The (Re)-Emergence of D&D and Creativity

Last week, I wrote a post entitled “RPGs Get Creative” that focused on various ways role-playing games had become something more than just tabletop games. The storytelling and community aspects of those games lend themselves other creative fields, such as plays, television programs, and improvisational theater.

In many ways, the idea that D&D and role-playing games create a sphere of community is at the heart of our book (although we’ve not expressly follow that meme outside of game communities). And just as it was hard to find game designers who weren’t trying to recreate their D&D experiences in virtual spaces, it’s equally hard not to trace the creative lines of tabletop games into other entertainment fields.

It’s enjoyable to see this resurgence in the game and in the idea of tabletop games as something more than just mindless fun.

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Why it’s odd to think it’s odd to meet people in virtual worlds

Like in many other such groups, the Great Lakes Regulators players formed such strong bonds with one another that their meetings began to spill offline. In 1998, Merchants Guild players who lived in Austin started meeting every other month for lunch. While the lunches were originally meant for discussion of in-game activities, they eventually evolved into proper social occasions, with the group gathering four times a year for lunch or dinner.

By 1999, people grew more ambitious, and rented a boat for an evening of revelry. Word of the outings spread through the Ultima Online message boards, and soon players from around the Southwest were showing up at the Austin events. More than a hundred players registered for the Ultima Online outing in 2000, when Austin played host to the Texas Renaissance Festival, the same event that Richard had experienced with the Society for Creative Anachronism nearly two decades before. — from “Chapter 29: Knights of the Guilded Realm” of Dungeons & Dreamers

When we were writing the book, we spent a good deal of time talking about the nature of the narrative. We didn’t want the book to be a history of games, nor were we much interested in the business of games. However, we weren’t sure how we could capture the essence of game communities. Instead of a strict linear narrative, we settled on a series of portraits, with each part trying to paint a picture about different aspects to the communities that form around computer games.

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“We should learn more about Richard Garriott.”

To commemorate the launch of our early-bird ebook special, I thought it would be fun to recount how Dungeons & Dreamers became a book.

John, Brad, and Richard at the First Edition's 2003 book launch at BookPeople in Austin, Texas.

John, Brad, and Richard at the First Edition’s 2003 book launch at BookPeople in Austin, Texas.

I moved to Austin on Christmas Even in 1995 without a job, a plan, or any prospects. The story of how I ended up in that situation is for another time and place, but the result of that decision led to Dungeons & Dreamers.

I met a young woman who worked for David Swofford, the director of public relations for Origin Systems, a then-thriving game company run by Richard and Robert Garriott. From that meeting, I’d somehow convinced Wired magazine that I could get an interview with Garriott to discuss his Ultima series and the upcoming game, Ultima Online, which he’d promised would be the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that scaled.

[Ed note: The veracity of this claim is tenuous as Meridian 59 beat Garriott to the punch, but the impact of UO would far outshine every other game of its class. Let’s not quibble in my story, okay?]

As it turns out, Richard and I can both talk. He’s a Texas and I’m an Appalachian. I don’t know how long we ended up talking, but I had three tapes filled with various amounts of talking. Mind you, this piece was slated for the front of the book, which mean I was writing 200-500 words, and he was taking me through every aspect of his business including the server rooms.

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The time when RPGs went to college

As we moved closer to completing the book (spoilers: it’s done), I found myself gravitating to my Red Box D&D set, which sits just off to the side of my office desk. As I lament that I don’t have nearly enough time to write stories anymore, I also find myself missing the joy of immersing within stories.

When it comes down to it, what drew me into role-playing games wasn’t the idea of a quest, it was the same idea that drew me to literature. I wanted to get lost in a story, visit a world beyond my own, and learn something about myself that I hadn’t before.

Of course not every story is transformative Not every story teaches us a lesson. Sometimes games just…are.

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How You Tag Our Book

I’m addicted to Goodreads, and not simply because I’m a writer.

I love so see how people tag and classify books. So far Dungeons & Dreamers has been organized into 76 different shelves, but most of them can be groups into big buckets such as Internet, Games, or History.

I’m not really interested in those classifications. It’s a strange personality tic I have that goes far back into my childhood. (Really, my parents and I are quite close.) What fascinates me are how people negatively or worse neutrally classify out book.

I won’t subject you to a continuous stream of these tags, but I couldn’t resist sharing the top shelves as identified by Goodreads readers.

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In Loving Tribute…

One of the best parts about writing the book has been the way it’s forced me to think about games.

When you write, you spend your days trying to see the story. You lay notes across the table, you rearrange your ideas, and you look for the patterns to emerge from the chaos. Once you get a sense of your story, you give it a test drive. You start to look around and see the story in other places.

At its heart, our book is about the communities people form when they play games. Today, we live in a world where the strands of those communities have stretched far beyond computer games. We’re beginning to see some of the depth of those games appearing in other parts of our world.

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A New Book Examines an RPG as if it were Real

Chrono Trigger is an upcoming book by Michael P Williams. It’s… all about Chrono Trigger, looking at parallels between Crono’s world and ours, a study of the institutions of the game’s world (its laws and religions), how the game’s characters fit (and defy!) genre conventions and, yes, a poke at the aches and pains of a plot that involves time travel.— from What Happens When You Study An RPG World Like It Was Real

A forthcoming book, Chrono Trigger, is slated to be released on April 1 by Big Boss Books. The project, which was chosen by readers, “delves deep into connections between Crono’s world and ours, including Chrono Trigger’s take on institutions such as law and religion, how the game’s heroes fit and defy genre conventions, and the maddening logical headaches inherent in any good time travel plot. From the Magus dilemma to the courtroom scene, find out why many consider this game the high point in the entire role-playing genre in this in-depth examination of Chrono Trigger, a ton of fun and a true work of art.”

Shameless plug: Since you’re reading a blog post about a book on a website devoted to a book, don’t forget to buy our new book. #book

Honestly I don’t even know how to wrap my head around this (in large part because I’ve never played the game). With that said, I can’t help equate this new book (at least in spiritual connection) to Indiana University professor Edward Castronova’s work studying the economy of Second Life as we continue to blend real- and cyber-space together.

Because Zombies…and LARPs

The folks at LARPCraft, who have created several LARP game tracking systems, have a new game: LARPCraft: The Risen

If you’re not into the whole LARP scene but still want your zombie RPG fix, Square Enix Unleashes Zombie-Themed Card Battle FPS RPG Deadman’s Cross. Or if you’re down with LARPs but don’t care much for zombies you can check out this story about a LARP at Swathmore college.

Shameless plug: While you’re in the mood for a little community gaming, don’t forget to buy our new book

Just Give Me A D6

Saving Throw, the Show

I just posted several videos for cool Kickstarter projects, but I know most of you aren’t going to click through to each one. (You should, but I know that you won’t.)

However, the folks at Saving Throw have really captured my attention, and so I had to share one more element of their project. No lie: I love that singing skill is optional in this video. They just go for it. This is part of a Kickstarter project for a new web show, Saving Throw.

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