Gaming fiction weal or woe?

Role playing games are so entrenched in their literary roots, from Beowulf to El Cantar del Mio Cid, from Howard’s Conan, to Tolkien’s Middle Earth that it is sometimes hard to separate one from the other. Inevitably role playing games in turn spawned fiction based on the games, their character’s and the campaigns. For me the Dragonlance Chronicles were a formative experience in my development as a gamer. These days you can’t visit a book store that doesn’t carry some gaming fiction from Warhammer 40K novels, to Eberron and everything in between.

As much as I liked gaming fiction when I was a teen, I pretty much gave up on it years ago. I can’t recall the last game related novel I read. Looking back there were some gems, like the original Dark Suns novels (loved them back then, don’t really know how they’d stand up to a re-read) and some utter duds like Dragonlords of Mystara (how I despise that book). Still gaming fictions survives and people continue to read it so I guess there is an audience.

Of course the Internet has changed the landscape of game related fiction. No longer do you need a publishing contract to write stories about your favorite game, you can publish what you write in the Web and share it with the world. I realize that fan fiction is a touchy subject, some authors embrace it others condemn it, but think what you may it’s out there. I guess my point is that the barriers to publishing your stories are crumbling. Of course making money out of it, well that’s another story!

There is also another use of fiction in a game related way, fiction you write for your games, be they face to face or in one of the many available online permutations. Despite my disinterest in game related fiction I personally love to write fiction for my games. I love to create my own settings and campaigns (Hello my name is Roberto and I’m a compulsive home brewer!) and short pieces of fiction are, for me, a way to cement the setting and it allows me to share the campaign with my players.

Over time I’ve come to realize not every player enjoys this, not everybody is interested in readying for the game, some people just want to play, not have game related homework. That is fine and good, and in recent years I try to parcel out my writing and give out details in small manageable chunks. In fact I’ve begun the practice of writing one page hand outs about specific details of the campaign. I figure if there is something important for me to say, I better say it in one page.

Still I think there are some great opportunities to use longer pieces of fiction to set the stage or introduce a campaign, making sure everybody knows what to expect and ideally to start up some pre-game conversation. If you can write, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just enough to get you ideas across, by all means put words on paper. If you don’t write, there are short stories you can use to convey the feeling or themes of a game. Taking the idea of fiction to another medium, even watching a certain movie together or playing an electronic game can get across your vision of a new game to your players.

I’m currently planning my next game, a superhero game with a twist. The characters are supers in a world where none existed before. I know it’s been done before, but I think I have some original ideas to play around with in such a setting. And besides, one of my players has always asked me for a game like this and I figure it’s about time to make him happy. For this upcoming game I have written some fiction I plan to share with my players pre-game so we can begin planning for it.

This time around I figured I’d try something different and use the blog to share this information not just with my players but with our readers. Get some feedback and make you all part of the presentation and planning of this new campaign.

I’ve written some gaming fiction and posted it on the blog before and the feedback was great. But that was just the brainstorm of a possible sci-fi campaign that is still in flux. The feedback has helped and I’m still working on the revision of what I wrote and a follow up to that. What I’ve written now is an introduction to a new campaign; you dear reader will be reading this just as my players are reading it for the first time. This is a new experiment for me. I plan to post one short piece of fiction about the campaign every day this week, so by Friday you, as well as my players, will have an idea of the game we’ll be playing.

This is not set on stone; after all it will not be just MY game. I want some feedback from my players and you out there as well. I hope some of you find this interesting. If you are NOT interested in game related fiction I apologize in advance, I’ll get back to other topics next week!

So in closing; expect the first post about the campaign along with this one. What do you think of gaming fiction? Do you enjoy it or do you avoid it? I’d like to know…