How Tabletop Gaming Can Help You Write

My Wizard, Zara Sparkbane.
When I was a teenager I still remember the first time I sat down with a group of friends one summer and played my very first tabletop role-playing game. I spent hours looking through the set book for Vampire the Masquerade and Werewolf the Apocalypse just soaking up the worlds and creatures. It was heaven reading about all the crazy details that the creators of these books put into these dark worlds. I spent two days just reading the books instead of actually playing.

Years later, after loosing all my pimples, I tried Dungeons and Dragons with some other friends. That's when I realized how much fun it was to get the chance to live a small life through characters I could create. The worlds were a guideline that my friends and I would follow and then use to explore dungeons. It was a lot of fun and I probably had way too many snacks that year.

Fast forward to my adult years when my husband introduced to me GURPS, a universal tabletop system unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. It was creative, it was tough, and confused me. However, the most beautiful thing about GURPS is the ability to create anything that you can imagine with an endless truckload of rules and guidelines that you can use. While GURPS does have adventures you can follow, published supplements, and a load of community content floating on the web; using the system to create your own worlds is the true essence of GURPS.

When I first experienced this in a campaign that my husband ran for a year with a few friends of ours, I was so surprised at all the content he created with just a few books. We had adventures in fantasy lands, scoured the universe for treasures, flew around in spaceships fighting aliens, time traveled, and even got implanted up on a cyberpunk version of earth. It was incredibly creative and I became enthralled at all the things he'd made.

Along the way I would write poems, short stories, and sketch concepts for him of the things he would create. I got lost in the worlds and how much fun they were, so much so that I ended up making a few campaigns of my own. The beauty of it that I didn't notice until later is how I was able to apply the creative process of making characters, items, and worlds from tabletop role-playing into writing.

While I'm sure that most people who tabletop role-play have come to this conclusion, it was actually quite an astounding thing for me. As someone that likes to break rules, using the rules of these books helped me learn to respect them. Here is a basic list of the ways that tabletop role-playing has helped me and might help you if you haven't tried it yet.

Dwarves. Who doesn't like dwarves?

Creating Characters 

I can't stress enough how invaluable creating characters of your own for a campaign will flex your mind muscles when it comes to learning personality and individuality. Without different types of people to paint your world, everything will kind of bleed into everything. If that happens, you have a pretty boring world. 

The best way to tackle this is by creating characters that interact with the environment. Using GURPS, I learned what makes people interested in a character by jumping into the NPC's head and having conversations with players. It can teach a writer how to better understand the individual mind of a character. It's a great exercise, no matter what system you use.

Spaceships are fun and blow stuff up!


Creating items with the system is actually quite enlightening. GURPS covers all kinds of genres from science fiction, fantasy, cyberpunk, historical, modern day, horror; I could go on with this list forever. To put it simply: if you like knowing how items in the  fictional novels you create work on a close level, I can't recommend it enough. You can make cars, sailboats, spaceships, weapons, armor, clothing, and more! It's very extensive. 

Spellbooks are important too.

Plot and Story

While this might be considered a large part of writing, it's also a very large part of role-playing. Any system you use, besides GURPS, will have this requirement in droves. 

Sure, you can run campaigns where the players just dive into dungeons and loot treasure like they're playing Diablo, but nothing really keeps a campaign going longer than a decent plot with arcs, great characters, and a story that keeps them coming back for more. With GURPS, this can prove to be a bit more difficult because it mostly encourages self creation, but if you have all the tools to your disposal, it makes it a lot more personal. I believe there is even an entire book that covers MacGuffins. Writers who love to create things intimately would find this exercise very useful!

I hope you enjoyed my small list that covers the basics that I've learned from tabletop role-playing. In the future I plan on covering more topics but I just wanted to invite those who are writers and haven't tried role-playing yet, to give it a go! It will teach you more than you think and open up your creative palette. That's good for anyone who likes to be creative. Not to mention, it's fun as hell! 


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