Every creative person has had a great idea–an epiphany so profound it casts his or her life into a new direction. Unfortunately, for many of us, that epiphany occurs as a result of a decision that was, perhaps, in hindsight, not such a great notion after all. Today’s guest shares his great notion. Nathan Lowell Presents…
A few years before my Creative Writing professor lectured how self-publishing would be the end of my career, I came up with what I thought was the most brilliant idea: running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign based on my novel-in-progress. It’d take place far in the past, and through them, I could try out different ideas, see how these events might take place before later incorporating them into the book. Surely no one had ever thought of that before!
In hindsight, relying on these guys for inspiration wasn’t the best of plans.
So I created a campaign I thought would be crazy epic. The whole thing revolved around a war between two deities, Karak and Ashhur, and I’d let them choose which side they’d join. They started in a tiny little town, and in came armies of the two deities, one to claim the land, the other to protect their independence (and then claim the land). Gathered together, they witnessed an awesome spectacle of warring gods. I was riding high. When the dust settled, they had a choice: go with Karak, or join Ashhur.
There was just one slight problem. My friends are assholes.
“What’s up there?” my brother asked, tapping the map. It was an empty wilderness, not yet settled in that early timeframe.
“Nothing,” I said, completely oblivious. “Why?”
“Because that’s where we’re going. We’re going to rebuild our town.”
Insert weeks of planning here.
Trying not to panic, I laughed it off. But they were serious. Fine, I say, but do you have the food? Supplies? Way to cross the river? I thought I’d bury them with the nitty gritty, and they’d give up and decide, you know, maybe we want to slaughter armies and defeat gods instead. But no, they hand me lists of paper detailing how many wagons they have, cattle, poultry, feed, amount of both men and women survivors from the village, how many active hunters they had, their estimations until they ran out of water, etc. I wanted them to experience the Silmarillian. With Ashhur, they would have seen the wolves and hyenas stand on two legs, granted intelligence, and sent to tear them to pieces. At Karak’s side, they’d have laid siege to Mordeina, and after three days of assailing the walls, witnessed Ashhur raise the dead to life to repel their attack. Instead, we’re playing Oregon Trail: Fantasy Edition.
I can save this, I thought. Maybe I could have them name a few creatures and landmarks. They were going into an area I’d developed very little information for. Yes, this could work. They’d flesh out an area I’d left vague. The first naming opportunity was the main pass entering into the area between these two rivers. It was a gap in the hills, forming a natural path. What did they name it?
Sorta ruins the epic.
In between sobbing and Mountain Dew filled fits of rage, I kept hope. This was their idea, their plan, and they’d take it seriously once they got the jokes out of their system. But understandably pissed, I had one of the deities try to wipe out this little upstart town. Stumbling upon a massive pack of hyenas, they watched as a god infused them with demonic power. They stood on their back legs, grew longer arms, and glance about with heightened intelligence. In short, they looked like this:
That’s a gnoll from World of Warcraft. It’s important you know this. Why? Because after a brief skirmish with these hyena-men, my friends were presented with the opportunity to name them. I planned to use this name when they made an appearance in a later book of my Half-Orc series, figuring it’d be a much more natural name than anything I came up with. So they thought. And discuss. And then one of my friends looks at me, and he’s got that look in his eye, a look that says he knows he’s an inch away from getting bags of dice thrown at his forehead.
“So we saw this all happen from a hill, right?”
Already I’m terrified.
“Was it grassy?”
I’m baffled. Totally baffled.
“So it was a grassy knoll we first saw them from? Awesome. Let’s call them knolls.”
The campaign died a merciful death not long after.
David Dalglish writes epic fantasy and still plays games. You can learn more about David from his blog and find his books wherever fine POD and ebooks are sold. This prolific author already has three series and some standalone novels out. His newest series, The Paladins, will debut on Podiobooks.com later this year with book one–Night of Wolves.