RPGs: A Modern Cure for Writer’s Block

I can remember the first time that I ever experienced an RPG (Role Playing Game) or an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). Granted, I had heard about them; my mother made me watch “Mazes and Monsters,” the story of a boy who loses himself in the game and ends up killing his friends. My father told me of how role-playing games were the devil’s work and should be avoided (much like evil items such as ouija boards and tarot cards). The general consensus in my family was that RPGs were evil and corruptive things and I, imaginative child that I was, should be kept far from such temptation.

Needless to say, I was a late bloomer. At the age of 18, I finally got my first taste of role-playing; visiting a friend’s house and sitting at the kitchen table, playing Dungeons and Dragons. I stumbled over the rules and puzzled over the dice, hopelessly lost. I’m sure my friends thought me mentally challenged each time I asked, “Wait… what does ‘this’ mean again?” but, after several hours worth of skimming books and debating whether or not I wanted to spend my non-existent gold on non-existent rope… I finally had my first character.

I remember being so excited as I reported back to my mother, telling her that it was nothing like that movie that we’d watched. No one lofted a sword, lost their mind, or perished while sitting at that kitchen table. In fact, the only time anyone left a chair was for a bathroom run or to get more cheese puffs. I was almost breathless, as I told her how much fun that I’d had. “It’s like acting or.. or telling a story. You sit there and tell the GM (I was privy to the lingo now) what your character is doing and then roll dice, to see whether or not you accomplish it.”

And so I entered the realm of the RPG.

Sadly, I broke up with said boyfriend shortly after my first gaming session and it would be several years before I would find the opportunity to role-play again. Now a mother of two, my ability to sit at a table and concentrate on a game was severely hampered. Just to get out the door required a plethora of bottles, diapers, baby wipes, bibs, clothing and car seats. It was too much work to go through, just to go play… or so it seemed. Then I was introduced to cyber-space.


Stumbling into an RPG chat channel on mIRC, I was soon pulled into a web of intrigue and politics, known as Vampire: the Masquerade (White Wolf Publishing). Here, we could create mysterious blood-sucking creatures of the night, typing out every little gesture, look and action. Imagine being in a chat with 20 other people and creating a macabre story, interwoven with different perspectives and styles; it was enthralling and invigorating. We fought werewolves and vampire hunters, mages and wraiths…all from the comfort of our little computer desks (and complete with cheese puffs). Oh the tragedy, seeing your poor mortal character dragged into the darkness, embraced by a fiendish creature that struggled to retain its humanity. It was incredible!

I would stay with the game, playing in various chat channels, and eventually hosting my own chronicles, for the next 9 years. It seems like such a long time, now, but it seemed to speed by so quickly, back then. I played through two separate rehashings of systems, each time buying the new books and absorbing the information, therein, as if it were gospel. Role-playing games saw me through an abusive marriage and introduced me to many wonderful people throughout the years, many of whom I remain friends with, to this very day. While people, my age, were out partying and going to bars, I was as content as a clam in cyberspace, playing make-believe.

The pbem (play by email) game offered me some comfort, once the interest in chat games began to slip. Here, I was introduced to a new style of gaming, where the players wrote long and highly descriptive posts about what their characters looked like and their various actions. While it was slower than the instant gratification of the chat room, I found that this method appealed to the writer in me, allowing me to write long and descriptive chapters with wonderfully talented authors. College students, parents, young and old; there were all types playing in these games and I thrived in this environment. It was not unlike sitting down and writing a story with dozens of other people; a story where you didn’t know the ending, where you were never truly sure of the plot or who the antagonists were. It proved a most enjoyable challenge.

While time constraints and responsibilities prevent me from keeping up with the fast-paced chat games, I still role-play, via pbem, to this day. Macabre tales of wickedness, realism rpgs, fan-fiction, sci-fi; no matter genre appeals to you, there is some sort of game out there that will cater to your needs. A quick scan, using any of the popular search engines, is sure to find you a game to spark your interest. Vampire: the Masquerade or Werewolf: the Apocalypse appeal to the horror fans, while a plethora of Star Trek adventures are available for those who love science fiction. Games based on television shows, ranging from Survivor to E.R. can easily be joined and, of course, there are any number of Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons games for those who have a love of elves.

Many people scoff about ‘gamer nerds’ or will say that RPGs are for kids, but nothing can be further from the truth. Not only have I found role-playing to help me hone my typing and writing skills, but my imagination never runs dry. Whenever I feel a dose of writer’s block coming on, I take a break and go visit my various games. It’s a sure way to get those creative juices flowing again.

Don’t be afraid… It’s only a game.

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