Chris Avellone: Pen & paper RPGs invaluable tools for development, writing

Obsidian Entertainment's master storyteller Chris Avellone thinks that more aspiring writers hoping to break into the games industry should play pen & paper role-playing games so they get a feeling for interactive story-telling versus linear story-telling.

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Obsidian Entertainment's master storyteller Chris Avellone thinks that more aspiring writers hoping to break into the games industry should play pen & paper role-playing games so they get a feeling for interactive story-telling versus linear story-telling.

At a writer's workshop at GDC, Avellone said he was a game master long before he got into writing for video games, and even had a module for Dungeons & Dragons published by TSR (which was later purchased by Wizards of the Coast). He explained that being a game master in a pen & paper setting with people sitting around a table "allows you to get immediate feedback as to whether you are actually entertaining them or not." He added that direct feedback like that is invaluable for determining how engaging the world and characters are that they have created.

He also said that pen & paper RPGs helped them quite a bit back in his days at Interplay when they were developing Van Buren, the codename for Fallout 3 that was later cancelled in 2003. "We actually used pen and paper games to test out systems," he said. "We actually built a pen and paper version and brought the developers to the area and built adventures to test out mechanics. That turned out to be a really good experience."

Avellone obviously know what he is talking about having written the stories for plenty of highly successful RPGs, including PlaneScape Torment. He is currently working on Project Eternity (seen above) with Obsidian, and could be brought in to help write parts of InXile's Torment: Tides of Numenera if it meets a Kickstarter stretch goal.

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  • reply
    March 27, 2013 7:15 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Chris Avellone: Pen & paper RPGs invaluable tools for development, writing.

    Obsidian Entertainment's master storyteller Chris Avellone thinks that more aspiring writers hoping to break into the games industry should play pen & paper role-playing games so they get a feeling for interactive story-telling versus linear story-telling.

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 7:29 AM

      "Dear Japanese game developers - try running some games of Dungeons and Dragons before diving into your next RPG.

      Sincerely,
      Chris"

    • reply
      March 27, 2013 7:38 AM

      is there a full transcript or something of his talk at gdc?

      • reply
        March 27, 2013 10:42 AM

        It wasn't a full talk. He was one of four panelists answering questions from the audience on writing for games. He chimed in a few times. I tried to pull the best info.