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Author Topic: Group Storytelling vs. Role-playing  (Read 4498 times)
Andrew Martin
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Posts: 785


« Reply #30 on: April 22, 2002, 04:55:39 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

1. High character association, high system interference - everybody agrees that this is RPG territory.
2. Low character association, high system interference - Fang says we can't talk about this one as nobody does it. OK.
3. Low character association, low system interference - everybody agrees that this is CS territory.
4. High character association, low system interference - so what is this?


It's easy. #4 is just an RPG with a simple, but not simplistic or complex or overly complex, system. :)

There's a neat column by Sergio on RPG.net which described stages a RPG can go through. Those stages are Simplistic, Complex, Overly-Complex and Simple. A lot of people think that Simple is the same as Simplistic, because both look very similar, and in no way look as much work or effort as Complex or Overly-Complex. Of course the ideal is Simple. I point to Chess and Go for example, which have rules that fit on a single page, yet give immense and subtle interaction, which is why people play these games. Similar principles apply to RPGs as well. Simple is best.
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Andrew Martin
Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #31 on: April 22, 2002, 10:20:59 PM »

OK, I'm going to take a stab at a *really* broad description (I intentionally avoid definition) of the activities in question (RPGs and IF/CS), and possibly also the manga-to-history-books spectrum Paul points to.

Creative engagement in an imagined situation.

One person reading a military history book and thinking about what he would have done differently than Patton fits.  So does an old-style wargame "simulating" Patton's campaigns.  So would a new-fangled "Narrativist" RPG Premised on the hard choices a Leader faces during War.  Or a group of people inventing characters and telling WW II stories.

Accepting that (no reason you should, but I'm going to for now), the way to differentiate between these approaches (it seems to me) is through asking "what specific attributes do you desire the engagement to have?" and "what tools are you going to use to fascilitate that imaginitive engagement?"

Issues in the first category include things like how many people, what form of expression, desired "balance of power", and etc.  

The second category covers many of the things discussed so far in this thread - character identificication and rule structures.  

OK . . . I think my point in this construction is that the question "where's the line between RPGs and IF/CS" is actually not as interesting as it first appears - what's far more interesting is to look at what goals they share (a "bigger than GNS" but more focused than just "have fun" goal, proposed here as creative engagement with an imagined situation), which they don't (?), and what tools (shared and otherwise) are used in that pursuit.

Appologies if that's a bit fuzzy - I'm at a conference for work this week, the days are long, and I probably should just wait until I can focus better . . . but I needed a Forge infusion.  Thanks everyone for some inspirational posts, and I hope I've contributed something,

Gordon
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #32 on: April 23, 2002, 05:25:18 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Your disbelief that I am not seeing your arguments is only exceeded apparently by my belief that you are ignoring mine.

We have that going both ways.

Well, in the spirit of understanding, let's try and sum each other's points.

What you're saying is that the continuum between collaborative storytelling and role-playing gaming is described exclusively by factors relating to system.  Loosely put (and badly), more system equals role-playing game.

Is that right, or am I missing the obvious?

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Further, it seems to me that we have is four possible combinations that form these activities given your two criteria.[list=1][*]High character association, high system interference - everybody agrees that this is RPG territory.
[*]Low character association, high system interference - Fang says we can't talk about this one as nobody does it. OK.
[*]Low character association, low system interference - everybody agrees that this is CS territory.
[*]High character association, low system interference - so what is this?[/list:o]I posited that number 4 is just as common as number 3 amongst people who claim to be CSers. In which case, character association is not a factor in determining what makes the activity one or the other, only system is important.

I agree with your determinations about 1 and 3, but I never meant to give the impression you list with 2.  According to how I read your opinion, you strongly believe 2 represents a role-playing game clear and away.  I disagree with that idea.

Let me create an example.  Let's create a game, a collaborative storytelling game (in my understanding of the discipline).  First, take the character cards from The Enchanted Tower (a cute little castle of a book we got for the kids with a 'medieval knights' picture-card game of concentration).  Next add in a deck of Whimsy Cards (or Storypath Cards, which I've never seen).  Come up with some rules regarding the introduction and removal of characters from the story.  (And if you're feeling competitive, rules regarding victory conditions.)  Blammo, instant storytelling game with "low character association, high system interference."  Certainly not a role-playing game by my stretch of the imagination, but it subscribes to 2 as well as any role-playing games you care to name.

The only example I can think of for 4 is some of the live-action role-playing games that I have heard are practiced in Australia.  'Free-forms' they're called, and all I know is that implies a workable "low system interference" to me (which could be just as well, I'm not sure live-action role-playing games take well to "high system interference").  But just as easily as creating The Enchanted Whimsy Tower Storytelling Card Game, I think we can come up with a collaborative storytelling scheme that does 4 too.

What does that mean in this discussion?  I think it refutes the idea that one can use system alone to determine whether something is a role-playing game or not.  (Both The Enchanted Whimsy Tower Storytelling Card Game and 1 - role-playing games - have "high system interference," and Australian live-action role-playing games appear to have "low system interference.")  It also refutes the idea I believe you are ascribing to me, that "high character association" is the deciding factor.  (There are plenty of examples of both collaborative storytelling and roleplaying games with "high character association.")

When you look at 2 and 4 together, you begin to see what I am alluding to.  Only when "system interference" and "character association" rise together (and only together) can we call something a role-playing game, and then only according to a 'personal taste' threshold.

What does that say about role-playing games that fit in 1 and 3?  The only point I can make is that no matter how far they get into the extremes of not having at least some of the lesser element listed (the "low..."), they still have some.  Role-playing games with a 'vestigial' lesser element score deeply enough into the gray areas of personal taste, that I would not even attempt to make up someone else's mind except to say that if it completely lacks either "system interference" or "character association" then I don't think it is a role-playing game anymore.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I have repeatedly said the line is blurry and whatnot. My demarcation is a spectrum as well, one simply devoid of any reference to character association.

And I disagree.  It's that simple.  (Well, except you kept implying I thought "character association" was the only criteria, which I do not believe.)

Quote from: Mike Holmes
You do bring up an intresting new possibility for a criteria with the scale of result thing. But I think that the case of the smaller scale results are limited to RPGs, but do not define them. That is, if you have round-to-round resolution, you have an RPG. But if you have any other scale you could have either activity. Or rather scene-resolution or any scale larger than round-to-round does not automatically mean that the system is CS.

I can say for certain that lots of people play RPGs with very large chunks of resolution. Look at Aria, which has systems that can resolve eons at a roll. Most RPGs caveat against "rolling for everything" which means in general terms that resolution rolls can occur at long intervals, potentially.

No, I'd say that round-to-round resolution is only indicative of RPGs for exactly the same reason I said before. Because it indicates that there is a system which produces some sort of results in terms of in-game events (characters only hit each other once every ten seconds, this would never fly as CS).

That's true, but the point I am trying to make is that a "round-to-round resolution system" almost begs "character association."  I think that a "round-to-round resolution system" without any "character association" would be only the most experimental (read that 'totally grey area') of collaborative storytelling, not because it indicates system, but because it implies "character association," and we both agree that a measure of both makes it a role-playing game (that would be a 2).  I might even go so far as say that the idea of resolution, all by itself, may be partly role-playing game indicative (but I really haven't given it any thought).

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I am starting to regret getting into it.

Not me, I'm already at one epiphany and counting.  (I hope it's helping others too.)

Fang Langford
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #33 on: April 23, 2002, 06:51:55 AM »

You tell me that there is no use in creating a fictional high interference, low-association game, and then you go and create one yourself. I find your mind amazing, Fang.

(This is really getting pointless, as I doubt that either of us has the requisite experience to talk about the other side, but here I go anyhow.)

I really doubt that your example game would be accepted by the CS community. While I know that RPGers play Once Upon a Time, and Baron Munchausen, etc. Which your theoretical game is exactly like. Why do I believe that it is acceptable to RPGers and not CSers? Because it has a rule structure that defines in game events. Agian, I am guessing to an extent, but if I were to put this in front of most CSers, they'd say either, "why bother with such strictures", or, "Oh, you want to play an RPG".

And as long as you've opened the door again, counselor, Universalis is exactly such a game, which I have played successfully with many RPGers already, who have had no problem with the low-character association. Not in spite of the low character association, to my view, but because they were comfortable with the system as it affected events. I think that such a game would be poo-pooed in most CS circles due to that feature of the game.

Round by round resolution (or something like it) is in Universalis, and it does require that one player back a single "character" (could be a mob, or a business, or a robot, essentially, just something active) and another player to do the same. But they can switch characters the next conflict, and often may. There is no particular association with any particular characters. And it works, with RPGers.

As well, I have stated that I think that CSers associate with single characters all the time, but I would accept that this is a third case which might be labeled something else like the suggested FFRP. Perhaps Universalis and games like it fall into a fourth category as I suggested before. But I still maintain my belief about which activities are supported in general by which communities. That said, perhaps an ecumenicism should be looked for, and so that point may be moot. Or I may be dead wrong.

Like I said, much of this is just my opinion. At this late point in the discussion, my biases are probably making me look bad. So I'll desist. This is the last I'll post on this. I think my case is fairly clear, or at least as clear as I care to make it. I understand your points, Fang, but obviously I disagree.

Mike
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #34 on: April 23, 2002, 07:45:21 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
And as long as you've opened the door again, counselor, Universalis is exactly such a game, which I have played successfully with many RPGers already, who have had no problem with the low-character association. Not in spite of the low character association, to my view, but because they were comfortable with the system as it affected events. I think that such a game would be poo-pooed in most CS circles due to that feature of the game.

Round by round resolution (or something like it) is in Universalis, and it does require that one player back a single "character" (could be a mob, or a business, or a robot, essentially, just something active) and another player to do the same. But they can switch characters the next conflict, and often may. There is no particular association with any particular characters. And it works, with RPGers.


So the question this begs in my mind is: Are you, or are you not playing a role? If you are not playing a role, this might be a fun game, but it is decidedly NOT a roleplaying game.

My shades of grey tend to be as sharply defined as others' black and white.
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #35 on: April 23, 2002, 08:08:11 AM »

Quote from: Wolfen
Quote from: Mike Holmes
And as long as you've opened the door again, counselor, Universalis is exactly such a game, which I have played successfully with many RPGers already, who have had no problem with the low-character association. Not in spite of the low character association, to my view, but because they were comfortable with the system as it affected events. I think that such a game would be poo-pooed in most CS circles due to that feature of the game.

Round by round resolution (or something like it) is in Universalis, and it does require that one player back a single "character" (could be a mob, or a business, or a robot, essentially, just something active) and another player to do the same. But they can switch characters the next conflict, and often may. There is no particular association with any particular characters. And it works, with RPGers.

So the question this begs in my mind is: Are you, or are you not playing a role? If you are not playing a role, this might be a fun game, but it is decidedly NOT a roleplaying game.

My shades of grey tend to be as sharply defined as others' black and white.

Yeah, I was beginning to see the "character association" = role-playing and "system interference" = game thing coming too.

I think the problem with Mike's argument is he makes assumptions about what a collaborative storyteller will or won't play.  Me, I'm strictly talking about whether something fails to be a 'story present' role-playing game (with no regard to whatever else it might be).  It doesn't matter if The Enchanted Whimsy Tower Card Game is collaborative storytelling or not, I really doubt it is a role-playing game for similar reasons to the above.  And it was provided as an example of Mike's 2 that failed to be a role-playing game.  (It really doesn't matter what a collaborative storyteller thinks about it, if it fails to be a role-playing game, then "system interference" cannot be a sole determiner of what is or is not a role-playing game (that tells some kind of story, of course).

Fang Langford
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #36 on: April 23, 2002, 08:16:12 AM »

Quote from: Wolfen

So the question this begs in my mind is: Are you, or are you not playing a role? If you are not playing a role, this might be a fun game, but it is decidedly NOT a roleplaying game.


To clarify: in Universalis you play roles. Not just one role, but whatever role you want. Next scene another player plays that role if they like, or you can again. There is no association with a particular character, you just role-play whatever character you want, whenever you want, for that scene. As an example, there is a specific rule for purchasing the right to speak for a particular character in a scene. In the next scene somebody else may pay for that right.

Mike
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joe_llama
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« Reply #37 on: April 23, 2002, 01:00:14 PM »

Quote from: Wolfen
So the question this begs in my mind is: Are you, or are you not playing a role? If you are not playing a role, this might be a fun game, but it is decidedly NOT a roleplaying game.

I think this is the most important statement in this thread so far. If role playing is an element (something that I insist on constantly), then it means specifically the "act of playing a role" (ie pure Actor Stance). A game which has no mechanic for such a thing could not seriously be called a RPG. And even if it did have one, it would only be called so because it's one of the obvious parts of the game.

Looking at Universalis, the two most obvious things about it are storytelling and game structure. What's next? Coins, bidding, maybe role playing - 4th or 5th place. In addition, there are no rules to enforce, reward, or punish acts of role playing. Technically, role playing is only a suggestion. I could play the game without doing it even once. It would be easier to categorize it as 'storytelling' game rather than 'role playing' game.

On the other hand, we have a game like Bedlam. The first and most obvious thing about it is role playing (you are a megalomaniac psycho locked up in a mental institute). It is also enforced (you can't play the game without RPing a psycho). The storytelling, while very close behind, is secondary in obviousness. If you walk into a room with a group playing Bedlam, you will notice the acting first and maybe think "oh, and they're telling a good story too". Such a game would be categorized under both 'storytelling ' and 'role playing' although I believe the latter would be more useful when you look up this game in a store or on the net.

So where does CS fit in? Is the world of gaming discrete or continuous? Why do terms like 'hybrid' 'crossover' and 'gap' are necessery?

The above examples hopefully show the need for new definitions and a new theory. Games (including RPG's) should be treated more like compounds or molecules made from various elements. So far, I see 3 (maybe 4) types of molecules using the role playing element. Don't you think it's time we expand our horizons?

With respect,

Joe Llama
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