Author’s Toolbag: Gaming Part One

Sometimes your characters are gamers too...
Sometimes your characters are gamers too…

As an author, particularly a Science Fiction and Fantasy Author, there’s not a lot of ways to draw directly from real-world experience to determine what is “real” in my writing.

There are a number of methods to deal with that, to fill out a world, to get a feel for how things work.  World-building, of course, is a massive part and I’ve written a series of blog posts on that which you can read elsewhere (History/Society, Magic and Science, Geography and Climate).  Another great method is to base things off of real-world events and experience (since history oft repeats itself, such restructured events and outcomes will feel ‘real’).

What I’m going to talk about today, however, is gaming.  Now, even as I say that I can mentally picture a number of people cringing.  The potential critics thoughts range from someone who pictures a group of LARPers out beating each other with foam weapons to the guy with the full scale replica of the battle of Gettysburg to the computer nerd who has set up a simulation of the Romulans fighting the Borg (Romulans lose, sorry).

The truth is, though, that gaming at a variety of different levels is what you do anyway as you work through your plot and story. You think about what you want to happen and how you want it to happen and then what needs to happen for that to work out in the end.  What I propose is to formalize that a bit to give you a more realistic idea of outcomes.

There’s a variety of different types of gaming that you can apply, all aimed at different goals.  These goals can range from helping you to more fully develop your world to figuring out what it would take to win a desperate battle to finding out how difficult a puzzle or scenario would be for your characters to figure out.

That said, there’s a variety of games for you to apply and happily, most of them are fun too (see Science Fiction and Fantasy Gaming Overview for a breakdown of games).  Roleplaying games provide a lot of positives for a writer.  First off, being the DM or GM of a game gives you a lot of experience in coming up with ideas and storylines on the fly.  Second, it forces you to really think about the worlds your players are exploring.  Tabletop wargaming, whether on the skirmish level or all the way out to massive armies, can help you to visualize where characters are and just how stacked the odds are against them.

That’s all for now.  Next week I’ll go into the process of applying gaming to your world-building, writing, and plotting.  (Part Two here)

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