GM DESCRIPTION: NARRATION OR CONVERSATION?

Aldarc

Adventurer
This was the division that existed in the thread in question. Not saying it has to be one or the other.
I feel like the actual discussion in that thread was about the primary GM role that new gamemasters should focus on learning: scene-framing for player agency or literary performance. The whole conversational vs. literary narration bit was a red herring conversation that we unwittingly got roped into when literary performance camp asked us to conceive of GMing as a conversation without the literary performance. We could and did, but that was still not good enough, and so here we are.

That said, I tend to view most roleplaying as a constant state of negotiating the fiction. This is generally done conversationally between GM and players with mechanics often serving the function of a mediator of narrative outcome resolution. Sure, narrative prose can potentially add to the immersion of the game, but it is a non-causal relationship, so I regard it as a secondary concern when compared to the importance of scene-framing for players and as a player. What ultimately matters, IMHO, is that players understand what the GM is trying to communicate, the stakes of the scene, and how they can engage the fiction.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I feel like the actual discussion in that thread was about the primary GM role that new gamemasters should focus on learning: scene-framing for player agency or literary performance. The whole conversational vs. literary narration bit was a red herring conversation that we unwittingly got roped into when literary performance camp asked us to conceive of GMing as a conversation without the literary performance. We could and did, but that was still not good enough, and so here we are.

That said, I tend to view most roleplaying as a constant state of negotiating the fiction. This is generally done conversationally between GM and players with mechanics often serving the function of a mediator of narrative outcome resolution. Sure, narrative prose can potentially add to the immersion of the game, but it is a non-causal relationship, so I regard it as a secondary concern when compared to the importance of scene-framing for players and as a player. What ultimately matters, IMHO, is that players understand what the GM is trying to communicate, the stakes of the scene, and how they can engage the fiction.
Can we leave the what's most important/what's core debate in the thread it started in please?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
As a player, I prefer short narration followed by interactive for additional details.

As a GM, I try to be more evocative than descriptive, when practical, which reduces the needed amount of narration, and increases the player investment...
This was the consensus of the non-conversational side in the other thread. Something short and evocative to describe the room and mood, and then questions/statements if necessary.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
Can we leave the what's most important/what's core debate in the thread it started in please?
Sure, but it does inform how I contextualize the conversation of this thread.

I don't necessarily think, for example, in terms of a personal preference for "conversational" vs. "literary" narration, but, instead, in terms of communicating what's important in the game fiction for players to engage the scene. The stylistic aesthetic is of lesser importance than the pragmatics. This matter can certainly be either/or/neither in regards to conversational vs. literary narration.
 

Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
I am curious what other posters think about how a GM should sound when describing things to players.
How a GM should sound? I think players might have a preference, and GMs have an individual style, but you know we get into all sorts of trouble when anyone starts telling others how they should or should not do anything.
 

Hussar

Legend
Heh. When the premise of the thread is clearly stated, we actually get to discuss the issue rather than spend 15 pages debating what the conversation is actually about. So, for that, thank you [MENTION=85555]Bedrockgames[/MENTION]. :D

I'm pretty much in the "it depends on the game" camp. I generally find that word choice is going to be necessary as a DM/GM simply because it's virtually impossible to separate running a game from any level of performance. We always choose specific language to fit the game, genre, mood and whatnot, which is, IMO, going to nudge things away from the conversational and towards the prose. This came up in the other thread where words like "wield" were used. That's a deliberate word choice for a fantasy RPG. You'd never use it in an SF RPG, for example. Han Solo wields his blaster? I don't think so. If we're playing a fantasy RPG, we're going to draw on fantasy language, probably subconsciously. If we play a modern RPG, our language is going to change.

Note, I'm not referring to game dependent language. That's obviously something else entirely. But, the language we use during the game, that isn't "game language" is going to shift depending on the game we're playing. For the most part, it's going to be a pretty subconscious choice but, it really is going to be there.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
I'm pretty much in the "it depends on the game" camp. I generally find that word choice is going to be necessary as a DM/GM simply because it's virtually impossible to separate running a game from any level of performance. We always choose specific language to fit the game, genre, mood and whatnot, which is, IMO, going to nudge things away from the conversational and towards the prose. This came up in the other thread where words like "wield" were used. That's a deliberate word choice for a fantasy RPG. You'd never use it in an SF RPG, for example. Han Solo wields his blaster? I don't think so. If we're playing a fantasy RPG, we're going to draw on fantasy language, probably subconsciously. If we play a modern RPG, our language is going to change.
Just like in the other thread, you continually failed (miserably) to demonstrate that words like "wield" are non-conversational or "a deliberate word choice for a fantasy RPG." IMO, the phrase "wielding a gun", for example, is conversational language. I had even demonstrated that you can have prose with a young child's vocabulary while others indicated that some people exercise a larger vocabulary in their conversations, so vocabulary size and diction should not be equated to prose or non-conversational language. It seems that you never learn and just repeat your same mistakes over. Too bad.

I also don't think that something becomes narrative prose just because we use word fields that are more common in some contexts over others. "Halbard" is not a common word of conversation either, but the GM telling players "he charges at you with his halberd" is not necessarily prose either, but can be delivered with a conversational tone or manner.
 
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Imaro

Adventurer
What I'm saying is much more important than how I say it.
I disagree with this statement. How you say something, how its presented, how it's interpreted/received can, IMO, be just as important as what you are saying.

Edit: To clarify... if your group had no reference point for the two characters you used... you would have to find a different means of presenting in order to convey what your content is correctly.
 
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Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I disagree with this statement. How you say something, how its presented, how it's interpreted/received can, IMO, be just as important as what you are saying.
I guess my concern with this approach, at a fundamental level, is it leads to setting a bar where only people who talk like 'nerds' can sit in the GM chair, or even play. It is actually one of the big hurdles to getting people interested in the game that I encounter when talking to people outside of gaming. We tend to interpret intellect by how 'well spoken' a GM is and by their vocabulary. I would rather see a GM speaking comfortably in their natural voice, largely for this reason. I also think there is a degree of empathy lacking when we all adopt the 'how you say something is just as important as what you say'. I've noticed this more and more over the years where people don't seem to feel any need to try to understand what a person is really trying to say and instead focus on the literalness of how they say it.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I guess my concern with this approach, at a fundamental level, is it leads to setting a bar where only people who talk like 'nerds' can sit in the GM chair, or even play. It is actually one of the big hurdles to getting people interested in the game that I encounter when talking to people outside of gaming. We tend to interpret intellect by how 'well spoken' a GM is and by their vocabulary. I would rather see a GM speaking comfortably in their natural voice, largely for this reason. I also think there is a degree of empathy lacking when we all adopt the 'how you say something is just as important as what you say'. I've noticed this more and more over the years where people don't seem to feel any need to try to understand what a person is really trying to say and instead focus on the literalness of how they say it.
No it doesnt
Now let's clarify something first... I dont like or enjoy narrative prose in my game is a different and much more reasonable argument than... How I present something doesnt matter. One is subjective and much more narrow. The other, IMO, is a much larger claim which IMO is ludicrous. You may not like it but it is what it is.

Edit: Also how are Barakka and Shredder not "nerd" or at least niche references? What if I dont have the same context you do for conversation? Doesnt that also impose limitations?
 
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HJFudge

Visitor
Word choice matters, yes.

Anyone who doesn't think so should perhaps regard these two sentences:
"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."
vs
"Sorry Daddy, but I've been naughty."

Synonyms all, but one of them sets a vastly different tone than the other :p

That being said, how we present those words can be even MORE important. As the old song says: It ain't whatcha say, its the way thatcha say it: Thats what gets results. What tone the DM uses, what words he chooses to stress, all of these are cues to the players of what is going on and how they should proceed. If I use a fearful tone when the NPCs talk about the "Temple of the Mountain God" it implies a much different thing than if the NPC talks about it in a reverential way. Even if the exact same words are used, you can give quite different information to the players due to how you present those words.

I would even go so far as to quantify it like this: The basic step, the one that is foundational, is choosing the Right Words. If you get this wrong, your presentation will fail. However, the advanced GM knows that how you present those words matters too, and thus will use the Right Words in the Right Way.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I think it depends on the effect you want to create. If I provide this description to the players:

"You enter the opulent throne room of Emperor Theodius lead by his minister of state. The room is huge, nearly 100 feet east to west, and 150 feet north to south. The long walk to the gilded throne is over a plush purple carpet, the rest of the room's floor is composed of impeccably laid marble mosaics featuring the history of Theodius and his family. Grand banners and tapestries hang on the walls, stretching from the 50 foot high vaulted ceiling to the floors. The air is cold and smells vaguely of lavender. Theodius sits waiting resting chin on his hand, a with a look of utter frustration on his face."

That's a pretty narrative style. I like that as a scene setting statement. The order of facts are relevant, because the most important thing is that the Emperor is frustrated, and you're either about to make that better or a whole lot worse.

As HJFudge points out the right words, presented the right way have additional contextual meaning. What I like to do is make the thing that the players are going to focus on the last thing I present. That way they will pay attention to what I have to say about other stuff.

For example:

"You enter the cave mouth, its barely big enough for two dwarves to stand abreast. The whole thing is a rough circle 30 feet across and smells of damp earth and rotting meat. You can see the ceiling 5 feet above your heads illuminated by the camp fire in the middle. Your quarry, a werewolf, is inside. It hasn't noticed you yet."

So, I present the werewolf last, because as soon I tell the players there is a werewolf they stopping thinking about the scene, and are waiting for their chance to roll dice and attack, or waiting to see what the werewolf will do.
 
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Bedrockgames

Adventurer
No it doesnt
Now let's clarify something first... I dont like or enjoy narrative prose in my game is a different and much more reasonable argument than... How I present something doesnt matter. One is subjective and much more narrow. The other, IMO, is a much larger claim which IMO is ludicrous. You may not like it but it is what it is.

Edit: Also how are Barakka and Shredder not "nerd" or at least niche references? What if I dont have the same context you do for conversation? Doesnt that also impose limitations?
I am not saying it doesn’t matter, I am saying it shouldn’t matter. And what references people get also shouldn’t matter. Most of the hobby is centered around suburban nerd culture and communication style. I think prioritizing/favoring that way if communicating limits the hobby.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I disagree with this statement. How you say something, how its presented, how it's interpreted/received can, IMO, be just as important as what you are saying.

Edit: To clarify... if your group had no reference point for the two characters you used... you would have to find a different means of presenting in order to convey what your content is correctly.
As long as they understand what I'm getting at, that's the important thing. Whatever words are required to help them understand, as long as they get it, the exact words aren't important.

I mean, I'm not some author writing a novel. I choose my words to best reflect the reality of the game world, but regardless of which words I choose, it's the reality which is the important thing. I don't want my words to influence anyone beyond the facts at hand.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
As long as they understand what I'm getting at, that's the important thing. Whatever words are required to help them understand, as long as they get it, the exact words aren't important.

I mean, I'm not some author writing a novel. I choose my words to best reflect the reality of the game world, but regardless of which words I choose, it's the reality which is the important thing. I don't want my words to influence anyone beyond the facts at hand.
Emphasis mine... if you are the GM and are the sole source of information for the PC's this is impossible.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I am not saying it doesn’t matter, I am saying it shouldn’t matter. And what references people get also shouldn’t matter. Most of the hobby is centered around suburban nerd culture and communication style. I think prioritizing/favoring that way if communicating limits the hobby.
I just don't think this is a realistic way of looking at communication period. how we say things, word choice, etc are an intrinsic part of communication for good or bad.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
As long as they understand what I'm getting at, that's the important thing. Whatever words are required to help them understand, as long as they get it, the exact words aren't important.

I mean, I'm not some author writing a novel. I choose my words to best reflect the reality of the game world, but regardless of which words I choose, it's the reality which is the important thing. I don't want my words to influence anyone beyond the facts at hand.
This.

I would just add what I am trying to say in my previous posts is communication is a two-way street. The listener needs to try to understand the GM as well. Again, my point was about people coming in from different backgrounds for example, where the language use is totally understandable but not necessarily part of the accepted 'geek way' of communicating tone X. I just find that part of gaming culture off-putting.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I just don't think this is a realistic way of looking at communication period.
Sure it is. You don't think we can bridge communication divides by being more empathetic and making more of an effort to understand one another and accept different communication styles? I don't know, for this is basically how I always conduct myself. I don't fault a GM for speaking in a blue-collar Boston accent using blue collar Boston vernacular for example (or any other style of talking I might encounter around me). My point is, a lot of what we are talking about is really gamesters speaking college level nerd speak. I don't think that is necessary. Especially in a hobby. It isn't the corporate world. The stakes are pretty low here. Might as well allow for the most communication styles possible. Also I've just learned from experience that type of college level communication, often just masks a lack of substantive ideas anyways.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Emphasis mine... if you are the GM and are the sole source of information for the PC's this is impossible.
I don't follow. The GM's job is to describe the environment. If I stick to the facts in describing the environment, then the players won't be un-duly influenced.

Besides, players aren't allowed to consider my word choice anyway, since that would be meta-gaming. My words aren't something that exist within the game world. The spike demon is.
 

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