Tabletop Inspiration - DnD and Pathfinder

Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder
Most people involved in creative writing (or any kind of creative task, really) can tell you that inspiration can come from the most unexpected of places. For me, the perfect example comes straight from that banner image at the top of this post. When I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and more specifically
, Pathfinder, half a decade ago I never would have thought that those games would be one of the biggest reasons I was able to finally finish writing my first novel (pending publication...hopefully). But, as I said, inspiration pounces when you least expect it.

For those of you who are not familiar with D&D (where have you been?), it's a tabletop role-playing game designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson back in 1974. In it, one player (the DM, or Dungeon Master) serves as both storyteller and referee, creating and maintaining the setting or scenario in which the game takes place (sometimes called the Campaign). Other players create their own character to form an adventuring party in this setting or scenario in order to fight enemies, find treasure, solve mysteries, all while their character grows and becomes more powerful and formidable.

Wizard's of the Coast's Dungeons & Dragons
Pathfinder is an extension and modification of D&D created by Paizo Publishing in 2009 after Wizards of the Coast, owners of Dungeons & Dragons, decided not to renew their contract with Paizo. Upon Wizard's announcement to release D&D 4th Edition (leaving behind the then current 3.5 Edition), Paizo decided to modify 3.5 into what they called Pathfinder, releasing it under the Open Game License. It has been well received and many prefer it to this day, much like myself. Though, Dungeons & Dragons is still a wonderful gaming and socializing experience.

As you can probably tell from the game descriptions I gave above, both D&D and Pathfinder (or any tabletop role-playing game, for that matter) offer an incredibly creative experience for anyone who decides to play it. In every aspect, your imagination is your only limitation. As a player, you have the ability to create and shape your character in almost any way you see fit. It really only depends on how much work you put into it (and the setting that the Dungeon Master has chosen for the game). I've seen everything from half-orc bounty and monster hunters, to jovial goblin sorceresses; a carefree, go-with-the-flow monk made of stone, to a sarcastic dwarf who could teleport and heal others. And lets not forget the elderly yet spunky and spry monk, or the half-elf summoner who thought his human sized, part ape, part spider, part crab pet named Shelly was beautiful and didn't understand why the guards kept chasing them out of the city.

As a Dungeon Master, you are the teller of the story and creator of the world and the setting in which the game takes place. You are every inhabitant in the world that is not one of the other players, both good and evil, lawful and chaotic. You are also the flow of the game, the series of events that keep things moving, the sudden and surprising turns the situations take in order to keep the game fun and interesting. I've been the player and the DM, but it is in this role that I truly found my creative spark that pushed me forward to creating and ultimately finishing my first novel.

While creating my first campaign, I found myself researching both the rule books and fantasy and storytelling in general for hours at a time, looking for great ideas or anything that could make my setting seem like something people would want to play. As the game started and the other players took to the world I had created, my mind was always swirling with new ideas for new stories and directions to take their characters in. After the campaign had gone on for some time, I began to log what was happening, just something to satiate my creative need that had come alive with a vengeance when I was in this role. Soon, I found that I was actually writing a story, one that I had been wanting to write for some time but just couldn't find the drive or the creative firepower to kick it off. But Pathfinder had done just that.

Today, I try to play as much as I can with my friends. It's a fantastic way for friends to get together, share laughs (make no mistake, it gets completely ridiculous much of the time), and just have fun while being creative in a way that you don't really get to with anything else. But more than that for me, I've discovered that inspiration just comes easier for me when I'm forced to think of new and exciting ways to push my swords and sorcery, high fantasy setting to new heights and new adventures. My time as a DM even shows in my writing sometimes (as one of my friends and editor can tell you), for better or worse.

When it comes to inspiration, some people read, some people work out, some people meditate, and some people unflinchingly stare at their would-be creation until inspiration comes knocking. Me? I play Pathfinder. And it seems to work out quite well.


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