Experiencing the fiction in RPG play

I have run adventure paths. I look at them as more like guidelines, as some have ended up very far off what was published, although, I could still mine enough information from the later parts that they didn't become useless. One time, in particular, the players were so surprised that the adventure they loved got poor reviews. Had to explain what they did wasn't that close to the official AP. This wasn't because I'm a brilliant adventure designer, bur because the players pursued their interests, and I moulded my GMing around their characters.

Other times, APs will run pretty much as written, not usually though.
Yeah, that matches my experience pretty well. I tend to lift from published material and then expand and modify on my own prior to starting play, and then even more once play begins and the players start to dictate how things go.

But I have run some published adventures largely as presented and had it go quite well. I don't think there's anything inherently bad about any approach; it's more about expectations and experience being aligned.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
...One of the things I struggle with is how my young DMs view their campaigns.

I run a high school D&D club and to a person the DMs refer to the campaign as their story.
This is textbook BAD DMing 101.

A DM is not there to "create a story". RPG's are not "fiction", they are not a books or movies.

They are Games.

I dislike using the term "Fiction" used when talking about table top RPG's. I see used more and more, and I find it somewhat misleading because the word is most associated with movies, books and Tv. Which table top RPG's are not.

A DM presents a Campaign Setting

The Campaign Setting is a Virtual World. The players then get to interact with that virtual world according to the rules of The Game.

He may present them with adventure hooks, challenges, interesting NPC's, and the consequences of their in game actions. Hopefully in a fair, yet exciting manner.

I... I like that you said "reasonably compelling" here. I agree. I think that very often people see a RPG story the same as they would a story in a book or movie. And I think that can be problematic. We experience a RPG differently than we do a book or any other media. ...
No thinking about it. 100% problematic mentality to have.

An RPG is not a story in any way like a book or a movie.

It is a GAME. First and foremost.

Any "story" part of an RPG is an after-effect that emerges out of gameplay. The story you tell about your characters adventures after the game.
 
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pogre

Hero
sure it is.
I agree with your sentiments, but my goal is to provide an inclusive, safe place for the students to engage the game in ways they want.

We have an open table policy and students are free to switch tables at any time. However, friends are the most important factor for teens - they value friendship much more highly than adults. It is the reason that out of five tables - I typically have the smallest number of players (4 or 5).

I cannot see this view of DMing being unique to my young DMs. There was no collusion in their viewpoints - this is how they view the campaign. I have to believe this is a trend among younger DMs - albeit I concede I have a limited local view.

This is textbook BAD DMing 101.

A DM is not there to "create a story". RPG's are not "fiction", they are not a books or movies.

They are Games.
The kids are having fun. We have between 30-40 showing up every week. So while I largely agree with your view - is it BAD DMing if they are enjoying the game with their friends?

Not games I would enjoy as a "mature" gamer, but there is a lot boisterous laughter and smiles every week.

Thus, my reluctance to intercede and 'teach.'
 
I cannot see this view of DMing being unique to my young DMs. ...I have to believe this is a trend among younger DMs - albeit I concede I have a limited local view.
Seriously, its a trend older than any of them. I wasn't joking about the 90s.

GM-as-storyteller was pretty big 25 or so years ago.
 

Arilyn

Hero
If the teens are having fun, don't worry about it. As they gain more experience and exposure to the hobby, they'll try different styles, maturing into their preferences in time.

I look back on my first games and shudder, especially my GMing.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
...
The kids are having fun. We have between 30-40 showing up every week. So while I largely agree with your view - is it BAD DMing if they are enjoying the game with their friends?
...
Objectively speaking, yes it is absolutely still BAD DMing.

Just because they are having fun does not mean that they also can't still be doing it wrong.

That being said, I think that your instinct of reluctance to step in is the correct one.

People HATE to be told that they are doing something wrong. Especially when they are busy having fun.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Objectively speaking, yes it is absolutely still BAD DMing.

Just because they are having fun does not mean that they also can't still be doing it wrong.

That being said, I think that your instinct of reluctance to step in is the correct one.

People HATE to be told that they are doing something wrong. Especially when they are busy having fun.
Other than it not aligning with your particular playstyle what exactly makes it objectively bad gm'ing??

Edit: If I and my group decide to run/play a specific module or adventure are we doing it wrong as well?
 

Jaeger

Explorer
Other than it not aligning with your particular playstyle what exactly makes it objectively bad gm'ing??
A Campaign that a DM is running is not a story.

It is a Game where the players are interacting with a living virtual world and finding adventure.

The DM's function is not to tell a story. He is there to run the Game.

He can present the players with various scenarios or missions in the context of the type of campaign the group has chosen to play. The DM as the Master of the virtual world then has the NPC's react to what the characters have done.

But he is not there to ensure a predetermined outcome. His is the master of the virtual world - not the players actions. There literally is no "story" for the DM to tell.

RPG groups do not engage in storytelling. They are playing a Game.

A game, that by design, has no predetermined outcomes.

If the DM is running things so that the plot/story is predetermined, why are you playing a table top RPG? If you are gonna ride the rails you might as well get cool graphics and sound effects to go with it and play the latest cool CRPG.

I reiterate:
Any "story" part of an RPG is an after-effect that emerges out of gameplay. The story you tell about your characters adventures after the game.


Edit: If I and my group decide to run/play a specific module or adventure are we doing it wrong as well?
You're playing a module, whatev's.

They have been a mainstay of the hobby since the beginning. Some are bad some are good.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Campbell's Axiom : Anytime you start a sentence with phrases like All role playing games are like this or All role playing games should be like this you are most likely wrong. Role playing games are a broad category of games just like board games. Like there innumerable ways to play board games there are also innumerable ways to play and run role playing games. This diversity of play is a good thing and should be cherished.




Speaking personally I am generally not a fan of the story in the sense of a preordained thing the GM reveals to players through play. I generally like to keep the story feral, as a wild thing we all discover through play. However those players are not like wrong to play that way.

Sometimes I like to play Moldvay B/X in which case we are definitely playing a game and story is what happens after if we deign to care. This is also not wrong and kind of amazing.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Seriously, its a trend older than any of them. I wasn't joking about the 90s.

GM-as-storyteller was pretty big 25 or so years ago.
In my experience this has been the predominant view of the hobby since mid to late Second Edition. There are small pockets of resistance like the indie community and the OSR community, but it has always been extremely common. Try counting how many times the Fifth Edition DMG mentions the story sometime.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
Campbell's Axiom : Anytime you start a sentence with phrases like All role playing games are like this or All role playing games should be like this you are most likely wrong. Role playing games are a broad category of games just like board games.
I'm not wrong. Because we are not talking about a "broad category of games".

Traditional Tabel Top Roleplaying games are pretty well defined.

From D&D and it's offspring / offshoots.

Which is exactly what we are talking about in this thread.

You want to talk about non traditional games that abandon the DM/Player paradigm where we use dice and character sheets. Ok, Fine.

But that's not what we are talking about here. Which is obvious from the context of our discussion.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Jaeger

I am not talking about games that abandon the GM and player paradigm. Different games have different play priorities and different goals and objectives for both the GM and other players.

  • Vampire - The Masquerade is a role playing game
  • Moldvay B/X is a role playing game
  • Monsterhearts is a role playing game
  • Legend of the Five Rings is a role playing game
They represent vastly different play experiences while all belonging to the same broad category. They all have fairly traditional GM and player divisions. They all use dice and character sheets.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
Speaking personally I am generally not a fan of the story in the sense of a preordained thing the GM reveals to players through play. I generally like to keep the story feral, as a wild thing we all discover through play. However those players are not like wrong to play that way.
They can Like playing D&D as a:"...story in the sense of a preordained thing the GM reveals to players through play." As much as they want. They could be having an utter blast.

So what.

That does not mean that objectively speaking they are still playing the game wrong.
.
 
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In my experience this has been the predominant view of the hobby since mid to late Second Edition. There are small pockets of resistance like the indie community and the OSR community, but it has always been extremely common. Try counting how many times the Fifth Edition DMG mentions the story sometime.
Storyteller (oWoD/WWGS) was, AFAICT at the time, the headspace leader of the industry through most of the 90s. So, yeah, I can see how that was the case for a long while. Even D&D jumped on the badwagon. (And, y'know, it's not like it seemed that terrible, back then, because, yeah, it was a total-GM-dominance kinda thing, but, contrasted with the DM-is-God, killer dungeons and whatnot that preceded it, at least cast the GM as a kinder, gentler, omnipotent despot.)

Then d20 revived D&D, like an H-bomb awaking a sleeping 400' tall dinosaur, and it seemed like 3.x/d20/PF1 RaW-uber-alles, system-mastery & player-"entitlement" became the dominant paradigm.

Then virulent nerdrage became the dominant paradigm, of course.

Then, y'know, OSR, 5e, and a lot of returning players, and it's like the intervening decades didn't happen.
:🤷:
 
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Nagol

Unimportant
Well, here's the question - what are you there to do?

Me, I'm what I might call a "service oriented" GM. I am not there to provide some generic thing. I am there to provide a game, specifically for those at the table. The characters the players present, and the choices in the designs of those characters, inform what the players are interested in. The guy who makes a cutlass wielding Marine is interested in wielding a cutlass. I should ignore this?
If you want the player's choices to be meaningful, yes. The player choices matter not just the choices they make in how they react to the environment, but the choices they make wrt the PCs in the environment. If I offer a game and the player know solving mysteries are going to be important and all those players decide to bring in combat machines with little to no mystery solving capability then they are in for a very hard time. My campaign won't suddenly change to a combat solution campaign.

Whether we are "obligated" or not, do you not care what the players want?
Sure, I care and in many systems I run, the players get input into elements inside the fiction. But, I won't bend a scenario to compensate for the choices they made. The choices the players make have meaning and consequence. If I bend situations to negate that consequence, I invalidate those choices.

You are given a suit. It fits really well. Do you stop to worry about whether it is off the rack, or someone gave the tailor your measurements? The suit is worth less to you if it is tailored?
Again, yes. Because a tailored campaign is more likely to run on rails because the GM has already shown my choices don't matter.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
@Jaeger

I am not talking about games that abandon the GM and player paradigm. Different games have different play priorities and different goals and objectives for both the GM and other players.

  • Vampire - The Masquerade is a role playing game
  • Moldvay B/X is a role playing game
  • Monsterhearts is a role playing game
  • Legend of the Five Rings is a role playing game
They represent vastly different play experiences while all belonging to the same broad category. They all have fairly traditional GM and player divisions. They all use dice and character sheets.
Yes, they all have different play experiences. That's what I like about different systems and settings myself. I've played and own 3 of the 4 games on you list, and own /play power by the apocalypse world games as well.

But they are all still traditional roleplaying games. That has not changed.

And these facts hold true for every single one of them:

The DM/GM's function is not to tell a story. He is there to run the Game.

He can present the players with various scenarios or missions in the context of the type of campaign the group has chosen to play. The DM/GM as the Master of the virtual world then has the NPC's react to what the characters have done.

But he is not there to ensure a predetermined outcome. His is the master of the virtual world - not the players actions. There literally is no "story" for the DM to tell.

RPG groups do not engage in storytelling. They are playing a Game.

A game, that by design, has no predetermined outcomes.

Any "story" part of an RPG is an after-effect that emerges out of gameplay. The story you tell about your characters adventures after the game.

This is really quite simple and self evident.

An Analogy:
I could really enjoy playing chess with a friend. But the way we play chess involves my friend moving his pieces in such a way that I can always win with a spectacular combination.

We may greatly enjoy "playing chess" this way.

That has nothing to do with the Fact that we are objectively playing the game wrong from how it is designed to be played.

.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
You're playing a module, whatev's.

They have been a mainstay of the hobby since the beginning. Some are bad some are good.
Some have pre-determined paths, encounters and even ...pre-determined outcomes in a broad sense... but if I choose to run say...Hoard of the Dragon Queen (By most people's accounts a linear module)... I'm not playing D&D wrong... irregardless of your personal opinion on what constitutes "real" D&D play.
 

pemerton

Legend
RPG groups do not engage in storytelling.
This is clearly false, though. There are many counterexamples besides the kids that @pogre is helping out.

We all have our preferences, and on a board like this presumably are here (in part, at least) to discuss them.

But the kids are doing what they're doing. That's their prerogative.

Any "story" part of an RPG is an after-effect that emerges out of gameplay. The story you tell about your characters adventures after the game.
See, this is highly contentious;. Some of us play to generate a story in the course of play. Not simply post-session reflection.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Jaeger

If they are playing Moldvay B/X then I would agree with you. If they are playing Fifth Edition I would argue that GM as Storyteller is embedded in the game.

DMG - Chapter 3: Creating Adventures said:
Fundamentally adventures are stories. An adventure shares many of the features of a novel, a movie, an issue of a comic, or an episode of a TV show. Comic series and serialized TV dramas are particularly good comparisons, because of the way individual adventures are limited in scope but blend together to create a larger narrative. If an adventure is a single issue or episode, a campaign is the series as a whole.

Whether you're creating your own adventures or using published adventures, you'll find advice in this chapter to help create a fun or memorable experience for your players.

Creating an adventure involves blending scenes of exploration, social interaction, and combat into a unified whole that meets the needs of your players and your campaign. But it's more than that. The basic elements of good storytelling should guide you throughout this process, so your players experience the adventure as a story and not a disjointed series of encounters.
This is not like my favored sort of play, but the advice in the DMG expects the DM to be a storyteller.
 

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