A resource I used for this series of blogs: http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Main_Page
Also special thanks to gamers and inspiration – Kris, K Noel and Greg Ivy, but especially to one of my favorite gaming partners and fellow blogger Richard Asplund Jr. – catch https://rasplundjr.wordpress.com/ and https://randompimpage.wordpress.com/
In many ways using my blog on creative writing on this particular subject might be pushing it. But I honestly think all types of creative writing, in multiple forms, counts and is useful to the whole creative process. I think immersing yourself in this type of practice helps you on other projects.
Starting off as a player in Role Playing Games eventually led me into running games, and I know that helped me in my “real” writing because I’ve started putting plots and stories together. I’ve talked about that in past blogs. But I actually want to get into a particular aspect that’s more mechanical but in the end led to creativity. Thus bringing up another thing I mentioned in previous blogs: mechanics can have a practical hand in writing.
Think about it, if you cannot write a correct descriptive sentence or organize your thoughts in a way that conveys your message, you will not be able to put together a cohesive story outside of your mind that can be shared.
Now another point and a warning: I am talking about this from a point of view that you might be unfamiliar with – RPG’s (Role Playing Games,) so bear with me. But if you are familiar with this process, please read it as well, so if I missed anything you can correct me, because as of most of this is from memory or using online guides.
Note: One of the reasons I’m writing this stems from a previous blog about character creation and the classes you can play, and it got so rule heavy that I felt it distracted from the concept of character development so I thought I would move that aspect to this blog.
(Another note [sorry]: Keep in mind I write these things in advance so quite a little bit of time might pass before I post it, but after writing this blog I received a generous gift of 5th edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books for my birthday and I’m reintroducing myself to this gaming system – life is strange).
Please be patient as it’s a long ride. As I mentioned before, perhaps it’s not writing in the traditional sense but if there are any people who run games, and are creating their own adventures i.e. developing RPG modules, this can be considered a form of writing, so it could be used in this forum as well.
I mean I’m pretty sure the people who develop the storyline for video games are considered writers, so how about the table top enthusiast? I know guys who spend days developing their gaming world and their stories…plus they have to deal with swerves and curveballs that are thrown at them by their players. So these guys and girls are royalty. But we’ll go into that later, for now we’ll deal with the mechanics of the game and how it influences the writer.
The other thing is if you never played before, or were thinking of getting into roleplaying games, I think this blog will help. Even better, it’s for those who’ve heard of these gaming systems but are confused as to how they would go about using them. By reading this blog you can learn and if you like, perhaps this might inspire you to try out a Role Playing Game with a group of friends, or venture out into strange territory and find an established group and ask to join them.
They’re fun, different from conventional board games, and if you’re a writer who runs the game, or a player who is into the actual role-playing a character aspect of the game, I think this will stimulate your creative side.
So let’s go into the game and stats:
The game is Dungeons and Dragons (or as I call it, D&D) – actually the version I’m talking about is Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D – but I’ll stick with just D&D for simplicity). The general premise is that you play a character you create that explores and goes on adventures in a fantastic world of myth and legends. This character usually joins a group or party of other adventurers as they explore. They are played by others who created characters like you are about to.
Now if you’re a stringent player like I was (yeah I know, weep for me) know that I’m pulling mostly from memory – sadly a lot of my gaming books are in America. Next trip, I’ll pick them up. So in terms of the rules I’m using, let’s just say I’m pulling from a combination of 1st and 2nd editions. As gaming systems evolved, the rules have too, but I’m just using what I remember. So if you’re a current player and I’m straying from what you know, please cut me a little slack. The ultimate intent is the same.
In Dungeons and Dragons, to create your character takes several steps. Often the type of character you end up using depends on how you roll the dice. And ultimately, I think that’s cool. Depending on the rolls you might have to play, even if you’re a hard core gamer, something new and unexpected. Thus taking you out of your safety zone, which makes for more interesting play time.
Using the tried and true method of character creation from Role Playing Games, particularly Dungeons and Dragons, I’m going to help you – the writer – who never played RPGs create a character that you never thought you would make, much less care about. I think it would be best if I take this moment to give you some abbreviations I’m going to use in this and the next blog. When you understand the terms and why we use them, it will make for easier reading.
RPG is short for Role Playing Game – various gaming systems and in-game worlds where a player will be adventuring. (A)D&D stands for (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons, a popular gaming system set in mythical realms with…umm dungeons and dragons. DM/GM stands for Dungeon Master/Game Master.
We’re the guys who come up with the story the players will be involved in. We are also the ones who make sure the characters follow the rules set up by whoever created the games. We create the conflict, but we also control the non-player characters that you, the player, interact with, perhaps a villager with information or the town magistrate who asks that you perform a quest in order to save the town. We are also the antagonists that oppose you so that you might not succeed at a quest. So beware.
Now you will need some physical tools and imagination to succeed. Here’s a quick list: A blank piece of paper – grid paper if you have it and want to go old school. A pencil with a good eraser, not the kind that’s smears the paper. Better to have a mechanical pencil with a draftsmen eraser in my opinion. You also want to get a set of gaming dice, so take a look at this pick:
Actually, in the long term you will need a complete set of gaming dice. Not just for AD&D, but other gaming systems if you become a fan. Now I was a hard core player so I actually own several sets. The reason I did was because sometimes you need multiples of a certain die. At the very least you need 4-6 6-sided dice and 2 10-sided dice of different colour. The reasons for the 6-sided ones are coming up in the next paragraph. But why 2x 10-side is because of rolling percentage. One die is the 1 to 100, the second makes up the second set of numbers. You pick one die in the 10’s and the other as the 1’s. Example: you have a blue and a red. The blue roll is 4, the red is 7…and when you present that number to others its 47 or even 47%. Does that make sense? You sometimes have challenges, and depending on how skilled you are you have a number to beat. The better you are the lower the challenge number. To open a door you need to roll 10% or higher. That’s part of the game, you get challenges and you take a chance on winning or losing. Hence the dice; different dice are used for different challenges. I promise I’ll get to that a bit later. For now we’re just working on creation and how you use the most common set of dice to build your character that you’re going to use to play.
Initially you’re going to start with what most consider conventional dice, so you want 4x six sided dice. You know these dice because these are usually what you use in most conventional board games and for playing craps at the casino. The style I’m showing you is tradition for me.
So let’s start putting all this together. We start with the stats for your character. It’s usually divided into physical and mental. From there you can go into the use of dice for stats. And as you progress you flesh out what they can do and also not do, which for storytelling is important. Because giving limitations to your characters help advance the plots and adds tension and suspense. More on that later as to how that helped me advance as a writer. (Sorry if I keep putting you off, I promise it will all come together eventually).
Depending on how high or low a particular stat is, that could determine the kind of character you will be playing. Obviously if you have higher stats in one area you’ll be better with them as the type of character that you will play. Higher physical, like strength, means you’ll probably be a good fighter. If you’re quick and nimble you’ll be a thief, or very smart, perhaps a wizard.
After step by step you pick a race, then a character class. As you progress through the games you develop your skills and get better. That’s life. But let’s start with stats.
Before I go on, and this is strictly for the hard core player, I know there are other systems. This is the one I used so I’m sticking with this. So let’s start, take the four dice and roll. Of those you take the top three highest dice. You can now also use a random roll generator that you can probably find online (here is one I picked out of a hat: https://rolz.org/). Then you do it a second time for the same stats and take the higher of the two, and yes I know I am being generous. But when it comes to game playing and storytelling, you want to go epic every time. Also I had a house rule (as in each house has their own rule and you just go with it) – if you rolled a one, you get to re-roll it. Again, your character is supposed to be anything but mundane.
Next I need you to write down on the paper on the upper left hand side the following – and it’s best three of four rolls of the 6-sided dice:
With me so far? Most of the stats are self-explanatory, strength and constitution is how strong and how tough you are, perfect for a Warrior type. Intelligence and Wisdom, ie: smarts and wit, are better suited for a magic user or a thief type. Next dexterity, how nimble and swift you are, again a good thing for a thief or someone who likes to use a bow and arrow. Lastly is charisma, how inspiring you are to other characters and also to the non-player characters you meet. Will you woo them to your side, or repulse them so much they keep their distance?
So you put down the highest stats per each stat. You know what, I’m going to do this with you so we can have a shared experience. Of course taking out my dice bag makes me realize that this blog is now probably going to extend into three parts. Also I have some dice so old they are worn at the edges.
And of course I now have to go into this kind of humor. Your dice is so old that your first dungeon master was Lazarus.
Hey don’t go talking about my dice…let’s get on with this.
So for STR I have on the first roll 10 and then second roll 16 – so the best is 16
So for INT I have on the first roll 11 and then second roll 15 – 15
So for WIS I have on the first roll 10, that roll includes a 1, so I reroll and get an 13 and then second roll 17 – 17
(Btw this is where we introduce the rule that you can reroll 1’s on a die roll – again going epic).
For DEX I have on the first roll 16 and then 14 – 16
For CON I have on the first roll 15 and then 14 – 15
For CHR I have on the first roll 12 and then 14 – 14
I’m thinking his stats are not overly physical or mental, but a great wisdom, so I’m thinking Cleric and Druid. You can use the book to determine which best suits you. I mean you can still try for a certain character class, but one of the aspects of the game is that they give you limits and minimums for what you want to try and play.
From here you pick your race. It’s a fantasy world we are in, and this is borrowed heavily from Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. Now here is the thing, depending on the race, you might get a plus or minus on your rolled stats. That’s right; you might still get the class you want by using a certain race to up your stats. Cool.
Let’s go into the basics. So we have the humans – I think it goes without saying being a human means you neither have advantages or disadvantages on your stats. That’s right; depending on your race you might get pluses or minuses on your attributes that you rolled, thus meaning you might be able to shift your stats to eventually sway what class you will be. But as a human you don’t get this.
The next race we have are Elves. They are an ethereal species who are wise and beautiful. They exist in forest cities and depending on the world, they may only tolerate humans, but they can be great allies. They are also long lived and can exist for centuries beyond centuries. So here are some of the following racial traits that Elves possess. It includes +2 Dexterity, –2 Constitution. Thus the change in physical stats. They also have an immunity to sleep spells and effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects. They have low-light vision, allowing them to see in near dark. Also they have weapon Proficiency: Elves are automatically proficient with the longsword, rapier, longbow, composite longbow, short bow, and composite short bow. Next are the languages they speak…another subject of gaming development. Automatic Languages: Common, Elven. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Sylvan. Favored Class: Wizard.
I already have a weak constitution, and my dexterity is pretty high. So no to the elves. At least not for this one.
By the way, I know this is getting gaming term heavy. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me either via this blog or PM.
So next is the dwarf race. Short in height but not in ability. They are stout warriors, proud and strong. They prefer mountains and are minders and craftsmen. On physical stats their Constitution score increases by 2. Dwarves mature at the same rate as humans, but they’re considered young until they reach the age of 50. On average, they live about 350 years. Most dwarves are lawful, believing firmly in the benefits of a well-ordered society. They tend toward good as well, with a strong sense of fair play and a belief that everyone deserves to share in the benefits of a just order. I think this is a good way to start out a character for me at least, as most of the games I run are heroic in nature. So now we get to size. There’s a reason they are called Dwarves. They stand between 4 and 5 feet tall and average about 150 pounds. They are not as fast as Elves, but one advantage of the constitution increase, when wearing heavy armor they are not encumbered. They have something called dark vision. Because they are accustomed to life underground, they have superior vision in dark and dim conditions which means they can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. So they see a little better than even the elves. Now as to special racial advantages, beyond, or because of, higher constitution they have Dwarven Resilience. So they get an advantage on saving throws against poison. Also because of the nature of their culture, at a young age they go through Dwarven Combat Training. They prefer battle-axe, hand axe, light war hammers, and heavy war hammers. Not many distance weapons as they prefer hand to hand. They also are skilled using tools and are great Stonecutters. As to their languages, they speak, read, and write Common (a universal language shared by all races including humans) and Dwarvish.
So far I’m liking the idea of a Dwarf character.
Now next is a the race called Halflings; they were of course inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic story ‘The Hobbit’ and they appeared in the ‘Lord of the Ring’s’ trilogy. The unique thing about Halflings is that unlike elves or dwarves, there was no lore in mythology about them. Tolkien created them and the gamers wanted to put them into D&D, so not to abuse copyright they were dubbed Halflings. Basically they are short, many shorter than dwarves, but not as stout because they are half-humans really which is why they were called…exactly. Because they are very nimble, Halflings have their Dexterity score increased by 2. They are a little longer lived than humans but really closer to humans than all the other races. A Halfling reaches adulthood at the age of 20 and generally lives into the middle of his or her second century. With Halflings we go into the concept of alignment (which I will get into later – but basically you choose an aspect of your character and how they will act). Most Halflings are lawful and good. As a rule, they are good-hearted and kind, hate to see others in pain, and have no tolerance for oppression. They are also very orderly and traditional, leaning heavily on the support of their community and the comfort of their old ways. And again, one of main aspects of Halflings is their size; they average about 3 feet tall and weigh about 40 pounds. Now here is the cool thing, and even I never realized this, but the race of Halflings is very lucky. When a character you play rolls a 1 on the d20 for an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, they can re-roll the die and must use the new roll. And despite the fact they are small in size they are also brave. They have an advantage on saving throws against being frightened. They can move through the space of any creature that is of a size larger than them.
Quick note – Halflings (i.e. Hobbits) were very instrumental as well as the works of Tolkien in helping to get this genre of games started. Also from my studies they have no analogy in myth and thus are Tolkien’s invention (hey if you know better please let me know, I love learning new things). Perhaps you might refer to fairies, but honestly that’s stretching it. I like to think of Hobbits/Halflings as the ideal that Prof. Tolkien wanted to return home to after World War I. England as it was and should be. But alas, romance.
I don’t really have an interest in a thief nor being a Halfling, nor a human, or Elf, so I’m going to go with Dwarf. Okay I think that’s enough this week. We’re going to break here and give your eyes a rest.
When we return we will go into character class i.e. what you do in the fantasy realm to survive. We are going through that process next and more – like some of the core concepts to develop a fully formed character that when you finally play, even though it’s on paper, it will seem 3-dimensional.