In this month’s “See Page XX” from Pelgrane Press there is an article by Robin Laws about ‘The History of No’. Here’s a quote…

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson weren’t trying to create a new narrative art form when they developed the ideas that turned into Dungeons & Dragons

I entirely agree with this assertion, and I’m occasionally struck by how a gaming hobby has evolved into a storytelling medium.

I didn’t say ‘legitimate’, as I don’t think RPGs have the mainstream recognition required for legitimacy, but I don’t think it’s far off.

I did a Creative Writing degree, and I thought about story and drama a helluva lot less then than I do now, plotting out a gaming session*.

I’m running D&D tomorrow, and in that I have at least three layers of plot running:

  1. The long term fate of the Harding family, low nobles now without land or status, struggling after the death of their patriarch, Lord Devon Harding.
  2. A mid-term journey to Suzail, the capital of Cormyr, to bury Lord Harding.
  3. A conspiracy plot that the players are as yet unaware of, but have been participating in for the last two sessions. I’ve said too much.

Plot 1. is meat and potatoes D&D, and draws on standard fantasy tropes. Plot 2. however has been running as a straight Apocalypse Now homage.

The fact that I can tell these two markedly different stories, dipping into their own genres as required, is a testament to the flexibility and adaptability of RPGs as a storytelling medium.**

*I generally don’t produce more than a sketch of what I want to happen in a session, because players, chaos and not thinking like a bag of cats…

**Ok, it may not be seamless, but that’s down to my failings as a storyteller, not the medium.