How Tabletop RPGs Impact Writers (Podcast)


To start us off, how long have you played said roleplaying games as a player or as a DM or have you had experience in both? Maybe, we can roll for initiative to answer, just because we can. We have no set modifiers though.

Melissa: I have 17.

Angelica: I have 17 too.

E: I have 18. I have been playing since August of this year.

M: Going in as fresh meat.

A: So have you played as a DM or a player?

E: Like I have said earlier, I have played largely as a DM. Occasionally, my group got a little more into it. The people in my party if they want to host their own campaigns, it’s just a lot of fun.

Angelica: For me, I started about 2013 or 2014. Unfortunately on and off for one and a half years. Right now, off. I have played both as a player and a slightly a DM. And DMing is very difficult especially cause my first time DMing, my friends were like, “oh, so you’re going to DM.” And I’m like yes, “5 people only please.” Then it became like 8, and I thought to myself this is going to be hard. And yourself?

Melissa: I want to say it’s been since 2011. Mostly on and off. Never actually finished a campaign. But I do watch a bunch of Dungeons and Dragons. I have played quite a bit of Pathfinder. I haven’t played as a DM, don’t have anyone to play with yet, but one day. We’ll get there one day.

Angelica: So in regards to playing said role playing games, what editions of these games have you played? What edition have you enjoyed most?

Erin: I have only played Dungeon World, so…

Melissa: I really prefer 5e among all of them. It is a lot more streamlined than Pathfinder, which is I hear is a lot similar to 3.5, it just makes a lot of the processes a lot simpler. It leads a lot more room for interpretation as far as when players need to get into your character’s head more easily even if you are not so accustomed to the environment, which is why I speak so highly about this edition.

Angelica: I agree since when I played 4th edition, they super dumbed it down. More like a smash-em up sort of game, but it made it easier for people to pick up, but story wise, it was story wise.

Erin: I play Dungeon World mostly because it is easier for people to get into. Like partial fail and partial success.

Angelica: Yeah, I know when I played 3.5 edition, there were so many skill checks; I was like what do I do with these?

Melissa: When am I actually going to use a performance check? I’m a Paladin.

Erin: Dungeon World made it really easy for players. Okay roll, 2 D6s and tell me what number you got as opposed to roll and then check that against your skill.

Angelica: Have you guys played any story or DMed story outside of the fantasy genre?

Erin: I have. Have you ever heard of Dread?

Melissa: For those who are listening who don’t know, Dread is a tabletop roleplaying game. I think it was only published with 4 stories in it. Instead of playing with dice, you play with a Jenga tower. If you pull a Jenga block without knocking over the tower, your action is a success. If the tower falls over, you die. End of story. You are removed from the game one way or another and that is why I highly recommend that one, specifically for the horror atmosphere even if it doesn’t have as many games. The tension and the mood that it sets is absolutely astounding.

Angelica: Yeah, I haven’t played it, but I remember watching Geek & Sundry and Wil Wheaton. And I really want to play it.

Erin: We just played that at my Halloween party last week. I really hope people enjoyed it. We played a sort of teen slasher in the woods.

Melissa: I did play that one. I also played “Thirteen.” That one I’m not going to tell, but it has a really good twist. But that was a very interesting story and I would recommend that system and if you are trying to get into, specifically for mood in tabletop, Dread is where to start off. It teaches you all about tension and to hold the feelings of your players. I was trained to DM in Dread but haven’t gotten around to it but I have also played it. It very much trains you to get you into a mindset and how put your players in a specific way of thinking and how to get them to feel certain things and act certain ways. It is interesting psychologically, and it helps you set up the mood so easily and teaches you how to do that in a multitude of ways.

podcast2Angelica: What has your experience been playing as your character roleplaying? Not just roleplaying but also collaborating with others? Like very tense moments? Was there just a “cream of the crop” moment that you remember very vividly in your mind? Like, I don’t know how I survived that but I did.

Melissa: I have these moments. I have quite a lot of nasty situations that have happened. When I sit there and get into my character’s head the most that is when all the bad things happen. There is one particular situation that I always remember, because it was one of my first games. I was a rogue, trying to intimidate one of the leaders of the cultist group that we trying to get eliminate from our town. This is back when I played Pathfinder. We were trying to get rid of these cultists that we followed underground. We captured one. We were trying to intimidate her; I intimidated her because I was the prettiest but also the scariest. I intimidated her, and she led us into a hallway. All I was worried about was just being intimidating and scaring her and getting her to do what we want, because everything that I had tried to do thus far has failed and I didn’t realize that in the process of trying to scare her that she lead us into a hallway nearly butchered us. All of us. All five players almost went down in one swoop and that was the one experience that stood out the most but it was also the one time I got into one particular character, but she lived.

Melissa: And that’s all you can ever ask for.

Angelica: As long it is not a TPK.

[TPK means total party kill in which all the player characters are killed.]

Erin: Recently, the campaign I DM for, one of the people in my group wanted to do a one-off.

[Geeky term #2

One-off/One-shot: is when a game group decide to do not a long campaign story, but just a very short story that is usually compressed into a single session.]

There some kind of problem, but no one could get any information. Three people in my party who got into town had joined a militia in a town full of refugees and were given logic. And since my person is a goliath, the very first thing he thought of is that “I needed to fix the dead,” so two of us were fixing the dead. A third character, a ranger, decided to go and fuck the people in town and immediately ran back screaming so that was kind of like a very our first big thing we did during that game and very much set the tone that there are very dangerous things happening. I didn’t almost die, but someone almost did.

Angelica: I think for me; it was a custom 3.5 build with four different races. There were humans. There were goblins. There was this race which were essentially cyborgs and thought they were supreme and thought they needed [technological] parts. But there was an extreme faction of this group where they were sort of Nazi, where they believed everyone should become machines. And then there was the race that I was which was attuned to magic, but due to some sort of special event, they mutated to have animal ears. But between the two techno people and the magic people, they hated each other except for my character who loved technology, and it got her into trouble when we went to the techno part of capital. Obviously out of character, I knew this was probably going to be a trap, but she’s still going to walk in and be super amused. So the entire party got kidnapped and when we woke up, they put us into a colosseum.

Angelica: To connect this back to writing, if any of you write, how has this impacted how you create things or write things? And in what way have you seen it?

Melissa: D&D relates to my writing in a direct sense. I have always been a fantasy writer. I have always been someone who consumes a lot of fantasy. Not so much recently being in university and my last year of it. And I kind of took a break of writing while playing Dungeons and Dragons, and Pathfinder, I started to realize that D&D helped me make characters human and very relatable. D&D teaches you how to get into someone else’s skin and how to easily get into that way of thinking where you are no longer yourself; you are this other person with ulterior motives and your own way of thinking, your thought processes and as a writer, that is completely invaluable, since nobody is going to whole heartedly believe and think and feel what is happening if you can’t make these characters believable. Having this experience, it makes your work so much well responded too in my experience.

Erin: For me as a writer, I have always started with characters. I get a sense of who they are and the world they live in. And I think that feeds a lot to my interest in roleplaying games. As a GM, creating characters and seeing how my players related them. I invented this Halfling thief, who was snarky and morally gray, thinking that people would like him, but they hated him. I found it really interesting that when you are writing you are controlling all your character, how they relate and interact with one another. But being a GM showed me all these options, all the ways things can go when playing with all these other characters.

angelica_dimsonAngelica: I agree with both you. I start with characters too. Within D&D and being a DM, it expands into creating a setting as its own character. Cause each town, each place has little, minute qualities that make it unique. Like the first town I DMed, it was a primarily a Dragonborn farming community town. One of my players got to arm wrestle with a character from this town and rolled a natural 20 and broke the table, and so that Dragonborn farmer felt sad since he got beat by a half-Dragonborn woman, and challenging people in this small community and winning made him happy. And even in delving into character building, you become aware of their flaws.

Melissa: I will very much attest to using the setting as a character…

To hear more insight on writing and D&D experiences, consider listening to our podcast, and remember in the words of Wil Wheaton to “Play More Games!”

– Angelica Dimson

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