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Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction

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  • David Bratman
    ... I was here referring to the gamers themselves, rather than to those who write professional fiction in the gaming ethos. I accept that I didn t always make
    Message 1 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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      "Alana Joli Abbott" <alanajoli@...> wrote:

      >> And lastly, it's because, being
      >> written by a bunch of amateurs, it's usually not very good!
      >>
      > A cut! Since I and a at least a couple other writers on this list make a
      > portion of our incomes on game writing (in my case, a sizeable portion),
      > could we replace the word amateur with something else? Heck, if you say it
      > fondly, I'll accept "hack." :)

      I was here referring to the gamers themselves, rather than to those who
      write professional fiction in the gaming ethos. I accept that I didn't
      always make clear which I was referring to at a given moment.

      > Given the hurdles, it is no surprise to me that there's a lot of gaming
      > literature out there that falls short of literary excellence. But then, I
      > also review mass market SFF for a number of periodicals, and gaming
      > certainly does not have the corner market on writing that falls short of
      > the bar. :)

      Yes, and I'd apply that criticism to fantasy in general. Recently I found a
      public library recommended reading list of various kinds of fiction, and on
      looking at its fantasy section I realized with horror that if I'd read all
      of those authors and none others, I would be convinced that I absolutely
      hated fantasy. I was speaking here of the specific problems with
      gaming-style fiction. My problem with general fantasy blockbusters is a
      different rant.


      >> I played D&D for a while, once, in the early days of the late '70s. My
      >> friends in the same group went on for years, but I quit after a few
      >> months
      >> because it was so f'ing BORING. As my friend Steve Gaddis said, "D&D has
      >> all the excitement and adventure of double-entry bookkeeping."
      >>
      > If my history is right, I know the edition you were playing, and holy cow,
      > you had to have a degree in advanced mathematics to play.

      I believe it was called "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons." But the mathematical
      complexities in and of themselves were not the problem, it was the way the
      story relied on the math to tell it. Here, look at this episode of "DM of
      the Rings": http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=719


      > But I find the fact
      > that games *can* facilitate that sort of community storytelling a point in
      > favor of not discounting them all together.

      As noted below, the real question is not can they, but do they?


      > much of the impulse behind creating a secondary world has to come from the
      > people participating in a small group game; the large publishers can do
      > their very best to inspire, but the end result happens at small table tops
      > among groups of friends, which is something that can only really be shown
      > anecdotally.

      And I see you saying that it does, but how often, and what's really the
      aesthetic impulse at work here? Even totally outside of gaming, a lot of
      really earnest and (at least in their own minds) creative authors produce a
      lot of hopeless crap. The burbles I've heard from people who really enjoy
      their games are not the most ideal forum to convey the quality of the work,
      but they rarely sound at all promising.

      >> Anyway, Tolkien isn't writing a D&D-style story. If there's any classic
      >> fantasy author who is, it's William Morris.
      >>
      > A writer I've not heard of! I'll look him up.

      The founder of modern epic secondary-world fantasy. Died 1896. Wrote a lot
      of novels whose titles have alliterative W's in them, in which the
      protagonist frequently sets off on a journey through unknown countries with
      no particular goal or destination in mind, and has a lot of incidental
      adventures along the way. This is why he reminds me of RPGs.



      "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:

      >And good computer games immerse one in a world more immediately than a book
      >or even a film. You are there, in the fantasy world, struggling for
      >survival. Your heart beats faster as you walk round a corner, your hands
      >sweat as you swing your sword. You are not reading about a character, or
      >watching them, you are them. You are not reading about a narrative, you are
      >almost directly experiencing it.

      Ah, that's another reason I dislike gaming that I forgot to mention earlier.
      I don't _want_ to experience the story; I want to read about it. For three
      reasons: first, I find adrenaline rushes disagreeable (I don't ride roller
      coasters either).

      Second, I found RPG gaming frustrating because I didn't know what to do,
      both in the sense of not having the training and experience my character
      would have, and in the sense of having no idea where to go or what I was
      looking for. When it was new, I was enthusiastically pointed to a computer
      game called Myst. The enthusiast sat me down and started the game up. I
      stared at the picture of a landscape. "What do I do?" I asked. He
      suggested I get oriented by going to the game's library and reading the
      books. I started to read them, but the pseudo-script text was hard to read
      and the stories were boring and pointless, so I gave up.

      Thirdly and most importantly, I don't want to make up my own story, I want
      to read other people's. I read fiction not to experience what, say, Frodo
      experiences, but to make contact with Tolkien's, or other authors', minds.
      They are richer than my own, and certainly different, and each differs from
      all the others, too.



      "James Curcio" <jamescurcio@...> wrote:

      > No idea what this has to do with Tolkien but I've got to say that this
      > isn't at all what roleplaying need be. It IS what video games tend toward
      > because it's easier that way - but ROLEplaying games can focus entirely on
      > story, or they can involve more strategy, or they can focus entirely on
      > rules, rolls and points, it's all in how you play it.

      Maybe, but that leaves the question of how it is actually played. As with
      many things, the limitation is not on what one can possibly do, but on what
      one actually does.

      > My games tend to
      > focus on character, so there is a lot of journaling and emphasis on
      > getting
      > that character's perspective on what happened and so on. Some of my
      > favorite recalled RPGs were 'real world' settings

      Maybe so, but I wonder what I would think if I actually saw one. Remember
      that my fellow gamers were so enthralled with what I found terminally boring
      that they went on playing the same game for years. They thought it was
      great.

      > Anyway, the point is that you're stereotyping RPGs

      Is the author of "DM of the Rings", who has a great deal of experience in
      gaming, stereotyping RPGs? Does he have a right to? It fits very well with
      what I've generally heard about gaming from gamers over the years.
    • John Davis
      ... Yes! I ve played in dozens of campaigns in my life. And whilst some were merely a dice-rolling bit of fun, some led to great story-telling, and the
      Message 2 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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        >> But I find the fact
        >> that games *can* facilitate that sort of community
        storytelling a point in
        >> favor of not discounting them all
        together.

        > As noted below, the real question is not can they, but do
        they?

        Yes!
         
        I've played in dozens of campaigns in my life. And whilst some were 'merely' a dice-rolling bit of fun, some led to great story-telling, and the development of new worlds. 
         
        But that, in a sense, is a side issue. I think the key strength to role-playing games lies not so much in the resulting creation of a story or world, but in the immersion of the players in that story or world. As I think I said in an earlier email, when you role-play you aren't reading about a world, you are living in it. There is something very important, I believe, about the fact that having spent an evening sitting round a table 'pretending' to be someone else, and, moreover, pretending that your mate Dave is not in fact a forty-year old with a beard but an elven princess, every player will come away thinking not 'my character did this', but 'I did this'. And that is a level of immersion that no novel, not even one by Tolkien or Tolstoy, can achieve.
         
        John
         
         

         
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 8:31 AM
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction

         

        "Alana Joli Abbott" <alanajoli@...> wrote:

        >> And lastly, it's because, being
        >> written by a bunch of amateurs, it's usually not very good!
        >>
        > A cut! Since I and a at least a couple other writers on this list make a
        > portion of our incomes on game writing (in my case, a sizeable portion),
        > could we replace the word amateur with something else? Heck, if you say it
        > fondly, I'll accept "hack." :)

        I was here referring to the gamers themselves, rather than to those who
        write professional fiction in the gaming ethos. I accept that I didn't
        always make clear which I was referring to at a given moment.

        > Given the hurdles, it is no surprise to me that there's a lot of gaming
        > literature out there that falls short of literary excellence. But then, I
        > also review mass market SFF for a number of periodicals, and gaming
        > certainly does not have the corner market on writing that falls short of
        > the bar. :)

        Yes, and I'd apply that criticism to fantasy in general. Recently I found a
        public library recommended reading list of various kinds of fiction, and on
        looking at its fantasy section I realized with horror that if I'd read all
        of those authors and none others, I would be convinced that I absolutely
        hated fantasy. I was speaking here of the specific problems with
        gaming-style fiction. My problem with general fantasy blockbusters is a
        different rant.

        >> I played D&D for a while, once, in the early days of the late '70s. My
        >> friends in the same group went on for years, but I quit after a few
        >> months
        >> because it was so f'ing BORING. As my friend Steve Gaddis said, "D&D has
        >> all the excitement and adventure of double-entry bookkeeping."
        >>
        > If my history is right, I know the edition you were playing, and holy cow,
        > you had to have a degree in advanced mathematics to play.

        I believe it was called "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons." But the mathematical
        complexities in and of themselves were not the problem, it was the way the
        story relied on the math to tell it. Here, look at this episode of "DM of
        the Rings": http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=719

        > But I find the fact
        > that games *can* facilitate that sort of community storytelling a point in
        > favor of not discounting them all together.

        As noted below, the real question is not can they, but do they?

        > much of the impulse behind creating a secondary world has to come from the
        > people participating in a small group game; the large publishers can do
        > their very best to inspire, but the end result happens at small table tops
        > among groups of friends, which is something that can only really be shown
        > anecdotally.

        And I see you saying that it does, but how often, and what's really the
        aesthetic impulse at work here? Even totally outside of gaming, a lot of
        really earnest and (at least in their own minds) creative authors produce a
        lot of hopeless crap. The burbles I've heard from people who really enjoy
        their games are not the most ideal forum to convey the quality of the work,
        but they rarely sound at all promising.

        >> Anyway, Tolkien isn't writing a D&D-style story. If there's any classic
        >> fantasy author who is, it's William Morris.
        >>
        > A writer I've not heard of! I'll look him up.

        The founder of modern epic secondary-world fantasy. Died 1896. Wrote a lot
        of novels whose titles have alliterative W's in them, in which the
        protagonist frequently sets off on a journey through unknown countries with
        no particular goal or destination in mind, and has a lot of incidental
        adventures along the way. This is why he reminds me of RPGs.

        "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:

        >And good computer games immerse one in a world more immediately than a book
        >or even a film. You are there, in the fantasy world, struggling for
        >survival. Your heart beats faster as you walk round a corner, your hands
        >sweat as you swing your sword. You are not reading about a character, or
        >watching them, you are them. You are not reading about a narrative, you are
        >almost directly experiencing it.

        Ah, that's another reason I dislike gaming that I forgot to mention earlier.
        I don't _want_ to experience the story; I want to read about it. For three
        reasons: first, I find adrenaline rushes disagreeable (I don't ride roller
        coasters either).

        Second, I found RPG gaming frustrating because I didn't know what to do,
        both in the sense of not having the training and experience my character
        would have, and in the sense of having no idea where to go or what I was
        looking for. When it was new, I was enthusiastically pointed to a computer
        game called Myst. The enthusiast sat me down and started the game up. I
        stared at the picture of a landscape. "What do I do?" I asked. He
        suggested I get oriented by going to the game's library and reading the
        books. I started to read them, but the pseudo-script text was hard to read
        and the stories were boring and pointless, so I gave up.

        Thirdly and most importantly, I don't want to make up my own story, I want
        to read other people's. I read fiction not to experience what, say, Frodo
        experiences, but to make contact with Tolkien's, or other authors', minds.
        They are richer than my own, and certainly different, and each differs from
        all the others, too.

        "James Curcio" <jamescurcio@...> wrote:

        > No idea what this has to do with Tolkien but I've got to say that this
        > isn't at all what roleplaying need be. It IS what video games tend toward
        > because it's easier that way - but ROLEplaying games can focus entirely on
        > story, or they can involve more strategy, or they can focus entirely on
        > rules, rolls and points, it's all in how you play it.

        Maybe, but that leaves the question of how it is actually played. As with
        many things, the limitation is not on what one can possibly do, but on what
        one actually does.

        > My games tend to
        > focus on character, so there is a lot of journaling and emphasis on
        > getting
        > that character's perspective on what happened and so on. Some of my
        > favorite recalled RPGs were 'real world' settings

        Maybe so, but I wonder what I would think if I actually saw one. Remember
        that my fellow gamers were so enthralled with what I found terminally boring
        that they went on playing the same game for years. They thought it was
        great.

        > Anyway, the point is that you're stereotyping RPGs

        Is the author of "DM of the Rings", who has a great deal of experience in
        gaming, stereotyping RPGs? Does he have a right to? It fits very well with
        what I've generally heard about gaming from gamers over the years.

      • Alana Joli Abbott
        ... Thanks for clarifying. For what it s worth, there are a number of amateurs also creating content for RPGs, and some of them are at least as good, if not
        Message 3 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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          I was here referring to the gamers themselves, rather than to those who
          write professional fiction in the gaming ethos. I accept that I didn't
          always make clear which I was referring to at a given moment.

          Thanks for clarifying. For what it's worth, there are a number of amateurs also creating content for RPGs, and some of them are at least as good, if not better, than those of us who make (a portion of) a living off of it. Which I suspect is also true of fan fiction writers, though I've not gotten deeply enough involved in that culture to know for sure.


          Ah, that's another reason I dislike gaming that I forgot to mention earlier.
          I don't _want_ to experience the story; I want to read about it. For three
          reasons: first, I find adrenaline rushes disagreeable (I don't ride roller
          coasters either).

          I think that, in itself, is the real key to your stance, and I respect that. If you don't want to experience the story or take part in directing how it goes, then RPGs will probably never hold appeal for you. I've likened them in the past to some types of community rituals I've read about where participants reenact stories of importance -- the Apache (if i remember correctly) coming of age ritual where a young woman, for the purposes of the ceremony, is the Corn Maiden, or perhaps even living Nativity scenes and certainly Passion plays -- to become a part of the story. I certainly don't think that the games hold that sort of religious significance, but I think they tap into the same emotional center of taking part in living myth/religion while also being creatively driven rather than performing from rote. Or, rather, that since those aspects of community storytelling aren't as frequently accessible in a concrete-built world, RPGs fill the need to share stories as a group.

          I suspect that the need for that community-oriented storytelling is stronger in some folks than others, and that people find all sorts of ways to evoke that sense beyond RPGs. I think the way that fan communities have gained momentum shows another outlet for that same need. There are probably lots of other examples, too.


          > My games tend to
          > focus on character, so there is a lot of journaling and emphasis on
          > getting
          > that character's perspective on what happened and so on. Some of my
          > favorite recalled RPGs were 'real world' settings

          Maybe so, but I wonder what I would think if I actually saw one. Remember
          that my fellow gamers were so enthralled with what I found terminally boring
          that they went on playing the same game for years. They thought it was
          great.

          I've also learned that a lot of games don't translate well in retelling, even to other gamers. It's often a case of "you had to be there," which again speaks to that community aspect rather than to a literary virtue.


          > Anyway, the point is that you're stereotyping RPGs

          Is the author of "DM of the Rings", who has a great deal of experience in
          gaming, stereotyping RPGs? Does he have a right to? It fits very well with
          what I've generally heard about gaming from gamers over the years.

          Oh, I think he's absolutely stereotyping RPGs, and that's why it's funny. A lot of good gaming humor derives from those stereotypes -- and the stereotypes are often close to the truth, but don't show the whole picture of the community. 

          Re John's comments about immersion: Yes, that. But it's beginning not to surprise me that I agree with pretty much everything John's saying about gaming. :) 

          -Alana

          --
          Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
          Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
          Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
          Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

          --
          For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans

        • WendellWag@aol.com
          There s something that often gets assumed that shouldn t be assumed. I m going to be talking about this attitude in general rather than specifically in reply
          Message 4 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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            There's something that often gets assumed that shouldn't be assumed.  I'm going to be talking about this attitude in general rather than specifically in reply to this post.  First, let's define the term "narrative structures."  This can be novels, short stories, plays, films, poems with a narrative, TV shows (either single episodes or series), etc.  I'm going to use the term "narrative structure" rather than "narrative" since some people want to include games in this set.  A game isn't a single narrative but a structure to fit various narratives into.
             
            People seem to think that any narrative structure can be translated from one medium to another.  Indeed, they think that the narrative structure can be easily translated with no harm to it.  I think this is wildly wrong.  This is why I'm annoyed when someone asks about how a particular novel can be adopted as a movie without first asking if it should be made into a movie at all.  The same thing is true of making novels into games, and it's true of any translation of narrative structures from one medium to another.
             
            People seem baffled when I say that I love to read novels, I love to watch films, and yet sometimes I think it's a big mistake to adopt a great novel into a movie.  The kind of movies I watch are different from the kind of novels that I read.  If I played games very much, I suspect that the kind that I played would be different from the kind of novels or movies I like.
             
            People will say then that the Hollywood people who decide which movies get made from which novels must know what they're doing.  After all, it's their job to do that.  No, it's their job to make money.  The quality of the screenplay is only one part of their decision to make a movie, and this is especially true when it's a big-budget film.  They have to look at all sorts of things, like who's attached to the film (i.e., who the actors, director, screenwriter, etc. will be), how well known the novel is (regardless of whether it makes sense to film it), what kinds of tie-ins (kid's toys, fast-food offers, etc.) are possible, how well the film would sell in other countries (since big-budget films these days must do well internationally), whether it's possible to create a good advertising campaign for it, etc.  Yes, sometimes they successfully translate a novel to film and make money on it.  Sometimes they produce a poor movie that can be sold well, so they make money anyway.  Sometimes they lose money on it (and often because they didn't think enough about getting a good screenplay).  I'm not obligated to trust their intuition about what's a good film any more than I'm obligated to listen to anyone else's opinion about the quality of a film.
             
            In any case, my point is that the idea that a good narrative structure in one medium is necessarily a good narrative structure in another medium just isn't true.
             
            In a message dated 12/18/2012 9:14:41 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, john@... writes:
            And that is a level of immersion that no novel, not even one by Tolkien or Tolstoy, can achieve.
          • Joshua Kronengold
            ... Clearly. As Lisa put in Playing Stories, Telling Games (which we should really put up again, since it was only hosted on her dad s company s now defunct
            Message 5 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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              On 12/18/2012 09:42 AM, Alana Joli Abbott wrote:
              > Ah, that's another reason I dislike gaming that I forgot to mention earlier.
              > I don't _want_ to experience the story; I want to read about it. For three
              > reasons: first, I find adrenaline rushes disagreeable (I don't ride roller
              > coasters either).
              >
              > I think that, in itself, is the real key to your stance, and I respect that. If
              > you don't want to experience the story or take part in directing how it goes,
              > then RPGs will probably never hold appeal for you.

              Clearly. As Lisa put in "Playing Stories, Telling Games" (which we should
              really put up again, since it was only hosted on her dad's company's now
              defunct site), in a RPG, the actor is the audience. If you don't enjoy being
              both, RPGs may not be the ideal art medium for you

              RPGs also do sit between story games, improvisation, and build-oriented
              wargame/boardgame, with a lot of variation in terms of how much of each they
              contain; it's entirely possible for a story game/improv player to get
              nonplussed by a game that's much more wargame.

              > I suspect that the need for that community-oriented storytelling is stronger in
              > some folks than others, and that people find all sorts of ways to evoke that
              > sense beyond RPGs. I think the way that fan communities have gained momentum
              > shows another outlet for that same need. There are probably lots of other
              > examples, too.

              The community storytelling is a big deal here, and interesting.

              > Maybe so, but I wonder what I would think if I actually saw one. Remember
              > that my fellow gamers were so enthralled with what I found terminally boring
              > that they went on playing the same game for years. They thought it was
              > great.
              >
              > I've also learned that a lot of games don't translate well in retelling, even
              > to other gamers. It's often a case of "you had to be there," which again speaks
              > to that community aspect rather than to a literary virtue.

              Some do, some don't -- but you end up having to edit/transform a game to make
              it more of a story even if it already was one.

              > > Anyway, the point is that you're stereotyping RPGs
              >
              > Is the author of "DM of the Rings", who has a great deal of experience in
              > gaming, stereotyping RPGs? Does he have a right to? It fits very well with
              > what I've generally heard about gaming from gamers over the years.
              >
              > Oh, I think he's absolutely stereotyping RPGs, and that's why it's funny. A lot
              > of good gaming humor derives from those stereotypes -- and the stereotypes are
              > often close to the truth, but don't show the /whole/ picture of the community.

              Shamus Young (the author of D20 of the Rings) is quite good, but he's
              definitely and quite deliberately making the parodied game not simply a
              stereotypical game but a -bad- game. More funny that way (and more surprising
              when the described play is actually good for a change).




              --
              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) '---''(_/--' (_/-'
            • Alana Joli Abbott
              ... This and what Wendell said go hand in hand. Narrative structures (great choice of term, Wendell) are not interchangeable, and need adaptation to transfer
              Message 6 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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                I've also learned that a lot of games don't translate well in retelling, even
                to other gamers. It's often a case of "you had to be there," which again speaks
                to that community aspect rather than to a literary virtue.

                Some do, some don't -- but you end up having to edit/transform a game to make it more of a story even if it already was one.

                This and what Wendell said go hand in hand. Narrative structures (great choice of term, Wendell) are not interchangeable, and need adaptation to transfer from one to the other. They can inform each other -- I learned a lot about writing comics from taking an online screenwriting class -- but whether one can be truly captured in another without becoming an entirely different beast is an important question to ask. But like Wendell said, the job of the Hollywood studios is to make money, and it makes sense for them to target properties that already have a built in market. (Because even the folks who hated The Hobbit who have already gone to see it have shown the studios that there's money to be made on developing -- or exploiting -- a popular intellectual property.)

                -Alana


                --
                Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
                Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
                Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
                Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

                --
                For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans

              • David Emerson
                I ve been following this thread without much to add, but now I can jump in. Although I haven t played role-playing games, I have heard enough accounts from
                Message 7 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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                  I've been following this thread without much to add, but now I can jump in.  Although I haven't played role-playing games, I have heard enough accounts from friends who have, to appreciate that there is at least the possibility of a communal creative activity inherent in them.  I'm not primarily a writer, but I am a musician, and I see a direct correlation.  A single author writing a story is like a performer playing a piece of music; a group of people collaborating on a story (e.g. a group of RPGers at their best) is like a band, especially an improvisational group such as a jazz combo or a jam band.  When I'm playing with such a band, it is possible to create music that no single one of us could have come up with.  More than the sum of our parts, the resulting music is made up of not just our individual contributions but also the interactions between us. 

                  Now, I readily admit that my basement band, even when our playing is transcendent, is never going to create something like Beethoven's Ninth, which was the product of a single mind with a particular vision, worked and reworked over time until it became the polished diamond that it is.  The Ninth can be performed over and over and is always great.  But improvisational music, created and perceived in the moment and then released into the aether, can be just as impressive.

                  I don't know of any written accounts of RPG campaigns that successfully reproduce the spontaneous joy that the players must have experienced while mutually creating their story.  But perhaps this may be the effect of the gaming structure rather than a definitive limitation on the concept of group story-telling.

                  David Emerson

                  [...] RPGs .... I've likened them in the past to some types of community rituals I've read about where participants reenact stories of importance [...] to become a part of the story. I certainly don't think that the games hold that sort of religious significance, but I think they tap into the same emotional center of taking part in living myth/religion while also being creatively driven rather than performing from rote. [...]

                  I suspect that the need for that community-oriented storytelling is stronger in some folks than others, and that people find all sorts of ways to evoke that sense beyond RPGs. I think the way that fan communities have gained momentum shows another outlet for that same need. There are probably lots of other examples, too.
                • James Curcio
                  Precisely! I don t think there s anything worth adding to that. So, strange weather we ve been having, huh? ;) Mythos Media: Take a Trip With Us
                  Message 8 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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                    Precisely! I don't think there's anything worth adding to that.

                    So, strange weather we've been having, huh? ;)

                    Mythos Media: Take a Trip With Us
                    http://www.MythosMedia.net

                    On Dec 18, 2012 12:04 PM, "Alana Joli Abbott" <alanajoli@...> wrote:
                     


                    I've also learned that a lot of games don't translate well in retelling, even
                    to other gamers. It's often a case of "you had to be there," which again speaks
                    to that community aspect rather than to a literary virtue.

                    Some do, some don't -- but you end up having to edit/transform a game to make it more of a story even if it already was one.

                    This and what Wendell said go hand in hand. Narrative structures (great choice of term, Wendell) are not interchangeable, and need adaptation to transfer from one to the other. They can inform each other -- I learned a lot about writing comics from taking an online screenwriting class -- but whether one can be truly captured in another without becoming an entirely different beast is an important question to ask. But like Wendell said, the job of the Hollywood studios is to make money, and it makes sense for them to target properties that already have a built in market. (Because even the folks who hated The Hobbit who have already gone to see it have shown the studios that there's money to be made on developing -- or exploiting -- a popular intellectual property.)

                    -Alana


                    --
                    Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
                    Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
                    Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
                    Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

                    --
                    For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans

                  • Joshua Kronengold
                    ... To be fair, this runs directly into the issues translating between media. But I m fairly fond of Lisa s writeup of a Prime Time Adventures session here:
                    Message 9 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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                      On 12/18/2012 12:16 PM, David Emerson wrote:
                      > I don't know of any written accounts of RPG campaigns that successfully
                      > reproduce the spontaneous joy that the players must have experienced while
                      > mutually creating their story.

                      To be fair, this runs directly into the issues translating between media.

                      But I'm fairly fond of Lisa's writeup of a "Prime Time Adventures" session here:

                      http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=16148.0;wap2

                      --
                      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) '---''(_/--' (_/-'
                    • Lisa Padol
                      I ve got a lot more write ups online, but I don t know which ones are useful. ________________________________ From: Joshua Kronengold To:
                      Message 10 of 27 , Dec 18, 2012
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                        I've got a lot more write ups online, but I don't know which ones are useful.


                        From: Joshua Kronengold <mneme@...>
                        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                        Cc: David Emerson <emerdavid@...>
                        Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 12:20 PM
                        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction

                        On 12/18/2012 12:16 PM, David Emerson wrote:
                        > I don't know of any written accounts of RPG campaigns that successfully
                        > reproduce the spontaneous joy that the players must have experienced while
                        > mutually creating their story.

                        To be fair, this runs directly into the issues translating between media.

                        But I'm fairly fond of Lisa's writeup of a "Prime Time Adventures" session here:

                        http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=16148.0;wap2

                        --
                              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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                      • John Davis
                        Intresting comparison. I d agree that rpg campaigns don t tend to produce the same feelings of sponteneous joy as playing music with others (my genre is folk
                        Message 11 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                          Intresting comparison. I'd agree that rpg campaigns don't tend to produce the same feelings of sponteneous joy as playing music with others (my genre is folk rather than jazz, but folk sessions share much in common with improvised jazz). But certainly the same sensation of togetherness, of being connected at a deeper level than normal conversation and interaction can offer, by the creation of music in a group, and the creation of an imagined world in an rpg.
                           
                          John
                           
                          ----- Original Message -----
                          Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 5:16 PM
                          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction

                           

                          I've been following this thread without much to add, but now I can jump in.  Although I haven't played role-playing games, I have heard enough accounts from friends who have, to appreciate that there is at least the possibility of a communal creative activity inherent in them.  I'm not primarily a writer, but I am a musician, and I see a direct correlation.  A single author writing a story is like a performer playing a piece of music; a group of people collaborating on a story (e.g. a group of RPGers at their best) is like a band, especially an improvisational group such as a jazz combo or a jam band.  When I'm playing with such a band, it is possible to create music that no single one of us could have come up with.  More than the sum of our parts, the resulting music is made up of not just our individual contributions but also the interactions between us. 

                          Now, I readily admit that my basement band, even when our playing is transcendent, is never going to create something like Beethoven's Ninth, which was the product of a single mind with a particular vision, worked and reworked over time until it became the polished diamond that it is.  The Ninth can be performed over and over and is always great.  But improvisational music, created and perceived in the moment and then released into the aether, can be just as impressive.

                          I don't know of any written accounts of RPG campaigns that successfully reproduce the spontaneous joy that the players must have experienced while mutually creating their story.  But perhaps this may be the effect of the gaming structure rather than a definitive limitation on the concept of group story-telling.

                          David Emerson

                          [...] RPGs .... I've likened them in the p ast to some types of community rituals I've read about where participants reenact stories of importance [...] to become a part of the story. I certainly don't think that the games hold that sort of religious significance, but I think they tap into the same emotional center of taking part in living myth/religion while also being creatively driven rather than performing from rote. [...]

                          I suspect that the need for that community-oriented storytelling is stronger in some folks than others, and that people find all sorts of ways to evoke that sense beyond RPGs. I think the way that fan communities have gained momentum shows another outlet for that same need. There are probably lots of other examples, too.

                        • Mike Foster
                          Like David, I’ve never RPGed but I’ve played with David when he’s visited to jam with A Fine Kettle Of Fish. With song choice, extended breaks, &c., it
                          Message 12 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                            Like David, I’ve never RPGed but I’ve played with David when he’s visited to jam with A Fine Kettle Of Fish.  With song choice, extended breaks, &c., it is playing as subcreation that takes us beyond ourselves, certainly what I can do alone.
                             
                            “The blue guitar surprises you.”  --Wallace Stevens.
                             
                            Mike
                             
                            Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 7:58 AM
                            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction
                             
                             

                            

                            Intresting comparison. I'd agree that rpg campaigns don't tend to produce the same feelings of sponteneous joy as playing music with others (my genre is folk rather than jazz, but folk sessions share much in common with improvised jazz). But certainly the same sensation of togetherness, of being connected at a deeper level than normal conversation and interaction can offer, by the creation of music in a group, and the creation of an imagined world in an rpg.
                             
                            John
                             
                            ----- Original Message -----
                            Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 5:16 PM
                            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction
                             
                             

                            I've been following this thread without much to add, but now I can jump in.  Although I haven't played role-playing games, I have heard enough accounts from friends who have, to appreciate that there is at least the possibility of a communal creative activity inherent in them.  I'm not primarily a writer, but I am a musician, and I see a direct correlation.  A single author writing a story is like a performer playing a piece of music; a group of people collaborating on a story (e.g. a group of RPGers at their best) is like a band, especially an improvisational group such as a jazz combo or a jam band.  When I'm playing with such a band, it is possible to create music that no single one of us could have come up with.  More than the sum of our parts, the resulting music is made up of not just our individual contributions but also the interactions between us. 

                            Now, I readily admit that my basement band, even when our playing is transcendent, is never going to create something like Beethoven's Ninth, which was the product of a single mind with a particular vision, worked and reworked over time until it became the polished diamond that it is.  The Ninth can be performed over and over and is always great.  But improvisational music, created and perceived in the moment and then released into the aether, can be just as impressive.

                            I don't know of any written accounts of RPG campaigns that successfully reproduce the spontaneous joy that the players must have experienced while mutually creating their story.  But perhaps this may be the effect of the gaming structure rather than a definitive limitation on the concept of group story-telling.

                            David Emerson

                            [...] RPGs .... I've likened them in the p ast to some types of community rituals I've read about where participants reenact stories of importance [...] to become a part of the story. I certainly don't think that the games hold that sort of religious significance, but I think they tap into the same emotional center of taking part in living myth/religion while also being creatively driven rather than performing from rote. [...]
                             
                            I suspect that the need for that community-oriented storytelling is stronger in some folks than others, and that people find all sorts of ways to evoke that sense beyond RPGs. I think the way that fan communities have gained momentum shows another outlet for that same need. There are probably lots of other examples, too.
                          • David Bratman
                            ... Maybe, but it doesn t explain why I also don t like novels inspired by RPGs or with an RPG sensibility. They re not any more participatory than other
                            Message 13 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                              "Alana Joli Abbott" <alanajoli@...> wrote:

                              > I think that, in itself, is the real key to your stance, and I respect
                              > that. If you don't want to experience the story or take part in directing
                              > how it goes, then RPGs will probably never hold appeal for you.

                              Maybe, but it doesn't explain why I also don't like novels inspired by RPGs
                              or with an RPG sensibility. They're not any more participatory than other
                              novels, unless they're choose-your-own-adventure books.

                              > I've
                              > likened them in the past to some types of community rituals I've read
                              > about
                              > where participants reenact stories of importance -- the Apache (if i
                              > remember correctly) coming of age ritual where a young woman, for the
                              > purposes of the ceremony, *is* the Corn Maiden, or perhaps even living
                              > Nativity scenes and certainly Passion plays -- to become a part of the
                              > story.

                              That could be part of it. I enjoy acting in plays, but I can't stand
                              participating in improvisational acting or role-playing without a script.
                              (See the link below.) In my brief D&D days, we never role-played. "My
                              character does [this]," we would say, usually speaking of the character in
                              the third person, or sometimes "I do [this]," but never actually doing the
                              verbal part of it.

                              A clue to another part of it comes in David Emerson's post comparing RPGs to
                              improvisational music-making. I love music, but not improvisational music.
                              Jazz combos and jam bands usually bore me. I like music that was written
                              with a directed, large-scale idea by a controlling intelligence: symphonies
                              and operas, mostly, but also tight pop songs.

                              The performers' creativity there comes in the way they play within the
                              limitations set by the score, which still leaves a lot of room for
                              creativity. The equivalent in reading fiction would be what you imagine it
                              looks like, or how you present the voices if you read aloud.


                              >> Yes. In Australian aboriginal culture it is strictly taboo to retell
                              >> another storyteller's stories.
                              >>
                              >I would *love* to know more about this. Can you recommend any books (or
                              >even online articles) that discuss it further?

                              Unfortunately my only knowledge of this comes from a fascinating panel on
                              various cultures and their feeling about the ownership of stories, from a
                              World Fantasy Convention many years ago.



                              "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:

                              > If they're fans of the _work_ rather than fans of the _author_, then the
                              > author's preferences matter less.

                              Hairsplitting. Redefinitions to produce the desired result.

                              > But a lot of great art is much more nearly a copy of a previous original
                              > than that e.g. much of Chaucer, almost all of Shakespeare.


                              Have you noticed that the literarily prestigious examples of this, at least
                              in English literature, all date from before the mid-17th century?

                              >There is something very important, I
                              >believe, about the fact that having spent an evening sitting round a table
                              >'pretending' to be someone else, and, moreover, pretending that your mate
                              >Dave is not in fact a forty-year old with a beard but an elven princess

                              Oh dear. Read this one only if you have a very strong stomach:
                              http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=951



                              "Joshua Kronengold" <mneme@...> wrote:

                              > Quite. The author is dead.

                              In many cases, in fact most of those that have caused friction regarding fan
                              fiction, the author is quite alive.

                              > There are cases where one grants the author consideration due to personal
                              > feeling.

                              I have yet to see an example of a fan-fiction author who has declared
                              restraint for this reason. More of them are like the ones who wanted to
                              write sequels to LOTR. Tolkien's letter no. 292: "I once had a similar
                              proposal, couched in the most obsequious terms, from a young woman, and when
                              I replied in the negative, I received a most vituperative letter." See, she
                              only loved Tolkien so long as he'd let her walk all over his work. They're
                              still the same way. I've seen vituperative denunciations of Ursula Le Guin,
                              than whom no more honored and respective SF/F author exists, for the same
                              reason.

                              > There are cases where the law grants the author privilege for a limited
                              > time.

                              These are the author's moral rights. Copyright law is a distraction from
                              the issue.
                            • Joshua Kronengold
                              ... Er. Do you actually not like novels inspired by RPGs? Or do you just not like novels that are obviously someone s writeup of a D&D campaign or that feel
                              Message 14 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                                On 12/19/2012 10:03 AM, David Bratman wrote:
                                > "Alana Joli Abbott" <alanajoli@... <mailto:alanajoli%40gmail.com>> wrote:
                                >
                                > > I think that, in itself, is the real key to your stance, and I respect
                                > > that. If you don't want to experience the story or take part in directing
                                > > how it goes, then RPGs will probably never hold appeal for you.
                                >
                                > Maybe, but it doesn't explain why I also don't like novels inspired by RPGs
                                > or with an RPG sensibility. They're not any more participatory than other
                                > novels, unless they're choose-your-own-adventure books.

                                Er. Do you actually not like novels inspired by RPGs? Or do you just not like
                                novels that are obviously someone's writeup of a D&D campaign or that feel like
                                D&D?

                                It's worth noting that as someone who likes RPGs and plays a lot of them, and
                                likes some novels inspired by RPGs---most novels in RPG-esque worlds -or-
                                inspired by RPGs are shit.

                                Some novels/series I respect that were inspired by RPGs:

                                Steven Brust's Jhereg novels.

                                Some of the M. A. R. Barker Tekumel novels (Man of Gold, mostly).

                                Sorcery and Cecelia (ok, not technically an RPG -- but really, there's no
                                distinction between a letter game and any other PBEM rpg; I've played letter
                                games and they're pretty similar from the inside).

                                Both of Seanan McGuire's non pseudonymous series (Discount Armageddon, October
                                Daye).

                                IMO, if you can -tell- reading something that it came from/was inspired by a
                                game, it's usually flaw--but that's because the main differences are the
                                artifacts (and, of course, it's possible to tell "this probably came from a
                                game" because of -positive- artifacts, like the structure of Sorcery of Cecelia
                                or a novel with multiple strong protagonists in different styles); but there,
                                the game isn't the problem; the -flaw- is.


                                --
                                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) '---''(_/--' (_/-'
                              • David Emerson
                                ... I figured you would feel that way, from your earlier comment about preferring to read (or watch) a story rather than participate in making one up. I
                                Message 15 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                                  >From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
                                  >
                                  >A clue to another part of it comes in David Emerson's post comparing RPGs to
                                  >improvisational music-making. I love music, but not improvisational music.
                                  >Jazz combos and jam bands usually bore me. I like music that was written
                                  >with a directed, large-scale idea by a controlling intelligence: symphonies
                                  >and operas, mostly, but also tight pop songs.

                                  I figured you would feel that way, from your earlier comment about preferring to read (or watch) a story rather than participate in making one up. I totally respect your having that attitude. I'm glad that the comparison to music seems to help clarify your (and others') responses to the composed-vs-improvisational difference in created works.




                                  David Emerson
                                • Alana Joli Abbott
                                  ... Guessing here that David s objection is primarily to RPG tie-in novels. There are quite a lot of bad ones out there. I certainly tried to write good ones
                                  Message 16 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                                    Er.  Do you actually not like novels inspired by RPGs?  Or do you just not like
                                    novels that are obviously someone's writeup of a D&D campaign or that feel like
                                    D&D?

                                    Guessing here that David's objection is primarily to RPG tie-in novels. There are quite a lot of bad ones out there. I certainly tried to write good ones (my two published novels are tie-in novels to a now-defunct RPG), though, as I said, I think there are ways in which the RPG-tie-in novel must work both as a narrative and as a piece of marketing, and I've no idea if or how that shows up in my own work. 

                                    I will say though that I've been very impressed with some lines of RPG-tie-in fiction that have tackled large issues. I've never read one that I thought was striving toward a literary stylistic delivery -- all those that I've read tend to be more like adventure or pulp fiction in style than, say, Joyce or Faulkner -- but I have read a number that I felt handled issues of faith, both losing it and finding it, in a complex and interesting way, particularly for worlds in which gods are just a factual part of life. So I think that, while they may not be to everyone's taste due to style -- or, perhaps, substance -- RPG-tie-in novels can be a place for numinous qualities and big questions and compelling character story arcs. And, like with most fiction, there's usually a lot of drek to wade through before the real gems surface.

                                    I do suspect that RPG-tie-in novels might have more in common with, say, H. Rider Haggard (whose works I know by reputation only) than with Tolkien, despite how many RPG-tie-in novels borrow the trappings of Middle Earth.

                                    I am loving the way that music came into this conversation, and feel like it's a beautifully apt comparison.

                                    -Alana

                                    --
                                    Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
                                    Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
                                    Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
                                    Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

                                    --
                                    For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans
                                  • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                                    ... You are (understandably) confusing your Davises. These two were my posts (Ernie). ... I don t think so. The respect that needs to be paid to an author s
                                    Message 17 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                                      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "David Bratman" <dbratman@...> wrote:

                                      > "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:

                                      You are (understandably) confusing your Davises. These two were my posts (Ernie).

                                      >
                                      > > If they're fans of the _work_ rather than fans of the _author_, then the
                                      > > author's preferences matter less.
                                      >
                                      > Hairsplitting. Redefinitions to produce the desired result.

                                      I don't think so. The respect that needs to be paid to an author's preferences as opposed to the work of art, like the respect that needs to be paid to the intentions of the framers of Constitution as opposed to its text, is a significant question on which opinions differ.

                                      Bratman wrote
                                      > We properly use earlier templates to create our own art by using it > as a
                                      springboard for something original. Tolkien used Norse
                                      > mythology, medieval quest tales, Edwardian adventure fiction,
                                      > Catholic mythology, and other templates, stirred them together in
                                      > his famous Cauldron of Story, and ladled out something new and
                                      > original that's obviously inspired by, but different from, his
                                      > templates. Even the crudest of the Tolclones at least invented
                                      > new names for their xeroxed characters.

                                      Davis (Ernie) responded
                                      >
                                      > > But a lot of great art is much more nearly a copy of a previous original
                                      > > than that e.g. much of Chaucer, almost all of Shakespeare.
                                      >

                                      Bratman answered
                                      >
                                      > Have you noticed that the literarily prestigious examples of this, at least
                                      > in English literature, all date from before the mid-17th century?
                                      >

                                      I'm not sure how that affects the aesthetic question. In any case there are many many excellent modern movie/TV series/operas/plays that closely follow modern sources (too many and obvious to be worth giving examples). There are even cases where the source and the copy are within the same form: e.g. The Threepenny Opera follows the Beggars' Opera (admittedly not in English literature, but not sure why that distinction would matter.)

                                      There are several cases of modern novels and poems that follow older sources fairly closely e.g.
                                      The Once and Future King, T.H. White (follows Mallory quite closely in long sections)
                                      Joseph and his Brothers, by Thomas Mann (again not English)
                                      Sigurd and Gudrun, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

                                      There are quite a few cases of modern novels that use other modern novels as points of departure without following closely e.g. Sargasso Sea.

                                      I admit I cannot think of a case where a literary significant modern novel or poem closely follows source material by a different author more recent than Mallory. That is, I can't think of a modern case that is similar to Chaucer following the older contemporary Boccacio. But that seems like a rather thin point, and not particularly relevant to Jackson's treatment of Tolkien.

                                      So my point is: There is nothing inherently wrong with Jackson closely following LotR; on the contrary, he should have followed it more closely. The problem with Jackson is that he should have done a better job of it.
                                    • Tony Zbaraschuk
                                      ... And RPGs are very much improvisionational, at their heart. (The comparison I come up with, not being enough of a musician to know what jazz is like, is
                                      Message 18 of 27 , Dec 19, 2012
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                                        On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 07:03:29AM -0800, David Bratman wrote:
                                        > That could be part of it. I enjoy acting in plays, but I can't stand
                                        > participating in improvisational acting or role-playing without a script.

                                        And RPGs are very much improvisionational, at their heart. (The
                                        comparison I come up with, not being enough of a musician to know
                                        what jazz is like, is that roleplaying games are the current
                                        incarnation of 19th-century improvistional theater -- the sort of
                                        small plays a half-dozen people might put on -- crossed with
                                        wargaming. And a few other things...)

                                        Of course, like any art form, the bad examples are numerous.
                                        That doesn't mean good ones don't exist, but the nature of
                                        improv means that it's hard to repeat and re-show the same
                                        performance again and again.


                                        Tony Zbaraschuk

                                        --
                                        A picture is worth a thousand words.
                                        A map is worth a thousand pictures.
                                      • David Bratman
                                        ... Ah, but which position in regard to the Constitution is which? You could argue it either way. It s not a very closes parallel, because the concern here
                                        Message 19 of 27 , Dec 20, 2012
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                                          <davise@...> wrote:

                                          >> > If they're fans of the _work_ rather than fans of the _author_, then
                                          >> > the
                                          >> > author's preferences matter less.
                                          >>
                                          >> Hairsplitting. Redefinitions to produce the desired result.
                                          >
                                          > I don't think so. The respect that needs to be paid to an author's
                                          > preferences as opposed to the work of art, like the respect that needs to
                                          > be paid to the intentions of the framers of Constitution as opposed to its
                                          > text, is a significant question on which opinions differ.

                                          Ah, but which position in regard to the Constitution is which? You could
                                          argue it either way.

                                          It's not a very closes parallel, because the concern here isn't over legal
                                          interpretations, but over the respect to be paid to a work of art. I see
                                          devout fans of fiction applying their professions of respect not just to the
                                          work, but to the author's creativity in creating it. Fans of GRR Martin
                                          wouldn't be badgering him over spending his time watching football on TV
                                          instead of slaving away at the computer 24/7 if they were only interested in
                                          the work he'd done. They crave his continuing imagination, too, and they
                                          act as if they feel they own it. It's a profession of respect for the
                                          author, not just the work, but it's a very odd way of showing it.

                                          There is this, also, though it is clearly a matter of taste: Some fiction
                                          seems to me to invite and welcome reader participation in expanding and
                                          extending it. Other fiction seems to me to repel it: any attempt to make
                                          additions to it would be like scrawling graffiti over a perfect work of art.

                                          The former type of fiction tends to be sketchy, "popular" stuff - not a
                                          criticism, just a description - and to be written mostly by authors who
                                          welcome fan fiction. The latter type tends to be more complex, finished,
                                          and pretentious (again, not a criticism, just a description), and to be
                                          written by authors who abhor fan fiction of their own work.


                                          >> Have you noticed that the literarily prestigious examples of this, at
                                          >> least
                                          >> in English literature, all date from before the mid-17th century?
                                          >
                                          > I'm not sure how that affects the aesthetic question. In any case there
                                          > are many many excellent modern movie/TV series/operas/plays that closely
                                          > follow modern sources

                                          Those are open adaptations to the dramatic medium. Not retellings in the
                                          medieval/Renaissance sense. (So, for that matter, is most of Shakespeare.)

                                          The point in a general sense is that, since the mid-17th century,
                                          originality has been prized in literature, and to find evidence that it is
                                          not prized, you need to go back to an earlier era that took a very different
                                          view, that all the stories had been told, essentially, and that all writers
                                          could do was retell them.

                                          > There are even cases where the source and the copy are within the same
                                          > form: e.g. The Threepenny Opera follows the Beggars' Opera (admittedly not
                                          > in English literature, but not sure why that distinction would matter.)

                                          Not really prized for literary prestigiousness, but for the music (which is
                                          entirely original). And I specified English literature because I'm not
                                          entirely certain how far my rule applies outside of it.

                                          > There are several cases of modern novels and poems that follow older
                                          > sources fairly closely e.g.
                                          > The Once and Future King, T.H. White (follows Mallory quite closely in
                                          > long sections)

                                          Not really. Quite a reinvention - and of a traditional story that long
                                          predates Malory. Expansions into novel form of something told in a more
                                          condensed earlier form are not really the same thing.

                                          > So my point is: There is nothing inherently wrong with Jackson closely
                                          > following LotR; on the contrary, he should have followed it more closely.
                                          > The problem with Jackson is that he should have done a better job of it.

                                          But you've changed the subject. First you were talking about great art.
                                          Now you're talking about Peter Jackson.
                                        • David Bratman
                                          ... Both, insofar as I know them. But, not liking the ones I ve read, I haven t gone very far into it. ... Brust is the only one of the RPG novelists you
                                          Message 20 of 27 , Dec 20, 2012
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                                            "Joshua Kronengold" <mneme@...> wrote:

                                            > Er. Do you actually not like novels inspired by RPGs? Or do you just not
                                            > like
                                            > novels that are obviously someone's writeup of a D&D campaign or that feel
                                            > like
                                            > D&D?

                                            Both, insofar as I know them. But, not liking the ones I've read, I haven't
                                            gone very far into it.

                                            > Some novels/series I respect that were inspired by RPGs:
                                            >
                                            > Steven Brust's Jhereg novels.

                                            Brust is the only one of the RPG novelists you mention that I've read. I'm
                                            afraid I didn't care for this stuff very much, except for one book of his
                                            that I respect a great deal, but which several Brust fans have told me is in
                                            their opinion his worst book: _The Sun the Moon and the Stars_.

                                            > Sorcery and Cecelia (ok, not technically an RPG -- but really, there's no
                                            > distinction between a letter game and any other PBEM rpg; I've played
                                            > letter
                                            > games and they're pretty similar from the inside).

                                            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.

                                            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.


                                            > IMO, if you can -tell- reading something that it came from/was inspired by
                                            > a
                                            > game,

                                            No, I'm thinking of books whose authors said that was their inspiration.
                                            Sorry I can not remember examples at this distance.

                                            > it's usually flaw--but that's because the main differences are the
                                            > artifacts (and, of course, it's possible to tell "this probably came from
                                            > a
                                            > game" because of -positive- artifacts, like the structure of Sorcery of
                                            > Cecelia
                                            > or a novel with multiple strong protagonists in different styles); but
                                            > there,
                                            > the game isn't the problem; the -flaw- is.

                                            Yes, I agree that the flaw is the problem. But, as the question is not what
                                            _can_ be done with the medium but what _is_ done with the medium, the game
                                            enables the flaw, and it's particularly difficult to overcome. But remember
                                            that I'm not saying that RPG-inspired fantasy is crappy and other fantasy is
                                            good. Most other stuff that comes out under the name fantasy in the last
                                            few decades is crappy too.
                                          • John Rateliff
                                            ... Hm. I d say Shakespeare typically changes his sources quite a lot. A few of his plays are re-tellings; many are dramatically different from their direct
                                            Message 21 of 27 , Dec 20, 2012
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                                              On Dec 19, 2012, at 1:19 PM, davise@... wrote:
                                              >>> But a lot of great art is much more nearly a copy of a previous original
                                              >>> than that e.g. much of Chaucer, almost all of Shakespeare.

                                              Hm. I'd say Shakespeare typically changes his sources quite a lot. A few of his plays are re-tellings; many are dramatically different from their direct source, having been transformed by the dramatist. And I'd suggest Chaucer is less a copyist than a storyteller of genius, who can improve anything he retells.


                                              > I admit I cannot think of a case where a literary significant modern novel or poem closely follows source material by a different author more recent than Mallory.

                                              Joyce's ULYSSES (traditionally ranked as the greatest novel of the twentieth century, though that's now being challenged by Tolkien and Orwell) springs to mind; his modern-day story is meant to echo Homer's at specific points throughout, and the reader who doesn't have that key misses much of what Joyce was trying to do in the book.*

                                              More direct examples can be found in Ezra Pound's THE CANTOS (the most splendid and moving of all Modernism's failures), which quotes directly at length from earlier literature, as well as translating and paraphrasing and excerpting same. Eliot's THE WASTELAND (again, generally considered the single greatest poem of the century) does the same on a smaller, tighter scale.

                                              --John R.


                                              *CSL did much the same with PERELANDRA, his take on PARADISE LOST, though don't know if that'd meet yr bar for "literar[ily] significant"
                                            • scribbler@scribblerworks.us
                                              I understood the most recent question to be about modern works that are based on and/or emulate other MODERN works -- because there are plenty that do
                                              Message 22 of 27 , Dec 20, 2012
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                                                I understood the most recent question to be about modern works that are
                                                based on and/or emulate other MODERN works -- because there are plenty
                                                that do reference works from before 1850. (John Gardner's GRENDEL, for
                                                instance)

                                                Finding such referencing in literature isn't easy. I'd say that there is
                                                some indirect referencing of Orwell's 1984 - but nobody has blatantly
                                                retold it (yet).

                                                I think for this kind of reworking/referencing, we need to look at film.

                                                Kurosawa's works are a rich source for remaking -- even though Kurosawa
                                                himself was great for retelling (that is, THRONE OF BLOOD is MACBETH; THE
                                                BAD SLEEP WELL is HAMLET; RAN is KING LEAR). But many of his other works
                                                that are more original have been "retold" quite a lot: SEVEN SAMURAI
                                                (although one could argue it is his adapting "Seven Against Thebes") to
                                                MAGNIFICANT SEVEN and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS; YOJIMBO to one of Sergio
                                                Leone's spaghetti Westerns (I forget which) as well as Bruce Willis' LAST
                                                MAN STANDING; RASHOMON - people more often use the device of multiple
                                                points of view recounting the same event, though not quite the plot of
                                                Kurosawa's actual story.

                                                I'm not sure why there has been less of this sort of retelling based on
                                                modern works. Perhaps because fewer modern works have been making as
                                                powerful an impact upon imaginations than other, older stories? Something
                                                to think about.



                                                >
                                                > On Dec 19, 2012, at 1:19 PM, davise@... wrote:
                                                >>>> But a lot of great art is much more nearly a copy of a previous
                                                >>>> original
                                                >>>> than that e.g. much of Chaucer, almost all of Shakespeare.
                                                >
                                                > Hm. I'd say Shakespeare typically changes his sources quite a lot. A few
                                                > of his plays are re-tellings; many are dramatically different from their
                                                > direct source, having been transformed by the dramatist. And I'd suggest
                                                > Chaucer is less a copyist than a storyteller of genius, who can improve
                                                > anything he retells.
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >> I admit I cannot think of a case where a literary significant modern
                                                >> novel or poem closely follows source material by a different author more
                                                >> recent than Mallory.
                                                >
                                                > Joyce's ULYSSES (traditionally ranked as the greatest novel of the
                                                > twentieth century, though that's now being challenged by Tolkien and
                                                > Orwell) springs to mind; his modern-day story is meant to echo Homer's at
                                                > specific points throughout, and the reader who doesn't have that key
                                                > misses much of what Joyce was trying to do in the book.*
                                                >
                                                > More direct examples can be found in Ezra Pound's THE CANTOS (the most
                                                > splendid and moving of all Modernism's failures), which quotes directly at
                                                > length from earlier literature, as well as translating and paraphrasing
                                                > and excerpting same. Eliot's THE WASTELAND (again, generally considered
                                                > the single greatest poem of the century) does the same on a smaller,
                                                > tighter scale.
                                                >
                                                > --John R.
                                                >
                                                >
                                                > *CSL did much the same with PERELANDRA, his take on PARADISE LOST, though
                                                > don't know if that'd meet yr bar for "literar[ily] significant"
                                              • Joshua Kronengold
                                                ... Fair enough. ... FWIW, I m a long-time Brust fan and adore _The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars_. That said, unlike the world (and some of the characters) of
                                                Message 23 of 27 , Dec 20, 2012
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                                                  On 12/20/2012 02:07 PM, David Bratman wrote:
                                                  > "Joshua Kronengold" <mneme@...> wrote:

                                                  >> Er. Do you actually not like novels inspired by RPGs? Or do you just
                                                  >> not like novels that are obviously someone's writeup of a D&D campaign or
                                                  >> that feel like D&D?
                                                  >
                                                  > Both, insofar as I know them. But, not liking the ones I've read, I
                                                  > haven't gone very far into it.

                                                  Fair enough.

                                                  >> Some novels/series I respect that were inspired by RPGs:
                                                  >>
                                                  >> Steven Brust's Jhereg novels.
                                                  >
                                                  > Brust is the only one of the RPG novelists you mention that I've read. I'm
                                                  > afraid I didn't care for this stuff very much, except for one book of his
                                                  > that I respect a great deal, but which several Brust fans have told me is
                                                  > in their opinion his worst book: _The Sun the Moon and the Stars_.

                                                  FWIW, I'm a long-time Brust fan and adore _The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars_.
                                                  That said, unlike the world (and some of the characters) of Dragaera, it's not
                                                  to my knowledge inspired by a RPG.

                                                  John M. Ford's "Growing Up Weightless" also comes to mind; it contains an RPG
                                                  rather than the results of same, but is clearly inspired just the same, and
                                                  like much of his work has a thread of brilliance in it.

                                                  >> Sorcery and Cecelia (ok, not technically an RPG -- but really, there's no
                                                  >> distinction between a letter game and any other PBEM rpg; I've played
                                                  >> letter games and they're pretty similar from the inside).
                                                  >
                                                  > 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.

                                                  > 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.

                                                  There are specific flaws that are frequent among RPG-inspired fiction. And
                                                  like all fiction, it's hard to end up with great art. But without naming them,
                                                  it's hard to classify and identify said flaws and look at what authors avoid
                                                  what flaws.

                                                  IIRC, this started by your saying that the Jackson movies felt too much like
                                                  RPG fiction. In so doing, what you -seemed- to be saying is that the Jackson
                                                  movies felt too much like bad adventure-game (very much a subset) fiction --
                                                  where the characters go from one threat to another, without any real change in
                                                  pacing (rather like bad adventure games)--said as tarring all "RPG inspired
                                                  fiction" with a very large brush, it demands argument from those who know that
                                                  RPGs -- much less RPG-inspired fiction -- need not fall to those stereotypes.

                                                  FWIW, if you'd described it as D&D-inspired rather than RPG-inspired, you'd not
                                                  necessarily have drawn the same objections, because D&D is typically more
                                                  self-similar than the entire field of the story-game (wherever one draws the
                                                  line between that and the arguably narrower field of the "RPG").

                                                  >> it's usually flaw--but that's because the main differences are the
                                                  >> artifacts (and, of course, it's possible to tell "this probably came from
                                                  >> a game" because of -positive- artifacts, like the structure of Sorcery of
                                                  >> Cecelia or a novel with multiple strong protagonists in different styles);
                                                  >> but there, the game isn't the problem; the -flaw- is.
                                                  >
                                                  > Yes, I agree that the flaw is the problem. But, as the question is not
                                                  > what _can_ be done with the medium but what _is_ done with the medium, the
                                                  > game enables the flaw, and it's particularly difficult to overcome. But
                                                  > remember that I'm not saying that RPG-inspired fantasy is crappy and other
                                                  > fantasy is good. Most other stuff that comes out under the name fantasy in
                                                  > the last few decades is crappy too.

                                                  Clearly. But the question is whether RPG-inspired fantasy is mostly crappy in
                                                  the same way -- or whether it is crappy in different ways -- and some of it
                                                  (rarely) is actually very good (just like other fiction).


                                                  --
                                                  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) '---''(_/--' (_/-'
                                                • David Bratman
                                                  ... 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
                                                  Message 24 of 27 , Dec 20, 2012
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                                                    "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.

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

                                                    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.


                                                    >> 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.


                                                    > 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, respectively,
                                                    in their criticisms of the movies. (I have just gone and looked all this
                                                    up.)

                                                    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".

                                                    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.
                                                  • Joshua Kronengold
                                                    ... 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
                                                    Message 25 of 27 , Dec 21, 2012
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                                                      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) '---''(_/--' (_/-'
                                                    • David Bratman
                                                      To Joshua Kronengold I think the discussion of whether what has been called, by various people, gaming- or RPG-style fiction, has reached
                                                      Message 26 of 27 , Dec 23, 2012
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                                                        To "Joshua Kronengold" <mneme@...>

                                                        I think the discussion of whether what has been called, by various people,
                                                        gaming- or RPG-style fiction, has reached the limits of its fruitfulness in
                                                        regards to how well it fits the variety of contemporary RPG practice, not
                                                        least because of the limitations of my knowledge of that subject.

                                                        But about the kind of storytelling I was referring to, whether or not it's
                                                        exactly what Dale and Larry were referring to, I can say this:

                                                        1) It does exist;

                                                        2) You can call it "early D&D style" if you want to; in regards to itself,
                                                        and apart from critiquing RPGs for RPGs' sake, which I have no interest in
                                                        doing, the label is unimportant;

                                                        3) It is not merely "bad RPG", as some have tried to categorize the style
                                                        depicted in "DM of the Rings";

                                                        3) It has been very, very popular and attracted many, many people, as the
                                                        huge surge in popularity of D&D in those days proved, and as demonstrated by
                                                        my friends who kept playing for decades the very game that I walked away
                                                        from in boredom - these are smart people with quite sophisticated tastes in
                                                        fantasy literature;

                                                        4) Whatever else may also be going on in RPG land, this style is still
                                                        around in gaming today and still popular, as "DM of the Rings" demonstrates;

                                                        5) It has been hugely influential on written fantasy literature and on film;

                                                        6) It didn't start with gaming, as my cite of William Morris intended to
                                                        show; in fact, I think that D&D was invented to fill a desire for this sort
                                                        of storytelling;

                                                        6) I find it wholly unattractive and failing to meet my wants and needs in
                                                        literature.

                                                        Its salient characteristics are:

                                                        1) A detachment of the protagonists from the story and the landscape, either
                                                        in the form of the lack of an overarching plot, when the characters are just
                                                        out seeking for Adventure, or, if there is one, a sense - frequently
                                                        mentioned by the author of "DM of the Rings" as what he tries to create -
                                                        that the characters are riding along it on rails.

                                                        2) A front-loading of backstory, which the reader is supposed to care about
                                                        before having any reason to, i.e. before becoming captivated by the
                                                        characters (a particular flaw of Jackson's in contrast to Tolkien).

                                                        3) An absence of depth: everything is there for the purpose of serving the
                                                        plot, not for its own sake (a particular flaw of Morris).

                                                        4) A quotidian approach to character motiviation; they're there to advance
                                                        themselves rather than a greater cause (a particular source of hilarity in
                                                        "DM of the Rings").

                                                        5) A mechanistic treatment of magic and even of fighting (strangely, the
                                                        worst example of this I've read was in Thomas Berger's "Arthur Rex").

                                                        6) A sense that the created world is minute and limited, and that there's
                                                        nothing significant or relevant outside of what's known to the reader,
                                                        unless it's pulled out of a hat as a deus ex machina. (This contradicts
                                                        point #1, and mostly comes from tabletop board-gaming rather than D&D-style
                                                        RPGs.)

                                                        7) A pressure on the reader to identify with the protagonist as yourself or
                                                        a person you could be, rather than as someone you like and care about as a
                                                        separate individual. (Emphatically not limited to this kind of fiction.)

                                                        Again, a lot of readers seem to like and want this. They flock to stories
                                                        told in this manner, and, most interestingly to me, they try to assimilate
                                                        The Lord of the Rings into this kind of storytelling. (Point 6, the most
                                                        directly antithetical to Tolkien, is particularly striking in some criticism
                                                        of the actions of Tolkien's characters, particularly by a writer named
                                                        Michael Perry. They sound as if they think the characters' mistake was not
                                                        having read the book first.)
                                                      • Damien
                                                        Hello David, May I add a foreigner s point of view to the ongoing discussion? ... This reminds me of the French Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes , at the
                                                        Message 27 of 27 , Feb 4, 2013
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                                                          Hello David,

                                                          May I add a foreigner's point of view to the ongoing discussion?

                                                          > >> Have you noticed that the literarily prestigious examples of this, at
                                                          > >> least
                                                          > >> in English literature, all date from before the mid-17th century?
                                                          > >
                                                          > > I'm not sure how that affects the aesthetic question. In any case there
                                                          > > are many many excellent modern movie/TV series/operas/plays that closely
                                                          > > follow modern sources
                                                          >
                                                          > Those are open adaptations to the dramatic medium. Not retellings in the
                                                          > medieval/Renaissance sense. (So, for that matter, is most of Shakespeare.)
                                                          >
                                                          > The point in a general sense is that, since the mid-17th century,
                                                          > originality has been prized in literature, and to find evidence that it is
                                                          > not prized, you need to go back to an earlier era that took a very different
                                                          > view, that all the stories had been told, essentially, and that all writers
                                                          > could do was retell them.

                                                          This reminds me of the French "Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes", at the end of the 17th century (start: 1687; end: 1694). I believe it had quite an impact on European literature at the time, and can indeed be seen as a turning point when originality became prized for its own sake.

                                                          > > There are even cases where the source and the copy are within the same
                                                          > > form: e.g. The Threepenny Opera follows the Beggars' Opera (admittedly not
                                                          > > in English literature, but not sure why that distinction would matter.)
                                                          >
                                                          > Not really prized for literary prestigiousness, but for the music (which is
                                                          > entirely original). And I specified English literature because I'm not
                                                          > entirely certain how far my rule applies outside of it.
                                                          >
                                                          > > There are several cases of modern novels and poems that follow older
                                                          > > sources fairly closely e.g.
                                                          > > The Once and Future King, T.H. White (follows Mallory quite closely in
                                                          > > long sections)
                                                          >
                                                          > Not really. Quite a reinvention - and of a traditional story that long
                                                          > predates Malory. Expansions into novel form of something told in a more
                                                          > condensed earlier form are not really the same thing.

                                                          In French literature, one could name tons of examples of famous works of art of the 19th and 20th centuries extensively quoting or retelling ancient stories. Victor Hugo's _La Légende des Siècles_ (1859, 1877, 1883); Jean Giraudoux's _La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu_ (1935), _Électre_ (1937); Jean Anouilh's _Eurydice_ (1942), _Antigone_ (1944), _Roméo et Jeannette_ (1946): these are just a few examples that spring to mind.

                                                          However, as you point out, most if not all of them are really reinventions of these stories, developing the characters very differently from the originals, even if the events closely follow the original story.

                                                          Best regards,
                                                          Damien
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