Satan’s Game

Satan’s Game

I have a love I haven’t spoken much about on this blog. That seems a shame, so it’s time to rectify the situation.

I talk a lot about writing; how I do it, why I do it and what I think about it in general. Most of the writing I talk about is my ‘serious’ writing, the writing I hope to one day put in print and share with the world. But I do a lot of writing that’s never going to see the light of day. Not because it’s bad, or because I believe in the old adage about writing a thousand things and throwing them out before I write something good. Most of my writing will never see the light of day because it isn’t meant to be serious. It’s fun writing. It’s the writing I do for me.

Most of my fun writing is done via the exercise of role playing. For those unfamiliar, role playing consists of creating a character and using that character to interact with characters created by others. There are a million forms of role playing. RP can be between two people or ten. It can be a formal game, such as Dungeons and Dragons, involving dice and character sheets, or it can be extremely casual involving nothing but a blank page and a couple of people scribbling words together.

I had my first experience with role playing in high school. I’d joined an online writing club that revolved around writing Sailor Moon fanfiction. Every week, the members would get together in a chatroom and screw around for a few hours. Sometimes we’d put on our character hats and play around with stories. It was informal and never serious, though we did sometimes brainstorm ideas for stories we wanted to write later. It was how I met the man who later become my husband (but that’s a whole other blog post).

A friend of mine, who wasn’t involved in the aforementioned club, was big into Dungeons and Dragons, a game I’d never heard of. He got a bunch of us together to try it out. Our games never got further than one session, but it was a fun exercise to create new characters, sit around a table, and talk about what they did. My first serious exposure to Dungeons and Dragons came a year or so later when I visited my then boyfriend (now husband) in Canada for the first time. He took me to one of his D&D sessions to sit in.

I say it was ‘serious’ exposure to D&D, but only in the sense that I witnessed an experienced game group led by an experienced DM (Dungeon Master). Unfortunately that night included the first, and last, time alcohol was ever allowed in a D&D session for that group and they got all of three feet in the span of two hours. Even if I spent most of the evening telling the story of how we met to my husband’s drunken friends, I still learned a lot about role playing games and it sparked my desire to try a long-term game.

Sadly the only long-term table top game I ever participated in consisted solely of two players; myself and my husband. We spent hours working on a campaign he created, developing the characters, even writing down their conversations in hopes of doing something with them one day. Alas, we’ve never lived close enough to other avid D&Ders to have a long-running gaming group. We’ve done a handful of sessions involving other players, but distance always ends up interfering with the group’s ability to continue long term. We’ve participated in other table top games via the internet, but that comes with its own set of problems.

When we came to England, we stayed with some friends we’d met in an online role playing forum (say what you want about meeting people you meet on the internet, some writers I’ve met online have become permanent parts of my life and I’ve never had reason to regret it). They’ve invited us to participate in their long running table top game and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It isn’t Dungeons and Dragons, it’s a different game, but I’m thrilled nonetheless. Even if we’re only here for a year, that’ll be more consecutive game sessions than we’ve ever managed to participate in.

Most of the role playing I do is the informal kind. The kind where a few people get together and write their character’s thoughts and actions the same way you do when you write a novel, except you only get to control one character. Of all the hobbies and activities I participate in, this is probably my favorite. There was a campaign a while back called ‘find your anti-drug’ and I used to joke role playing was my drug because it can be terribly addicting.

There’s something about putting yourself into the headspace of another person, trying to figure out their psyche and react to situations the way they do. It’s interesting. It’s exciting. It’s fulfilling. I’ve spoken to friends who’ve taken theater classes about the process of putting yourself in another person’s headspace. It’s very similar to what actors do, except actors have to wear the face and speak the words. I only have to write them. I’m pretty sure I could never do what actors do (or LARPers (live action role players), but that’s something else entirely), but it’s interesting to see where the two processes overlap, especially since actors tend to bring to life characters written by other people.

Another interesting factor is unpredictability. If you get to know another person’s character really well, you can sometimes predict how they might react in a certain situation. But often other people’s characters will surprise you, forcing you to change plans and adapt on the fly. This doesn’t usually happen when writing a novel, since one person controls all the characters and their actions. There are exceptions, of course, characters can take over and surprise you, but you still end up being in complete control, in the end.

I think my favorite thing about free form role playing is that there are no expectations. My writing doesn’t have to be perfect or polished because it’s just for fun. I can set a project aside for a new one and go back any time I want. There are no deadlines. There isn’t an audience to cater to. It doesn’t carry with it any of the stressors of writing a novel. I can, and do, lose myself in the activity for hours on end. It’s so liberating. And the best part about it? It helps me hone and improve all my writing skills. It helps me develop well-rounded, interesting characters. It helps me refine plots. It helps me catch the bad habits I have when I’m writing so I can constantly improve.

If I didn’t write for fun, I think my serious work would suffer.

If I’m so fond of the exercise, you might wonder about the title of this post. Confession time; it’s an inside joke. Back in high school, when I first discovered Dungeons and Dragons, the game had a reputation. There were those who believed the game was actually some kind of cult and that DMs trained youngsters to do their bidding. These people believed that, eventually, a DM would convince the players to undertake dangerous quests in real life, such as stealing cars or killing people.

It’s absurd, I know. The friend who originally sat us down to play D&D showed us a video someone made in response, inviting people to sit in on a session of ‘Satan’s game’. The joke is, of course, that pretty much all people do is sit around a table drinking soft drinks, rolling dice and… talking. Luckily someone cast magic missile at the darkness and that attitude has largely fallen by the wayside (especially with the growing popularity of RPG video games). But when I think of Dungeons and Dragons, and my long-standing love of the game, it always calls that video to mind.

2 Replies to “Satan’s Game”

    1. I’m not sure. I think the universe is custom built by the people who have been playing (they’ve been doing it on and off for several years) and I think the dice system is roughly based on Mekton, but I could be remembering completely incorrectly. I’ll have to ask the next time I get a chance to talk to him. We haven’t had much time to plan our characters yet, unfortunately.

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