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View Full Version : Filler - The Bane of Play-by-Post



Aron Times
2012-01-24, 10:37 PM
I am currently running a D&D 3.5 game on rpol.net called Nostalgia Trip. It is a core-only game, with one exception: lower-tier classes get to gestalt based on JaronK's partial gestalt system. Basically, tier 3 and 4 get to gestalt with an NPC class, while tier 5 (there is no tier 6 PC class in core) classes get to gestalt with another tier 5 or an NPC class.

Anyway, one of the applicants wanted to play a transmuter, and he gave a rather long-winded, redundant, and confusing writing sample. I told him that he had too much filler, and that quantity does not always equal quantity, but that I was going to add him to the game anyway.

What surprised me was his reply:


Nah I don't think I'll join after all. I happen to think I am a very good writer and what you call "Filler" I call "Descriptive"

The first paragraph was a play on words meant to confuse the reader and test to see if they knew what was going on. The others were just snipets of a longer story meant to spark interest.

The "nobody becomes good overnight" is actually a bit of an insult.


Try not to insult potential players in the future and you might actually get quality writers in your game

Emphasis mine.

It's one thing to tell someone that his writing is awful, but a different one for him to actually admit that he "intentionally" made it vague and confusing to test my "intelligence." Can someone tell me which trope this fits into? I'm thinking True Art is Incomprehensible, but I'm not sure.

P.S.

I actually have another player who plays a blatant Mary Sue, and he/she didn't ragequit when I told him/her to up the age on her character. Initially, he/she wanted to play a child wizard whose parents conveniently got themselves killed but not before passing on their wizardly skills to her. It's a sad day when the Mary Sue player is a better writer than the self-proclaimed "good writer."

erikun
2012-01-24, 11:33 PM
Wait, you are asking people to go onto TV Tropes and find something that matches? You, sir, are evil. And it sounds like a real-life version of Only Smart People May Pass (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OnlySmartPeopleMayPass).

I'm not really sure what else to say. I played a few games over at RPoL, but haven't done so in years. Plus, the few I did play tended to die out after a few months. It being little more than a text-only forum probably didn't help much when everyone I met was through a forum anyways...

tensai_oni
2012-01-25, 01:20 AM
Sounds like someone was in love with their writing ability, or rather long-winded Purple Prose (here's your trope) he considered writing ability. And felt somehow offended that not everyone shares his fascination.

The last sentence of his reply, about quality writers, is what seals the deal. Don't feel bad about losing this player, and good riddance.

Aron Times
2012-01-25, 12:23 PM
Purple Prose. Yes, I think it fits. It's probably a combination of this and other tropes.

One of my players wanted to play an 11-year old girl wizard who is, to quote this player, "not quite Harry Potter but similar." Oookay, now let's see her backstory:

1. Mother died soon after birth and is not mentioned again.

2. She was smart but sickly due to spending too much time indoors.

3. To improve her health, her father decided to sell their home and go adventuring with her. She was five years old at the time. :smallamused:

4. She was casting cantrips at age nine and she had a spellbook of her own by age 10, all while not having a permanent home.

5. Close to her 11th birthday, both her and her father got infected by the plague.

6. Her father worked day and night for a cure and died just moments before her fever broke. Her father is never mentioned again.

7. She defeated a pack of kobolds singlehandedly and also managed to evade the rest of them that were coming.

8. Her appearance is described in great detail using idealized terms, and does not make sense for an outdoorswoman.

OMGWTFBBQ! The Sue is through the scale! I point out the flaws in the backstory, specifically, how traumatic it would be for a sickly child to become homeless by her father's decision, and to lose the only parent she had known so early in life. Also, her parents are conveniently killed off without being mentioned again, and she does not show any scars from being orphaned and homeless.

He/she says that he/she didn't intend to write a Mary Sue, and I explain that most Mary Sues are not written intentionally. I tell him/her to up the age, so he/she ups it to 16 and adds a line saying that the character is naive and tactless as an informed flaw, which has totally been ignored in roleplaying so far.

Still, I added him/her, since not everybody becomes a good writer overnight. To his/her credit, he/she is a better writer than the one mentioned in my first post.

At this point, I'd like to ask everyone to pitch in and tell your own stories of filler writing in your play-by-post games. I can't do this by myself, you know!

Vitruviansquid
2012-01-25, 12:39 PM
Oh, cut the guy some slack.

There is way too much anger and belligerence on the internets already for us to be angry and belligerent with people over their anger and belligerence. :smallsmile:

Gamgee
2012-01-25, 12:50 PM
Can I see a link to his writing sample or something? I don't want ot be biased and go claiming it's x or y when it clearly isn't.

Edit
There are two types of people. People who like longer descriptions, and people who like more concise descriptions. Now normally this isn't a problem as people don't over do it, it's kind of all within this acceptable range of description. The problem is when the extreme people get into the equation. The Purple and Beige prose trope people.

Aron Times
2012-01-25, 01:07 PM
I did cut him some slack. I added him to the game, after all. It was him that ragequit on his own.

Here is his writing sample, unedited. My inner grammar nazi cringed :smalleek: while reading it.

Vala looked over her shoulder one last time as the Company of the Cold Hand road south from the Scar of Life. Thay had been a place of death and life for the mercenaries. The lifeline of the group, their enigmatic healer, had been taken by a creature of death that feasted on life. In an effort to save the life of the diseased oracle they crossed into a land of death. Thier time seeking the one that had kept them all alive so many times brought them into many conflicts of those that were once dead. Bringing death to the undead led to making a deal with the one that had brought death and unlife to the monster that kidnapped their compatriot in life. With direction and intent the Cold Hand departed the fortress of death to save the life of the man that had spared them all death's hand so many times. In their new mission to bring true death to the undead that had stolen their keeper of life they found a scar in the land of the dead. This scar was green and living, a stark contrast to the black death of the land of the undead. In the wound of life they found unlikely allies against the one that threatened the life of their life guardian. With a giant champion of life and the living gifts of his servants they assaulted the stronghold of death. The battle for life brought death for the guardians and prisoners of death both. The company found victory and brought death to the deathless but in that their holder of life met his own death. In the scar of life death was conquered again with a feather of fire and the custodian of life was returned to the Company of the Cold Hand. On fire conjured steeds the Cold Hand fled the land of death and Vala hoped to never see it's like again......



Vala could still feel the fires burning inside when the second wyvern crashed. Why weren't there more of them? She thought to herself as she made her way over to the roasted beast. The fires went cold when she saw Harold's burnt corpse. She had killed him. She thought that she was mastering the fire but the fire still killed him. If not the fire was mastering her. Molding her into a more devastating weapon. A weapon that did not know or care the difference between friend and foe.....



The fireball exploded around her wrapping her in it's warmth. The smile quickly faded from her face when invisible foes started appearing and attacking the Company of the Cold hand. She couldn't help but be distracted as the fires hungrily ate at wood, cloth, and flesh. Her fire was hungry as well and two gouts of fire shot from Vala. She was able to direct them at one of the assassins but the distraction of the beautiful flames caused her to miss the fleshy target and find one of wood as well as the bar lit up in flames. The fires grew quickly and the screams of fear and the sizzle of water on flame snapped her out of the flame trance. "I control you." she growled to the fire inside as she focused on the flames engulfing the bar focusing all the fire's energy into blasts of light and sound. Another whooosh of water left the flames in the tavern smouldering. Her fire needed flesh. She smiled as the wizard who tossed the first fireball ran into the taproom.....



Vala grunted and smiled as she forced the fire into Krishna's blade. Working her fire to bind magic into items without destroying them was taxing and tedious. But it was one of the only times she felt fully in control of the fire within. She worked the heat and light and mixed it with mystical components to anchor the magic permanently into the items she worked. She found metal was the easiest item to hold fire. Working Krishna's armor and sword and now Harold's spear had taught her much on bending fire to her will. Both their weapons now had fire hardened edges sharper then any normal blade. The heat bound in the blades would part flesh and bone much keener than any normal blade. Working items of cloth had proved most difficult. Yet she had woven an ox's strength into Hex's cloak. She had even found a way to bind the lure of a dancing flame into his new iron crown. She could sense Hex's own power had increased due to the fire enchanted crown that rested upon his brow.....

The_Admiral
2012-01-25, 01:09 PM
My usually silent inner grammar nazi screamed at me for this to stop.

The Glyphstone
2012-01-25, 01:09 PM
Okay, I stopped reading at the second sentence, because this man clearly has no respect for the concept of proper paragraph length.

Crafty Cultist
2012-01-25, 01:19 PM
That does seem a bit much. Being descriptive with your characters actions and thoughts is one thing, but It shouldn't be such a difficult task to figure out what's happening.

Be descriptive. Be detailed. Just remember that plain english is your friend

Aron Times
2012-01-25, 01:22 PM
Before this degenerates into mindless bashing, I'd like to point out that I was like this once, and it took me a while to get better. I'd probably go :eek: if I ever dig up some of my teenage writings.

The_Admiral
2012-01-25, 01:29 PM
I'm still feeling charitable from leftover Christmas cheer so a fixed version

Vala looked over her shoulder one last time as the Company of the Cold Hand rode south from the Scar of Life. It had been a place of life and death for the mercenaries. The lifeline of the group, their enigmatic healer, had been taken by a creature of death.

In an effort to save the life of their diseased oracle, they crossed into a land of death. This time seeking to save the one that had kept them all alive so many times.

This journey brought them into many conflicts with those that were once alive. Combating the undead led to them making a deal with the one that had brought life to the monster that had kidnapped their compatriot.

With renewed vigor, the Cold Hand departed the fortress of death to save the life of the man that had spared them all death's hand so many times. During their journey, they found a scar in the land of the dead.

It was green and living, a stark contrast to the black death of the land of the undead. In this wound of life, they found unlikely allies against the one that threatened the life of their friend.

With a champion of life and the living gifts of his, servants they assaulted the stronghold of death. The battle for life brought death to the guardians and prisoners of death.

They found victory but in that victory, their friend died. In the scar of life death was conquered again and their friend was returned to them. On conjured steeds the Cold Hand fled the land of death and Vala hoped to never see it's like again......

Vala could still feel the fires burning inside when the second wyvern crashed. "Why weren't there more of them?" She thought to herself, as she made her way over to the roasted carcass.

The fires went cold when she saw Harold's burnt corpse. She had killed him. She thought that she was mastering the fire but the fire still killed him.

The fire was mastering her, molding her into a more devastating weapon. A weapon that did not know or care the difference between friend and foe.....

The fireball exploded around her wrapping her in it's warmth. The smile quickly faded from her face when foes started appearing and attacking the Company of the Cold Hand. She couldn't help but be distracted as the fires hungrily ate at wood, cloth, and flesh.

Her fire was hungry. Two gouts of fire shot from Vala, she was able to direct them at one of the assassins but the distraction of the beautiful flames caused her to miss the fleshy target and hit the wooden bar. The fire grew quickly as the screams of fear and the sizzle of water on flame snapped her out of the flame trance.

"I control you." she growled to the fire inside as she focused on the flames engulfing the bar, focusing all the fire's energy into blasts of light and sound. Another whooosh of water left the flames in the tavern smouldering.

"Her fire needed flesh." She thought as the wizard who tossed the first fireball ran into the taproom, she smiled.....

Vala grunted and smiled as she forced the fire into Krishna's blade. Working her fire to bind magic into items without destroying them was taxing and tedious. But it was one of the only times she felt fully in control of the fire within.

She worked the heat and light and mixed it with the mystical components needed to anchor the magic permanently into the items she worked. She found metal was the easiest item to hold fire.

Working Krishna's armor and sword and now Harold's spear had taught her much on bending fire to her will. Both their weapons now had fire hardened edges sharper then any normal blade. The heat bound in the blades would part flesh and bone much easier than any normal blade.

Working items of cloth had proved most difficult. Yet she had woven an ox's strength into Hex's cloak. She had even found a way to bind the lure of a dancing flame into his new iron crown. She could sense Hex's own power had increased due to the fire enchanted crown that rested upon his brow.....


Don't kill me will ya for encouraging that dude.

Dimers
2012-01-25, 01:34 PM
Found it!

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IgnorantOfTheirOwnIgnorance

The Dunning-Kruger effect: people without much competence can't accurately rate their own level of competence.

Niek
2012-01-25, 07:28 PM
Sure is death in that first paragraph/wall. That guy needs to find himself a thesaurus or something.

Rorrik
2012-01-25, 08:00 PM
I'm starting a play by post right now and have to keep harassing one of my real life friends who's in it to get his backstory together so we can get going. so far he has this.(I've edited it as he goes so I can stand reading it.)The Ermarfel empire fell 53 years ago, this is the summary of its rise and fall.
Berkoth al’Arwenyon, ruler of the Ermarfel Empire, and unifier or all seven realms had only one son. As they both grew older, Berkoth gave the throne to his son and so his son did to his. (does that make sence) in the al’Arwenyon’s family rule Ermarfel only grew in size, wealth, and power. Gurshon, the grandson of Berkoth sired four sons. knowing his empire to be the greatest of the time he declared he would pass on his throne to the most powerful of his posterity.
Arthus al’Arwenyon the eldest knew the strength of a man. He could always beat his brothers in wrestling or a fight. Arthus vowed to be the fiercest and strongest man of the empire. What brings more power than physical advantage over another?
In bitterness the second son Garth al’Aerwenyon tried and vied, but could never win against his brutish brother in anything. He knew he could not win so he decided to play his own game with his own rules: getting others to finish his work, tricking and cheating and manipulating anyway he could. After all, you can have all the power if you can steal it from the next man.
In desperation Morden al’Arwenyon looked down the only path to power left; dark magic. When his elder brothers fought and schemed on temporal levels Morden was learning and living the steps of darkness and the language of shadows. He opened himself to the beings of other planes and funneled their might. What is more powerful than worlds without number?
Derenth al’Arwenyon was last to the race and had no map. All of his experience exhausted, he searched for another form of power to overstep his brothers. he became somewhat of a scholar exploring the empirical library for some answer. at first he thought knowledge was power, but slowly along his gleanings he found the power in, not knowledge, but the lack of it. what is more powerful than the ability to control the knowledge and history of a people or empire through its records?
As the four brothers grew they were corrupted by the desire and quest to fulfill their fathers proclamation and becoming the most powerful. Each took their place as royalty to serve the kingdom. Arthus lead the legions in war for the empire. Garth stayed in the capital to administer and direct the people. Morden left towards the southern mountains and was gone for many years. Derenth became the chronicle guardian and oversaw the perfection of the empires library and archive of magical artifacts.

i still have alot to write
Still a lot to write? Little would you suspect that his character is a second or third generation descendant of the people mentioned. I really like it and it fits beautifully into the campaign, but I just need a character to launch on the other players right now, not a full exposition of the history of the setting.

NikitaDarkstar
2012-01-25, 08:25 PM
Actually I could follow the guys writing without to much trouble. It wasn't exactly comfortable and enjoyable but it wasn't to the point where it was hopeless gibberish either.

His main issue seems to be that he tries to hard to be dramatic (which clearly isn't working) and is to damn repetitive. (Thesaurus, get one. Don't know what it is? Look it up in the dictionary, then get one.) I won't say to much about his punctuation since that really can be a pain in the rear to figure out if English isn't your native language (I'm still struggling with it) and he is trying.

But overall, I agree, he has no concept of his own skill level and that combined with his attitude makes you better of without him.

tensai_oni
2012-01-25, 08:57 PM
The first paragraph is terrible indeed. BUT the three others are okay. The third paragraph is from a background, right? If it was part of an actual combat description or something, I'd find issues with it. Other than that it's okay.

But okay doesn't equal great. This writing style is nothing to be ashamed of (if you ignore the first paragraph), but nothing to feel super-proud about either. And this person reacted to you even more melodramatically than their usual writing style. So my statement stands.

zorba1994
2012-01-25, 09:27 PM
Only one explanation: This would-be player is Zombie Jim Theis (http://www.rdrop.com/~hutch/argon)

Golden Ladybug
2012-01-26, 05:12 PM
Eh, its not the best, but its pretty much readable. I could follow what was going on, at least, even if it was incredibly clunky and repetitive. Still, with his reaction, he seems to think that the level of quality of his writing is much higher than it actually is, which I can't really blame him for. Its very hard to accurately gauge the quality of your own writing.

Oh, and to everyone who linked to TvTropes; I don't have time for this, I need to leave in an hour! Why have you sprung this dastardly trap upon me :smallbiggrin:

Venusaur
2012-01-27, 06:39 AM
It looks like your player tried to do a Parody Retcon (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ParodyRetcon) of his backstory.

Belril Duskwalk
2012-01-27, 07:20 AM
Honestly, I read that first paragraph and I get a certain impression. Ancient Prophecy type of writing. Figurative language, check. Avoidance of proper nouns, check. Repetitive, check. Repetitive, check. All hallmarks I might throw in if I were to create an ancient story/prophecy originally written in some highly figurative dead language. None of it appropriate for a character backstory, but I do find it leaves an impression.

Solaris
2012-01-27, 07:38 AM
Sure is death in that first paragraph/wall. That guy needs to find himself a thesaurus or something.

That, my friend, only makes it worse. I once knew a gal who was an overly dramatic purple prose writer (to be fair, she was sixteen), found a thesaurus. Her writing went from obtuse to laughably incomprehensible, mostly because I knew the definitions of all the words she was mis-using.

Mustard
2012-01-27, 12:13 PM
In that writing sample, after after seeing "creature of death that feasted on life", I was almost certain the terms "wolfoid" and "witchalok" were coming soon.

truemane
2012-01-27, 12:27 PM
Writing is like sex: people who brag about how good they are at it generally aren't. And, true to form, that sample you gave is not good writing. Aside from the 'deliberately confusing the reader' business it's just not good. Not clear, not evocative, not powerful, not fluid, not anything, really, but self-serving ("Look how good I am! Look!").

Also, his attitude stinks. I'm not even sure we can debate that. Unless your response was a lot more persnickety than you let on, he's too full of his own awesome to ever let any of yours in.

You can't game with people like that.

EDIT: Although it's hard to state with any certainty that a piece of writing is good or bad (I find the respect people afford James Patterson entirely perplexing, for example), I can state with absolute certainty that his final paragraph (180 words or so) uses the word 'fire' seven times. I've never seen anyone declare an absolute limit on the number of times you can repeat a given word, but I'm willing to bet that 7 in 180 is too high.

Dr. Yes
2012-01-27, 01:25 PM
Man, that sample was just all kinds of pretentious. I actually got a little angry.

I used to do freeform RPGs on this tiny anime forum called Ancient Clan, and there was this guy who loved to play Stupid/Evil antagonists with improbable and long-winded anti-Sue backstories. He would always get mad when people reacted to his characters realistically and "storm out" in a huff---only to be back for the next thread.

Nyarai
2012-01-27, 05:05 PM
I don't get what his problem is with nouns. Avoiding them doesn't make him deep or the story confusing. It just sapped away what little emotional payoff there was every time I had to parse some tangly mess like "the one that had brought death and unlife to the monster that kidnapped their compatriot in life," rather than just calling the dude a necromancer.