G.C. Waldrep wrote to me last week about D&D; a former player himself, he wondered why we didn't turn to writing fiction given the narrative form of role-playing games. Here's how I responded:
The first answer that occurs to me is that the primary pleasure of RPGs is the sense of wonder, spontaneity, and immersion in a world, and I get more of that feeling from the experience of writing poems than fiction, which has all these encumbrances like plot. Writing a poem gets me closer to the originary experience of reading fantasy novelsthe discovery of a dream-landscape where I felt I belongedthan reading such novels does now. Also, there's the sheer fussiness of D&D and its epigoneshit dice, THACO, alignmentsand those constraints are perhaps akin to those we impose on ourselves in poems, the better to free the imagination. And the whole game happens in languageit's distinctly un-visual, except in the sense that radio is a visual mediumso maybe it's natural that my attention would be more captivated by the language's powers of transportFinally, I want to note the good discussions of organic/nonorganic writing going on over at Out of the Woodwork and Cosmopoetica. I'll weigh in when I have the mental luxury of doing so.
rather than any particular story. Also, the collectivity of gaming, which means that no one, not even the DM, has total control over what's going to happen, imitates the processes of the unconscious and surrender of intent that I find intrinsic to the best poetry.
The one thing poetry doesn't do as well as fiction in terms of recreating the D&D experience is probably characters (though tell that to Wordsworth)though writing a poem from the perspective of a persona, explicit or not, serves a similar masking function. And there is the desire for epicness and scale which is hard to accomplish in a primarily lyric environment. Still, your question haunts me a little. I've sometimes thought that if I did return to writing fiction, it would have to be genre
fictiona mystery, probablybecause I'm not sure I possess the kind of insatiable curiosity about people needed to create a worthy realistic novel (one which does some serious cognitive mapping of a segment of our society) and even experimental novels demand many of the same chops. In a mystery there are conventions to play with and a stockpile of images, character-types, and dialogue to play with and try to make sing. Of course my biggest challenge in fiction has always been plot, I'm just terrible at it. Maybe if the language and characterzation were vivid enough, plot wouldn't matter so much. I've generally been more drawn to American hardboiled mysteries (whose plots are always cliched if not downright nonsensical or semi-irrelevant to the downright theological landscape of sin and glimpsed transcendence typical of such books) than the English drawing-room variety.