The line between GM and Player duties/roles; ; what separates an RPG from pure story telling?

edited November 2016 in Story Games
So there are RPGs that allow or encourage players to contribute content. The GM or whomever's turn it is to play the world may ask you to describe what your character sees. Maybe call this a sort of blurring of the line between GM and player roles and duties. My feeling is that this happens in small doses, but nonetheless it happens.

My question is:

Is there a threshold that this could cross where one would no longer be playing an RPG? Like, what if the player is making a 100% of the authoring as well as controlling the PC? Is that no longer an RPG? What if it was 90% of the time? How about 51% of the time? W

It seems like one of those things that you say, "I'll know when i see it," but I'm interested in what you all think.

Comments

  • For me that's merely a terminological question, as "RPG" by itself isn't a transcendent concept impossible to define for me. I usually use the Forge theory definition of roleplaying game, so you're roleplaying as long as an Shared Imagined Space exists, and it is being Explored. By that gauge it is almost impossible to stop a practice from being a roleplaying game by merely centralizing content authority the way you describe, as this particular definition happens to encompass simple storytelling as well: as long as the other players are at least capable of offering suggestions and asking questions, it is still possible for the practice to be a roleplaying game (by this definition).

    I've heard that there are people out there who define the concept of a roleplaying game on the basis of the GM/player divide (they would presumably call other kinds of RPGs with some other name altogether). Probably with a definition like that anything except "you play the character, I play the world" would disqualify the game as a roleplaying game.

    Also note that people do not usually question a RPGs nature as a roleplaying game simply because the Game Master might be holding a large amount of authority. For example, most people find it possible for a GM to require stress tests, saving throws vs. seduction, weakness activation and other similar game mechanics that remove the player's capability of controlling their character, and allow the GM to control them instead. I've never seen this kind of RPG questioned, despite the fact that it's approaching the question from the other direction: if it is possible for the GM to hold a lot of power on both sides of the character/setting divide, then I would think that it'd be possible for any other player as well.
  • So there are RPGs that allow or encourage players to contribute content.
    Full stop.

    On top of what Eero says (and I agree with him completely), I'd say there is NO RPG that doesn't allow a player to contribute content.

    I suspect you have a different definition of what that "content" is, if only a GM usually contributes it.

    Basically only adding to what Eero said, I'd say there's almost no structural difference between:

    Player: "I punch the orc in the face."
    and

    GM: "An orc stands in front of you menacingly."
  • It's often helpful to divide the role of the GM into separate duties:

    * Scene framing (What the scene is about, where and when it takes place, who's in it, what does the place look like)

    * Rules mastery (Is there are rule for this, which rule is applicable, which rule overrides which other rule, if there is no rule what is the current ruling?)

    * World building (Preparing the world, describing the world, having the world respond to PC actions)

    * Hosting (Where do we play, when do we start and stop, is snack allowed, when do we take breaks, is it OK to be late or skip a session)

    * NPC characterization (Give NPCs stats, give NPCs resources and goals, act as NPCs in scenes, have NPCs respond to PC actions)

    * Adventure creation (Prepare a plot (if needed for this game), prepare a relationship map (if needed), prepare interesting situations)

    ... and so on! I've probably forgotten something major, but you get the point. I'd say that any of these can be handed to one or more players and it would still be a role-playing game. You could distribute them evenly across the group and it would be an RPG.

    So what's the border between RPGs and non-RPGs? If we sit in a ring and tell a story one at a time for exactly one minute and then the next person takes over, it doesn't feel like an RPG because there's no real interaction... unless the next person cleverly builds on what the previous storyteller said and we suddenly have a game of sorts.

    I've played impro theater, and on both the micro and macro level that could be indistinguishable from an RPG. When you're in a scene, you're constrained by what's been established and what the other actor gives you, same as when you sit at the table playing an RPG. Certain longform impro has a fixed structure, where character A and B are in the first scene, the next scene follows B at a later time and introduces C, the third scene is A, B, and C, and so on. If we put these rules on a piece of paper and sit down to play, I would say it's a table-top RPG, or we could say it's a freeform RPG, or a LARP (also a type of RPG) if we leave the table.

    In Swedish we have two different words for "play". One is "spela" which is what you do with a game like chess or an RPG or soccer, and the other is "leka" which is what kids do. When kids play pretend, that's one example of "leka". I think what I do when I play pretend with my four-year old is also indistinguishable from an RPG. We either pretend there's a dragon outside and we have to fight it, or we play with Lego figures and say that the police chases the bad guys, and either of these can be all we do in an RPG as well.

    My Whitehack game has paper miniatures, codified rules for how the figures are allowed to move, dice for arbitration, but I think it's a difference of degree from playing with Lego and not of kind. I wouldn't be able to put my finger on what codified rules are needed to turn play pretend into an RPG ("You control the bad guys and I control the police"? Now we've divided the character and who gets to decide about them). Do we need an impartial way of settling disagreements, like dice or cards? A freeform RPG could leave all that to the GM to decide anyway ("Can I jump over this car? No. Is Frida expecting me? Yes.", and so on).

    I think that the shared imagined space is key, something you already have in play pretend and impro theater. A board game like Ludo is not in itself an RPG. But if we manage to add an overlay on top of the board and pieces where they represent something that happens in the fiction, we could use the board as the basis for our story. Four competing crime bosses send their henchmen across town to fetch drugs, weapons, and extortion money and bring it home. They knock off any rivals they meet, and as long as we describe our shared view of the fictional content now we have an RPG. Or do we?

    I'm with Wittgenstein on his views of the impossibility of even defining what a game is: Game (Wikipedia). I mean, of course we can suggest a definition, but if we want to cover every example of a game and nothing else the definition becomes meaningless.

    So we have something that you cannot accurately delimit with a definition, and then try to delimit a part of that set (role-playing games). Even if we accept any of the definitions of a game from that page, the problem then shifts to "role-playing", which can mean to speak as another character and to direct the actions of this character, but we also include describing the fictional world or describing the actions of an organization and not a single character as examples of activities during role-playing.
  • Then, if a line exists (and maybe not), that line is not caused by the duties and roles of GM and players.
    Rob

  • My question is:
    Is there a threshold that this could cross where one would no longer be playing an RPG?
    Yes, that threshold is your players' mindset. There are very open minded and very traditional RPG players out there. Depending who you play with, there will be limitations to what will be considered as "acceptable for an RPG".
    I.e. I had to make the experience that Nordic Freeform was considered not "enough RPG" for our local monthly one-shot community. Then again, gradually the mindset is changing.
  • Yes, that threshold is your players' mindset.
    I second this.
  • edited November 2016
    If everyone is contributing to the story "from without" rather than "from within" I think it's very obvious and intuitive to describe that activity as "storytelling" and unnecessary (as well as potentially confusing) to call it "roleplaying".

    So I'd say roleplay is a matter of orientation and stance, requiring at least some degree of character identification or other method of "inhabiting" the fiction rather than just narrating it in any old fashion.

    Whether this matches the limits of the Forge term "exploration", I have no idea. I always hated that term. Or maybe it's some limit of "imagined" or "space" that isn't being met.
  • No, that's simply a different definition that you're working with, David. For what it's worth, Ron's Big Model definition is not intended to be historically descriptive or to match particularly well with intuitive understanding of what "roleplaying" might mean; rather, it's an attempt at analysis of the fundamental unique activity underlying roleplaying games, and perhaps most importantly, the unique properties of roleplaying in theoretical terms. Basically, the Forgite definition is good in a circular way, because it defines roleplaying as this business that the Big Model describes, which just happens to cover not only the entire history of tabletop roleplaying, but also some other stuff (interactive storytelling is a prominent example), while leaving out some things (e.g. video games with roles). Its utility largely comes from the fact that it does not merely describe what roleplaying games have been like historically, but also what further possibilities there might be for innovative new games.

    I've met many people who understand/define roleplaying as "something in which you play a role", so it's evidently common enough an idea. The Nordic scene basically used to run on this definition the last time I checked, for instance. Some people seem to agree that logically theater is roleplaying as well by this definition, while others attempt to finesse the definition further to make the concept match its historical manifestation. Either way, it's all good to me.
  • edited November 2016
    I know I'm not adhering to Big Model orthodoxy re: "what is roleplaying". Nevertheless, it seems plausible that just sitting around describing a sequence of fictional events might be viewed as failing some condition of "there is a SIS and we explore it" if one were so inclined.
  • Yeah, it's possible to narrate fiction without it being Exploration of a SIS in Big Model sense. It's remarkably easy for face-to-face storytelling to become this, though; the practical bare minimum requirement is that the listeners are authorized to provide immediate feedback that the storyteller reacts to. Only the most formal storyteller reading straight from a book fails under this definition, I think. Anybody else, when they e.g. answer questions from the listeners or adapt their narrative style to the audience, are engaging in the rudiments of roleplaying (under the BM definition).

    I think that it's interesting how easily Forgite rpg theory encompasses traditional storytelling, and how equally simple it is for Nordic theory to encompass theater. They are truly different perspectives on what is actually the definitive, important core feature of roleplaying.
  • Traditionally storytelling doesn't involve participant-exploration, does it? Listening is passive. Exploration is active.
  • Listening is passive, yes, but is a traditional storytelling audience limited to merely listening? How about these examples:

    "Will you tell us the story about the Red Riding Hood?"
    "Why does the grandmother live alone in the forest?"
    "What is a forester?"
    "What happened to the wolf then?"

    All of those are in my experience, quite ordinary questions for the audience to ask of a storyteller. Note that in rpg terms they are requests/instructions for subject matter, detail and pacing of the story. I do not consider it good storytelling to answer these types of questions with admonitions for silence, although maybe some storytellers do forbid such interaction. We would probably consider it a "story game" if this interaction was suggested to us in a game text: a GM-like figure preps an adventure in advance, and then presents it to the players, whose task it is to interact with the adventure by asking questions, which the GM then answers to the best of his ability.
  • edited November 2016
    For a storytelling event with multiple storytellers, I think I'd prefer to just call it that, or call it "collaborative storytelling", as opposed to calling it "roleplaying".

    Interesting point about whether there is or isn't an audience who can't participate. I do think there is some difference between one and multiple people being able to add to the fiction at any given moment.

    If you say, "The hero deflects the arrows and scales the castle wall!" and then I say, "The hero draws his sword and slays all the archers!" I don't think we necessarily have roleplay yet, but it is starting to resemble some sort of game (at least for you and me; maybe not for our audience).
    a GM-like figure preps an adventure in advance, and then presents it to the players, whose task it is to interact with the adventure by asking questions, which the GM then answers to the best of his ability.
    Don't you mean "preps a story"? :)

    I can imagine plenty of fun ways to gamify this! How about Archipelago without player characters? Eero shows up with his story and a few aspects he's willing to let the audience customize. I take "weaponry", so when Eero's describing the hero swinging a sword, I get to jump in and describe the sword's appearance or history or how it differs from the opponent's or whatever, and then Eero resumes his tale.

    Actually, that sounds pretty fun... Still not what I personally think of as "roleplaying", but whatever...
  • Yeah, depends on what you think roleplaying is. I've internalized that Big Model view pretty heavily, so for me the in-character perspective is pretty much an incidental technical detail - certainly important for what you do in a particular game, but nowhere near fundamental to the medium.
  • From where I'm sitting, we use the term "roleplaying" to refer to all kinds of imaginative play for historical reasons. We had D&D and its descendants, but pure storytelling games are rarer (or more recent).

    I, personally, like to reserve the word "roleplaying" for a game where we take on roles, as it's closer to the regular English meaning, and use "story gaming" for the more general form (e.g. what the Big Model covers).

    But I won't argue with others over it - if you use "roleplaying" to mean ALL of that, I'll just go along with you, since I understand where you're coming from.
  • edited November 2016
    Re: SIS as the line between RPGs and pure storytelling


    For me, the definition of RPGs in terms of the SIS-only lacks a certain completeness. I feel like it also needs to say something about what a valid contribution looks like (can my contribution be acting solely as a gate keeper to the SIS, for example?) Assuming that taking on actual roles is deliberately left out of that definition, then it's even more wide open such that a game like Tell Tale Fairy Tales seems to fit the definition (which I think is nice, because it would include cool stuff like Universalis).

    But I kind of lost sight of my original intent with the question, which is more about how much control of the world (or maybe SIS works better here) can a player have before something is no longer an RPG (if there is such a line). Like, if I'm the only one talking while everyone else is audience, maybe that's no longer an RPG. But there's a whole range of possibility from there in which there is space for other people to contribute however minimal, yet some of those situations might still not qualify as playing an RPG.
  • I don't think that "control" is a very complete way to view the interactive process of roleplaying in the first place. Perhaps it would be enlightening to consider the variety of ways that roleplayers routinely use to interact; many of them are not ways to control anything, really.

    For example, consider a "viking hat GM" who thinks that it's his way or the highway, insofar as player rights are concerned - the players don't have any rights, the GM holds all the cards, he's in control 100%. His game is still likely to be quite interactive, however, as the players can still ask questions and offer suggestions. Not unlike the audience of a storyteller, except more formalized and intense. Usually there's a wide field of expected input, even, as the players are supposed to tell the GM what their characters do in the game (even if, as stated, the GM has 100% control and in reality the characters will only act at his pleasure).
  • Indeed. We had a discussion not too long ago about an episode of Tabletop (a video blog where a group plays various games) where they play an RPG and an entire episode/session consists of the GM narrating dream sequences for the players.

    This came mid-way during a "campaign", and didn't catch anyone off-guard - indeed, for some people it was their favourite moment in the game.

    Does it make any sense to say that they "stopped roleplaying" for that one session?

    Likewise, imagine the GM had sat down and said, "Hey, Lucy: tell me about your character's childhood!" And then Lucy proceeded to talk for the next half hour, describing it. Is that not roleplaying?

    In both cases, we have people creating fiction extemporaneously, taking on character roles, and viewing the resulting fiction through the lens of those character roles.
  • I'm sorry but what is SIS?
    Maybe somebody can explain it for those who don't have a Master's Degree in Forge theory.
    thanks!
  • Shared Imagined Space.

    I think people still use it because it's both reasonably self-explanatory and yet more precise than "gameworld" or other similar terms.
  • It's as Deliverator says. I use the term simply because it's what the Big Model theory calls the thing. I mean, when discussing that particular theory. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and so on.

    "Shared Imagined Space" attempts to be a more precise descriptive term for the nature of the thing that is observed and manipulated while playing a rpg. We often call it "the fiction" when in stealth mode (as in, trying to discuss theoretical points without introducing specialized terminology), but as is probably obvious, the SIS is a narrower concept than any old fiction: it's shared and socially observed, meaning that it exists not as words on a page or pictures on a screen, but rather as an interactive imaginary construct. I often compare it to the Star Trek holodeck, myself: the holodeck is not a book or a movie, it's its own thing that is more of a medium than a story or work of art or whatnot. And just like a holodeck, the SIS can be used for storytelling, games, modeling work, teaching and so on, provided you're proficient in making it go.

    I think it's a reasonable idea to define what a roleplaying activity is by saying that it's where we work with ("Explore") a SIS. After all, nobody thinks that Monopoly is a rpg despite it featuring roles (as in a Shoe, a Hat, etc.); to make the game into a roleplaying game specifically is to move it from the medium of playing pieces into the medium of shared imagined space.
  • aah, ok, thanks. Of course, I'm familiar with "shared imagine space". I just wasn't proficient enough to know the hip acronym SIS. Thank you.
  • edited November 2016
    For a storytelling event with multiple storytellers, I think I'd prefer to just call it that, or call it "collaborative storytelling", as opposed to calling it "roleplaying".
    That is, to me, like saying »railroading isn't "roleplaying"« or »narrativism isn't "roleplaying"«.
  • edited November 2016
    Traditionally storytelling doesn't involve participant-exploration, does it? Listening is passive. Exploration is active.
    Not all types of listening. We put things together in our head all the time to form a story. That's how we understand things - "to put it in a context". If I tell you things at random, you will try to put it together. That's an active part from your side. The Eastern Asian storytelling method called kishotenketsu uses this brain function of ours to make their audience think. (American examples: Memento, The Man from Earth)

    It's also possible to provide other kinds of active listening through game mechanics.
  • edited November 2016
    For a storytelling event with multiple storytellers, I think I'd prefer to just call it that, or call it "collaborative storytelling", as opposed to calling it "roleplaying".
    That is, to me, like saying »railroading isn't "roleplaying"« or »narrativism isn't "roleplaying"«.
    In the instance I mentioned, I think "collaborative storytelling" is a clearer term. What's your clearer term for railroaded roleplaying? For narrativist roleplaying?
  • I don't believe there is a clear line between "collaborative storytelling" and "roleplaying", but, with that caveat, I'm with David here. I find "storytelling" and "roleplaying" to be pretty clear terms (and use "story gaming" for things which fall in the middle).
  • edited November 2016
    Yeah, I think it's cool when "story gaming" fills in that middle ground, rather than being a subset of some confusingly large definition of roleplaying.

    Just to clarify: I've seen "that's not roleplaying" said as a value judgment, as if to say, "that's not as good as roleplaying." That is not at all my intent here. My intent is just easy communication, with gamers, story gamers, and non-gamers alike. In my experience, if "collaborative storytelling" does in fact describe a game reasonably well, then that's the term that works best. D&D players know I'm talking about something very different from D&D, as do non-gamers.
  • I get what you mean, David, and although I have a slight preference for different terminology, that doesn't mean that yours is in any way indefensible.

    The reason for why I prefer to use a wide umbrella term (I don't really care if it's "roleplaying" specifically or something else) is that I believe the medium to be more important than the historical tradition in e.g. pushing the art and introducing new people to it; there's simply not much benefit to saying that "Universalis is not a roleplaying game" or whatever the practical consequences of a narrow definition are, when it's clearly still the same medium. (If I need to express that idea, I simply say "there are no player characters in Universalis".) On the other hand, an expansive definition helps us avoid artificial limits to the possibilities of the art.

    A parallel example can be found in another hobby, poetry: it happens to be the case that I write epic poetry in the Kalevala meter now and then, but I still do not orient my entire perspective on what I'm doing on that basis. I don't say that I write "Kalevala epicry", I don't bicker with other poets about how their poetry is not real epicry, and so on and so forth. Rather, I call what I do "poetry", and view it under the wider umbrella of the medium ("word-painting", or however one wants to characterize poetry in its widest sense). I'm happy with the way the scene currently uses the terminology: "Kalevala poetry" is its own genre, but nobody insists on ignoring the wider umbrella term "poetry" under which it falls, because the genre still has plenty of mutual interest with other types of poetry.

    Also, an interesting anecdote occurs to me here: I've been wasting my life over the last several years trying to finish this big roleplaying game I'm writing, working title "Eleanor's Dream". At one point I decided on terminology, and ended up calling roleplaying games "imagination games" throughout the book. My reasons are varied (some of them have to do with the Finnish language in which I write), but without going into the details it is clearly the case that a) I intensely need a wide umbrella term to say my piece, and b) I don't need that term to be "roleplaying" - in fact, given the choice in a book intended for newcomers, I opted to drop the misleading characterization in favour of a more to-the-point descriptor. Other terms like "roleplaying game", "story game" and "play game" (as in, theater pay) also make appearances where appropriate, but in the lexicon of this book they're merely varieties or subsets of "imagination game".
  • "Imagination game", I am going to guess, probably sounds a lot better in Finnish than it does in English. Still, I like it! A very accurate term.
  • I guess it does flow better in Finnish. Ironically still not quite as well as "roleplaying game", as the standard Finnish term drops the "playing" part, leaving simply "role game". Meanwhile "imagination" is itself a compound word in Finnish ("mind"+"picturing"), which makes "imagination game" ("mielikuvituspeli") a three-part compound. Still, Finnish generally prefers much longer compound words than English (which uses foreign loanwords like "imagination" instead), so "imagination game" is still par for the course in Finnish.

    Out of curiousity, why would a native say that "imagination game" doesn't sound good in English? Is "imagination" itself too difficult or ugly-sounding, or is it because it's got Latin roots, and thus doesn't sound nice as part of a compound with a Germanic word like "game"?
  • edited November 2016
    I vaguely remember Eleanor's Dream, Eero! Cool to hear that it hasn't died.

    I like "imagination game", though that omits communication -- sounds like it could be a solo thing.

    Just like you, I've got a game project that I don't think benefits from calling itself a roleplaying game. "Storytelling game" better gets folks off on the right foot, I think, and then depending on the preferences of who's playing, it might wind up with lots of playing of roles, or very little.
  • edited November 2016
    I initially had a shorter but much less clear reply to this; hope I'm not cross-posting with Eero on this revision!
    The reason for why I prefer to use a wide umbrella term (I don't really care if it's "roleplaying" specifically or something else) is that I believe the medium to be more important than the historical tradition
    If everyone agreed that it was in fact one medium instead of several, I would agree on some umbrella term. And if the historical tradition weren't a part of current cultural awareness, I would agree that "roleplaying game" is a decent option. But I don't think either of those are true.
    an expansive definition helps us avoid artificial limits to the possibilities of the art.
    I think it's great to push the art and have an expansive sense of what's possible. Whether that's best done with a broad umbrella term or a bunch of narrower ones, I have no idea. If an umbrella term is used, I'd expect better results using one where we don't have to fight the prevailing assumptions. Why require the counter-intuitive statement that RPGs can look nothing like D&D? Why not use a more intuitive term instead? Of course storytelling games can look nothing like D&D!
    there's simply not much benefit to saying that "Universalis is not a roleplaying game" or whatever the practical consequences of a narrow definition are, when it's clearly still the same medium.
    Well sure, kicking a given game out of wherever it's been intuitively slotted probably doesn't help anyone. Or maybe it does, if the slot were a bad fit? I dunno. Personally, I find that a little bit of playing of roles is pretty vital to making Universalis fun; same with Microscope. So to me, "RPG" says something useful about them. If that weren't the case? I dunno. Maybe both games could find bigger audiences if described and marketed as storytelling games.

    I think Once Upon a Time and Shindig Machine both fall under your expansive RPG definition, but calling them "roleplaying games" would be useless at best, and more likely actively misleading (due to their completely dissimilarity to D&D, or Universalis, or any game that's become at all popular calling itself an RPG). Apparently they agree, opting for "storytelling card game" and "collaborative storytelling games".
  • I think it's great to push the art and have an expansive sense of what's possible. Whether that's best done with a broad umbrella term or a bunch of narrower ones, I have no idea. If an umbrella term is used, I'd expect better results using one where we don't have to fight the prevailing assumptions. Why require the counter-intuitive statement that RPGs can look nothing like D&D? Why not use a more intuitive term instead? Of course storytelling games can look nothing like D&D!
    Speaking just for myself, this has been very important for me. I started with a rpg hobby in the early '90s, and the red thread of artistic development that I have followed since then has always been "how to make this medium perform up to its full potential". It has been an iterative process, not one where I stop with one hobby entirely and start a new one. Where evolution has not been possible, I have simply stopped growing; larping, for example, never quite developed any bridges that would have attracted me to cross over. My personal understanding of what a "roleplaying game" is is fundamental to what possibilities I see for myself in the hobby.

    I find it fully credible that somebody else will think and act in different ways, and they may thus find no utility in a concept of roleplaying that focuses on the essential similarities between story games and roleplaying games (in the narrow sense) and whatnot, because they see no threshold for themselves in jumping out of their current track into a new, similar hobby, just like that. In fact, old Forgite thinking on this was probably influenced by the fact that it was a roleplayer forum, full of people whose hobby was "roleplaying games" - there were many people participating with similar creative priorities as myself, trying to make roleplaying great instead of inventing an entirely new art form. Things might have changed since then, as more and more people seem to eagerly identify with "story games" as an opposition to rpgs instead of a description of a particular type of roleplaying game.
  • Yes, I'd imagine a lot of it has to do with your relationship with the medium, as well as what kinds of people you interact with.

    For instance, I often play with non-gamers, and I like to use my game "Musette" to introduce them to the hobby. (It's simple, reliable, and fun, and requires relatively few skills but always delivers.)

    Notably, no one plays a character in that game or takes on any kinds of "roles". When I introduce the game to them (or invite them to play), it is much more direct and much simpler to say "story game" or "storytelling game", since this accurately describes what we're about to do. If I said "roleplaying game", I'd have to explain why I'm using the term if they ask questions: "Oh, do we need to wear costumes?" "What roles do we play?" Etc.

    I'm entirely with you, however, that this is all part of the same hobby/medium/art form/whatever you want to call it. I don't use those terms to divide; just to clarify what kind of game we're playing.
  • I started with a rpg hobby in the early '90s, and the red thread of artistic development that I have followed since then has always been "how to make this medium perform up to its full potential". It has been an iterative process
    Same here! Well, sort of. I want to see RPGs deliver the classic goals -- dramatic fantasy adventure, realistic medieval combat, Lovecraftian horror, emulation of Star Wars and superhero comics, etc. -- to their fullest potential. And I want to see the medium continue to expand to include new approaches and new voices and reach new eyeballs. But the potential of the medium seems both artisitically limitless and commercially limited to me, and I wouldn't know what "full potential" there would even look like. "Keep evolving" is plenty for me -- and in my eyes, that includes stepping out of the zone where the "RPG" label is the best one to use.
  • edited November 2016
    For a storytelling event with multiple storytellers, I think I'd prefer to just call it that, or call it "collaborative storytelling", as opposed to calling it "roleplaying".
    That is, to me, like saying »railroading isn't "roleplaying"« or »narrativism isn't "roleplaying"«.
    In the instance I mentioned, I think "collaborative storytelling" is a clearer term. What's your clearer term for railroaded roleplaying? For narrativist roleplaying?
    I think I jumped in the middle of something and also misread "roleplaying" as "roleplaying game". To me, it's just different ways to play roleplaying games.

    It doesn't matter if you purely tell a story or having characters where you can act out inside a story - Once Upon a Time is as much a roleplaying game as D&D and Sorcerer.

    If you start to draw distinct lines between what is X and what is not, you can end up in zones where quibbling about streets in Monopoly can be questioned to be part of a boardgame experience or not. Further on, it can also stagnate the innovation in game design, where you have to do or include Z things for a game to be considered X.

    It's like the word "game", where everyone knows what a game is, but no one has come to an agreement of a definition. A lot of game theorists have tried, but it has only come down to their own perspective of how one can play games. To me, it's better to be inclusive. To draw up lines is not important, the important thing is what the intention is of the designer. "Is this art?", which a lot of people sometimes ask. Well, what was the purpose for the artist? To create art? To make a game?
  • edited December 2016
    I think line-drawing as an attempt to represent some objective truth often gets ugly. Line-drawing to facilitate communication, though, strikes me as quite worthwhile.

    I don't care whether theorists classify Once Upon a Time as "RPG" or "not RPG" -- what I care about is what label I can slap on the box to give the correct impression to someone who's pondering whether to play it or not. I doubt that label is "RPG", whether Once Upon a Time is one or not.

    The actual label on the actual box -- "Storytelling Card Game" -- is far superior, in my opinion. That might be true for other story games too.
  • edited December 2016
    I don't think that "control" is a very complete way to view the interactive process of roleplaying in the first place. Perhaps it would be enlightening to consider the variety of ways that roleplayers routinely use to interact; many of them are not ways to control anything, really.
    I was very specific to say "control of the world" because it's often expected that when a person is playing from a PC's perspective, someone else will be playing the part of (or "controlling") the world that this PC is interacting with. What is not defined in the concept of the SIS or anywhere that I know of is how much input is expected of each person.

    In a two player game, for example, would limiting one of the players to answering 'yes' or 'no' to questions the World and how it responds be enough to make that an RPG? That is arguably a way to explore a shared world. If not, what is the minimum input required from a second person for something to qualify as an RPG?
    Indeed. We had a discussion not too long ago about an episode of Tabletop (a video blog where a group plays various games) where they play an RPG and an entire episode/session consists of the GM narrating dream sequences for the players.

    This came mid-way during a "campaign", and didn't catch anyone off-guard - indeed, for some people it was their favourite moment in the game.

    Does it make any sense to say that they "stopped roleplaying" for that one session?

    Likewise, imagine the GM had sat down and said, "Hey, Lucy: tell me about your character's childhood!" And then Lucy proceeded to talk for the next half hour, describing it. Is that not roleplaying?

    In both cases, we have people creating fiction extemporaneously, taking on character roles, and viewing the resulting fiction through the lens of those character roles.

    I would call it roleplaying, but I'm biased because I believe in an unicorn called "solo roleplaying." :)

    I think an interesting question, for me at least, is whether a whole campaign that consisted only of what you just described in that one session could be called an roleplaying campaign.
  • Yeah, that's pretty tricky!
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