The Hardest Writing of All

I enjoy writing in all its forms (with the exception of poetry, not in me). I love nothing more then sitting down at a computer or a pad and pen and bringing tales to life. The characters jump out to me, they come to life before my very eyes. Indeed, I often only need the barest of plot and outline, the characters themselves deal with the situation in a realistic manner. I simply give them life. Although we may not admit it, most writers have more in common with Dr. Frankenstein then our fellow storytellers. A writer may allow his or her characters to run wild, but we can still reign them in if the story gets out of control. This is true with any form of writing…well, almost any form.


As I’ve said before I love to engage in Role Playing Games, and I am the current DM of my group. So, in addition to controlling the characters my players interact with it is also my duty to come up with adventures on a bi-weekly basis. This is no small task. I love to write, if I could I would do nothing but write (with the occasional filming of my writing thrown in). However, coming up with enjoyable adventures every other week can be pretty darn challenging. Unlike a traditional story, be it a script or a novel, an adventure can not be completely linear. I also have little to no control over the actions of my primary characters. This creates a very interesting dilemma for me…

ONE: The story MUST be moved along or the players become bored. But, how do you do this without forcing the players to do as you say? Well, you simply write scenes that give the illusion of choice but really force the players to take only one or two pre-ordained actions. This can, of course, be thrown to the four winds as you are dealing with REAL humans and not literary beings. However; if the players are running their characters correctly then I can predict how the they will react. Now this all sounds simpler then it really is. How do I do it? That would be telling, and like a magician a good DM never tells his tricks…

TWO: Flexibility. This is one of the most important features of good adventure writing. As I said above, a good DM has already planned at least two different ways for the players to react. But, as players ALL TOO often do they go in the complete opposite direction or worse; they see through you Machiavellian plot within the first hour! In comes the flexibility. There have been times when my players have figured out my story far sooner then I thought (or hoped) they would. So, like an actor who has been abandoned by forgetful co-actors on stage I begin to improvise. I’ve been DM’ing long enough to make it seem like the story is five by five. Inside I’m going insane. So now what? Well, I will often toss them a couple of fights to keep them busy, as DM’ing a combat scene is pretty simple for me, (and it buys me time). Or, I create some simple and COMPLETELY unrelated clues and see what the players do with it. Here is where I’ll give the BEST secret to DM’ing… The PLAYERS can be your best source for continuing a “botched” adventure. Let them write the plot.

THREE: The players. Of all the tools in a DM’s bag the players are your greatest asset. Make sure they get into their characters as much as possible, more then an actor delves into a role. In a long running game a player gets to know his or her character better then they know themselves. Once a player becomes connected to their character you can begin to tailor adventures of a more personal nature. This allows for simpler adventure writing. You KNOW what the character will do and yet with that knowledge comes a whole new set of challenges…Keeping the game fresh, exciting, and a little dangerous (to the character I mean)…

That’s about all for now. I’m going to have a full basement in 72 hours and I better be ready. This is the Geek in the City signing off for now, may all your rolls be critical!