Ash Mistry and The Savage Fortress

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Sarwat Chaddas Blog

How I became a writer Part One

It took me a long time to become a writer. Say about 25 years. Firstly, in my defence and not because I ws just being lazy, I didn't know that I wanted to become one for most of that 25 years. But, even though I didn;t know it at the time, my training in storytelling began in the summer of 1981 when I played my first game of Dungeons and Dragons.

For those of you unfamiliar with roleplaying games the premise is simple. You take a group of friends. One is the Dungeon Master (or Games Master or Storyteller). He or she creates an adventure. This could be clearing out the goblin caves, or defeating the ancient vampire lord or freeing a village from a bunch of Mexican bandits. The DM details the opponents, any traps or surprises, then narrates the opening scene. Tradition dictates a stranger walking into a local tavern, wanting to recruit adventurers to sort out said goblins/vampire lord/bandits.

The other players have created a persona of the setting. For the traditional fantasy world we have the archetypal fighter, wizard, cleric and thief. These are known as classes. They could be human, elf, dwarf or hobbits. The players decide who they want to play and each class and race has its strengths and weaknesses. They then go off on the adventure, guided by the DM who explains who and what they encounter ('You come to a bridge guarded by a troll who demands your hobbit for food') and the player-characters rise to the challenge appropriately, either through negotiation or, more usually, through violence expressed by spells and swords. And so on, the challenges becoming more complex as the adventure heads towards the climax and the face off with the Big Bad.

I tell you, there was no greater thrill than facing down the evil vampire after having defeated his minions. I used to play fighter types so was always up front, injured, armour battered, but still defiant. What was best was you controlled the hero, decided his actions and suffered his fate, good or ill. You rolled dice to determine the success (or not) of you action, whether it was to swing your magic sword at the horde of werewolves or shoot an aroow or climb a wall or pick a lock, avoiding the poisoned needle hidden within. The games could last for years with characters going from eager young amateurs heading off to fight a bunch of orcs to legendary heroes facing down the mightiest of dragons and demon lords. You knew you'd arrived when you came up against a demonlord.

You name a genre, there was a game for it. Fantasy, espionage, wild west, steampunk, science fiction, cartoon, horror, the list was endless. One particular game, Vampire the Masquerade allowed you to take out the role of vampires (or kindred as they were called in the World of Darkness) and frankly, it's probably responsible for the entire vampire paranorm YA genre. I will happily admit my first two books, Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess, were based on my early games of Vampire tM! I think that's why I write the genre I write.

Now, how does this relate to writing? Simple. Someone needs to write the adventure. Someone needs to build the setting, create the ambience, detail the motivations and abilities of the villain and the other inhabitants of the world. These are all basic skills in writing stories, don't you think?

I reckon I became a writer, in the end, because I couldn't earn money as a profesional roleplayer. Back in the 1980's, Roleplaying Games were king, but now they've been superseded by computer rpgs, which I think is a shame. They're still out there but I reckon (could be totally wrong, I hope I am) it's supported by a hardcore who played back in the day before the internet and World of Warcraft. 

After a long gap I'm back playing the games that I love (nay, ADORE!). I've met other writers who all started off as roleplayers and I think, especailly in teh fantasy genre, the vast majority probably played Dungeons and Dragons at some point early in their careers.

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