Sorry for the momentous sounding title, I really just want to talk about rediscovering roleplaying games while isolating
Up until recently, my kids’ experience of roleplaying games (RPGs) was limited to one particular Teen Titans episode:
Ha ha! Now that song’s going to be stuck in your head too!
Maybe it’s because I thought they were too young, or maybe I’m just a lazy, inattentive parent, but I never thought about introducing them to RPGs. Now that I have, I’ve discovered a number of benefits, both as a writer and a parent.
As part of my very welcome writing/work hiatus, I ended up staying at friend’s house in Auckland, New Zealand. I got to meet her new husband, who is into RPGs in a big way. His daughters played using a vast set of miniatures and an old TV laid flat to display dynamic maps. As you can imagine, my own kids were blown away by this set up. And so, one of the souvenirs my kids took back to Canada was a love of roleplaying games. And since we went into self-isolation immediately on arriving home, we had a lot of time to spend together.
Now my kids have positively become addicts, clamouring daily to play “Dungeons & Dragons.” [Geek note: I actually play a simplified/fudged hybrid of Fighting Fantasy, Warhammer, D&D, and Runequest, but it’s just easier to use “Dungeons & Dragons” as shorthand.]
Our sessions have become a chance for the whole family to participate in an activity together. The kids love miniatures so much, we’re able to use buying and painting them as rewards. With a family friend’s son interested, we may set up over Zoom and do a joint session, another way to connect with people while self-isolating. But on top of these benefits, I’m also finding that playing, and especially running, roleplaying games is helping with my writing, while teaching some lessons to the kids.
Learning About Writing
As gamemaster, the process of developing story ideas is similar to writing fiction, except there’s no pressure for the story to be good! I figure that if I have to make up stories anyway, I might as well use gaming as a brainstorming ground. Because of my kids’ fast and loose grasp on continuity, I’ve come up with new ideas that are adaptable to different worlds and different genres. As other writers have noted, RPG campaigns can help with with world building and understanding characters. And going through gaming sessions are also a way to see how smoothly a plot flows and how people react to twists and outcomes.
Much as it might seem otherwise at times, I haven’t been living in a cave. For many people, the rot and corruption pervading the system we’ve always known is out in the open more than ever. I think about what to teach my kids about the world almost daily. That’s taking on more importance than ever. And in a small way, I’ve found roleplaying games to be a unique tool to impart lessons to them. In our campaigns, I’ve worked incentives in to work well in a team, how to treat others and do the right thing. Story twists are neat ways to teach them to think twice about initial appearances. This is an interactive form of children’s stories that are packed with messages.
See, Catholic school teachers from my youth, all that time we were sneaking around at recess, we were learning!