Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Now, think about this 1st person argument for a second. You will, presumably, choose to speak in a certain way and use certain words in an attempt to "portray a character", right? You wouldn't proclaim, in character, in a fantasy game, "Hey, that looks like the critter at the end of Men in Black!" That would be considered out of character, no?

So, as soon as you add in that criteria - what I say should be in keeping with the character that I'm playing - you have left the realm of conversation and gone into the literary. You would never think, "Hrm, given what I think about me, I think I should say X and not Y" in a conversation. You aren't trying to portray yourself. :D

Thus, play always is a literary endeavor. You are using literary criteria to judge and control what you say during the game and people's enjoyment of the game will be affected by that judgement.
You make a very strong argument for something, but not for games being literary. Just because there is this concept in gaming of playing a character in a setting, where your character doesn't know thing you know, that doesn't make it a literary endeavor. Maybe an acting endeavor, but even then I don't think so because you can still just be playing yourself, you can be playing with the character without acting, or even in third person. So even if I accepted the implication of your post (that players and GMS always must speak in first person), I don't have to accept your conclusion that it is literary. But what is more, plenty of people don't engage RPGs in the first person. And further, lots of people allow for all kinds of anachronisms in play and dialogue. You might not like it, but I've definitely been in groups where characters did things like reference modern movies even though we were in a fantasy setting.

Also your post does just reinforce the main point I made there which is this thread is about playstyle more than anything else.
 

Hriston

Explorer
To a certain extent I would say yes. I certainly don't add all kinds of words to my description of a situation without any regard for its formal quality, especially when speaking to colleagues at work, explaining something to others and so on. Very rarely am I wholly unaware of the formal quality of my everyday speech as I know many people are apt to judge you by it.
A work environment might be more or less formal, but that doesn’t make being at work a literary endeavor. Likewise, an awareness of how best to effectively communicate when speaking with others can be useful, but it doesn’t make conversation a literary endeavor. Personally, such a controlled approach to communication doesn’t really work for me because I’m naturally careful in choosing what I say and need to make a real effort to be spontaneous. Maybe this accounts for some of the differences in the way we see literary as opposed to normal speech.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Material of low literary quality is clearly not what the OP is talking about when asking whether RPGing is a literary endeavor.
He brought up narrative quality. Low quality is quality. It applies to his argument.

This isn't in dispute. My contention is that the act of describing content is not a literary endeavor in the sense used by the OP. For it to be a literary endeavor in that sense would require that the quality of form, i.e. word choice, phrase and sentence structure, use of meter, rhyme, and repetition, and other formal properties that set the language used apart from normal everyday language, is a major focus of the activity.
As I pointed out above, conversational dialogue is a literary technique, so you don't need the above requirements. Further, from personal experience, I have spoken on behalf of NPCs and came up with some really crappy dialogue on the spot. That would be low literary quality dialogue. Other times I've come up with responses that were so awesome I got "oohs" from the players. That would be higher literary quality dialogue. What I never did was sit and come up with what words would sound better. I'm not focused on what sort of dialogue to engage in. It's just conversational dialogue.
 

Hriston

Explorer
This makes no sense. I would think improvement of the narrative, generation of content and nearly everything else we've discussed is ultimately done first and foremost for the purpose of running the game. I mean I'm not creating content for the purpose of just having good content, I'm generating it to better my game.
That’s because imagining, exploring, and engaging with good content is what’s at the heart of RPGing. The literary quality with which that content is described runs orthogonally to that.
 

Hriston

Explorer
He brought up narrative quality. Low quality is quality. It applies to his argument.
The OP stated the opinion that the literary quality of narration is unimportant, so, sure, it doesn’t matter whether the literary quality is low or high. Unimportant is unimportant. What I’m not following is that you seemed to have been making the argument up thread that someone who thinks the literary quality of narration is unimportant is somehow asking for dull narration. You also seem to be making the argument that someone could think the literary quality of narration is important and want that narration to have low literary quality. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

As I pointed out above, conversational dialogue is a literary technique, so you don't need the above requirements. Further, from personal experience, I have spoken on behalf of NPCs and came up with some really crappy dialogue on the spot. That would be low literary quality dialogue. Other times I've come up with responses that were so awesome I got "oohs" from the players. That would be higher literary quality dialogue. What I never did was sit and come up with what words would sound better. I'm not focused on what sort of dialogue to engage in. It's just conversational dialogue.
To me, this sounds like you don’t think the literary quality of your dialogue is very important.
 

uzirath

Explorer
So, as soon as you add in that criteria - what I say should be in keeping with the character that I'm playing - you have left the realm of conversation and gone into the literary.
This sounds more theatrical than literary to me. It may be worth considering how role-playing can be used outside of gaming. At school, for example, we (the teachers) use role-playing activities with students to help build empathy. I don't think of this as a literary endeavor. It's about considering the perspective of another person and how they might feel about a given situation. As modern, literate people, of course, we write down our lesson plans and communicate via email and whatnot, but the role-playing activities themselves are not primarily about invoking the techniques of literature. They are activities about imagination and perspective, about paying attention to other people, about considering how a different context might change the way you behave. Many literary techniques, of course, exist to achieve similar goals (immersion in a fiction, identification with characters, etc.) but those goals can exist outside of the literary realm.

Ultimately, though, this is all rather pedantic. The interesting element of this thread, to me, is the notion that helping new GMs craft compelling situations may be more important than helping them craft evocative descriptions or memorable NPCs. I'm not as hung up on figuring out exactly how important, or the rankings of importance, or what's core and what's not. (That, as evidenced by the back-and-forth in this thread, requires far more patience than I have.) Personally, I like evocative descriptions, whether or not they're "core" and whether or not they are "literary" by various definitions. I'm better at helping someone come up with better adjectives or more interesting costumes or neat NPC quirks than I am at helping them with the fundamentals of designing great situations to engage their players. I feel like I approach the idea when I talk to young GMs about the importance of keeping the game fun for everyone. I always focus on that as job #1 for the GM. But I don't know that I provide much specific advice on how to actually do that beyond the basics (spread the spotlight around, keep things moving, give hints when things stall, don't get too hung up on the rules, don't get too hung up on your vision of how the game ought to go, avoid TPK, etc.).

I assume most of us agree that creating compelling situations for the players is somewhat important, regardless of where this importance ranks in relation to other aspects of the game. If we accept that, then I wonder what the top tips are to help people accomplish that?
 

Imaro

Adventurer
That’s because imagining, exploring, and engaging with good content is what’s at the heart of RPGing. The literary quality with which that content is described runs orthogonally to that.
For you...maybe, I've yet to be convinced, but for some/many/most the other things you mention aren't attainable or fun without a certain quality to the literary aspects and descriptions, the presentation and performance...
 

Hussar

Legend
This sounds more theatrical than literary to me. It may be worth considering how role-playing can be used outside of gaming. At school, for example, we (the teachers) use role-playing activities with students to help build empathy. I don't think of this as a literary endeavor. It's about considering the perspective of another person and how they might feel about a given situation. As modern, literate people, of course, we write down our lesson plans and communicate via email and whatnot, but the role-playing activities themselves are not primarily about invoking the techniques of literature. They are activities about imagination and perspective, about paying attention to other people, about considering how a different context might change the way you behave. Many literary techniques, of course, exist to achieve similar goals (immersion in a fiction, identification with characters, etc.) but those goals can exist outside of the literary realm.

Ultimately, though, this is all rather pedantic. The interesting element of this thread, to me, is the notion that helping new GMs craft compelling situations may be more important than helping them craft evocative descriptions or memorable NPCs. I'm not as hung up on figuring out exactly how important, or the rankings of importance, or what's core and what's not. (That, as evidenced by the back-and-forth in this thread, requires far more patience than I have.) Personally, I like evocative descriptions, whether or not they're "core" and whether or not they are "literary" by various definitions. I'm better at helping someone come up with better adjectives or more interesting costumes or neat NPC quirks than I am at helping them with the fundamentals of designing great situations to engage their players. I feel like I approach the idea when I talk to young GMs about the importance of keeping the game fun for everyone. I always focus on that as job #1 for the GM. But I don't know that I provide much specific advice on how to actually do that beyond the basics (spread the spotlight around, keep things moving, give hints when things stall, don't get too hung up on the rules, don't get too hung up on your vision of how the game ought to go, avoid TPK, etc.).

I assume most of us agree that creating compelling situations for the players is somewhat important, regardless of where this importance ranks in relation to other aspects of the game. If we accept that, then I wonder what the top tips are to help people accomplish that?
No one is disagreeing with this. Not a single person. What's being disagreed with is the notion that content is all that matters. That regardless of the language used to present that situation or content, it will be interesting to the players solely on its own merits as content.

To me, this is flatly false. You can have the most fascinating situation ever written, but, if it's presented poorly, without any literary technique whatsoever, it will fall flat every single time because, at it's heart, yes, RPGing is a literary endevour. You, as a GM, need to be aware of literary techniques and how to apply them or you will simply never reach your intended audience.
 

Hussar

Legend
You make a very strong argument for something, but not for games being literary. Just because there is this concept in gaming of playing a character in a setting, where your character doesn't know thing you know, that doesn't make it a literary endeavor. Maybe an acting endeavor, but even then I don't think so because you can still just be playing yourself, you can be playing with the character without acting, or even in third person. So even if I accepted the implication of your post (that players and GMS always must speak in first person), I don't have to accept your conclusion that it is literary. But what is more, plenty of people don't engage RPGs in the first person. And further, lots of people allow for all kinds of anachronisms in play and dialogue. You might not like it, but I've definitely been in groups where characters did things like reference modern movies even though we were in a fantasy setting.

Also your post does just reinforce the main point I made there which is this thread is about playstyle more than anything else.
Wow. That's what you got from what I wrote?

Where did I even remotely suggest that 1st person or 3rd person is preferable? Heck, I mostly play in 3rd person personally, so, I really have no idea where you are getting this.

Are you seriously saying that "Hey that looks like the critter from Men in Black" is an in character speech? That your NPC's would "get" the joke and react to it as a joke rather than as the complete gibberish it is from their point of view?

Ok. Now, since you keep insisting on "lots of people" to support your argument, would you argue that completely anachronistic comments being taken as in character role play is commonly accepted? That your DM/GM, upon hearing you state something 100% outside of genre and the game, would automatically assume that you made these comments in character?

You have a really weird table if so.
 

pemerton

Legend
My argument is I don't want to describe things in a literary style. You are now making the argument that word choice matters in a literary style and becasuse I objected to the addition of certain words, it proves your point. You are suggesting with that post that this concern is in fact a literary consideration of sorts. I will admit, I am still trying to find the hole in this argument. But I know there is a hole because it feels like sophistry to me (since it runs completely against my point).
There's an approach to cultural studies and the study of communication which make the point that all communication involves word choice, choice of tone, etc, and hence that - when considered through that lens - there is no distinctive contrast between (say) EM Forster's novels and the instructions you give your kid when sending him/her to the shops.

That may be true as far as it goes, but it is sophistry - and a sort of equivocation of the sort you've pointed to upthread - to infer from (1) the fact that all communication is shaped by expectations and choices around tone, register, etc to (2) all communication is literary in the sense of governed by concerns about, and expected to live up to, certain standards of formal quality/excellence of wordcraft.
 

pemerton

Legend
pemerton said:
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.
Time deaf, space deaf, maybe just deaf deaf . . .

Anyway, here are the two options again:

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"

My players aren't too tone deaf. They can tell that the second description paints more of a "word picture" than the first. But is RPGing about enjoying word pictures? On the player side, I think it's about doing - about playing your PC as protagonist in the imagined situation. Which description will establish a situation that the players' are moved to engage? Until I know who the players are, who their PCs are, why they would care about the glutton Titan, etc, how can I know?

If the idea on the GM side is to present a disgusting creature whom the PCs will be raring to fight, and we've all just come from a viewing of Men in Black, then maybe number 1 is the way to go!

as soon as you add in that criteria - what I say should be in keeping with the character that I'm playing - you have left the realm of conversation and gone into the literary.
But not into the realm of trying to craft a beautiful work. Children can express concerns about keeping in character when they play make believe together, but that doesn't make their play of make believe into a literary endeavour in the salient sense.

since we're not limited to D&D here, what about games like The Dying Earth where being "literary" is part and parcel to play. Not only is it expected, it's rewarded by the mechanics. Or LARPing, unless we're insisting that LARP'er's aren't "true" gamers.
Well as it happens we played a session of The Dying Earth a couple of months ago. Emulating Vance's dialogue, including in such a way as to make the other participants burst into laughter, isn't what I was thinking of when I posted the OP.

I'll come back to this below, but at this point will report that we had some funny dialogue and some laughter-inducing taglines, but I don't think what we produced would count as quality literature, and nor were we aiming for that.

That’s because imagining, exploring, and engaging with good content is what’s at the heart of RPGing. The literary quality with which that content is described runs orthogonally to that.
To me this is at the heart of the discussion in this thread.

Contra [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s claim upthread, it's nothing about "fluff" vs "crunch". Rather, its RPGing as performance/entertainment as opposed to RPGing as shared inhabitation of the imagined world. Hussar is right, I think, to point to The Dying Earth RPG as a game which plays with this contrast, but from my own play experience I am still comfortable in saying that, for us, it was inhabitation of the Vancian world which drove our play - and the taglines and dialogue were part of that. Part of what I have in mind in saying this is that what made the taglines funny (when they were) wasn't the deftness of delivery or timing in the theatrical sense, but the way it reinforced the contrivance and absurdity that is at the heart of the in-fiction situation.

perhaps a better question might be, "Should an RPG attempt to being a literary endevour". To which, I would answer a resounding yes. That I will try and fail doesn't bother me too much. But that we shouldn't try at all? That's just sad.
To me this seems to be the crunch point. And I don't think it's sad at all.

I've got nothing against literary endeavours. But why would RPGing be the place for that? As opposed to, say, writing and perhaps reciting literature? (And to relate this again to The Dying Earth RPG: I don't think our Dying Earth session is best analysed as an attempt to create Vancian fanfic. Whereas to my mind this is what you are saying we should have been aiming at.)

RPGing (once again bracketing a certain sort of classic dungeon crawlilng) is about a particular approach to shared fiction creation: one participant (broadly) in control of setting and situation, one or more others (broady) inhabiting protagonists within that setting and situation. What makes it go is when the setting/situation draw in those would-be protagonists. It's about imagination and the resulting "inhabitation" of the fiction.
 

Hussar

Legend
OTOH, it is not sophistry or equivocation to point out that in role play we distinguish between in character and out of character speech. Something you would never do in a conversation. You would, however, make that distinction in a literary sense - narrator and narrative. The constant switching between first and third person is also something you typically don't do in a conversation about yourself.

Well, not often anyway. :D

I'm just not seeing the parallel between conversation and what we do when we play an RPG. Other than turn taking and back and forth, it generally isn't a conversation. It's too artificial. Playing in first person, you are choosing language, not based on what you, the player would say, but, what you the player think that your character would say which is far closer to an author writing dialogue than someone talking to a friend.

As I said earlier, the distinction between IC and OOC speech makes playing an RPG very different than conversation. Sure, at some points, you'll be having a conversation with your GM and the other players, but, generally speaking, that's usually OOC. When it comes to IC speech and actions, there is always the filter of the character that will alter what is said and done by the player. A filter that isn't present in a conversation.

Never minding players who take actions that are deliberately self destructive in order to make the game more interesting. Or, really, these actions don't even need to be self destructive. If the player is doing or saying X, because the player thinks that X will result in a more interesting situation, then it's no longer simply conversation - it's authorship. There are many games out there that deliberately reward a player for choosing the less optimal option but more interesting.
 

Hussar

Legend
Pemerton said:
What makes it go is when the setting/situation draw in those would-be protagonists. It's about imagination and the resulting "inhabitation" of the fiction.
Huh.

How, exactly, do you inhabit the fiction in a conversation?

Look, if you're simply asking if RPGing is about creating the next great novel, then, sure, no, it's not. No one is going to mistake an RPG session for high art. If that's the bar you're setting, then, fair enough, this conversation should have ended long ago, because, well, frankly, no one would argue that the goal of play in an RPG is to create timeless art to be enjoyed by millions and discussed by various critics for centuries to come.

If that's your bar for "literary" then, ok, I totally agree that RPGIng is not a literary endeavor.

OTOH, if we're setting the bar a lot lower, say at the level of popular culture art and fanfic, then, well, the rules change. RPGing borrows far more from art and theater than it does from conversation. The ability of the players to use language to create mood, tone, and interest is just as important as whatever imaginary situation you want to posit.

I guess it all depends on where you feel like finally planting the goal posts.
 

pemerton

Legend
The interesting element of this thread, to me, is the notion that helping new GMs craft compelling situations may be more important than helping them craft evocative descriptions or memorable NPCs.

<snip>

I like evocative descriptions, whether or not they're "core" and whether or not they are "literary" by various definitions. I'm better at helping someone come up with better adjectives or more interesting costumes or neat NPC quirks than I am at helping them with the fundamentals of designing great situations to engage their players. I feel like I approach the idea when I talk to young GMs about the importance of keeping the game fun for everyone. I always focus on that as job #1 for the GM. But I don't know that I provide much specific advice on how to actually do that beyond the basics (spread the spotlight around, keep things moving, give hints when things stall, don't get too hung up on the rules, don't get too hung up on your vision of how the game ought to go, avoid TPK, etc.).

I assume most of us agree that creating compelling situations for the players is somewhat important, regardless of where this importance ranks in relation to other aspects of the game. If we accept that, then I wonder what the top tips are to help people accomplish that?
Good post. And for what it's worth, I would say that 90% of my efforts as a GM over the past 30 years has been focused on this issue, of coming up with compelling situations. (Although only for about half that time have I had a vocabulary for describing what it is I've been trying to do.)

The RPG product that had the biggest initial impact on me, in this respect, was the mid-80s Oriental Adventure supplement. I don't know if I could have explained it at the time, but in retrospect I think I can identify what it was about OA that was significant:

(a) Characters are located within a motivational context - families, martial arts mentors, temples, and the like. (Classic AD&D could in principle have this - clerics' temples, MUs' masters - but the default presentation deliberately eschews making these connections a significant element of play. They're mere backstory.)

(b) Characters' choices have non-instrumental stakes, by way of the honour rules as well as the possible impact they might have on those families etc.

(c) Characters have themes that are established via trope and genre resonance, and that players can easily buy into when they build and play those PCs (eg martial arts masters, noble samurai, wily ronin etc).

(d) Monsters have a significance and orientation within the fiction (spirits, celestial bureaucracy, etc) which is connected - however tangentially, and perhaps aided by having watched an episode or two of Monkey as a kid - to those themes, motivations and stakes. So when the PCs encounter a creature there is already some sort of "pull" to response which goes beyond just shall we kill it to earn some XPs and recover its loot?​

My overall take-away would be: strong situations engage the players by engaging their PCs, and this is about the way the situation speaks to PC concerns/motivations/themes. Preferably in ways that are more intrinsic to the character than simply Welll, we are lawful good so I guess we should do the fetch quest for the villagers.

For a long time I primarily GMed and played Rolemaster, and one notable feature of RM is its intricate character build rules. These are one important device that players use to express goals and theme in that system, and as a RM GM I paid close attention to PC builds (including things like changes of direction in build with levelling) in thinking up situations. Some of this is about testing skills - if a player builds a PC with stealth and disguise and impersonation skills, than good situations will be ones that invite infiltration, cunning, the use of multiple personas in elaborate ploys, etc. But some of it is also about engaging implicit theme/motivation - if a player builds a PC with social skills, knowledge skills etc because that PC is an up-and-coming lawyer and public official in his/her city, then good situations will speak to that image and conception of the character. The player may only rarely actually test his/her PC's lawyering skill, but that skill sitting on the PC sheet nevertheless tells us this really important thing about this character, and that really important thing can be a key focus of play (can the character schmooze the right people, maintain his/her social station, achieve his/her goals without having to betray loyalties, etc).

Systems/rulebooks that have shaped my thinking and my techniques over the past decade-and-a-half, whether or not I've actually played them, have tended to be ones that actually address this whole issue - of how to build PCs that have these inherent "hooks", of how to frame scenes that will engage with them - directly. Luke Crane's Burning Wheel, Robins Laws' HeroWars/Quest, various Vincent Baker games, Nicotine Girls, and Maelstrom Storytelling are probably the main ones. Some of these systems use formal devices to establish PC themes/motivations/concerns (eg Beliefs in BW) and then give the GM formal instructions to engage with those (so in BW the GM is expressly directed to frame scenes that challenge Beliefs, and if players try to dance around the challenge then the GM just "says 'yes'" until the challenge is confronted, at which point the dice have to be rolled). But I've done a lot of GMing of systems that don't use such formal devices (the aforementioned RM, 4e D&D, and more recently Prince Valiant and Classic Traveller all being examples).

That's a perhaps over-long way of saying that my top tip would be (i) work with the players to help them make "laden" PCs, and then (ii) latch onto the hooks those PCs are laden with. And conversely, I think the easiest way to get crappy situation is to come up with it independently of the PCs, and to have the whole thing be driven by We have to do the fetch quest because that's what the GM is serving up.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Are you seriously saying that "Hey that looks like the critter from Men in Black" is an in character speech? That your NPC's would "get" the joke and react to it as a joke rather than as the complete gibberish it is from their point of view?
.
I am saying this can happen in games. People do this. I am not saying everyone does it. just there isn't some requirement in a roleplaying game that people not break the fourth wall. I've been in games where anachronistic jokes were told in character, where players switched between in character and out of character talk. It happens, yet the game continues on.

However my bigger point was just because you are playing a character in an RPG, that doesn't automatically make it literary. You didn't bridge those two points in any meaningful way
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
There's an approach to cultural studies and the study of communication which make the point that all communication involves word choice, choice of tone, etc, and hence that - when considered through that lens - there is no distinctive contrast between (say) EM Forster's novels and the instructions you give your kid when sending him/her to the shops.
.
It may not surprise you to learn I got into a lot of debates with the professors when I had to take courses in these departments in college. I enjoyed these courses but found lots of points like this where I disagreed.
 

pemerton

Legend
OTOH, it is not sophistry or equivocation to point out that in role play we distinguish between in character and out of character speech. Something you would never do in a conversation. You would, however, make that distinction in a literary sense - narrator and narrative. The constant switching between first and third person is also something you typically don't do in a conversation about yourself.

Well, not often anyway. :D

I'm just not seeing the parallel between conversation and what we do when we play an RPG. Other than turn taking and back and forth, it generally isn't a conversation. It's too artificial. Playing in first person, you are choosing language, not based on what you, the player would say, but, what you the player think that your character would say which is far closer to an author writing dialogue than someone talking to a friend.
I think, here, that you are pointing out that RPGing involves authorship. That's undoubtedly true.

But authorship doesn't take us to literary endeavour in the sense intended in the OP, ie quality of wordcraft. Authorship is needed to bring fictions into being (for whatever sense of "being" is apposite for fictions). But bringing fictions into being doesn't depend upon literary quality.

When I make the comparison to conversation, I'm pointing not just to the back-and-forth but to spontaneity, responsiveness and not just any sort of responsiveness but a type of mutuality/reciprocity in responsiveness, and the free flow of emotion. In RPGing this activity is oriented - within the structures established by the game system, of which (for mainstream RPGs) the GM/player allocation of functions is probably the most fundamental - towards collectively authoring and inhabiting a fiction.

How, exactly, do you inhabit the fiction in a conversation?
The way children do when the play make believe or with their dolls/figurines/Lego.

You imagine it, imaginatively project yourself into it, generate emotions in yourself that are not triggered by the real world but by the imagined circumstances.

Whether that's a worthwhile thing to do is of course up for grabs!, but that's what I play RPGs for.

RPGing borrows far more from art and theater than it does from conversation. The ability of the players to use language to create mood, tone, and interest is just as important as whatever imaginary situation you want to posit.
As I said, I think this is the fundamental point of disagreement. This isn't how I see RPGing.

The interest results from the emotional power of the imagined circumstance: I'm dangling by my fingernails over an abyss! My ATV is about to be blown up by the orbital bombardment unless I can find some sort of cover in the rocks! It turns out my brother probably wasn't the nice guy I thought he was - which means that in trying to redeem him I've just wasted half my life! Darth Vader is my father!

As I read your posts, you see the power of these situations as coming from their portrayal. To me that seems like an "external" source of power. I see their power as arising internally, because the player is imaginatively projecting him-/herself into the situation as protagonist. I'm largely indifferent to first person vs third person narration at the table, but I think a type of first-person orientation is pretty fundamental to RPGing. My character is me! If the player is just an external observer, I think that generating that motivation to act becomes much harder.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
OTOH, if we're setting the bar a lot lower, say at the level of popular culture art and fanfic, then, well, the rules change. RPGing borrows far more from art and theater than it does from conversation. The ability of the players to use language to create mood, tone, and interest is just as important as whatever imaginary situation you want to posit.

I guess it all depends on where you feel like finally planting the goal posts.
This is probably a separate discussion, but I would argue these are still very different mediums and that is really important to keep in mind. RPGs do borrow heavily from many entertainments mediums (not just written ones, but also movies, music and theater). I think it can be misleading to see that connection and then try to adopt the structures of those mediums. This is how many people become insistent on things like railroads or having the GM tell the players a story. True some people like that, but lots of us felt that didn't fit the strengths of the medium in practice. I think where these kinds of discussions become an issue isn't seeing the connections, it is when people equivocate to create general rules about what RPGs should be like for everything (especially around matters of playstyle taste)---i.e. RPGs are like stories, therefore RPGs should play out like good stories; RPGs are like history, therefore RPGs should play out like history, RPGs are like real life, therefore they should play out like real life......these are all fundamentally playstyle statements that usually find some point of comparison between the two things and then argue for bigger structural emulation that is good for all.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The OP stated the opinion that the literary quality of narration is unimportant, so, sure, it doesn’t matter whether the literary quality is low or high. Unimportant is unimportant. What I’m not following is that you seemed to have been making the argument up thread that someone who thinks the literary quality of narration is unimportant is somehow asking for dull narration. You also seem to be making the argument that someone could think the literary quality of narration is important and want that narration to have low literary quality. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

To me, this sounds like you don’t think the literary quality of your dialogue is very important.
Important. Unimportant. Those things are not relevant to whether or not the game is literary. It is, and the conversational dialogue, along with the quality of it is part of why.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You, as a GM, need to be aware of literary techniques and how to apply them or you will simply never reach your intended audience.
I don't agree with that. When I put my mind to it, I can write very well. Not because I have learned all of the rules and how to apply them, but because I love to read and I just know what looks and feels right. There are directors that way as well. Some directors learn all the tricks of the trade before making movies. Others don't have that learning, but have an instinctive feel for what looks good. DMing is the same way. Some DMs may need to read and learn the rules and tricks to running a good game. Others will just know how to do it without the formal learning.
 

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