Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

Imaro

Adventurer
OK. In that case I think it's fairly clear why two GMs might present the same situation with the same degree of clarity and at one table get buy-in while at the other table it falls flat.

Or in other words, the answer to the question you posed here seems fairly straightforward:

Those players who don't find it interesting are probably the ones for whom it is not interesting.
Or, which was my point, there are numerous reasons (including how it was presented) why it could happen outside of lack of clarity...

EDIT: It's not interesting because I don't find it interesting doesn't really speak to why one doesn't find it interesting.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Interesting that no one talked about the Vengaurak on the hill. After all, it’s a situation and it’s just as clear as 14 kobolds.

So. There is a Vengaurak on that hill. What do you do?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That they are dancing is more about content than description. The thing that makes the scene more interesting is that the kobolds are dancing for some reason, not how the GM describes the dance
It's not, or at least it's not entirely content. Dancing is a description of what the kobolds are doing up on the hill. Dancing is also content. This brings me back(again) to the point I made pages ago. Both qualitative description AND content are both necessary to make an interesting scene. One without the other is going to be dull.

Also not sure why my posts keep including that quote
I think it has something to do with multiquoting. [MENTION=6716779]Zardnaar[/MENTION] was driving [MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION] crazy with it in a thread recently. Maybe one of them could help you figure out how to stop quoting it.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
To elaborate on my question, then: upthread [MENTION=48965]Imaro[/MENTION] seemed to assert, or at least very strongly imply, that whether or not a situation is interesting is a player-independent state of affairs. Do you agree?
I don't agree with that, no. However, I've seen how quality presentation can turn something uninteresting into something interesting. I like rocks, minerals and gemstones. My wife couldn't care less, except for when they are in jewelry. Once, though, we were at a museum where someone was doing a presentation on minerals. He was really great with his presentation and actually hooked my wife into paying attention and showing interest. At least until it was done and we moved on to something else.

What do you think the GM should have regard to in coming up with situations? [MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION], in other threads over many years, has posted that the GM should always author scenarios without regard to which players and/or PCs will engage with them. Do you agree?
I think that the players should be kept in mind. The DM should not necessarily be tailoring the scenario to the player/PC, but depending on the situation in game, it can be appropriate to do so. I also think that the scene, while still keeping the players/PCs in mind, should not have to be engaged. If the players decide not to bit the hook and want to do something else, they should absolutely be able to. If they have a goal in mind that prompts the creation of a scenario, that scenario should absolutely have regard to the players/PCs. They're the ones that are initiating things, so by default it will concern them.

Upthread [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION] has complained about players who just want the GM to "roll up the plot wagon". What do you think the players have a duty to bring to the table? For instance, do you think the players have a duty to be enthusiastic about the situation the GM presents?
I run a sandbox type game. A sandbox requires proactive players. Reactive players just sit in a sandbox like lumps. In a sandbox game, the players have a duty to bring ideas and goals for their PCs to the table in order to drive the game forward.

Not at all far upthread [MENTION=6831843]Be[/MENTION]drockgame posited a contrast between GM as storyteller/entertainer and GM as facilitator/adjudicator. Do you think this is a useful contrast? If so, which side of it do you favour? If not, why not?
I don't find it terribly useful, no. The DM is all of those things to varying degrees, depending on the DM and style of game.

These are some of the matters, most of them raised in this thread, that I think might be more interesting to discuss than the meaning of the word "literary".
Maybe they are more interesting, and maybe they aren't. It really depends on who is interested in what.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
It's not, or at least it's not entirely content. Dancing is a description of what the kobolds are doing up on the hill. Dancing is also content. This brings me back(again) to the point I made pages ago. Both qualitative description AND content are both necessary to make an interesting scene. One without the other is going to be dull.



I think it has something to do with multiquoting. [MENTION=6716779]Zardnaar[/MENTION] was driving [MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION] crazy with it in a thread recently. Maybe one of them could help you figure out how to stop quoting it.
I couldn't fix it. It stopped after an update I think it's a board technical glitch.
 

pemerton

Legend
It's not interesting because I don't find it interesting doesn't really speak to why one doesn't find it interesting.
Well, I did put it the other way round: the players don't find it interesting because, for them, it is not interesting/

Eg maybe the situation is something about kobolds on a hill, and the players (in general; today; because of the PCs they're playing; some combination of factors; etc) simply aren't engaged by that sort of situation.

Interesting that no one talked about the Vengaurak on the hill. After all, it’s a situation and it’s just as clear as 14 kobolds.

So. There is a Vengaurak on that hill. What do you do?
I don't know what a Vengaurak is. I know, therefore, that the stock play is to Magic Missile it. (Or am I confusing gazebos for darknesses?)

But more seriously, as well as not knowing what a Vangaurak is I also don't know what game I'm playing, what character I'm playing, and what makes this Vengaurak on this hill relevant to anything.
 

Hussar

Legend
Well, I did put it the other way round: the players don't find it interesting because, for them, it is not interesting/

Eg maybe the situation is something about kobolds on a hill, and the players (in general; today; because of the PCs they're playing; some combination of factors; etc) simply aren't engaged by that sort of situation.

I don't know what a Vengaurak is. I know, therefore, that the stock play is to Magic Missile it. (Or am I confusing gazebos for darknesses?)

But more seriously, as well as not knowing what a Vangaurak is I also don't know what game I'm playing, what character I'm playing, and what makes this Vengaurak on this hill relevant to anything.
But, that's entirely the point.

We talk about the kobolds on the hill and we don't need a whole lot more than that, because, well, frankly, we're all experienced gamers and we know what a kobold is. At some point in our gaming history, someone has described a kobold to us. Probably several someones over the years. So, now, we can basically take it as read that we know what a kobold is and what we should do if we see them.

But, a Vengaurak? Well, you don't know what that is. So, someone needs to explain to you what it looks like and what it wants. Now, here's two descriptions:

1. You know that cockroach monster at the end of Men in Black? That's more or less what you see.

2. Born of the blood of the glutton Titan Gaurak, "this hideous horse sized creature appears to be a twisted hybrid of beetle, mantis and maggot. It stinks of carrion and blood"

Now, the second description is a direct quote from the Creature Collection Revised for Scarred Lands. Which do you think would be more effective and needed at the table? Which do you think would be more likely to draw some sort of visceral reaction from the players? Which do think is the better description? After all, both get the description of the creature across pretty accurately.

Note, for reference, here's a Vengaurak:

 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Interesting that no one talked about the Vengaurak on the hill. After all, it’s a situation and it’s just as clear as 14 kobolds.

So. There is a Vengaurak on that hill. What do you do?
You describe it. I don't think anyone is saying you don't describe things or that you can't describe things better or worse. We are just saying we not striving for a description that meets literary standards of excellence, nor are we trying to sound like we are the author of a novel. We are also not too hung up on the descriptive aspect. I will attempt a description. If the players don't get it, they can press for more specific details. The conversational aspect of the description is the key thing that makes it so different from a book. It is also why I don't use boxed text when I run modules. Basically we are saying we are not trying to heighten the mood or atmosphere through our descriptions in he way that a novel writer does. It isn't the focus, it isn't something we consciously work toward. Like i said before, I keep it very conversational.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
It's not, or at least it's not entirely content. Dancing is a description of what the kobolds are doing up on the hill. Dancing is also content. This brings me back(again) to the point I made pages ago. Both qualitative description AND content are both necessary to make an interesting scene. One without the other is going to be dull.
I would argue that dancing is what they are doing. It primarily comes from my sense of what the kobolds are all about, what they are doing, what they are like as characters....and I would file that under content. Saying they are dancing is the most barebones and efficient way for me to convey that. Am I describing what they are doing? Yes. But what they are doing wasn't arrived at by description. And I don't think my description (how it was delivered and crafted) was particularly important to any level of interest the dancing generates---as much as the fact that they are dancing. I am not saying we don't need to describe things. But I do think the qualitative aspect is very important. Again, it is a conversation. I really don't worry about that part of it. I am certainly not treating it like its literature.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I run a sandbox type game. A sandbox requires proactive players. Reactive players just sit in a sandbox like lumps. In a sandbox game, the players have a duty to bring ideas and goals for their PCs to the table in order to drive the game forward.
I run sandboxes as well. My approach is I want players to be both active and reactive. But I generally agree.

I don't find it terribly useful, no. The DM is all of those things to varying degrees, depending on the DM and style of game.
And I don't expect you to share my view on this. If you think the GM should be a mix of storyteller and adjudicator, that is totally fine. I just hope you can understand, I genuinely do not see myself as a storyteller. We all had very different paths to where we are. One thing that really frustrated me during the height of d20 (and I had been playing RPGs for a long time leading up to that and seen the industry go through several fads and fashions) was the fact that the GM was expected to run the game in a way that, to me, felt very plot driven, and very much built around a pre-planned series of encounters. I found that terribly frustrating because as a GM, I thought I might as well just give my players the notes. I wasn't a referee, I was just telling them the story I wanted to tell. So I went into he woods and spent a lot of time figuring out what I wanted playing older modules, obscure newer ones and rebelling agains a lot of the standard GM advice of that period. One thing I knew I didnt enjoy was being a storyteller. I abostluely hated the idea of it. It just wasn't for me. Whether it was storyteller as me crafting a story, or even as me narrating the details in a flavorful way. I wanted to adjudicate and run a game. I wanted my GM style to be conversational, natural and as far from artifice as possible. That doesn't mean I am an unskilled communicator. In fact, I think I am very good at communication. But I see GMing as being more in the realm of a social activity, where I am speaking with my players, not where I am narrative things that they have no control over or are not interacting with. I am trying to encourage interaction when I convey details about the world. Not caught up in my delivery at all. I don't expect you or hussar to share my view. I really don't understand why you want me to adopt your language and viewpoint. I can tell you, I wouldn't find it all helpful to how I run games.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
2. Born of the blood of the glutton Titan Gaurak, "this hideous horse sized creature appears to be a twisted hybrid of beetle, mantis and maggot. It stinks of carrion and blood"

Now, the second description is a direct quote from the Creature Collection Revised for Scarred Lands. Which do you think would be more effective and needed at the table? Which do you think would be more likely to draw some sort of visceral reaction from the players? Which do think is the better description? After all, both get the description of the creature across pretty accurately.

Note, for reference, here's a Vengaurak:

Um. Can I change my answer? Nice Vengaurak. Niiiiiiice Vengaurak. Here's some more loot for you.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
But, that's entirely the point.

We talk about the kobolds on the hill and we don't need a whole lot more than that, because, well, frankly, we're all experienced gamers and we know what a kobold is. At some point in our gaming history, someone has described a kobold to us. Probably several someones over the years. So, now, we can basically take it as read that we know what a kobold is and what we should do if we see them.

But, a Vengaurak? Well, you don't know what that is. So, someone needs to explain to you what it looks like and what it wants. Now, here's two descriptions:

1. You know that cockroach monster at the end of Men in Black? That's more or less what you see.

2. Born of the blood of the glutton Titan Gaurak, "this hideous horse sized creature appears to be a twisted hybrid of beetle, mantis and maggot. It stinks of carrion and blood"

Now, the second description is a direct quote from the Creature Collection Revised for Scarred Lands. Which do you think would be more effective and needed at the table? Which do you think would be more likely to draw some sort of visceral reaction from the players? Which do think is the better description? After all, both get the description of the creature across pretty accurately.

Note, for reference, here's a Vengaurak:

Honestly, I think the description that compares to a creature they already have an image of in their head works better so I would go with option 1. Option one is definitely less literary, it generally would be less effective in a book. But in a conversation at the table it can provide a clearer image. You don’t need the words to look good on a page when you are talking to players. Honestly this is one of the major problems with GM advice: advice is text based, and it is easy to write an example that looks amazing on paper. How often have any of you seen a great play example write up but struggled to get a game to feel like the write-up? I know I struggled to get my ravenloft games to sound like the example write ups (which relied heavily on quality description). These are two different mediums. I think understand that has been crucial to my enjoyment of play

also I am not terribly worried about the players picturing the monster ‘correctly’. It is a game if imagination. People can imagine these things differently and ask for specific points of clarification where it matters
 
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Imaro

Adventurer
Honestly, I think the description that compares to a creature they already have an image of in their head works better so I would go with option 1. Option one is definitely less literary, it generally would be less effective in a book. But in a conversation at the table it can provide a clearer image. You don’t need the words to look good on a page when you are talking to players. Honestly this is one of the major problems with GM advice: advice is text based, and it is easy to write an example that looks amazing on paper. How often have any of you seen a great play example write up but struggled to get a game to feel like the write-up? I know I struggled to get my ravenloft games to sound like the example write ups (which relied heavily on quality description). These are two different mediums. I think understand that has been crucial to my enjoyment of play

also I am not terribly worried about the players picturing the monster ‘correctly’ . It is a game if imagination. People can imagine these things differently and ask for specific points of clarification where it matters
Emphasis mine... I am confused by this answer. You choose option one because it provides a commonly known and more clear image but then go on to state that you aren't concerned with correctly depicting the monster and that you have no problem with the players imagining the same thing differently in your game... Which one in actual play do you subscribe to?

EDIT: I also note you said you have struggled with write-ups in games like Ravenloft, could your aversion to this style be centered around it being a weakness in your skill set?
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I think of all people on this thread, I have the most reason to be wary of Pemerton's posts (if you think that thread was bad, read the racist colonialist orcs thread). When I saw the OP I initially read it in a negative light. But I made a point of re-reading to see if I was reading my own feelings into it. I reached the conclusions this was very different from our previous discussion. Also, in that thread, I was guilty of plenty of emotional and angry posts myself. Just because I was ticked off at Pemerton in that thread (and I think with some fair amount of good reason), doesn't mean I need to always be negatively disposed towards him. As I took pains to say in that thread, I do admire Pemerton's intelligence and I do admire his ability to make a good argument. I would be foolish not to consider his posts fairly because when he does make a good point, it is often insightful.

I don't see him denigrating a style in this case. In fact in this argument, I think it is the other side that is largely doing the denigrating. Just because I disagreed with him before or thought he was being a bit rude about something before, doesn't mean he is always wrong or that I, and others, are never also being rude. I would encourage you to read some of the posts by yourself and by others on your side of this debate again and then look at our responses to them. There have been moments where I've responded more emotionally than I would have liked, but on the whole I feel I have been reacting fairly calmly given the tone of some of the posts directed at me.

Also, please don't go mining my prior posts to post a gotcha of me in this thread. I understand why you are doing it, but in my view, that doesn't show a lot of good faith. If I have to defend not only my posts on this thread, but posts I've made in previous threads, that isn't exactly a friendly discussion and starts to feel more like an inquisition.
Emphasis mine... I am confused by this answer. You choose option one because it provides a commonly known and more clear image but then go on to state that you aren't concerned with correctly depicting the monster and that you have no problem with the players imagining the same thing differently in your game... Which one in actual play do you subscribe to?
My point with option one is it just an easier way to convey details by drawing on movie references than by providing a literary style description. Generally when it comes to monster descriptions, I am fine hashing out the details. I don’t want a full paragraph of description like option 2. I am also not terribly worried about whether the players are imagining the illustration in the book. Still if I can give them a clear sense of what I mean by comparing to a movie character, place or creature, I am happy to do that. So I may say the inn keeper is giving off a Steve Buscemi vibe. That could mean lots of things. I don’t particularly care how the players interpret it as long as it helps give them a clear mental image. And I don’t need more physical description than that (not going to get into his clothing, hair, mannerisms. Etc)
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I think of all people on this thread, I have the most reason to be wary of Pemerton's posts (if you think that thread was bad, read the racist colonialist orcs thread). When I saw the OP I initially read it in a negative light. But I made a point of re-reading to see if I was reading my own feelings into it. I reached the conclusions this was very different from our previous discussion. Also, in that thread, I was guilty of plenty of emotional and angry posts myself. Just because I was ticked off at Pemerton in that thread (and I think with some fair amount of good reason), doesn't mean I need to always be negatively disposed towards him. As I took pains to say in that thread, I do admire Pemerton's intelligence and I do admire his ability to make a good argument. I would be foolish not to consider his posts fairly because when he does make a good point, it is often insightful.

I don't see him denigrating a style in this case. In fact in this argument, I think it is the other side that is largely doing the denigrating. Just because I disagreed with him before or thought he was being a bit rude about something before, doesn't mean he is always wrong or that I, and others, are never also being rude. I would encourage you to read some of the posts by yourself and by others on your side of this debate again and then look at our responses to them. There have been moments where I've responded more emotionally than I would have liked, but on the whole I feel I have been reacting fairly calmly given the tone of some of the posts directed at me.

Also, please don't go mining my prior posts to post a gotcha of me in this thread. I understand why you are doing it, but in my view, that doesn't show a lot of good faith. If I have to defend not only my posts on this thread, but posts I've made in previous threads, that isn't exactly a friendly discussion and starts to feel more like an inquisition.
Emphasis mine... I am confused by this answer. You choose option one because it provides a commonly known and more clear image but then go on to state that you aren't concerned with correctly depicting the monster and that you have no problem with the players imagining the same thing differently in your game... Which one in actual play do you subscribe to?

EDIT: I also note you said you have struggled with write-ups in games like Ravenloft, could your aversion to this style be centered around it being a weakness in your skill set?
No it is not centered around a weakness because I became quite good at providing those kinds of descriptions. I just realized a lot of players are not as into that stuff. And there are medium issues that make the examples somewhat unrealistic. Most players are less impressed by your ability to talk like HP Lovecraft than they are with your ability to communicate conversationally as a GM (at least in my experience). The more I moved away from the more artificial Ravenloft approach and moved towRd a conversational natural style, the more my games (especially horror) improved. Maybe that is just my personality. If ravenloft stuff works for you, go for it. But understand it doesn’t suit everyone (and that isn’t about weakness as much as it is about personal preference). I am not particularly concerned with claiming to be some great GM. I would say I am average to decent. It is a game at the end of the day. I am there to enjoy myself
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don’t want a full paragraph of description like option 2.
It was two short sentences. A paragraph is at least 5 sentences. The description you went with, #1, is also two short sentences and contains 3 fewer words. That's it. 3 more words is apparently a "full paragraph" and too much of a description.
 
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Imaro

Adventurer
But, that's entirely the point.

We talk about the kobolds on the hill and we don't need a whole lot more than that, because, well, frankly, we're all experienced gamers and we know what a kobold is. At some point in our gaming history, someone has described a kobold to us. Probably several someones over the years. So, now, we can basically take it as read that we know what a kobold is and what we should do if we see them.

But, a Vengaurak? Well, you don't know what that is. So, someone needs to explain to you what it looks like and what it wants. Now, here's two descriptions:

1. You know that cockroach monster at the end of Men in Black? That's more or less what you see.

2. Born of the blood of the glutton Titan Gaurak, "this hideous horse sized creature appears to be a twisted hybrid of beetle, mantis and maggot. It stinks of carrion and blood"

Now, the second description is a direct quote from the Creature Collection Revised for Scarred Lands. Which do you think would be more effective and needed at the table? Which do you think would be more likely to draw some sort of visceral reaction from the players? Which do think is the better description? After all, both get the description of the creature across pretty accurately.

Note, for reference, here's a Vengaurak:

I and my players would definitely prefer 2 it's succinct enough that it isn't going to drag but conveys enough info to evoke an accurate enough mental image and conveys a sense that this creature has a wrongness about it and is dangerous.

EDIT: It also illustrates that long prose or excessive word count is not necessary for quality.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
It was two short sentences. A paragraph is at least 5 sentences. The description you went with, #1, is also two short sentences and contains 3 fewer words. That's it. 3 more words is apparently a "full paragraph" and too much of a description.
Lol... I noticed this as well.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Lol... I noticed this as well.
My players and I obviously from my side in this thread, prefer option 2. However, none of us are against me adding in, "Remember the bug monster from the end of Men in Black? It kinda looks like that." if they are having some obvious difficulties picturing the creature from the description. I rarely have to go to something extra like that, though.
 

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