Brooklyn Rail // Down Away from the Sun You’ll Burrow: A Conversation with Lawrence Schick

I spoke with Lawrence Schick (aka Lawrence Ellsworth) about working for Gary Gygax in the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, writing one of that game’s most famous adventures, world building, writing for video games, and, now, translating several million words of Dumas.

“My first writing job was working for Gary Gygax on material for Dungeons & Dragons:I revised his work and that of his friends, who got all the plum assignments in the early days, and wrote some stuff of my own. The most important thing you learn working on story games is to approach everything as a collaboration, with the players as your collaborators. I can’t emphasize this enough. You’re not writing a story, you’re creating the background and narrative tools and materials that others will use to tell a story among themselves, a story that doesn’t really exist until they tell it. It’s like writing horn charts for jazz, music that really only exists when the musicians play it, hearing each other and riffing in collaboration. When you write a scenario for a role-playing game, you’re creating a structure that others will extemporize upon to create their personal version of the narrative. So you have to leave room for their contributions, including enough pointers to help them shape the story because they’re not professional storytellers.”