Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Is Writing for D&D the Ultimate in Short Story Writing?

The new campaign I've just started running (the Dreamlands campaign) is taking the form of a hex-crawl. So I have a hex map with loads of dungeons placed on it, and a list of descriptions of interesting things in some (eventually all, I hope!) of the hexes.

As I was writing a hex description last night, it occurred to me that writing for D&D is perhaps the perfect occupation for someone who loves to create sketches of scenes, locations, characters, stories; but who has no desire to flesh them out into a traditional "literature" form as full or short stories. I am such a person.

Thinking about it some more, this principle can be seen in many aspects of D&D writing: hex descriptions, dungeon room descriptions, new monsters, new spells, magic items, etc. All these things (at least in OSR circles) take the form of a sketch, with many details deliberately left vague and intriguing -- to be fleshed out during play, as needed.

Not being versed in any theories of literature, cultural studies or suchlike, these thoughts don't really lead me anywhere in particular. But I found it to be an interesting observation.

Here's the hex description which inspired these thoughts:

Players in the Dreamlands campaign, you might want to stop reading at this point!

Valley of hands -- giant stone hands lying in the forest. At the top of the valley, an ancient stair leads up to a hill where stand the remnants of a stone tower. The tower is completely overgrown, but a magically sealed trapdoor leads down to a cellar. In the cellar is: a large chest full of purple/green rugs & silks (600gp), shelves full of books -- how to animate the stone hands of the valley for one night, plus the spells command construct and inhabit figurine. A fey warlock "Malthus" trapped in a cube of green ice. He is chaotic and treacherous, hates Queen Malithandria. A PC can trade his or her soul with Malthus in return for fey powers.


  1. I'd never thought of it like that, but you may have something there.

  2. I love this. I agree wholeheartedly. I had so many bits of story, character, sketches, unfinished work that they can all find a home in my writing for my campaigns.
    I gave you a mention over at my burgeoning blog - Codex Apocrypha.

  3. I agree. Writing encounters and adventures is a creative outlet. The only problem, at least in my experience, is that it can be a distraction for writers who actually want to author short stories and literature. I've written more short stories and general fiction in the last year, since I stopped running my own D&D campaign. But as always, YMMV.

    Great blog, btw.

    1. Ha yes I guess it works both ways... novelists being distracted by writing D&D material, or DMs being distracted by writing novels ;)

      Glad you like the blog!

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