Yes, You Can Turn Your Campaign Into a Novel

Anyone who has ever attended a panel on writing novels has likely heard a frequently asked question: Can I turn my role-playing game into a novel? In the past, Dragonlance was frequently cited as an example of how this was possible, but now we have so many examples that fans frequently don't realize their favorite novel's origin began with a tabletop RPG.

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Dragonlance

Dragonlance was born out of desperation -- Tray and Laura Hickman were so poor they couldn't afford shoes for their children; Margaret Weis had just come off of a bad divorce -- but it was not in fact based off a campaign. Instead, it was a transmedia effort that was seamless enough to feel like the transition between the two was natural, which is an achievement in itself.

Record of Lodoss War

Ryo Miznuno, game master of a D&D campaign, serialized his campaign in a print magazine known as Comptiq. His players, known as Group SNE (Syntax Error), would help launch everything from novels, comics, nine video games, an anime, and even its own tabletop ruleset, Sword World RPG.

Wild Cards

George R. R. Martin, author of the enormously successful Game of Thrones series of books and movies, created his Wild Cards from his experience with the tabletop role-playing game, SuperWorlds:
Wild Cards is a shared universe saga spanning 27 books, more than a dozen short stories, and adaptations ranging from comics, to metafictional web sites, to a brewing television series (currently in development for Hulu). It is a whole thing, and it all started when George R.R. Martin received the RPG Superworld as a gift and began running campaigns for a group of friends in New Mexico. By the time they had a few campaigns under their belts, Martin thought they had collectively created a fantastic story—a fictional world worth exploring alongside readers. Thus was born the first Wild Cards anthology. Set in a universe where an alien virus has struck New York, killing the majority of those exposed, afflicting others with grotesque mutations (they become known as “Jokers”), and transforming the select few remaining into super powered ‛”Aces,” one of the goals of the shared universe’s founding was to reject the non-permanent continuity of comic book superheroes.
Of course, Martin's other works have largely overshadowed that inspiration, but it's clear D&D influences are part of the fabric of Game of Thrones.

The Expanse

Ty Franck created The Expanse from the seeds of an idea for a massive multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG). When that fell through, they converted it to D20 Modern and played it on a post-to-play gaming forum:
He opened up a private forum with threads for each round, for each character, their actions and out-of-character commentary. It was here, online, that a story began to emerge. What had been distant elements of a world were now together in a vibrant setting, alongside a grand story of human societies in competition with one another. Now, all it needed were some characters.
Daniel Abraham would later join Franck as part of his role-playing game:
With their wives as fellow players, Franck set up another game in The Expanse universe. Abraham played as a detective named Miller, living on the dwarf planet Ceres. Miller experienced problems with his police captain, even as a larger political crisis loomed. “What happens when you’re a cop and the government collapses?” is how Abraham put it. The game’s level of detail impressed him, and after three or four sessions, he realized that the setting would make for a great novel.
From there, The Expanse would evolve beyond its novel roots into a television series and then back into a role-playing game by Green Ronin Publishing:
“The Expanse began as a gaming concept nearly two decades ago, and was played as a home brewed RPG for years before becoming a book series,” said Ty Franck. “To have Green Ronin taking the universe of The Expanse back to its roots is very exciting. I’ve loved their game adaptations of other literary works, and I couldn’t be happier to be partnering with them on this project.”
The Circle Continues

Tabletop role-playing games have become so influential that they are shaping the genres that inspired them. In the case of Dungeons & Dragons, it originally sought to emulate the adventures of two-fisted heroes from fantasy and sci-fi before settling into its own trope of fantasy without the medieval or sci-fi trappings. Books based on this sort of hybrid fantasy are beginning to emulate the game genre that inspired them...and some are going so far as incorporating those game elements right into the narrative itself, known as LitRPG. For a recent example, look no further than Ernest Cline's Ready Player One.

As role-playing games become more popular we will likely see more novels, movies, and television shows inspired by them. With the barrier to publishing so low thanks to self-publishing platforms, I'm sure I won't be the only one turning their campaigns into novels.
 
Michael Tresca

Comments

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Sure, but can I turn my novel into an RPG?
Yes. For example The Dresden Files-series by Jim Butcher was turned into a very good rpg. But it was not written by him, but rather published under license. or The Princess Bride as well John Carter were turned into rpg's.

And you have a comic called Pariah Missouri that the creator turned into a rpg (o rather a setting-book, for both FATE and Savage Worlds).
 

Amarik

Villager
As a writer, I can attest that transcribing 99% of campaigns on a 1:1 basis is a terrible idea. There may be great story ideas in there which can be made into a fantastic novel, but there are some things missing from the main characters in most games. Almost all of the time, it's meaningful and believable character arcs.
 
Yes. For example The Dresden Files-series by Jim Butcher was turned into a very good rpg. But it was not written by him, but rather published under license. or The Princess Bride as well John Carter were turned into rpg's.

And you have a comic called Pariah Missouri that the creator turned into a rpg (o rather a setting-book, for both FATE and Savage Worlds).
I guess I should have used a smiley winky emoji thingy.
 

wdkdave

Villager
Perhaps slightly off-topic, but the 'Adventure-Time' TV show was based upon the creators Gamma World campaign.
 

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