They say writers shouldn’t hesitate to kill their darlings. It’s not an invitation to actual homicide, but a plea for the willingness to jettison any element of a story, even if you love it like a friend. That’s just one of the many work-hazards writers share with those in charge of Dungeons and Dragons games—a dungeon master has to kill off his or her friends all the time.
Consider pouring out a flagon of mead, in that case, for poor Matthew Robinson. As a pro screenwriter and a recent convert to the world of Dungeons and Dragons, he is constantly deluged with decisions about character arcs and turns of phrase by day, and also responsible for the fate of those fellow D&D-ers whose weekly quests he architects. Naturally, he has found that there is some serious overlap between the skill sets of screenwriting and overseeing fantasy roleplaying games.
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After becoming interested in trying it out, Robinson found that gaming stores across the country have Wednesday night league events where anyone can find a group, join in, and keep track of his or her character’s fantastical conquests digitally. As a storyteller by trade, he quickly gravitated toward the role of dungeon master, the person in charge of planning out each week’s adventure, and executing it based on the roll of the dice. It’s his experience in creating movies and shows, though, that keep his gang of adventurers in a state of agitation as they await some kind of resolution.
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Don’t Be BoringDreaming up scenarios and envisioning outcomes is a helpful skill in the world of D&D—and any time you have an audience, really. But those scenarios better keep people’s attention.
“What D&D does best creatively is it puts the focus on being entertaining,” Robinson says. “It’s almost like having an audience in your house. I have five players, and I have to entertain them. You can’t just throw monsters at them and expect them to fight because they’re gonna get bored of monsters, they’re gonna get bored of fighting and they’re gonna want some interaction. But if you have only interactions, they’re gonna get bored of that and they’re gonna want to start fighting again. It really takes you back to the basic, bare bones storytelling concept of, like: is my audience bored right now? If so, what are they craving and at what point after I give them what they want, do I need to then give them something else?”
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Anticipate Audience Reactions
With D&D, you’re playing a game, but the game is really just a means to create the best possible experience for your audience. In order to do that, you have to know who your audience is and use that information to play off their expectations.
“Most DMs work off a campaign book, which I do too. It gives you the guidelines of the story but you never want your players to feel like they are in a story that has a beginning, middle and end,” Robinson says. “You want them to feel like they’re telling the story and you’re just improv-ing wherever they go. If you play with the same group every week, you start to really know what kind of stuff they dig, and what they get bored with. My group likes combat where they feel like they’re not gonna necessarily win unless they really play it right. Also strange occurrences and weird mysteries—like, they’re just walking down the road and all of a sudden I’ll describe something shimmering off in the distance. They love just going off the path and seeing what will happen. You want to give them the illusion that the story isn’t on rails, when for the most part it is.”
Link to the rest at Co.Create