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Old 09-15-2008, 09:44 PM   #1
whswhs
 
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For some time now, my old friend Bob Franson has been asking me to organize my thoughts about gaming as narrative into an essay. I finally had a short break in my workload over the past two weeks, and I took advantage of the time to do so. He's posted it at his Web site, http://www.troynovant.com/ . If you're curious, you can find it there by clicking on "Essays" and looking for "Participatory Fiction." Most of you have heard most of it from me here already, but this is a chance to see the whole idea set out fair and square with no contradictions (or so I like to hope).

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Old 09-16-2008, 10:59 AM   #2
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Nice essay. I tend to agree with the concept of participatory fiction and while it may not be high art, it's still created through collaboration. I'm continually amazed at the number of great stories we have to tell because of the actions our characters took in this fiction we've created with a group of people.
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Old 07-16-2021, 03:53 PM   #3
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I would note that role playing games have another historical model though I'm not sure how much actual role it played in the development of the hobby: its use in diplomatic modeling. My father was in the diplomatic core in the 60s and describes simulations that wouldn't look out of place in a modern diceless larp, and frankly, you can make an argument programs like the Model UN are role playing games...
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Old 07-16-2021, 04:27 PM   #4
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I would note that role playing games have another historical model though I'm not sure how much actual role it played in the development of the hobby: its use in diplomatic modeling. My father was in the diplomatic core in the 60s and describes simulations that wouldn't look out of place in a modern diceless larp, and frankly, you can make an argument programs like the Model UN are role playing games...
I think the historical development started with [David Wesely’s rediscovery of] the German Kriegspiel staff-training exercises, in which each player was assigned not a character but a position in the command or staff, and in which the referees were explicitly there not just to execute or even interpret the war-game rules, but to rule on the results of anything the players tried that there were no rules for. Wesely ran “Braunstein” kriegspiels set in the Thirty Years War, and took a step towards RPGs by including player characters who had a motive to influence the actions of the contending forces but no place in the command or staff of either. Dave Arneson took over running Wesely’s Braunsteins when Wesely was deployed to Vietnam and developed the fantasy Braunstein — “Blackmoor” — using Chainmail as the wargame component. The heroic individual figures in Chainmail worked well as player characters in the Braunstein manner, and from there D&D developed as whswhs said in his essay.

So there doesn’t seem to be a direct descent of RPGs from State Office role-playing exercises. But it does seem plausible that both might be descended from military Kriegspiel.
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Old 07-16-2021, 04:46 PM   #5
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Hm. That made me a bit curious, and eventually I found Wikipedia's page on military simulation. It sounds like David Weseley rediscovered Free Kriegsspiel (and what I recall hearing about was probably a political-military simulation).
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Old 07-16-2021, 04:50 PM   #6
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That this ancient thread has been revived is perhaps an accident, but it is a happy accident, since for some reason I had not read whswhs’ essay before, and I like the essay. Though the title points out only the participatory character of RPGs as a storytelling form, the text does explicitly deal with the other distinguishing features of RP: its extemporaneous or improvisational nature, its collaborative character, and its ephemeral form, done for the joy of doing it in the time in which it is done, and not for the sake of a product or result.

If I were to add anything it would be a little more explanation of and emphasis on the character-players’ role as co-creators and collaborators with the GM, as fellow entertainers of each other and the GM. With that, perhaps, goes a stronger hint the the GM can share the character-players’ joy of discovering what happens only when it does happen, and with the satisfaction that what happened was what would happen.
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Old 07-16-2021, 05:48 PM   #7
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Ah yes, didn't notice the necro by a spammer.
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Old 07-17-2021, 01:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
If I were to add anything it would be a little more explanation of and emphasis on the character-players’ role as co-creators and collaborators with the GM, as fellow entertainers of each other and the GM. With that, perhaps, goes a stronger hint the the GM can share the character-players’ joy of discovering what happens only when it does happen, and with the satisfaction that what happened was what would happen.
This is such a beautiful statement. Thank you for writing this.
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Old 07-21-2021, 11:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
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If I were to add anything it would be a little more explanation of and emphasis on the character-players’ role as co-creators and collaborators with the GM, as fellow entertainers of each other and the GM. With that, perhaps, goes a stronger hint the the GM can share the character-players’ joy of discovering what happens only when it does happen, and with the satisfaction that what happened was what would happen.
I agree, that is one of my fundamental objections to Ken Hite's "tabletop RPGs as Hollywood movies" model. If a GM tries to act like a director and control everything the players experience, he is a bad GM.

People have been telling jokes about player-character stories since the 1970s because they know by experience that the game which is fun to play is often boring to hear told. Tabletop games are not movies or novels, they are a distinct kind of collaborative storytelling. These days a few RPGs have a passive audience on streaming video, but that still seems like an accident not an essence.
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Old 07-23-2021, 06:43 PM   #10
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Tabletop games are not movies or novels, they are a distinct kind of collaborative storytelling. These days a few RPGs have a passive audience on streaming video, but that still seems like an accident not an essence.
A jam session is a different type of musical experience than a concert, too. And it remains different even if the musicians allow a few people to sit in the room and listen.
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