Dungeons & Dragons brought me back to writing and saved my career.

The New York Times reports that Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz is a former Dungeons & Dragons player.

So too was Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire.

Many more.

The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the “weird fiction” author China Miéville (“The City & the City”); Brent Hartinger (author of “Geography Club,” a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (who still enjoys role-playing games). Others who have been influenced are television and film storytellers and entertainers like Robin Williams, Matt Groening (“The Simpsons”), Dan Harmon (“Community”) and Chris Weitz (“American Pie”).

It’s an impressive but certainly not exhaustive list.

Not exhaustive, for certain, because it does not include me. I am also a former Dungeons & Dragons player.

In fact, D&D brought me back to writing and saved my writing career.

I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons in middle school, when a friend  introduced me to the game. I rolled some dice, created a character, and played The Keep on the Borderlands, an adventure that I can still remember to this day. I fell in love with the game immediately, and before long, I had stopped playing and had graduated to Dungeon Master, the leader of the adventure. The arbiter of the rules, the invisible hand of fate, but most important, the storyteller. I began by using pre-purchased Dungeons & Dragons adventures (called modules) but was soon writing my own adventures for my players.


In many ways, I was writing stories for the first time.

I played D&D throughout much of my childhood, becoming a scholar of the game. When cars, girls, and high school sports injected themselves into my life, Dungeons & Dragons was pushed aside. I briefly played again after high school with friends who were attending college. Then my manuals, modules, and multisided dice were packed away and moved to the basement, never to be seen again.


Or so I thought.

Fast forward about 12 years. It’s 2002. I’ve graduated from Trinity College with a degree in English and creative writing, and for the last five years, I have been trying and failing to write my first novel. Nothing I seem to do works. Nothing I write makes me happy. After many failed attempts, I have given up on my dream. I’ve come to the realization that as much as I want to be an author, even I don’t like the things I write.

I quit. I decide that I will never be an author. 

Then I get a call from my friend, Shep, a former Dungeons & Dragons player in his childhood. He has gathered some of our friends (also former players) and wants to try playing the game again. He asks me to join the group.

At this point in my life, I am single and hoping to find the right girl, and I don’t see Dungeons & Dragons as the path to romance, so I decline.

He calls back a few days later. He tells me that I don’t need to play. “Just write our adventures. Maybe serve as Dungeon Master, if you want, but at least write some adventures for us.”

I suddenly have an audience for my writing. People want to read the words that I write. People are asking to read the words that I write. Something stirs inside me. I say yes.

I write D&D adventures for my friends for more than a year, and yes, I am convinced to occasionally reprise my role as Dungeon Master, too. I write hundreds of pages of Dungeons & Dragons adventures, and as I do, the writer in me awakens. I start to feel good about writing again. I start to wonder if I can still be the writer that I dreamed of being when I was in high school.

It’s an exciting time in my life.

About a year after my return to Dungeons & Dragons, I call Shep. I tell him that I can’t write D&D adventures anymore. I tell him that I need to try writing a novel again. I tell him that I feel that pull toward the page that I have not felt in so long.

He understands. He offers to read whatever I write. Shep becomes my first reader. He remains an early reader and one of the most important readers of my work to this day.

I start writing Something Missing in February of 2005. I finish writing it in June of 2007. It publishes in 2009.


I have made my childhood dream come true. My writing career has been launched. I am an author.

Would I be writing today if it hadn’t been for Dungeons & Dragons? I would like to think that I would’ve eventually returned to the page, but I’m not sure.

Maybe not.

A friend in middle school introduces me to the game.

More than twenty years later another friend brings me back to the game.

I find my chops. I rediscover my love for writing. I start the novel that launches my career.

Take away either one of these friends and I shudder to think about what might have happened to my dream/

Take away Dungeons & Dragons and I wonder if I would be sitting here today, writing these words.

Maybe not.

I worry that George R.R. Martin will die before finishing his Song of Fire and Ice series, and yes, that’s not a nice thing to think.

George R.R. Martin is the author of the popular Song of Fire and Ice series which you may know better as Game of Thrones.


He’s currently writing the sixth of that was originally going to be seven books in the series, though he recently hinted that there may be an eighth.

Martin is 65 years-old. He’s not exactly the picture of health.

It took him six years to write the most recent book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, and it has taken him 15 years to write the five books written so far.

At this pace, he will complete the final two books by the time he is 72 years-old, and if there really is an eighth book planned, he will be close to 80 when he finally wraps the series.

For these reasons, I have decided to wait to read the books, fearing his demise before the series is complete.

This is not an entirely unfounded position. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (which you should all read immediately) was nearly cut short when King was hit by a van and nearly killed in 1999 with three books to go.

When I first heard about the accident, my first thoughts went to The Dark Tower’s Roland and his ka-tet. As saddened as I was to hear about King’s death (it was originally announced that King had died in the accident), I was equally distraught over the idea that Roland’s journey to The Dark Tower would never be realized.  

Perhaps fearful that he may never finish the series if he didn’t work quickly,  King promptly completed the final three books in the series  in 2004 (publishing one in 2003 and two in 2004).

Then he added a book for good measure in 2012.


So yes, I worry about Martin’s ability to complete his masterpiece. He’s not a young man, and he seems to require about five years to finish a book. I was nearly left hanging in the midst of a masterpiece once before. I don’t want that to happen again.

Apparently I am not alone in this sentiment. Others have expressed this concern openly and often. Martin recently addressed the many people who have expressed concerns over his ability to complete the series before his demise:

“I find that question pretty offensive, when people start speculating about my death and my health. So f**k you to those people.”

He added a middle finger for good measure.

I deserve the rebuke. He’s right. It’s not exactly polite to speculate about an author’s longevity. If I were him, I’d be angry, too.

But when you want to stick it to someone like me, there are four words even more satisfying than simple vulgarity:

“I told you so.”

Finish the books, George. Make me look like a fool for ever doubting you.

Every death in A Song of Ice and Fire, displayed in rainbow-like horror

I have yet to begin reading the Game of Thrones series (actually called A Song of Fire and Ice). I’m watching it on HBO, but I’m afraid to begin reading the books. The author, George R.R. Martin, is 65 years old and has written five novels in the series since 1996, with six years elapsing between the last two books. He has two more books to write in order to complete the series, reportedly more than 1,000 pages each, and I refuse to start reading until they are finished.

We nearly lost Stephen King in a car accident before he was able to finish the Dark Tower series (an event that ultimately plays a role in one of the final novels in that series). I can’t imagine how I would’ve felt, never knowing the fate of Roland and his ka-tet. It would’ve been devastating.

Similarly, I can’t afford to invest that much time and energy in series of novels of this size without a guarantee of them ever being finished.

I realize that 65 isn’t as old as it once was, but the guy took six years to write the last book. There’s no telling how long these last two books will take.

I look forward to the day that Martin pens his final novel and I can begin reading. Until then, HBO is doing a fine job.

I wish I could credit the person who took the time to do this, but this photograph was sent to me without credit. It’s a stack of the five books currently written in the Song of Ice and Fire series, with a post-it note marking the death of every character.

The HBO series has already taught me not to get too attached to any character, but this seems a little excessive.