It’s Long, Get Some Coffee

A day or two ago a friend​ posted a link to an article from a um… very conventional tabletop roleplaying blog, let’s say, about this amazing idea they ran into of treating the narration in their game as if it were on film. It was a charming reminder of how big the gaps are getting between fandoms, that’s for sure.

Mark’s angle, because he’s #indieaf, went the opposite direction (let me know if I’m being uncharitable here, Mark!): that modern gameplay had become so completely dependent on the game-as-show metaphor that other approaches to getting everyone on the same page at the table were going unused. Unexamined. Forgotten. It was like the bizarro-universe version of that conventional ttrpg blog.

Anyway, in that thread I doodled out a very quick list of specifically filmic methods I’ve used, personally, to make a game feel more show-like. The point of this post isn’t the list but here it is anyway, so you know what I’m talking about:

  • camera angles
  • panning
  • zooming in/out
  • fading in/out
  • smash cuts
  • montages (training or otherwise)
  • the “set piece” (I first saw mention of this in Feng Shui, one of the first explicitly filmic games I can think of, I think after Theatrix)
  • specifying scene elements as thematically important
  • cutting a scene
  • second unit footage (landscapes that set the tone and convey setting assumptions, but not protagonists or plot)
  • referencing soundtrack comments (scary tense music, the swelling theme, drum beats, your own heartbeat)
  • the very notion of “screen time” as a persistent metaphor
  • slo-mo
  • handheld versus steadicam versus Michael Bay 360 shot (and other ways one might handle a camera and what is implied by them)

So this approach, it’s a continuum, right? If you don’t really go that deep into the actual metaphor of film, and just describe things in a maybe elevated or authorial way, well, that’s already much different than a DM moving painted figures around on crafted 3D terrain. I’m not implying one must go all-in to treat your game like a show. I’m also saying if you don’t use any of these tricks, then I think what you’re left with is generic play-the-day “how you roleplay” type default roleplaying.

(This is in no way an invitation to get into a definition war. God damn it! Fight the urge, friends. Fight it.)

But what really got me thinking about other structurally purposeful ways of synchronizing the shared imaginary space. The SIS is the core killer app of tabletop roleplaying, yeah? But it seems weird, to me, that we haven’t really poked at this very much. I mean other than the language of television and movies, which has marinated so much of indie gaming that lots of folks aren’t even aware of other approaches. There’s an age/experience component to that as well. And it’s a point of friction between OSR types and storygamer types when either camp declares their way is “better.”

Like, say you wanted a game to borrow instead from novels, right? I mean chapters, scenes, narrow rules about point-of-view. Heck, you could get quite avant-garde if you wanted: what would a game play like if it was emulating House of Leaves? There’s some physical-handling stuff that House of Leaves pulls that one simply could not replicate exactly. But I’ll bet you could get close.

But even without avant-garde trickery, there are still fundamentals of novel writing I think one could apply:

  • Point of view rules: I could totally see the GM having to work in the constraint of third-person limited (or hell, omniscient, which violates all kinds of conventional RPG nonos but maaaaybeee the right game could pull it off). The players could have different rules, equally constrained. First person omniscient is the obvious choice. But you could experimentally pass around second-person limited as well.
  • Scene breaks that feel different than cutaways on a show. The written word is generally not able to be as dynamic as visual media, yeah? So how might one narrate a novelic scene break? Probably more time spent explicating emotional stakes so you can have not-literal cliffhangers indicate the break.
  • Chapters and Parts. Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine does the chapter thing, not really sure if that’s just a handy shorthand or if the game is trying to feel like how a novel is structured. It might actually be, especially given the pre-made character arc elements.
  • Setting dumps. Setting dumps! Yes! Where someone just tells and doesn’t show and you have to absorb a bunch of maybe-useful stuff fast. Rules be damned, even good writers do this. It’s not just bad genre writing.
  • Internal monologues. Michael Miller​ reminded me that With Great Power has physical thought bubble props, perfect for comics. Sometimes I’ll ask players to narrate their internal monologues, particularly in games where we need to externalize internal material: moldbreaker moments in Burning Wheel for example.

The other part of running and playing a game in a consciously novelic way would be avoiding other metaphors. Like film. Although, yeah, lots of novels use film language now.

Other storytelling media: stage plays. Radio plays. Actual written-by-vikings sagas. Oh god, musicals. How how how could we get songs that are both beautiful and convey new material about the characters or plot?

Now, I’m first in line when it comes to treating RPGs as unique and not derivative. But the arts have always, always shared among themselves.

0 thoughts on “SISyncronization”

  1. Super busy today. Just wanted to note Extreme Vengeance as another 1996 era game that is probably more filmic than Theatrix or Feng Shui!

    Also, Puppetland does 1st person/3rd person to get a storybook feel.

    Baron Muchausen does, well, Baron Munchausen.

  2. Well, if you’re going for a literary instead of a visual presentation, the main thing that jumps out to me is using metaphor and abstraction in a way that film doesn’t. “The weighty years of compromise weigh him down as he approaches”. That kind of thing.

  3. We used to call the film techniques “cinematic” roleplaying, yeah? Is it really super pervasive in indie circles? I feel like I only rarely encounter play that strays far from the PCs’ perspective. Things often feel very first-person, in my experience.

  4. It doesn’t help separate rpg sessions from film, but I’ve shorthand-described scenes in my games before as “Michael Bay sunset” or “Michael Mann dead of night”. I’m not sure I could break away from mentally “casting” characters, either. I’ll be reading a novel and I’ll still be casting the characters. Maybe it’s more prevalent for visual learners, which I’m pretty sure I am.

  5. In other news, yes, it’s hilarious to see tabletop RPG streamers getting really full of themselves for discovering what we already knew in 1990, but isn’t that more of an indictment of us than of them? Won’t there be a new generation of D&D players in 20 years discovering the same things with the same jaw-dropping gasps?

  6. Doesn’t Don’t Walk in Winter Wood require everyone to speak in the third person, so that it sounds like a fairy tale being recited? I don’t own the text, unfortunately.

  7. There’s a thing, I believe Vincent Baker mentioned in In A Wicked Age, about giving your narrator an in-world voice. So where you might want to say “there’s a man at the front of the school, teach the children” you might instead say “where you expect a woman, instead you find a MAN doing the feminine work of teaching the children”.

    This is a very literary technique, as it’s not a thing you can get across with filmic language (without exposition dialog). I think it’s pretty similar to Jason Corley’s point

  8. I remember seeing an actual play of “Fall of Magic” posted by Ross Cowman and being struck by how very, very different the style of roleplaying in that session was from what I typically do/see. It was very verbally instead of visually oriented, lots of description of internal thoughts, each player almost languidly describing their actions as well as the scenery around them. After reading your post, Paul Beakley, I think the difference can be explained by my play having a much more filmic quality, while theirs was much more like prose or even poetic written fiction. They were much more literally indulging in “collaborative storytelling” then is common in my circles.

    I think “Fall of Magic” was very informed as a design by that style of play, it forces that style upon you to some extent.

  9. Brand Robins constant reminders are good! I keep fooling myself into thinking any game I might ever write will be run the same way by everyone everywhere. How foolish.

    And I’m 100% sure there are little groups of lit-crit gamer nerds out there who figured out a whole different body of techniques. That nobody will ever see.

  10. I have come around to how useful it is to describe your character’s thoughts (and sometimes explicitly call out their motivations and stuff), which is something you get in novels but less so in film, unless there’s a narrator or internal monologue. It lets you be a better member of the table IMO, because your fellow players and GM have a much easier time knowing what you want to emphasize and how they can pick up the ball and run with it.

  11. I feel like many of these novel-like techniques are basically how everybody described things before the idea of using screenwriting terms came about.

    I mean, isn’t trad D&D full of info dumps?

  12. Mark Delsing dunno. Our setting dumps were usually documents you had to read before you came to the first session. Or short stories the DM had to read and ignore, but still be able to acknowledge that they’d read them.

    Other than the setting dump I recall nothing feeling especially “like a novel.”

  13. Adam Schwaninger oh man absolutely. I know this stuff chafes the crowd that prioritizes you-are-there type immersion (I know, many definitions, no fighting or I’ll turn this car around) but once you’ve gotten over the fear/trust stuff that the facilitator lives to fuck you over, it’s so essential.

  14. I think those are all interesting. But interesting as a side experiment.

    I don’t think the reason for the reliance on TV or film tropes in RPGs is a generational or technology thing. I think it’s a best fit thing. Which is also why there’s an increase in CRPG tropes in games.

    Plays are different from movies primarily because of the active presence and involvement of an audience. Many of the standard tropes of plays…aside from technological limitations, evolved because of the need to be seen and heard by people present. Unless you are playing an RPG to a live in studio audience any recreation of these tropes will be interesting…but not needed.

    Similarly, novels have a different function. I would argue that novels which would be good fits for RPGs are also those that tend to be good fits for movies. The kind of novels they forced us to read in High School English class…not so much. Literary novels aren’t really about characters doing things. In literary novels characters doing things are just the vehicle used to deliver whatever the message of the novel is. RPGs are about characters doing things…so again, interesting experiment, but not a natural fit.

    Movies and TV by contrast are a natural fit. Leaving the edgy Avant guarde stuff aside, they are always about characters doing things. And aside from the occasional voice over, the lack of a narrator means that information about stuff gets conveyed via those characters and what they do…exactly like an RPG.

    TV and movies are also a highly visual medium. I would argue that TTRPGs are a highly visual medium too. It’s just the screen is the inside of our forheads (so to speak). I know I’m certainly visualising the action theater of the mind style when I play. And there’s a reason why RPG art, and wonderful maps, and fancy minis play such a big role in the hobby…to provide common touch points for that visualization.

    It’s thus pretty natural to start guiding those visuals off characters doing things using the tropes of characters doing things in TV and movies…because that’s the best most natural fit.

    Maybe comic books were initially a better more natural fit…in the days before cable TV and multiplexes perhaps comics were a larger more ubiquitous touch point to draw from. Not surprisingly comic books are also about characters doing things with limited space for non character narration. But today…if you’re playing a game about characters doing things…it’s film.

  15. As you mentioned, I was having a very similar conversation over on Masto with Kira Magrann. I wanted to copy what I said there:

    Like, you can’t really do anything but sound and pictures in film, right? But with text (or spoken words) you can directly describe and ascribe internal states (“You feel butterflies in your stomach”), you can editorialize (“Yeah, this guy’s a jerk” etc), you can use other senses (“The smell of fresh bread permeates the house”).

  16. Have you tried Puppetland? It mimics the narrative style of a children’s story by limiting the GM to speaking in the voice of the story’s narrator, and the players to talking in the voice of their puppet, with no description or narration.

    Sally’s Player: “Quickly! We’d better run out through the black door!”
    GM: “Sally ran for the black door but just as she reached it it burst open from the other side…”

    I didn’t realise how hidebound I was to a particular style of description until I tried to maintain the Puppetland rules for an – Puppetland

  17. Ralph Mazza all fair points. Totally fair. And I agree, I’m mostly spitballing and yeah, anything that isn’t visual storytelling is necessarily a throwback.

    Shit man, why are RPGs not played more like Youtube videos? Who has the attention span to sit through a whole movie?

  18. Ralph Mazza The kind of novels they forced us to read in High School English class…not so much.

    I take it you won’t be backing the upcoming Jane Austen RPG. 😇

  19. Steven Hanlon hidebound is a great word. I think that was the thing Mark Delsing was getting at. Like, as a practical matter I’m sure we develop best practices that are comfortable and convenient in terms of cognitive load, but that probably is the flipside to “hidebound.”

    Messing around with your own best practices on purpose is probably only interesting to a teeeeny subset of players. Like a small percentage of folks who spend their time reading shit on Plus, which is a small percentage of everyone online.

    So like 8 or 10 of us.

  20. I love the potential for rpgs to be film or tv like. It’s one of the prime storytelling media we have, right? Video games are catching up fast tho. Do ttrpgs emulate video games now? HMMMMM yea but the gap in info and experimentation and the continuous loop of doing the same things over and over again in ttrpgs is sad i wish we had better more accessible documentation.

  21. Apologies if I did not come off as playing nice; my intent was just playfulness.

    I disagree with Ralph’s assertion that literary novels are not a natural fit for RPGs, and the implicit assumption that screenwriting techniques are a natural fit. I think there are already RPGs that challenge this idea, and have been for a while now.

    Granted, the phrase “natural fit” might be hard to argue; it’s possible that any media with active protagonists that focus on external drama is better served by most RPGs. The first RPGs — despite citing prose almost exclusively as inspiration — are very much about stuff that is happening right now and what are you going to do about it and we’ll follow you moment-by-moment as we go. No reflection, no inner monologue… and no scene breaks or smash-cuts or 360 panning.

    Humanity has been telling stories with just words far longer than they have been with cameras. It seems strange to me that we’d think all of those techniques are unsuitable for a medium (RPGs) that is essentially about narrative.

  22. Jumping back to Hans Messersmith’s point, does using this filmic way of describing the narrative draw our focus to things that film describes well i.e. Ralph Mazza’s people doing things? Might we start to feel like we aren’t allowed to give a bit of side description about what’s going on in our characters’ inner worlds? That’s when it becomes a limitation.

  23. Ah! But I’m getting a super interesting counterpoint in sidebar.

    So in film and books, we are fundamentally outside the experience. We’re watching characters do things. Doing things might be advancing a plot, or it might be a way to illustrate the emotional arc of the character.

    Novels are better at the internal stuff because you can have monologues, or omniscient points of view. Movies also, obviously, can and frequently offer character development as the main emphasis, the reason we’re consuming the experience. So I’m not talking about whether a movie can be character-driven or if a novel can be plot-driven. They can be both. Duh.

    But! So we have an RPG, yeah? And I think we have a similar (oversimplified) kind of split. There are plot-driven ttrpgs: can you solve the problem, beat the monster, save the world? And there are character-driven ttrpgs: will the protagonist choose love over duty, will she find redemption or become a monster, etc.

    Second but! But but! We also have a whole swath of games that seek to invoke specific feels: anxiety, fear, remorse, joy maybe. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that lots of games really don’t care about player feels. But that can only happen in the RPG medium, that intersection of agency and emotional state. I’m feeling bummed out reading Station 11 right now because I’m sad for the characters. But I’m not sad for me.

    So I think it’s kind of misleading to degrade all of RPGs as “characters doing things.” I mean they are doing things, but why? Sometimes it’s to carry out a plot. Sometimes it’s to provide the player a chance to feel clever and accomplished. Sometimes doing things is to make you feel things.

  24. Much of my gaming experience has been more literary than cinematic in its style. A lot of nuanced complexity about who-knew-what-and-when, and some rather ancient epic saga-like features like repetition of important information and use of epithets (‘the wine-dark sea, ‘the rosy-fingered dawn’) that were from a classical epic/saga influence.

  25. Kira Magrann documentation of rpg design: I cannot even imagine what this would look like any more. Stick the fire hose of gaming social media in your mouth and swallow as fast as you can, and hope you don’t miss much when you come up for air.

  26. Paul Beakley​​ I concede that point. To clarify, I wasn’t intending to deny that point. Rather, for me, this is what I was referring to as “interesting experiments”.

    For the kind of RPGs where you want to get internal monologues and feels, you not only need to find players who are into internal monologues and feels…but want to experience that as a group.

    Which admittedly is a fairly common desire among the indie as fuck crowd, but pretty fringy overall. And hense, to me, interesting experiments.

    My “best fit” observations were directed more mainstream.

    Is there really an issue with modern game play being dependent on the game-as-show metaphor among indie feels games?

    I’m not aware of such, but then I thought all the indie feels folks were LARPing now anyway.

  27. Paul Beakley Okay, so this is gonna be a bit of a delve into how the Ancients rolled. Taking cues from mythology and folklore, there was more live-theater features like:

    *a chorus (of NPCs) who would explain what was happening to observers (like a setting dump, but shorter and more lyric, sometimes cryptic)
    *a prophesy or divination from an oracle that was vague or cryptic, with layers of meaning
    *a pissed off god who would deus your ex machina if you didn’t square the wrongs you committed
    *tons of people dying dramatically for gravitas
    *sometimes there’s a wedding!
    *often the wedding is a political alliance, or a threat to same
    *getting changed into animals is a real problem (see pissed off gods), and killing animals could either piss off a god, or be that one dude you used to know
    *the huge array of NPCs were referred to with epithets so you could remember them — like ‘shrewd Odysseus’
    *the geography (and nature in general) acts as a character, either helping or hindering the adventurers
    *a cosmology that is harsh, arbitrary, fickle, and bloodthirsty

  28. Oh, and the ever-favorite of hubris being the main antagonist. The adventurers are their own worst enemies, always. It makes for interesting party dynamics and decisionmaking.

  29. Lex Larson ha, those are rad, thank you.

    I was thinking through similar stuff on my secret crypto-Arthurian game, trying to explicitly capture some of the narrative weirdness you run into. Stuff like, yeah, suddenly there’s a wedding. Or you’ll be in the middle of a huge battle but it ends with “and the fair knights decimated them upon the blood soaked field,” done, no more talk, because now it’s 10 years later and a bunch of Sirs are headed out to talk to some previously unannounced villain. Or someone has a vision and everyone takes that shit super seriously and now everyone’s changing plans because someone ate some aged cheese before bed.

  30. Also, let’s not draw too bright a line. I loved Polaris, it’s one of my all time favorite game experiences. I loved Grey Ranks, it’s one of my all time favorite game experiences.

    Both are non stop punches to the feels.

    But both are also very much games about characters doing things. Neither relies on nor encourages internal monologues.

    Both are full of highly visual imagery, of the sort well suited for game-as-show imagery.

    As are, btw, all of the Jane Austen books I’m familiar with…as evidenced by the number of movies they’ve been made into…and even zombified.

    When I threw out “literary” earlier I was envisioning more Joyce or Sinclair.

    I will not be buying Ulysses the RPG.

  31. “Literary” is a big big thing, for sure. Probably meaninglessly broad.

    But who doesn’t want to play Infinite Jest World? Footnoted character sheets would be awesome.

  32. Ralph Mazza I think we need to separate “visual imagery” from “must be described using screenwriting jargon”. Part of my argument is that one doesn’t necessitate the other. You could describe a character in terms of how they’d look if van Dyck painted them, or the epithet Homer would have ascribed (as Lex Larson mentions above), etc.

    I also think “characters doing things” is maybe too wide a net. I mean, Leopold Bloom “does things” in Ulysses. And a lot of the stuff characters “do” in an Austen novel isn’t visually dynamic, yet they still adapt her work for film.

  33. Heck, think about an RPG that focused on internal monologues that required you to describe them in terms of what they looked like.

    GM: “So, Sally has just heard about the chaplain’s death. What’s she thinking?”

    Player: “Her inner landscape shifts from misty blue to a stormy blue-grey, swirling with wisps of black that flow in chaotically and then build until they form a funnel of oily tears.”

  34. (LARPS do inner monolgues pretty well! Nordic larps have a mechanic for it that calls for what’s going on in your characters head at that moment and you monologue it).

  35. Not sure if it is relevant, but I have played with a few people who instinctively play in a way that reveals their character’s internal states verbally. My eldest daughter plays this way, for example; its very important to her that the other players not only see what her character is doing, but that we also understand the characters motivations, emotions, and thought processes that are prompting the action. So she will explain them to the other players. An example bit of play: “I am really angry about this, but I don’t want the others in the group to see that anger, especially Bob over there. So instead of showing my anger, I look cool as a cucumber, but all the while raging inside.”

    I almost never do that. My character is what she does and says out loud in the fiction. When she is emotional, I only describe it in terms of what can be seen from the outside or I physically embody the internal struggle in some fashion (tone of voice, body language, etc.).

  36. Kira Magrann I also remember that the first edition of With Great Power… literally had a Thought Bubble prop in the rulebook. I had one laminated and put on the end of a stick for people to hold above their heads while playing.

  37. So now that I’m not in work meetings and don’t need to be terse… I find it hilarious that folks are talking about the feasibility of things that I do regularly in gaming. Especially folks I’ve played with! Its always amusing to be like “Oh Paul is like my brother from another mother, we game the same!” and then realize we don’t. I mean, we do — and we game well together — but there are whole constellations of things we do with our home groups that won’t ever cross over into what we do at a con together.

    Talking about gaming is always a laugh riot, especially when the line between “what I do regularly” and “what I like” and “what should be done” and “what can be done” can never be kept clear.

    A thing: when Mo and I ended our Fallen Empires: Khorosan game, the last “episode” was three five hour sessions long. One of those sessions included an entire scene that didn’t happen — a future the would never be — including the voices of the ghosts — who didn’t actually end up dying — commenting on it in sufi inspired couplets. There was another section that was a musical montage, where we saw the world through the eye of one of the characters, then went back and played it again from the outside to see what it looked like when not in the head of a mad man. There was a character whose end was not seen, not described, not rolled for — and only ever told in the sense that other characters — who saw it in character — would not speak of it. The ways they would not speak of it, what they did with hands and eyes, was the telling. And sometimes Mo and I described that, sometimes we acted it out, sometimes we did a little of both.

    Not all of it worked all the time! Flat notes happen when you experiment sometimes. But damn, there are a lot of textures to play with. It’s good to think about them, to talk about them — but I also feel like sometimes you just gotta fucking try shit and see what sticks. And know it’s going to be different in different groups.

  38. I’ll say one of my joys in the style of play-by-post that I’ve been in for the past few years is that the characters internals are in the posts. Most of the people in my circle write first person present tense, including internal feels and reactions to what other people say before they respond in word or action.

    Now since we’re usually using one of various PbtA rulesets this has the interesting side effect of short circuiting ‘read a person’ moves a bit… moves I loved when I encountered them in AW specifically because they seemed designed to externalize what is usually internal. It doesn’t short them completely but there is an awful lot of play that happens because the other players already know what your character is thinking.

    I’ll also point to the central mechanic of the Veil, as externalizing the characters internal state during mechanics handling, apart from narrating the reaction.

  39. Paul Beakley It’s important to remember that mythology and folklore are a culture telling you who they are and what they value, so you’d best believe those myths and tales because they are for and about all of us.

    … for a great crossover of mythology and cinema, check out the movie The Killing of a Sacred Deer (by the same director as The Lobster). It’s thematically related to Agamemnon, Clytemnestra & Iphagenia from the Iliad and various Aeschylus and Euripides plays — a tale of sacrifice and revenge — the film is intimate, character driven, and tautly created with a small cast. The line delivery is stilted but has symbolism (not unlike a Greek play in performance). You could take some interesting cues from this theatrical piece reinterpreted cinematically to envision how to reinterpret both again into an RPG experience.

  40. Paul Beakley, I I’m intrigued by the part of your discussion that revolves around game design supporting ‘cinematic’ or ‘novelistic’ scene framing techniques (for want of a better term).

    I mean, back in the 70”s / 80’s we learned by doing yeah? I played one game of D&D, was enthralled, saved my bickies and bought the rules, then basically followed them as written and DM’ed the eff out of a campaign without any thought or guidance on ‘Cinematic technique’. But I think I may have used some of those common methods you describe. (mainly because I was a teenage wannabe fantasy author… Weren’t we all?)

    Nowdays we have plenty of #indieasF rulesets, and some of them spell out specific rules or principles for cinematic scene framing or exposition (or the alternatives you may use). Heck I think the latest DMG has some mention of these ideas.

    What I like is when they pervade the mechanics. Where fiction meets rules to establish the SIS in a way that feels like you have all the choice in the world over ‘technique’, but actually we are artfully constrained in a way that focuses the fiction on what matters (to that specific game). I think the Bakers are pretty good at this: As you have been enjoying, Jason D’Angelo has been writing some fantastic discussions on the Apocalypse Rules that highlight some of these lovely connections between rules and means of establishing the fiction. Love letters mate. Sheesh. Killer app of fiction meets mechanics in an author-reader relationship way.

    luke crane and Thor Olavsrud busted out some awesome ideas in Burning Empires (as I know you well know), I LOVED reading your early discover on the game over on the forums. I find that the scene [framing] economy and the whole ‘justification’ of foRKs as you built your pool led to a very elided use of cinematic tools. particularly with the scale of the rolls as they built upon established fiction. From an individual through to a planetary level.

    No real point really, other than we like experimenting with these ideas you mention! In fact when we played Sagas of the Icelanders, I tried to write my love letters in a ‘Saga’ like way. I had just visited Reykjavik, and had indulged in the whole ‘vikings as my heritage’ thang.

    It sorta when down good with the gang at the table and led to some interesting ‘establishing’ techniques. SO much so, we now have a little card that sits on the table from a story-boarders workshops that helps establish why to use particular scene shots and their power to elide specific types of emotive responses from the audience (players).

    Al good stuff.

  41. I actually included a chorus in one of my Star Wars games, who would speak directly to the players in blank couplets about how the Force was implicated in everything that was going on.

  42. Perhaps notably: I wasn’t in any way trying to “make it feel like a TV show”. So, either I’ve internalized a bunch of indie film-metaphor stuff (possible), or roleplaying, stripped of various D&D-isms (e.g. 5 ft. movement, Perception rolls, alignment), felt more like raw narrative to them, which they associate with TV shows (makes sense, given the episodic nature of an RPG which stretches over several sessions).

  43. Interesting discussion! In writing Shadow Lords rpg ( – Shadow Lords – Mythic Sword & Sorcery RPG if you want to know more ) I’m specifically trying to convey the mood and style of Jack Vance, David Gemmell, Howard etc. Through the game mechanics, while trying to keep them not invasive-disconnected. So basically the idea is that you can take the game and just play it like a trad game (mostly), but the mechanics will steer you toward drama (as in that described by Lex Larson​) since the game is geared also toward myths (like in truth every good sword & sorcery should be), but still with a strong visual/cinematic feel (because Conan stories were very first person visceral and visual experiences).

    For example when you roll for something you make a pool of dice from traits groups (like in cortex+) of which only one group is the same for every character (attributes: steel, flesh, finesse, guile, insight, heart), the rest are either created by the player or taken from their heritage (class/playbook).
    So, for example, we have a fairy that use her “glamour” to seduce, while adding her “educated at the winter court” explaining how they are used in intrigues there so she can easily seduce this country boy, etc.
    A special trait group is the HUBRIS and the forces&drives that push the hero to do things. When dramatic moments arise that touch the hero drives, he can choose to use her hubris and do things she can regret later, or let the gm use it (making the roll harder) but preserve her soul.
    This choice is made in a series of questions from gm to player, so is basically internal monologue
    “You are alone with the child king, you are the rightful heir,not him! He watches you smiling with those childy eyes and says unc unc, his way os saying uncle…what do you do? If you throw him from the window no one will notice, but you will have to roll your hubris and maybe the gods will be angry…or not…ehat do you do?” 🙂

  44. I think I saw a few of these fly by, but how do games that change their space to be more like the game itself fit in? This is probably a LARP-ey thing, but also, say, futuristic online games doing things with multiple text channels to be more internet-ey, or other stricter communication rules that mirror what’s going on in your fiction.

    Also, I’m down for players having second person narration rights in places. I can think of some powerful uses – Characters like Exalted or Nobilis nobles who have a lot of authority over an NPC dictating their experience could be really moving.

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