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

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
As an addendum to the post above I'm more than happy to have a discussion about technique and what sort of designs are best for which sorts of play experiences, but no one is going to get very far with me by saying that only certain play agendas or desires are worthy. That includes stuff I'm not much into like long form linear play as well. My biggest regret as a member of this community was the way I once vented my creative frustrations out on other people who came out of the same Ars Magica/Vampire/Legend of the Five Rings play culture I cut my gaming teeth on.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
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.
As a min-maxer/powergamer across pretty much every type of TTRPG, we definitely exist. :)

I enjoy in-character dialogue, especially with other players, but I prefer it in the context of the current happenings of the fiction. I want to make stuff happen. I push for conflict.

I know lots of people who hold up 10 year long campaigns with the same characters to be a sort of platonic ideal for a TTRPG campaign; personally, I view it as a crippling failure state of everything I want in a campaign.
 

Old Fezziwig

a man builds a city with banks and cathedrals
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.
I play more computer games than is probably optimal for a grown-ass man, and, though I can see where too much systemization could sterilize play, I haven't seen it being an actual problem in the games I've most recently played (Stonetop, Dogs in the Vineyard, The One Ring, and Torchbearer). The presence of processes and frameworks for play in the games is actually freeing, at least for me as a GM, as it allows me to move the overhead of coming up with ad hoc resolution systems or managing long, open ended improvisation onto the system and focus on keeping play moving.

EtA: I'm not running Stonetop or Dogs, so this is observational as it relates to those games.
 

Aldarc

Legend
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.
It's nice to have something to blame. But I will say that this reads to me a bit like an old man yelling at clouds sort of generalization.

I think that the bigger influence of video games is less about optimization and more about players wanting to way to realize and play character concepts, which leads to things like Neo-Trad and Daggerheart. Optimization happens. Optimal strategies and meta-games form (e.g., hirelings, 10 ft. poles, using water for trap floors, etc.). Optimization was how the game was played in the beginning. There was a certain "play to win" aspect of the game, with players looking for optimal ways to play the game. Gamism as a play agenda has been a long-established part of the game since its wargaming inceptions.
 

I don't quite follow this. I don't know what you mean by "a dramatic increase for GM"? Increase of what?

I also don't know what you mean about "hav[ing] to come up with the clever ways to have the Signs appear to the players". Here is the rule (p 84):

Each island includes several oracular portents to represent the wishes of the gods. You can ask the leader of the heroes to read them aloud to the group. During the course of play, the leader interprets the signs to understand how to appease the gods here and earn their Divine Favor.​

Is this what you're describing as "just esoterically exist[ing]? But then, what is being "shorted" by following the process of play? With the signs of the gods read, and interpreted, the players then know this aspect of what is at stake in their action declarations. Subsequently, during the Voyage (p 44),

Based on the actions of the heroes on the island, the Strife player [the GM] marks progress on the Vault of Heaven sheet. Mark a star if the heroes honored or pleased that deity while on the island . . . Mark Wrath if the heroes dishonored or displeased that deity while on the island.​
Determine divine pleasure or Wrath based on the leader's interpretation of the signs of the gods for this island - did the heroes follow through on what they believed to be the will of the gods, or did they fall short?​
If any additional gods were invoked or included in the situation on the island, mark their stars or Wrath as well.​

I can't really connect what you say in your post, to the procedure of play that the rulebook actually sets out.
I think the failure of communication here is fundamentally one of concept. The intent of the design of Agon is that the PLAYERS interpret the signs, they're not something made up by the GM. Its not a puzzle to be solved! When you encounter an Agon Island you get 3 signs. Now, the GM/Island Author may have in their mind some kind of idea of what these signs might portend, but it isn't up to the GM to assign them meaning! The PLAYERS assign meaning to the portents and BY DOING THAT they establish what the island is 'about'. Thus every island is about a topic which is selected, to a degree, by the players. Now, the nature of the conflicts is GM-determined, so its certainly not a case of the islands being blank slates, but the 'proper orientation' of the players to the island, maybe you could call it the 'win conditions' is determined by what the leader declares the signs to mean.

This is really a kind of unique feature of Agon that sets it apart from other Narrativist designs a bit. But in order to understand how this works, you have to be able to accept that it is players who are in charge of this determination, that there are no 'right answers' as to what the signs mean.
 

pemerton

Legend
I cannot help but admire this resolute stand against platonism :giggle:
Platonism is controversial in the context of logic or mathematics.

It doesn't get off the ground as a theory of fiction. What sort of underwear was Holmes wearing when Watson first met him? There is no answer to this question. Conan Doyle never wrote it down, and never said anything that entail or even tends to imply any particular answer.
 

I cannot help but admire this resolute stand against platonism :giggle:
I used to think that Platon was a tad bonkers, but more I learn about modern physics, especially quantum mechanics, more correct his ideas seem. The fundamental reality probably is just some sort of information, matter is just how it appears to us.

Probably not terribly on topic. Except perhaps reality is actually no myth, and is just generated by quantum collapse as we perceive it. 🤷
 

Platonism is controversial in the context of logic or mathematics.

It doesn't get off the ground as a theory of fiction. What sort of underwear was Holmes wearing when Watson first met him? There is no answer to this question. Conan Doyle never wrote it down, and never said anything that entail or even tends to imply any particular answer.

Yet we know a lot about Holmes, even though he is not real. So that fictional person can be though to have certain sort of objective reality, even though it is not super detailed.
 

As a min-maxer/powergamer across pretty much every type of TTRPG, we definitely exist. :)

I enjoy in-character dialogue, especially with other players, but I prefer it in the context of the current happenings of the fiction. I want to make stuff happen. I push for conflict.

I know lots of people who hold up 10 year long campaigns with the same characters to be a sort of platonic ideal for a TTRPG campaign; personally, I view it as a crippling failure state of everything I want in a campaign.

I think thats highly contextual though, as that 10 years may well have been wall to wall balls to the wall.

Speaking for myself though, I am someone whose probably the poster child for Explorer type gamers, which is rooted through my personality in my real life love for exploring and learning. The deeper the environmental storytelling, the better when it comes to what I like to do.

But, I'm also very flexible as I'm naturally inclined towards competition, IRL and in terms of gamer psychology. I can hang with the best min-maxers easily, but you won't find me any less enthralled if all that effort gets put to the side for a session or six. And the same goes really for any angle you can look at psychologically for what I get out of games.

All aspects of a game are appealing, and while I have preferences, I find relatively equal enjoyment from every angle we could be approaching the game from.

The one stickler, though, is Expression, which is where I have my only dislike, and thats because Expression comes in many forms, and the kinds of Expression I like in games, are not the same sorts of things I already do as an already creative person.

I don't come to RPGs to write stories (or at least I try to; I've related in the past how quickly that tendency can burn me out) or be artsy, because I already do and enjoy those things as an entirely separate set of hobbies, where I have no need for the superflous constriction of a game.

Expression in games is at its best for me when its about how I use what the game gives me to interact with, and what that results in as an experience.

I'm basically there to play Legos. Creativity and minimal authorship plays into that when we talk RPGs, but this is a different way of outletting those desires that doesn't work like my other hobbies do. And this is, incidentally, why my favorite video games are all basically story-less sandboxes with a bunch of fascinating mechanics to play around with. DCS World, DayZ, Kerbal Space Progam, and so on have been mainstays for me for over a decade in some places, and I don't see that changing.

And the experiences I have with those games, all the RPGs I've played, and the experiences I've had with my group all inform the giant sandbox RPG I've been designing since whenever the OGL debacle happened, because few RPGs really embrace that kind of expression.
 

pemerton

Legend
One of my fond memories of those sessions is me, as Mr. Archibald, having an intense philosophical debate on Trotsky's assassination with my friend as the singularly named Pavel. All while we trod around this crappy old house completely lost in the atmosphere the Keeper was conveying, while we all get lost in the roleplay.
(1) Why wouldn't I just have that conversation with an actual friend?

(2) What does what you're describing have to do with playing Call of Cthulhu? That could be a session of GURPS just as easily - it's just GM narration + players talking to one another while pretending to be someone else.

pemerton said:
This claim is not true. The gameworld doesn't have to "exist".
Sure in the same way that we don't have to be playing a game.
I don't know what you mean by this. When I played The Green Knight, we played a game. There is a type of scoring and everything. No "gameworld" existed - just some situations.

One of the players decided his Bard had travelled to Britain from Jerusalem. So I guess that made Jerusalem part of our gameworld? As per my reply just upthread to clearstream, Platonism in this domain is hopeless, It doesn't get off the ground. It doesn't even start moving down the taxi-way.

RPGs are not just conversations, and that false assertion goes to the heart of what I'm talking about when I describe PBTA style games as having shallow gameplay loops.
Did you notice how you attribute to me something I didn't say. Here's what I posted:
The process of RPGing involves the participants saying things to one another, about a shared fiction. In a standard GM/player distribution of roles, the players say things about what particular imaginary people - their PCs - are doing; while the GM says some stuff about the imaginary circumstances in which those imaginary people find themselves, and also some stuff about what happens to them when they do things.

This doesn't require that the shared fiction have any particular content, except the people who are doing things, the things they do, the circumstances in which they do them, and the things that happen because of what they do.

What it does require is a way of working out new fictional stuff, in particular, the last bit - what happens next.

One way of doing that is by having the GM participant infer consequences by imagining other stuff - the "gameworld". But that's not the only means. The gameworld may be nothing but the sum of the people, their circumstances, their actions, and their actions' consequences.
So see how I didn't say that RPGing is just conversation. I said it involves conversation. And I said it requires a way of working out new fictional stuff, especially what happens next. This is what Edwards and Baker call system.

Something else I don't get, though - in addition to your false attribution of a view to me - is how you reconcile your denial that RPGs are not just conversations with your celebration of some RPGing that, by your own account of it, was nothing but conversation.

Yes we're exploring a gameworld. Thats how it works.
What's "it"? I mean, obviously "it" includes the three sessions of CoC play "exploring" the "haunted house".

But "exploring a gameworld" is not how my RPGing works.

As I deftly predicted, we appear to be at a stage where the GM simply describing a room is problematic if the players don't get first dibs
Once again, you deftly attribute views to other posters which they have not expressed. I said nothing about describing a room; nor anything about whether or not it's "problematic".

It's very often boring, to me at least - both as player and as GM - but that's a different matter.

What I will still say is that the apparent devaluation of the gameworld and relegation of it to mere "fiction" is telling
Telling of what? What else would the gameworld be but fiction. It's something that people make up. That's the very definition of fiction!

Hell, in a more charitable discussion you could actually argue the gameworld is the fiction is the gameworld, but the sheer distaste that comes with denying the whole point of one existing betrays any chance of that particular consensus being reached.

Which is why Setting Books and Adventure Paths are a thing. Masks of Nyarlathotep, to pick one out of the proverbial hat, is huge and has more than anybody is gonna need to handle how any group plays.

And I'm sure you'll chirp those still aren't acceptable because its "someone elses fiction", but then you're just contradicting yourself because you just stated you don't want to make anything up yourself.
I didn't state that I don't want to make anything up myself. What I actually posted was "I just don't want to exert my creative effort thinking up a 'crappy old house' that I gradually tell the players about, in response to their action declarations for their PCs, which actions the players are declaring because they believe that, or at least wonder whether, "what they are there for" will be revealed to them if only they declare some appropriate action to prompt the GM." That is a very specific thing I don't want to waste my time on.

But you are correct that I have zero interest in playing an AP. A strong aversion, in fact.

And then we move on to you pointing at the players doing it too, but you're still fundamentally contradicting yourself, as no game you'd prefer doesn't still have the GM making something up. Many of them hinge upon that, in fact, a lot more than other games do.
Instead of just making up random stuff and attributing it to me, you could actually read my actual play reports, of which there are dozens and dozens on these boards.

de-protagonisim is phoney jargon and you'd face a lot less scruitiny if you just said "i want to collaboratively worldbuild" and not jump through all these hoops to pretend thats anything else.
I have no desire to worldbuild, collaboratively or otherwise.

Following the procedure of play, unless I somehow missed it when I originally perused the book before hopping into a game AND did it again when I re-read the whole book yesterday, would have you handing a piece of paper with the Signs written on it to the leader and then they read it and thats that.

That's fine for fulfilling the mechanical purpose of getting some possibly novel behavior to come out of how the leader thinks about it. But it is so, so, so dull.

For one, as stated, these islands do not have much to actually do, as they're only a tad above being purely linear experiences. This works against the mechanic because most leaders, unless they go out of their way to ignore the obvious, are going to interpret them in very similar if not identical ways as they run into the trials.

What I was relating was the much more clever idea of not just sliding the signs over and having them be a non-diegetic thing, but integrating them into the gameworld.
This makes me think that you have not really found what there is to be enjoyed in Agon. The conjecture that most players will interpret the signs the same way strikes me as completely implausible, given some of the diverse stuff I've seen in only a modest number of sessions of play. The suggestion that there is not much to do non the islands, and that they're purely linear, is also bizarre to me.

Even reading it now, I can't remember how we did Apollo's sign, but on Nimos Artemis wasn't revealed to the leader until we were about to slay the Serpent, which was described as a vision before handing a card over with the Sign. Given what happens when that Serpent dies, that was an excellent time to reveal that and wouldn't have been near as effective if they were just alreadly known and half forgotten by the time were elbow deep in whats going on.
Likewise, this suggest that you are playing Agon in a way completely different from how the rulebook suggests it should be played. I mean, what you describe here - assuming that by "revealed to the leader" you mean the GM narrated it in some fashion - is the GM taking over the players' job.

That would help explain why you find the player linear, I guess!
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top