It isn’t exactly a secret that I’m a gamer geek. And I do mean geek: while I do play some suitably mainstream video games (oh, Dragon Age, how I love you), my gaming poisons of choice are tabletop/pen-and-paper and live action. I’m currently in one Pathfinder game and one Legend of the Five Rings, plus a old World of Darkness Mage LARP. I might even try out a boffer LARP for the first time! It doesn’t get much nerdier than running around a forest in a costume, whacking people with PVC and foam.
The funny thing is, I’ve managed to profit in some unexpected ways from what by all rights ought to just be a hobby.
It started with graduate school, when the anthropology department at Indiana University gave me a fellowship to study science fiction and fantasy fandom. A year or so into my time there, I gravitated toward focusing on role-playing games: I was also in the folklore department, and RPGs made a great way to combine those fields, looking at both the social aspects of gamer communities and the improvisational storytelling of the medium. Which is the narrow end of a jargon wedge I won’t inflict on you — but holy crap, it was actually my job to write papers on RPGs and present them in class and at academic conferences. How cool was that?
I ended up leaving grad school . . . but not gaming. In fact, one of the reasons I left was because my writing career had gotten rolling, and I started publishing a series of historical fantasy novels — the Onyx Court. As some of you may know (because I talked about it a lot when Midnight Never Come came out), that series is, yes, loosely based on an RPG I ran. It was a Changeling: The Dreaming campaign, with the player-characters mentally flashing back to their previous lives; the first Onyx Court book was inspired by one of the historical segments in that game. (There are more distant connections to the campaign in some of the later books as well, particularly In Ashes Lie and A Star Shall Fall.)
More recently, my interest in L5R has led me to start writing for that game line. I have an AU chapter in the upcoming supplement Imperial Histories 2, plus smaller bits in The Book of Fire and a book later this year whose title has not, I think, been finalized yet. I could pretend I’m doing it for the money, but I think the truth is that it lets me get a sneak peek at books before their release! No mechanics, though, so we can’t use them in our own game until the supplements are actually published.
Really, what it boils down to is that I love RPGs as a narrative form. The stories they tell are rarely as polished as what you get in a novel or a movie, because they’re being created on the fly, with no revision. But they’re social — which writing most decidedly is not — and the moments when everything just pulls together are amazing. So even though making up stories is what I do for my job, it’s also my favorite hobby.
About Marie Brennan
Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at SwanTower.com.
Tune-in tomorrow (February 8, 2013) to the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show on The Look 24/7 at 7 pm PT/ 10 pm ET to listen to Marie talk about A Natural History of Dragons and more.