what's a non-RPG Story Game?

edited June 2008 in Story Games
Pretty much what it says. Mike and Jonathan have posited that role-playing games are a subset of story games. I'm happy to expand my mind if someone will give me a few examples.
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  • Universalis, in total Director's Stance (never Author's or Actor's). (?)
    The chess game that supposedly inspired Alice In Wonderland. (?)
    This Little Piggy Went To Market. (?)

    Hell... I dunno either. The thread I have about D&D4e =/!= Story Game has me thinking the phrase is neigh meaningless. I don't want a definition debate in there (I am more interested in the social decisions), but your threads all-about semantics. :)
  • Once Upon A Time seems like a clear candidate. Players don't have characters.
  • edited June 2008
    I'm pretty defensive about the word role-playing being as broadly applicable as possible. But I'd be willing to cede both Universalis and Spione as not role-playing games.

    Jesse
  • Another exhibit:

    www.addventure.com/
    addventure.bast-enterprises.de/
    etc...

    Round-robin fanfiction, with a minimal set of rules to structure contributions. The existence of rules makes it conform to one of the common definitions of "game," albeit not all definitions. It's clearly about telling stories.

    Another example: the Grand Theft Auto games and other video games with strong sandbox elements; I, at least, have never heard Metal Gear Solid series referred to as RPGs, but they're clearly about telling a story and your input can clearly make at least some impact on how that story plays out.
  • People have called all kinds of things not-RPGs (or !RPGs if you prefer). Capes, My Life With Master, and, weirdly Dogs in the Vineyard (which is odd because it's totally a traditional RPG). Story-Games shuts that nonsense down (intentionally or not, who cares).

    -Marco
  • edited June 2008
    I've been working on a number of storytelling games (like a story game, but without any roleplaying--i.e. everyone plays in director stance all the time, no one portrays any character consistently--or even ever at all).

    They're fun! But very creative juice-intensive. After a couple of hours, pretty much everyone gets burnt out, unless you've got a lot of wine on hand.

    Edit: The game "Muse" is one such. It can be tracked down easily by searching for it on the forum here. However, I should note that, even though I'm credited as co-author, I'm not really fond of that particular version.
  • Thinking about it a little more, I would find irony in that I'm actually much more exclusionary about the word story-game. I actively dislike its broadening application.

    Jesse
  • Jesse-

    So how do you define story game?
  • Posted By: JesseThinking about it a little more, I would find irony in that I'm actually much more exclusionary about the word story-game. I actively dislike its broadening application.

    Jesse
    Because once you let GURPS in there, there goes the neighborhood?

    -Marco
  • - Once Upon a Time
    - The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Münchhausen
    - De Profundis
    - A Penny for My Thoughts
    - Bacchanal
    - Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan
    - While You're Far Away
    - Transantiago, which doesn't have a readable draft, unfortunately
    - Zombies at the Door / A Day in the War

    Probably a bunch others, but those are the first ones I thought of.
  • Universalis is the canonical one. Baron Munchausen. Polaris, probably, and... well, now I'm off down the slippery slope and basically have to start naming everything that isn't a "trad game."

    Yeah, see, lately I'm starting to think/fear that in the end, the definition of "roleplaying game" is going to boil down to "those story games which play essentially just like D&D," and then we keep dickering about what constitutes "essentially" until the end of time, splitting hairs on the heads of angels...

    When Willem and I led the indie-RPGs discussion at Bar Camp Portland, we ran smack into this wall as soon as we tried to talk about anything, where nobody could agree on what an RPG was, and definitely nobody agreed with me on what an RPG was. I was trying to use something not too far from my story-games definition. A gentleman whose name I didn't get, shame on me, told me no, it's important that the RPG term continue to refer to the experience that people expect.

    All at once I realized he was exactly right. There's an influential computer programmer named Steve Yegge who gave a very funny talk last year about "marketing for programmers," in which he used tech jargon to explain it all: "a brand is a CONST pointer." (CONST being a variable type in C++ that you can't ever change after you define it, and a pointer being a variable that doesn't really hold anything meaningful on its own, but points into a certain spot on something else.) You can't move a brand; once the culture is decided about it, it's decided. GTE learned this when it tried to shake the reputation "GTE = crap network" by building an awesome network. It failed, nobody changed their minds about GTE, and nothing changed - until they changed their name to Verizon. Then people said, hey, new carrier, great network! and the shareholders lived happily ever after.

    The term "role-playing game" is a brand. It does mean a certain thing, just not a well-articulated thing, and not always the exact same thing, but much more certain than a lot of us think. I think that is worth respecting, and not just because trying to change what it means in the wider culture is doomed. I think the people who seek out the experience they know by the term "role-playing game" have a point when they say it's already hard enough to know whether it'll be the experience they want, without us throwing things like stakes-resolution and player-control currencies under that rubric.
  • Posted By: Marco
    Because once you let GURPS in there, there goes the neighborhood?
    -Marco
    Heh. No. But I don't want to derail the thread. I'm kind of sorry I said anything. Carry on.

    Jesse
  • Posted By: misubaI think the people who seek out the experience they know by the term "role-playing game" have a point when they say it's already hard enough to know whether it'll be the experience they want, without us throwing things like stakes-resolution and player-control currencies under that rubric.
    So we need a term for RPGs with that stuff, to distinguish them for folks who think all RPGs are Actor/Author Stance, single-role, tactics-heavy games?

    "Indie" sucks, because I think it's best as a term for a business model (common parlance, outside of RPGs).
    "Hippie" means exactly diddly-squat.
    "Narrative" doesn't cover the full spectrum of !tradRPG.

    And, see... I though "Story Game" was doing that--putting the ROLE above the PLAYING (the old role-v-roll playing saw). Shows what I know....
  • edited June 2008
    Mike, it's an hopeless endeavor, trying to define "rpgs" as the games that give you the same experience as D&D, when even with D&D, you can't count on having the same experience with two different groups...

    There are the ones who plays what I have seen called "totemic D&D": the game manual is on the table, but everybody gloat about the fact that go entire sessions without rolling any die...
    There are the ones who play in full tactical-strategic mode, with miniatures, rulers, etc, inside a dungeon, without any "story"
    There are the ones who play the GM's story, and no matter the way you go at a crossroad in the dungeon, you will meet the NPC who will tell you what you will have to do.
    There are the ones who never, ever, set foot in a dungeon.
    ...and many others.

    How can you define a rpg on the basis of the kind of experience, when you can't define that experience?
  • Going off misuba's thoughts, there isn't one. Story game is the term for what the broad definition of RPG should be, if the culture hadn't decided it was a very limited thing in the first few years and then didn't begin to challenge that for another 20 (a challenge that's still very much in the minority). At least, that's how I use it.

    So, I agree with David. Story Game is that term that breaks us out of the unfortunately limited definition of RPG. But a monopoly game where you roleplay your counter or a chess game that inspired a novel? No. Those aren't story games.

    However, I don't also figure, okay, RPG is that definition. No, language changes, so to me, RPG and Story Game are almost synonymous. There's a bit of venn diagram going on. There are some RPGs that aren't story games (much of the mainstream stuff) and there are some story games that aren't RPGs (Once Upon a Time), but most of them are both. And hopefully, 20 years later, RPG won't be crammed into a corner of "actor stance players of a single role, and an author director, with rules focused on physical capabilities, especially combat." But the way to change that is to not use that definition. Sure, if you're doing some presentation, you have to speak to your audience, but not in general usage.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Moreno R.How can you define a rpg on the basis of the kind of experience, when you can't define that experience?
    VERY broadly. :D

    Reminds me of trying to define "pool." There's surely a TON more variants on pool than on styles of D&D play (I can think of, oh, twenty-ish), yet the term remains usable and evocative (using only the tip of a stick, move balls on a table to accomplish some goal or goals). Shame RPGs will "never" be so-defined. ;)

    We actually kick this horse in its cadaverous teeth about "what is LARP" from time to time, on RPG.net. Or even about "what is a PC" versus "an NPC or a pre-gen." I made a little graph, once:
    image
    (edit: "DPC" is a "directed PC," a character mostly created by the player but directed to behave in certain ways by the GM/organizer. a "DNPC" is a "dependant NPC," straight from Hero.)

    But that... is another story....
  • Posted By: Moreno R.Mike, it's an hopeless endeavor, trying to define "rpgs" as the games that give you the same experience as D&D, when even with D&D, you can't count on having the same experience with two different groups...

    There are the ones who plays what I have seen called "totemic D&D": the game manual is on the table, but everybody gloat about the fact that go entire sessions without rolling any die...
    There are the ones who play in full tactical-strategic mode, with miniatures, rulers, etc, inside a dungeon, without any "story"
    There are the ones who play the GM's story, and no matter the way you go at a crossroad in the dungeon, you will meet the NPC who will tell you what you will have to do.
    There are the ones who never, ever, set foot in a dungeon.
    ...and many others.
    Well, yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying (although I don't know why the lack of presence in a dungeon poses a problem for anything but a literal reading of the other brand, "Dungeons & Dragons"). It's going to be really hard. But...

    Back when Scott McCloud wrote Understanding Comics, and he put his definition of comics out there (for those unfamiliar, it's "pictorial and other images, visually juxtaposed in deliberate sequence"), there were people outraged that he left out The Far Side, which (usually) had only one image rather than any juxtaposition. Leaving aside the people who thought that there was some kind of status game going on and that something "worthy" was being "left out," you had a lot of people who just couldn't consider a definition of comics reasonable if it didn't account for everything that appeared on the comics page (except the chess column).

    But things were already changing. First, nobody knew it yet, but the newspaper comics page was becoming less and less important to the comics medium. So, the context that shaped so much of their internal felt sense of the definition was already starting to shift out from under them. Second, once the shock wears off, people actually do figure out when you're using a term as a category term rather than a status marker. It just takes a bit.

    So, I'm just as okay with leaving one or two of the groups you cite out of the RPG category as McCloud was with the word "comics" not applying to Family Circus. Leave out too many and you aren't doing your job, but the job is to correctly find the line. If a couple of groups (I'd say your first example, definitely) find that they've actually been playing something other than an RPG this whole time, well, their game is gonna be just as fun for them, even if it takes a few years to get used to the change of terms.
  • Actually, I'm not really a fan of the term Story Game at all. I especially dislike it as a term for a set that's bigger than RPGs.

    Universalis is an RPG. It is a Role Playing Game. I really don't care (too much) what people call it so long as they're playing it and sending me money. But to me...its an RPG, and holding it out as an example of a Story Game that's not an RPG makes me cringe.

    Just because some people have visions of what an RPG is supposed to look like that currently doesn't include Uni...or Capes...or whatever doesn't mean we surrender the term. Better...expand peoples vision of what an RPG can be and is capable of.

    To me, an Role Playing Game is any activity performed for entertainment (as opposed to therapy, or education...the "game" part of RPG) that has multiple people taking on roles for characters (or things or groups personified as characters) and endeavoring to achieve some combination of 1) portrayal of those character's personalities, 2) advocacy for those characters interests, 3) decisions and reactions based on how those characters would think, react, or behave. Yes, to me that means Monopoly is most definitely an RPG if that's the way the people are playing it.

    Story Game, if it is to have any use as a term at all, best fits as a sub set of RPGs (egads NOT the other way around) having certain general commonalities around approach and techniques for play.

    Once Upon a Time?...its a card game...a really fun card game...but its a card game...one using a narrative structure in its rules, but that narrative structure is being used the same way as Rummy uses melds...as a game technique. Its a card game.
  • Posted By: ValamirBut to me...its an RPG, and holding it out as an example of a Story Game that's not an RPG makes me cringe.
    Aww, Ralph... uncringe. :)

    *I*, at least, explicitly said "Universalis in strict Director Stance;" i.e. no one ever actually assumes a role, but does a lot of third-person narration and meta-game thinking about how to shape the plot using the rule set. (Hmmm... Is acting requisite to role playing...? If not, I am in a "role" as the little dog, in Monopoly, right; or I'm in the "role" of the dealer, in poker, yes...? Aw, fuck, my head....)
  • edited June 2008
    So, in my recollection, the "story game" term first rose to prominence in the indie scene out of a conversation that Clinton started, in person, around MACE 2005, I think, the same time he asked the now infamous "what would you stab a person in the face for?" question. It was a response to a bunch of reviews / internet bullshit where people were saying stuff like "Polaris / My Life With Master / Universalis / etc. are not roleplaying games." And Clinton basically said, "I'm sick of this bullshit; I don't care what is or isn't an RPG. I'm just going to start calling everything I do 'story games' and not worry about what definition they fall into." So, in that sense, it's a real tragedy that a bunch of people have tried to turn "story game" into yet another tiny label for a specific kind of game. In my mind, it happened like this:

    PEOPLE: We don't have a term for all these weird indie games. Both World of Synnibar and 1001 Nights are indie games. WTF? How will we ever distinguish the hippy stuff from the grognard stuff?

    ANDY: Doo doo doo. I'm going to start a forum called "Story Games" were we can casually talk about all kind of stuff that might or might not be RPGs.

    SG FORUM USERS: Dirty hippy game stuff! D20 sucks! Brain damage!

    PEOPLE: Hey, all those people on Story Games talk about dirty hippie indie games all the time. Clearly that's what "story games" means; games that are about the story.

    SG FORUM USERS: 4e rocks! Githyaki 4ever! Man, you know what's awesome? Killing things and taking their stuff.

    PEOPLE: WTF? Why are you on SG?

    Which brings us to the present. Honestly, I'm pretty much over trying to create terms for different bits of roleplaying or play styles. If I want to talk about a specific kind of game or play style, I describe it, instead of relying on a term that's likely to be misinterpreted. Even then, miscommunication is likely, but I think it's much more unlikely than it is when people throw labels around.
  • edited June 2008
    Hey, tell you what: rather than arguing about this deductively, what's the operational difference between playing a Story Game and playing a Role-Playing Game? How do I know when I'm doing the one thing, but not the other?

    Because if there's no operational distinction, then it seems like we're mostly talking about branding. Which is cool too.

    Edited, because cross-posted with Jonathan: hey, if the point of using the term "story games" is that it's a Zen thing where inquiring too deeply into the meaning of the term is taboo, I can handle that; I'm not trying to say, "ARrrrrrgh I am so anal I must define this word!!!". I'm just asking to ask.

    Personally, I'd define "story games" as, "whatever the people on S-G want it to mean, which tends to be (but is not exclusively) games from about 20-30 designers sharing certain features and a general emphasis on face-stabbing."
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: ValamirStory Game, if it is to have any use as a term at all, best fits as a sub set of RPGs (egads NOT the other way around) having certain general commonalities around approach and techniques for play.

    Once Upon a Time?...its a card game...a really fun card game...but its a card game...one using a narrative structure in its rules, but that narrative structure is being used the same way as Rummy uses melds...as a game technique. Its a card game.
    I haven't been on this forum long. Did the term "Story Game" get defined at some point. I've been trying to define it, in my mind, based on the words that comprise the term (which, incidentally, is the same way I form the defnition of the term "role-playing game" in my mind, by using the words in the term)
    Based on that, I see the two terms as defining separate sets, neither a sub-set of the other, but overlapping in some places. The way I see it, there are RPGs that are not SGs, SGs that are not RPGs, and there are also games that are both and games that are neither.
    I would argue for a game like Once Upon a Time potentially being an SG in that it could be a game with a strong focus on story. Hence, Story Game.
    But perhaps the term Story Game has been defined in a way that is not simply a Game about/with/focused-on Story?
  • Posted By: James_NostackPersonally, I'd define "story games" as, "whatever the people on S-G want it to mean, which tends to be (but is not exclusively) games from about 20-30 designers sharing certain features and a general emphasis on face-stabbing."
    Right, like D&D.
  • Are these things we're discussing really games? If there is no winner or loser, what makes something a game?
  • Quoting wikipedia, since this is a classic question, Chris:
    Wittgenstein first asks the reader to perform a thought experiment: to come up with a definition of the word "game". While this may at first seem a simple task, he then goes on to lead us through the problems with each of the possible definitions of the word "game". Any definition which focuses on amusement leaves us unsatisfied since the feelings experienced by a world class chess player are very different from those of a circle of children playing Duck Duck Goose. Any definition which focuses on competition will fail to explain the game of catch, or the game of solitaire. And a definition of the word "game" which focuses on rules will fall on similar difficulties.

    The essential point of this exercise is often missed. Wittgenstein's point is not that it is impossible to define "game", but that we don't have a definition, and we don't need one, because even without the definition, we use the word successfully. Everybody understands what we mean when we talk about playing a game, and we can even clearly identify and correct inaccurate uses of the word, all without reference to any definition that consists of necessary and sufficient conditions for the application of the concept of a game.

    Wittgenstein argues that definitions emerge from what he termed "forms of life", roughly the culture and society in which they are used. Wittgenstein stresses the social aspects of cognition; to see how language works, we have to see how it functions in a specific social situation...

    Wittgenstein rejects the idea that ostensive definitions can provide us with the meaning of a word. For Wittgenstein, the thing that the word stands for does not give the meaning of the word...

    Why is it that we are sure a particular activity — e.g. Olympic target shooting — is a game while a similar activity — e.g. military sharp shooting — is not? Wittgenstein's explanation is tied up with an important analogy. How do we recognize that two people we know are related to one another? We may see similar height, weight, eye color, hair, nose, mouth, patterns of speech, social or political views, mannerisms, body structure, last names, etc. If we see enough matches we say we've noticed a family resemblance. It is perhaps important to note that this is not always a conscious process — generally we don't catalog various similarities until we reach a certain threshold, we just intuitively see the resemblances. Wittgenstein suggests that the same is true of language. We are all familiar (i.e. socially) with enough things which are games and enough things which are not games that we can categorize new activities as either games or not.
  • edited June 2008
    Jonathan, I think we need to go into Wikipedia and Gygax that passage up a notch, because it already comes so close.

    Also:
    Everybody understands what we mean when we talk about playing a game, and we can even clearly identify and correct inaccurate uses of the word, all without reference to any definition that consists of necessary and sufficient conditions for the application of the concept of a game.

    Plainly Wittgenstein never saw RPG.Net.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: David ArtmanPosted By: ValamirBut to me...its an RPG, and holding it out as an example of a Story Game that's not an RPG makes me cringe.
    Aww, Ralph... uncringe. :)

    *I*, at least, explicitly said "Universalis in strict Director Stance;" i.e. no one ever actually assumes a role, but does a lot of third-person narration and meta-game thinking about how to shape the plot using the rule set. (Hmmm... Is acting requisite to role playing...? If not, I am in a "role" as the little dog, in Monopoly, right; or I'm in the "role" of the dealer, in poker, yes...? Aw, fuck, my head....)


    I view the proper definition of RPG as applying to the activity of what people are doing. When applied to the thing that they are doing it with the label RPG refers to a thing that is typically, commonly, primarily used to promote that activity.

    So I would say that ANY game which are you 100% in strict director stance is not an RPG activity, even if the rules set you are using is something we would call an RPG. Further I would say ANY game in which you are performing the RPG activity is "playing a roleplaying game" even if the rules set you are using is not commonly used for that purpose.

    So, to take your monopoly dog perhaps more seriously than you intended. If you are portraying the dog's personality, making choices for the dog the way the dog would make choices and playing as an advocate of your dog than yes you are roleplaying. If we set aside the literally interpretation of the figurine and instead suggest that that figure merely represents H.Terrance "the Terrier" Puffinstuff, real estate tycoon...and you are portraying H.T.'s personality, making decision the way H.T. would make them and acting as an advocate for the interests of H.T. (which may or may not coincide with the stated objective to bankrupt all the other players and win...then yes you are using the Monopoly rules as part of your roleplaying activity.

    As for what identifies a "Story Game" as a particular kind of roleplaying game...to me its a roleplaying experience that focuses on dramatic interaction between characters using a system that empowers players to explore and develop those interactions. And again I think of it as an activity not a thing. So you can totally Story Game with D&D...even 4E if you are focusing on dramatic enteraction between characters and exploring and developing those interactions. And you can totally not Story Game with things that we typically think of as "Story Games".

    There's lots of sessions of Univeralis I've played that would call something like World Building or Setting Exposition but wouldn't call a "Story Game". There's other sessions that most definitely have been.

    IMO, label the activity that you are actually doing when you're doing it. Label the game only in so far as it helps to identify games that are easiest to achieve the activity...but understand that the definition defines the activity not the rules / text / book / thing.


    That's how I see it.
  • Posted By: fnord3125I haven't been on this forum long. Did the term "Story Game" get defined at some point.
    This latest madness is an indirect result of me taking a shot at it, yes. My proposed definition, for reference:

    A story game is a game in which players can directly make things up as part of an imagined story, and things the players make up can in turn influence the interactions with the game rules.
  • Ralph -

    I hate playing in actor stance, to the point of essentially never doing it, and I dislike "advocating for my character" over tactical, genre, and other considerations. Have I ever played a roleplaying game? (hint: I play PtA an average of twice a month).

    Embrace Wittgenstein.
  • Posted By: ValamirJust because some people have visions of what an RPG is supposed to look like that currently doesn't include Uni...or Capes...or whatever doesn't mean we surrender the term. Better...expand peoples vision of what an RPG can be and is capable of.
    Okay... "surrender"? Apparently it's still too early for the term to be seen as a category rather than a status term. (Seriously, "surrender"???)

    And, just as apparently, you find my argument that people's vision of the term is immovable unpersuasive. Can you say a bit about why?
  • Eric,
    I said nothing about "actor stance". None of the items I identified require actor stance to achieve.

    I don't know what you mean by disliking advocating for your character...most people fighting for their lives would tend to think that effective tactics is a good thing, so I'm not sure what good tactical play that was not character advocacy would look like. You've never said "no way, Geoffrey The Dark would never agree to that, he'd be totally hosed..." or the like when you play?

    That said, if you play all of your games treating your character with the same level of personality and identification that you would a chess piece...then no, I'd say you weren't roleplaying in those situations even if you were using rules that would typically be called a roleplaying game. But I'd be surprised if you said that you actually play that way...
  • Mike, I meant "surrender the term RPG".

    If we start calling the fringe games we play "Story Games" and intentially avoid calling them "RPGs" because a bunch of people refuse to accept that they're RPG's...then we've surrendered the term RPG to those people.

    Using the term Story Games as a signal of a particular play experience you can expect from this kind of RPG vs. some other kind of RPG is useful. Using the term "Story Now" for that purpose is also useful. Using the term "Story Game" or "Story Now" as a way to avoid the issue, I consider capitulation, yes.

    That's what I meant. I'm not sure by your question if that's what you understood me to mean.
  • Heh.

    All these posts that keep popping up keep reminding me I should write that blog post on RPGs and Story Games.
    Maybe next weekend, going to write a post about competition this week.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: ValamirMike, I meant "surrender the term RPG".

    If we start calling the fringe games we play "Story Games" and intentially avoid calling them "RPGs" because a bunch of people refuse to accept that they're RPG's...then we've surrendered the term RPG to those people.

    Using the term Story Games as a signal of a particular play experience you can expect from this kind of RPG vs. some other kind of RPG is useful. Using the term "Story Now" for that purpose is also useful. Using the term "Story Game" or "Story Now" as a way to avoid the issue, I consider capitulation, yes.

    That's what I meant. I'm not sure by your question if that's what you understood me to mean.
    That's how I understood you, yes. If we "surrender" the term RPG to people who insist that things that don't match the experience they expect from the term RPG are not RPGs, then... what have we lost? Nothing but confusion and hard feelings, two things we don't need.

    Broadening the definition of story game beyond the "brand" it has already started to develop will accomplish the opposite of "avoiding the issue;" it will avoid making an issue of the fact that in the coming years we're going to get still more forms of story games that we haven't imagined, and their audiences are going to have significant overlap with the audience for what we now think of as story games. In other words, we can still avoid making with "story game" the mistake we made with "role-playing game:" giving a very general name to a comparatively specific experience.
  • ah, ok, I see where you're coming from.

    Yeah...I have some pretty strong negative reactions to that approach...I'm not sure I can effectively articulate them at this point, however. I'll give it some thought.
  • Posted By: MarcoPeople have called all kinds of things not-RPGs (or !RPGs if you prefer).Capes,My Life With Master, and, weirdlyDogs in the Vineyard(which is odd because it's totally a traditional RPG). Story-Games shuts that nonsense down (intentionally or not, who cares).
    Yes.
    Posted By: Jonathan Walton
    PEOPLE:We don't have a term for all these weird indie games. Both World of Synnibar and 1001 Nights are indie games. WTF? How will we ever distinguish the hippy stuff from the grognard stuff?

    ANDY:Doo doo doo. I'm going to start a forum called "Story Games" were we can casually talk about all kind of stuff that might or might not be RPGs.

    SG FORUM USERS:Dirty hippy game stuff! D20 sucks! Brain damage!

    PEOPLE:Hey, all those people on Story Games talk about dirty hippie indie games all the time. Clearly that's what "story games" means; games that are about thestory.

    SG FORUM USERS:4e rocks! Githyaki 4ever! Man, you know what's awesome? Killing things and taking their stuff.

    PEOPLE:WTF? Why are you on SG?
    Actually, the first part (the one Before "ANDY") goes like this:

    Some Random Folks on RPGNet: "Clearly My Life With Master is not a roleplaying game, because in a role-playing game you are not supposed to have an "endgame". The very definition of RPG is that the game can go on for as long as you want to play it. Also, Capes isn't an RPG, because there's no GM, and a GM is absolutely necessary for gaming. Also, Game X is too focused to be an RPG, because there are no rules for radiation, encumberance, drowning or falling, because a role-playing game absolutely requires rules for those sorts of events. Or games with rules about how you feel, because that is the purview of the player, and don't you dare tell me what my character is supposed to feel! Now, I'm not saying that those games are BAD, but they're CLEARLY not role-playing games."
    (to which I drive a pencil into my template, because my definition of Role-Playing Game is "One must Play a Role" (that is, 'act it out'), and fuck all that other shit.)

    Clinton, on some blog way back when, says:

    CLINTON: "LOL, Shit, I guess I'll call those games Story Games or someshit."

    ANDY: ". . . niiiiiiice name!"

    ANDY then promptly registers the domain story-games.com, fully intending to use it as - can you guess? - a company name/label for when I eventually release a few RPGs that I'd been tooling around with (note: still tooling, 3 years later, but I'm more interested in playing than tooling these days).
    A few months pass...
    A few more...
    Then, I decide that I want to create a new private/low-key forum to bullshit about all RPGs, but focusing on play, play techniques, and those hippie crazy games that aren't talked about on other forums (and being heavily inspired by the Forge Birthday Forum, which I loved a lot: Talking about the games, not just design). Having no other ideas for a name, my tooling RPG projects in a state of "never gonna be released at this rate", and having that spare domain name, I decided to basically attach that forum to this domain name, and blat: Story-Games.com (the forum) was invented.

    Then the rest of the dialog continues as-is, above.

    Since I created the domain, I've tried to sum up what I mean by Story-Games, but honestly, every definition I've thought of was either exclusionary, or transient... and all my definitions were like as if writing with water on a sheet of glass. So I kinda gave up. Somewhere I said "an RPG which focuses on 'our story' over 'my character', and while I feel that may be closest, it really - heh - doesn't seperate them from RPGs. Most RPGs as is focus on My Character. But guess what, put a little elbow grease into anything from L5R (which I'm doing now, S-G Style-e) to HERO to GURPS to D&D, and you can play it from the ground up of "Story (Setting/Background/The Conflict) First, then we make up our Characters". Like, with no work at all, really, just need to look at it from a new angle.

    If anything, I'd call it a way of looking at playing your game rather than a "class" of game, a very simple twist in the way you address the game as a whole, that takes no coercion of trad players or even hippie-mechanics.

    But they're a subset (that is "all of") RPGs. If there was a Venn Diagram, what I consider RPGs would fall exactly on top of what I consider Story Games (or potential story games or whatever).

    For me, personally? Story Games, the word, is the name of this site where we bullshit about interesting ways to play RPGs, any RPG. WIth, yeah, a nod, wink and some focus to both the New Hotness (in all forms, see games when they first come out, like "4e"; IAWA; Red Box Hack; etc) and what I refer to as "Hippie Games" ("There's no strength or damage, instead I roll my ennui and do depression damage, and move tokens around on a board-gamey board as the story progresses").

    -Andy
  • edited June 2008
    I disagree with giving names as "Brands", it might be the most practical thing, but I dislike it, and see it as a continuing sickness.

    Andy, wait for my post, but I'm the other way around. In 99% of the cases, I can say "All RPGs are Story Games, not all Story Games are RPGs".

    I'm exclusionary about what RPGs are, but it's ok, since I provide a new inclusionary term*.

    * The term is not new, its inclusionary usage is.
  • edited June 2008
    Can't believe nobody mentioned Arkham Horror yet...

    Edit: ...well, that is, if anyone is still thinking about that question.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyCan't believe nobody mentioned Arkham Horror yet...
    I love Arkham Horror!
    But... which question?
    Oh wait, you meant the one in the title of this thread?
    Ummm... No, I think. You could do a lot of focus on story in AH, I suppose, but when I play it it doesn't really happen. It could be a fun exercise though, to make a running narrative about what the characters are doing. I've also seen some major hacks/mods to the game to make it more investigative that I thought looked interesting, but I've never tried them.
  • JD: AH fails the second clause - stuff you make up can't influence gameplay (by the packaged rules). (Once Upon a Time fails it too.)

    Andy K: I am so, so sorry.
  • Sort of surprised nobody's mentioned Lexicon yet. I've seen more than a few instances where the 'academicians' conceit was minimized or even completely eliminated, amputating the game's vermiform appendix of RPG-ness and making it strictly a collecting world/history-building exercise...
  • Ralph, why do you think that the name "rpg" is worth salvaging? Does it have any value anymore?

    I don't know if the WotC changed his marketing in the last years, but I remember that when they published D&D 3.0 it was not called "a role-playing game" (I think it was called an "adventure games" but i am not sure, I was already completely disinterested in D&D). The brand was "D&D", not "rpgs". And the "battle" to avoid losing the name to computer games is already lost. They are the "role-playing games", and ours are the "tabletop role-playing games". Even if most of the new games don't need a tabletop or a table to be played at all.

    There is money, recognition, respect, in the "rpg" brand, or something of value? Or it's something that has now even negative connotations for most of the potential market?

    I mean, I don't contest using "rpgs" here, to talk in a forum, to talk about these games. I doubt its value as a brand.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: fnord3125Youcoulddo a lot of focus on story in AH, I suppose, but when I play it it doesn't really happen.
    Sure. I don't think there's anything wrong with me saying "We played a story game, Arkham Horror" even if when you or others play it, it's not a story game.

    There is no there there.

    Edit: Second clause? Second clause of what? Did I sign a contract without looking at it again? Was this part of some credit card application fine print that I didn't read that there was some clause that I had to adhere to when I talked about stories and games?
  • Posted By: JDCorley
    Edit: Second clause? Second clause of what? Did I sign a contract without looking at it again? Was this part of some credit card application fine print that I didn't read that there was some clause that I had to adhere to when I talked about stories and games?
    No no, just this thing. Two proposed clauses: one about how you make stuff up, and a second about how that stuff then impacts rules interactions.
  • Oh. Well, I clearly don't believe in that or agree with it.
  • A thought I'm having, which probably goes nowhere:

    A roleplaying game is a story game in which conventions and techniques for how players' contributions to the fiction are made and accepted are drawn in whole or in substantial part from the skirmish-wargaming tradition.

    As I say, probably a non-starter. But, note all the things it doesn't say. For instance, it doesn't say, 'a roleplaying game is a wargame.' Like, at all.
  • Mike, I have a problem with that; it's based only on history, and has no substantive content/definition in it.
  • Posted By: Thunder_GodMike, I have a problem with that; it's based only on history, and has no substantive content/definition in it.
    Yeah, it's kind of a trick. It would be nice to get away with it, though; I mean, people know history. At least, the people who care about RPG being defined have a tendency to know history. And it nicely lets people know what's important while letting them choose for themselves exactly what's important, and self-select their game in or out of the definition.
    Posted By: Filip LuszczykActually, this sounds more like D&D/d20 and their kin to me, the status of which as "RPGs" is often contested by people. The kind of games that people identify as "role-playing games" without arguing tend to be of the BRP branch (or whichever game was the first to introduce a heavier focus on the simulation of "living in the world" and role-playing than wargaming stuff,
    As much as I have talked about being willing to leave some stuff out, one of my main goals for a definition is to apolitically match most of common parlance. In short, I am not interested in kicking out the world's #1 self-professed RPG. If we excluded everything from the definition that people "often contested," we wouldn't have anything left.
  • It's problematic while trying to hold discussions, especially of the definitive kind though.

    So I say X is/n't an RPG, you hold the opposing view, and there we are doomed to remain, heh.

    Well, actually, I'm not sure if we can escape that.

    My problem with historical definitions is that on one hand, they don't define the phenomena, it goes by "You'll know it when you see it", or, we define as X things which do not follow the heart, but only the trappings:
    Is a game with mana, health, levels, and with a resolution based on dice-randomizers, by definition, an RPG?

    If so, are we interested in all those games (that's another issue I plan to write about, do we play RPGs because we're role-players, or are we role-players because we play RPGs?), or not truly, which is what I posit?
  • edited June 2008
    "Game" is a big fuzzy word that has all kinds of grey areas at the borders.

    It does not bother or surprise me that "role-playing game" does too.
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