Time to bring back the prose?




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  1. #1
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    Time to bring back the prose?

    This is coming from my new AD&D kick. I'm loving the Gygaxian prose in the rulebooks and the adventures. I'm wondering if maybe part of the problem with the "sense of wonder" in 4E stems from the clinical, obviously rules-lawyer writing style. HOWEVER... as a trade off, the language is more precise, and there is far less head-scratching over what the text means. It's like a lawyer wrote it (for good or for ill).

    So what would you prefer?
    1) A more flowery, open-to interpretation writing style, even if it means more vagueness, less precision, and possibly contradictions.
    2) A continuation of concise, concrete language using defined terms and keywords.

    I'd definitely choose (1). I think 4E would not have rubbed as many people the wrong way if it didn't read somewhat like a frog dissection. Using prose to express the game rules instead of legalese using Official Terms would have removed a lot of the blatantly gamist feel (I didn't have a problem with that, but most people in my group did).

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    Nope.

    Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation, and all that. Clear language takes pressure off DMs by reducing the need for judgment calls. It in no way handcuffs the DM, however. We should all know that by now, but it's a good idea to make sure that's clear in 5e.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CM View Post
    Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation, and all that.
    People writing anything for mass consumption - than that includes game material - should be familiar with Stunk and White. Omit needless words. Write clearly. Get to the point. Write in an active tense.

    And if possible, write on a 10th grade level, not on a 7th grade level.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertSullivan View Post
    People writing anything for mass consumption - than that includes game material - should be familiar with Stunk and White. Omit needless words. Write clearly. Get to the point. Write in an active tense.

    And if possible, write on a 10th grade level, not on a 7th grade level.
    Personally, I think some people take this too far (I also think Stunk and White isn't always the best...I rarely refer to it myself these days). There are plenty of reasons to write in the passive voice (especially for game books and modules).

    Removing needless words is great but many people take that to mean be concise all the time. And sometimes you need space and room to talk about a concept engagingly.

    Also something I see a lot of gamers miss: Stunk and White is a style guide, not a grammar guide. Different disciplines employ different styles of writing. I think gaming books can handle a range of writing styles, and opting for the passive voice isn't grammatically incorrect. It is very much a judgement call determined by the needs of the material, the audience and the writer's preferences.
    http://www.rpgnow.com/product/131611/Sertorius

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    Personally, I think some people take this too far (I also think Stunk and White isn't always the best...I rarely refer to it myself these days). There are plenty of reasons to write in the passive voice (especially for game books and modules).

    Removing needless words is great but many people take that to mean be concise all the time. And sometimes you need space and room to talk about a concept engagingly.

    Also something I see a lot of gamers miss: Stunk and White is a style guide, not a grammar guide. Different disciplines employ different styles of writing. I think gaming books can handle a range of writing styles, and opting for the passive voice isn't grammatically incorrect. It is very much a judgement call determined by the needs of the material, the audience and the writer's preferences.
    First, it's Strunk, not Stunk.

    Second, "Elements of Style" is a guide, not a set of absolute rules. Sometimes the passive voice is appropriate. Sometimes a bit of verbosity is in order. But I have yet to see the RPG book that erred on the side of brevity--not even 4E. The 4E rulebooks may not have had much prose, but the prose they did contain was just as overblown as stuff from earlier editions. Take the flavor text from 4E Sleep:

    "You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical weariness."

    It's just one sentence, and it still manages to be twice as long as it needs to be. Compare:

    "Your foes become drowsy and sink into magical sleep."

    Half as long and just as flavorful. Every RPG book I've ever read would benefit from the ruthless application of Strunk and White. Worrying about applying S&W too ruthlessly is like worrying about obesity when you're distributing food to famine victims. Yes, it could in theory become a problem. No, it should not be high on your list of concerns.

    There is no fluff. There is no crunch. There are only rules of varying precision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    First, it's Strunk, not Stunk.

    Second, "Elements of Style" is a guide, not a set of absolute rules. Sometimes the passive voice is appropriate. Sometimes a bit of verbosity is in order. But I have yet to see the RPG book that erred on the side of brevity--not even 4E. The 4E rulebooks may not have had much prose, but the prose they did contain was just as overblown as stuff from earlier editions. Take the flavor text from 4E Sleep:

    "You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical weariness."

    It's just one sentence, and it still manages to be twice as long as it needs to be. Compare:

    "Your foes become drowsy and sink into magical sleep."

    Half as long and just as flavorful. Every RPG book I've ever read would benefit from the ruthless application of Strunk and White. Worrying about applying S&W too ruthlessly is like worrying about obesity when you're distributing food to famine victims. Yes, it could in theory become a problem. No, it should not be high on your list of concerns.
    I am going to have to disagree with your revision of the 4e flavor text. Personally not a fan of 4e's lack of prose, but the sentence you critique is actually pretty evocative. And you cut out one of the most important details (the caster exerting his will on the target). I just don't think a whole lot is gained by your alteration. And this is exactly why I think people going to Strunk and White all the time isn't always a good idea. I like my prose to breath a bit.
    http://www.rpgnow.com/product/131611/Sertorius

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post

    "You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical weariness."

    It's just one sentence, and it still manages to be twice as long as it needs to be. Compare:

    "Your foes become drowsy and sink into magical sleep."

    Half as long and just as flavorful. Every RPG book I've ever read would benefit from the ruthless application of Strunk and White. Worrying about applying S&W too ruthlessly is like worrying about obesity when you're distributing food to famine victims. Yes, it could in theory become a problem. No, it should not be high on your list of concerns.
    If i was going to alter this to make the flow smoother (and not sure it really needs it) I might go with:

    "You exert your will against foes, overwhelming them with a tide of magical weariness."

    In my mind the double use of your is a touch redundant but the whole tide of magical weariness is so evocative that it needs to stay. Arguably it is a mistake for me to remove "seeking" because the result isn't a foregone conclusion, and shifting from "seeking to overwhelm" to "overwhelming" is misleading. Another reason to be cautious when pruning. Again, less isn't always more.
    http://www.rpgnow.com/product/131611/Sertorius

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    I have yet to see the RPG book that erred on the side of brevity--not even 4E. The 4E rulebooks may not have had much prose, but the prose they did contain was just as overblown as stuff from earlier editions. Take the flavor text from 4E Sleep:

    "You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical weariness."

    It's just one sentence, and it still manages to be twice as long as it needs to be. Compare:

    "Your foes become drowsy and sink into magical sleep."

    Half as long and just as flavorful. Every RPG book I've ever read would benefit from the ruthless application of Strunk and White.
    Yes. (Although here the standard is Fowler's Modern English Usage.)

    I think I made this same point on one of the other threads, with reference to an overwrought description of Apocalypse Spells.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    First, it's Strunk, not Stunk.

    "You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical weariness."

    "Your foes become drowsy and sink into magical sleep."
    Both of these are poor writing! They are compound sentences, and compound sentences are problematic: Compound sentences blur without a strong connection between their parts.

    The second sentence is not a restatement of the first! In the first sentence, "You" are clearly putting your foes to sleep. In the second sentence, the foes simply fall asleep.

    Both sentences are overblown. However, a very concise rewrite, "You will your foes to sleep," is too short. The dynamic struggle of will against will, the stronger will gradually overpowering the weaker, is lost.

    What any edition of D&D needs is good writing, wherever it appears.

    TomB

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    Precise concrete language all the way. I don't need to buy a "sense of wonder". I can provide my own. What I can't (easily) provide on my own is high-quality game mechanics. I have no interest in buying something that fails to precisely and concisely describe the game mechanics.

    Now, the tone could be less clinical, and still be precise and non-contradictory, but the more goals placed on a piece of writing, the more likely it'll come up short on them.

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