Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

uzirath

Explorer
Can I pick up on your example (bolded by me to call it out) and a possible risk in play? Not to denigrate the example, but to try to connect it into how I'm thinking about things.
Yes. Always!

It seems to me that it is possible that the GM might narrate the koblds' drool and bloodshot eyes, hoping and intending to evoke a particular response and engagement from the players, only instead to trigger responses about the kobolds having had a hard night out, being stone/hungover, etc. (Similar to [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s reference, I think upthread, to players making d*ck jokes.)
Sure. And, depending on the nature of the fiction, I might let that be... the kobolds will be remembered as hungover dogmen. (Indeed, it may be that the bloodshot eyes were meant to indicate that they were tired or drugged or hungover.) If I felt that it was a misunderstanding that wouldn't likely happen within the fiction, then I would gently provide additional detail: "Hmm, there's something more ominous about it than your typical frat boy after a hard night out. It has a crazed dimension, not unlike a rabid dog..."

And I can see how that response fits with your larger premise that the "dynamics of the here-and-now" are central.


On an unrelated tangent:

This is a fairly common rule of thumb to teach children in America in terms of writing; I know that they do in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade (for the most part).
Yes. Ugh. And a lot of teachers are trying to stamp it out, along with "five paragraph essays" and other simplifications that often squelch the creative joy that comes from learning to craft great writing. I know that at my K-12 school there are no students at any level who are taught that a paragraph has to have a certain number of sentences.
 

pemerton

Legend
And I have to admit, I love long sentence paragraphs like that because I used to read a lot of turn of the century books when I was younger. So I just admire the style.

In gaming however, I am definitely more focused on talking in my normal style. I Gm the way I would talk with a friend I bumped into at the supermarket.
When I GM I would say that talk similarly to how I would in an enthusiastic hobbyist-type context. Eg if I'd been to a film with a friend and was talking about it afterwards. Or if, at work, I wanted to tell someone what I enjoyed about a seminar I went to.

So probably a bit more focused than a supermarket chat. But still conversation.
 

pemerton

Legend
Pemerton, that post was an error. I got my posts mixed up and thought I was responding to a poster assertion that paragraphs are in fact 5 paragraphs long. The point I was making was none of my teachers ever said paragraphs had to be 4 sentences long. Sorry for the confusion. There is absolutely no 5 sentence doctrine in America.
Ah, OK - in that case I retract the criticism of your teachers!

For the sort of writing that I do and teach, making decisions about paragraphing - as one component of making decisions about structure - is a fundamental skill. A doctrine about minimum or even typical length would be no help at all.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
On an unrelated tangent:



Yes. Ugh. And a lot of teachers are trying to stamp it out, along with "five paragraph essays" and other simplifications that often squelch the creative joy that comes from learning to craft great writing. I know that at my K-12 school there are no students at any level who are taught that a paragraph has to have a certain number of sentences.
Eh- this tangent is so much more interesting, tbh.

I have mixed emotions about this. The more I think about it, and the more I see, the less I think there is a single, correct approach. I do know that good teachers make all the difference (but, you know, duh- and that's sort of life, what makes a good teacher?).

The thing is- different kids respond differently to different styles. And some kids will flourish regardless of the way they are taught (for the most part- they will learn on their own time and dime if they have to), and other kids really need a lot of help and assistance.

And... I just don't know. I have seen some kids that really need that extra organizational push- the whole "Topic / Support / Conclusion / Repeat" (or IRAC if you're of a different persuasion). And given that, they can really succeed. Others love to write from the get-go, and you can't stop them. I've seen kids succeed (and fail) at public schools, Montessori, charter, and religious (Catholic), and homeschool so .... it's hard.

If there was a single, easy solution, I hope we would have done it by now. Right? Structure works for some, doesn't work for others.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
If it's words on paper, it's literature. Literally.

Using "literature" as a term that only applies to high-quality work is a redefintion of the word, though one that - sadly - has come to be somewhat accepted over time.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Can I pick up on your example (bolded by me to call it out) and a possible risk in play? Not to denigrate the example, but to try to connect it into how I'm thinking about things.

It seems to me that it is possible that the GM might narrate the koblds' drool and bloodshot eyes, hoping and intending to evoke a particular response and engagement from the players, only instead to trigger responses about the kobolds having had a hard night out, being stone/hungover, etc.
What's wrong with that?

You've laid out the description in hopes of getting a reaction, and you got one: the characters* joke about the kobolds' rough night last night. That the reaction isn't what you were hoping for...well, too bad. The point is that you succeeded in your goal, in that you drew a reaction.

* - in this instance I'd 100% rule that the joke was made in character.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
And to add: also without regard to HOW players and/or PCs will engage with them. (see above post re jokes about the kobolds for example).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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 waste it with my crossbow.
 

Hriston

Explorer
If you aren't arguing for dull descriptions, then you are acknowledging that the narrative can have better or worse quality, and you are choosing better. Can people go overboard with descriptions? Sure. Does that mean that quality descriptions aren't a goal of the DM? No. The entire point of the DM choosing certain adjectives over others or over no adjectives at all is to impart his vision to the players so that they can envision something close to what he does. That's narrative quality, and it's present in the vast majority of games, regardless of playstyle.
The choice isn't between narration of literary quality or dull narration. Narration can be both, or it can be neither.

A situation is more than just 2 orcs on a hill. The description of those two orcs, the hill itself, and what the orcs are doing on the hill can turn an uninteresting situation into an interesting one.
The things you describe are content. How the orcs and the hill look and what small actions the orcs are performing are color, which is a type of content that informs the mood. The fact that you're creating this content on the fly and adding it to the situation doesn't mean it isn't content. How you describe it and whether your description has formal quality is orthogonal to what you describe.

Nope. I made no mention of "flowery language." That's your fallacious response to what we are saying.
I'd assumed you were responding to the part of my post you quoted. I said you didn't need to use flowery language to play an RPG. You responded that you've played in games that were dull and boring. If you didn't mean that games without flowery language are dull and boring, then I don't know what you mean.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
If it's words on paper, it's literature. Literally.

Using "literature" as a term that only applies to high-quality work is a redefintion of the word, though one that - sadly - has come to be somewhat accepted over time.
But words on paper is kind of meaningless in terms of this discusdiin. My issue is words on paper is being used in order to get toward much bigger statements about how RPGs should be like literature. If the argument was just RPGs should have words on paper, I wouldn’t be disagreeing so much
 

Hriston

Explorer
Quality of the descriptions doesn't have to be THE focus. There probably isn't even a single focus of the game. However, I have yet to play with someone who gives bare bones descriptions such as, "In the room are 2 orcs." They generally add at least a little bit to the descriptions to make them more interesting, and that is the DM attempting to add quality to the narration.
I don't think adding a small number of words to "In the room are 2 orcs" necessarily makes describing a situation in an RPG a literary endeavor in the way that was intended by the OP.

Not at all, but this isn't about playstyles, regardless of how much you and @Bedrockgames want to make it about playstyle.
I don't think whether a player is interested in a particular situation is necessarily a matter of playstyle.
 

Hussar

Legend
I know these questions are intended as rhetorical, but if I treat them as literal then the answer is I don't know.

The game seems to be 3e D&D (Scarred Lands), but who are the PCs? Who are the players? Do they have any reason to give a toss about the glutton Titan Gaurak?
So what?

You’re telling me that both answers would equally evoke a response? That neither one would make the slightest difference in tone or anything at the table?

You must have the most time deaf players in the world.
 

Hussar

Legend
The choice isn't between narration of literary quality or dull narration. Narration can be both, or it can be neither.



The things you describe are content. How the orcs and the hill look and what small actions the orcs are performing are color, which is a type of content that informs the mood. The fact that you're creating this content on the fly and adding it to the situation doesn't mean it isn't content. How you describe it and whether your description has formal quality is orthogonal to what you describe.



I'd assumed you were responding to the part of my post you quoted. I said you didn't need to use flowery language to play an RPG. You responded that you've played in games that were dull and boring. If you didn't mean that games without flowery language are dull and boring, then I don't know what you mean.
Hang on. I got taken to task by [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] not too long ago for including all these things on conveying dwarfiness at the table and got told it wasn’t content. It was in fact pointless color that adds nothing to the game.

So which is it?
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think adding a small number of words to "In the room are 2 orcs" necessarily makes describing a situation in an RPG a literary endeavor in the way that was intended by the OP.



I don't think whether a player is interested in a particular situation is necessarily a matter of playstyle.
But, apparently it does because at least [MENTION=85555]Bedrockgames[/MENTION] insists that the words that are added matter a LOT. To the point of not liking a game that adds the wrong words - as the Vengaurak example shows. So obviously word choice is extremely important.
 

uzirath

Explorer
If it's words on paper, it's literature. Literally.

Using "literature" as a term that only applies to high-quality work is a redefintion of the word, though one that - sadly - has come to be somewhat accepted over time.
I completely sympathize with this position when it comes to resisting snooty academics* who might only grudgingly accept Lord of the Rings (for example) as real literature, but the fact is that the word "literature" has been used in a restrictive sense for at least as long as it has been used to mean anything printed. Ye olde OED lists "written work valued for superior or lasting artistic merit" before it lists "printed matter of any kind." It includes quoted examples of people using the word in its more restrictive sense, and even of people complaining about how some other people are using it too broadly. (From the Daily News in 1895: "In canvassing, in posters, and in the distribution of what, by a profane perversion of language, is called ‘literature’.") So I don't think anybody on these boards is doing any redefining.

Besides, the OP did a good job of defining the premise. Although the signal-to-noise ratio in the discussion ain't great, I have been intrigued enough by that premise to stick around, panning for rare shiny bits.

* Note that I am not accusing anyone here of doing that!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Just to be clear here, I wasn't establishing a numeric breaking point. I was going by the overall impression of the two examples. The first one essentially just says one thing. The second says many things the reader/listener must piece together. The first one isn't particularly like a novel description, the second one is. I prefer the first. Of course, how I describe something will always be dependent on the situation. But my manner of speaking when running a game is a lot more like option 1 than 2.
You do realize that option 1 prevents the players from having information that they should be aware of, right? The creature reeks of blood and carrion, which PCs would instantly know and should therefore be described to the players BEFORE the players start inquiring further about the creature in question.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The choice isn't between narration of literary quality or dull narration. Narration can be both, or it can be neither.
Literary quality is anything from, "I wouldn't wipe my rear with it." to Shakespeare.

The things you describe are content. How the orcs and the hill look and what small actions the orcs are performing are color, which is a type of content that informs the mood.
It is absolutely description. I am describing to the players what the kobolds(not orcs) are doing. That it is also content is irrelevant. It's still description.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don't think adding a small number of words to "In the room are 2 orcs" necessarily makes describing a situation in an RPG a literary endeavor in the way that was intended by the OP.
It adds to the quality of the narrative, so it applies.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
You do realize that option 1 prevents the players from having information that they should be aware of, right? The creature reeks of blood and carrion, which PCs would instantly know and should therefore be described to the players BEFORE the players start inquiring further about the creature in question.
So you left out something you considered vital in option 1. If it is duper important I would mention it. But I would probably mention something like that before the players see it
 

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