Is RPGing a *literary* endeavour?

pemerton

Legend
What do they have in common? All of them? Um .... strange use of scare quotes/asterisks!
I don't understand what you're trying to achieve. If you're not interested in the topic as it's been framed or discussed, or think the thread is unhelpful, you're very welcome not to post in it. If you think my threads involve code-of-conduct violation, you have the option of reporting them.

Are you trying to pick a fight and have this thread shut down? Are you trying to clutter the thread with enough off-topic nonsense to prove your point that the thread shouldn't exist?

If you want to take part in a thread about the use of literary/narrative devices in RPGing, then why not start one?
 

Riley37

Visitor
@Riley37, you didn't answer my question as to what you think it adds to the thread to insist that @Hriston said something that he didn't, on the basis of attributing a meaning to his words that they were not intended to bear, and which no reasonable reader of them in the context of their production would impute to them.
I have no opinion on whether that action would add anything to thread; no one has done the action which you just now described, not as you describe it.

Ovinomancer made an assertion which I considered untrue, and I challenged that assertion. I made no statement about what Hriston *intended*; I repeated a quote of Hriston's words, *exactly as written*. You can try to "stir the pot" between me and Ovinomancer, if you like, but I doubt you'll get results which are both successful and useful. If you want to get him and/or me thrown out of the thread, well, you can get me out of the thread just by PMing me a request not to comment further in this thread. The mods have enough on their hands already. I will keep *reading*, at least long enough to get Manbearcat's answers to my questions about his thoughts.

As to your question about light, light isn't an endeavour of any sort. It's a natural phenomenon.
That is a true statement. Some analogies are closer than others. Light and TRPG are not in the shared category of "natural phenomena". They are in the shared category of "things which have multiple aspects, such that the thing can only be well understood when one considers all of those aspects".

Unlike the case of light, it's therefore not a category error to ask whether RPGing is literary endeavour, any more than it would be a category error to ask whether theatre or film-making is a literary endeavour, and whether the qualities that make for good theatre or cinema are essentially literary qualities.
No more, and no less. Has anyone ever gained anything useful, by asking whether theatre or film-making is a literary endeavour, while bundling that question with the further question of whether the qualities that make for good theatre or cinema are essentially literary qualities (as if yes to the former proved yes to the latter, and vice versa)?

If the current state of the art, of theatre and/or film-making, has been advanced by such a question, then that's news to me. (shrug) But if it has, then go ahead, break the news to me!
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Even so, when Ovinomancer denied that anyone had said any such thing - well, as a matter of fact, you HAD said that thing.
[MENTION=16814]Ovinomancer[/MENTION] denied that anyone in this thread had said that how content is presented cannot determine whether people wish to engage with it.

Here’s what I said:

Because color (dungeon dressing) is content that provides atmosphere when imagined by the participants at the table. The quality of form with which it’s expressed isn’t what’s important but rather whether the odors, noises, furnishings, and items found in an area suggest a torture chamber, a harem, or a wizard’s laboratory. In other words, it’s the actual content that matters, not the particular words that are used and the way they are said.
NOT the same thing!
 

Riley37

Visitor
Okay, if

(a) the quality of form isn't important
(b) whether (X in-game phenomena) suggest (Y category of room) (for various X and Y) is what's important
(c) the content matters
(d) the particular words that are used don't matter
(e) the way that they are said doesn't matter

but "matters" does not include "whether people wish to engage"

then you and I have divergent understandings of "matter".
"Matter" is relative; something can matter to me and not to you.

I was a drop-in player at a game store today. The DM read aloud some boxed text. He didn't read it SO badly, that I left the table - but his perfunctory tone affected how many players listened how closely, and did or didn't pick up on mission-relevant content.

One way of truth-testing an assertion, is to check whether it leads to false conclusions.
Here's a link to one of my favorite examples: http://ceadserv1.nku.edu/longa//classes/mat385_resources/docs/russellpope.html


So let's apply your scope of what does and doesn't matter, to the next time I will TRPG.
I will run a game tomorrow, at the same store, with walk-in players.
If the PCs walk into a room, and I give a description of the room which suggests a torture chamber (eg the captive cowering in a cage)
and I do so in rapid, elided Spanish
that is, if the only difference between tomorrow's instance, and previous times I've run the adventure, is "the choice of words and the way they are said"
and the players who don't speak Spanish leave the table
then by your standards, I conveyed all the necessary content, and some of the players left over *something that doesn't matter*, so it's not my fault.
The departure of those players, however, will matter *to me*.
Again, condensed: if the choice of words and the way they are said, results in players disengaging, that's within the scope of what matters *to me*.
If it doesn't matter to you, then *shrug* you DM your way, and I'll DM mine.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
I was a drop-in player at a game store today. The DM read aloud some boxed text. He didn't read it SO badly, that I left the table - but his perfunctory tone affected how many players listened how closely, and did or didn't pick up on mission-relevant content.
So the literary content of the written text (e.g., diction, structure, style, content) was deprecated by the tone and performance? What if the DM had not read the boxed text aloud - a rote performance - but had instead engaged in a more natural style that communicated the message of the boxed text without reading from it? What you say here suggests that something else that has not really been explored in the conversation much: that the premade "literature" fails to engage the DM who is running it for players. Normally, this has been framed from the presumption that the DM is engaged and we are instead focused on non-DM player engagement.
 

Riley37

Visitor
So the literary content of the written text (e.g., diction, structure, style, content) was deprecated by the tone and performance?
Maybe the literary content, but insofar as the relationship between "literary" and "content" is already a point of contention, I'd rather say that the literary effect or impact was reduced He didn't convey excitement or strong interest in the written text. For his purposes, "it's a generic science fiction orbital station, apply tropes as needed" sufficed, except when zooming in on plot-crucial details. At one point, he said "the meeting location is a few blocks away... well, not blocks..." I responded with something like "how about, it's four bulkheads spinwards from here?" and he said "Sure, go with that."

the premade "literature" fails to engage the DM who is running it for players. Normally, this has been framed from the presumption that the DM is engaged and we are instead focused on non-DM player engagement.
Well put. Thank you. Yeah, in this case the author and the DM at the table were different people, perhaps with different goals for use of descriptive language. For all I know, the people who wrote the module cranked up the formality of the prose style, for boxed text, on the basis of tradition - that is, perhaps they felt obligated to match the style of boxed text in whatever modules had formed their understanding of TRPG. As if a module had to provide boxed text with long sentences and lots of scenery-describing adjectives, or else it would not inspire respect, if you know what I mean. FWIW, the DM had found a story/module written for Starfinder, but was running it in the Warhammer setting, and some nuances of tone or scenery may have suffered some distortion in the process.

Now I'm extra glad that I gamed today, and that I brought a recent example into the thread, because Aldarc picked up on something in the example!

(I imagine that more value may ensue from Aldarc's point, than from the chain of (a) Hriston's declaration, (b) Ovinomancer's declaration, (c) my contradiction of Ovinomancer's declaration and (d) pemerton's counter-contradiction. Time will tell. And "value" varies by who does the assessment of value...)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Okay, if

(a) the quality of form isn't important
(b) whether (X in-game phenomena) suggest (Y category of room) (for various X and Y) is what's important
(c) the content matters
(d) the particular words that are used don't matter
(e) the way that they are said doesn't matter

but "matters" does not include "whether people wish to engage"

then you and I have divergent understandings of "matter".
"Matter" is relative; something can matter to me and not to you.
I agree. If nobody wants to engage with the content, then the content doesn't matter. If "it's the actual content that matters,'' content determines whether people engage or not.

Now, I clearly do not agree that "it's the actual content that matters." I think both content and presentation matter equally. Of course, you can never guarantee engagement. 100% content, 100% presentation, 50/50%, sometimes you are going to whiff and the players won't be interested.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So the literary content of the written text (e.g., diction, structure, style, content) was deprecated by the tone and performance? What if the DM had not read the boxed text aloud - a rote performance - but had instead engaged in a more natural style that communicated the message of the boxed text without reading from it? What you say here suggests that something else that has not really been explored in the conversation much: that the premade "literature" fails to engage the DM who is running it for players. Normally, this has been framed from the presumption that the DM is engaged and we are instead focused on non-DM player engagement.
In my experience, this is less about the DM failing to be engaged, and more that the DM has failed to learn the box text in advance and just reads it as he goes. If he had learned it in advance and was able to describe the scene with the box text as the guide, the players would have been more engaged.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I don't understand what you're trying to achieve.
I think that is almost always the case, and I appreciate the candor. In fairness, does anyone ever know what they are trying to achieve? Or are we all more like dogs chasing cars?


But I did notice that, since the beginning of the thread, you never really grappled with the use of RPGs in genre; specifically, humor.*


So, how does framing sans narrative work in a humorous RPG?

That's also an answer to your question I quoted, by the by. :)
 
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Riley37

Visitor
In my experience, this is less about the DM failing to be engaged, and more that the DM has failed to learn the box text in advance and just reads it as he goes. If he had learned it in advance and was able to describe the scene with the box text as the guide, the players would have been more engaged.
In this case, those two factors - DM engagement, and DM preparation - went hand in hand. He didn't care much, so (a) he neither rehearsed narration nor internalized the content well enough to describe it in his own words and (b) we didn't care either. Unfortunately, the "we didn't care either" extended to details useful for getting through the pretext of investigating our way to a fight scene. (And for amusing role-play and problem-solving along our way to a fight scene.)
 

Bobble

Villager
There will always be those few who over think the simple. Role playing is role playing. It has been around since the dawn of time. Children do it instinctively.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Can you explain what you mean by framing sans narrative?

Here's a link to an account of a fairly recent session I played of a humorous RPG (The Dying Earth). There was framing. I don't know whether or not it counts as "sans narrative".
So, I won't comment on your other thread (so as not to derail it), but I would note the following as general comments:

1. While I have not played the game, I have read Vance extensively, including The Dying Earth. As a kid, I loved this series (APPENDIX N!), with the whole baroque language and wordplay (kind of like a starter set to Oscar Wilde) and some black comedy with the wit ... but I wouldn't say that they are comedic sources. I would, however, say that some of the gender relations depicted (and I am putting this kindly) haven't aged well.

2. Anyway, I find it difficult to understand playing a game set entirely in a milieu, and using mechanics and narrative, from a setting you acknowledge knowing nothing about? Similar to someone using the One Ring RPG and saying, "But I've never read Tolkien," I have to ask why?

3. We continue to have the issue that the game you are recounting is not the same as the one that I read reviews about. This happened before with your version of Cthulhu, when you demanded that I engage with your example, I took the time out to research what other people said, and when I found that every single review discussed the storytelling and atmospheric elements of the game ... you then said you weren't playing the version that everyone else reviewed, but a 5 page .pdf. Anyway, I looked up the Dying Earth RPG, and here's what I found (I will list the first 5 full reviews from google so I am not cherrypicking, and I am assuming it is the ):

https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/9/9675.phtml
https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/15/15509.phtml
http://ageofravens.blogspot.com/2009/10/10709.html
http://www.guildcompanion.com/scrolls/2001/jun/reviewdyingearth.html
https://rpggeek.com/thread/619572/thus-and-so-all-means

The commonality of all of these reviews is that the game is described explicitly in terms of storytelling aspects (and I will assume you are using the edition that is reviewed, even though you are referring to, say, XP instead of improvement points):

REVIEW 1:
"The whole game of Dying Earth seems to be centered around giving the true experience of the books. For example, the experience mechanism is based upon quoting "taglines", which are short speeches in the manner of the books. The fine art of persuasion is an integral part of the rule system, and it thus encourages people to engage in rhetoric just as occurs in the original stories. ... As is common with many storytelling games (and as a partial result of the aforementioned constant IC dialogue) The Dying Earth can be tiring to both run and play. As a gamemaster you have to make a real effort to maintain the correct atmosphere. Beyond that it's quite honestly more difficult to run a game centering around character interaction than one centering around combat; you're more frequently called upon to be an actor, and less frequently to be the rules arbitrator."

REVIEW 2:
"It is a game of wits and style, of showy language and character. ...The book, the rules, everything about this RPG is solid and captures the world of Jack Vance in its totality. The catch is that for this game to shine, it'd better be played by people both witty enough and versed in the books. The book characters' outrageous behaviours and speech patterns are a main attraction; not having them in game is a great loss."

REVIEW 3:
"The goal of the game is about acting out, experiencing the atmosphere and engaging the story. ... One other criticism I heard from players was that they felt stupid in the face of the game. That they couldn't keep up with the improvisation and quick wits needed to keep up.

REVIEW 4:
"Chapter 3 introduces the overarching rule of efficacious blandishment. Succinctly, it allows characters to perform actions outside and beyond the rules provided that the player can persuade the game moderator that the results fit the story. ...Good role-playing in the Dying Earth milieu demands a distinctive style of gaming. An entire chapter is devoted to exploring what this means in practice for players in character creation and in play proper. The rest [of the improvement points] may be obtained by delivering "tag-lines" (quotations of Vancian dialogue whether original or pastiche) at apt junctures in the session in a suitably entertaining and amusing fashion. ...Substantial assistance in terms of advice, scenario elements and illustrative scenes from the novels is provided on how to blend Dying Earth motifs such as swindles, odd customs, strange magic and the wondrous into adventures. Help is given on creating taglines[.]"

REVIEW 5:
"Language is a key aspect of the Dying Earth. From the lowliest boot-polisher to the mightiest Arch-Magician, folk at the end of time possess a vast vocabulary and pepper their conversations with muscular wordplay. I have scattered choice quotes in the Vancian style throughout this review, and it is expected that characters will converse in such a manner. ...As a realisation of the Dying Earth tone in the form of an RPG, I think that the DERPG succeeds. And succeeds rather well actually, with the proviso that you're going to game with players that have a decent handle on the tone since achieving the right tone matters so much to having a good experience in the Dying Earth."


Okay, so ... I know you well enough to know you aren't trolling, but I'm thinking of the source material (the Vance works) and I'm reading these reviews, and I'm thinking ... this? This is your example of how DM/player narration and performance don't really matter?

And ... I just don't even, because either you're defining things in such an idiosyncratic way (from my perspective) that further communication on this issue isn't possible, or you just have no real clue what other people are thinking about. Because your view of a game is completely opposite of what everyone else thinks.


But this builds to the meta-commentary that I feel compelled to add-

You quoted Ron Edwards, again. This is a go-to for you. I'm going to say that I didn't participate in those debates, but I had to catch myself up in the last few months to understand what people were discussing, and from my P.O.V., Ron Edwards is everything I dislike, from prescribing how others should game, to offering theories that don't work in play, to finally saying that people that don't agree with him are brain damaged. It's like the holy trifecta of obnoxiousness, from my P.O.V.; and, to make it worse, it's over something fun! Or, it should be. But again, don't care. If you want to like Ron Edwards, game theorist (or John Edwards, psychic) more power to you!

That's why, when you say that you don't understand me, I completely agree with you. I enjoy having fun; I am more likely to go into an extended series of posts about the awesomeness of Katana than I am to engage in a super-serious (and, to me, annoying) discussion about RPG theory. I try to put in humorous asides in most of my posts, and I am assuming that you missed the series of posts in this thread where I was just riffing on Jimi Hendrix lyrics for a period of time (why? why not?).

Life is too short; have fun. I read the entire description of your game, and while you said it was fun and comedic (I have no reason to doubt you) you discussed cliffhangers and ... well, it didn't sound like the type of "laugh-a-second, people in tears" session that I am used to when I have comedic games. I understand that discussing comedy after the fact is hard, but ...

Anyway, good luck with your game, and your theory.
 
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