Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Except not. I know for a fact that all I'm doing is having some fun, and not even all of it has to do with you at all, and what does is just ribbing. No insults at all. If n[/MENTION] and I.
The posts are not coming across this way at all. But whatever I wasn’t particularly focused on your posts.

Look when people do things like mock a person for not reading a thread using language that belittles their reading comprehension: that is insulting.
 

Hussar

Legend
Yeah, I'm done here. Pemerton's off using definitions that are just way out in left field and I honestly have completely lost whatever point he was trying to make. Every criticism is brushed off as a "non-sequitur" and not even remotely addressed. [MENTION=85555]Bedrockgames[/MENTION] cannot even be bothered talking about what the rest of us are talking about.

I'm rather tired of simply talking past each other. You folks have fun.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I responded pretty directly to the individual points you were making [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]. Not sure how else you want me to engage the discussion.
 

pemerton

Legend
When I guide new players, I often encourage them to consider minor elements about their characters that will be fun and memorable at the table.

<snip>

These tidbits often generate great interplay between the characters, despite the fact that they may have no impact on the stakes of the story (at first anyway, see below for more on this).

<snip>

There is a fluidity between how these details may impact the "actual play of the game." Maybe when I create my dwarf, I don't imagine the beard thing will be significant. I haven't written anything about it on my character sheet. But the beard jokes gain traction at the table and I start thinking more about the cultural significance of my beard, describing the intricate braids and beads that represent various elements of my character's background. Eventually, a good GM picks up on this and may develop hooks and connections. Maybe we meet another dwarf whose "beard writing" reveals something about them. Or we end up in a scenario where my beard is threatened (or I need to be in a clean-shaven disguise). I never consciously declared to the GM that these things are central features of my character, but over time these story elements can grow and become more significant. This sort of promotion and demotion of roleplaying elements seems to be a significant component of most games that I've played, regardless of the system.
This is important.

You are right about fluidity: actual play doesn't manifest discrete types or moments of the neat types we use in analysis and criticism.

Some of what I had in mind in my post that you responded to is elaborated in my posts to [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION] just upthread.

Here's a passage from Christopher Kubasik that also captures what I had in mind:

The tales of a story entertainment are based not on the success of actions, but on the choice of actions; not the manipulation of rules, but the manipulation of narrative tools.

The primary tool is Character. Characters drive the narrative of all stories. However, many people mistake character for characterization.

Characterization is the look of a character, the description of his voice, the quirks of habit. Characterization creates the concrete detail of a character through the use of sensory detail and exposition. By “seeing” how a character looks, how he picks up his wine glass, by knowing he has a love of fine tobacco, the character becomes concrete to our imagination, even while remaining nothing more than black ink upon a white page.

But a person thus described is not a character. A character must do.

Character is action. That’s a rule of thumb for plays and movies, and is valid as well for roleplaying games and story entertainments. This means that the best way to reveal your character is not through on an esoteric monologue about pipe and tobacco delivered by your character, but through your character’s actions.

But what actions? Not every action is true to a character; it is not enough to haphazardly do things in the name of action. Instead, actions must grow from the roots of Goals. A characterization imbued with a Goal that leads to action is a character.​

Because of the fluidity that you mention, it may be that characterisation leads to goals and thereby character and protagonism. In this way it ceases to be mere colour.

With respect to interplay between the characters, my own view is that the more this is conceived of in the same sort of frame as action declaration - ie something that matters to play and is part of the way the players express their protagonism - the more we tend towards flourishing roleplaying. Consistently (I think) with your fluidity point, the colour becomes a bridge to play and action.

My thinking on this is also influenced by one particualr RPGing experience that I had. There was a lot of interplay between the characters, and among us we built up a strong sense of the gameworld, the stakes of the game, that was somewhat independent of what the GM was doing. At a certain point, the GM - I think in order to try and retake control of the game - moved us all 100 years into the future of the gameworld.

If the character stuff was mere colour then this wouldn't have mattered. But the character stuff wasn't mere colour. It was central to play. The GM's change, which severed the PCs from the gameworld and hence pulled the rug of their relationships out from under them, killed the game. I left it a few weeks after that change, and heard that it broke up completely not much later.

That's an example of the GM not recognising and respecting the protagonistic trajectory of the players' colour.
 

pemerton

Legend
Yeah, I'm done here. Pemerton's off using definitions that are just way out in left field and I honestly have completely lost whatever point he was trying to make.
The point is simple: a novel probably won't move you if it's poorly written. A letter from a family member is likely to move you regardless of how it's written.

RPGing is more like the latter than the former. It's about moving people through shared engagement with an imagined situation, not entertaining people by performing for them.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
But your whole notion of what constitutes color, and what constitutes good color, is completely at odds with my notion. That is the crux of the problem here. And again I just don't buy into this Content/Presentation-performance distinction people are making. It hasn't been demonstrated to be a real distinction and it hasn't been shown by anyone to be useful for anything other than this discussion.
You realize this is the OP's original distinction... right? The OP who you have continually agreed with...right?
 

pemerton

Legend
You realize this is the OP's original distinction... right? The OP who you have continually agreed with...right?
It's not my distinction, actually. I never used the word content. That's [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s word.

Hussar has suggested that I am eschewing description, but here's the OP:

RPGing requires narration: GMs describe situations, and players declare actions for their PCs that respond to those situations. But I don't think the literary quality of that narration is important.

What matters to me is that the players feel the significance of the situations the GM describes - that they feel the pull to action, and the threats of inaction. That is, that the situation engage and motivate the players as players, not as an audience to a performance.
My point in this thread has been consistent: that what is distinctive about RPGing is that it engages by way of participation in situation, not performance to an audience.

I don't think it's that hard to understand, whether or not you agree with it.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
The point is simple: a novel probably won't move you if it's poorly written. A letter from a family member is likely to move you regardless of how it's written.

RPGing is more like the latter than the former. It's about moving people through shared engagement with an imagined situation, not entertaining people by performing for them.

Yeah but I'm also less likely to be able to fully engage with (emotionally, intellectually or however) the content of said letter if the presentation is horrible. It's the same with rpg's for many people (especially since they would lack the implied emotion connection that a family member would draw on)
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
You realize this is the OP's original distinction... right? The OP who you have continually agreed with...right?
Look at my response to the op. I agreed that RPGs are not literary. I also agreed with him that you don’t have to be in acting mode to depict a character. At every point I have disagreed with adding a new model or language around this distinction.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
It's not my distinction, actually. I never used the word content. That's [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s word.

Hussar has suggested that I am eschewing description, but here's the OP:



My point in this thread has been consistent: that what is distinctive about RPGing is that it engages by way of participation in situation, not performance to an audience.

I don't think it's that hard to understand, whether or not you agree with it.
Well maybe it wasn't stated clearly enough... either way I disagree... some people are engaged during roleplaying games because of the performances going on plain and simple they are a player type that has been identified in Robin Laws (I believe) player types or are you saying they don't exist? I also don;t think engagement through participation in a situation is distinct... choose your own adventure books, boardgames and videogames all do this to varying degrees...
 

pemerton

Legend
Yeah but I'm also less likely to be able to fully engage with (emotionally, intellectually or however) the content of said letter if the presentation is horrible.
Really?

That's a surprise to me. When I read a letter from a family member I'm not really worried about the spelling or puncutation, let alone it's literary merit.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Look at my response to the op. I agreed that RPGs are not literary. I also agreed with him that you don’t have to be in acting mode to depict a character. At every point I have disagreed with adding a new model or language around this distinction.
No one made the claim that you had to be in "acting" mode to depict a character. The objection has been to the OP basically claiming color is not in fact a core (distinct??? this isn't really clear either IMO) component of roleplaying games when for many (but not all) it certainly is. Some won't engage with your content/situation/whatever if the color in your game sucks.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Really?

That's a surprise to me. When I read a letter from a family member I'm not really worried about the spelling or puncutation, let alone it's literary merit.
Doesn't that depend on what the letter is about? And if that impedes clarity... how can you not worry about those things?

And again how does situation in a roleplaying game equate to the emotional bond of a family member??
 

pemerton

Legend
Well maybe it wasn't stated clearly enough... either way I disagree... some people are engaged during roleplaying games because of the performances going on plain and simple they are a player type that has been identified in Robin Laws (I believe) player types or are you saying they don't exist? I also don;t think engagement through participation in a situation is distinct... choose your own adventure books, boardgames and videogames all do this to varying degrees...
I think that Choose Your Own Adventure books and boardgames are not very satisfactory vehicles for participating in a situation. Their structured natures make them relatively poor vehicles for protagonism.

Video games I can't comment on.

And I'm not denying that there are people who enjoy RPGs because they are entertained by performances or give entertaining performances. I'm denying that this activity is at the heart of RPGing. The OP isn't a piece of sociology; it's a piece of criticism.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I think that Choose Your Own Adventure books and boardgames are not very satisfactory vehicles for participating in a situation. Their structured natures make them relatively poor vehicles for protagonism.
Uhm...ok you can feel that way but it doesn't make it true... unless you are claiming that OD&D, BECMI, AD&D, etc. played in a traditional manner are poor vehicles for protagonism... how can you say the same about games like Gloomhaven, Descent, Massive Darkness, the D&D boardgames (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, etc.) and so on?

Video games I can't comment on.
Perhaps I'm not understanding how you are using the word protagonism here... could you define it? I would think videogames (especially open world games) would fit the bill pretty nicely.


And I'm not denying that there are people who enjoy RPGs because they are entertained by performances or give entertaining performances. I'm denying that this activity is at the heart of RPGing. The OP isn't a piece of sociology; it's a piece of criticism.
What does "at the heart of roleplaying" even mean? for some people they will not play a game without color how is that not "at the heart of roleplaying" for them? For others they've gotten along just fine using pre-made adventures or running games without scene framing, setting stakes, etc... is your engagement of situation "at the heart of roleplaying" for them? What if they want to play in a pre-plotted campaign where, since the situations they will face and the way they will engage with them is generally known, color really is the most important thing for them?
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Look at my response to the op. I agreed that RPGs are not literary. I also agreed with him that you don’t have to be in acting mode to depict a character. At every point I have disagreed with adding a new model or language around this distinction.
When I play a RPG I am not going to experience fear because of the referee's narration. That's a response appropriate to a book or film, perhaps, but not a RPG.

In a RPG, my emotional responses are generated by the context for, and consequences of, the actions I declare for my character. I'll give an example to explain what I mean. In the first session of BW that I played as a player (rather than GM), my PC and his companion were investigating an abandoned farmstead. As we were doing this, orcs attacked. What generated my emotional response to the orcs was not the GM's narration of them: it was the fact that I knew - given my knowledge of the game mechanics and the character's stats - that my companion was in danger from the orcs, and that it might be hard for me to both protect here and make sure the orcs didn't get to my horse, which was tethered to a post outside the farm house. Or to put it another way, it was my knowledge of the possibilities implicit in the circumstances of play that generated an emotional response.
That was pemerton's point (not met with universal acclaim) that caused him to create this thread. (emphasis supplied). This has been explained to you several times. This is what we disagreed with (the definition of "literary" to mean the use of presentation to evoke emotion).

Here is the OP, with emphasis added-

Some recent threads have discussed aspects of GM and player narration in RPGing. Which hase prompted me to start this thread.

My answer to the question in the thread title is a firm No.

RPGing requires narration: GMs describe situations, and players declare actions for their PCs that respond to those situations. But I don't think the literary quality of that narration is important.

What matters to me is that the players feel the significance of the situations the GM describes - that they feel the pull to action, and the threats of inaction. That is, that the situation engage and motivate the players as players, not as an audience to a performance. And player narration should, in my view, engage with and build on this fiction in ways that display the player's view of the fiction, perhaps challenge other players (and even the GM), that make the other pariticpants go "I didn't see that coming!"

This is how I see RPGs, with their emphasis on participation in the creation of a fiction that is structured through distinct player an d GM roles, working. And it's how I see them differening from more directly narrative mediums such as books and films.
Now, do you see how this post flowed from the first; this isn't about the funny voices, this is a specific issue that Pemerton has - regardless of the way it is framed (which has changed multiple times), he does not believe that emotional engagement can or should be evoked by player or DM narration of any kind (or other external issues apparently). It is one that, obviously, many people will disagree with. And that's fine; disagreement and discussion are fuel for engagement, and different people are drawn to TTRPGs for different reasons. His games are different than mine are different than yours. The pushback he receives isn't because of the way he runs his games, but because he is saying that his way is the essential part of "RPGing" - in other words, this is a universal proposition, not just a "Hey, this is what works for me."

Now, the issue some people (such as me) have had with your comments are twofold:

1. The first I will explain by analogy, since you I have already stated variants of the above to you three times (without jokes) and you refused to engage or respond. Imagine someone created a thread that said, "Optimization is the only way to play RPGs- any thing else isn't important to RPGs." Now, that might be controversial. Some people might reasonably say, "Hey. I don't like optimization. I like playing a different way."

Make sense so far? Do you understand why this would be controversial? Good.

Now, someone (say, you) comes into the thread and says, "You know what- I totally agree with the OP!" And when people try to explain why they disagree with the OP, or the history of this disagreement, that someone says, repeatedly, "Whatever. Stop trying to force your agenda on me! How dare you insist that I play the same way that you do?"

Now the reason a lot of people are going to bristle at these types of comments is because the entire thread is denigrating the way that they play, and it's really not appropriate for someone (you) to say that the people defending their own playing style in a thread created to minimize and attack the way they play is somehow ... unfair to them. Does this make sense to you now?*

Again, play like you want. No one is coming to your house and forcing you to play a different way. But some of us enjoy the way we play- and don't enjoy it when others insist that RPGs must be played a certain way, that just happens to correspond with the OP's preferred style, and that the way we enjoy playing is just unnecessary "funny voices" that have nothing to with what really matters for RPGs, or that DMs and players can never use narration to evoke emotion in an RPG.

2. In addition, you started using language (playstyle agenda etc.) that is not pleasant; that's why I initially paraphrased Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v. Texas to you in a jocular manner. To the extent you were unaware that the words you were using are not really appropriate for a fun TTRPG discussion, I can understand- but ascribing shadowy motives to other people isn't very nice, and using that language to do so (assuming you were doing it unintentionally) was certainly unfortunate.

Anyway, I was called back to this thread because I was mentioned. As I wrote, I created a thread that I would find more productive in terms of actual tips and play experience in games that I play, as opposed to theoretical discussions. In terms of what I wrote above, I am sure that the OP can define and choose his terms as he wants, and shift them around as needed, and start talking about family letters, but castles made of sand drift into the sea- eventually. As will this thread and this conversation. And we will all go on playing the way we like.

In the end, we all play the games we like; otherwise, why would we bother?


*To the extent this is unclear, this is an analogy, and the OP can speak for himself and disagree with these characterizations. But this is how this post has been seen by others.
 
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Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Lowery I understand what Pemerton is saying. Believe me I have every reason I’m the world to want to disagree with him on stuff. We generally do not see eye to eye. But he is making a sensible point and he isn’t saying other people havevyo adopt his approach—he is just asserting how he reacts to things like stakes, GM narration etc. for my part I largely agree with his point about narration. When the GM performs in a flavorful way, doesn’t go as much for me emotionally as what is going on. I would surely quibble over details but I basically agree with him: this isn’t literaryand the GM doing things like speaking as though he is a narrator from a novel takes away from the experience for me.

You are spending a lot of effort trying to make me look and feel like an idiot. I understand the basic points being made. But a lot of my responses are to specific replies. People are being disingenuous when they say something specific, I react to it, then they tell me it is somehow out of bounds because the thread is about something else. I am just responding to what people say directly to me. And I will note most of my specific questions were ignored.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Lowery I understand what Pemerton is saying. Believe me I have every reason I’m the world to want to disagree with him on stuff. We generally do not see eye to eye. But he is making a sensible point and he isn’t saying other people havevyo adopt his approach—he is just asserting how he reacts to things like stakes, GM narration etc. for my part I largely agree with his point about narration. When the GM performs in a flavorful way, doesn’t go as much for me emotionally as what is going on. I would surely quibble over details but I basically agree with him: this isn’t literaryand the GM doing things like speaking as though he is a narrator from a novel takes away from the experience for me.

You are spending a lot of effort trying to make me look and feel like an idiot. I understand the basic points being made. But a lot of my responses are to specific replies. People are being disingenuous when they say something specific, I react to it, then they tell me it is somehow out of bounds because the thread is about something else. I am just responding to what people say directly to me. And I will note most of my specific questions were ignored.
So he can express his opinion but those expressing the opposite are pushing a playstyle agenda?? Wouldnt that go both ways?
 

Satyrn

Villager
I don’t know how you can read lowkeys or the other posters responses and not take it as being insulting. Sorry but none of this is coming across as humor to me.
Ouch.

This gotta be the meanest thing anyone else ever said to me here. I mean, not even bothering to call me by name stings but that's not too bad. If you had just said I wasn't funny, that might've been okay. Jokes fall flat, it's what they do ("especially when you tell them!" cry the hecklers).

But to say you can't even see the joke? :.-(
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
So he can express his opinion but those expressing the opposite are pushing a playstyle agenda?? Wouldnt that go both ways?
It always goes both ways, but only when both sides are pushing a playstyle. I've been in a lot of these threads, and not everyone is always pushing a playstyle. Frequently people are just defending their own against an attack from another poster. There is a difference between pushing a playstyle (which is what Hussar seemed to be doing) and expressing an opinion about what you like. Just go back and look at the entire discussion involving performance and things like how to play dwarven characters. There was push back because he was characterizing other approaches as less creative.

These threads almost always boil down to some kind of playstyle dispute (specifically discussions involving this group of posters), and the language and models that get put forward almost always seem like a way of making that playstyle prime. And I would argue that is what Hussar was doing with performance. He eventually backed off, but he continued to push for the playstyle in question. That is why I am so resistant to adopting the language and models put forth in these threads (they don't usually seem like an honest attempt at objective analysis of play).
 

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