Another Data Point

I hold the position that role-playing games are games that people can tell stories about after the fact and games that use stories and story-like elements to create an immersive gaming experience. RPG’s are not stories unto themselves.

Question: How many novels have been published based on someones actual homemade gaming campaign?

Not many. The only one that I am personally aware of is Malazan Book of the Fallen. I’ve done plenty of poking around and whats more common is someone’s homebrew campaign setting being used for the setting of a novel or series of novels.

There have been more that were set in someone’s campaign world but weren’t the actual story of the the events of the game itself. Examples of novels set in someone’s campaign setting are Raymond Feist’s Riftwar books, GRR Martin’s shared Wildcard’s universe. Most novels based on RPG campaign settings are tie in novels the publishers are using as a multi-media product for a particular line such as the Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, Battletech, and The Horus Heresy novels. It has been extremely rare for a game master to run a campaign and then adapt the events from the game into a novel or other story telling medium. Not one has become a successful cross platform franchise like those from film, TV, comics or fiction. Which is, I admit, kind of puzzling.

It does present an interesting data point in the theory that role-playing games are not stories but use story telling techniques. It also presents a data point that game mastering and story telling are not the same skill. If RPG game masters were creating great engaging stories before their players sit down then you’d think in the near 45 year history of role-playing games that there’d be more than a few examples of novels, films, TV shows or comics that tell the story of an actual campaign. Yet, one of the most common assumptions you’ll hear about game mastering is that the game master is telling “her story”, the story they’ve written before the players arrive at the table. Not if you want to run a good game. If you are creating interactive fiction, and that is what your players are signing up for; go for it. If you want a game then you need to create objectives, challenges, NPC’s and an interesting milieu for your players to interact with and for the game to take place in.

EDIT:

Another notable game setting turned fiction setting is The Expanse which started as setting for an MMO, then became a setting for a short story, a play by post RPG and then a novel and TV show.

4 thoughts on “Another Data Point

  1. Maximilian Wilson

    I believe Steve Brust’s Dragaera novels also started out as an RPG campaign, as told on Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/dragaera-origin-23578309

    Key excerpt:

    ‘The primary form of game, tracing back to a fan called Blue Pedal who’d played D&D at a convention with Greg Arneson, we called “Dungeon,” and it was both exciting and silly. As a rule, there was no “world.” There was a dungeon, and a general store, and the party was four warriors, two wizards, and two priests, you killed things and took their stuff in order to get more powerful to kill bigger things and take more stuff.

    ‘I can’t tell you the year (though maybe someone else could), but one day we met a young lady named Adrien Thornley (now Robert Charles Morgan), who had played other games, and mashed a bunch of them together, and created a WHOLE WORLD. “Woah,” we said. “How cool is THAT?”

    ‘The world was called Piarra, and the players on the first day were me (Vlad), Richard Tatge (“God-Boss”), my wife Reen (Aliera), John Robey (Morrolan), John Stanley (Daymar), and Steve Bond (Kragar). It was so much fun, I couldn’t stand it.

    ‘For the next year or two, my life, and Reen’s, revolved around our addiction to Piarra. Richard stopped playing but gave me permission to kill off his character, the others continued as opportunity presented. What was so cool about the world, in many ways, was how empty it was, which is to say, how much was incomplete, and how the DM let the players fill in whatever they wanted to, as long as it was cool. Reen and John were Dragons, and started with only a vague clue about what that meant, so they created that House. I more or less created the Jhereg.’

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    1. Thank you for the info. I am curious as to whether the setting was the main thing taken to the books or if there was a major story that played out in the campaign that became the basis for the books. The general recommendation from fiction editors is that D&D campaigns make terrible novels.

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      1. Maximilian Wilson

        Here’s what Brust says about that:

        “As a rule, I believe backgrounds and characters from an RPG can be cool in a book, but adventures tend not to be; no actual adventures made their way into any of the books, though there might an incident here or there.”

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  2. Maximilian Wilson

    So, the protagonists of the novels are almost all characters from the original RPG campaign, but none of the plot is from the RPGs.

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