Disconnect Between Designer's Intent and Player Intepretation

As someone who came up in the New Criticism, I’d be inclined to argue that RPGs are more like dances or songs - the work of art is the act played out at the table, not the sheet music or Players Handbook that supports the performance.

My background is not literature so not sure my opinion is worth a lot here (I studied history and philosophy, always liked reading and literature but don't have much exposure to formal schools of thought). When I started out making RPGs, I viewed them, at most, as a craft. I do come from a music background (I play a number of instruments and used to write a lot of music), and for me music is always about the emotional experience. I tend to engage all art that way (whether its movies, books, or music). These days I do think the writing itself can be an art in an RPG, but I feel much of that is also about how it prepares the readers minds for play and how it interacts with them when they access the books during play. When I think back to the RPG books that really inspired me at a deeply emotional level, but also that clicked and made sense so the transition from reading to preparing and running a game was an act of enthusiasm, they achieve this. I also find the act of writing and designing to be filled with the same creative frenzy and passion as other mediums, so increasingly I am inclined to admit to myself a lot of it is in the art realm for me. If I weren't doing this, I'd be making music for example (which I still sometimes do but most of my time is devoted to making games).
 

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The ones that stand out to me as actually going mad are Herbert West's patients (as well as West himself who, in addition to gradually devolving into sociopathy, also seems to lose the thread of his own work; by the end he seems to just be messing around), and the family from The Color Out Of Space. And both of those groups went mad due to physical brain damage.
I love Herbert West-Reanimator. Both the story and the movies based on it (particularly the first film) are great)
 

You ever seen the original B&W Dracula with Bela Lugosi? A real classic and worth watching, but it's impossible to watch as a modern viewer in the way it was originally received. Women were literally fainting with terror. The audience was screaming with horror. The original screening was so intense, that the actually edited the final release so that it never actually shows the vampires fangs because that was felt to be too graphic and horrifying. Now days, compared to the sort of stuff people take in and shrug at, it plays as a comedy.

That goes double for the Frankenstein movie from the same era. The big moment of horror is a slapstick routine.

edit: and also for some reason they saw fit to not only remove all the scary bits from the novel but also to wallpaper over all of the main characters' character flaws. Combined with the fact that they screw up all of the characters' names I'm a little bit suspicious that whoever wrote the movie had not read the book, that it had merely had it described to them once by somebody


Like there is this meme where fans are like, "I wish I could live in Narnia" or "I wish I could live in Middle Earth" or what not, and then at the end of the fandom there is like some fandom whose universe is pure dystopia and they are like, "Can't relate". Well, I would have thought that the world of Lovecraftian horror was one of those places no one wanted to live, but I guess not.

Some of the minions of the Mi-Go seem to have a pretty good thing going
 
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So from one perspective do domestic lab rats and cattle.

I meant in the original canon, not the expanded mythos. True they muscled Akley off of his land with violence (implicitly murder) and stole his identity, but their actual followers seem well treated. All things considered the Mi-Go in Whisperer In Darkness*, while evil, seem less evil than most of Earth's colonial era powers. And they certainly seem to ask for less yet deliver more than many real-life cults.


*The original novella, not the 2011 movie based on the novella which made them far more evil
 
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You ever seen the original B&W Dracula with Bela Lugosi? A real classic and worth watching, but it's impossible to watch as a modern viewer in the way it was originally received. Women were literally fainting with terror. The audience was screaming with horror. The original screening was so intense, that the actually edited the final release so that it never actually shows the vampires fangs because that was felt to be too graphic and horrifying. Now days, compared to the sort of stuff people take in and shrug at, it plays as a comedy.

Or going even more recently, I once looked up a horror film called The Driller Killer because I heard that the English had banned it when it first came out in the late 1970's on account of it being too gory and intense...but watching it in 21st century America it was just tedious. Instead of "The Driller Killer" I think they should have called it "Bored to Death".
 

aramis erak

Legend
While there is some truth to that, too often to me the modern readers assertion that what they glean from a text is what matters and not what the author intended to say strikes me as a combination of laziness and narcissism. I very much feel that the "death of the author" is just an excuse for no longer approaching a text ready to do the work and rigor of figuring out what it says. If you claim that the author's intent doesn't matter and that the meaning of the text is what you absorb, then you are excusing yourself of a lack of all reading comprehension.

I do appreciate that you seem to admit that a good author conveys their meaning clearly as that is a more nuanced take than I tend to encounter, but I suspect that poor readers will tend to claim all authors are poor ones.
Nice to see I succeeded in conveying my disagreement with my peers without actually stating it...

Seriously, I will note that the value of Tolkien isn't what he intended (even as he's succeeded at his once stated intent - a new English mythology) but how the ongoing fanbase accepts and interprets it. Especially his biggest fan-fiction author, Christopher Tolkien...

L5R was intended for players to go full-weaboo and as much Pre-Shogunate Imperial Japan as they can do, while setting it in a fantasy land so that it's not using the classic names, and encourages full on cultural appropriation while excusing error via "Rokugan is Not Japan." (Capitalization important.) (Rokugan can be translated, depending upon kanji, 6 eyes, 6 rot, 6 cancer... 6 rocks (tho that mixes reading types - kunyomi vs onyomi- tho' I've seen evidence that John has used mixed readings in charcter names.) John's intent was mixed parties across the clans, either on the wall or in the winter courts, at each other. He succeeds at conveying this "intraparty strife" to only a few... but the rest is well conveyed. Did he fail?

NO! He didn't fail. He wrote something that (A) fed him and his spouse for a while, and (B) is still generating more fans. And fiction.

On a commercial scale, John's intent was meaningless. The company's intent was: to sell books about making cool samurai and having them have adventures putting duty, glory, and honor at odds with each other as calls for character actions... many glorious acts fail at Duty or Honor; Many honorable acts fail duty or are inglorious; many dutiful acts are dishonorable or inglorious.

As a recovering English literature graduate student, I could not possibly be more thrilled to see this discussion here. 😍. But at the end of the day, aren't RPG manuals instruction manuals? If the authors fail to convey their meaning, then that is a failure on their part.
Only if it fails to generate meaning for the reader. After all, billions of people derive meaning quite divorced from the probable intent of the authors of various "rules for living." With the exception of Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, and of Moses ben Amran, most of those using the rules enshrined in writing do not even read them in the original languages.

As a GM, I really don't care what the author's intent was - I care how the rules impact my play, and if they're playable in my playstyle range and tolerable to my players. (Who won't hesitate to tell me when they dislike the game.)
 

While there is some truth to that, too often to me the modern readers assertion that what they glean from a text is what matters and not what the author intended to say strikes me as a combination of laziness and narcissism. I very much feel that the "death of the author" is just an excuse for no longer approaching a text ready to do the work and rigor of figuring out what it says. If you claim that the author's intent doesn't matter and that the meaning of the text is what you absorb, then you are excusing yourself of a lack of all reading comprehension.

I'd say it's worse than that. They're not just making excuses for their lack of reading comprehension, they're explicitly giving themselves license to just make stuff up and call it fact and to misrepresent their own weird headcanons as actual canon.

EDIT:
If anything if I were going to disregard authorial intent then I'd argue in the opposite direction, ie. that it's all just sound and fury signifying nothing/just a show I should really just relax*

*(/that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear/omnia vanitas/form is emptiness and emptiness form/monkeys with a keyboard could write this given enough time/it's just a light that shines real bright and bounces off the screen).
 
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Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
Whether it's blaming Diablo for 3e's direction, WoW for 4e's direction, or the MCU and anime for 5e's direction, all these accusations come across as people blaming changes that they dislike on whatever is the hot pop culture item. 🤷‍♂️
It's particularly funny to a sliver of early gaming veterans in the case of 4e. Pretty much without exception, every 4e feature it's accused of getting from MMOs actually came from amateur press association and fanzine discussion in the 1970s. I am confident of this since I was there reading them, and got to know Rob Heinsoo thanks to corresponding with him about them.

And as others' comments show, very little in our genres ever has just one source.
They literally shoot at the monster in the Dunwich Horror don’t they? And Cthulhu is rammed with a ship. I think people underestimate how much Lovecraft had people successfully fight monsters in his stories.
I was going to point at "The Dunwich Horror" in particular myself.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think if play of a Cthulhu-esque RPG starts to turn on the question of whether or not horrors from out of space and time can be shot, run over, killed by animals, etc, then the play has drifted a fair way from HPL's focus.

The stories have various sorts of pulp-ish things in them, to various degrees, in order to make the plots work. But I don't think the most interesting thing about the story "Call of Cthulhu" is that Cthulhu was rammed by a boat. Nor is it the body count among the sailors - that's a device too, to give the horror physical form - to make it palpable.

A CoC-esque RPG could take a variety of approaches to these matters and nevertheless engage with HPL's themes. Conversely, a RPG that includes CoC-type tropes might involve no guns or dynamite or physical violence at all and yet still be closer to Scooby Doo or to a PC-grinding dungeon it its feel.
 

A CoC-esque RPG could take a variety of approaches to these matters and nevertheless engage with HPL's themes. Conversely, a RPG that includes CoC-type tropes might involve no guns or dynamite or physical violence at all and yet still be closer to Scooby Doo or to a PC-grinding dungeon it its feel.

Now that I think of it, Whisperer in Darkness and The Shadow Over Insmouth were like reverse Scooby Doo. "Now let's see who farmer Akeley really is..."
 

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