Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

Imaro

Adventurer
What some players find interesting, other players will not. Different players have different interests. Is that surprising?
Nope that's also a possibility... you're the one who immediately and only blamed it on lack of clarity.


Well, I'm trying to imagine how you're suggesting a GM make a situation more interesting through focusing on presentation. Embellishment of the language used seems to have been something that was talked about in this thread, but maybe you have something else in mind.
Ok maybe you don't get that flowery language is not the only way (and sometimes not at all a way) to impart literary quality.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Nope that's also a possibility... you're the one who immediately and only blamed it on lack of clarity.
No, I didn't. I said that provided sufficient clarity in its presentation, a situation would be found interesting or not based on its own merits. That puts the blame for lack of interest squarely on the situation, not the presentation.

Ok maybe you don't get that flowery language is not the only way (and sometimes not at all a way) to impart literary quality.
No, it's more that when faced with an uninteresting situation, I doubt that any amount of *showmanship* is going to trick the players into thinking the situation is interesting. If the situation is interesting, then I'm not sure what the presentational artistry is meant to do.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
No, it's more that when faced with an uninteresting situation, I doubt that any amount of *showmanship* is going to trick the players into thinking the situation is interesting. If the situation is interesting, then I'm not sure what the presentational artistry is meant to do.
One more time-

Hemingway has one style.

Nabokov has a different style.

One is sparse and clean. One isn't.

Both are (for lack of a better phrase) "literary."


(You understand that some of us don't appreciate comments like, oh, that "genre" stuff isn't literary, or that there is some "hack" quality to it- I thought this was ended no later than the 1950s, man, at least with Cahiers Du Cinema (Hitchcock?) and our ability to understand that literary quality isn't confined to high art, and that today's low art is tomorrow's high art. I mean- that's they type of comment used to keep the preferences of nerds like us in the shadows for so long. It's terrible that we see it parroted here.


Also? Showmanship? C'mon. Why not just say flowery language? "Hey guys, you know what sucks? I really hate those acting types." Of course, none of this would have been an issue if a thread hadn't been created to expressly denigrate presentation. I swear, it's like someone created a thread saying, "Optimizers are the worst ever," and then getting all offended when people saying, "How dare all these people come here and defend optimization? Why are they attacking roleplaying?")
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Now we're back to both being equal. The bolded above is true. However...

If the descriptions are non-existent or dull, the players are going to cease getting together as their characters to engage with situations presented in the game, making those situations subordinate to the good descriptions.

Both are necessary to engage the players and keep them coming back.
No one is arguing for dull descriptions. The fact that situations must be described has also been noted in the OP and elsewhere. None of this suggests to me, however, that descriptions of content in an RPG must be of a literary quality for the players to be interested in the game's premise and situations, which is, I think, a common goal of RPG play.

Descriptions are what make the situation interesting. I can give you a situation of 10 gargoyles on a hill. One DM will make it bland and dull, the other through descriptions will make it interesting and exciting.
How does describing an uninteresting situation differently, without changing any of the actual content, suddenly make it interesting?

Yep. I've been in RPGs that were dull and played like a board game. Bored game?
And here you're suggesting that RPGs that lack "flowery language" are dull and resemble board games. I'm sure you can see this is just a statement of your preference.
 

hawkeyefan

Adventurer
1. this most definitely was not what the main disagreement has been about... no one (at least as far as I know except maybe for you) is arguing which is more meaningful between clarity and literary quality... the disagreement has been around whether literary quality as a whole is core to roleplaying or not.
See Hussar's post about a detailed map versus a basic "no frills" map, or a detailed miniature rather than a board game pawn, and so on. See Maxperson's posts about how unless something is described well, players will lost interest.

These examples make a correlation between "more" and "better".

2. This is a false dichotomy since nothing about literary quality necessitates lack of clarity.

Why, inherently, would you have to sacrifice one to get the other(s)?
It's not a false dichotomy. I'm not saying it must happen, simply that it may. Ideally, it wouldn't. But it certainly does at times.

I know from experience, and I am guessing that most of us have similar examples, where I've read some boxed text aloud to my players, and they don't grasp all the details, and then they begin to declare actions that may not actually make sense. So the GM has to clarify things for them....maybe give the specific room dimensions or the number of doors, or the contents of the room and how they may impede movement and so on.

Has something like this really never happened to you in a game? In such cases, perhaps clear and concise language would be preferable to evocative language?
 
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Bedrockgames

Adventurer
How does describing an uninteresting situation differently, without changing any of the actual content, suddenly make it interesting?

.
This is a very important point. The description isn't what makes a situation in an RPG interesting: the situation is what makes interesting because it is interacting and part of a back and forth conversation. I honestly don't care if the GM is stumbling over words, uses the same adjective twice in a row for no reason, uses a ten dollar word that somewhat misses the mark, when a more precise 1 dollar word would do....those are all things I care about when I am reading quality books. When I am playing a game I am engaged with another human being and through them, a situation as my character. If anything, words that are too literary will often tend to pull me out of that. Which isn't to say it can' the useful to throw in a colorful flourish now and again, or to hone your narration skills. It is just that the performance of narration in a literary style....it isn't why I am there. It isn't why a lot of people are there.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
No, it's more that when faced with an uninteresting situation, I doubt that any amount of *showmanship* is going to trick the players into thinking the situation is interesting. If the situation is interesting, then I'm not sure what the presentational artistry is meant to do.
Again you are assuming the situation itself is uninteresting. Which is too say an interesting situation can be made to seem uninteresting, when presented badly.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Has something like this really never happened to you in a game? In such cases, perhaps clear and concise language would be preferable to evocative language?
More than that, I think the questioning the GM about details like that is part of the game. This is why having a human mind there is superior to a video game. Asking questions is part of getting the GM to hammer down the details. Those kinds of details are often not thought of in advance. I try to think of everything I can about places and characters before hand. But if the setting is to feel like a real place, nothing you put on a page is going to be able to capture the endless possibliities of a real place. So you need that questioning and back and forth to help the GM breath life into it. And that isn't about the words the GM uses. It is about the questions the players ask, the content the GM provides, etc. Words can be important, but in this case they are also very superficial. What the GM intends is much more important than how the GM says it. Obviously a GM who can't express their intentions clearly is going to have some issues (though that is honestly what the questioning and answering part of an RPG helps smooth over). But you don't need literary level description to convey your intent with game content.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
This is a very important point. The description isn't what makes a situation in an RPG interesting...
Maybe, maybe not... but it certainly can be the deciding factor on whether the players choose to interact with said situation... and thus whether said content ever gets to be a part of the game.
 

hawkeyefan

Adventurer
More than that, I think the questioning the GM about details like that is part of the game. This is why having a human mind there is superior to a video game. Asking questions is part of getting the GM to hammer down the details. Those kinds of details are often not thought of in advance. I try to think of everything I can about places and characters before hand. But if the setting is to feel like a real place, nothing you put on a page is going to be able to capture the endless possibliities of a real place. So you need that questioning and back and forth to help the GM breath life into it. And that isn't about the words the GM uses. It is about the questions the players ask, the content the GM provides, etc. Words can be important, but in this case they are also very superficial. What the GM intends is much more important than how the GM says it. Obviously a GM who can't express their intentions clearly is going to have some issues (though that is honestly what the questioning and answering part of an RPG helps smooth over). But you don't need literary level description to convey your intent with game content.
Yes, exactly. This goes back to the fact that a RPG is a conversation. It's a conversation because there's back and forth, there's an exchange of information and ideas that goes both ways.

Generally speaking, we don't hold folks to literary standards when speaking to each other in that capacity.

I don't think that's the same as saying presentation can't matter, but I don't think it's what is most important.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
(You understand that some of us don't appreciate comments like, oh, that "genre" stuff isn't literary, or that there is some "hack" quality to it- I thought this was ended no later than the 1950s, man, at least with Cahiers Du Cinema (Hitchcock?) and our ability to understand that literary quality isn't confined to high art, and that today's low art is tomorrow's high art. I mean- that's they type of comment used to keep the preferences of nerds like us in the shadows for so long. It's terrible that we see it parroted here.
I read primary genre stuff these days. While some genre works rise to the level of literature, there is also a lot of schlock. Just being a genre trope doesn't make it part of a literary endeavor, just as if I write a pulp novel about sexy vampires solving murder mysteries in Detroit, that doesn't mean it is literature. It certainly could be. If I were talented enough to elevate that premise and execute it well. But it also could be, and most likely is, just going to a be a schlocky vampire story.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Maybe, maybe not... but it certainly can be the deciding factor on whether the players choose to interact with said situation... and thus whether said content ever gets to be a part of the game.
Of course, but I don't think the literary quality matters as much as the GM fairly trying to communicate with the players and the players making a solid effort to engage with the GM. I really think, if you observe how most groups interact, you hear a conversation.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I read primary genre stuff these days. While some genre works rise to the level of literature, there is also a lot of schlock. Just being a genre trope doesn't make it part of a literary endeavor, just as if I write a pulp novel about sexy vampires solving murder mysteries in Detroit, that doesn't mean it is literature. It certainly could be. If I were talented enough to elevate that premise and execute it well. But it also could be, and most likely is, just going to a be a schlocky vampire story.
At a certain point, we are engaged in a circular conversation.

"So, what is literary?"

"Um, quality?"

"Okay, so how do you know quality ...."

And that brings us all around to the original issue- which is to say, there are many individuals for whom quality matters when it comes to RPGs- in other words, they look to the quality of the presentation in the adventures they run, the quality of the miniatures, the quality of the narration by the DM and the player (and that it is well suited to the type of TTRPG and evoking the appropriate response), and so on.

And that to say that the quality doesn't matter, is to say that TTRPGs do not, inherently, have a qualitative value; that, unlike every other form of "art" (including participatory and interactive forms), there is no qualitative component.

*shrug* - I don't agree with that, and I certainly don't think it's self generated. YMMV. Anyway, I think the essential problem is one of .... HEH ... framing; no one will tell you how to play, but to posit (as does the OP) that these qualities cannot inure to TTRPGs is to denigrate the way many, many, many people play.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I don't think that's the same as saying presentation can't matter, but I don't think it's what is most important.
All most/all of us on the other side are saying is that it matters... Just because something is a core aspect of something doesn't mean it's the most important aspect of something. Headlights in modern times are a core component of a car... I wouldn't say they are the most important though.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Of course, but I don't think the literary quality matters as much as the GM fairly trying to communicate with the players and the players making a solid effort to engage with the GM. I really think, if you observe how most groups interact, you hear a conversation.
But no one is arguing how much it does or doesn't matter... only that it does matter. That it is a core component of playing an rpg... not THE core component of playing.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Generally speaking, we don't hold folks to literary standards when speaking to each other in that capacity.

I don't think that's the same as saying presentation can't matter, but I don't think it's what is most important.
And again this is key. The reason books as a medium have a higher standard than talking face to face, or at least one important reason, is the writer only has one shot to convey what he or she means, because a novel is a one-way form of communication (you can't ask the author for clarification while you are reading unless you have them there). Roleplaying games are a totally different medium, based on people interacting and conversing. You don't need strong literary style descriptions (or descriptions that adhere to good writing style advice) because it is so easy to ask the GM 'when you say big; how big exactly is it?. Half the fun is asking questions like that (for me at least). Sure the GM may just say 'there are 13 kobolds on the hill'. And that might not impress someone like Hussar. For me, that is really all I need to start asking relevant questions to help me build both a fleshed out sense of the world and to know what kinds of meaningful choices and options might be present for me. I really don't care if the GM describes a kobold in vidid detail or mentions a lingering odor that is particularly evacuate. In all honesty those are not the things that will pull me into the setting as much as the interaction between what the GM establishes and the conversation for clarity that follows.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
But no one is arguing how much it does or doesn't matter... only that it does matter. That it is a core component of playing an rpg... not THE core component of playing.
I don't think the literary quality matters all that much at all. Certainly not enough for me to lose sleep over if someone thinks my descriptions, my writing, or my speaking style isn't sufficiently literary. And certainly not enough for me to label a core feature of play. As a player I am not looking for literary stylings either. It can be a part of play. Doesn't have to be.

I think the conversation has largely played out. You think it is important. I think it isn't. We both have our reasons. We've both stated them again and again. I don't think we are going to persuade one another. It is just an honest disagreement over what gaming is about.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
All most/all of us on the other side are saying is that it matters... Just because something is a core aspect of something doesn't mean it's the most important aspect of something. Headlights in modern times are a core component of a car... I wouldn't say they are the most important though.
You can't safely drive without headlights at night. They are essential to driving if you want to drive safely. I can easily run a campaign without using literary level descriptions of things and instead just having a basic conversation with my players.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
And again this is key. The reason books as a medium have a higher standard than talking face to face, or at least one important reason, is the writer only has one shot to convey what he or she means, because a novel is a one-way form of communication (you can't ask the author for clarification while you are reading unless you have them there). Roleplaying games are a totally different medium, based on people interacting and conversing. You don't need strong literary style descriptions (or descriptions that adhere to good writing style advice) because it is so easy to ask the GM 'when you say big; how big exactly is it?. Half the fun is asking questions like that (for me at least). Sure the GM may just say 'there are 13 kobolds on the hill'. And that might not impress someone like Hussar. For me, that is really all I need to start asking relevant questions to help me build both a fleshed out sense of the world and to know what kinds of meaningful choices and options might be present for me. I really don't care if the GM describes a kobold in vidid detail or mentions a lingering odor that is particularly evacuate. In all honesty those are not the things that will pull me into the setting as much as the interaction between what the GM establishes and the conversation for clarity that follows.
.... and .... what if you are playing a game other than D&D?

What if you are playing, say, Call of Cthulhu (Horror)?

What if you are playing Paranoia (Humor)?

What if you are playing Amber?

Why do you think that the quality of your narration, and the improv qualities your questioning has, aren't an issue of presentation? Do you believe that interactive media can't be art? Do you think that it is impossible for a videogame to be literary?

For that matter, why do you think it is appropriate to remove conversations or interaction from the realm of the evocative and literary?


...Finally, why do you think that your style (we will call it Hemmingway-esque) is both devoid of presentation, and also the default standard that other people play to in other RPGs?




EDIT- In case you aren't picking up on it, I do disagree with you. But, for the sake of argument, a person could say that, for example, "literary" isn't a core component of books .... because no one is forcing a book to be "quality."

That's just not an argument I would want to make. You can make any argument by defining things, but in the end, many of us enjoy quality- and if your quality in your conversation, more power to you.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
.... and .... what if you are playing a game other than D&D?

What if you are playing, say, Call of Cthulhu (Horror)?

What if you are playing Paranoia (Humor)?

What if you are playing Amber?

Why do you think that the quality of your narration, and the improv qualities your questioning has, aren't an issue of presentation? Do you believe that interactive media can't be art? Do you think that it is impossible for a videogame to be literary?

For that matter, why do you think it is appropriate to remove conversations or interaction from the realm of the evocative and literary?


...Finally, why do you think that your style (we will call it Hemmingway-esque) is both devoid of presentation, and also the default standard that other people play to in other RPGs?




EDIT- In case you aren't picking up on it, I do disagree with you. But, for the sake of argument, a person could say that, for example, "literary" isn't a core component of books .... because no one is forcing a book to be "quality."

That's just not an argument I would want to make. You can make any argument by defining things, but in the end, many of us enjoy quality- and if your quality in your conversation, more power to you.
There are way too many questions to answer here. I will try to give a general response instead. With games like Cthulu, or say Ravenloft (which I just ran more often so am more familiar with), I think stuff like narrating evocatively, adhering to good rules of writing while talking, etc are not that important. I used to feel that way. I followed that horror gaming advice to the letter. But I realized the things that really matter are more specific to how conversations and human interaction operate, rather than how literature does. You can occasionally draw on things that work in literature that also happen to work in games. That is fine. But using literature as your model...I think that leads to problems. And I think the atmosphere of a horror game has much more to do with what is going on than with how you present it (again though, I can do really over the top things to undermine it, but I just don't think doing things like talking in a whisper or getting all vincent price helps as much as it hurts). I just see it more as facilitating a discussion and in recent years I have been a lot less precious in my approach to play as a GM.

I will try to address some of the other questions in a separate post
 

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