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Author Topic: Story, schmory  (Read 7557 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« on: June 25, 2001, 09:09:00 AM »

I suppose there are several ways to look at it.

Some of the more recent RPGs (meaning post 1982) have been focused on story even to the point of having mechanics that mimic the- what is it?- feel, look, flow of real literature.

I have to ask, is this a good thing?

Not to say these games aren't fun.  They probably are (well, maybe not this one *tosses in trash*) but is it really so easy to turn good storytelling into a contrivance?  Is it that easy to build a wind up toy built of dice-rollin', card-drawin', sone-pullin' and people yapin' that spits out a "good" story.

Do I sound sarcastic?  Sorry.  But I mean it.  Do these games really do what they say they do?  Is it as workable as they say?

If so, I've been working too hard on my fiction.
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2001, 09:26:00 AM »

Most games spit out fodder for stories, post-game.  You and your buddies do a whole lotta stuff and later you weave it into some kind of a tale (you impose structure and order onto it vis-a-vis the A to B timeline of the game's events).

The games I like are the ones where the characters are IN a story and the players are "writing" their story as they go along.  At the end (because there HAS to be an end) everyone sits back and says, "wow" and then a new game starts up.  It is the experience of creation that is important, rather than the post-game re-telling...
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2001, 09:40:00 AM »

Hi Pblock,

"I have to ask, is this a good thing?"

This is a mileage question. Classifying something as good or bad requires a set of stated desires or criteria.

So, for me, yes, it's a good thing. For you, who knows? All we can do is (1) observe that such behavior and such game designs exist, and (2) discuss what goals are involved in such things. Oh, and (3) decide how we individually want to role-play in light of these comparisons.

This sort of question worries me, though. It has a tendency to provoke massive, epicyclic posting frenzies. In a plea for reason, I ask everyone to avoid such things in the future.

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2001, 09:41:00 AM »

OK, I'm still not getting it, I guess.

I don't believe I nor anyone in my groups, past or present, has ever restructured the game events into a story save as memories in our heads.  They may be recounted in a similar manner to how your grandfather may recount war stories.

In other words, I fail to see how these story-orientated games do that, which is as much as I want from an RPG really, than, say, D&D in the hands of a good GM  (or DM if I must use their term.  >sheesh<)

I suppose they probably hide the dice rolling a little better which tends to be right up from in D&D.  I'm reminded of an episode of Red Dwarf where the hologram guy was recounting a game of Risk he played:

"He rolle a two and a three, I rolled a five and a six..."

dull, but I usually forget that sort of thing, mostly.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2001, 09:51:00 AM »

i'm with jared (duh).
the audience for rpgs aren't people who pay tickets to see the final product, it's the players themselves. the creators are the audience. so, what i look for in an rpg are mechanics that help facilitate that kind of thing--story-creation & enjoyment.

this, of course, assumes that you play rpgs for the story. i do. unfortunately, i think the trends of the 90's, particularly as spearheaded by ars magica & vampire, have created this notion that story is the most important thing in all rpgs, no matter what, superior in every respect to all other aspects of rpgs, ROLEplaying over ROLLplaying, blah blah frickin' blah.

i think that's absolute bullshit. i play rpgs for story-creation. not only do i not think my style of play is in any way superior to, say, wargames with characters or some hardcore simulation or heavily-railroaded -story-as-given-by-the-gm or (however you & your friends like to play), i wish wish wish WISH that rpgs would stop pushing this story-uber-alles thing (& if they are going to focus on story, i wish they'd have mechanics that reflected that goal). i would love to see more rpgs proudly & vocally focus on tactical gamism or simulationism or whathaveyou. (like rune, for example.)

but for me personally, yes, i think story-focused mechanics are a bloody good thing.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
james_west
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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2001, 09:55:00 AM »

I hate to sound like a shill for Ron, but -

Nothing will make it as clear to you as buying Ron's game (or the supplement Soul of the Sorceror, even if you don't have the original and don't plan to buy it) and reading it.

I can't imagine that, after reading that, you will still think that mechanics are irrelevant to quality of the story produced.

                           - James
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joshua neff
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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2001, 10:00:00 AM »

a good story-oriented rpg doesn't "restructure" anything, it facilitates story-creation by players & gm. i think good examples of this are: story engine (just bought the revised hardcover edition & it seriously rocks!), hero wars, dying earth, sorcerer, & just to mention it before ron does, prince valiant. there's no "let's have a good story as the result", it's "let's have a good story NOW"--dealing with a strong premise & mechanics that facilitate story-creation do that.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2001, 10:02:00 AM »

Pblock,

You might be interested to know that a GM using a system like Prince Valiant, Hero Wars, Sorcerer, and several others, does not fudge his or her rolls "in order to promote story."

Historically, lacking systems which facilitate story-creation, GMs inclined toward this goal did have to do this. Now, with systems built in line with this goal, there's no need.

And yes, Fortune (dice, cards, etc) still plays a big role in resolving things during play.

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2001, 10:04:00 AM »

Heya, Ron.

I don't think it's so much a milage question as a poorly phrased question, I guess.  Leave it to me to misquote myself.

What I'm getting at, I think, is there are several games that claim to focus strongly and exclusively on story.  I'm still in the middle of my reseach on this but I have to wonder if 1) if that's *really* what they're doing and 2) if they're really as different as some make them out to be.

I haven't read *every* game that claims a storytelling bend I don't think I want to TBH.  I still haven't read the Apprentice version of Sorcerer because I'm reformatting it so it'll print out double-sided as a 32pp. booklet  (If you want me to save it for you, Ron, just ask)

What seems to be happening with these story games is the focus is on, well, storytelling.  And like games of old, the person with talent or skill in that field will have an advantage over the other players.

position based combat games gave advantage to people who knew small group tactics and, possibly wargame experience.

point-based character creation gave advantage to those who could crunch the numbers better

hell, physical sports gave advantage to those who were in better physical condition

video games gave advantage to those who've got better hand-eye coordination

now story games give advantage to those who are better at coming up with stories.

I dunno.  I suppose this is all unavoidable and probably for the best but at some point I got the sick, sick idea that RPG leveled the playing field, that is what game balance is all about right?, but the truth is they don't.

I'm very disillusioned right now.

...
    ...
       ...
          meep
               ...
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2001, 11:30:00 AM »

Quote

Is it that easy to build a wind up toy built of dice-rollin', card-drawin', sone-pullin' and people yapin' that spits out a "good" story.


It was probably a combination of both players and game system, but Dying Earth has a simple mechanic that oozes story creation.

I played it this weekend and will post a summary in the Actual Play section here.  The simple dice-rollin' people yapin' mechanic used supports telling a good story better than any game I've played and/or read (though I haven't played/read Sorcerer yet, Ron.  Just got it last night!)
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joshua neff
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« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2001, 11:36:00 AM »

zak--

oh, please post that! dying earth, hero wars, & story engine are all games that i've recently read that had me tapping my feet in excitement. i'd love to hear how an actual dying earth session went.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
james_west
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« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2001, 01:42:00 PM »

pblock -

While I'm sure it's true that people who are fundamentally good at making up narrative on the fly are going to be better at narrativist games, a good rules set can provide some very strong crutches to people who ain't that good.

                  - James
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joshua neff
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« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2001, 03:11:00 PM »

james--

that's been a big issue of mine for a while now.
when i was growing up, i had the whole mass of traditional gamist/simulationist rpgs to play with. narrativist mechanics didn't even occur to me. i ended up being one of those "fudge the dice rolls & ignore the rules" gms.
& now that i've discovered games like dying earth & story engine, it's like a whole new world has opened up for me. i was wondering recently what my gaming would have been like if i'd grown up with those games, as well as d&d & traveller.
so, yes, i think narrativist mechanics can be a good thing for proto-narrativists.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Zak Arntson
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« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2001, 03:30:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-06-25 15:36, joshua neff wrote:
zak--

oh, please post that! dying earth, hero wars, & story engine are all games that i've recently read that had me tapping my feet in excitement. i'd love to hear how an actual dying earth session went.



Okay, check out the Actual Play section, it's up now!

http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?topic=258&forum=14&6
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2001, 08:08:00 PM »

James-

crutches, eh?  I'd really be interested in what those are or what those'd look like.  I know there are free trial versions of some games, but are they any good?

I've heard Story Bones, the bare bones version of Story Engine isn't very good.  Didn't stop me from d/l-ing it anyway

Can't say about Apprentice verison yet...

most of those others are commercial systems  Know of any free ones?  I already got Puppetland.

You see, I'm also trying to write fiction and one story I got, "Who Mourns For The Clowns?" needs serious help.  Mechanics for good storytelling would be great.
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