Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
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? :.-(
I could see you were trying to be funny. But it also felt pretty insulting. I don't think I could be objective enough in this case to comment on the quality of the humor.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
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.
Hussar repeatedly advocating treating playing your character the way an actor does. I think the reason pemerton is so reluctant to recognize the shifting terms performance/color/etc as core is because so much playstyle preference has been attached to them in this discussion. If you are going to say something like the GM narrating in an evocative way is a core part of game, then that is positioning anyone who approaches narration more dryly as not playing to the core experience of an RPG. These definitional arguments always center around playstyle. I have seen this on countless forums and it never really helps clarify play or improve things. It just helps push people away from each other and make people feel gross or bad for playing in ways that are not within the defined parameters.

I think you guys are seeing color through a pretty myopic lens here.
 

Satyrn

Visitor
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 you are feeling insulted, then you are seeing insult where there isn't any. [MENTION=6801204]Satyrn[/MENTION] is one of the nicest people here, so I'm certain that she is also just having some fun with a bit of ribbing. [MENTION=6799753]lowkey13[/MENTION] I'm not as certain about, but he has a similar humor to mine, so I think he is probably doing the same as [MENTION=6801204]Satyrn[/MENTION] and I.
I had . . . :.-( . . . a cat, a very beautiful cat with flowing white fur and the most gorgeous silver-blue eyes. And though he was a charming buffoon, he carried himself with a natural elegance, like the whole world was his catwalk.

I also had a neighbour . . . insisted on calling him by a flowery name she christened him with and referring to him as her. The cat was so beautiful, my neighbour just could not she him as masculine. This went on for years, I just stopped correcting my neighbour.

Ultimately, it was a compliment to the cat. He really was the prettiest cat in the world.

And so I will take the compliment, and accept that I am the nicest poster on EnWorld.

:angel:
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Hussar repeatedly advocating treating playing your character the way an actor does. I think the reason pemerton is so reluctant to recognize the shifting terms performance/color/etc as core is because so much playstyle preference has been attached to them in this discussion. If you are going to say something like the GM narrating in an evocative way is a core part of game, then that is positioning anyone who approaches narration more dryly as not playing to the core experience of an RPG. These definitional arguments always center around playstyle. I have seen this on countless forums and it never really helps clarify play or improve things. It just helps push people away from each other and make people feel gross or bad for playing in ways that are not within the defined parameters.

I think you guys are seeing color through a pretty myopic lens here.
Yep and claiming it's not (which was the point of this thread) insinuates those who play roleplaying games for that experience as their main reaon are "doing it wrong"...
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Yep and claiming it's not (which was the point of this thread) insinuates those who play roleplaying games for that experience as their main reaon are "doing it wrong"...
I just re-read the OP but I am honestly not getting that. It reads to me as him saying this is what is important to him. But just to be clear, I think there is room for evocative narration, I just don't think it is essential.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Equating reading a full thread of posts with educating oneself seems a real reach for me.
Well, knowing the twists and turns a conversation took to get to where it is can be useful. If all one reads is the first post and the last few pages it's easy to just end up rehashing topics that have already come and gone within the discussion.

Not everyone engages discussions on forums by reading every single post (particularly with long ones like this).
Which can, sometimes, lead to misunderstandings and confusion. No way round it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Darkvision and poison resistance seem like elements in action declaration and action resolution rather than performance/presentation, so I'll put them to one side.

In most FRPGing, grooming one's beard, choosing one's food, not liking boat,s is all just colour.
Thing is, what you dismiss as 'colour' is often at the very heart of portraying one's character in terms of how and what it thinks, its opinions on various aspects of life, and visualization.

If I make it clear over time that my Dwarf is fastidious about grooming his beard and his choices of food, it can reasonably be assumed that fastidiousness extends into other aspects of his life - including adventuring - and !bang! part of both his personality and looks falls into place. This might then play in to how said Dwarf reacts to events in the field - does a foe notice how clean he is and throw mud at him to enrage him, for example.

If my familiarity with the underground, or the distinctive histories or politics of my people, actually matter in play then that will come out in action declaration - as it does, for instance, for the dwarf in my 4e game.
It might, or might not, depending on whether those things are or become relevant to the actions at hand. Further complicating things is that some systems mechanize stuff like this (e.g. Knowledge skill) while others do not; but to suggest that something only matters if it's mechanized is way over the top.

Conversely, if the only way that I can tell your character is a butler is because you make references to the sivlerware that have no bearing on the actual play of the game; or if the only way I can tell you're a dwarf is because of your repeated references to your beard that never actually matters to any actions that your character undertakes; then I wonder what the point of the descriptor is at all. How is it actually informing the role you are playing in the game?
The point of the descriptor is just that: a descriptor that allows you to better visualize (and audialize, if the player is using her own normal voice) the character being played. It's colour. And colour is good.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Which is a fundamental difference between us: as far as I'm concerned entertaining others and being entertained in return are the heart and soul of RPGing (including LARP here); and are what make it a different - and more enjoyable - kind of activity from almost any other.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Quick survey for the regulars here:

Let's say that for whatever reason you know going in that tonight's session, where you're playing a well-developed character you're familiar with and enjoy playing, is highly likely to consist of nothing but in-character roleplaying and interactions with other PCs (and maybe NPCs) with no story progress likely to be made and maybe little if any reference to the story at all, and little if any chance of combat (unless the PCs decide to throw down vs each other for some reason). It's not a bookkeeping session, though. Maybe you've decided to play out in detail some discussions the PCs have while on a long ship voyage.

On a scale of 1 (dread) to 10 (bursting) how enthusiastic would you be when looking forward to the session.

I'd be somewhere between 8 and 10, with the variance dependent on situation.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Quick survey for the regulars here:

Let's say that for whatever reason you know going in that tonight's session, where you're playing a well-developed character you're familiar with and enjoy playing, is highly likely to consist of nothing but in-character roleplaying and interactions with other PCs (and maybe NPCs) with no story progress likely to be made and maybe little if any reference to the story at all, and little if any chance of combat (unless the PCs decide to throw down vs each other for some reason). It's not a bookkeeping session, though. Maybe you've decided to play out in detail some discussions the PCs have while on a long ship voyage.

On a scale of 1 (dread) to 10 (bursting) how enthusiastic would you be when looking forward to the session.

I'd be somewhere between 8 and 10, with the variance dependent on situation.
When I was younger, I would be into this. As I got older, I wanted a better mix of role-play, events, challenges and development.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Which is a fundamental difference between us: as far as I'm concerned entertaining others and being entertained in return are the heart and soul of RPGing (including LARP here); and are what make it a different - and more enjoyable - kind of activity from almost any other.
And this is why the discussion isn't really going anywhere, it is about this divide. I certainly don't mind being entertained by others, I just don't see it as why I am there to game. I am there for the immersive experience and for the interaction with my friends. If I viewed it as them being there to entertain me, it just feels strange. Doesn't mean the session isn't lively, people don't talk in character, or that people don't make one another laugh (they frequently do). It just isn't consciously performative.
 

pemerton

Legend
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
That's actually not what the OP says.

Colour, obviously, is fundamental to heaps of RPGing. (Maybe not some classic dungeoncrawling.) I don't think the word "colour" appears in the OP. The OP does say RPGing requires narration: GMs describe situations - that narration and description will involve colour.

My claim is about the focus of, and foundation of, emotional engagement in RPGing. As the OP says, 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.

Doesn't that depend on what the letter is about? And if that impedes clarity... how can you not worry about those things?
I don't know where you see clarity coming from in this discussion.

It's helpful if - say - stereo installation instructions are clear, but that doesn't show that writing such instructions is a literary endeavour.

RPGing involves communication. Communication can be facilitated by clarity. (Though it's a threshold issue, not "the more the better", which already shows us the difference from literary quality.) This doesn't show that RPGing is literary or oriented towards performance.

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
This is obviously false, given the following from 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.

There are different ways of evoking emotion by saying things to people. The formal aesthetic qualities of what is said and how it is said (metre and cadence, rhyme, alliteration, precise word choice and word contrast, modulation of tone and volume, etc) is one way. Acting and recitation depend on these devices. When I give a lecture, these are important things.

Another way to evoke emotion by saying things is to say things that hook onto what the interlocutor cares about. This typically does not depend upon those formal aesthetic qualities - one can, for instance, pause and reframe; hesitate, inviting some request for direction or clarifiation from the interlocutor; allow volume and tone to follow emotion rather than lead it.

I'm expressing a view about which RPGing is more like.
[MENTION=85555]Bedrockgames[/MENTION] and I disagree on many things about RPGing. But having read Bedrockgames's posts to this thread, I think he understands what I am saying and largely agrees. Oddly enough that happens sometimes!

And on that topic:

I certainly don't mind being entertained by others, I just don't see it as why I am there to game. I am there for the immersive experience and for the interaction with my friends. If I viewed it as them being there to entertain me, it just feels strange. Doesn't mean the session isn't lively, people don't talk in character, or that people don't make one another laugh (they frequently do). It just isn't consciously performative.
This is true for me also.
 

Hussar

Legend
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.
Nope. You are wrong. It's as simple as that. The point of a letter is to communicate information. That it moves you is because it's from a family member, not the fact that it's a letter. The identical letter, with identical words, written by a complete stranger likely won't engender any emotional response. Since I don't play with family members, it's very unlikely that my friend will engender an emotional response simply because they are my friend. The will, however, engender an emotional response through various techniques - ie. how they present.

And, of course, this ignores the various literary techniques used in an RPG - one doesn't foreshadow in a conversation, for example. One rarely has enough control over reality to use pathetic fallacies (the weather or the environment matches tone and mood). And a host of other literary techniques that we use when crafting scenarios in order to convey mood and tension.

So, no. An RPG is not like writing a letter to a family member, nor is it akin to conversation. Playing an RPG is far, far closer to an improv performance where the players (including the GM) use various techniques to convey feeling, tone and mood - all those things [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] writes off as non-sequiturs since, apparently, it's only important if it's tied to mechanics.

Now, where [MENTION=85555]Bedrockgames[/MENTION] is wrong is that he's insisting that I'm saying that there are better and worse ways to present. That's not true. Every table will have to make a choice as to how that information is presented. And, hopefully, the table will come to some sort of consensus on how that information is conveyed. Granted, I prefer a particular style, but, that doesn't make it better. But, at some point, that table will have to figure out what presentation style works for that table.
 
Quick survey for the regulars here:

Let's say that for whatever reason you know going in that tonight's session, where you're playing a well-developed character you're familiar with and enjoy playing, is highly likely to consist of nothing but in-character roleplaying and interactions with other PCs (and maybe NPCs) with no story progress likely to be made and maybe little if any reference to the story at all, and little if any chance of combat (unless the PCs decide to throw down vs each other for some reason). It's not a bookkeeping session, though. Maybe you've decided to play out in detail some discussions the PCs have while on a long ship voyage.

On a scale of 1 (dread) to 10 (bursting) how enthusiastic would you be when looking forward to the session.

I'd be somewhere between 8 and 10, with the variance dependent on situation.
Maybe a 3.

I want there always to be some forward momentum. I don’t mind the occasional dip into in character discussions. In my experience, those usually remain story focused, though. An entire session spent having a conversation that has little to no impact on the game doesn’t really do much for me.
 

pemerton

Legend
The point of a letter is to communicate information. That it moves you is because it's from a family member, not the fact that it's a letter. The identical letter, with identical words, written by a complete stranger likely won't engender any emotional response.
Yes. This is my point, so I'm not sure why you frame this as disagreeing with me.

Since I don't play with family members, it's very unlikely that my friend will engender an emotional response simply because they are my friend. The will, however, engender an emotional response through various techniques - ie. how they present.

<snip>

An RPG is not like writing a letter to a family member, nor is it akin to conversation. Playing an RPG is far, far closer to an improv performance where the players (including the GM) use various techniques to convey feeling, tone and mood
But this is exactly what I'm talking about.

As I posted I think in my last reply to you, I don't understand what role you think action declaration and the distinctive player role in a RPG are doing. As you describe it, it would make no difference if everyone was working through a rough script but improving the details of characterisation.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Pemerton said:
It's helpful if - say - stereo installation instructions are clear, but that doesn't show that writing such instructions is a literary endeavour.
Again, considering the immense expenditure companies incur in technical writing, I'm going to say that you are very, very wrong here. It matters a LOT how instructions are written and, for example Ikea, ease of use is often a strong motivator for sales.

You're claiming that so long as the information is there, how it's presented doesn't matter. There's a mountain of evidence out there that says you really aren't correct here.
 

pemerton

Legend
Let's say that for whatever reason you know going in that tonight's session, where you're playing a well-developed character you're familiar with and enjoy playing, is highly likely to consist of nothing but in-character roleplaying and interactions with other PCs (and maybe NPCs) with no story progress likely to be made and maybe little if any reference to the story at all, and little if any chance of combat (unless the PCs decide to throw down vs each other for some reason). It's not a bookkeeping session, though. Maybe you've decided to play out in detail some discussions the PCs have while on a long ship voyage.

On a scale of 1 (dread) to 10 (bursting) how enthusiastic would you be when looking forward to the session.
Maybe a 3.

I want there always to be some forward momentum. I don’t mind the occasional dip into in character discussions. In my experience, those usually remain story focused, though. An entire session spent having a conversation that has little to no impact on the game doesn’t really do much for me.
A complication for me in responding to Lanefan's question is what is the story which is not progressing?
 

Hussar

Legend
Pemerton said:
As I posted I think in my last reply to you, I don't understand what role you think action declaration and the distinctive player role in a RPG are doing. As you describe it, it would make no difference if everyone was working through a rough script but improving the details of characterisation.
What do you think a module is? If not a rough script? Since this whole conversation came out of the notion of using boxed text for modules, it does seem rather apropos. Come right down to it, what do you think happens in most RGP sessions? Do you really believe that most RPG sessions don't have a rough script, typically written by the GM, although, that can vary with more "pass the story stick" style games?

Unless your DM/GM is really, really good at improvising every single session, every single time, and has zero idea where the campaign is moving towards, you have a rough script. And, certainly, if you are using a module, or moreso with an Adventure Path, you have a very strong "rough script".

((BTW, I think I did this right, I think you missed a quote tag in your quote of me, so, if I missed something there, my bad))
 

pemerton

Legend
Again, considering the immense expenditure companies incur in technical writing, I'm going to say that you are very, very wrong here. It matters a LOT how instructions are written and, for example Ikea, ease of use is often a strong motivator for sales.
People spend millions of dollars painting buildings, too. That doesn't show that painting buildings is per se an artistic endeavour - maybe it is (if we're painting St Peters), maybe it's not (if we're painting a block of flats to protect the exterior against the weather).

I'm a published author in a natural language based but technical discipline. (Or in fact two such disciplines: law and philosophy.) I deliver lectures and other sorts of public or semi-public addresses as a key part of my job. I know a fair bit about writing and a little bit about spoken presentation.

When I referee an article and send it back for rewriting because it's confused; or when I mark up a student's work and tell her or him how it needs to be restructured to make the argument clear; these are not literary considerations. They have nothing to do with evoking emotion through the use of formal compositional/recitational devices.

I guess someone somewhere once has been moved by the ingenuity of the Ikea instructions - the world is full of all types - but I don't think anyone is expecting the instruction drafter to be nominated for the Nobel prize.
 
A complication for me in responding to Lanefan's question is what is the story which is not progressing?
Yeah, that’s something different at every table, I would guess. For me, it’s a pretty broad category and can consist of a variety of things....which is why if it was somehow avoided entirely in a session, I’d probably not be all that interested.

Thinking of my two current campaigns....a D&D 5e game and a Blades in the Dark game, I’d say that each is probably the “story” of the party or crew. My D&D group has a main opponent they are devoted to defeating, and also personal quests for many characters as well. My Blades game (and most Blades games, I expect) is about the criminal enterprise of the crew, and its successes and failures.

I’m having a hard time conceiving what a session for either game would even look like if it didn’t connect to the group in some way.
 

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