Sunday, December 06, 2009

Literary Gaming

I'm glad we made the decision a long time ago to widen the margins for this blog. I'm disappointed I happen to have an illiterate character class for this particular campaign. And I'm going to be a bit lazy here--instead of writing the same "Excellent!" comment over and over for each post, I'm just going to make my own post saying how awesome everyone's backstories are. I'm really enjoying reading them, as well as the thought being put into developing and role-playing the characters. Last night was a great start and I'm hoping for many months of more of the same.

D&D is, I believe, something virtually unique and unprecedented in human history. It's a story you can listen to at the same time as telling it. You can be surprised by the plot's twists and turns, but you can surprise too. It's more interactive than any other sort of narrative I can think of. If its subject matter were more serious then it would probably be considered a new art form, and it's probably surprising that nothing beyond murder mystery dinners has ever been evolved from it. This is why D&D is so addictive when it's played right. It's like the best story you've ever read combined with the charge a good storyteller feels as he plays his audience.

I think there's a basic human need to listen to stories, but also to tell them. In D&D you get that tingle you imagine when you think of the ancient storytellers, dusk falling, the camp fire burning and the first line being read. It's not like hearing "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit," it's like saying it for the first time and to a rapt audience that is dying for your next sentence.

I have finished games feeling physically drained and actually wanted to continue to have my characters buy food at a shop or smoke a pipe in a tavern just to calm down before breaking with the game world entirely. And sometimes even that wasn't enough. The crucial difference between conventional forms of storytelling and D&D is that D&D doesn't have to finish. Ever. It's an open-ended story, and, if you're emotionally engaged with it, the temptation is just to keep going.

From The Elfish Gene

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