From Role-Player to Writer – First Place Winner in the Midwestern Region Blog Contest

By: Max Keil

 “You’re a writer? When’s your novel coming out?”

“Never. I don’t write creatively.”

“Why not?”

“I prefer efficient language. I don’t waste time with flowery descriptions.”


Those have been the reasons I give for avoiding creative writing, but to be honest I avoid it because I’ve never been any good at it. That changed a few years ago when I was looking for a new hobby and decided to organize a role-playing game for some friends.

“What are role-playing games?”

The rabbit hole runs deep, my friend, but for this blog post all you need to know is they’re basically Dungeons & Dragons. Most require a small group of players and a single game master. Each player invents a character they want to control, and the game master describes the fictional world they reside in as well as the results of the players’ actions. At its best, these games play out like an evening of collective storytelling not unlike long-form improvisational theater. My first attempt sounded a lot like this:

“You enter a cave.”

“What do we see?”

“Well it’s a cave… so basically darkness.”



Not the best, but that’s why I wasn’t writing fiction. What’s great is that I got better! Everyone puts a lot of work into the game, so most groups want to play for several hours. As game master, each role-playing session was essentially a four-hour exercise for me in describing a world that didn’t exist. Players, like readers, are an inquisitive bunch. They ask questions and expect to be told every minute detail. Game masters don’t get away with simply describing the ballroom of a manor, they have to describe every picturesque carving on the frame of every family portrait, and provide the historical context of made-up iconography and bloodlines. For me it was exceptionally trying. I was sure I had done a horrible job, but when my first session ended all the players wanted to know was:

“When are we playing next?”

I love how the hobbies we writers pick up can influence, improve, and expand our writing. I was only looking for a fun distraction, but in role-playing games I found an entryway into the world of creative writing. Now I spend evenings inventing all sorts of backgrounds for fictional characters and worlds, and while I still don’t have a novel coming out, I can confidently tell people:

“I am a creative writer.”