Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour? - Page 120
  1. #1191
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    Quote Originally Posted by Imaro View Post
    @hawkeyefan... can you just give an example of what you feel would be literary?? I'm not certain your and @pemerton 's idea of literary line up since he claimed I seemed to understand it and my understanding was non-conversational, evocative description.
    Iím sure mine and @pemertonís ideas donít exactly match, no. But thatís fine. I donít entirely agree with his premise, but I understand it, and I think he has a point. But Iím only speaking for myself.

    I think Iíve given examples at this point. I donít think describing something is enough....I think that the way its described has to matter. Focus on the how more than the what.

    So a description that lists the physical traits of a creature (even a fantastical creature that necessitates some level of fantastic description) isnít, to me, whatís being cited. Some attempt for the description itself to have meaning of some sort beyond the description. Use if metaphor or symbolism and the like...other literary devices being used or established through the narration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    It's not about the length or the meta. It's about the language. The meta COULD come into play, but if it does, it's in addition to the interest generated by the language.

    Here.

    Description #1. There's a long, thick, hard, round, six foot, brown wooden staff on the ground.

    Description #2. There's an intricately carved feywood staff on the ground.

    #1 is both accurate and longer than #2, but #2 will capture more interest.
    I honestly donít see a meaningful difference between the two. Is it ďintricately carvedĒ thatís the difference? Or ďfeywoodĒ? I suppose that could be a bit more meaningful because itís some kind of fantastic material that hints at some kind of setting element, or at least seems to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    Actually, if you don't mind, I'm going to stick with the Githyanki example because it hits pretty much exactly the point I'm trying to make.

    Remember, the basic point is we're comparing "literary" (for a given value of literary) to conversation . Which, that allows for a more objective comparison because we know, or at least have a pretty good idea, of what is considered conversational English and what isn't. While it might not be up to New Yorker standards, your Githyanki example is very much outside the realm of conversational English.

    By and large, about 95% (or a bit more actually) of conversational English is made up of about 5000 words. ((It's actually closer to about 98%)) To give a good comparison, the New York Times generally hits about 93% of the first 2000 words and about 99% of the first 5000. So, if your sentence contains words outside of those first 5000, you are already outside the realm of conversation.

    Now, here's the quote again:



    That's, by my count, 72 words. Of those 72 words, 6 do not appear in the first 5000 word list (COCA Corpus), "humanoid, gaunt, leathery (although leather does, so, you might count that one), sunken, rictus, wield). So, 10% of your words would almost never appear in any normal conversation. That places you at a higher complexity than the New York times. Also, your choice of words - wield, gaunt, scans for signs - are all geared towards evoking specific responses from the audience. This isn't conversation English. We use words like "wield" in fantasy novels. It's telling that you say "scans for signs" not "looks".

    This is a perfect example of how RPGing is not conversational and stripping the higher language out of the descriptions would result in a flat, boring experience. "The human shaped person, taller than average, is thin. It has rough, yellow skin and bags under its eyes and a scary smile. It's armor is of a style you've never seen before. I has a great silver sword that is shiny in the low light. It looks around for enemies. It does not look like it has noticed you but, it might soon. What do you do?"

    That's a lot less evocative than your first paragraph, but, is far closer to conversational English.
    Again, I donít think how common a word may be really matters. A few uncommon words to describe something totally alien and you consider that a concerted attempt at craft? I just donít see it.

    I do think the game is a conversation...what else would it be? Is it a speech? A recitation? A soliloquy?

    No. Itís a conversation. But itís not a conversation about everyday things. Most games contain some kind of fantastic element or at the very least some very far from ordinary elements. So the conversation will reflect that. I mean, weíre talking about a thing called a githyanki.

    My description of the githyanki is not devoid of flavor. Iíll go back to the point about there being a range of quality, and that something thatís not of high literary quality isnít just poop in a bag. But the description is far from an attempt at an artistic endeavor. A couple of adjectives donít really cut it. That description took no more thought than the time it took me to type it, or that it would have taken to say it.

    But Iím beginning to see why weíre all having a hard time coming to a consensus....itís because we actually seem to have one, itís just that what I see as pretty basic communication, youíre viewing as carefully wrought wordplay.
    Last edited by hawkeyefan; Sunday, 9th June, 2019 at 05:04 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    Yeah, what a freaking waste of time. You're not even trying to hide that you are no longer arguing in good faith.
    Hussar, I feel the shoe is on the other foot.

    Why won't you engage with the fact that you disagree with me? Go back to your example of the dwarf, or of the Scarred Land Monster. Why do you think that entertaining descriptions are an important part of RPGing?

    EDIT: And here is more evidence of disagreement:

    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    And, frankly, taking you at your word, that you use nothing but bog standard colloquial English, unadorned, sounds really sad and boring. I'd much rather just play a board game if we're not going to actually make any effort to inject any attempt to use anything other than every day language.
    Here you assert exactly what the OP denies. So instead of quibbling over the way the OP is framed, why don't you elaborate on this.

    I'll give you my response: I've sat in game that involved English other than "bog standard colloquial . . . every day language". And they sucked, because (i) I could get better versions of such by reading LotrR or REH Conan or Stan's Soapbox in an old Marvel Comic, and (ii) the actual thing I'd come there to do - play a character in a RPG - wasn't happening because the GM's situations sucked.

    You appear to prioritise things differntly. Please say more about that.
    Last edited by pemerton; Sunday, 9th June, 2019 at 05:26 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    But that is totally dependent on the player. I keep seeing you assert 'description x is more y'. I know from experience, and from trying to talk in the style of #2 to my players, many players are less interested in 2 than they are in 1. Some players are a little more analytical and they want the kind of details you have in 1 (and they don't particularly care how well crafted your description is of the feywood). Others want something with a lot of flavor. Description 1 arguably contains more useful information. Not saying it is better or worse. But that is at least one reason it might capture the interest of some players more than description 2.
    I'm not talking in absolutes. However, in 35+ years of gaming with more than 100 different people, I can't remember anyone who would rather hear, "There's a long, thick, hard, round, six foot, brown wooden staff on the ground." than "There's an intricately carved feywood staff on the ground." I imagine you aren't the only one, but I'm pretty confident that you are in a small minority of people if you prefer #1 over #1, especially since #2 is conversational English. Other than feywood, which would be a setting specific wood, there's nothing there that isn't conversational.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    I do think the game is a conversation...what else would it be? Is it a speech? A recitation? A soliloquy?

    No. Itís a conversation. But itís not a conversation about everyday things. Most games contain some kind of fantastic element or at the very least some very far from ordinary elements. So the conversation will reflect that. I mean, weíre talking about a thing called a githyanki.
    Hey, if all it takes to be using conversational English is to use it in a conversation, then even the most high quality literary language used in an RPG counts as conversational.

    It's pretty well understood that when people here have been discussing conversational English, they mean using the simple words and not the ones that fall outside of normal, everyday conversation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    Iím sure mine and @pemertonís ideas donít exactly match, no. But thatís fine. I donít entirely agree with his premise, but I understand it, and I think he has a point. But Iím only speaking for myself.
    I would tend to think of "rictus grin" as falling on the literary side of things, as does @Hussar.

    As I've posted, it does no harm if it doesn't impede (what I regard as) the real point of play.

    It has a face like a skull might do just as well. I personally can't remember how I've described githyanki in the past - I suspect I'm more likely to have shown a picture, such as the one on the front of the Fiend Folio.

    More generally, and feeding this into the current @Maxperson - @Ovinomancer interaction, I think that the role of description in RPGing is easily overestimated. It prioritises immersive imagination orver protagonistic inhabitation. Whereas the latter is the distinctive virtue of RPGs as games that are about producing a shared fiction.

    All this said, I think you've fully understood my points in this thread, seem to agree at least to some extent, and have made many helpful posts into it for which I thank you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    Hey, if all it takes to be using conversational English is to use it in a conversation, then even the most high quality literary language used in an RPG counts as conversational.

    It's pretty well understood that when people here have been discussing conversational English, they mean using the simple words and not the ones that fall outside of normal, everyday conversation.
    The description is conversational. Itís how youíd tell someone about this sight. Yes, it contains a couple of uncommon words....but I was asked how Iíd describe a githyanki to new players. An alien being from another dimension. And you think using a handful of words that are uncommon means Iím shooting for the Pulitzer. Gotcha.

    You know how Iíd describe it to a group of long time players? ďYou see a githyanki. Itís looking for enemies, but it hasnít noticed you yet. What do you do?Ē

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    But Iím beginning to see why weíre all having a hard time coming to a consensus....itís because we actually seem to have one, itís just that what I see as pretty basic communication, youíre viewing as carefully wrought wordplay.
    I don't agree that there's a consensus: I can't really tell what @Maxperson thinks, but @Imaro and @Hussar have made claims about the need for entertaining/evocative narration that I think clearly contradict the position I asserted in the OP.

    But one complicating fact pertains to vocabularly: eg I wouldn't regard cadaverous as a word to describe a Githyanki as especially remarkable or a-conversational, but Hussar probably would, and maybe @Bedrockgames also. What counts as every day vocabularly among a group of RPGers is pretty highly variable and contingent on a range of factors (social background/status, educational levels, occupation, etc). I'm a humanities/social sciene academic (philosophy and law) and many of the people I talk to on a regular basis (ie the people I work with, my students, etc) are lilkewise, or are aspiring to be. So I think my every day vocaublary is probably richer than the New York Times.

    This is why I have brought it back to what are we aiming for? What counts as success, as good RPGing? What should a GM focus on?

    And I'm saying situation - framing, action, consequence - not beauty or evocation in narration. Whereas those other posters disagree.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    Again, I donít think how common a word may be really matters. A few uncommon words to describe something totally alien and you consider that a concerted attempt at craft? I just donít see it.

    I do think the game is a conversation...what else would it be? Is it a speech? A recitation? A soliloquy?

    No. Itís a conversation. But itís not a conversation about everyday things. Most games contain some kind of fantastic element or at the very least some very far from ordinary elements. So the conversation will reflect that. I mean, weíre talking about a thing called a githyanki.

    My description of the githyanki is not devoid of flavor. Iíll go back to the point about there being a range of quality, and that something thatís not of high literary quality isnít just poop in a bag. But the description is far from an attempt at an artistic endeavor. A couple of adjectives donít really cut it. That description took no more thought than the time it took me to type it, or that it would have taken to say it.

    But Iím beginning to see why weíre all having a hard time coming to a consensus....itís because we actually seem to have one, itís just that what I see as pretty basic communication, youíre viewing as carefully wrought wordplay.
    Not really. If you are using language that is above and beyond every day speech, then it's not really a conversation anymore. Not when you are specifically CHOOSING those words. Sure, Githyanki is a neologism and obviously is outside the realm of standard conversation. But, note, your description doesn't actually use that word. My point is, the words you used are very far outside the realm of standard conversation. And, it's not a "few" words. When 10% of your language is outside that standard 5000 words list, you're actually using a very difficult to understand set of words.

    Think about it. If you didn't understand 10% of what someone is saying, would you be able to carry on a coherent conversation? One word in 10? That's REALLY high. Imagine if, when reading the newspaper, you had to stop every tenth word and look it up in a dictionary. That's WAY beyond every day language. Now, I realize that as native speakers, our vocabularies are actually considerably greater than 5000 words. Fair enough. But, it's still a measure of difficulty.

    That's why I'd argue that the plain English version of your description of a Githyanki is outside the realm of conversation. It's certainly using language that would virtually never be used in spoken English. Think about it, outside of a gaming situation, when have you ever used the words "gaunt" or "wield" in a spoken situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    Hussar, I feel the shoe is on the other foot.

    Why won't you engage with the fact that you disagree with me? Go back to your example of the dwarf, or of the Scarred Land Monster. Why do you think that entertaining descriptions are an important part of RPGing?

    EDIT: And here is more evidence of disagreement:

    Here you assert exactly what the OP denies. So instead of quibbling over the way the OP is framed, why don't you elaborate on this.

    I'll give you my response: I've sat in game that involved English other than "bog standard colloquial . . . every day language". And they sucked, because (i) I could get better versions of such by reading LotrR or REH Conan or Stan's Soapbox in an old Marvel Comic, and (ii) the actual thing I'd come there to do - play a character in a RPG - wasn't happening because the GM's situations sucked.

    You appear to prioritise things differntly. Please say more about that.
    I don't disagree with you @pemerton. I 100% agree with you. Playing an RPG does not require using high art language. SO, nope, not disagreeing.

    And, you say it yourself, the reason the game sucked is because the GM's situations sucked. Has NOTHING to do with the language used. Again, EVERYONE 100% agrees with you that content is important. No one is disagreeing with you. The only reason this argument is so ongoing is because you keep obfuscating the issues. Your issue isn't with the language that was being used, but, with the fact that the GM didn't design interesting scenarios.

    Again, well, duh. Boring situations=bad game. News at 11!! Holy crap, stop the presses.

    But, that's not your arguement. Your argument is that the game sucked because of the higher language used. But, that's not true. You need BOTH for a good game. Same as has been said all the way since the first freaking page.
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