Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More on Randomization

I have discussed using roleplaying game (RPG) materials and products in your writing before. Again, if you are not a roleplayer, you may not want to spend money on products you are only going to use a few times (if that). It largely depends on your output; if you write more than a handful of stories a year, I believe they are a great addition to your library and will easily recoup the investment.

RPGs have lots of randomized charts and tables for creating NPCs (Non-Player Characters: the characters portrayed by the GM, or Game Master, and not by the players). These tables offer far more than just in-game aspects; many randomly provide profession/occupation, background, skills, talents, and more that you can use without worrying about such stuff as character levels, bonuses, and so forth. The randomization uses dice, so there is another investment; most RPGs use one or more "Dragon Dice" - dice with more than six faces. A complete set costs about $5.00, if that.

Both eBay and Amazon carry RPG books for a fraction of their original cost. Be on the lookout for any books focusing on NPCs or "Character Background." Some truly impressive books offer lengthy, and detailed, background development - the type of stuff that literally writes itself! Unfortunately, many of these books have become cult hits amongst gamers, meaning they cost at least as much as their original cover price (often much more).

My advice for writing is the same as is given for using these charts and tables in the games: do not be lead by the dice! If you roll something that simply does not fit, or takes your character in a different direction than you wanted him to go, ignore it. Reroll it, pick something that works, or make something up. These tables are meant to inspire more than dictate.

On the other hand, if you are simply looking for a little more depth to add a minor character who is largely unimportant to the story, you might choose to include that errant result simply to intrigue. Be careful not to let such characters outstretch their placement or become more important than the story calls for. Still, you want every character to stand-out a little; no one wants stock characters which are going to scream, "THIS IS A DEVICE" to the reader, thus breaking that suspension of disbelief.

Roleplaying games are not written stories, nor are they improvisational acting, but they incorporate elements from these fields. There is no reason these fields cannot take something from them.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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