As a storyteller of any kind, the way you weave your narrative decides whether people keep reading, watching, or listening. The classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons can teach you how to construct strong narrative and how to collaborate with others in a way that’s a whole lot of fun.
In the game, you are a part of a group of adventurers taking on the perils of a fantastical world. There are monsters to fight, locations to explore, and plenty of characters to talk to. Throughout the game you collaborate with the other players to tell a tale, but Ethan Gilsdorf at The New York Times describes one role in particular that can help you develop greater storytelling ability, the Dungeon Master:
The Dungeon Master must create a believable world with a back story, adventures the players might encounter and options for plot twists. That requires skills as varied as a theater director, researcher and psychologist — all traits integral to writing.
Being a Dungeon Master is being in charge of the whole experience, and it’s an experience that evolves and changes over time. As you run a game, you learn what kind of structure is interesting in a story, and what doesn’t react well with the players in real time.
The ability to grip your audience and keep them engaged is beneficial in any storytelling medium. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, explains how it can benefit people living within the realm of nonfiction too:
“Serving as Dungeon Master helped me develop a knack for taking the existing elements laid out by the game and weaving them into a coherent narrative… and yet you were constrained by the rules of the D&D universe, which in journalism translates into being constrained by the available, knowable facts.”
Taking on the role of Dungeon Master is no simple task. It takes a lot of planning, preparation, and time to do your fellow players justice, but the benefits of storytelling are abundant. If you want to build up your ability, grab some friends and dive into a make-believe world of dungeons, dragons, collaboration, and narrative.
Photo by Scott Swigart.