Course Descriptions

Catalog description for ENGL 543: Game-based Fiction Workshop

This course is for students who have completed a creative writing workshop and want to explore how games and rules can be used to produce unique and unpredictable narratives. Projects will include individual writing exercises, collaborative writing practice, and critiques of peer writing. Students will examine how different game mechanics produce different kinds of narratives and may be encouraged to develop their own game-based writing projects. Through the reading and discussion of other narrative media, students will learn the affordances and limitations of game-based storytelling systems. May be taken as a part of the creative writing minor; may also be taken as an elective. Course can be repeated for credit if instructor or topic are different. (Prerequisite: One of ENGL 362, 440, 441, Or 442) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)

Description for this Section

In this section of ENGL 543 we will be working within the universe created by George R.R. Martin's in his series of epic fantasy novels, called A Song of Ice and Fire, which is the basis of the wildly popular HBO television series Game of Thrones. We will be using the A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game: A Game of Thrones Edition, created by Green Ronin Publishing, as the basis for the course. We will collaboratively create new districts in the sprawling city of King's Landing, and students will develop their own unique noble houses complete with sigil and words, and individual perspective characters enmeshed in the intrigues of the capital city. See the full course description for more.

Required Texts

This class has two required texts and a boatload of suggested ones. All students must purchase:
  • A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: A Game of Thrones Edition.Kenson, Stephen, and Robert J. Schwalb. Seattle, Wash.: Green Ronin. 2012. Print or PDF.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide: A Game of Thrones Edition : A Setting Sourcebook for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. Chart, David. Seattle, Wash.: Green Ronin, 2012. Print or PDF.

See the Texts page for a list of other useful but optional resources.

Class Schedule

See the class schedule page for a tentative calendar for the semester. There is a good chance the schedule will be adjusted as the semester progresses.

Grading Breakdown and Assignment Descriptions

Revised grading breakdown, 4/11/2016 (removed 5% from house creation [15% to 10%] and PCs [15% to 10%] to add Revisions 10% along with a description of revisions)
Grade %
House creation, locations, NPCs
Perspective Character
King's Landing locations & NPCs
Class Profile Management

  • Students will work in small groups to create a comprehensive history for a noble house of Westeros complete with its holdings, coat of arms, motto and more. The group will receive one grade divided evenly among all members.

  • Each student will create a player/perspective character who will be the protagonist of their fiction. Character creation consists of determining the character's skills and abilities, personality traits, desires, motivations, fears, appearance, and back story.

  • Student will create three locations in King's Landing and plot them on a map within prescribed districts of the city. Each location will contain a description of the exterior, interior, inhabitants, its history, and interesting details that make it noteworthy.

  • Students will create two non-player characters complete with attributes, attitudes, short history, motivations, and plot them in locations in King's Landing.

  • Participation includes regular attendance and contributions to class discussion and group work for the duration of the semester; students will keep an online profile listing the work they have completed on the wiki.

  • Fiction prompts are short writing assignments of about 1000 words intended to be writing exercises, not complete stories. Prompts give students practice establishing scenes, characterization, evoking the five senses, using concrete imagery, and writing dialogue without having to worry about supporting a plot. The emphasis will be on economy of words.

  • Students will respond to the writing of their classmates in prompt critiques, where they describe in detail what parts of the writing exercise worked well and what areas needed work.

  • Students will write three longer pieces of fiction from their perspective character's POV as s/he navigates the intricacies of house politics and the struggles in King's Landing.

  • Students will also provide fiction critiques for their classmates longer works of fiction.

  • Stuents will have the opportunity to do revisions of their vignettes throughout the semester. Revisions entail looking at the vignette in a new light and incorporating points made in critiques, and not merely the fixing of spelling errors, typos, and grammar.

Assignment Policies and Milestones for Progress

I have learned from experience that collaborative writing projects and creative writing workshops can be exceptional learning experiences for students; unfortunately they can also be a complete nightmare for everyone if students don't meet deadlines. Late work is the bane of existence for instructors under normal circumstances, and it can throw off the entire schedule for a course. As such, the policy for this class will be strictly adhered to:
  • House creation, character creation, locations, and NPCs will be graded as-is at the moment of the due date. Any later additions, edits, or improvements will be ignored. If there's nothing posted by the due date, you get no credit for the assignment.
  • Incomplete fiction prompts and fiction stories will receive no credit and no feedback from the instructor or classmates.
  • Late critiques drop in credit by 25% per 24 hours. If you submit yours 2 days late, the most you can get is 50% of the credit. If it's later than four days, don't bother. We've all moved on.

In case of a legitimate emergency, contact me before the due date and I may grant you an extension. If you contact me after the due date, the above rules apply.

There are also three milestones you need to pass, at the end of week 4, 6, and 10. Because this course is based on collaborative writing, failure to complete the work has a negative consequence for the other students and for the class as a whole. If you do not pass the milestone by the given date--in other words, if you do not complete the required work--you will not be able to pass the class.

Anonymous User Names, Notice of Public Writing and Creative Commons Licensing

If you hadn't noticed, this is a wiki site that is open to public viewing.To preserve author anonymity on this public site, you will create a unique username that does not contain your initials, portions of your first or last name, nickname, or any other feature that otherwise allows for easy identification. You will need to disclose your username to the instructor for assessment/grading purposes; you may choose to disclose your username to your classmates, or you may retain (relative) anonymity within the classroom space. I may ask you to choose a new username if I feel you can be easily identified. (My wikispaces username, thergenrader, is an example of what you should not use.)

In the spirit of participatory culture, this site is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommerical 3.0 license, which allows others to share and adapt the material created here. If you wish to retain the copyright for your work, please discuss this with me at the start of class and we can make an accommodation.

Voluntary Participation in Research

This course is an extension of the instructor's research on using games and role-playing to teach creative writing. Near the end of the semester, you will be asked to complete a survey where you can reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of this methodology. This survey is not required as a part of coursework and will not impact your grade, positively or negatively.

Email Policy

You are required to check your RIT-issued email at least every 48 hours during the course of the semester for assignments and course updates. I will return email with 48 hours, usually much quicker, except in rare cases over weekends and holidays. You will be responsible for information emailed to you pertaining to this class.

Policy on Electronic Devices

In this class, you will usually be strongly encouraged to bring a laptop or notebook computer to use on class projects. However, during discussion and critique sessions, you are expected to have your computers off and participating in discussion. Tablets and mobile phones tend not to play nice with the wiki, where you will do most of your writing, so try to bring a computer. The Wallace Library has loaner laptops you can check out for the duration of class.

Class Conduct

Though it should go without saying, you are expected to treat your classmates with respect. This includes thoughtfully listening, cooperating, and collaborating on problem solving. If you ever feel disrespected or threatened by a classmate, you should contact the instructor immediately. I will handle the situation as quickly and discretely as possible.

On a less serious note, if you bring food or drink to class be courteous; don't slurp and chomp or crinkle wrappers, especially when another student or the instructor is speaking. Don't make a mess, be mindful of crumbs and dropped food, and throw your garbage and recyclables away at the door.

Academic Integrity

As an institution of higher learning, RIT expects students to behave honestly and ethically at all times, especially when submitting work for evaluation in conjunction with any course or degree requirement. The Department of [NAME] encourages all students to become familiar with the RIT Honor Code and with RIT's Academic Integrity Policy.

Statement on Reasonable Accommodations

The Statement on Reasonable Accommodations is required in your syllabus according to this memo. The required text is:
RIT is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. If you would like to request accommodations such as special seating or testing modifications due to a disability, please contact the Disability Services Office. It is located in the Student Alumni Union, Room 1150; the Web site is After you receive accommodation approval, it is imperative that you see me during office hours so that we can work out whatever you need.