“Dungeons & Dragons and the Art of Taking Risks”

“I was on a phone call with an author of one of those fantasy series I edit, discussing my revision notes for him. His latest book had all the right beats and elements, but what I was missing was the depth of character motivation. The plot seemed to be happening to the characters rather than because of them.

This author, I knew, also played D&D and suddenly it hit me how to explain the issue. “Think about when you’re playing D&D,” I said, “and you have to choose what your character would do based on his character profile.” I told him about James having R’lyeh step on the traps, and how that choice created consequences and emotional engagement for all the players.

If everyone plays it safe, there’s no excitement—in D&D, and in writing.” More from Liesa Mignogna at

Categories: Notes

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1 reply »

  1. Never really thought about this, but most of the characters I ran that became favorites of other players did things like this. There was Dr. Dureya, who shot himself in his paralyzed leg to test a theory that we were in a magically imbued place where one could inflict no violence. “Well, looks like we can still inflict violence on ourselves-my theory was incorrect. Please someone fix this.” The moment where you must do something you know won’t end well because your character would is one of the best/worst feelings in gaming. 🙂


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