W.N.G.N. stands for Writer Nerd Game Night. Once a month I get together with a bunch of other novelists and we have an RPG night. And since I play with a bunch of other writers, obviously they like to write about it. For people who aren’t familiar with the RPGs (and for my readers, I need to specify that is Role Playing Game and not Rocket Propelled Grenade, because it really could go either way around here) that basically means a board game with no board and more imagination.
This tradition began when I joined Dan Wells’ game night. We were at a book signing, and Dan asked me if I’d ever played role playing games. Yep. (I hadn’t for about 10 years, but I did all through college and high school). Next question. Do you like samurai? Well who doesn’t? (okay, in truth I’m addicted to samurai movies and anything involving Toshiro Mifune, so now you know where Toru the Iron Guard came from in Spellbound) So I got invited to Dan’s monthly Legend of the Five Rings game.
So I jumped in on that and had an absolute blast. It had been over a decade since I’d last played an RPG. One thing about fantasy writers, many of us are gamers or former gamers, and ironically enough the character Lorenzo from Dead Six is basically a modernized version of a rogue I played in a D&D campaign in college. Take away the sword and replace it with an M-4, and move him from the Forgotten Realms to The Confederated Gulf Emirate of Zubara and I had myself a character.
Dan put a lot of effort into creating a fun world. In fact I had so much fun playing imaginary magical samurai, that a couple of days later while I was stuck in the Chicago airport for a long layover, I wrote a bit of fiction about the character I was playing.
That kind of started a tradition and soon everybody else in the group was writing fiction about our game too. It quickly grew to novel size. Dan named it the Burning Throne (which worked for the campaign, but two seconds after I posted the first one to the blog you guys pointed out that it made great potty humor, whoops) I started sticking them up on the blog every Friday, mostly because when you are a writer and you are having fun with something, you really want to share it. And besides, since we were playing in somebody else’s world (Legend of the Five Rings belongs to AEG), it wasn’t like any of us were going to publish it. (not that I won’t totally steal that one epic Battle of Pale Oak Castle sequence I wrote to shove it into my own fantasy novel next year).
Then Dan decided to move to Germany for a couple of years (writers can do that sort of thing) so our group broke up. We wrapped up the Burning Throne campaign and I posted all of them here on the blog. There were 46 episodes in total, and I’d encourage you to check them out, because it made for a pretty epic story. Hey, free novel!
Fast forward a bit and I decided to start a new WNGN. This one was going to be held once a month at my place on Yard Moose Mountain. I grabbed a couple of guys from the old group and invited a few other friends who I figured would be into imaginary magical samurai heroics. All but one of them was a professional writer (but he hasn’t let us down on that front, and I’ll get to that).
I volunteered to run this one, so I started putting together a new story which would begin one generation after the Burning Throne ended. I wanted the events of our last campaign to have changed the world. The last one was about the element of fire, this one would be about water.
So we started, and the group turned out great. It is without a doubt the best game group I’ve ever belonged to. When you’ve got a good game group, it isn’t just a GM setting the stage and then some guys rolling dice to see how good they kill stuff, but instead it turns into a sort of cooporative story telling and world building exercise, where everybody is creating something more interesting than what any one of us could come up with by ourselves.
My group is made up of:
Me, Larry Correia, some dude who writes some series of fantasy novels about monsters or magical gangsters, or something.
Steve Diamond, who runs Elitist Book Reviews, who has published several short stories, and who is shopping around his first YA novel. (I’ve read it, and it is awesome). Steve is also my assistant at my Evil Military Industrial Complex day job.
Paul Genesse, author of the Iron Dragon series and editor of the Crimson Pact anthologies, who also happens to have the extremely low stress job of cardiac nurse. “How was work, Paul?” “Eh, I’ve got my hands in some dude’s ribs, I’ll call you back.”
Paul and Steve were in the last WNGN. Paul played Kuni Magatsu and Steve played Ide Todo. I played Hida Makoto.
And the new guys,
Pat Tracy, who has published several short stories, and who is an award winning poet. And when I say poet, I mean, this guy writes poetry that is freaking astounding, and I don’t even normally like poetry. Pat also happens to be one of those World’s Strongest Man kind of guys, who bends big nails with his bare hands and rips phone books in half for fun, and is the only person I know who could actually use my Christmas tetsubo effectively and not injure himself.
Brad Torgersen, probably one of the single most talented sci-fi authors around, Brad’s short stories have been published in everything. In 2012 he was a finalist for the Hugo, the Campbell, and the Nebula award AT THE SAME TIME. He was Analog’s writer of the year. Basically, the dude can freaking write. Brad’s a Chief Warrant Officer in the US Army.
Zach Hill wrote his first few books while serving two tours in Iraq. His first pro publication will be out soon with Uprising Italia, (zombies in Italy!), but regular readers will know him best as the guy behind my favorite history webpage, Minimum Wage Historian. He’s the guy who actually knows how real samurai culture worked, which is why it must pain him when I chuck that right out the window.
Tony Battalingo is the only guy in our group who isn’t a published author, but you can’t tell because he jumped right in on the fiction too, and I’m happy to say he’s gotten pretty darn good at it. Tony is an active duty EOD Tech. (and he’ll hate me for bringing up this totally unrealistic movie, but like the Hurt Locker. In my defense, Tony, most folks don’t know what EOD means, and it is pretty badass).
One Friday a month, these guys show up at my house around six and we end up playing until 2 AM. And we’re all grown ups with jobs!
And the fiction… Holy moly… It has been great. There have been a few which comletely blew me away, seriously as good as anything I’ve ever seen published. I will be posting it every Friday here on the blog again, and this time I will be posting more of the game details along with it, so the readers can have a clue about the things which transpired that don’t show up in any one character’s narration. I’ll also be cross posting to the official L5R forum with all of the nerdy stats and nitty gritty game details which most of the folks reading here won’t care about at all. You guys are probably in it for the story.
So starting tomorrow, and every Friday after that until the campaign is over, I will be posting a bit from the new Writer Nerd Game Night serial, The Drowning Empire.