Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour? - Page 130
  1. #1291
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    I wanted to revisit this post from a few pages back because I think the nature of the GM role would obviously take focus in a discussion of narration. But looking at player narration may shed some light on the subject.

    Iíd start off by pointing out that the game being played is a huge factor here. What the players are allowed to narrate affects how much narration is necessary and acceptable.

    Having said that, generally speaking, I find high levels of player narration to be annoying. I donít mind a bit, and I certainly like when players are engaged and talking about the situation. But when itís a playerís turn and they start in with something like ďRecalling his days on the high plains of Valinor, the stoic ranger Aspar presses on, undaunted by the challenges ahead....Ē I want to smash my head into the table. It just often seems so self indulgent. Thereís a time and place for incorporating backstory, you donít need to jam it in at every chance. Especially when other people are waiting to take their turn, too.

    Iím curious how others feel about the player side, and if thereís a difference in how people stand from GM to player narration.
    Is this a question of length or of literary quality?

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    Generally speaking, I find high levels of player narration to be annoying. I donít mind a bit, and I certainly like when players are engaged and talking about the situation. But when itís a playerís turn and they start in with something like ďRecalling his days on the high plains of Valinor, the stoic ranger Aspar presses on, undaunted by the challenges ahead....Ē I want to smash my head into the table. It just often seems so self indulgent. Thereís a time and place for incorporating backstory, you donít need to jam it in at every chance. Especially when other people are waiting to take their turn, too.

    Iím curious how others feel about the player side, and if thereís a difference in how people stand from GM to player narration.
    For me, this depends a lot on context and what the other players like. There's a difference between fun role-playing flourishes and hogging the spotlight. If we're in the middle of a tense battle scene and a player decides to start reciting epic poetry on their turn, I'd get tired of it pretty soon. (Just like I get frustrated by players who haven't figured out their tactical maneuver in time for their turn.) This interrupts the flow of the game, doesn't seem realistic (especially with 1-second combat turns in GURPS), and does seem self-indulgent.

    On the other hand, many of the players in one of my regular adult groups are English teachers. They love writing and storytelling. It's not uncommon for one or more of them to have something prepared to share at a game (sometimes in writing). We had a cleric who would, at most sessions, share a stanza from the scripture of his super-weird deity. We all looked forward to this. The writing was good, and it added to the campaign world in meaningful ways. If he had written up the whole thing to share at a single session, we would have thrown all the snacks at him until he stopped, but a stanza at a time was perfect.

    As a GM, I often encourage players to narrate and add elements to the game world. I don't have time for the kind of obsessive prep that I used to do (before becoming a parent and having more professional responsibilities). Now I typically work from some loose notes that I'll use to paint a broad picture of a scene. If the party is arriving at a town, I might say, "You see the domes and dusty minarets across the dunes as you approach Satusheh." I leave a lot of the details of Satusheh to the players. If they want to find a tavern, I say, "Yes, you find a tavern called . . ." and let them player fill it in, along with a description, and many of the notable NPCs. I add details to the mix, too, in an organic way.

    The players have taken to this. It even works when I have pre-generated material that needs to slip in. I can introduce my NPCs, as required. A player-generated inn can still have a secret room and a cult operating out of the cellar. The bard that one of them describes by the fire can be the Duke's agent that I was going to have them meet. It's not fully freeform, but it works fairly well, and the creative synergy creates unexpected elements that add to the fun.
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    @lowkey13 My answer on the first page was in response to the thread title and little else. Upon spending more time to read and absorb the OP and some follow up posts, I clarified my stance. I believe that post is on page 2, perhaps 3.

    I think a lot of the confusion is really to be attributed to people not looking beyond the title. And I understand why....I did it myself...but itís just a headline in that sense.

    I agree that clarity has been needed at times, but trying to pin the problems of this thread on one thing seems limited. I think we can all do better. We can grant benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst, we can address each other individually rather than trying to lump everyone into one camp or the other, we can clarify or offer a different phrase when needed.

    Iíve enjoyed a good deal of the discussion at times, and found what others are saying to be interesting and worthwhile....but thereís also been a good deal of nonsense thatís taken up space.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    @lowkey13 My answer on the first page was in response to the thread title and little else. Upon spending more time to read and absorb the OP and some follow up posts, I clarified my stance. I believe that post is on page 2, perhaps 3.

    I think a lot of the confusion is really to be attributed to people not looking beyond the title. And I understand why....I did it myself...but itís just a headline in that sense.

    I agree that clarity has been needed at times, but trying to pin the problems of this thread on one thing seems limited. I think we can all do better. We can grant benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst, we can address each other individually rather than trying to lump everyone into one camp or the other, we can clarify or offer a different phrase when needed.

    Iíve enjoyed a good deal of the discussion at times, and found what others are saying to be interesting and worthwhile....but thereís also been a good deal of nonsense thatís taken up space.
    "but trying to pin the problems of this thread on one thing seems limited."

    Is it, though? I didn't think I did say just one thing, and I think I did a pretty decent job going over the thread origin and issues at length. But what do I know? Given the issues we are having with definitions, maybe you mean limited to mean ... appropriate.

    I mean, I check in every two hundred comments or so, and it is, for the most part, the exact same problems. It's because of the following:

    1. New people will occasionally rotate in. "Hey guys, maybe if you realized that literary refers to written works ..."

    2. The OP effect. "Hey guys, if you really paid attention to what the OP really meant, this conversation would get back on track!"

    3. The anchoring/framing effect. Because this is how the argument/thesis/conversation started was originally presented, it always returns back to those unclear, ill-defined issues.

    4. Definition issues. Seriously- using loaded terms like "quality" (which is going to be subjective) and "core" (um .... okay) and then trying to shoehorn in other aspects like "literary" as a synonym for "performance" is necessarily going to result in people talking past each other (at best) or devolve into everyone's least favorite thing- arguing about arguing ("Your strawman moved the goalpost to ad hominem me with an improper appeal to authority! Also, my dad's argument could totally beat up your dad's argument.").


    Hey- if you're getting something out of the occasional detours (what is an RPG, what is narration, etc.) then that's great- I won't rain on your parade.


    Just seems that the signal/noise ratio in this thread is spectacularly low, given the .... 1300 or so comments. But maybe I missed something. Just seems pretty same-y every time I check in, given that I make the same comment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Imaro View Post
    Sorry about that I assumed... Not necessarily a dichotomy but A contrast comparison between running games in a conversational-esque narrative ( How you would speak to someone if you were having a everyday conversation with them) vs a more constructed or structured narrative (Planned descriptions, word usage, structure or whatever else to evoke emotions, mood, atmosphere, etc.)
    No worries.

    If your saying that conversation with some pals while you're at dinner is different than TTRPG conversation, then sure. TTRPG conversation is structured such that it produces an evolving gamestate and the participant experience that goes with that. The former does have structure, but its more etiquette and cue-driven (so different in some ways, similar in others) and its purpose isn't an evolving gamestate (though it is about participant experience).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Imaro View Post
    Okay I find this interesting... so if you're playing grim and gritty fanatasy say Zweihander or Warhammer you don't use different descriptive elements in your narration/"conversation" vs. say a Lord of the Rings-esque high fantasy game? If you're playing Dark Sun it gets the same treatment/presentation/descriptive elements and narrative content as Ravenloft or Dragonlance? You're telling me the description of say a village in the mountains is the same in all fantasy genres?
    I don't play much Grim Dark, and have never played Warhammer or Zweihander. But I have played Dark Sun. I mean the villages will look different and have different kinds of denizens and culture, but I am not going to approach how I describe things differently in terms of constructing what I say (if that makes sense). Again, I tend not to talk like a Narrator, so there isn't really a need for me to shift voices, or use different kinds of adjectives. That doesn't mean there will not be description or that the descriptions won't take things like setting, culture, etc into account. Obviously there is a big difference between how settlements operate in Dark Sun and how they operate in your standard fantasy campaign.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Imaro View Post
    Is this a question of length or of literary quality?
    Either...or both!

    I think that generally speaking the expectation is that the GM will provide the bulk of narration, and so most of the advocacy voiced in the thread so far has talked about immersion. Does player narration add or detract from immersion? Is it highly game dependent? Is it a balance between quality and length?

    For me, as a player, I want the game to keep moving, so I generally want other players to finish their turn quickly. I don't mind a bit of debate about what they should do, and I don't mind if they throw in a bit of narration or dialogue, but I expect it to be reasonable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    Either...or both!

    I think that generally speaking the expectation is that the GM will provide the bulk of narration, and so most of the advocacy voiced in the thread so far has talked about immersion. Does player narration add or detract from immersion? Is it highly game dependent? Is it a balance between quality and length?

    For me, as a player, I want the game to keep moving, so I generally want other players to finish their turn quickly. I don't mind a bit of debate about what they should do, and I don't mind if they throw in a bit of narration or dialogue, but I expect it to be reasonable.
    The amount of narration and in-character monologue I can tolerate from other players = X.

    Should it be > X, then it is annoying, obnoxious, unnecessary, self-indulgent, and will likely make me roll my eyes so hard it result in an audible and noticeable change in the air pressure.

    Should it be < X, then that player is clearly not involved in the game, not giving it their all, not aware that we are playing an RPG, and the player may not even be easily differentiated than a slightly mobile variety of fungus growing in the bathroom.

    What is X?

    X is, of course, the amount of narration and in character monologue that I am doing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
    "but trying to pin the problems of this thread on one thing seems limited."

    Is it, though? I didn't think I did say just one thing, and I think I did a pretty decent job going over the thread origin and issues at length. But what do I know? Given the issues we are having with definitions, maybe you mean limited to mean ... appropriate.

    I mean, I check in every two hundred comments or so, and it is, for the most part, the exact same problems. It's because of the following:

    1. New people will occasionally rotate in. "Hey guys, maybe if you realized that literary refers to written works ..."

    2. The OP effect. "Hey guys, if you really paid attention to what the OP really meant, this conversation would get back on track!"

    3. The anchoring/framing effect. Because this is how the argument/thesis/conversation started was originally presented, it always returns back to those unclear, ill-defined issues.

    4. Definition issues. Seriously- using loaded terms like "quality" (which is going to be subjective) and "core" (um .... okay) and then trying to shoehorn in other aspects like "literary" as a synonym for "performance" is necessarily going to result in people talking past each other (at best) or devolve into everyone's least favorite thing- arguing about arguing ("Your strawman moved the goalpost to ad hominem me with an improper appeal to authority! Also, my dad's argument could totally beat up your dad's argument.").


    Hey- if you're getting something out of the occasional detours (what is an RPG, what is narration, etc.) then that's great- I won't rain on your parade.


    Just seems that the signal/noise ratio in this thread is spectacularly low, given the .... 1300 or so comments. But maybe I missed something. Just seems pretty same-y every time I check in, given that I make the same comment.
    I don't know, man.....maybe make a different comment? If your complaint is that the thread seems the same, and in the next breath you say that you keep making the same comment, then maybe try something new? A few pages back, you and I and some others talked about what is essential to all RPGs. It didn't really last because people kept insisting that GMs were a requiremet because D&D, so I stopped discussing it. But for a little while, it was interesting to hear what you and others had to say.

    Recently, I took a comment by @Riley37 about player narration and asked people to comment on their opinions on that. Most of the discussion has been focused on the GM, so I'm interested if a view on player narration will offer any new insights or takes.

    Do you feel the same about player narration as GM narration?

    Edited: I see we posted near the same time, and you offered an opinion on it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    I don't know, man.....maybe make a different comment? If your complaint is that the thread seems the same, and in the next breath you say that you keep making the same comment, then maybe try something new? A few pages back, you and I and some others talked about what is essential to all RPGs. It didn't really last because people kept insisting that GMs were a requiremet because D&D, so I stopped discussing it. But for a little while, it was interesting to hear what you and others had to say.

    Recently, I took a comment by @Riley37 about player narration and asked people to comment on their opinions on that. Most of the discussion has been focused on the GM, so I'm interested if a view on player narration will offer any new insights or takes.

    Do you feel the same about player narration as GM narration?

    Edited: I see we posted near the same time, and you offered an opinion on it.
    My meta-comment about the thread is that the signal/noise ratio will always be low, because it will continue to get derailed, and people will end up circling around the same issues. To the extent you want a lengthy, and productive conversation around, inter alia, the necessity of the GM/DM in a TTRPG (and or primacy of same), then a separate thread centered on that would better than a thread were people keep going back to issues of what "literary quality" really means. I'd be happy to contribute- but as I've already noted, I tend to fall into the descriptive camp (this is how people play from an observational standpoint) and I tend to be adverse to theories as to how the games are supposed to be.

    RE: Player narration; if you look back, I have consistently discussed the issue of both DM and player narration, and, like @Riley37, believe that both are necessary in games that I enjoy. That said, as an addendum and further explanation to my comedic take (above):

    When I read your comment, I don't see it as being about player narration. It's really about social expectations. It's the ... don't be a d*** theory. RPGs are a social game. To use an example someone cited previously- Oscar Wilde was witty, but he may not have been an appropriate player at all tables. I can imagine someone playing with Oscar Wilde in a traditional hack & slash, combat-heavy, "just roll the dang dice" campaign, and getting really annoyed that he was holding the game up with his bon mots.

    Or, as you wrote-

    "For me, as a player, I want the game to keep moving, so I generally want other players to finish their turn quickly."

    That is a perfectly reasonable position to have! It's because RPGs exist in that space between social activity and game (with the addition of RPing and nerdom and other parts) that make this hard to pin down; but the basic gist remains. It's the same in any social activity, or, for that matter, in general. We expect people to, at least, roughly conform their behavior to that of the group.

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