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What makes an TTRPG a "Narrative Game" (Daggerheart Discussion)

I'll tell you a secret. When I'm running Apocalypse World (or for that matter D&D) I don't think about "What would make the best story" either. I think about what would be the most logical or fun thing in the moment. But if you keep the characters strong and consistent, the world coherent, and turn up the pressure stories always happen
I’ll tell you another secret. That’s also how to write a great novel.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
This has to be, pound for pound, one of the worst RPG experiences I've ever heard described. To present this as a positive example of play is making me feel like I'm having a stroke.
Mod Note:

So, you are welcome to your opinion, of course. But do take note that you are claiming an experience you didn't actually have, for which you have the barest, and certainly incomplete description, makes you feel that way.

Imagine what that says about your perspective, and whether it is worth discussing things with you.

Please ask yourself if this kind of rhetoric does you, or anyone else, any good.
 

This made me flashback to a game I was in while I was in school. The GM had an elaborate set of rules for finding the ruins that were our destination and other random encounters. We spent about three sessions just wandering in the desert, dealing with supply issues, and rolling percentile dice. It was a turning point for my gaming since I vowed never to do something like that again.

But I think the point is that this problem isn't inherently Narrative in nature at all. If anything, the Narrative part of things is to get you to what's next that's interesting. Of course that attitude isn't inherent to any particular play style. But yeah, shudder.

There's a difference though, between what we were doing and what you're conveying.

In my scenario, we the players drove our own game into that house and made our own fun out of exploring it as we roleplayed, and the Keeper met that, not by just conjuring something ad hoc, but in maintaining the atmosphere of the world despite the innocuous nature of the house.

In your scenario, from what I can gather, the players got lost in obligate mechanical minutia that wasn't designed well while the GM did nothing to actually make the experience fun.

The key difference, we chose the house. Ya'll didn't choose that desert.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
In my scenario, we the players drove our own game into that house and made our own fun out of exploring it as we roleplayed, and the Keeper met that, not by just conjuring something ad hoc, but in maintaining the atmosphere of the world despite the innocuous nature of the house.
This is the most important point! If everyone is having fun it's working great. To give another example that's more recent: our Waterdeep game just got derailed when we were discussing making a carriage that would be particularly imposing to go out and deal with a gang that had been making trouble for us. We were talking about adding skulls and having flames coming out of the eyes when one of the players asked "is this fun for everyone?"

And we found out that for half the group, it was not. If everyone's onboard, it's a good time and good on the GM for keeping this going. If it isn't that's a problem. And for your group, it obviously wasn't any problem at all.
 

This is the most important point! If everyone is having fun it's working great. To give another example that's more recent: our Waterdeep game just got derailed when we were discussing making a carriage that would be particularly imposing to go out and deal with a gang that had been making trouble for us. We were talking about adding skulls and having flames coming out of the eyes when one of the players asked "is this fun for everyone?"

And we found out that for half the group, it was not. If everyone's onboard, it's a good time and good on the GM for keeping this going. If it isn't that's a problem. And for your group, it obviously wasn't any problem at all.

Absolutely, but thats why communications important, and why being cognizant of body language matters too. These aren't things a new system can really address short of the rules obligating somebody to make a vibe check, which would just be a weird and obtrusive thing to do.

Thats why one of the best perrenial tips for GMs in all games is to call on somebody who might not be participating much and having them (as their character) weigh in on whats going on, and depending on how they go on to respond you can tell a lot of about where they are in terms of actually enjoying the game.

What a system can do though is be designed in such a way that certain kinds of gameplay doesn't become obstrusive to the collective experience. Thats how my crafting system works; its explicitly meant to occupy the Crafters time so that others can take turns and do whatever it is they do. The crafter gets a robust mechanic to engage with, but the rest of the table doesn't have to sit there and watch them.

And with some kinds of crafting, like Cooking, I put in a rule that heavily encourages the whole table to participate in making a meal together, and that is a wonderful thing to witness. So much so the next time I sit my group down to playtest I'm gonna have a KPC with them so I can get in on that too.

Ultimately though, no one here is discounting that people are going to have preferences. My overall contention, and that I think of others, is that games we call trad or what have you are a lot more flexible than they're given credit for, particularly when they are run as sandboxes, which they always should be.

A trad game and/or GM may not always grant or guarantee a large amount of Authorial agency to Players, but they are never obligate limiters of general Agency.

Such a game may lack an appropriately universal resolution mechanic, or perhaps what it does have isn't at a high enough resolution to be satisfactory, or a GM may have gotten taught poorly and learned to enforce a railroad. The latter is never an issue of how the system itself works, and the former can be a genuine design problem, but not one that necessitates an entirely new system.

And then of course we can delve into more specific edge cases, like how Death is often poorly designed or how the rules might inadvertently limit the perceived scope of the game due to whats given mechanical weight (ie, 90% of the rules are combat and everything else is incidental).

In those, particularly the latter, we may well be talking a whole new design and not just a revision or GM intervention. But that doesn't make a narrative game the only answer.
 

This made me flashback to a game I was in while I was in school. The GM had an elaborate set of rules for finding the ruins that were our destination and other random encounters. We spent about three sessions just wandering in the desert, dealing with supply issues, and rolling percentile dice. It was a turning point for my gaming since I vowed never to do something like that again.

But I think the point is that this problem isn't inherently Narrative in nature at all. If anything, the Narrative part of things is to get you to what's next that's interesting. Of course that attitude isn't inherent to any particular play style. But yeah, shudder.
As long as the group is having fun with it, who's to say whether it's right or wrong, good or bad? Some groups enjoy these more relaxed/moody extemporaneous sessions, and just freeflow roleplaying. Not everything needs to be a lesson in efficiency.
 

As long as the group is having fun with it, who's to say whether it's right or wrong, good or bad? Some groups enjoy these more relaxed/moody extemporaneous sessions, and just freeflow roleplaying. Not everything needs to be a lesson in efficiency.

Yeah what was said in the past few posts was kind of shocking, as they aren't far off from sounding like min-maxers. Which is just a bizarre juxtaposition given what these folks seem to want out of their games.

Narrative min-maxers that can't seem to appreciate a slower and more meandering pace is just not something I'd have ever thought could be a thing.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
This thread be like...

Basically, instead of liking the things you like, and playing games well suited to the things you like, you should instead like the things I like and play exclusively in the way like.

At the end of the day not every game needs to be for everyone and even for a particular person all the time. Roleplaying games are as varied and rich as any category. We should not feel sad for other people if they are into other stuff or for ourselves if game designers make games that don't interest us.

Apocalypse World is a frenetic game that places pressure on player characters to manage a variety of threats and tests their commitment to one another. It snowballs. It doesn't do more meandering sorts of play well. The same can be said for more traditional games not doing frenetic well at all. That's fine. When I want what Monsterhearts has to offer I reach for it. When something that is slower developing and/or less focused on character's social relationships and emotions I reach for them. When my group wanted something more in between for our Vampire game we made a hack that brought in some more conflict-resolution oriented mechanics to more traditional long form play.

I know when I spoke about protagonism in the context of roleplaying I do mean in the context of a character whose concerns are the driving force behind what happens. My primary interest in roleplaying games, both indie and traditional, has always been about play that revolves around the concerns of the player characters. I have no interest in being a world keeper or playing in a sandbox. I want the sort of play where my character is deeply embedded in the fabric of the game's setting, and I don't want to play for years to get to what I consider the good stuff. Same on the side of the screen - I want to hit the ground running.
 

I’m starting to feel like computer gaming is starting to have an outsized impact on tabletop roleplaying. There’s an if/then/else aspect to these systems that feels very computer game like. The big realization for me back in 1977 was the open ended nature and infinite directions a game can take. Quantifying or systemizing that open ended flow always sets off alarm bells with me, but I’m also trying to understand whether that attempt to systemize is actually taking place.
 

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