People who avoid AP: why?

edited August 2010 in Story Games
Over here, Matthew said that he knew many people who avoided AP "assiduously". If you are one of those, I'd like to hear why.

Personally I find (good) AP discussions among the most useful things you can use a forum like SG for.

I'm not talking about AP threads that merely summarise what went on in the game's fiction - there are probably thousands and thousands of those on rpg.net fx. The Forge used to have pretty high standards for AP, that's the kind I'm talking about.

Per

Comments

  • What were the Forge's standards?
  • I like reading AP but normally I don't reply to the threads and find the discussion fairly anemic unless the poster uses the AP to illustrate some broader point or technique. (This is also what I try to do with my AP posts.)
  • Posted By: Sam!What were the Forge's standards?
    Perhaps "standards" is the wrong word - here's their AP posting guide

    Per
  • My experience with AP is that I quickly lose interest unless there's a point to the AP. If it's an illustration of some technique, great; if it's something being held up for diagnosis of a problem, great; if it's just "what we did in our game session last night," yawn.

    I think a lot of this is that for me, roleplaying is participatory and in the moment, while analysis of what worked and didn't is reflective and happens afterwards. AP without analysis is just frozen roleplaying, and since I can't participate, it's not interesting to me.
  • I've mostly used AP as an example of play, especially for games I didn't quite understand yet, or games I hadn't bought yet (to see if I would like it).

    I also get bored very quick, most of the time. Once I figure out what I wanted to figure out, I stop reading. Duh.
  • edited August 2010
    I agree with previous posters that reading an excerpt of what happened in your game without talking about what the players did around the table is really boring, in all but the most compelling posts. Reading about techniques in a manner grounded in the game system is quite interesting, though, when there is a point to it. Paul Tevis' reports on actual play embedded in some of his podcast reviews were fantastic.

    I tend to stay away from APs in podcast form. They're too long, generally pointless, and the often poor sound quality tends to make you lose the points that were there, as you tune out. It's too bad, because the format has great potential.

    I don't tend to write APs in any but the most rare of circumstances, because writing a good AP report is fucking hard. :)
  • Posted By: cwilburMy experience with AP is that I quickly lose interest unless there's a point to the AP. If it's an illustration of some technique, great; if it's something being held up for diagnosis of a problem, great; if it's just "what we did in our game session last night," yawn.
    I agree with what people have said so far, but especially this.

    An extraordinarily well-written and entertaining story based on actual play can sometimes hold my interest -- there used to be a few story threads over on ENWorld that I loved reading, and a few on USENET back in the day -- but most of the time, "these are the characters and this is what they did"-style summaries are the dullest reading around.

    I guess another way of putting it would be that I don't want to know what the characters did in the game, I want to know what the players did. And if the answer to that second question isn't remarkable in some way, then I'm not sure why anyone's bothering to write it up.
  • Often too much in-character stuff. A lot of AP read like very mediocre fiction since they're an account of what happened in game, which can be very boring to read. I'd prefer something concise and with more analysis on how the rules are affecting things.
  • Most AP reports gloss over important details, like how the actual mechanics of the game worked (which is understandable, since they're mostly written after-the-fact based on imperfect memory). There's also a lot of self-selection in terms of what gets written up, since few people want to record mundane sessions, and people are encouraged to use AP reports as vehicles for game theorizing. Also, in listening to audio recordings of my own playtest sessions I have picked up on issues that I completely missed while caught up in the moment of playing, and I have to assume the same thing is happening to every AP writer. With all of the subjectivity cooked into post-facto text-based AP reports, it can often be difficult to extract useful info from them. Add to that the issue of having to dump a lot of information quickly, a nearly impossible task even for great writers, and you quickly run into problems with readability in most AP reports.

    Personally, I enjoy the AP podcast format since you get a lot more context and you don't have the subjectivity of the author to deal with, but I have time to listen, and focus mostly on the shows that play the games I'm interested in learning about (e.g. The Walking Eye).
  • I tend not to read AP for AP's sake. On the other hand, if I'm trying to get my head around a ruleset or preparing to run a game, I will seek out good AP.

  • Yeah I'm kind of with Vasco. If I'm considering buying a game or looking to run a campaign soon, AP makes a good reference so I am glad it is out there existing, even if I don't read it when someone first posts it or respond to it.
  • They're really long sometimes. I want just a condensed version of the question or enlightenment that arises from someone's actual play.
  • Yep, I'm with most people here. If it's too long and all about what happened, I just can't read it. I do think it's valuable though. It's just my own attention span. I prefer either short summaries of the fiction with analysis of the game mechanics and social interactions that can help me with my own gaming or understanding of a certain system.

    Same goes with podcasts of actual play, though because listening is a passive activity, I can absorb some AP sessions while doing other mindless stuff (though my mind tends to wander through large sections). Actual People Actual Play is a really effective format. I wish people would write up their AP sessions the way they record theirs, now that I think of it.
  • edited August 2010
    Thanks, guys, I'm broadly agreeing with all of you - good APs are useful and bad ones are not. I've listened to most of the APAP podcasts, but I always skip Jesse's summary of what happend in the fiction. It's mostly not necessary, while the discussion afterwards is usually interesting.

    Per
  • I like AP reports of games I'm playing or plan to play, so I can steal the shiny bits.
  • I write some AP now and then. Outside of the "Bite-sized" category, which is all gee-whiz enthusiasm, I try to be thoughtful. If there's no lesson to be learned or observation to be made, don't bother. Enough description of what went on to provide context (both fictional and social) is necessary, but not enough that it becomes my guy wankery. I hope I achieve these goals most of the time.

    I think it's also useful to see extended observations across play sessions. I did some of my recent AP very specifically to show what multiple seasons of PTA might look like and what I learned as I played.

    It is interesting, and true, that AP is largely didactic. They are like reference documents most of the time. I've never understood how it works at The Forge, where they can turn into conversations.
  • With regards to AP podcasts, the most effective and entertaining ones for me was The Durham 3 - simply because the actual AP was cut out, and only the immediate post-game discussion remained. We do post-game discussions occasionally and they're very useful, and surprisingly, listening to someone else's discussion seems almost as useful.
  • I like AP threads where multiple people from the game are contributing. It's fascinating to see how participant's perspectives diverge.

    I enjoy AP threads for games I'm about to GM (not play*), both fluff and crunch.

    I don't enjoy writing AP threads unless someone asks me to or I need help with the game. But if I don't feel a game is getting enough love online, and I enjoy playing it, I will write an AP post.

    *GMing is playing, but you know what I mean.
  • Against the tide a little bit, I have found a few recorded-play podcasts that have been real eye-openers for me, not about the game that was being played, but about the vast diversity of how groups "do stuff" at the table. Being a fly on the wall at someone else's table is very educational.

    But generally speaking,
    blow-by-blow fictional AP = mostly bad, occasionally very, very enjoyable
    Forge-style problem-solving/technique-examining AP = useful IF the discussion that follows is coherent and thoughtful or if the original post is actually illustrative of something novel.
    AP-as-review = valuable when well done, but hard to find. Usually clouded by massive amounts of unexamined assumption.
  • edited August 2010
    There was a thing in videogame journalism a while back that some guys were calling "new game journalism" - the idea being these guys weren't going to just write reviews, they were like travel writers, adventuring in these multiplayer online games and reporting back on the newsworthy bits.

    It was pretty exciting to me, because it meant games had evolved to the point were they really were creating interesting "stories." Not so much in how story gamers mean, but nobody would write an article about what happened to them in a single-player mission of an FPS (because that happens to everyone who plays), but there was actually occasionally interesting stuff happening in Jedi Knight Online and Eve and so on.

    AP is exciting to me for the same reason - nobody would write the AP from what happened when they played a D&D module or Adventure Path. (Well, maybe they would, but it would be double-plus lame.) The fact that we feel the urge to write down our AP after playing a story game shows just how engaged we are - in that postcoital glow we feel like we've created something worth remembering.

    But yeah, trying to read it usually makes my eyes glaze over. So I paradoxically feel that it's important that we write it (or at least want to write it), but it's not worth reading.

    Same with New Game Journalism, actually. There were maybe 2 or 3 articles that were really worth reading. Here were my favorites, fwiw:
    http://www.alwaysblack.com/blackbox/bownigger.html.
    http://www.wirm.net/nightfreeze/part1.html
  • I only read AP's in these 3 scenarios:

    1. When I'm getting to know of a game. I have read a thing or two about it, and it sounds neat. I have most likely read a review or two, but those rarely give you a good idea of how the game actually works. What's the premise? What sort of stories can we tell with it? How much work does it involve? How do the mechanics work in Actual Play?

    2. When I'm trying to learn a game. Usually I already have the game, I want to play it and I want to learn the tricks, avoid the pitfalls and listen to the common advice. I want to learn from other people's experiences, so I don't have to start from scratch.

    3. When it is an AP report from a game I really really really like and I know it consistently offers interesting stories and fun play. Very few games excite me enough for me to get to this stage.

    Other AP's I'd rather ignore. From once in a while I just randomly read some with interesting names (once can be surprised!), but that's rather uncommon for me.

    Personally, I like reading the fiction stuff (if it is well written and not too extensive), reading about mechanics (how dice work, how are they tied to the fiction, which mechanics are fun and in what way) and listening to the advice and problems one is more likely to run into. I'd rather read something not too extensive, but juicy and to the point. Stylish writing is cool, but far from being a top priority for me.
  • I'm glad I asked. This thread makes me feel all warm and gooey inside. That aside I would still really like to hear from people who really hate or avoid APs like the plague.

    Plus:

    It's been discussed before (I think), but what about APs and marketing. Do APs sell games, secure the fan base, turn people off, only speak to the converted etc.

    Per
  • Posted By: lachekWith regards to AP podcasts, the most effective and entertaining ones formewas The Durham 3 - simply because the actual AP was cut out, and only the immediate post-game discussion remained. We do post-game discussions occasionally and they're very useful, and surprisingly, listening to someone else's discussion seems almost as useful.
    Ditto. Durham 3 podcast is deeply regretted. It's been a year right?
  • Actual play reports* are a literary genre with a similar relationship to roleplaying games as TV show fan fiction has to television. Which, frankly makes it a perfectly legitimate sort of RPG related fun.

    But what rubs me the wrong way is that culturally we've somehow decided that actual play reports are ideal for developing critical or analytical theory, for marketing RPGs new and old, and for informing ourselves about the way a game or a group plays.

    Except when we develop and test theories, market products, and write informative reviews of some X outside of the domain of RPGs, we do not just have me write a little essay about a time my friends and I got together to do X. It is, at best, a limited tool in a vast toolbox.

    I've been arguing that actual play reports get in the way of understanding and communicating what really happens in play for years, which ironically has gotten me called a "theory wanker" who doesn't want theory grounded in "actual play". So, no I have no problem with actual play reports, and I'm always very happy when people can play rather than talk, write and read about play, what I have a serious problem with is the fetishism which has surrounded the actual play report.

    - Mendel


    * I like to make a clear distinction between "actual play reports" - which baring a good discussion - are essentially a form of personal entertainment related to RPGs, and "actual play" where folks are, well, actually playing a game. For the longest time, the rhetoric was set up so that if you disparaged the former you must be someone who was disparaging the later, i.e. didn't actually play games.
  • Ap for us is a design tool that's part of the iterative process. It is public but I don't expect anyone outside the design loop to be interested. Generally speaking I'm not interested in post-design AP of others at all unless it's a game I had a hand in. Then I like to marvel at how differing we all are and wonder how any game can be successful amidst such diverse interpretation.
  • Then I like to marvel at how differing we all are and wonder how any game can be successful amidst such diverse interpretation.
    I wonder if Gygax and Arneson were surprised by the multiple forms their game had taken once played by distant people who learned to play solely through the text.
  • Whoa, Mendel, that's the kind of opposition I was asking about! You almost sound hurt (offended) by the sheer presence of AP reports. On one hand you dismiss them as harmless fun (fan fiction), but they are also much much darker (you've been accused of being a theory wanker for arguing against their usefulness.)

    Really weird, I'm baffled. I can't quite follow your RPG politics, but thanks anyway :)

    Per
  • Posted By: boulet
    I wonder if Gygax and Arneson were surprised by the multiple forms their game had taken once played by distant people who learned to play solely through the text.
    I like to think that they did the same thing we try to do: embrace the fact of it rather than try to find ways to reduce it. Because I suspect that interpretation is part of play and if you kill it you might at least injure the game.
  • edited August 2010
    I agree with what most people have said so far.

    I love to read AP if I know it's getting at an issue in a game that I care about (that is, it's a game I want to play or have played and the AP discusses some blunder the group had with the game and the post-game realization that the blunder brought about). But man, there are way too many AP postings out there. I can't read 'em all and sift through it. I'm super-excited about Apocalypse World right now, and I'm MCing a game, but I barely read any of the AP on it on the official forum. If it's someone I know or someone's opinion I trust (like Judd Karlman's, say), then I'll usually read it and see if it's worthwhile.

    It would be immensely helpful if AP threads were posted not with a title that's reminiscent of the fiction that happened in the game, but with a title that points to the in-game or in-person issues that the session is about. I.E., not "AW AP - Amidst the Ruins of Hong Kong" but rather "AW AP - The Implications of Sex Moves". I've never done this in my AP, but writing this has made me realize that I'm going to in the future.

    I rarely post AP, but I do so pretty thoroughly with a game that I'm thinking through and especially one that I'm encountering problems with.
  • Oh yeah, BIG difference between "actual play" and "actual play report" and "actual play discussion" and "actual play report discussion" and...

    My favorite form: Playing something one day, then, if I get an idea or a thought from it, I post about it on a forum the next day. "Hey, last night XXX happened, and that got me thinking..."

    The actual play is something that happens, then disappears into our memories. The ideas we get from it are things we can use to inform and inspire later play and design and theory.
  • Usually, because of TL;DR. Get to the essence of the situation/mechanic/whatever in question in three sentences or you lose me.

    Then pose a question or make an observation with which I can engage, or I've no reason to post (other than maybe to say "sounds fun!" or "we had a similar experience").

    And finally, make the question more than a poll or the equivalent of "look up the game's rules for me." (A lot of AP "questions" can be answered with page number references only.)
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