Tag Archives: collaboration

Role Playing as Story telling

Welcome to Agnara

Welcome to a story that has been growing, evolving and branching into new lands, new realms and new worlds for going on forty years now. Pretty much every part of this continent has been part of the story, as well as other continents and islands not shown here. But it’s all one story.

Yes, it’s a Role Playing Gaming campaign. But “campaign” is too small a word for it. It probably left “epic” behind a dozen years ago. Hundreds of characters have been created, lived, died and a few have become demigods in their own right.

It all started here:

If you look close, you can see a small black star that marks the location of both the first D&D session I ever ran, and the first story told in this world.

The thing is, that this story is not my story. It’s a story with dozens of writers, all working together to create a sweeping tale of triumph, tragedy and humor. But all of that follows a thread, and occurs on a stage that I did create, and continue to create to this day.

It’s a world with dark secrets, powerful and evil villains, and great heroes. The first campaign followed the near extinction of the entire race of dwarves, and the heroism of a now-legendary party who fought to the very gates of hell to restore dwarvenkind to the world.

But that was merely the start. From there the story spread across seas, and even across worlds. The great heroes are immortalized in legend, song, monuments, even the names of cities. Ceorl the half-elf wizard, Drax the Defender, Dane the Deadly, and finally Forkovr the dwarf, whose exploits were so astonishing that he rose into the ranks of the divine, and whose followers now rival the size of other sects.

While heroes tend to come and go, the great villains are somehow never fully defeated, rising from the ashes again and again to threaten new generations of Agnarans.

I started this world around 1980, and it has hosted campaigns using several RPG rules systems. But the story goes on.

This isn’t all fun and games. Although it mostly is. I learned a great deal about story telling, about conflict, about character development and plot. Most of that works as well in novels as it does at the game table. I also learned how to create highly detailed, imaginative worlds filled with a diverse collection of races, political intrigue, economic systems and entire mythologies. My novels and short stories are much richer for the experience.

I like to tell people that running D&D campaigns was the best training I ever had to be a project manager. It was also great training to be a writer.

The story isn’t over. I’ll be starting a new chapter soon. Who knows where that will take the story? I don’t. That depends as much on my players as it does on me. But wherever it goes, it will become more history for some future campaign.

Sound like fun? Then let’s roll some dice!

Controversy and Consensus

Writing is a solitary business for a number of reasons, but there may be times when you want to collaborate. This blog is one such instance of writerly collaboration. The reasons for coming together to create it are numerous: we all have different things to say and different experiences to share, we can distribute the workload of maintaining such a site so that no one person has to do it all, etc. Doing so has allowed us to create a product that helps each of us individually and (we hope) provides a value to the writing community at large.

However, such a joint venture has some limitations. Our more astute readers will have noticed that a couple of recent posts were taken down from our site. They weren’t taken down for issues of quality or anything like that, but were taken down due to the controversial nature of the posts. They were, in essence, declaring a stance that not all of the blog’s contributors shared on a very sensitive topic.

Now, I’m all for taking a stand on hot-button issues. I have no problem with taking an unpopular position so long as it’s one I happen to believe in. In fact, I have a short political satire that I am purposefully not promoting on the Fictorian Era simply because I don’t want to suggest that any of the other contributors want to be even tangentially associated with it.

Which brings us to the heart of the issue. Each of us is an individual with individual views on a variety of topics. A shared project like our website cannot let each of its contributors express himself fully without potentially alienating some other member. That can be a severe limitation for a group of artists, whose main drive in their work is self-expression. This is something that anyone is going to have to consider before joining a group where the task of creation is shared.

However, while it may limit the scope of what the group can do, it certainly doesn’t limit the individuals comprising the group in any significant way. As I mentioned, I’m still writing my outrageous and inflammatory satire, but I’m just not making any of my fellow Fictorians inadvertently promote something with which they may violently disagree simply by promoting our blog. And at least one of the posts taken down has found a home on the author’s personal website.

Shared projects like this one can certainly have value. They may not be able to stir the pot as much as some people (like me) would like, but that’s not generally their purpose-and if it is, it must be understood by everyone involved from the very beginning. Though it may seem like such projects limit you in some way, keep in mind that you are not losing anything by doing it, but actually giving yourself an additional means of self-expression, narrow though it may seem at times. And if it ever seems to confining, you can always just take your own path and focus on the things that truly matter to you.