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How important is fiction

Started by ADGBoss, August 24, 2002, 01:04:06 PM

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One can have the greatest game system and kewlest setting and kickingest pdf downloads on the web, but if its boring or does not grab the interest of the potential gamer then its of no use.

Now we know Art is deadly important (which I am finding out thanks to great people who have responded to my call for artists) but what about fiction pieces either in print form, in the body of the game, on websites etc. IS fiction over used (done to death by White Wolf) or is it an important, possibly critical piece to the formation of the game?

What about other marketing features?



My views:
Fiction on the website is just gravy, it doesn't hurt anything,
it can only help. Probably the best use.  
      Even if it's awful it probably gives some feel for the world and it's not like you had  to pay for it, or pages were wasted on it in a book.

In a book, it depends how it's used, and on the quality of the writer. Short fiction is usually ok, it would have to be a pretty abject waste of space for me to complain.  
Long fiction better have useful content(describe something useful,
a facet of the world, ect) or be well written. If it's good, it can just be atmosphere, but that's hard to pull off.  Shadowrun has a semi-fictional piece at the beginng that is basicly a description of the world. Basicly they described the world from someone in it, rather than just tellling the information. I'd consider this a good use, as it's more interesting that just a 'here is what is going on' but provides the same info/space roughly.

Personally, I've never read 'game book' but everyone I know says they are pretty bad.

Matt Machell

Good fiction can be a bonus.

But then most game fiction is pretty bad as far as fiction goes,  feels the need to inject game specific lingo at every opportunity, and tends to be poorly structured and lack any real feeling of depth. There are exceptions, but these are few and far between.

From a point of view of getting people enthusiastic about a game, I'd feel it was more important that you can convey the concept clearly, and write the game with enthusiasm. OctaNe, for example, does this really well.



Just FYI, I never read game fiction.  Oh, sure, I will if I have some time to kill and the book is sitting right there and I recall that there's some game fiction in it.  Otherwise, it's one of the first things I skip.

I know I'm not the only one who does this, either; I seem to recall a similar discussion here on the Forge some months back, where a good percentage of the respondents claimed they also usually skipped the fiction.  The subject has come up on other lists I am a part of as well, and that seems to be the general answer I have seen given.

You want to write a story, write a story.  You want to write a game, write a game.  IMO.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

J B Bell

I skip game fiction that's more than half a page.  I don't mind the stuff that sets a mood for a particular chapter.  E.g., Kult has a reasonably appropriate peppering of grue.

The big, horrible thing:  game fiction that shows things that you can't do in the game!  I don't see this often, but man, if it's not false advertising, I don't know what is.  Your game fiction should genuinely epitomize your game's Actual Play, ideally.

"Have mechanics that focus on what the game is about. Then gloss the rest." --Mike Holmes

Jack Spencer Jr

OK, gaming fiction. Let's see. What are you making? A book to be read or a game to be played?

Fiction is kind of like merchandising. You do not make action figures for a movie that does not exist. You need to make the movie, man.

Side note, was there any such merchandising for the D&D movie? There probably should have been but I don't remember any.

Matt Gwinn

I rarely read the fiction in a game.
I've read a couple things in some of my Mage books, but only short stuff.

My opinion is that it's mostly fluff to make the game look bigger so they can charge more for it.  

,Matt G.
Kayfabe: The Inside Wrestling Game
On sale now at


Quite clearly most people are from "Hmm yeah as long as it does not interfere with the rules" to "Forget it"

That certainly helps as far as knowing what some consumers want.

I am totally in agreement with the one J B Bell, fiction which makes game promises it does not keep is extremely annoying.

Thanks all who have posted so far, everyone with an opinion should feel free to chime in.


Blake Hutchins

Bad fiction can kill you, if that's what potential players see when they first arrive.  OTOH, I fell in  love with Jared's eight long before he put out any of the actual rules, resulting purely from reading his quirky fiction snippets.




Wow guys,

I'm surprised I'm in the minority on this.  I love reading game fiction (I'm talking short short stories in rule books and supplements here, not necessarily game novels).   In fact when I first buy a book and sit down to read it I often skim over the rules sections and focus solely on the background/setting and to me the fiction is a big part of this.  Even the bad fiction usually does an adequate job of relaying some of the game's concepts which is what I really like to see in action.

I think games like Shadowrun 2E, AFMBE, Little Fears, and nearly all of White Wolf's WoD game lines (I know many of you hate WW anyway, but I like it!)   :)  would have been sorely lacking without the fiction.  If anything, game fiction helps convey the mood(tone?) of the game, or at least how the designers envisioned it would be played.  

Of course I might just be horribly biased about all of this because I also enjoy writing game fiction although the jury's still our on how well it worked for Dreamwalker.  :)



I'll grudgingly accept it if its well done and not too long, but it is otherwise useless to me.  L5R is a major offender in my book; wading through pages and pages of boring he-said-then-she-said to get a few snippets of who's who and so on.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci


I read short little vinettes (sp?) at the beginnings of books and chapters if it's well written or really gives a good flavor for the world.  As other have said, most fiction of this sort of very bad, and very pointless.  I think most games would be perfectly fine without it.

On the other hand, you CAN make a game where fiction is very important.  Orkworld, for isntance, has fiction that's very important, because the game is all about turning familiar things around and giving them a new "feel."  Fiction is probably the best way to do that.  Background and myth are another good use.

I think I read examples much more than fiction per se, even if it's not particularly useful in terms of understanding the rules, it still gives me an idea of how the game should run, and is just entertaining.  I read all those long D&D examples of play, for instance.  Shorter pieces are great for rules clarification too.
Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press


I'll skim some of it and if it isn't drek I'll read it after I'm done with the book. Most times though it's usually the writer showcasing the coolness of their NPCs. That drek I skip without hesitation.
Alex Hunter
Email | Web

Blake Hutchins

The stuff in Witchcraft is pretty good, in my opinion.  Adds a lot to the book.  White Wolf fiction, with few exceptions, reads like crap, though some of the exceptions -- such as the Cult of Ecstasy splatbook -- are excellent.  Finally, the Castle Falkenstein and Dying Earth books have some nice material to illustrate the setting, dialogue, and general ambience of their game worlds.

As a writer, you'd think I'd be all about fiction in games, but I'm not.  I too prefer to read my fiction in fiction.  Most of the time, I step around game-related fiction like it was soggy dog entrails.  Like Gareth, I hate trolling through a boatload of story and talking heads to eke out a few precious grains of important backstory/setting material.

I'd rather get my feel for the game from well-written examples of play that demonstrate the rules in action.  Again, Witchcraft does a superior job of this in places, narrating a short scene as complete fiction, then breaking it out and showing how the rules worked to bring about the scene's resolution.




I don't think that fiction is essential to RPGs. Fiction is usually the last part of a game book that I read when I first get it, but I usually still enjoy reading it if it's well written. I don't mind some longer pieces of fiction, as long as their good. Good fiction can really help set the mood in the game. While I would read the fiction snippets inserted in game books to get a better feel for the concept of the game, I don't think I would buy fiction separately from the game book.
Jeff Latz
Layout Designer
Creative Monstrosities