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Anyone Else Tired of The Tyranny of Novelty?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if big movie studios and such would great broken up, and most IP get punted into public domain, hopefully forcing them to hire people who want to tell stories that haven't been told much in movies or tv shows.

However, outside of that, it seems impossible to ever discuss any art/content without it turning into a discussion of how new/original/novel the work is or isn't.

Like...I am fairly well versed in how we came to this. A lot of it is IP law, and another big chunk is simply the ever-growing ability for a story to survive in a specific form by a specific person for vastly longer than has ever been the case before, and be vastly more broadly distributed in that specific form than ever before, in an ever increasing buildup of stuff we can just rewatch, reread, listen to again, etc.

And so, because we are used to all art reaching toward the greatest possible state of novelty while still saying something familiar enough to resonate, it is nearly impossible to make something that is a straightforward retelling of a classic tale without receiving pretty harsh criticism, often of a type that seems to imply that the artist is a bad person for making "derivative" art. As if the works we are comparing a work to weren't literally just as derivative, just of stuff we have less direct knowledge of as the audience.

I'm not sure if there is any real purpose here, I just get frustrated by the attitude that greater novelty is inherently better and retelling classic stories is some sort of moral failure.
 

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Yeah, novelty is overrated. Execution is king: a well told story is good, whether it is original or derivative.
Agreed, and IMHO when it comes to RPGs, hitting everything with a clue by four is all for the best, too!

I'm just working out the details of how my next game will be about retelling the classic myths. Like I think the concept will be that you can gain power by taking on the characteristics of a mythic archetype and becoming that story. Maybe it will work for folktale kind of stuff too. That would make a really interesting spin on monsters... Hey I'm the Big Bad Wolf, guess what?!
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah, novelty is overrated. Execution is king: a well told story is good, whether it is original or derivative.
Yep. Absolutely.
Novelty itself is fine, what I dislike is people declaring something a clone or ripoff of another work just because it shares some surface elements.
This. I delight just as much as most folks in a novel song or story or whatever. I love seeing a new artistic movement emerge. But I also enjoy it when someone does really good acoustic folk ballads, or a really kickass rock song, or makes new music that resembles and speaks to the soul of old jazz classics. Neither is better than the other.
Agreed, and IMHO when it comes to RPGs, hitting everything with a clue by four is all for the best, too!

I'm just working out the details of how my next game will be about retelling the classic myths. Like I think the concept will be that you can gain power by taking on the characteristics of a mythic archetype and becoming that story. Maybe it will work for folktale kind of stuff too. That would make a really interesting spin on monsters... Hey I'm the Big Bad Wolf, guess what?!
That is kindof how the gods work in my Islands World setting. Like, the gods are real, and have both material and immaterial existence, can be in many places at once without any loss of focus or presence in a given place, and they're part of the things they represent at a fundemental level*, but they are also the stories told about them, and they manifest in those who emulate those tales or who write new tales with their deeds that speak to the nature of the gods. When you move truly soundlessly through the forest at night to get the perfect moonlit shot at your prey, and execute the shot perfectly, Artemis is literally with you and also...sortof is you.

*Sehanine is the Lover's Moon, but also the moons are all literal physical objects in the space outside the atmosphere of the planet, and she is also the moonlight, and also she is the moment when moonlight illuminates a hidden danger or allows a lover to see their beloved's face in the darkness during a hidden tryst, while Artemis is the Hunter's Moon, and the moment when prey appears poised in the soft blue light of her moon, and also the thumping hearts-joy of chasing prey and of competing in a footrace and of lunging for the throat of an abuser or oppressor
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
Agreed, and IMHO when it comes to RPGs, hitting everything with a clue by four is all for the best, too!

I'm just working out the details of how my next game will be about retelling the classic myths. Like I think the concept will be that you can gain power by taking on the characteristics of a mythic archetype and becoming that story. Maybe it will work for folktale kind of stuff too. That would make a really interesting spin on monsters... Hey I'm the Big Bad Wolf, guess what?!
I think this would be pretty awesome. To me, it makes me think in some ways of the Werewolf the Apocalypse, with binding your pack to a totem, and how the cities had City Fathers that embodied what that city 'was' - for instance, Chicago's, if I remember right, was a large, broad shouldered muscular man with a large hammer... both kind of the body of the man in the slaughterhouse as well as the man building the rails.

I do think it would also be cool, following in someone's footsteps giving you their power. We all know about the Hero's Journey, what if each step you conquer DOES give you power. What if someone is your rival, so its not enough to just follow your path, but to thwart their path?? YMMV
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I think people put too much focus on "trying to be different" and not nearly enough on "trying to be fun."


Yeah, novelty is overrated. Execution is king: a well told story is good, whether it is original or derivative.
This is true in the kitchen, too. It doesn't matter if you're cooking the latest trendy dish out of New York's finest restaurant or your own grandma's classic meatloaf for the hundredth time. If the execution is bad, the food will be bad. Every time.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not sure if there is any real purpose here, I just get frustrated by the attitude that greater novelty is inherently better and retelling classic stories is some sort of moral failure.

It isn't a moral failure, but there is a real question - if one is retelling a classic, and there's little novel in the retelling, why is the audience expected to take in yours, rather than one of the previous versions that made the thing a classic?

There are a few places where this question works out - live theater, for example, in part because the live experience is ephemeral.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Running with that…

There’s been countless renditions of Shakespeare’s works for stage, TV, and film. Not all of them are good. Some are quite bad. Some are excellent.

And my 2 favorite versions of Melville’s Moby Dick are Of Unknown Origin and Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Most of the rest are...meh.

One of the dynamics is something Umbran was saying- basically, if you’ve seen it before, why see it again? That’s where novelty comes in.

And one of the reasons why novelty is in such demand right now is that, in a lot of pop culture right now, there’s all kinds of concept recycling without a lot of innovation. Which means that any new ideas seem better in contrast, even if they aren’t really good at all.

I mean,look at the past decade of TV shows and films: how many movie reboots? How many game shows have returned to the air after 30 years of slumber?
 

I think this would be pretty awesome. To me, it makes me think in some ways of the Werewolf the Apocalypse, with binding your pack to a totem, and how the cities had City Fathers that embodied what that city 'was' - for instance, Chicago's, if I remember right, was a large, broad shouldered muscular man with a large hammer... both kind of the body of the man in the slaughterhouse as well as the man building the rails.

I do think it would also be cool, following in someone's footsteps giving you their power. We all know about the Hero's Journey, what if each step you conquer DOES give you power. What if someone is your rival, so its not enough to just follow your path, but to thwart their path?? YMMV
Cool, yeah, so you can not so much create a completely original story, but retell a kind of an archetypal one, recapitulate a myth or tale. There can be new elements to it, etc. and maybe the outcome is in doubt, but there's a real reason for going with the myth, enacting it has great significance, probably ties closely to some mechanics too. We can go right back to Graves and Hammilton and the whole Hero's Journey, etc. as you say.

Nothing is ever really new under the Sun, but it can be fresh again!

Then the question is more about how to organize the thing in terms of a group of players participating and whatnot. Gotta think on that one more.
 

Well, I think one thing we can say WRT @Umbran's point, which is good, is if you are going to run an RPG of something, that's kind of a reason in and of itself. Much like putting on a play, the performance is the thing. Hamlet always ends the same way, but you can do it with style, and recontextualize it some without losing anything, which can be worth experiencing.

So, how to code myth into the DNA of a game? Maybe that's a question that deserves a thread of its own.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Commercial art is a product. Movies get regularly remade for the next generation of 14-25 moviegoers. If you can get their parents to show up because of nostalgia even better ticket sales. It has to be different because kids don't want to see the 'mom&pop' version and the 'mom&pop' don't want to see the same movie they already saw 10-15 years ago. That is the economical tyranny of pseudo-novelty at work.

My opinion is that they should never remake any movie. Just go full 100% novelty with brand new ideas and scripts.

“Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.”
― Stanley Kubrick
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm just working out the details of how my next game will be about retelling the classic myths. Like I think the concept will be that you can gain power by taking on the characteristics of a mythic archetype and becoming that story. Maybe it will work for folktale kind of stuff too. That would make a really interesting spin on monsters... Hey I'm the Big Bad Wolf, guess what?!
I think that's a part of Glorantha, where reenacting the myths - called Heroquesting - is a big deal. May want to take a glance at how they do it.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic Dungeon Master
Novelty itself is fine, what I dislike is people declaring something a clone or ripoff of another work just because it shares some surface elements.
This is one of the main flaws of the Youtube Channel CinemanSins; that they call any trope that they can point out a "cliché". They fail to realize that Tropes are Tools and playing them straight doesn't automatically make a movie/tv show be bad, and that's a big reason why I see lots of people constantly criticizing them.

However, there is a line, and I'm not sure where it is, between "using a trope in a good/imaginative way" and "redoing everything that's already been done". It's absolutely fine that not every modern story completely reinvents the wheel and attempts to do something revolutionary, because that's just an impractical expectation to place on every storywriter and will do far more harm than good, but that isn't an excuse for lazy storytelling, either. We don't need to retell every story that's ever been told, because we already know those. Stories are much less enjoyable if they're all completely predictable, just as they're much less enjoyable if they're completely unpredictable, so it's up to the storywriter to use existing tropes as a toolset, picking certain tropes to play straight and others to invert/subvert.

There's a balance. I'm not saying that Novelty or Familiarity is superior, I'm saying that they're both tools that can be used to enhance a story. Too predictable = less enjoyable due to knowing what's going to happen the whole time, and too unpredictable = being stuck in a chaotic story with next-to-no consistency. In this case, the middle-ground is the better position than either of the two extremes (everything has to be new vs. everything has to be old/predictable).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It isn't a moral failure, but there is a real question - if one is retelling a classic, and there's little novel in the retelling, why is the audience expected to take in yours, rather than one of the previous versions that made the thing a classic?
Hopefully because it's well executed and enjoyable.
There are a few places where this question works out - live theater, for example, in part because the live experience is ephemeral.
But Hamlet isn't just good live. The live experience is different, for sure, but if I watch Brannagh today, I won't enjoy David Tennent any less a week from now. Nor do I enjoy movies that are takes on Hamlet any less than I enjoy the "real thing".
Running with that…

There’s been countless renditions of Shakespeare’s works for stage, TV, and film. Not all of them are good. Some are quite bad. Some are excellent.

And my 2 favorite versions of Melville’s Moby Dick are Of Unknown Origin and Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Most of the rest are...meh.

One of the dynamics is something Umbran was saying- basically, if you’ve seen it before, why see it again? That’s where novelty comes in.
And this is what I guess I don't get. Why is novelty desirable as an end in itself, which it seems this idea relies on? If I enjoyed it, why wouldn't I see it again?
And one of the reasons why novelty is in such demand right now is that, in a lot of pop culture right now, there’s all kinds of concept recycling without a lot of innovation. Which means that any new ideas seem better in contrast, even if they aren’t really good at all.
The weird thing is, a lot of the remakes are wildly underrated, and only do poorly because people don't take them seriously because they're remakes. Then, some remakes blow people away and get good reviews and everyone ignores that they're remakes, like It, but I feel like that mostly happens when people remember a thing fondly but also have some strong criticism of it, like It.
I mean,look at the past decade of TV shows and films: how many movie reboots? How many game shows have returned to the air after 30 years of slumber?
Sure, people love those things, so they come back. Exactly what I don't get is why this is supposedly a bad thing?
Well, I think one thing we can say WRT @Umbran's point, which is good, is if you are going to run an RPG of something, that's kind of a reason in and of itself. Much like putting on a play, the performance is the thing. Hamlet always ends the same way, but you can do it with style, and recontextualize it some without losing anything, which can be worth experiencing.

So, how to code myth into the DNA of a game? Maybe that's a question that deserves a thread of its own.
Yeah I've watched a lot of versions of Hamlet, and without any real deviation or novelty involved beyond "oh hey new actors", it...didn't lose anything in the retelling. The really good stories don't, generally. I mean, there is a reason people re-watch/read/consume stories, and listen to their favorite songs over and over. There is a reason the classic stories managed to get to us at all, and it's because when the storyteller sat down to tell stories, certain stories were in high demand, and folks expected it to be the same story.

Novelty has it's value too, of course. "Why is this thing so dominant in media criticism" isn't the same thing as "this things is bad, actually", obviously. I like new experiences. I like the way time stretches out when I listen to a totally new album for the first time, and every song seems to go on forever, and my entire cognitive bandwidth is taken up by the experience (if it's a good enough album).

The first time I listened to Opeth, I had to sit down and just listen. When I got a really solid mixed CD to introduce me to The Mountain Goats, I spent literally weeks with my only hobby being listening to that packed to the brim CD of Mountain Goats songs.

It's just...like, if someone made music similar to The Mountain Goats, and the music was good, I wouldn't care that it isn't as novel as The Mountain Goats were when they dropped, nor do I care that they aren't really that novel in the first place.
 

I think that's a part of Glorantha, where reenacting the myths - called Heroquesting - is a big deal. May want to take a glance at how they do it.
Well, yes, at high 'levels', basically. It generally involves a sort of going back in time, or reenacting history. I never really 'got it', because the same issue exists, that it is at best difficult in a game with that structure to produce a party that matches up with the story. I guess if your myths are entirely invented fantastical ones, then that isn't an issue, lore just always matches what you got!

However, if you were to say decide to recapitulate the story of Gilgamesh, then you need to find roles for the PCs (or if one of them is actually Gilgamesh, then at least the other ones, I guess one can be 'Enki'), but most RPG sessions involve several players. Obviously a game designed to do this could simply be designed for one-on-one play. Reimagining each myth as a multi-character story seems a bit forced though.

So, maybe if you are going to touch on substantially revisiting real-world myths, albeit perhaps recontextualized somewhat, the mythic figure(s) are not treated as PCs, perhaps? It is a question, for sure!
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm just working out the details of how my next game will be about retelling the classic myths. Like I think the concept will be that you can gain power by taking on the characteristics of a mythic archetype and becoming that story.
I think that's a part of Glorantha, where reenacting the myths - called Heroquesting - is a big deal. May want to take a glance at how they do it.
I was going to post the same response as Blue! AbdulAlhazred, if you haven't looked at how HeroWars/Quest handles this, it might be worthwhile. (I can't remember many details, I'm just suggesting that because it's a Robin Laws game it's likely to have considered most of the basic issues and come up with some sort of solution.)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
And this is what I guess I don't get. Why is novelty desirable as an end in itself, which it seems this idea relies on? If I enjoyed it, why wouldn't I see it again?
Contrast, to start with.

Some people can eat a grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli every day. But that’s not everyone.

Experiencing new things can expand your horizons, reinforce your appreciation of your favorites, or both. It staves off stagnation.

My Dad watches all kinds of murder mysteries…90% of which are reruns of shows from the 1960s-1990s. It’s not like there haven’t been good shows since then. And he HAS found some of those to watch. Still…

In a RP context, one of my friends has played essentially the same Wizard in every D&D campaign since I met him in the mid-1980s, down to the spell list. I’ve only seen 2 PCs that weren’t that build.

I don’t judge, but…if nothing else, it means other players don’t have as much room to try out their own wizards.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hopefully because it's well executed and enjoyable.

I already have well-executed and enjoyable versions. Why do I need another?

Because this one is... different? Novel, perhaps?

But Hamlet isn't just good live. The live experience is different, for sure, but if I watch Brannagh today, I won't enjoy David Tennent any less a week from now. Nor do I enjoy movies that are takes on Hamlet any less than I enjoy the "real thing".

So... Branagh's Hamlet, as far as I am concerned, suffers exactly from the issue of making a slavish version of the classic. Most versions (film or stage) have the good sense to edit it down quite a bit, but his Hamlet is unabridged. As a result his has a runtime of four tedious hours.

I know this, because, back before we married, I took my wife to see it on a date. We were both big Shakespeare fans, and Branagh usually knew what he was doing. He had done reasonable editing on other productions...

When your significant other falls asleep... it is not a good date. I don't recommend it.

I haven't seen Tennant's version of the thing yet - largely because that experience put my wife off Hamlet, and I don't take many opportunities to watch things on my own. But I am willing to guess that is differs substantially from Branagh's (as, I see they lopped an entire hour off).

And this is what I guess I don't get. Why is novelty desirable as an end in itself, which it seems this idea relies on? If I enjoyed it, why wouldn't I see it again?

Let me put it another way - I have a copy of Le Morte d'Arthur. I do not, in fact, need two copies on my bookshelf. If you are going to produce a book of Arthurian fiction, that simply follows Le Morte d'Arthur... why do I need yours? I already have it!

I have other books of Arthurian bent. They are all different takes on the legends. One's a scholarly work that breaks down the legends to fit into know historical events, with the idea to show that Arthur was not really a single individual, but an amalgam of various legends. Another casts the Arthurian characters as immortals (Arthur was known as Gilgamesh and Baldur before he hooked up with Merlin and became Arthur), and mixes them with other immortal beings to see how it plays out. Another has the characters reborn in the modern era on the road to simply repeat the same tragedy again, while desperately trying to avoid that fate. And there are others...

Same stories, with novelty. Far more engaging than just rephrasing Le Morte d'Arthur four and more times over.
 

I was going to post the same response as Blue! AbdulAlhazred, if you haven't looked at how HeroWars/Quest handles this, it might be worthwhile. (I can't remember many details, I'm just suggesting that because it's a Robin Laws game it's likely to have considered most of the basic issues and come up with some sort of solution.)
Yeah, poking around I have found some fragments of stuff. There's a 13th Age Glorantha book too that tries to approach heroquesting. It sounds like the gist of it is a fairly cool way of flavoring an adventure, and at least in the original game IIRC (dimly, didn't play much RQ) there were some variant magic rules and such. Sounds like the newer incarnations follow that pattern as well.

So, because the 'mythology' of Glorantha (or other settings like 13a Dragon Empire) are not codified, you can basically construct whatever narrative you want, or in Story Now terms I guess just assume that 'what happens follows the myth'. Nothing wrong with that, it is a pragmatic approach, and then you just write a lot of "and then the band of heroes..."

Anyway, I don't want to get too far afield from the gist of the thread. I guess one way to think if it in RPG terms is, every time you run 'B2' you're recapitulating a story that has been told many many times before! We could even write modules that emulated closely at least certain classic stories, or variations on them.
 

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