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Sunday, August 17, 2014

OSR Gamers and Story Gamers - So Close, Yet So Far

Danke the Dachshund meet Toby the Siberian
I think we WANT to understand each other. We want to makes sense of what makes the other side tick.

We just don't get it. Probably genetics or something.

Still, we always seem to come back seeking to understand.

It must be FATE or something. Yeah, I still can't grasp that shit, and I went as far as buying dice for it...


20 comments:

  1. I've talked at length about how I feel there is very little difference between OSR gaming and story gaming. For example:
    http://nerdwerds.blogspot.com/2013/12/saving-throw-defy-danger.html
    http://nerdwerds.blogspot.com/2014/02/bargaining-or-partial-success.html
    http://nerdwerds.blogspot.com/2014/03/success.html

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    1. If there really is very little difference, then the games published under the rubric of "story games" must just be crappy games, because I had a very bad experience during the year or two that I played them nearly exclusively. It took me a while to realize that the reason I was having less fun being around my friends was not because my friends were turning horrible, but because the games we were playing were not nearly as fun as the RPGs we'd played previously.

      That said, my friends did seem to enjoy those games. So, I'd prefer to think that there are fundamental differences, and that some of us prefer the one way or the other (which a few can even stand both ways of playing).

      To me, the difference lies in how the story develops. In classic RPGs, story grows out of pre-existing stochastic events, modified by player choices. Story is not something that the rules impose on the events in the game. Events occur, and the participants can structure them to tell a story (much as occurs in the real world, where we impose narratives on stochastic events).

      In story games, story arises out of the narrative ideas of the players, and events occur to serve those ideas. In this way, the players compose a narrative without reference to pre-existing play events, with the rules serving as a means to indicate which player's ideas take precedence at any given moment of play. I've likened this to "writers' workshop exercises with dice", and I stand by that characterization.

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    2. That's a very elegant summation of one of the key differences.

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    3. I like faoladh's summary. It captures a certain type of game very well.

      The "rulings, not rules" playstyle is extremely different from that.

      I happily do both, but OSR is a lot easier to find players for.

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    4. "because I had a very bad experience"
      "I'd prefer to think"
      Right, you had a bad experience. That's not really a statement of fact, that's more like "This is different so I don't like it."

      Your secondary statement is more accurate,
      "In classic RPGs, story grows out of pre-existing stochastic events, modified by player choices."
      Yes. In classic RPGs, a GM usually has a campaign or a grand story and the other players gather around and join in with what the GM wants to do. A GM who is a slave to his own narrative is a bad GM, but a GM who can take the players' choices and build off of them to make his world seem alive and change the plotline of his campaign accordingly is regarded as a good GM.
      "In story games, story arises out of the narrative ideas of the players, and events occur to serve those ideas."
      Well, yes and no. It depends on the game. Some games are rather limited in what you can do but very open ended in how you create the world (Fiasco) while other games can have a tight focus for creating the world but leave a lot open to player choices (Mars Colony). I think if you're playing a story game where everybody around the table has some form of input into how the world is structured then you might end up with a lackluster game.
      I've played plenty of story games where one player's idea ruins the fun for somebody else at the table so I wouldn't be surprised if your experience ran into something similar. But then, I've also been in classic RPGs or OSR games where the GM can bring the fun to a screeching halt simply by trying to shut down what a player is doing or not giving options outside of his planned narrative.
      Bad experiences happen, but if that means the games are crappy then why are so many people playing them? /rhetorical
      You said this thing about classic RPGs "Story is not something that the rules impose on the events in the game." and I thought that was amusing because that is exactly how I see Apocalypse World. The players don't drive the story, but they do have enough power to create their events or stat telling their own stories. I don't really see that as being crappy, half of my group plays in a Pathfinder game as well and I'm hearing from all of them that (as players) they prefer Apocalypse World.
      The next time I run a google hangout for Apocalypse World then I would invite you to join in and give it a try with complete strangers and see if you still have a bad experience.

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    5. Dude, I spent two years trying to like story games with a group of people who are some of my closest friends that I've known for years, laughed with, cried with, and generally are as close or closer than my biological family. I've gamed with them in a variety of ways, including card games, board games, roleplaying games, and, as mentioned, story games. I enjoyed the roleplaying experiences but not the story game ones. Unfortunately for me, they ended up liking the story games better. It's not a matter of one particular incident or a player's idea ruining the fun. The whole structure of story games is wrong to my way of thinking. One of the things I love about roleplaying games is the way that emergent stories are built from weighted random number generators. Story games eschew that in favor of, as I have said above, complexified writers' workshop exercises (instead of taking turns around the table writing a line each, for example, in story games we roll dice to see who gets to develop their idea).

      If those people couldn't make the story game experience palatable to me, then you, Mr. Random Dude on the Internet, aren't going to convert me to that brand of Kool Aid, so don't bother trying.

      I could go on, pointing out the contradictions in what you wrote, but why bother? Ask yourself why it is so important to you to convince some random guy on the internet that his kind of fun is wrong and that yours is right. Keep in mind that I never said or implied (in fact, I have gone to some pains to indicate the opposite) that story games are bad in themselves, but rather that their aesthetics do not appeal to me, and that they are not the same as roleplaying games of the sort I've been playing for years. The fact that they privilege "story" over event simulation is a significant difference, and one which I do not like.

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    6. It's not important to me, now. You've made your hostility to my viewpoint and invitation to try something new pretty clear.

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    7. No, I guess you're right. Trying it for two years is not wanting to try something new.

      Since your "viewpoint" was that story games are the same thing as roleplaying games, yeah, I discount that based on my experience of the two sorts of thing and my ability to discern one type of thing from another. I even went to the extent of giving a brief explanation of the differences that I see, but apparently my viewpoint isn't worth examining and can be dismissed by someone like you, who obviously has reached a higher mental plane than I have.

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    8. I examined your viewpoint and I addressed it without being insulting, rude, or sarcastic. You responded to a well-intentioned invitation to try something new with new people with insults and sarcasm.

      So, faoladh. Dude.
      Obviously I don't know what your personal experiences are because I don't know you, but that goes both ways. You don't know me and you have never gamed with anybody in the groups I play with, yet you feel comfortable enough to dismiss my opinion (posted in the links from my first comment) without addressing it specifically, and you feel comfortable bashing vaguely defined games without stating the titles of those games.
      I play new games with complete strangers every time I attend a gaming convention, and vague statements about how you definitively know that you will not have a good time playing a new game with complete strangers just makes you look like an antisocial dweeb, at best, and a troll, at worst.

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    9. But that's just it. You aren't inviting me to try something new. I have already tried, and rejected, that style of gaming. Again, I have at no point indicated that it's something you shouldn't do, just that I do not like it in the least. You're the only one being rude, dismissing my point of view as apparently wrong-headed. If only I'd just give it a chance, you say, I'd see that it's the best thing since buttered bread. Unless you think that you can suddenly change the nature of the game, though, I wonder how you think that just playing it with random strangers instead of people that I know I can play good games with (having done so for years until they chose to move on to story games) will make a difference. That sounds rather presumptuous to me, and it seems that you aren't able to understand that other people have different feelings about things than you do. That is antisocial, that is the behavior of a dweeb. You're like that guy in War Games who snatches printouts from people's hands because he can't imagine that they might be examining them.

      And, no, you didn't "address" my viewpoint. You dismissed it:

      "Right, you had a bad experience. That's not really a statement of fact, that's more like "This is different so I don't like it."" (Ignoring the context of the "bad experience", of course.)

      "Bad experiences happen, but if that means the games are crappy then why are so many people playing them? /rhetorical"

      Which, I note, I consciously didn't call out for being a stupid statement, given what I actually wrote: "If there really is very little difference, then the games published under the rubric of "story games" must just be crappy games, because I had a very bad experience during the year or two that I played them nearly exclusively. It took me a while to realize that the reason I was having less fun being around my friends was not because my friends were turning horrible, but because the games we were playing were not nearly as fun as the RPGs we'd played previously.

      That said, my friends did seem to enjoy those games. So, I'd prefer to think that there are fundamental differences, and that some of us prefer the one way or the other (which a few can even stand both ways of playing)."

      If you read and comprehend that whole statement, you'll see that I am expressly disclaiming the idea that they are crappy games, that your conflation of the two types of game is inherently flawed because if it were true then such games must just be crappy - which, since they clearly are not, means that your conflation can't be correct.

      I know, I took several sentences, in two paragraphs, to communicate the idea. I apologize for assuming that those who read it would be able to follow along. Hopefully, this short examination will make that more clear for those who were not able to do so?

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    10. I did not dismiss either of your points.
      How is saying "yes" and agreeing with your first point a dismissal?
      How is saying "it depends on the game" a dismissal?
      You need to correct that statement or else you are a troll.

      I think if you genuinely want to have a conversation then you need to start over and explain what games you played and why they were bad experiences for you.

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    11. That's fine. Would you prefer here or in your blog at that entry?

      Also, I realize that given your behavior here you may not be aware of this, but threats and "or else" statements over minor things are not conducive to discussion. If I had accused you of rape, then you'd be justified in making a demand "or else", but over aesthetic preferences statements like that make you just seem a little socially stunted.

      Since I already explained why those statements you made are dismissals, by rights I should just refer you back to my previous answer. But, seeing as I've had to repeat myself already to express some of my statements in other forms, I'm not really averse to repeating those either.

      When you wrote, "Right, you had a bad experience. That's not really a statement of fact, that's more like "This is different so I don't like it."", you are dismissing my experience as not meaningful. You are saying that it is merely a matter of a childish fear of the new ("This is different so I don't like it.") That dismisses the context of the "bad experiences" I had playing the games in question. It minimizes what I was saying in an attempt to dismiss it as a valid concern. I hope that makes more sense to you now.

      You later wrote, "Bad experiences happen, but if that means the games are crappy then why are so many people playing them? /rhetorical"

      That is a device used to again minimize the fact that I didn't have any fun playing that sort of game. Worse, you completely reverse the meaning of "crappy" as I used it by stripping it of its context. "Crappy", in my original comment, was used obviously ironically, since I later indicated explicitly that it was not because of a "crappy" nature indwelling the games that I did not have fun, but because of aesthetic gulfs between my preferences and the design of the games in question.

      Given that I played a wide variety of story games, enough to come up with an aesthetic theory indicating the source of my different preferences, saying "it depends on the game" is dismissive of that wide experience. It might, or it might not, but given the breadth of my experiences with such games I would lay odds on "not". After two years or so of pursuing the question, I am no longer interested in doing so again. I have found that I did not have fun, even though the players I was playing with were a proven source of fun for me with roleplaying games. You dismissing that broad experience in favor of your certainty that story games must be the best type of game and therefore there must be something wrong with me or my previous group is insulting.

      Now, if you can actually hear that I am saying things with meanings, that attempt to communicate my experience, and that the world does not necessarily conform in all places and persons to your aesthetic preferences, we might be able to have a reasonable discussion. So long as you dismiss my experiences as somehow inferior to yours, though, there'd be someone here who might be trolling, but it wouldn't be me.

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    12. Four things:
      1) I didn't dismiss you, I engaged you and actively agreed with some of your points. I am not going to break down how English works. You pretend to know the difference between opinion and fact yet you conflate the two, which brings me to...
      2) "Crappy", in my original comment, was used obviously ironically No, it wasn't. You understand that context is lost online, right? I ignored the contradictory nature of your statements because everything you wrote was basically just saying "I had a bad experience and that means these games suck."
      3) "your certainty that story games must be the best type of game and therefore there must be something wrong with me or my previous group is insulting." I didn't say that and that is a lie. I invited you to try a new game with new people, but don't worry about turning that down a fourth time because I retract the invitation.
      4) You never addressed any of the points I made, linked in my initial post. You're only stating the same thing over and over. At this point, you only seem to want to argue about who is the troll, and that is boring, because you are the one who initiated the conversation but failed to engage.

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    13. Welp. That's that, then. Good night.

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  2. In the Old School, we don't write story. Story is what happens when our players pick up their dice and walk into our world.

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  3. Games are games. Stories are what you tell ABOUT the game after it's over.

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    1. 100% what I was going to say. There are games and there are stories. Games are played. Stories are not.

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    2. I think there are a lot of black v. white statements that are being made when the reality is often more gray.

      For instance, if you are playing an OSR game and you do a full session with almost all role-playing and very little combat, you have just played a story game. You are using improv with the DM to make the story unfold with little to no dice involvement.

      So... it's not all that cut and dried and statements like those above reveal an obvious bias. You might as well have said, "I like OSR and I don't like story games," which really does very little to contribute to the conversation.

      To call one a "game" and one a "story" is over simplifying the process for either type of game.

      Personally, I'd love to try out FATE even though I have a hard time wrapping my head around aspects and compels, etc, but I don't have a local GM versed enough in the game to try it out.

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    3. I disagree, Marty Walser. If you play a session of all "roleplaying" (social interaction, I suppose you mean, given the context), then in a classic RPG it is still events occurring without inherent meaning. The players can impose meaning on the events later and string them into a narrative.

      In a story game, however, there are all those "narrative control" mechanics that require the players to impose a narrative before the events can occur.

      That said, sure, it's a continuum. There are narrative mechanics in some traditional RPGs (going back at least as far as the Fame and Fortune points of Top Secret, though those are only very crudely implemented - which is a good thing, in my opinion), and there are stochastic mechanics in some story games (though some do not have such things, deriding them as "incoherent design" or whatever, and most minimize the effects of such randomness). That there is a continuum doesn't take away from the central point, however.

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  4. But they're both so cute and fluffy, can't we all just love them both equally?

    Actually, I've wondered if you couldn't just have a story game where the DM makes up the setting and the characters. The characters all have backgrounds, motivations, and goals written into them. Players get XP for accomplishing their character goals. The players will have a great deal of control over what happens in-game. The DM would be there to manage NPC agendas and introducing events that effect everyone.

    That would be a lot of work, but such a setup might satisfy "frustrated writer" DM's and the "Wannabe Actor" players.

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