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23961Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction

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  • Joshua Kronengold
    Dec 21, 2012
      On 12/20/2012 10:47 PM, David Bratman wrote:
      > "Joshua Kronengold" <mneme@...> wrote:
      >>> I had to look up "PBEM" (play by e-mail). Well, there may be no
      >>> significant difference between letter-games and other pbem games, but
      >>> if so, they're very very different from tabletop games. Much more
      >>> writerly exposition necessary.
      >> Clearly. But while that eases translation, the overall structure is the
      >> same; you have rules (however simple), and characters, and somewhere a
      >> story happens around them.

      > Actually, I don't see that as the soul of RPG at all, not least because a
      > vast amount of fiction with no connection with RPG at all, or with what
      > might as well be called "RPG style", fits the same broad description.

      Well, yes. But it -is- the soul of RPG -- an RPG is a mechanism for
      collaboration on a story game which, unlike other mechanisms, there are
      specific pre-arranged rules governing the collaboration (and if one
      differentiates RPGs from other story-games, where some players take on the
      roles of characters).

      > What distinguishes "RPG style" to me is wandering around in an unknown
      > world without a controlling plot, possibly with "the search for Adventure"
      > being the principal motivation.

      And this feels to me like mistaking RPG for early D&D -- as it has no
      resemblance to any RPG I've played since the 1980s (including later games of
      D&D, which had a structured plot at the session level even when they didn't (as
      usually) have a structured plot [however terrible] at the campaign level.

      The early '90s were a huge watershed in terms of RPG technology -- mainstream
      games started having the GM design a plot and run the players through it, and
      all games started having background and motivation be a central part of player
      character creation and a driving mechanism of plot. And in this century the
      ground changed again, as more collaborative techniques of building plot were
      designed and gained popularity. The long and short of it is that typical rpgs
      now aren't much like typical rpgs were in the '70s.

      > We can discuss how much fiction actually inspired by RPGs fits that
      > description, but it's essentially that which dissatisfies me about fiction
      > fitting that description.

      That's fair enough -- and I'll note that none of the fiction I mentioned as
      inspired by rpgs fits that description.

      > And William Morris, whom I mentioned earlier, fits that description, though
      > he wasn't inspired by RPGs at all.

      Which argues that there's a prior source for loose-structure episodic adventure
      fiction--which seems to be what you're describing as "RPG-inspired."

      > This separates it from sharecropped or shared-world novels, in which the
      > details of the world are fully known by the authors, and by the characters
      > as much as needed; and from something like "Sorcery and Cecilia" which is
      > really just collaborative fiction. Turn and turn-about is one of the two
      > main ways in which collaborative fiction is written; there's nothing
      > specifically RPG about it, and taking the persona of characters in order to
      > write novels about them is so common as to be totally unremarkable.

      And this unremarkability is fundamentally why I object to labelling bad fiction
      as "rpg-inspired." RPGs have been moving towards better and better techniques
      at improvising collaborative techniques--from rules and styles that actively
      impede the creation of coherent fiction to embracing trivial-rule collaboration
      as the "light" rpg, to designing rules intended to inspire and structure the
      resulting fiction and enhance collaboration.

      >>> Anyway, I did read and passingly enjoy _Sorcery and Cecilia_. And I
      >>> suppose that's technically role-playing, so I must modify the sweeping
      >>> statement to acknowledge that, but it is of a quite different kind than
      >>> what we were talking about, so modifying "RPG" in some way is sufficient
      >>> to maintain the point.
      >> It isn't really clear what the point is.
      > The point is to identify the features of "RPG style" fiction. We are
      > currently in the stage of matching up the borders of the style with the
      > borders of the phenomenon, thus the discussions of what counts as RPG.

      That's my point as well (as well as to identify the features of RPG style
      fiction as well as the thing you're pointing at when you used the term).

      Since we're talking about the borders of RPG in general, it's probably worth my
      outlining Fiasco here. Fiasco is a relatively recent and fairly popular single
      session RPG designed to allow players to improvise a story with a plot
      structure similar to many Cohen Brothers films (although in a variety of
      mileaus--any setup where deeply flawed characters are trying too much, too far,
      and at least as likely to fail ingloriously as succeed gloriously). The
      gameplay consists of players using the rules and inspiration to determine how
      their characters are connected and two "issues" for each character, then taking
      turns narrating/roleplaying scenes about their character where the acting
      player works through the character's issues either by narrating the opening for
      a scene and letting other players decide how it ends up or asking them to
      describe the scene and deciding how it will end--with a quasi-random twist in
      the middle that must be worked into the overall plot. In the end of a
      game/session, a character randomly rolls an overall weal/woe result (partially
      determined by how consistent their second plot arc was) and tries to wrap their
      story up in a way that fits the overall plot and the rolled outcome.

      Does this fit what you think of as how RPG-inspired stories work?

      >> IIRC, this started by your saying that the Jackson movies felt too much
      >> like RPG fiction.

      > No, it did not. I got into the D&D/RPG discussion in the first place by
      > expressing my opinion of it as storytelling in response to a post of
      > Alana's which in turn was responding to the phrases "games oriented" and
      > "D&D approach" which had been used by Dale Nelson and Larry Swain,

      I stand corrected; since you weren't previously concrete in exactly what your
      criticism was beyond mentioning Morris (who I've never read, although I've
      heard a few pages narrated), I presumed [incorrectly] that you were continuing
      the prior argument; apologies on that.

      > Whatever Dale and Larry may believe, this is not what I consider a
      > particular controlling flaw of Jackson. What bothers me about D&D as
      > storytelling is a large-scale structural problem, and Jackson took his
      > large-scale structure from Tolkien, so that's not the problem. What I said
      > about Jackson was "American-style action/adventure movie".

      Which I think is accurate. I haven't seen the Hobbit yet, but most of the
      flaws in the first three movies that bothered me were ones that involved making
      the story structure closer to that of an American-style action/adventure movie
      (I'm not sure whether removing the points of rest and compressing time count
      here or as a separate category).

      > Consequently I'm not going to respond to your further comments about what
      > you believe I think, because you have - quite innocently, it's easy to
      > forget who said what - mistaken me for Dale and Larry.

      Yup. Whoops.

      Joshua Kronengold (mneme@...) "Release the |\ _,,,--,,_ ,)
      --^-- ... patents...and drop everything into the public /,`.-'`' -, ;-;;'
      /\\ domain. OPEN SOURCE." "It's so scary when you say |,4- ) )-,_ ) /\
      /-\\\it like that" -- Howard Taylor (Schlock Mercenary) '---''(_/--' (_/-'
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