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Old school vs. New school


Gamer Talk

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Osirion

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Brian E. Harris wrote:

...*this* particular game D&D 3E/3.5 or PF) is not really one that needs or benefits from "shared narrative" or similar concepts as a base expectation. The GM is the narrator. Players influence the game world through their PC's actions, not through shared narration. That's a concept that's typically best left in the games that spawned it.

It's not an issue of GM control, it's an issue of what kind of game one wants to play. When I'm playing 3E/3.5/PF, I don't have any desire to share control of the game world with the GM, outside of the occasional running an NPC.

This could actually be two topics; one being sharing work on the world creation, the second being sharing the adjudication of actions during play.

One could be in favour of the former, while being wary of the latter.

This doesn't have to involve demanding equal shares in the credit, but could be as simple as a player collaborating on writing a workable knightly code for their PC, drawing a home village, providing artwork for fellow PCs or allied NPCs, providing a list of evocative nicknames for the other members of their thieves' guild, etc.

I don't see any of that as 'stepping on the GM's toes'; rather it's 'helping your friend with the workload, to enable him to concentrate on creating a more awesome campaign'.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Snorter wrote:
I don't see any of that as 'stepping on the GM's toes'; rather it's 'helping your friend with the workload, to enable him to concentrate on creating a more awesome campaign'.

Unless this extra stuff is not asked for. Then it could possibly be "stepping on the GM's toes"...

I mean, (to use just your examples alone) the campaign setting might already have knightly codes, maps of the places where the characters are from, and/or a fairly detailed thieves guild...

Personally, I don't mind a player coming to me with ideas like these. But I do require that the players come to me first with any ideas they may have, so that we can both work together in order to make them fit within the framework of my setting as opposed to taking it upon themselves to just do it and then expect me to somehow shoehorn their idea(s) into my pre-established campaign...


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I just wanted to point out something about the idea of a shared narrative. Just because players aren't "behind the scenes" helping to direct where the story goes, doesn't mean they aren't absolutely sharing in the shaping of a narrative. They shape the narrative based off of their characters' actions. Did your half-orc barbarian just crit and decapitate a notorious and long-fought NPC? Guess what, you just helped shape the narrative. The player characters help tell the story based on what they do. This works, to a lesser extent, but still works, even in published modules. You reach a fork in a dungeon with passages in every direction. Which direction the party chooses to go shapes the narrative. Do they go into the room with the spike-trap? The room full of sleeping kobolds? The room with the BBEG? etc. You get the point. Many groups write up adventure logs after a session. Those logs are the narrative that everyone at the table just helped create. If the GM just wrote the adventure log before hand and every encounter had to fit neatly into his/her predetermined plan, there wouldn't be any point to the game.

So, a shared narrative doesn't mean indie story-telling focused game play. It just means everyone at the table has a hand in shaping the story, which, of course they must, as their character's actions affect the outcome.


In a broad sense, this is true, but that isn't what the term means in an RPG design sense.

In Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, it is explicitly in rules that a player narrates the results of their actions, success or failure (if two PC's roll against each other, the one that fails gets to describe it).

That means the player declares what they're trying to do. The GM sets the difficulty. The player rolls, then describes what that roll means to the story. The GM gets to help, add stuff, remind the player of things that have already happen (if there's going to be a contradiction) and the like, but it's the players decision.

That is what 'shared narrative' looks like in the rules.

An example: The PC is giving an impassioned speech at court, before the king. He's trying to convince the king to take up some cause dear to the PC. He flubs the roll. The player describes that his character is giving this great speech, everyone in the hall, including the king, is enthralled. As he finishes, the king gets up and seems about ready to agree, when an crossbow bolt suddenly protrudes from his neck, killing him.

Just because the GM didn't PLAN on killing the king is not enough to veto the result. The player did not get what they wanted, in fact they're probably going to be accused of being in league with the assassin (fits a flubbed roll).

I understand, not every game is supposed to be like that. Nor does everyone want to play like that.

A major benefit though, it takes a lot less GM prep prior to the session. Instead the GM should focus on their RP skills and being quick on their feet to react to what the players say. You also don't need all the answers. When you don't have one, you just turn to the players and ask them "Why do you think....?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Irontruth wrote:
...that isn't what the term means in an RPG design sense.

Just because one publisher implements "shared narrative" in one way does not necessarily invalidate how other publishers might facilitate such gameplay. That would be like an extremist member of a political party trying to shoe-horn their party's more moderate members into advocating their views as party dogma.

Also, that gameplay example really bothers me. I disagree that ability for one player to "flip the table" without veto as being the defining characteristic of shared narrative design. For example, Mage the Ascension strikes me as very much a shared narrative design, and it's certainly possible for unreasonable actions to be vetoed there.


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Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Players playing their characters and influencing the game world by their character's action is not an example of shared narrative.

Players having any measure of narrative control of the game world outside of their character's actions is.

In the example above, the player describing how their speech has enthralled everyone? That's the player utilizing narrative control.

A player without narrative control doesn't get to describe the effects the speech has on anyone other than his character.


Laithoron wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
...that isn't what the term means in an RPG design sense.

Just because one publisher implements "shared narrative" in one way does not necessarily invalidate how other publishers might facilitate such gameplay. That would be like an extremist member of a political party trying to shoe-horn their party's more moderate members into advocating their views as party dogma.

Also, that gameplay example really bothers me. I disagree that ability for one player to "flip the table" without veto as being the defining characteristic of shared narrative design. For example, Mage the Ascension strikes me as very much a shared narrative design, and it's certainly possible for unreasonable actions to be vetoed there.

The broad definition that I responded too was so broad as to render the term useless in terms of roleplaying games. It makes ALL RPGs shared narrative, and we already have a term for that category, it's 'RPGs'. If we're going to have a term, it should be useful.

As for the example, those are the rules of S7S. Not everyone likes that style of game, and I understand why. I enjoy it, it's a blast for me to run as a GM, because I have as much of an idea of what will happen in a session as the players. I also enjoy playing it as well. It's a very different style to say a PF AP, which I can have fun playing as well.


Irontruth wrote:
It makes ALL RPGs shared narrative...

Which was exactly my point. I understand that from a game design point of view "shared narrative" means something completely different. What I was trying to point out, was that any game where people are playing the roles of characters in a story is, by design, a shared narrative. Does the player actually get to forcefully enact their will upon the story? Perhaps not, but they sure as heck get to decide what their character does, and then the rules decide the outcome of those choices. Any game where people are sitting around with the object of telling a story, in which the outcome of the story is not predetermined by one mind, is a shared narrative, in the dictionary sense of those words.

Core Rulebook page 8 wrote:
Think of it as a cooperative storytelling game, where the players play the protagonists and the Game Master acts as the narrator, controlling the rest of the world. If you are a player, you make all of the decisions for your character, from what abilities your character has to the type of weapon he carries. Playing a character, however, is more than just following the rules in this book. You also decide your character’s personality. Is he a noble knight, set on vanquishing a powerful evil, or is he a conniving rogue who cares more about gold than glory? The choice is up to you.

The players have made choices that affect the story. They've shared in shaping the narrative.


MendedWall12 wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
It makes ALL RPGs shared narrative...

Which was exactly my point. I understand that from a game design point of view "shared narrative" means something completely different. What I was trying to point out, was that any game where people are playing the roles of characters in a story is, by design, a shared narrative. Does the player actually get to forcefully enact their will upon the story? Perhaps not, but they sure as heck get to decide what their character does, and then the rules decide the outcome of those choices. Any game where people are sitting around with the object of telling a story, in which the outcome of the story is not predetermined by one mind, is a shared narrative, in the dictionary sense of those words.

Core Rulebook page 8 wrote:
Think of it as a cooperative storytelling game, where the players play the protagonists and the Game Master acts as the narrator, controlling the rest of the world. If you are a player, you make all of the decisions for your character, from what abilities your character has to the type of weapon he carries. Playing a character, however, is more than just following the rules in this book. You also decide your character’s personality. Is he a noble knight, set on vanquishing a powerful evil, or is he a conniving rogue who cares more about gold than glory? The choice is up to you.
The players have made choices that affect the story. They've shared in shaping the narrative.

But that isn't what shared narrative means in RPGs and acting as if it does is disingenuous. By the same token, a movie is a shared narrative, because your own perceptions of reality color how you experience the film, making it interactive, because no two people experience it the same way.

This watering down of terms does not enable us to communicate effectively about the different types of games.

There exists a term for what your are describing, it's called roleplaying game.

A shared narrative game is different from the standard assumptions of a D&D style game. If you don't believe me, go download the free version of Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies and read it. The rules explicitly divide narrative control between players and GM differently than PF. We need a term that is useful to describe such games.

I agree, in a normal PF there is a shared story going on, everyone is participating. But the phrase "shared narrative" does not describe the rules of PF.


Irontruth I completely understand, and agree with you. My irritation comes from the term and its application. I'd like a better term than shared narrative, because, as we've both said, any role playing game has an element of a narrative that is shared by all participants. There needs to be a better terminology for the ability of a player to actually direct the world through open-ended narration. Finding that term and getting the entire RPG community to use it at this point is futile of course. That's just one of those things that sticks in my craw, so to speak. You are absolutely correct, and I did not mean to be disingenuous. I meant only to point at that that term, taken purely technically, does not mean exactly what it is used to mean when talking about game design.


You can find just about any piece of terminology and find someone whose craw it sticks in.


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Brian E. Harris wrote:

In the example above, the player describing how their speech has enthralled everyone? That's the player utilizing narrative control.

A player without narrative control doesn't get to describe the effects the speech has on anyone other than his character.

In the above example the player didn't just describe the effects their speech had though. Instead they killed off someone else's character (the GM's) by failing a Diplomacy check. IMO that's not roleplaying the effects of your speech, it's flipping over the table because you didn't get your way.

Example wrote:

Eric: Well, after rolling yet another natural 1, Lureene fails her sense motive roll SO HARD that Amhranai and Darvesch's heads explode... literally.

Me: Wait, that's not describing the effects of your–

Eric: No veto!

Me: *sigh*

Jason: Darvesch spontaneously returns as a ghost and chokes the ever-living hell out of Lureene.

Rob: Chunks from Amhranai's exploding skull tear through the great hall, shredding everyone in sight, leaving the entirety of the chamber a bloody massacre, and the nation's aristocracy in shambles.

Me: ... Screw you all, I'm going home.

Cam: Wait, what just happened? O_o;

"Shared Narrative" in the RPG design sense doesn't necessarily HAVE to equate to allowing players the ability to break the world for the other people at the table. Can it? Yes, absolutely! However it seems like the term is getting a bit too much baggage attached to it which is complicating communication. After all, some of us have been using that term for years whereas yesterday was the first time I'd heard of such an extreme implementation.

At any rate, this probably deserves its own separate topic if you want people to comment who wouldn't otherwise have reason to care about an old vs new school discussion.


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I never realized how polarized people can be over the definition of a term few people even use...


Laithoron wrote:
Brian E. Harris wrote:

In the example above, the player describing how their speech has enthralled everyone? That's the player utilizing narrative control.

A player without narrative control doesn't get to describe the effects the speech has on anyone other than his character.

In the above example the player didn't just describe the effects their speech had though. Instead they killed off someone else's character (the GM's) by failing a Diplomacy check. IMO that's not roleplaying the effects of your speech, it's flipping over the table because you didn't get your way.

Considering it happened in a session I played in, I disagree with you. We all had a good time and it opened an unexpected plot for us.

That's why it's a very different style of game, because doing something like that isn't considered throwing a fit. We go into the game knowing this kind of stuff can happen. There are limits and rules for what you can and can't do. If you don't like that style of play S7S may not be the game for you.


Irontruth wrote:
You can find just about any piece of terminology and find someone whose craw it sticks in.

Very true.

Cheliax

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I think a better term for most D&D/PF games (as I have played them, and seen them played, or conveyed to me from other players/DM) is that the players have a Contributing Narrative instead of the Shared Narrative term that is being tossed around.

Shared Narrative is based on a player controling actions and events beyond his character - from actual situations to describing outcomes, while a Contributing Narrative would be what Brian and others view as the standard in most RPGS. That is, players add to and influence the story based upon their actions as input/results, which is then worked out by the DM. This could be from skill checks, RPing, etc - they contribute their actions, the DM then plays out the cause and effect/description of those actions.

To me - D&D/PF and infact most RPGs I have ever played (or wanted to play) have been structured around a Contributing Narrative playstyle.

Anyway


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Irontruth: I'll agree with you that such a game is not for everyone. I think I'd have to be in the mood to play Munchkin to enjoy such a game. On a side note, I'm never in a mood to play Munchkin. ;)

Joking aside, it just occurred to me that part of the reason I disagree with your 'design definition' is that it seems to tack the style of rules adjudication onto the descriptive style. From what you've described of S7S, it sounds like the terms 'Shared Adjudication' and 'Shared Narrative' are both required rather than presuming that 'SN' implies 'SA'.


Auxmaulous wrote:

I think a better term for most D&D/PF games (as I have played them, and seen them played, or conveyed to me from other players/DM) is that the players have a Contributing Narrative instead of the Shared Narrative term that is being tossed around.

Shared Narrative is based on a player controling actions and events beyond his character - from actual situations to describing outcomes, while a Contributing Narrative would be what Brian and others view as the standard in most RPGS. That is, players add to and influence the story based upon their actions as input/results, which is then worked out by the DM. This could be from skill checks, RPing, etc - they contribute their actions, the DM then plays out the cause and effect/description of those actions.

To me - D&D/PF and infact most RPGs I have ever played (or wanted to play) have been structured around a Contributing Narrative playstyle.

Anyway

I actually like the contributing narative term you contribute to the story.


When I teach my students about the rules of exponents, one of them is the 0 power rule.

x^0 = 1 (x cannot be 0)

And someone says, "That doesn't make sense!"

I understand perfectly that to that person it is not intuitive of a rule. Still I try to explain how the rules aren't always written so that the causal observer can say, "That is obvious." Sometimes they are written to be consistent with other rules.

For example the quotient rule. If you have x^n/x^n = x^(n-n) = x^0 = 1, which exactly what you should get if you have x^n/x^n = 1 (x cannot be 0).

The whole "shared narrative", just reminds me of that. Just because it may not seem as if should be applied so strictly, remember the terminology isn't suppose to be for the causal non-gamer to make sense of.

Osirion

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Snorter wrote:
I don't see any of that as 'stepping on the GM's toes'; rather it's 'helping your friend with the workload, to enable him to concentrate on creating a more awesome campaign'.
Digitalelf wrote:

Unless this extra stuff is not asked for. Then it could possibly be "stepping on the GM's toes"...

I mean, (to use just your examples alone) the campaign setting might already have knightly codes, maps of the places where the characters are from, and/or a fairly detailed thieves guild...

I'd always ask, because I've no incentive to do work that won't be used, and I'd want to know if the GM has any idiosyncratic setting elements I'd need to account for.

There's also a good chance that the setting doesn't already have those elements*, but the GM hasn't asked the players for their help, over-estimating their ability to deal with everything personally, not being able to admit they can't do it all alone, incorrectly believing it to be a sign of failure.

Turning down help from the players just seems like masochism to me, a means to guilt-trip the players into staying, because 'look at all the work I did'.
Like the host who invites half the world to Christmas dinner, refuses to allow anyone else in the kitchen, refuses to allow anyone to bring a dish, then has a meltdown, because of all the work the ungrateful guests 'made' her do.
(And God help you, if anyone suggests that, this year, let's go eat out, because not asking her to do it means you don't appreciate her, either...<roll eyes>)

I've witnessed that nonsense, and it has meant me turning down some invitations, because I don't see why I should deal with the self-inflicted drama.
Same goes for gaming invites from overprotective GMs. Sure, we get it, it's your masterpiece, it has to be perfect.
But playing in such a world would be like going to a friend's house where their parents haven't taken the plastic off the furniture, and they follow you round with a dustpan and rubber gloves.

*See every 'problem paladin' thread, ever, which inevitably prove to be a case of the player and GM having never agreed on a workable Code of Conduct, or in most cases, never having even discussed it, or even considered it a matter that needed to be discussed. After all, "It's obvious how he should behave, right? I've never told the player what his code is, I've never written it down anywhere, but he should just KNOW!"

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