Welcome Guests to ENGL 543: Game-based fiction - Tales from King's Landing

So what's the story with this whole thing?

This is a course website for a creative writing course taught by me,Trent Hergenrader, at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the spring 2016 semester. The class is based on my research on role-playing games, collaborative world building, and fanfiction. The class has 20 students who meet three times a week, who will be adding to the world of George R.R. Martin's popular Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones series. As a registered guest, you're invited to join in the fun in making people, places, and things that the students can bring into their fiction writing. If there's sufficient interest, guests can write their own fiction and run their own critique groups too, which I will help facilitate as much as possible.

What exactly will I be doing?

Essentially, what the students in course do is build what's called a sourcebook for a role-playing game. It's essentially a catalog of entries for Characters, Locations, and Items that can be used in the game. It has something called a "stat block" that describes the entry objectively/numerically and a descriptive text that is more subjective/narrative. Anything in our class-created sourcebook can be used in students' fictional stories.

What is the end result?

A big, messy, weird world that's fun to explore. Look at last year's site for an example of what ours will likely wind up looking like. This semester marks the sixth course of this kind. In grad school I taught two versions of post-apocalyptic Milwaukee (Rivertown Chronicles and Hellwaukee) and at RIT I've done two iterations of an alternate history Steampunk Rochester (2014 and 2015) in addition to last year's Game of Thrones course.

What kind of time commitment is there?

As much or as little as you want. Each entry type (person, place, thing) has a minimum requirement of information so it can be brought in effectively and easily to the game. They are all based on templates so every entry is consistent.

Generally entries for non-player Character (NPCs) require the most writing (250 words, or about a single double-spaced page in Word) and Items require the least (100 words or less). The most involved entry is creating a Perspective Character (PC) who would be the equivalent of a protagonist in a story. You can upgrade any NPC to a PC by simply adding more details and biographical information. Or, you could take a half an hour and make one Location, just to see if anyone uses it. It's up to you. Check the wiki instructions for specifics.

You can also add your own fiction and even do online critiques with other groups if there's sufficient interest. I can either provide you with prompts (usually a random scenario drawn from catalog entries) or you can write your own plots that may or may not intersect with the stories of the students in the class. The only thing is that this kind of world building gets really big, really fast so it's a lot to manage, and my first priority will be to attend to the students.

I will be posting updates to the guest discussion page so you'll know what's going on in the class. You can drop in and out over the semester as you please, as long as you attempt to keep some sense of continuity. (For example, if students are absent for class, they need to explain why their character mysteriously disappeared for that session.)

What do I need to participate?

You need a Wikispaces account and you need to complete the guest registration form. Having a decent handle on the world of Westeros is also required, but that just means having read the first book or even watched the first season of Game of Thrones on HBO. Check out the course texts page for other resources. The RPG rule books cost $20 each for the PDF version. Neither is required, though if you're thinking of making a noble house or a perspective character, the core rule book might be useful. Hard cover version are also available for around $50.

You should also read the wiki instructions carefully.The site is free and the wiki often has a mind of its own, and I'm not going to be able to provide guests with much, if any, tech support. Still, it's pretty easy once you figure out the basics.

What else should I know?

All writing on this site will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. What this means is that anyone can copy, share, and adapt this work provided they give attribution and don't make any money on it.

The course will deal with adult themes and may feature graphic violence and sexual situations. Participants need to be at least 18 years old.

Why are you doing this?

For a number of reasons. One is that I'm interested in making the work of college classrooms visible to the public, and find ways for people outside of the classroom to interact with students. From a writing perspective, this encourages them to think about who might be reading their work because it will be more than just their professor. Secondly, I'm interested in collaborative writing and world building as a social practice. I have a book proposal out on the topic and I'd like to see how a trial run of a classroom/public project goes. Third, there's a possibility that something like this could turn into a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) in the future. My long-term goal is to get a grant so I can make my own online software and not have to use third-party tools.

What if I have more questions?

Contact me at wthgsl@rit.edu. Just try to figure out technical questions on your own as much as possible, but I'm happy to answer other questions you may have.