Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour? - Page 114
  1. #1131
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
    Okay. But the point has been that "evocative language" is not required to convey game information to players. Hussar's original question was how it could be done, and I provided an answer. Then it was raised that it would break immersion if it was done in this manner completely, which definitely shifts the goal posts of the conversation.
    Soooo, the ebb and flow of conversation isn't "moving the goalposts."

    "Equivocation" does not mean whatever you think that it means here, nor have I avoided answering anything, nor would any (potential) equivocation by me erase your equivocation with the term "literary" that transpired in this thread.
    I haven't, either, but that doesn't prevent you and others here of falsely accusing me of equivocation.

    And one post later,...
    ...your equivocation rears its head again. Ironic.
    Aaaaaand, not. I also have not used ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing. Keep up the talking point, though. If you use it enough, you might just get someone to believe your false accusations.

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    Somewhat contra @Lanefan, it often doesn't matter at all if the players think different things about the fiction.

    Last Sunday I GMed a session of Prince Valiant. One of the PCs is a bard/entertainer who wears "colourful clothes". What colour(s) are they? We've never specified. If I think about it I guess I think red, orange, yellow, maybe blue also. What does the player of that character have in mind? Or any of the other players?

    Another PC has a jewelled sword that grants a bonus in certain social situations. What sorts of jewels? Colour? Size? Monetary value? Again, it's never come up. What colour are the horses? Ditto.

    When the PCs boarded a ship to France, how long was it? How broad of beam? When it foundered on a rock shelf, and I described the water between the ship and the beach as "shallow", how shallow? As per the scenario I was using, I called for Difficulty 3 Brawn tests to get to shore unharmed. The rules describe that as a Normal difficulty, sitting between Easy and Difficult, but in this particular context it was fairly hard - Brawn 4 is above average (perhaps comparable to a 13 STR and/or CON in D&D), and the chance of getting 3+ successes on 4 coin tosses is 5/16, so we coud compare Difficulty 3 to DC 16.

    Was that difficulty due primarily to the depth of the water, the wildness of the storm, the dark of the night, the slippery and harsh nature of the rocks, or - more likely - all of them in combination? The rules don't require us to specify, and different players may have been envisaging the ficiton differently in the details though no doubt the broad brushstrokes were pretty similar (eg water mostly less than head height, but big waves breaking, and hence a real danger of being dashed on the rocks).

    I'm reminded of this discussion of GMing techniques from the Maelstrom Storytelling rulebook, under the heading "Literal vs Conceptual"; I first learned about this RPG from Ron Edwards's essays before picking up a copy second-hand, and while I've never played it it's certainly influenced my approach to GMing and narration:

    A good way to run the Hubris Engine is to use "scene ideas" to convey the scene, instead of literalisms. . . . focus on the intent behind the scene and not on how big or how far things might be. If the difficulty of the task at hand (such as jumping across a chasm in a cave) is explained in terms of difficulty, it doesn't matter how far across the actual chasm spans. In a movie, for instance, the camera zooms or pans to emphasize the danger or emotional reaction to the scene, and in so doing it manipulates the real distance of a chasm to suit the mood or "feel" of the moment. It is then no longer about how far across the character has to jump, but how hard the feat is for the character. . . . If the players enjoy the challenge of figuring out how high and far someone can jump, they should be allowed the pleasure of doing so - as long as it doesn't interfere with the narrative flow and enjoyment of the game.

    The scene should be presented therefore in terms relative to the character's abilities . . . Players who want to climb onto your coffee table and jump across your living room to prove that their character could jump over the chasm have probably missed the whole point of the story.

    Commenting on this, Ron Edwards says that "I can think of no better text to explain the vast difference between playing the games RuneQuest and HeroQuest." Which is to say, there are some systems which make enginnering or cartographical precision central to resolution, but there are others that don't. Certainly establishing a call to action doesn't depend upon any general uniformity or specificity of imagination. I think it does require estagblishing the situation by reference to the resolution mechanics - the plaeyrs can't answer the call if they don't know, in general terms, how their characters might fare.

    Which goes back to @Aldarc's point some way upthread: RPGs have ways of establishing the emotinal "heft" of situations that are quite different from the sort of evocative composition or performances that other creative endeavours rely upon In my 4e game, for instance, if the players are committed to confronting Orcus, and I - as I did, following a successful knowledge check by the Sage of Ages - tell them his stats, then the players respond with the apposite awe, fear, etc. I don't need to evoke, by deft narration, a sense of how terrible Orcus is. The stats do that work.

    Of course different systems open up and close down different sorts of possibiities in this respect. For instance, in MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic it is the state of the Doom Pool, as much as the stats of any individual antagonist, that conveys the significance of the present situation. And in Dungeon World or Apocalypse World antagonists don't quite have "stats" in the way they do in D&D or Cortex+, and so system conveys heft in different ways, sch as the plauers' perceptions of possible interactions between the moves they want to make with their PCs and the current state of the fiction that might feed into GM moves if those player-side moves fail.

    This is also one reason why, in RPGing, system matters.
    Last edited by pemerton; Friday, 7th June, 2019 at 04:34 PM. Reason: copy/paste issue

  3. #1133
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    Contra @Lanefan, it often doesn't matter at all if the players think different things about the fiction.Last Sunday I GMed a session of Prince Valiant. One of the PCs is a bard/entertainer who wears "colourful clothes". What colour(s) are they? We've never specified. If I think about it I guess I think red, orange, yellow, maybe blue also. What does the player of that character have in mind? Or any of the other players?Another PC has a jewelled sword that grants a bonus in certain social situations. What sorts of jewels? Colour? Size? Monetary value? Again, it's never come up. What colour are the horses? Ditto.
    And very often it does matter. There was a time when playing 2e theater of the mind that we had a combat on a bridge. The DM described the scene and our positions. I thought I was farther away from the creatures than I was, and they were engaged with some party members. I started to cast a long spell, figuring that at the distance I was at I was okay. The DM had a different picture in mind and I got attacked and my spell was disrupted. Another time the DM described a field covered in large rocks. I pictured rocks large enough to hide behind if crouched over and told the DM that I crouch low and begin moving across the field. He pictured rocks that were about a foot or so high and told me that I was spotted by the enemy on the other side.So yes it often doesn't matter, but then again it often does. The thing is, those times where it doesn't matter.......don't matter. It's the times when it does matter that need to be minimized, so game play should aim for that goal.
    Last edited by Maxperson; Friday, 7th June, 2019 at 04:50 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sadras View Post
    My only engagement in this thread has been about the the use of wordplay for the immersive experience as well as the backstory I might create for a campaign which I might view the latter as an literary endeavour.
    I am not inclined to view the latter as a literary endeavor.

    I'm not entirely convinced of this but I'm not opposed to this either, mostly because, I have not yet clearly defined what a literary endeavour is in my mind. The high art definition is easy, but is it anything more AND IF YES, where does it stop?
    Conan? The Three Investigators? Gamebooks? Comics?

    Because at some point I'd inject my backstory into that mix. There are characters with motives. Internal Consistency exists. There is a setting, a theme. There is no dialogue though and that is probably where I could agree then, it fails as a literary endeavour if literary endeavour requires at the very minimum, dialogue.
    This again delves into a conversation piece that I have repeatedly brought up in this thread between NARRATIVE and LITERATURE. Not all narratives are literature and not all literature are narratives. If we look at what you wrote starting with this second paragraph, we are talking about narrative (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative) as opposed to literature. Narratology is the study of narratives/stories. Regardless of medium, stories will often feature things like characters with motives, internal consistency, themes, and dialogue. I definitely think that TTRPGs are most definitely a narrative/storytelling endeavor. We get together to participate in story creation through roleplaying. But where I take opposition is the idea that TTRPGs are literary endeavors. Several definitions have been proposed for "literary" in this thread; I have challenged whether TTRPGs would qualify as "literary" with each of these user-proposed definitions. And I did not find much of a compelling case that TTRPGs qualify as literature.

    TTRPGs definitely have associated literature, but that does not make TTRPGs a form of literature. That constitutes a composition fallacy. What is true for a part is not necessarily true for the whole. The composition fallacy is one reason why I raised the analogy of cooking, cookbooks, and recipes. We can cook using recipes as a form of reference material. The recipe will often include ingredients and instructions. Though nowadays when you are looking FOR ONE DAMN RECIPE FOR MAKING AN APPLE PIE, YOU HAVE TO SCROLL THROUGH AN ENTIRE MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR'S DULL LIFE STORY ABOUT HOW HER GREAT GRANDFATHER'S SINGULAR THOUGHT THROUGH THE BATTLE OF VERDUN WAS HIS MOTHER'S APPLE PIE RECIPE AND HOW THIS RECIPE WAS PASSED DOWN FROM ONE ENTITLED LOSER CHILD TO THE NEXT BEFORE THIS MIDDLE-AGED WHITE WOMAN GETS TO THE PART THAT ACTUALLY TEACHES YOU HOW TO MAKE IT. NO ONE CARES, KAREN! Sorry. Where was I?

    But despite the presence of associated written texts, we don't conventionally think of cooking as literature. We think of it as the act and process of food preparation. There is literature involved. But remembering the composition fallacy, what's true for a part is not necessarily true for the whole.

    Likewise, we have reference books for TTRPGs that often include flavor text and such, but the modus operandi of TTRPGs is not the books, but the fiction that emerges through play. We can use these reference books to inspire our fiction-making, much like how cookbooks and recipes can inspire our cooking. These books can provide a common frame of reference and a guide for play. But it's the process of roleplaying characters in the context of a game that the game's fiction is framed, negotiated, and developed. The fiction of the setting or reference book can be used to inspire gameplay but it does not necessarily predetermine the fiction.

    I could take that unique monster from Scarred Lands and re-imagine it in a non-Scarred Lands game. I could also take that unique monster from Scarred Lands and re-imagine it in a Scarred Lands game that lacks the particular context referenced in the source materials.

    What ultimately matters is the fiction that transpires through the gameplay at the table. The nature of this gameplay requires that participants understand what's happening in the fiction at the table (not necessarily the fiction in any book) in a given moment so they can declare actions that engage with that fiction. What develops through this gameplay is not literature, but story/narrative.

    @pemerton viewed wordcraft to be more reflective, so as not in the spur of the moment (during roleplay).
    That is a tricky position to take but understandable. At minimum then my backstory has wordcraft. But the question is what if I write my NPC dialogue prior game time? I would then argue it is not a requirement and I would agree it is not a primary concern in RPGs (for me and at least for the RPG I know). Then I would agree with Pemerton on this.
    From this thread I gather that @pemerton's sense of literary/wordcraft involves an intersection of art/performance and an authorial attention to purposeful form, style, diction, and quality. In some regards, pemerton's sense of "literary" could almost be reduced to "an elevated performative speech that intentionally deviates from colloquial speech patterns." Keeping in mind that he is primarily applying this meaning as it's expressed in TTRPGs, which is the discussion at hand.

    Though I do not doubt that some in this thread will not put forth the question "what isn't elevated performative speech?", I don't think that we need to engage this continuum fallacy (i.e., "where do we draw the line?") to understand pemerton's basic sense, at least if we bother to put in the effort to approach his argument with good faith that seeks to understand and not simply knee-jerk reactions.
    Last edited by Aldarc; Friday, 7th June, 2019 at 05:55 PM.
    XP Ovinomancer, Sadras, pemerton gave XP for this post

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    And very often it does matter.

    There was a time when playing 2e theater of the mind that we had a combat on a bridge. The DM described the scene and our positions. I thought I was farther away from the creatures than I was, and they were engaged with some party members. I started to cast a long spell, figuring that at the distance I was at I was okay. The DM had a different picture in mind and I got attacked and my spell was disrupted.

    Another time the DM described a covered in large rocks. I pictured rocks large enough to hide behind if crouched over and told the DM that I crouch low and begin moving across the field. He pictured rocks that were about a foot or so high and told me that I was spotted by the enemy on the other side.

    So yes it often doesn't matter, but then again it often does. The thing is, those times where it doesn't matter.......don't matter. It's the times when it does matter that need to be minimized, so game play should aim for that goal.
    Your examples are not one that require specificity of detail but are, in fact, errors by the GM to present the information in terms of your character's interests. I'd say that your second example is one where inappropriate specificity caused the problem (if the rocks were too small to matter, why introduce them?). In both of your examples, your GM was at fault both in not providing neccessary information and in not cirrecting this oversight before punishing your character for them.

    Further, your first example could have been solved with general information, like, "the monsters are close enough to close and attack you," and don't require specific distances in feet to clear up the issue. The latter will work, being sufficient, but is not necessary. Necessity is providing information relevant to character actions, which can be provided in general terms.

    Now, if your table is using conventions that enclose specificity, then, yeah, things change. I use a grid for 5e, for example, so the precise width of a chasm is important because the convention hinges challenges on specificity. This is, however, a choice to use these conventions and not a requirement. And, I often find it chafing against what I want to do. It is much easier to present a more generalized challenge because you can dial in its narrative weight much more easily than considering all of a character's abilities and then assigning specific features on the grid to do the same.
    XP Aldarc gave XP for this post

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    Soooo, the ebb and flow of conversation isn't "moving the goalposts."
    Why would it be? What particular post would it be moving?

    I haven't, either, but that doesn't prevent you and others here of falsely accusing me of equivocation.

    Aaaaaand, not. I also have not used ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing. Keep up the talking point, though. If you use it enough, you might just get someone to believe your false accusations.
    @Bedrockgames already demonstrated quite convincingly how you were equivocating with your terms at least 50 pages back. You're just upset because you got caught doing it and others in this thread likewise haven't been fooled by the word games you like to use to win arguments. There have even been a number of people who are arguing in favor of TTRPGs as a literary endeavor who have likewise called you out on it. Take the "L" and move on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ovinomancer View Post
    Your examples are not one that require specificity of detail but are, in fact, errors by the GM to present the information in terms of your character's interests. I'd say that your second example is one where inappropriate specificity caused the problem (if the rocks were too small to matter, why introduce them?). In both of your examples, your GM was at fault both in not providing neccessary information and in not cirrecting this oversight before punishing your character for them.
    The errors were from lack of sufficient detail. As for the rocks, the could very well have mattered. They would be a hazard to move quickly over or fight in.

    Further, your first example could have been solved with general information, like, "the monsters are close enough to close and attack you," and don't require specific distances in feet to clear up the issue. The latter will work, being sufficient, but is not necessary. Necessity is providing information relevant to character actions, which can be provided in general terms.
    It was a fairly involved battle scene. He thought I understood that they were close enough to attack me. I didn't. These things happen in theater of the mind.

    Now, if your table is using conventions that enclose specificity, then, yeah, things change. I use a grid for 5e, for example, so the precise width of a chasm is important because the convention hinges challenges on specificity. This is, however, a choice to use these conventions and not a requirement. And, I often find it chafing against what I want to do. It is much easier to present a more generalized challenge because you can dial in its narrative weight much more easily than considering all of a character's abilities and then assigning specific features on the grid to do the same.
    The group I play with now uses minis and dry erase maps to avoid that sort of thing. It's one of those things I mentioned that minimizes the issues that crops up with people imagining different things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
    Why would it be? What particular post would it be moving?
    Um. That makes no sense as a response to what I said. Perhaps you should re-read my post, your response, or both.

    @Bedrockgames already demonstrated quite convincingly how you were equivocating with your terms at least 50 pages back.
    Given that equivocation relies purely on intent and he cannot determine my intent, he cannot have demonstrated any such thing. I know my intent, and it's a 100% certain fact that no equivocation has been done by me in this thread. All such accusations are objectively false.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    Given that equivocation relies purely on intent and he cannot determine my intent, he cannot have demonstrated any such thing. I know my intent, and it's a 100% certain fact that no equivocation has been done by me in this thread. All such accusations are objectively false.
    As a fallacy intent isn't really as much a factor as the result. People often don't know they are equivocating and convince themselves of a false conclusion by doing so. It is about the structure of an argument, and how it uses multiple meanings present in a term to create wrong conclusions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    As a fallacy intent isn't really as much a factor as the result. People often don't know they are equivocating and convince themselves of a false conclusion by doing so. It is about the structure of an argument, and how it uses multiple meanings present in a term to create wrong conclusions.
    Equivocation requires intent. It's an attempt to conceal the truth, which requires the intent to conceal the truth, or to avoid committing, which requires the intent to avoid committing. There's no way around it. A wrong conclusion is just a wrong conclusion without other intent to change things.

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