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Narrative Potential of Role-Playing Games

Games+Learning+Society 9.0
by

Trent Hergenrader

on 7 January 2014

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Transcript of Narrative Potential of Role-Playing Games

Probably one of the most enduring influences on me was a childhood playing RPGs: Dungeons and Dragons [D&D] and others. I’ve not played for sixteen years and have absolutely no intention of starting again, but I still buy and read the manuals occasionally. There were two things about them that particularly influenced me. One was the mania for cataloguing the fantastic: if you play them for any length of time, you get to know pretty much all the mythological beasts of all pantheons out there, along with a fair bit of the theology. I still love all that—I collect fantastic bestiaries, and one of the main spurs to write a secondary-world fantasy was to invent a bunch of monsters, half of which I’m sure I’ll never be able to fit into any books.
Narrative Experience of RPGs
"fictive blocks"
we restore
through play
players change from mere consumers
to active producers
of popular culture
Playing
"the Other"
Doppelganger self
Devoid self
Augmented self
Fragmented self
Repressed self
Idealized self
Oppositional self
Experimental self
Taboo self
Teaching Elements of Fiction through Incremental Storytelling
Narrative Potential of Tabletop RPGs
"Incremental Storytelling"
A methodology by which students learn the craft of fiction writing in small, discrete bits that, in aggregate, create something much greater than their constituent parts. This progressive approach puts students in immediate contact with each others’ writing throughout the entire creative process and opens space for critical discussions about the fictional characters and the shared world they create.
"Incremental Storytelling"
From macro elements to micro elements
Art of Fiction
I would begin, then, with something real--smaller than a short story, tale, yarn, sketch--and something primary, not secondary (not parody, for example, but the thing itself). I would begin with some one of those necessary parts of larger forms, some single element that, if brilliantly done, might naturally become the trigger of a larger work--some small exercise in technique, if you like, as long as it's remembered that we do not really mean it as an exercise but mean it as a possible beginning of some magnificent work of art.
John Gardner
Drawing Story from the Catalog
"Critical World Building"
Incremental Storytelling
Collaborative writing
Complex worlds
Character development
Focus on detail
Critical sensibilities
Unpredictable narrative
Begin with detailed maps of characters including their:
Physical traits
Psychological traits
Skills and abilities
Personal histories
The craft of fiction broken into individual units of meaning.
Using RPGs to Build Speculative Worlds
Trent Hergenrader
UW-Milwaukee/RIT
GLS Conference 9.0
#GLS2013 #GLS9
"In most good stories it is the character’s personality that creates the action of the story. In most [amateur stories], I feel that the writer has thought up some action and then scrounged up a character to perform it.
-Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners
You will usually be more successful if you start the other way around. If you start with a real personality, a real character, then something is bound to happen; and you don’t have to know what before you begin. In fact, it may be better if you don’t know what before you begin. You ought to be able to discover something from your stories. If you don’t probably nobody else will."
Character-Driven Fiction
Traditional Fiction Workshop
Surrealists
OuLiPo
Language Games
"Maps of the
Imagination"
Leaving Traces on Fictional World
Character Archetypes
beliefs+attitudes+skills+abilities+desires+fears+secrets
family+relationships+debts+career goals+dreams+
Collaboratively Produced Story
trent.hergenrader@gmail.com
Twitter: @thergenrade
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