives are much more intense, his debut novel Elantris unravels the mystery of its world more slowly. The story crecendos with the right amount of action perfect for reading with a single lamp with a blanket wraped around you.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems like it was written for getting snowed in. It’s a road trip across America and across the mytholigical landscape of the past. With Norse mythology involved you know they’ll be snow.

Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind can be harsh, but not intense the same way grimdark novels can be. It’s more melancholic than grim. There’s a sadness to it that you can appreciate sitting down at your kitchen table after shedding your snow boots and warm your hands back to normal temperature.

Maybe you want a bit more adventure and a lot more snark. After shovelling your driveway you can laugh at Sam Sykes’ characters constant quips. The pacing is slow, but the story never bores you. It’s part of what’s great about Sam Sykes’ style of writing, he takes in time developing his plot and letting his characters breathe like real people.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings always felt like the perfect for books to read during a snow storm.  It has that feel of a classic novel or of a story being read to you by a parent.

Then when you’re done, if you’re shivering in your home, then you can pick up A Game of Thrones and start reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Should Read: The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes & Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe (A double.)

This is a double You Should Read, a feature that is mostly in my drafts folder more than actually published in my blog. A lot of the time it’s because I’m not sure what I want to say about a book besides “This story blew my mind / was awesome / was cool / so good that I wish I could write like this!” and that doesn’t make much for a blog post.

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