Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour? - Page 122
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    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.
    I think you are just making assumptions now...also I didn't say I preferred 1 over 2. I said 1 has more information, and there are definitely more analytically minded players who don't care about the flavorful description as much as they care about the info. And I don't think they are a small minority in our hobby.

    That said, you are right, these two descriptions are both pretty conversational, not literary. So the example is a bit puzzling anyways. Example two is just a bit vague.

    Again, I don't think this argument makes a whole lot of sense. We are talking about a conversational medium. Literary doesn't really seem like it would apply. you can try to run a game in a literary style. but I don't think it is necessary. Nor do I think it is particularly advisable.
    Last edited by Bedrockgames; Sunday, 9th June, 2019 at 12:42 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    As a part of? Certainly! Quality prose, unless completely overdone, is far more likely to add interest than diminish it.
    Except we are speaking at the table, not reading prose generally (and even if you are literally reading from boxed text, you are saying it aloud). I don't think the effect is the same when spoken in the context of a dynamic conversation at the table, as it is when you have prose on a page. Prose isn't what is called for. Doesn't mean you won't get interesting dashes or flavor or see nice word choices. But forcing literary considerations into your talking, I think is misguided, because most people simply don't talk the way authors write. And whenever I've encountered a 'boxed text' style of GM narration, it sounds very hokey and odd to me.
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    I asked, on page 1 and again on page 119: if TRPG is literary, then what? if TRPG isn't literary, then what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
    I thought that this was fairly apparent early on when he says that they are a conversational endeavor entailing a back-and-forth between the GM and player contributing to the fiction through their relevant roles.
    If this conversational endeavor is also a literary endeavor, *how does that overlap of endeavor differ from non-overlap?*
    You still haven't answered my question. (Smugness does not, itself, constitute an answer.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
    The meat of his assertion was that it's more important for the functioning of RPGs that information be communicated to players in a manner that informs and engages player agency in the fiction than for GMs to focus on the prosaic quality of the GM narration.
    You say that as if the prosaic quality of the GM narration had nothing to do with whether that narration conveys information in a manner which informs and engages player agency in the fiction. GM narration which uses an *appropriate* measure of literary technique will clearly establish the scene in the mind's eye of the players, more reliably than GM narration which does not.

    Players sometimes ask GMs for descriptions using literary tropes. For example, I was running a one-shot adventure in a science fiction setting, in which the PCs are the crew of a freighter. A player asked me whether the PCs were wearing bulky space suits with big goldfish-bowl helmets, or jumpsuits with zippers, as a general indication of the imagery and the technology level of the setting. If the player had felt better served by *not* applying literary tropes, then the player would not have asked in those terms.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
    We could also rephrase pemerton's assertion in another way. What hurts the functioning of the game more? The loss of performative literary prosaic narration? Or players not having a sense of how to meaningfully react or contribute to the fiction in a scene as agents?
    Okay, then here's my counter-assertion: how is an assertion still an assertion when you rephrase it as a question, and how is it honest when it frames two factors as a mutually exclusive fork, when in actual practice, one can be a consequence of the other?

    GM Alex tells the players: "You enter the room. There's a wooden door on the north side, comfortably sized for Jinbat (the gnome PC) but Yurk (the human PC) would have to squeeze through. There's a jagged crack in the west wall, leading into a dark, damp tunnel. There's a staff leaning against the walls in the northwest corner, made of dark wood, with a spiral pattern of intricately carved symbols."

    I enjoy the picture in my mind's eye resulting from the description. I have an immediate idea of what my PC will do: get ye staff and see if I recognize the symbols.

    Then, as per your formulation of pemerton's dilemma, let's remove the prosaic quality of the narration, and see whether that removal increases or decreases player agency.

    GM Bob tells the players "You enter the room. Exits are north and west. There's a staff."

    As a player at Bob's table, I have *less* of an immediate sense of what my PC will do. I will ask Bob several follow-up questions. This may be as easy and fun as pulling teeth. Eventually I'll get some detail on what Bob meant by "exits". There's a chance that during that process, I'll forget that Bob ever mentioned a staff. The removal of literary quality from GM narration does not leave me *better* empowered, as a player, to make appropriate, well-informed action declarations. The result is not an improvement. At Alex's table, my PC now has a cool staff, and may at some point discover whatever awesome things can be done with it. At Bob's table, my PC doesn't even know the staff exists, and walked right past it on the way out of the room.

    Some players play their PCs as well-prepared tactical experts AND play their PCs as people with personalities. Some players who do the former and not the latter. The problem isn't that they're doing the former. The problem is that they're not also doing the latter. Stormwind's Fallacy asserts that anyone who does the former is therefore, *necessarily*, not doing the latter. This is false, and creates unhelpful divisions among gamers.


    Some GMs put effort into their narration and/or their role-playing of NPCs, AND put effort into presenting the players with a fictional environment rich with opportunities for PC actions (and interactions). Some GMs do the former and not the latter. The problem isn't that they're doing the former. The problem is that they're not also doing the latter. Pemerton's Fallacy - or is it just Aldarc's Fallacy? - asserts that any GM who does the former, is therefore necessarily NOT doing the latter.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riley37 View Post

    You say that as if the prosaic quality of the GM narration had nothing to do with whether that narration conveys information in a manner which informs and engages player agency in the fiction. GM narration which uses an *appropriate* measure of literary technique will clearly establish the scene in the mind's eye of the players, more reliably than GM narration which does not.
    .
    You and others are treating this true before it has even been established it is the case. I don't think there is reason to believe literary techniques will a) Translate smoothly into GM narration and b) establish the scene more clearly in the mind's eye of the player. Just listen to how people talk when they tell a story, and how people engage them by asking clarifying questions. It isn't particularly literary. And to be honest, even if it were, that doesn't mean it is effective. Its effectiveness in GM narration needs to be proven here, and I don't think a strong case has been made for it.

    Also this is really important, authorial narration is not about "inform(ing) and engag(ing) [reader] agency in the fiction". As a reader of a novel, you have no agency. That is one of the key differences in an RPG, and something that would hugely impact whether any of these techniques can be ported in without adjusting them to the medium first.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hussar View Post
    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.

    <snip>

    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.
    This shows you misunderstand what I'm claiming. And you reiterate your disagreement with me. I've bolded it for you.

    I don't think the language makes it suck. I think the language as such is neither here nor there; and that working on the language - which is a common practice when aiming for literary quality - may well be an impediment.

    Here's another example to illustrate my point: I've played with players who cannot write, who cannot act, whose literary intuitions are those of 4As and a D graduates (that's an Australian-ism - the D is for compulsry English in Year 12), but who are terrific RPGers, who frankly kick the *rses of "thespian" RPGers I've played with, because they know how to inhabit a charcter and engage a situation.

    Which has nothing to do with needing evocative language or caring about wordcraft.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxperson View Post
    That just puts you and your colleagues beyond the realm of everyday conversational English, though. The average American reads at the 7th/8th grade level. For the most part, they aren't going to speak much better than they can read.
    I don't think there are any Americans among me and my colleagues. A couple of Candians.

    My play group has a mix of educational levels - Year 12 through to PhDs in literary disciplines - but all can read above a 7th grade level. I have no idea whether the typical American would follow our conversations - it's never come up that I can recall - but that doesn't make them not conversation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Riley37 View Post
    Maybe because you have not made any assertions which are (a) sufficiently concrete for falsification testing (Karl Popper style)
    Popper has a (controversial) theory of what makes a claim, or perhaps a collection of claims, scientific.

    I'm not making a scientific claim. I'm making an aesthetic claim. So Popperian falsifiability has nothing to do with it.

    My claim is about the point of RPGing, what makes it a distinctive and worthwhile creative endeavour. Not far upthread @Aldarc has given a pretty good account of my claim, so I'll add a few glosses to that.

    I am saying that entertainment in virtue of quality narration and performance is not what makes RPGing a distinctive and worthwhile creative endeavour. Rather, it's situation and resulting inhabitation and protagonism.

    I've said why I think this: because quality narration and performance are the weakest elements of the typical RPG experience (given the ready availability to most RPGers of genuinely quality narrations and performances), whereas protagonism in the context of engaging situation is the distinct thing that RPGs offer.

    When @Hussar and @Imaro say that they would quit games with ordinary-language descriptions because they'd find them too boring, my thought in response is that those games must have weak situations, or GMs who don't facilitiate protagonism. After all, both experience and reading lead me to think there's plenty of that going around.

    To elaborate on that last point:

    @Hussar has tended to equate situation with content referring eg to boring content. But as I've indicated in and since the OP, good situation isn't about non-boring content. It's about the call to action, the invitation to protagonism. As far as I can tell those sorts of notions play little or no role in Hussar's conception of RPGing - if they do, he hasn't said anything about them in this thread as best I can recall.

    @Lanefan, too, has quite recently posted that a GM should use language to make situation "more interesting", and has said that "situation is always going to be there no matter what". But this second claim isn't true if by situation one means what I've been talking about since the OP. I've played in, and witnessed, and read reports of episodes of RPGing in which there is no call to action, no meaningful framing, no genuine action and consequence. My contention that that is a failure of RPGing regardless of the literary quality of the narration and the evocative nature of the performances.
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    I would also like to repudiate the fallacy of equating vocabulary size with conversational or non-literary narration because this seems to be surfacing in various forms over the past few pages.

    This is because we can see literary quality, attention to stylistic features of word composition, and word-sculpting within the framework of a smaller than average English vocabulary, particularly in children's literature. If we look at the written work of Dr. Seuss, for example, people often talk of how it is written in what is referred to as Seussian meter (e.g., anapestic tetrameter). The diction and meter are incredibly important for reading Dr. Seuss, but the vocabulary itself is quite simplistic. But we can also recognize quite readily that despite the smaller vocabulary size that the Seussian canon exhibits that the style of writing deviates from conversational norms. We don't naturally talk in the fashion that Dr. Seuss writes. It has a performative quality. This often also true for a number of other children's literature books, even if we compared them to both adult and children speech patterns.

    That's why it feels like a bit of a discursive distraction to frame this discussion in terms of comparable vocabulary size. Just because someone has a larger-than-average vocabulary style does not mean that they naturally speak in a more literary style just because they may include bigger words outside of that typical vocabulary set. That's not really what is being expressed by discussing literary vs. conversational/natural style. The point is to speak naturally and communicate as best you can the nature of the scene in a way that helps the players understand the scene such that they can engage the scene's fiction as players. IMHO, the compositional quality of GM narration is only as strong as the player's ability to understand what is going on and whether their responses reflect what was communicated.

    I have been watching a lot of Matthew Colville's videos where he talks as a GM about the previous game session of the campaign he runs and hints at future sessions. He likes to do this a lot, so you can find a number of his session retrospectives for various campaigns on YouTube. He likes to have a certain thespian quality to his games. He likes to roleplay the NPCs. He does like to interject a literary feel to some of his dialogue, though he also is incredibly improvisational. But in a number of his session retrospectives, most of his GMing regrets seem to pertain to how well he actually communicate the stakes to the players or what was actually happening in a scene. Because sometimes the GM as actor got in the way of the GM's intent to frame a scene for the players to understand the scenario.
    Last edited by Aldarc; Sunday, 9th June, 2019 at 02:34 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riley37 View Post
    I asked, on page 1 and again on page 119: if TRPG is literary, then what? if TRPG isn't literary, then what?
    Okay. Good for you, I guess. But even if @pemerton never addressed the question explicitly, it does not seem all that difficult with a modicum of effort to piece together pemerton's answers within the page frame of 1 and 119.

    I also feel that it's important to point out, since you had mentioned it earlier, that Karl Popper's falsification testing (1) is not necessarily applicable outside of scientific testing, where it has been criticized in other fields (e.g., politics, history, literature, mathematics, etc.), and (2) it has also been criticized within scientific testing and science. So I am skeptical whether a Popperian approach is feasible for our present inquiry or whether it is (likely) a misguided attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    If this conversational endeavor is also a literary endeavor, *how does that overlap of endeavor differ from non-overlap?
    You still haven't answered my question.
    I don't think that your question is particularly clear.

    GM narration which uses an *appropriate* measure of literary technique will clearly establish the scene in the mind's eye of the players, more reliably than GM narration which does not.
    But it is not dependent on it, which I suspect relates to pemerton's point. Literary technique is secondary to engaging the player goal of agency within the fiction.

    Players sometimes ask GMs for descriptions using literary tropes. For example, I was running a one-shot adventure in a science fiction setting, in which the PCs are the crew of a freighter. A player asked me whether the PCs were wearing bulky space suits with big goldfish-bowl helmets, or jumpsuits with zippers, as a general indication of the imagery and the technology level of the setting. If the player had felt better served by *not* applying literary tropes, then the player would not have asked in those terms.
    I don't think that pemerton is actually talking about this.

    Okay, then here's my counter-assertion: how is an assertion still an assertion when you rephrase it as a question,
    Because the original assertion still exists in the OP, I'm just trying to rephrase it so that you can hopefully understand what is being said better.

    and how is it honest when it frames two factors as a mutually exclusive fork, when in actual practice, one can be a consequence of the other?
    My question was not framing the two factors as a mutually exclusive fork, so you that's a bit of a reading comprehension fail on your part. It's not a fork. It's about which aspect of the game is more essential for its functioning.

    You can certainly develop a literary style of GM narration or choose not to, but what ultimately matters is that players understand the stakes of the fiction so they can exercise their player agency to engage that fiction accordingly. Now compare this position that pemerton outlines with the position advocated by others that the game will fall apart without the literary narration. Pemerton's position seems more reasonable than the other.

    GM Alex tells the players: "You enter the room. There's a wooden door on the north side, comfortably sized for Jinbat (the gnome PC) but Yurk (the human PC) would have to squeeze through. There's a jagged crack in the west wall, leading into a dark, damp tunnel. There's a staff leaning against the walls in the northwest corner, made of dark wood, with a spiral pattern of intricately carved symbols."

    I enjoy the picture in my mind's eye resulting from the description. I have an immediate idea of what my PC will do: get ye staff and see if I recognize the symbols.

    Then, as per your formulation of pemerton's dilemma, let's remove the prosaic quality of the narration, and see whether that removal increases or decreases player agency.
    Fine, but this GM narration does not strike me as literary. Your description here honestly seems incredibly conversational. The GM lets the players know by name that one player character can fit through the door in the scene but another can't. It feels more like an outline of information for the players. And it delves into pemerton's point quite nicely: enough was conveyed in the GM narration to inform the players about how they could possibly engage the fiction as players.

    Some GMs put effort into their narration and/or their role-playing of NPCs, AND put effort into presenting the players with a fictional environment rich with opportunities for PC actions (and interactions). Some GMs do the former and not the latter. The problem isn't that they're doing the former. The problem is that they're not also doing the latter. Pemerton's Fallacy - or is it just Aldarc's Fallacy? - asserts that any GM who does the former, is therefore necessarily NOT doing the latter.
    I don't think it's appropriate that @Riley37's Strawman that you outline here should be referred to as either "Pemerton's Fallacy" or "Aldarc's Fallacy." I would personally prefer, Riley37, if you were to engage with my actual positions in this thread and not with your knee-jerk reactions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aldarc View Post
    An automechanic will have a range of vocabulary that "falls outside of normal, everyday conversation," but I don't think that we would credibly accuse them for using the technical jargon of their field as part of their conversation as speaking with "literary language." That would be ridiculous. This is because we can recognize that they are not speaking with any sense of sculpted prose or word play, but with prevalent words of their field.
    But neither are those mechanics speaking conversational English, which is what @Bedrockgames says he wants.

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