Do you think a role play can be good for publishing after some editing from the partners? Role Playing is my beloved hobby, but I am not sure what it takes to present it as decent literature.

3 Answers 3


I think it can certainly be done and it's a cool idea. However, as an avid role-player myself I want you to be aware of some (pretty major) pitfalls.

This post turned out to be rather long, so let's start with the summary:

Role-playing campaigns are hard to translate into entertaining stories. If you already have a really good story in your campaign, go for it! It has certainly been done before. But this depends on a lot of stuff (group dynamic, GM skills, player skills, actual campaign content, etc.) and will require A LOT of editing, structuring and rewriting. In the end, the campaign is likely more of an inspiration for your story, rather than the actual story:

Now for the details:

Most RPG campaigns are really only great for the people who've been there. Role-playing can be a very intense experience if done right and with the right people. This intensity rarely translates to paper though since it comes mainly from the social interaction and the spontaneity of being in the moment. Too many times did I have to listen to some passionate account of "And then, there was this time in the dungeon when the elf said [...] and then the dwarf said [...] and then there was this huge monster, you know the one, and we were like wooaaaah! And then Ironfist, our dwarf, came and took his vorpal axe of slaying +4 and rolled three sixes and just chopped its head clean of! Our GM turned pale! We were laughing so hard!" It must have been great from the players viewpoint but the magic sauce was in the social event, not the in-game story. I myself have played many campaigns that I remember fondly but that I wouldn't dream of publishing since the story wasn't really that good, when viewed objectively.

A good story takes interesting and memorable characters, a well measured and intentional plot progression, juicy conflicts and a satisfying resolution. This is very hard to achieve in a role-playing-game since role-playing is very chaotic and spontaneous in nature and most players just aren't good at this stuff. Nor do they need to be! The goal of role-playing is not to create a great story but to create a captivating experience for the people around the table.

There's several things at work here. For one, it's not easy to come up with an interesting character. Most RPG characters are very bland and two-dimensional. They are more like archetypes than actual people and there are good reasons for that. In addition, it's even harder to come up with three to six interesting main characters, who actually work well together, get roughly an equal amount of spotlight and create interesting conflicts between each other and the environment. Once you have those characters it's difficult to play them in a way that would create an interesting story. Many players fall in the trap of playing for maximum in-game gain or play "in-character" too much, ruining the fun for everyone else because "that's what my character would do" or "you can't do [this cool story thing] because it's not true to your character!".

It's also very hard to take care of the story structure while relying on random dice rolls and the inputs of all your players. A climactic end battle might end abruptly with some (un-)lucky roll of the dice. Or some great and interesting encounter might never happen because the players just found a way around it.

For a long time I tried to approach my role-playing like storytelling. It never worked. Once I started to approach role-playing as the spontaneous, chaotic, gamey, improv-thing it really is, it all started to come together.

What I'm getting at here: role playing and storytelling are two very different activities and require two very different skill sets with "fantasy" being the only real overlap. If you happen to be playing with a group of people who are good at storytelling, great! There certainly are groups like that, although in my experience they are extremely rare. If you're in a more ordinary group, it's gonna be a lot of work to turn your campaign into something that somebody who's not been there would want to read.

In a way, your campaign transcript would be more like an inspiration or a first draft. Everything is in there but it's almost unreadable. You then re-write and re-write until it's a good story. But after you're done it might only have a passing resemblance with your actual campaign. This is very similar to the way that straight retellings of actual events rarely make for a good story. These things get "dramatized", events are added, removed or reordered, characters altered, etc. (see just about every historical Mel Gibson movie...) That's probably what you'll have to do with your campaign.

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    Thank you for your detailed answer! I Even though I have discovered the fascinating world of roleplaying only a month ago, I know of its emotional effects and the danger of addiction. My games are one-on-one and I have been lucky with some great partners... so... it all looks like good literature in embryo... It feels like in a conversation it is easier to create tension for the characters, some sort of opposition, which is necessary for conflict. Besides working in a team with another boosts my sense of humor... It's a way to communicate through literature, and it is great, really! Apr 27, 2016 at 11:29
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    It is great! I'm really happy that you're enjoying your new hobby. Working with just one player certainly simplifies things a lot. And talking about ideas is always great. That's why many writers like to have a writing partner with whom they can talk about ideas and progress and stuff. Anyways, if you enjoy role-playing and you enjoy writing, no one is stopping you from just doing it and seeing where you end up. Maybe you want to take it all the way to publishing, maybe it's just for you and your friend(s). As long as you enjoy yourself it's all good! I wish you best of luck and lots of fun!
    – MadMonkey
    Apr 27, 2016 at 12:02
  • If you are into role-playing as well I would love to connect with you. My contact information is in my profile. Apr 29, 2016 at 10:38

Gary Gygax's Gord the Rogue series was allegedly an entire RPG campaign turned into a set of novels (which explains the ridiculous deus ex machina ending).

If role-playing helps you to flesh out a plot and characters, why not? There's no One Right Way to create a story. You'll still have to get it on paper and edit it — which is "what it takes to present it as decent literature" — but how you conceive and structure the story originally is entirely up to you.


It certainly can, MadMonkey's answer is very well detailed. A few of the (very successful - and coincidentally two of my favourite authors) examples off the top of my head are:

Magician Raymond E Feist has said that Midkemia was born out of RPG's, all the main characters started out as PC's in a campaign he was part of. Subsequently, it's spawned it's own RPG's so it's kind of come full circle.

Malazan Book of the Fallen Again, Erikson has said that his world and some of the notable characters are the result of Roleplaying, and shared with Ian C. Esslemont (who's spin-off works I also highly recommend).

It can definitely be done, but, like the above authors, the focus is on the story and not the mechanics. But you can feel the effort that's gone into their worlds - they are some of the richest settings.

This, of course, doesn't mention the numerous 'official' books (i.e the Forgotten Realms, DragonLance novels etc.)

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