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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 12:25 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
I just don't think that arriving at any kind of objective criteria for telling wether a game is rather STG than RPG is possible at all.


OK.

What about "Betrayal at House on the Hill"?

Betrayal at House on the HillPlayers all begin as allies, exploring a haunted house filled with dangers, traps, items and Omens. As players explore the mansion, new room tiles are chosen at random; accordingly, the game board is different each session.

Whenever an Omen is revealed there is a chance that "the Haunt" will begin: one of the players will change allegiance and combat the other players in some horror scenario. Each scenario is different—the traitor may end up controlling (or becoming) zombies, cannibals, dragons, vampires, the house itself, or almost any other monster imaginable. The goals for winning also change—the remaining players may need to kill the monster(s), kill the traitor, survive for a number of rounds, or achieve some other goal for winning. The traitor's goal is usually to kill the other players first, but occasionally the traitor can win by other means. The traitor and the remaining heroes receive different information about the scenario and may not be aware of what their opponent's goal is. Both sides pursue their goals in the second part of the game until one side defeats the other.


If the actions of the players were detailed and described a pulp-fiction era horror story would be on the cards. Does that lean the game towards being a Storytelling Game? Or does the fact that there are victory conditions mean that it is simply a boardgame?

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 7:17 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
If the actions of the players were detailed and described a pulp-fiction era horror story would be on the cards. Does that lean the game towards being a Storytelling Game? Or does the fact that there are victory conditions mean that it is simply a boardgame?

Hmm. I can’t quite answer it that straight.

As the game stands, it is a boardgame. Would it be a storytelling game or even a role-playing game with your proposed additions? Your example made me think.

For me, among the essential components of a role-playing game is that participants have one or more characters that are theirs. There might be mechanics by which actual control of these characters does temporarily change hand, but ownership of them never does. There might even be an additional pool of somehow communally held characters, but without personally held ones, I think I wouldn’t consider something role-playing.

And these characters must not be mere lifeles playing pieces, they need to have some degree of personality, and this personality has to have an impact on how the characters are moved through the game, and this impact must not merely be a mechanical one (dice modifiers written into the rules or different “moves” allowed by them for different character traits), but it must be an actual constraint on the entire way how the character moves through the game.
Another way to express this somewhat amorphous thought of mine might be to say that it is not a role-playing game if the entirety of how a playing pieces’ (i.e. a character’s) personality traits affect the flow of the game can be codified into game mechanics.

By those criteria, Betrayal at House on the Hill would remain a boardgame even with the proposed changes. And neither would it become any kind of storytelling game, at least not by my very vague idea what might be termed a storytelling game.

Of the games I know, only one comes to mind as storytelling game: Once Upon a Time. Players tell a fairytale. Everybody gets one story-ending card with a typical sentence like “And they lived happily ever after” or “And he/she was never heard of again, and draws a hand of story-element cards, representng things like Forest, Wolf, Grandmother, Hut, Castle, Prince, Storm, Well. The first player begins to tell a story, and every time his story has one of the elements of one of his story-element cards, he is allowed to dop that card – first player to empty his hand and end the story with the sentence onhis story-ending card wins. There is of course a mechanic by which other players may interrupt and take up and contiune the story to get rid of their own cards, and a mechanic by which one is forced to draw new cards.

That’s what I’d call a storytelling game.

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 10:09 pm 
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Grettir's RuleFor me, among the essential components of a role-playing game is that participants have one or more characters that are theirs. There might be mechanics by which actual control of these characters does temporarily change hand, but ownership of them never does. There might even be an additional pool of somehow communally held characters, but without personally held ones, I think I wouldn’t consider something role-playing.


Universalis then is a Storytelling game. Characters are just another story element and, by design, belong to nobody in particular. That sounds right to me.

I think the exceptions to this rule are more likely to fall on the side of games where players have individual characters that belong to them throughout the game but it's still not role-playing, rather than role-playing games where players do not have ownership of characters.

Hmmm, what about games that are designed to be played by a referee and one player? I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but in a game where there is no interaction between players would the personality of the one player character actually have much relevance to the play of the game?

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 6:27 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Hmmm, what about games that are designed to be played by a referee and one player? I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but in a game where there is no interaction between players would the personality of the one player character actually have much relevance to the play of the game?

Absolutely -- never played one on one? The fictional personality of a character does of course have relevance. I mean, the very actions that the characters take are rooted in or at least connected with their personalities, in ways that go beyond mere rule mechanics. Different playing pieces (i.e. characters) will move differently over the playing board (i.e. the scenario) if their personalites are different, even in one-on-one play. Even if they take the same path from start to finish, the game events (i.e. encounters of all types, including lonely decisons) will play out differently.

If they would not, if all that a playing piece's personality could be perfectly mirrored into nothing but resolution mechanics, I guess I would not consider it role-playing. In the boardgame Republic of Rome, player control a senate faction made up of different senators, represented by index cards, with names, portraits and traits, traits that change during the game and are also rudimentary personality traits -- but all these personality traits do is provide dice modifiers or allow or disallow certain actions. Here's a game that produces a kind of narrative (the vagaries of the Roman Republic through the years) and where the player controls several characters that are "his" and who have a degree of personality, but that is still not even rudimetary role-playing, as the personalities are nothing but mechanical things.

I guess that I consider a certain "reality" of character past and beyond what can be codified into rules as a criterium of role-playing.

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 8:46 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Hmmm, what about games that are designed to be played by a referee and one player? I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but in a game where there is no interaction between players would the personality of the one player character actually have much relevance to the play of the game?


Grettir wrote:
Absolutely -- never played one on one?


There is, though, a difference between playing any old RPG one-on-one and playing a game that only accommodates one-on-one play...

Grettir wrote:
I guess that I consider a certain "reality" of character past and beyond what can be codified into rules as a criterium of role-playing.


How do you see this relating back to the original D&D?

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 12:25 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
There is, though, a difference between playing any old RPG one-on-one and playing a game that only accommodates one-on-one play...

By all means. But as long as the design differences do not reduce the representation of character role to a mere mechanical issue, they do imo not impact wether something is an rpg or not. So designing for group play or one-on-one play makes in itself no difference.

Grettir wrote:
I guess that I consider a certain "reality" of character past and beyond what can be codified into rules as a criterium of role-playing.
Ian.Plumb wrote:
How do you see this relating back to the original D&D?

Alignments. Alignments are the totality of rudimentary characterisation that early D&D characters had, and they impacted the mechanics, for instance inasfar as certain spells did only work on certain alignments. But they represented also a constraint upon the general behaviour of characters past and beyond anything hat could be codified into mehanics in its entirety. A lawful character will traverse a dungeon differently from a chaotic or even neutral one.

It was already with this in mind that I wrote above that character "need to have some degree of personality" that impacts their movements on the playing board past and beyond what's laid down by the rule mechanics.

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 3:32 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Higgin's RuleThe game has a forced end mechanic that prevents it to go on indefinitely. The participants have no control over that mechanic once its parameters are determined.

For me, this becomes "weaker" the longer the game continues. For example, if the game typically ran for ten or more sessions before it was possible to invoke the end-game parameters then I would say that's more likely to be a role-playing game than a storytelling game. I mean an RPG can end inside that time frame simply because the player character's die, or the scenario completes and the group moves on to another game, or the players lose interest in completing the scenario material. On the other hand if it was really hard to get past one or maybe two sessions without the end-game parameters being invoked then I'd say that's probably a story-telling game. The rules will determine the end of the game almost all of the time.
I don't agree that mechanics determine the end game almost all the time (for RPGs in general, as I understood you meant). If you meant by that that the characters getting killed is a mechanical-geared ending, that can be usually avoided by co-operating or making decisions that lead to a different outcome. I struggled very hard with that wording of the inevitable ending. What I meant under "no control" was that the end comes regardless of the actions and decisions if the characters and possible wishes of the participants. Maybe saying: "The game has a forced end mechanic that ensures short gameplay." would have been better.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
There is, though, a difference between playing any old RPG one-on-one and playing a game that only accommodates one-on-one play...
Could you elaborate on that?

Grettir wrote:
So designing for group play or one-on-one play makes in itself no difference.
Could you explain what do you mean under group play? I mean, most RPGs are designed for individual play IMO. I know only three that are really designed for a group -- Werewolf: The Forsaken, Stargate SG-1 and Paranoia. There are probably more, but those three I mentioned give a distinct (setting based) in-game rationale for the characters to stick together, which is what makes them group games IMO. If there is no such rationale in a game, I don't see it as designed for a group...

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 4:11 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
So designing for group play or one-on-one play makes in itself no difference.
higgins wrote:
Could you explain what do you mean under group play? I mean, most RPGs are designed for individual play IMO. I know only three that are really designed for a group -- Werewolf: The Forsaken, Stargate SG-1 and Paranoia. There are probably more, but those three I mentioned give a distinct (setting based) in-game rationale for the characters to stick together, which is what makes them group games IMO. If there is no such rationale in a game, I don't see it as designed for a group...

I think what you say is both very right and very wrong at the same time.

The designers' assumption with practically all RPGs is that they are for a group of several people, with one of them being the referee (possibly a rotating position) and the others the players. The assumption is that a group is playing the game.

But almost no designers actually do something to support this style of play. In woefully many games, there is little to no reason for the PCs to stick together, even though game designers should know that the "we are all friends" approach to PCs cooperating doesn't really work. All too often, the PCs don't mesh particularly well, with the result that they are locked together in mutual loathing, the constraint for them staying together being solely the meta-game reason of group play.

But as the topic of group play came up to differentiate from games particularly designed for one-on-one play, especially in respect of the PCs' characters mattering in PC-to-PC interaction, I guess "any game that is not explicitly designed to be played with one referee and only one player" is a sufficient definition.

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 8:46 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
The designers' assumption with practically all RPGs is that they are for a group of several people (...) But almost no designers actually do something to support this style of play.
Yeah, that's exatly what I meant. I just went a step further and called games not supportive of group style play as designed for individual play... But true, maybe I went too far with that as most games are obviously designed with group play in mind despite that they don't actually support the style.

Grettir wrote:
But as the topic of group play came up to differentiate from games particularly designed for one-on-one play, especially in respect of the PCs' characters mattering in PC-to-PC interaction, I guess "any game that is not explicitly designed to be played with one referee and only one player" is a sufficient definition.
Does anyone know any such example? An RPG that simply cannot be played with more than two participants? What mechanic would make that possible? I mean, all group play supportive elements in RPGs I've seen are related setting or premise, not with the mechanics... Or was it simply my mistaken assumption that we speak of mechanics here?

And of course if anyone knows more RPGs that actually support group play, let's hear it! :)

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 1:59 am 
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Polaris is designed for exactly four players, no more, no less. That's the only RPG I know that's specific about the number of players.

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 6:45 am 
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Daeruin wrote:
Polaris is designed for exactly four players, no more, no less. That's the only RPG I know that's specific about the number of players.
I knew that of course, but I don't agree that Polaris is an RPG, but rather an STG (Storytellling game). The author himself calls it simply a "game". Nevertheless it has a set number of participants indeed. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 12:11 am 
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The question here was more a hypothetical one -- if a game was only designed to be played one-on-one is the portrayal of the character's personality through the playing of the role likely to matter as much as it does in group play? In other words, would a one-on-one RPG have less or more OOC activity at the gaming table? Is Pawn Stance more likely than Actor Stance? And does this matter when determining whether a game is more or less likely to be a Storytelling Game than an RPG?

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 9:18 am 
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Well, the only RPGs I've seen that actually support group play have handled it through premise... The characters are supposed to form a group/team/etc. So, the way one-on-one games work would be the same -- no social contract that forces the character to be part of a group is never imposed to the player. In fact, that how 90% or my game sessions work, they are one-on-one, except for the 10% of sessions where two or more characters meet, where it's one-on-two-or-three. More characters rarely meet simultaneously. So, my game is basically four one-on-one games in a single city with a lot of chances of intertwining them. We call it individual or solo play as opposed to the group play.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
is the portrayal of the character's personality through the playing of the role likely to matter as much as it does in group play?
In my experience, it matters more. The player is always considered an active participant and never an audience (even in the tightest of group plays, the characters cannot stay together 24/7 and there are situations where part of the group has to watch with only remote or no chance (or wish) of interfering) the amount of in-character time dramatically increases and the player has to consider more things himself as there's no group leader to look upon to make a decision for him.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
would a one-on-one RPG have less or more OOC activity at the gaming table?
In my experience, individual play has dramatically less to almost no OOC activity.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Is Pawn Stance more likely than Actor Stance?
Good heavens, why should it be? :o

Ian.Plumb wrote:
And does this matter when determining whether a game is more or less likely to be a Storytelling Game than an RPG?
I don't think the number of players matters in determining that, though an abnormally large group will of course make reaching all kinds of consensuses (which are essential for communal storytelling) harder than it would be for a small group... as it does for gaming in general too... Unlike in the past, nowadays I'd probably simply refuse playing in a group of 16. :ugeek:

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 10:01 pm 
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Here's another possibility:

RefereeIf a game has no referee then it is more likely to be a Storytelling game than an RPG.


In an RPG, the referee determines who is in the limelight and then the players determine their character's actions including narration. In Storytelling games there is often no referee; mechanics determine who is in the limelight or has the task of narration.

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 Post subject: Re: Storytelling -- is it s type of game or is it a type of RPG?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:01 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
The question here was more a hypothetical one -- if a game was only designed to be played one-on-one is the portrayal of the character's personality through the playing of the role likely to matter as much as it does in group play?

From my own angle, and in view of the topic of the thread, I'd say this is indeed a hypothetical question. Some minimum amount of personality portrayal is for me an indispensible component of role-playing, but the actual degree of this portrayal does not matter. A greater emphasis on it does not make it "more" role-playing, a more marginal one not "less"; at least for me.

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