5 Ways DMing or GMing Your D&D Campaign Can Help Your Writing

Explore Characters

Tabletop games are great. As a DM, you can make and explore any amount of characters that you want to. If you have a fun concept character, but no story to tell for them, or if you want to get to know them really well before you start writing, consider making them an important NPC in your campaign and take a deep dive from their point of view.

Explore their abilities, ways of thinking, their backgrounds in a more complete and in-depth way. Think of it as a thought experiment for any characters you might want to use in your stories. Find out their nuances, and find out whether or not they fit your tale, before you get 60,000 words into it and realize they aren’t the right character for the story you’re telling.

Explore Worlds

In a word, worldbuilding. If you are DMing a campaign, especially if it is a homebrew, consider using your worldbuilding for your writing. If in your story the citizens in one area trade in corn, rather than in money, it could be useful to add this element into your campaign world to see how it plays out. Trading in corn has far-reaching consequences that you can use in your writing. For instance, no one would eat the corn or make anything out of the corn unless it was already no good to trade. It’s value for trade would be too great. What kind of technology would the farmers need in order to harvest corn? How much land? Would they have planting and harvest festivals? Would they pray or make sacrifices to a certain god or goddess to bless the crops? What would the citizens of other areas think of the corn trade? What kind of slang and slur words would be used by people who chose to eat the corn, versus those who did not?

Just by adding small pieces to your game, you will find much richer worldbuilding when you go to write your stories. You can bring your stories to more realistic places because you did some of the legwork before hand.

Describing the Necessary Elements in Every New Scene

I’m an underwriter. My brain thinks of plot and almost nothing else. Character thoughts and feelings? Nope. Five senses? Zilch. Setting descriptions? Nada. My drafts are often straight and to the point plot heavy messes. I have to make a specific pass pretty early in the editing phase to actively and very intentionally describe these things so I don’t just have heads talking into a void, or two characters supposed to be talking in a room, meanwhile the POV character is actually obsessing in their head about whatever thing and not actually doing any talking about it.

Becoming a DM for two very different campaigns has forced me to rethink how I begin scenes and how characters enter places and find clues. If someone puts a hand on a hip, you might infer one thing, whereas if that hip has a sword attached, it might say something else. I find that DM games has actually made me a more descriptive writer. While I still make a pass for describing things, I find that I need the pass less and less the more writing and DMing I do.

Exploring Plot

As I mentioned above, I’m an underwriter. I’ve never written more than 80,000 words in a single draft. This is because my stories start with plot, and little else. Yet I know writers whose stories start with characters, and they have to work hard to make a working plot.

If I’m describing you, don’t worry. You can use your tabletop game to explore plot in a totally new way; by letting your players figure it out with you as you go. You don’t have to know everything right away, simply give your players the reigns and see where it leads them.

Creating More Surprising Plot Twists

How many hours have you spent meticulously planning for your characters to go into a certain door, approach the dragon under the mountain, read the signs (or lets be honest, read ANY signs) only to have them do something completely unplanned? If you’ve been DMing or GMing for very long, the answer is probably often. Even the most clever tabletop master in the world won’t account for every action their players might want to take, every single time.

Instead of being upset or floored when your players do something you’d never have thought of, see it as an opportunity. Use what your players have taught you in your own writing. If it caught you off guard, chances are, it will likely catch your readers off guard too.


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