R. A. Smith On Conflict in Games and Stories

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Back in May, I heard fellow fantasy writer R A Smith talk about conflict in games and stories at Nerd East in Durham. Here are a few notes from that talk – really more of a relaxed chat with the audience – that I found useful:

  • The protagonist is either the lens for the trouble around them or, more often, the person going out and causing the trouble.
  • They never start by just wandering the world, their intentions just a blank sheet – they need to have an objective.
  • When talking about conflict in roleplay games we often start by thinking about fighting, as that’s what the characters are statted for.
  • Jim Butcher writes good blog posts on writing. He recommends focusing on the story question – what’s the book about? what’s driving the main plot?
  • When it happens, fighting should progress the story in some way.
  • How characters behave in a fight shows their personality – for example, do they disregard civilians?
  • Character and anticipation are important. This is why professional wrestling is successful – the draw is the soap opera element that makes fans anticipate each match in advance.
  • The Princess Bride has great storytelling fight scenes – for example the early fight between Wesley and Inigo Montoya, showing their motivations and styles.

If that’s given you a taste for more from R. A. Smith, the first two books in his Grenshall Manor Chronicles are out now, starting with Oblivion Storm. And if you’d like to see what I do with conflict, my collection of short fantasy stories By Sword, Stave or Stylus is still free on the Kindle until the end of today.