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  1. - Top - End - #271
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    There's nothing wrong with the word "backstory", it has plenty of utility. If someone really wants to call the character's life up to that point their "story", it's not worth arguing over or a horrible usage of the word.

    It's the assertion that the character's decisions, actions, and interactions IN RPG going forward are inherently "a story" that I reject in total.
    But why does the story stop? I I look at a character whom I played to level five, does his "backstory" not include what happened between when I started and now?

  2. - Top - End - #272
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    So no one here has said that all RPG gaming is unavoidably and inevitably "storytelling"?

    No one has insisted that avoiding "story" is impossible unless you're, what was it, only rolling dice and killing stuff in a purely mechanical set of setpieces?
    Yes people have said that, no you can't draw your bizarre conclusions from those statements.


    But thank you for once again demonstrating your willingness to resort to insulting little fallacies such as this false equivalency you've just attempted.
    Not a false equivalency at all. An extremely apt and accurate equivalency. Look at it for a while, and maybe it will sink in.

    It's hard to play a group game without any sort of communication, and the only way that communication is "storytelling" is if you fall back on the blithering nonsense of all communication being storytelling.
    Nobody said all communication is storytelling. Another bizarre conclusion drawn from what was actually said.

  3. - Top - End - #273
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    For the purposes of RPGs: structural elements such as arcs and curves and "try-fail cycles", conceptual elements such as themes and meaning, archetypes and narrative roles, genre expectations, etc. The sort of things that come with intentional storytelling as opposed to unintended but potential emergent story; things that separate an actual story from just a sequence of events.
    I question the utility of defining "story" in that fashion. It sounds like it's perilously close to defining "story" as "railroading," given the similarities in application. The only examples I can think of are, essentially, modules. The story is already there, just waiting for characters to pretend their actions in it are meaningful rather than pre-scripted, and that their actual characterizations are meaningful rather than window dressing to be discarded if it would disrupt "the story."

    Since we're having page upon page of argument over whether this definition or one that's too broad should be used, what utility do you find this definition to have? What are you trying to get across or discuss that uses this definition and finds it more useful than the broader one you decry?

  4. - Top - End - #274
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Yes people have said that, no you can't draw your bizarre conclusions from those statements.
    There's no "conclusion involved", they're saying it, right here on the page in this thread. They've said that one cannot play an RPG without storytelling... YOU'VE said that one cannot play an RPG without storytelling. Do I really need to go find posts where you've said exactly that?
    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    If you are alive and breathing you are creating a story. You aren’t telling a story. Storytelling requires the telling part. A story can exist without the telling. And you can tell something that isn’t a story. “Storytelling” requires both parts.

    With an rpg you are “telling” by communicating with your fellow players. And the thing you are “telling” is what characters are doing in a series of events. i.e. a story.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    When we were playing the game, we weren't thinking "I should do X. That would make a good story". We were thinking "What would my character realistically do when in this scenario". Even so, a story was created as a by-product of playing the game. AND since we were talking around the table to each other, actively telling each other what our characters were doing. I can say that not only was a story created, but storytelling was taking place.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    If you are alive, your life creates a story, no matter what you do or don’t do. The only way to avoid this is to not exist in the first place.

    Heck. Your posts on this thread are telling me a story about who you are.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    It is about people’s definition of the word. By their definition everyone’s life is a story. You might as well say “how dare you suggest that I exist”
    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    So if I read a biography, I’m not reading a story?

    Living your life isn’t “telling a story”. But it is a story waiting to be told.

    The difference with the RPG and your life experiences is that with an RPG we are actively “telling” the entire time we play.

    So, no those things don’t make a story in and of themselves. They become a story when you narrate them.

    In your own words, right there, in this thread, not only are you claiming that we can't engage in playing an RPG without "doing story", you're claiming that we can't LIVE without "doing story".


    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Nobody said all communication is storytelling. Another bizarre conclusion drawn from what was actually said.
    Oh. I must have imagined this:
    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    And that would appear to be a claim that all communication is "giving an account" and therefore supposedly we can't even have a conversation without telling a story.
    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    Yeah, pretty much. All communication that includes giving accounts of events. And that's not even counting all the stories we tell ourselves in our own minds every time we reflect on series of events that we've experienced.

    I wonder if people are ever going to get tired of claiming "no one said that" and then having quotes of someone saying exactly what "no one said" posted.


    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Not a false equivalency at all. An extremely apt and accurate equivalency. Look at it for a while, and maybe it will sink in.
    Wow... you're not just grasping for insulting nonsense, you actually believe it. That's very unfortunate for you.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-03 at 06:37 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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  5. - Top - End - #275
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    For the purposes of RPGs: structural elements such as arcs and curves and "try-fail cycles", conceptual elements such as themes and meaning, archetypes and narrative roles, genre expectations, etc. The sort of things that come with intentional storytelling as opposed to unintended but potential emergent story; things that separate an actual story from just a sequence of events.
    I question the utility of defining "story" in that fashion. It sounds like it's perilously close to defining "story" as "railroading," given the similarities in application. The only examples I can think of are, essentially, modules. The story is already there, just waiting for characters to pretend their actions in it are meaningful rather than pre-scripted, and that their actual characterizations are meaningful rather than window dressing to be discarded if it would disrupt "the story."
    As far as I can tell, Max's definition of "telling a story" is what most people would call "consciously trying to write good fiction using an undergrad textbook on literary analysis as a how-to guide".

    I apologize if that sounds dismissive, but I see this definition of "storytelling" (in the context of RPGs) to be bizarrely specific and strangely applied.

    Nearly every TTRPG has implicit character arcs due to increased power over time, and I can't imagine a group playing a TTRPG without having themes, archetypes, or genre expectations.

    On the other hand, it's quite common for players to have characters without consciously planned character arcs, or curves, or narrative "try-fail cycles",* and I don't even know what "narrative roles" would mean in a TTRPG context.

    Mostly this just seems very divorced from the practical reality of how people actually sit down and play these games.
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  6. - Top - End - #276
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    There's no "conclusion involved", they're saying it, right here on the page in this thread. They've said that one cannot play an RPG without storytelling... YOU'VE said that one cannot play an RPG without storytelling. Do I really need to go find posts where you've said exactly that?
    Again, I'm not denying saying it. I'm just pointing out that your conclusions drawn from the fact that all roleplaying involves storytelling are bizarre.


    Oh. I must have imagined this:
    You didn't imagine anything, those things were said. But those things don't mean "all communication is storytelling". You are accurately remembering what people said. You are inaccurately interpreting what the things that were said meant.


    I wonder if people are ever going to get tired of claiming "no one said that" and then having quotes of someone saying exactly what "no one said" posted.
    I am getting a bit tired of you attempting to prove yourself by providing quotes that don't actually say what you claim they say.

    [edit]or more specifically, I should say "...by providing quotes that don't actually mean what you claim they mean" [/edit]

    Wow... you're not just grasping for insulting nonsense, you actually believe it. That's very unfortunately for you.
    Not an insult at all, and not grasping at anything. Just an apt analogy of what's going on. Nothing unfortunate about being able to see that.
    Last edited by Aliquid; 2018-01-03 at 07:03 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #277
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthaer View Post
    Mostly this just seems very divorced from the practical reality of how people actually sit down and play these games.
    Except that some people very explicitly do this, and some games are fairly explicitly designed to do this. (Note that these games don't normally rhyme with "mungeons and blagons")

    Perhaps you just haven't been exposed to those people, or that style of gaming?
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  8. - Top - End - #278
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I question the utility of defining "story" in that fashion. It sounds like it's perilously close to defining "story" as "railroading," given the similarities in application. The only examples I can think of are, essentially, modules. The story is already there, just waiting for characters to pretend their actions in it are meaningful rather than pre-scripted, and that their actual characterizations are meaningful rather than window dressing to be discarded if it would disrupt "the story."
    First, it's not railroading if the player does it to themself.

    Second, it has nothing to do with being a prescripted story, or arc, or series of events. A player can say "I want my character to have an arc of a fall from grace and eventual redemption", and then either just through their in-character actions or via coordination with the GM make that story happen over the course of the campaign as events unfold. Nothing is set in stone, but there's a "narrative" journey and eventual destination that the player wants to go on.

    And that example would be but one example of what I mean by "story focused". If anyone has a better term than "story focused" that also doesn't have the baggage and conflicting meanings of "narrative focused", then I'm all ears.


    Meanwhile, a player who is "character focused" might simply take the events and situations as they evolve through cause & effect and complex interactions inside the game, or establish that their character has a goal and will work to reach it, but without the player ever engaging in any "narrative" journey around that goal. Story never enters into it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Since we're having page upon page of argument over whether this definition or one that's too broad should be used, what utility do you find this definition to have? What are you trying to get across or discuss that uses this definition and finds it more useful than the broader one you decry?
    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthaer View Post
    As far as I can tell, Max's definition of "telling a story" is what most people would call "consciously trying to write good fiction using an undergrad textbook on literary analysis as a how-to guide".

    I apologize if that sounds dismissive, but I see this definition of "storytelling" (in the context of RPGs) to be bizarrely specific and strangely applied.
    Actually, it's based in part on listening to hours and hours of many very accomplished and talented writers talk at length and detail about what separates a story from a sequence of events, but it really has nothing to do with bad undergrad textbooks written by people who never wrote anything worth reading.

    And "dismissive" is pretty much the tone of at least half the posts directed at me so far in this thread, so you're not alone.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthaer View Post
    Nearly every TTRPG has implicit character arcs due to increased power over time, and I can't imagine a group playing a TTRPG without having themes, archetypes, or genre expectations.
    Just increasing power isn't really an inherent character arc for the PC as such, any more than a real person getting a college education and a better job is an inherent character arc for the real person.

    Back when I actually had the opportunities to play, I did it without themes, archetypes, or genre expectations... all of which I've found to be a minefield of potential counter-enjoyment both in fiction and in gaming.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthaer View Post
    On the other hand, it's quite common for players to have characters without consciously planned character arcs, or curves, or narrative "try-fail cycles",* and I don't even know what "narrative roles" would mean in a TTRPG context.

    Mostly this just seems very divorced from the practical reality of how people actually sit down and play these games.
    What's divorced at least from how I play is the notion that storytelling is involved.

    No characters, dramatic curves, or narrative cycles involved, either deliberate or unintentional. No intent to create a story or any sort of coherent narrative. No storytelling involved of any kind.


    E: But as kyoryu points out, there are those out there who DO engage in playing RPGs in a way that's centered around intentional (not necessarily prescripted, but intentional) character arcs, "try-fail cycles", rising and falling tension, and other forms of fictional structure, and are willing to even share control of their characters if it makes for a more "satisfying story" or "exploration of theme".
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-03 at 07:24 PM.
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  9. - Top - End - #279
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Again, I'm not denying saying it. I'm just pointing out that your conclusions drawn from the fact that all roleplaying involves storytelling are bizarre.
    First, it's not fact, it's your opinion, that you're trying to pawn off as fact.

    Second, there are no conclusions involved, you just said once again made the claim that all roleplaying is storytelling, right there, in the words of your post -- how is the claim that all roleplaying is storytelling not also a dismissal as impossible of any roleplaying that is not storytelling?


    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    You didn't imagine anything, those things were said. But those things don't mean "all communication is storytelling". You are accurately remembering what people said. You are inaccurately interpreting what the things that were said meant.

    I am getting a bit tired of you attempting to prove yourself by providing quotes that don't actually say what you claim they say.

    [edit]or more specifically, I should say "...by providing quotes that don't actually mean what you claim they mean" [/edit]
    There's no conclusion, there's no interpretation, there's no "finding meaning". The words and their meaning are right there in the posts to be seen.


    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Not an insult at all, and not grasping at anything. Just an apt analogy of what's going on. Nothing unfortunate about being able to see that.
    You swap out one word for another to make an absurd statement that looks superficially like something I said, claim it's equivalent or analogous to what I said, and then pretend that you're not just trying to be belittling and derisive?

    Whatever.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    OK, very simplified example to try to get some light out of this heat...

    As much as the show makes me roll my eyes and change the channel, imagine two gamers in a "power rangers" based campaign.

    By my understanding of the terms, here's how the two go about things:

    The "story-focused" gamer goes through the process that the characters in these stories go through of building up to the end of the "episode" when the big combined mech is finally unleashed, and then the big attack is finally unleashed, for the victory after much (at least intended) rising tension.

    The "character-focused" gamer thinks "my character wants to beat this monster and save the city, therefore we're going to bring out the big combined mech and the big attack and end this crap right now before anyone gets hurt" and the "episode" is over in five minutes. Sure, you can come up with characters who fall into the dramatic buildup while acting in character, and come up with situations that demand the dramatic buildup, but eventually that turns into an ugly "well isn't that convenient" pileup.


    Similar examples can be constructed from a lot of anime, too.


    The "story-focused" gamer is more likely to want genre-emulation, to intentionally play things out so that the sort of story they're looking for will result.

    The "character-focused" gamer is more likely to want their character to be genre-savvy, because their character is from a world where those genre elements are part of the fabric of reality and should be aware of them.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-03 at 07:37 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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  11. - Top - End - #281
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    First, it's not fact, it's your opinion, that you're trying to pawn off as fact.
    When I use the literal denotation of the word, then it is a fact, not an opinion.

    Second, there are no conclusions involved, you just said once again made the claim that all roleplaying is storytelling, right there, in the words of your post -- how is the claim that all roleplaying is storytelling not also a dismissal as impossible of any roleplaying that is not storytelling?
    Yup, it is impossible for roleplaying to not be storytelling. I'm not denying that.

    There's no conclusion, there's no interpretation, there's no "finding meaning". The words and their meaning are right there in the posts to be seen.
    I don't know about that. There seems to be a considerably large amount of misunderstanding of meanings on this thread. Many instances where one person's interpretation of the meaning is different than the next person.

    You swap out one word for another to make an absurd statement that looks superficially like something I said, claim it's equivalent or analogous to what I said, and then pretend that you're not just trying to be belittling and derisive?
    But it is analogous to what you said. Completely and totally analogous to what you said, and it draws attention to the flaw in logic of the original statement.




    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    OK, very simplified example to try to get some light out of this heat...

    As much as the show makes me roll my eyes and change the channel, imagine two gamers in a "power rangers" based campaign.

    By my understanding of the terms, here's how the two go about things:

    The "story-focused" gamer goes through the process that the characters in these stories go through of building up to the end of the "episode" when the big combined mech is finally unleashed, and then the big attack is finally unleashed, for the victory after much (at least intended) rising tension.

    The "character-focused" gamer thinks "my character wants to beat this monster and save the city, therefore we're going to bring out the big combined mech and the big attack and end this crap right now before anyone gets hurt" and the "episode" is over in five minutes. Sure, you can come up with characters who fall into the dramatic buildup while acting in character, and come up with situations that demand the dramatic buildup, but eventually that turns into an ugly "well isn't that convenient" pileup.


    Similar examples can be constructed from a lot of anime, too.


    The "story-focused" gamer is more likely to want genre-emulation, to intentionally play things out so that the sort of story they're looking for will result.

    The "character-focused" gamer is more likely to want their character to be genre-savvy, because their character is from a world where those genre elements are part of the fabric of reality and should be aware of them.
    This is a completely concise and clear explanation of your view, and I agree with everything you said.

    With a "story-focused" game, a player will often deliberately do something counterproductive, just to keep the "drama" or "tension" at the right level. Another example would be a "horror" theme game, where the party decides to "split up"... just like in the movies. Any sane person knows that just leads to people dying. In a "story-focused" game, someone might say "ok, my character flaw is greed, so I need to think of a nice ironic way for greed to get me killed by this psycho". In a "character-focused" story, you would stick together, watch each other's backs at all times, and not walk into obvious traps.

  12. - Top - End - #282
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    OK, very simplified example to try to get some light out of this heat...

    As much as the show makes me roll my eyes and change the channel, imagine two gamers in a "power rangers" based campaign.

    By my understanding of the terms, here's how the two go about things:

    The "story-focused" gamer goes through the process that the characters in these stories go through of building up to the end of the "episode" when the big combined mech is finally unleashed, and then the big attack is finally unleashed, for the victory after much (at least intended) rising tension.

    The "character-focused" gamer thinks "my character wants to beat this monster and save the city, therefore we're going to bring out the big combined mech and the big attack and end this crap right now before anyone gets hurt" and the "episode" is over in five minutes. Sure, you can come up with characters who fall into the dramatic buildup while acting in character, and come up with situations that demand the dramatic buildup, but eventually that turns into an ugly "well isn't that convenient" pileup.


    Similar examples can be constructed from a lot of anime, too.


    The "story-focused" gamer is more likely to want genre-emulation, to intentionally play things out so that the sort of story they're looking for will result.

    The "character-focused" gamer is more likely to want their character to be genre-savvy, because their character is from a world where those genre elements are part of the fabric of reality and should be aware of them.
    I really want to nitpick this for being an example of how a ranger would get their powers stripped from them (as established in the first episode). That would be in bad form however since you adequately explained your position.

    The problem is you seem to be saying that the character focused gamer isn't generating a story. And you appear to using the defense that an accomplished writer said that people who don't do things their way aren't writing a "real" story and are simply describing a sequence of events. This is similar to many skilled chefs who would say that someone making Kraft Dinner isn't "really" cooking. Except making Kraft Dinner is cooking and it would be pretty foolish to try and argue otherwise.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinkerer View Post
    I really want to nitpick this for being an example of how a ranger would get their powers stripped from them (as established in the first episode). That would be in bad form however since you adequately explained your position.
    I appreciate that.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tinkerer View Post
    The problem is you seem to be saying that the character focused gamer isn't generating a story. And you appear to using the defense that an accomplished writer said that people who don't do things their way aren't writing a "real" story and are simply describing a sequence of events. This is similar to many skilled chefs who would say that someone making Kraft Dinner isn't "really" cooking. Except making Kraft Dinner is cooking and it would be pretty foolish to try and argue otherwise.
    To me at least, it's more like half a dozen award-winning and "best selling" chefs who make their livings cooking for people, plus quite a few of their guests on their weekly show, consistently saying that buying a list of items from a grocery store isn't cooking a meal.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I kinda cringed at the phrase "cult of science", but I think it refers to the people who blindly go about acting as if they believe "If Neil deGrasse Tyson said it, it must be true, he's so smart!", and thus ironically miss the point of empirical inquiry and the scientific approach in the first place.

    Ever notice how long unfalsifiable or even falsified "schools" of psychology stick around and maintain groups of slavish adherents? Freud and Jung were doing nothing more than projecting their own internal issues onto the entirety of the human species, and yet there are still Freudian and Jungian psychologists offering "therapy" for good money and taken quite seriously. Skinner's approach is like insisting that only the ripples are real, and not the fish, simply because the surface of the pond is hard to see through (I went to a college with a deeply deeply behaviorist Psych department, and the contortions they'd go through to avoid any exploration of an internal mind underlying the observable behaviors were comical at times).

    As for postmodernism, when the basic scientific method is being called a "Eurocentric patriarchal tool of oppression and exploitation, that ruthlessly and systematically quashes other equally valid ways of understanding that threaten its dominance", that should maybe tell us something about the philosophy behind that sort of nonsense proclamation.
    Believe it or not, I don't think it's necessary to debate the whole of modern epistemology in order to come to a reasoned definition of collaborative storytelling. I just find it remarkable that you do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Yes... the observable evidence makes that appear to have been the approach taken by those who started with the belief that all gaming is "storytelling", and then worked backwards until they found a definition of "story" that made their belief pedantically "true".
    Aha, turning my own criticism back against me. How entirely surprising and not at all expected.

    Ok, so let me walk you through my process, forwards.

    We start with a question. In this case, the question as I understand it is "Are tabletop RPGs necessarily examples of collaborative storytelling?"

    The next step is defining the terms we are using. Thus far, no one seems to be debating the definition of "tabletop RPG" so I think we can take that one as read. The terms we seem to need to define are "collaborative" and "storytelling."

    The easiest way to get accepted expert definitions is to use the dictionary. It's not the only way, but it's straightforward and generally pretty accurate. So here are the definitions I've found using this method.

    collaborative: produced or conducted by two or more parties working together.

    storytelling: the activity of telling or writing stories.

    The definition of collaborative seems to be pretty solid, but there's a tricky word in the definition of storytelling: "stories." So let's take this a step further.

    story: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

    Which makes the expanded definition of storytelling into

    storytelling: the activity of telling or writing accounts of imaginary or real people and events, for entertainment.

    These are not specially selected definitions, they are literally the first answers that come up when you google definitions of those words. Try it for yourself, I expect you'll find the same.

    Of course, as has been raised, common usage can differ from dictionary definition. The problem is, we don't have any reliable method for determining common usage. I can say it's one thing, you can say it's another, and we have no way of determining who's right (or even if it's either, neither or both of us). So our perceptions of common usage get treated like any other form of anecdotal evidence, and ignored.

    Still with me? Having defined our terms, we can now approach the question "are tabletop RPGs necessarily examples of collaborative storytelling?"

    Well, how does one play a tabletop RPG? You, as a player, tell me what your character does. I, as a DM, tell you what happens as a result of that. Sometimes we use dice or rulebooks to adjudicate the process of doing that, but that doesn't change the fact that it fits very neatly into the definitions we have created. For entertainment, we are telling accounts of imaginary people and events.

    Is it collaborative? That part is a little tougher to nail down. In a tabletop RPG, sometimes the players seem to work against each other or against the DM; however, at the most basic level, the game does not function without at least two people each contributing their own parts of the story.

    So by these definitions, which are derived directly from the definitions of experts on definition, tabletop RPGs are games of storytelling, and that storytelling is collaborative. I can now answer the question "Are tabletop RPGs necessarily examples of collaborative storytelling?" with a yes. Or at least with a "Yes, by a given valid definition."

    And it is a meaningful definition, because it effectively differentiates games like tabletop RPGs where the central mechanism is description of people and events from those where it isn't, like chess, and basketball, and poker, and Monopoly, and Settlers of Catan.

    This was (minus the googling) the process I went through before I first posted on this thread, and before that, the first time I strung the words "collaborative" and "storytelling" together.

    When I shared my perspective and saw so much disagreement, that was when I looked up dictionary definitions, to make sure that I wasn't crazy. So I shared that too, to let folks know that my perspective jibed with authoritative definitions.

    Still more argument, so I thought about it some more... you know, like you do when you're approaching a discussion in good faith. I realized, hey, even though they aren't the ones I use or the ones I find in the dictionary, there are valid definitions of "collaborative storytelling" that don't describe all tabletop RPGs. Just because I was right doesn't mean everyone else was wrong. I shared that little revelation at the top of page 6.

    And yet the acrimony continued, because some folks simply would not accept that there is a valid definition that is different from theirs. So I did the next sensible thing, I looked for authoritative opinions on the subject. I checked out the introduction sections of some of my game books to see how the authors of the games themselves describe what the game is. I shared those discoveries somewhere on page 6 or 7, but I'll reprint them here for convenience's sake.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    From the 4e Player's Handbook:
    "A roleplaying game is a storytelling game that has elements of the games of make-believe that many of us played as children."

    From the 5e Player's Handbook:
    "Together, the DM and the players create an exciting story of bold adventurers who confront deadly perils."

    From the Buffy the Vampire Slayer rulebook:
    "Okay, in truth, a roleplaying game is about shared storytelling. You get together with several friends and create a tale."

    The whole White Wolf/Onyx Path system uses the word storytelling interchangeably with roleplaying, as in the Chronicles of Darkness core book:
    "Chances are you know what a storytelling — or roleplaying — game is already."
    Now here, I admit, I was a bit selective. Not every book I looked at said "collaborative storytelling" in terms that were quite so clear and pithy. But none of the books said anything that came close to contradicting the definitions I used, either. So I posted these quotes in support of the idea that even the creators of the most popular tabletop RPGs consider them storytelling by definition, and they were thoroughly ignored.

    Because that's how you come to a rational answer to a question. You define your terms, you apply them, and when people disagree you consider their opinions and come up with a rational way of determining who is right. I went with researching authoritative definitions, acknowledging reasonable differences of opinion on ambiguous terms, and referring to the stated intentions of the authors.

    If you can come up with contradictory definitions with greater authority, or find a place where the designer of a tabletop RPG explicitly states "Storytelling is not necessarily part of this game," cool. Or heck, even acknowledge that the definitions of the dictionary and the game authors are equally valid as the ones you made up and refuse to state clearly, that would be fine too.
    Last edited by Blackjackg; 2018-01-03 at 11:04 PM. Reason: Fixed a grammatical error
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Some thoughts that the previous few posts have shaken loose, in no particular order:

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    You swap out one word for another to make an absurd statement that looks superficially like something I said, claim it's equivalent or analogous to what I said, and then pretend that you're not just trying to be belittling and derisive?

    Whatever.
    Just so we're clear @Max_Killjoy, before you respond to anything I'm about to post: The above is an example of dismissiveness, based on "Common Usage" of the word Whatever and the "Context" in which it has been applied.

    At the same time I'm genuinely curious, can you identify the polemic (aggressive argumentation) technique that resulted from your words being swapped around?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    To me at least, it's more like half a dozen award-winning and "best selling" chefs who make their livings cooking for people, plus quite a few of their guests on their weekly show, consistently saying that buying a list of items from a grocery store isn't cooking a meal.
    Your assertion, and by proxy that of the chefs in question, is partially correct in that: it can be True given certain conditions.

    Concluding that possibility directly connotes validity is incorrect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    Believe it or not, I don't think it's necessary to debate the whole of modern epistemology in order to come to a reasoned definition of collaborative storytelling. I just find it remarkable that you do.
    I agree with this comment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    When I shared my perspective and saw so much disagreement, that was when I looked up dictionary definitions, to make sure that I wasn't crazy. So I shared that too, to let folks know that my perspective jibed with authoritative definitions.
    For your peace of mind, you're not crazy. Additionally, though there are some conflicts ongoing regarding specific details, I interpret a significant number of the more recent posts as agreeing with you in principle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The "story-focused" gamer is more likely to want genre-emulation, to intentionally play things out so that the sort of story they're looking for will result.

    The "character-focused" gamer is more likely to want their character to be genre-savvy, because their character is from a world where those genre elements are part of the fabric of reality and should be aware of them.
    There are a lot of things wrong with this. Ultimately however you're making anecdotal arguments.

    I think it's more productive to simply address the elephant in the room in that:

    This discussion doesn't revolve around something empirically quantifiable, we're not talking about the number of protons in a hydrogen atom here.

    As a result it's important to accept that multiple perspectives not only exist but can do so simultaneously and are of equal validity.

    If five people sitting around a table playing DnD are approached by a sixth who asks:

    #6: "What are you guys doing?"

    And all five people simultaneously respond, Then:

    Five different answers might be given. All five might be equally valid.

    For Example:

    #1: "We're playing dungeons and dragons."
    #2: "We're questing to save a princess from this giant."
    #3: "We're rolling dice."
    #4: "We're hanging out together."
    #5: "We're waiting for our pizza to be delivered."

    If the group's PCs are in fact attempting to save a princess from a giant while the players roll dice to determine the outcome of an action on the table which all five people are sitting around AND a pizza has been ordered Then:

    All five answers are equally valid.

    The argument I keep seeing from OP, yourself and a few others seems to hinge on the idea that things have to be either this or that. As if collaborative story-telling can't co-exist alongside of tactical combat, role-playing social interactions and imaginary exploration all of which are being adjudicated by rolling dice against pre-set tables.

    It can, it does and it will.
    Last edited by jojo; 2018-01-04 at 04:35 AM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    To me at least, it's more like half a dozen award-winning and "best selling" chefs who make their livings cooking for people, plus quite a few of their guests on their weekly show, consistently saying that buying a list of items from a grocery store isn't cooking a meal.
    Buying a list of items is, indeed, not cooking a meal. Once you get home, and combine those items in an oven/microwave/grill, etc THEN you are cooking a meal. Half a quote (or a misquote) is better than none?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Yup, it is impossible for roleplaying to not be storytelling.
    Just for clarity, do you mean "it is impossible for roleplaying to not be 'descriptions of events' ", or "it is impossible for roleplaying to not be 'intentionally setting up character arcs, try-fail cycles, dramatic curves, etc' " ?

    I have the impression that you mean the former, and can agree with that. If the latter, I can understand why some people feel upset.


    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    If anyone has a better term than "story focused" that also doesn't have the baggage and conflicting meanings of "narrative focused", then I'm all ears.
    I am neither a native speaker, nor familiar with all the rpg lingo, but to me the following descriptions of approaches to playing rpgs make sense:

    Boardgaming - using the mechanics to try meet a win condition. Typically Chess, Agricola, Through The Ages, etc.
    Storygaming - trying to craft a 'good' story, setting up arcs and drama and so on. Story driven, making decisions for the characters in third person figuratively speaking. Typically Fiasco, GoblinQuest.
    Roleplaying - making decisions as if the character, experiencing adventures in a fictional setting (I like Tanariis' definition). Character driven, first person decision making figuratively. Typically traditional RPGs (possibly), larp, and Max&co?

    In a game like D&D, I can do one or more of the above.

    To me calling RPGs collaborative storytelling to me sounds a little bit misleading, though. My impression is then a game about telling stories, even though technically correct as long as the fictional events will be described.
    Calling RPGs storytelling to separate them from other boardgames, meaning "this is a game where we actually describe what is going on in the fiction (can be either through roleplaying or storygaming), instead of only referencing the mechanics" is acceptable to me, however. In that respect I think storytelling is a better umbrella term than RPG, since it covers both styles and distinguish it from board games, but I'm sure an even better term could be found.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    Believe it or not, I don't think it's necessary to debate the whole of modern epistemology in order to come to a reasoned definition of collaborative storytelling. I just find it remarkable that you do.
    I'm bad about tangents, and those are my opinions of psychology and postmodernism, since them came up.

    Both tangents originated with someone making one of their "oh yes you do and here's why" assertions about other people's thought processes.


    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    And yet the acrimony continued, because some folks simply would not accept that there is a valid definition that is different from theirs.
    Acrimony resulted because no matter how many times people told you (and others) that they personally are not doing story when playing an RPG, that this is not how they approach playing their character, that they are not thinking about story or planning out story or working toward any sort of story, etc... you insisted that they were wrong, and then doubled down by insisting that they can't figuratively can't even get out of bed in the morning without doing story. The consistent insistence by you (and some others) that you know their minds and thought processes better than they do, is what made things acrimonious.


    As for definitions...

    I'm not in California, in fact I'm far from it. If someone presents a definition of California that allows them to claim I'm in California, that definition is flawed.

    I'm not a Martian. If someone presents a definition of Martian that allows them to them claim I'm a Martian, that definition is flawed.

    When playing a character in an RPG, I'm not doing story. If someone presents a definition of story that allows them to claim that I am doing story...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinkerer View Post
    The problem is you seem to be saying that the character focused gamer isn't generating a story. And you appear to using the defense that an accomplished writer said that people who don't do things their way aren't writing a "real" story and are simply describing a sequence of events. This is similar to many skilled chefs who would say that someone making Kraft Dinner isn't "really" cooking. Except making Kraft Dinner is cooking and it would be pretty foolish to try and argue otherwise.
    The problem might be that the general, basic words cover doing nearly anything even vaguely related to whatever it is your talking about. If you make some Mac and Cheese you have cooked a meal, and if you make a seven course roast dinner you have cooked a meal.

    Any two year old can tell you a story, but is the story they tell equal to say any story from Shakespeare?

    So the focus needs to be a bit more on meaningful storytelling, not just someone that can string a couple words together.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    There are a lot of things wrong with this. Ultimately however you're making anecdotal arguments.
    That wasn't an argument, it was an attempt to illustrate where I'm coming from with examples. I didn't even make absolute statements because it's not universally true, nothing about how people game or what they want out of gaming is universally true... which is part of why the "oh yes you are doing story" nonsense is so exasperating.


    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    I think it's more productive to simply address the elephant in the room in that:

    This discussion doesn't revolve around something empirically quantifiable, we're not talking about the number of protons in a hydrogen atom here.

    As a result it's important to accept that multiple perspectives not only exist but can do so simultaneously and are of equal validity.
    Which, again, is part of why "you're doing story no matter what, even if you don't think you are" is so wrong.


    Quote Originally Posted by jojo View Post
    If five people sitting around a table playing DnD are approached by a sixth who asks:

    #6: "What are you guys doing?"

    And all five people simultaneously respond, Then:

    Five different answers might be given. All five might be equally valid.

    For Example:

    #1: "We're playing dungeons and dragons."
    #2: "We're questing to save a princess from this giant."
    #3: "We're rolling dice."
    #4: "We're hanging out together."
    #5: "We're waiting for our pizza to be delivered."

    If the group's PCs are in fact attempting to save a princess from a giant while the players roll dice to determine the outcome of an action on the table which all five people are sitting around AND a pizza has been ordered Then:

    All five answers are equally valid.

    The argument I keep seeing from OP, yourself and a few others seems to hinge on the idea that things have to be either this or that. As if collaborative story-telling can't co-exist alongside of tactical combat, role-playing social interactions and imaginary exploration all of which are being adjudicated by rolling dice against pre-set tables.

    It can, it does and it will.
    I'm honestly lost as to where I said that it can only be one thing at once.

    I've been arguing against the idea that it "must be" one thing in particular no matter what (that thing being "storytelling"). I've even said more than once that it CAN be storytelling, but that doesn't mean it MUST BE storytelling.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-04 at 10:23 AM. Reason: typo
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I'm not in California, in fact I'm far from it. If someone presents a definition of California that allows them to claim I'm in California, that definition is flawed.

    I'm not a Martian. If someone presents a definition of Martian that allows them to them claim I'm a Martian, that definition is flawed.

    When playing a character in an RPG, I'm not doing story. If someone presents a definition of story that allows them to claim that I am doing story...
    You make a core mistake here. You assume that your indifference to a thing is tantamount to not doing it.

    You're claiming that not caring about story means you aren't producing one as a byproduct of your actions. This is as absurd as the claim that because I don't care of any apples grow when I grow an apple tree, then therefore apples will never end up in my backyard and I just have a tree, no apples.

    If that sounds absurd, good. You're understanding what you are saying.

    Frankly, you should probably come around to:
    "If I don't think I'm doing a thing, but definitionally I am doing that thing, I need to refine my claim to be more specific."

    You've become so attached to a particular connotation of story that you can't separate the connotation you don't like from it's basic meaning.

    Then again this'll go entirely ignored so whatever.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Acrimony resulted because no matter how many times people told you (and others) that they personally are not doing story when playing an RPG, that this is not how they approach playing their character, that they are not thinking about story or planning out story or working toward any sort of story, etc... you insisted that they were wrong, and then doubled down by insisting that they can't figuratively can't even get out of bed in the morning without doing story. The consistent insistence by you (and some others) that you know their minds and thought processes better than they do, is what made things acrimonious.
    Thanks for clearing that up. To my mind, this is another intellectually dishonest tactic: A person uses their own experience as a point of reference for describing their definitions. Then, when another person challenges their definition, the first person says some variant of "You are trying to invalidate my experience! I am insulted!" as some kind of conversational trump card.

    You are allowed to define your experience any way you want to. No one can take that away from you. But when you include your experience as a point of reference in a conversation about definition, it is fair game for another person to say "the experience you described could also be defined in this way." I don't need to know the interior of your mind better than you do to say that there are multiple ways of defining the process that you yourself described.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    As for definitions...

    I'm not in California, in fact I'm far from it. If someone presents a definition of California that allows them to claim I'm in California, that definition is flawed.

    I'm not a Martian. If someone presents a definition of Martian that allows them to them claim I'm a Martian, that definition is flawed.

    When playing a character in an RPG, I'm not doing story. If someone presents a definition of story that allows them to claim that I am doing story...
    See, these are examples of working backward from conclusion to definition (at least you have presented them as such, I can only guess at the process that went into them). You start with a certainty of self-description and derive your definition (or lack thereof) from that.

    I don't know how you define Martian. The way I define it, I tend to agree with you, you probably aren't one. But for the sake of clarity, let's see what the dictionary has to say.

    Martian: a hypothetical or fictional inhabitant of Mars.

    Now let's see if that applies. Do you inhabit Mars? No? Excellent. We can come to the reasoned conclusion that you are not a Martian.

    Although, maybe there are other definitions of Martian that we aren't thinking of. I seem to recall that some astrological types use the term to describe people who were born with Mars in their astrological sign. Or something like that? Anyway, let's say hypothetically some people use the term that way. By that definition, maybe you are a Martian (if you happen to have been born with Mars in your astrological sign). It does not become invalid simply because you don't use the word that way.

    Likewise, when you start from the conclusion that you are not "doing story," and derive your definitions from that, you are working backwards. When you work backwards, rather than arriving at a reasonable and defensible conclusion, you arrive at an unreasonable and indefensible definition like "storytelling is defined as that which I'm not doing when I play RPGs."
    Last edited by Blackjackg; 2018-01-04 at 10:14 AM. Reason: Second section added
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Why does it have to mean something opposed to a series of events? You ever hear of a synonym?

    Besides, we can narrow it down a bit if you want. Lets look at a dictionary.

    Merriam-Webster "an account of incidents or events"
    Oxford "An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment."
    Cambridge "a description, either true or imagined, of a connected series of events"

    And to further help, lets look at the definition of an "account"
    - "A report or description of an event or experience"


    So, the dictionary seems to imply that a story must be "told" to actually be a story. If we want to stick with the literal denotation of the word, then the answer is "No" to the question "if a series of events is never recorded or recounted, is it a story?"
    All good and perfectly logical so far.

    That makes a difference with some of the philosophical musings on this thread, but it makes no difference in deciding if specifically playing an RPG is storytelling.
    And ... Suddenly we hit the brick wall of illogic. It makes all the difference in the world if you change the definition to remove description or account, including for RPGs. It's not just some philosophical difference. It's the entire point: without the intent to create a description or account of events, there is no story.

    When you play an RPG you are 100% working with others to jointly create "a description, either true or imagined, of a connected series of events". When you play an RPG, the players and GM are jointly describing a connected series of events to each other. How can you possibly play an RPG and not do that?
    No, you are absolutely NOT required to work with others to jointly create "a description, either true or imagined, of a connected series of events" when playing an RPG. This is a completely & utterly false statement.

    How can you possibly play an RPG and not do that? Easy: I make decisions for my character in the fantasy environment. This in no way describes a connected series of events. I tell the GM what I intend my character to attempt to do. End of story, pun intended. Provided we use the actual definition for story, which is that story is a description or account of events.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    All good and perfectly logical so far.

    And ... Suddenly we hit the brick wall of illogic. It makes all the difference in the world if you change the definition to remove description or account, including for RPGs. It's not just some philosophical difference. It's the entire point: without the intent to create a description or account of events, there is no story.
    Nowhere in in any of those definitions is the word "intent".

    No, you are absolutely NOT required to work with others to jointly create "a description, either true or imagined, of a connected series of events" when playing an RPG. This is a completely & utterly false statement.
    You are describing what your characters are doing in the game.

    How can you possibly play an RPG and not do that? Easy: I make decisions for my character in the fantasy environment. This in no way describes a connected series of events. I tell the GM what I intend my character to attempt to do. End of story, pun intended. Provided we use the actual definition for story, which is that story is a description or account of events.
    Making a decision for your character in a fantasy environment does describe a series of events. That is exactly what it does. "my character attacks the goblin". "my character sneaks into the warehouse". "my character sweet-talks his way past the guard"

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    Just for clarity, do you mean "it is impossible for roleplaying to not be 'descriptions of events' ", or "it is impossible for roleplaying to not be 'intentionally setting up character arcs, try-fail cycles, dramatic curves, etc' " ?

    I have the impression that you mean the former, and can agree with that. If the latter, I can understand why some people feel upset.
    You are correct, the former.
    Last edited by Aliquid; 2018-01-04 at 10:51 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    I tell the GM what I intend my character to attempt to do.
    "I roll Diplomacy"?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Aliquid View Post
    Nowhere in in any of those definitions is the word "intent".
    Intent matters.

    You are describing what your characters are doing in the game.
    No, I assure you, I am not.

    Why is it people keep trying to tell me what I'm doing? This seems to be a common problem among folks trying to prove that all playing an RPG is storytelling, at least in this thread.

    Making a decision for your character in a fantasy environment does describe a series of events. That is exactly what it does. "my character attacks the goblin". "my character sneaks into the warehouse". "my character sweet-talks his way past the guard"
    No, I don't. I communicate what my character attempts to do. Not what she does. The attempted actions need to be resolved, at the minimum in the GMs mind, before they become an actual in-game event.

    As a GM I commonly run into the problem where players use language as if they've already accomplished an action, similar to what you're using as an example, and thus mentally assume it automatically resolves instead of merely declaring their intent to attempt the action.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    "I roll Diplomacy"?

    hahahaha thanks that gave me a good laugh.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2018-01-04 at 11:03 AM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Tanarii, I would love to be a fly on the wall at one of your RPG sessions. A bunch of people sitting around a table not giving any description of what's happening in the game? Must be riveting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    The problem might be that the general, basic words cover doing nearly anything even vaguely related to whatever it is your talking about. If you make some Mac and Cheese you have cooked a meal, and if you make a seven course roast dinner you have cooked a meal.

    Any two year old can tell you a story, but is the story they tell equal to say any story from Shakespeare?

    So the focus needs to be a bit more on meaningful storytelling, not just someone that can string a couple words together.
    However in this case it doesn't need to focus on that since it is the umbrella term. RPG gaming is a type of collaborative storytelling much the same as soccer is a type of team sport. The fact that football and baseball and hockey are also types of team sport doesn't detract from the usefulness of the phrase team sport. If I were describing soccer to someone I would most likely begin with the phrase "Soccer is a type of team sport where...". There is a reason why it is at the beginning of so many books (as mentioned above), because it is the fundamental basis of communicating the concept of the action of role-playing.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Intent matters.

    No, I assure you, I am not.

    Why is it people keep trying to tell me what I'm doing? This seems to be a common problem among folks trying to prove that all playing an RPG is storytelling, at least in this thread.

    No, I don't. I communicate what my character attempts to do. Not what she does. The attempted actions need to be resolved, at the minimum in the GMs mind, before they become an actual in-game event.

    As a GM I commonly run into the problem where players use language as if they've already accomplished an action, similar to what you're using as an example, and thus mentally assume it automatically resolves instead of merely declaring their intent to attempt the action.

    hahahaha thanks that gave me a good laugh.
    Attempts: suddenly not events, apparently.

    If I attempt to do a handstand, I am not doing anything. I exist only in a quantum state of fail and success for a few brief moments and then suddenly I either have succeeded or have not.

    Also, apparently all of your characters are mute, meaning you never say "Bob says '_____.' "

    And the collaborative suddenly means that unless it is 4 people declaring things to have happened with 0 back and forth, discussion, or dispute, it does not count as collaboration. Becausr everyone knows uncertainty, dispute, and discussion have never occured in any collaborative effort, ever.

    Come on, dude.

  30. - Top - End - #300
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    Aug 2008

    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    As for definitions...

    I'm not in California, in fact I'm far from it. If someone presents a definition of California that allows them to claim I'm in California, that definition is flawed.

    I'm not a Martian. If someone presents a definition of Martian that allows them to them claim I'm a Martian, that definition is flawed.

    When playing a character in an RPG, I'm not doing story. If someone presents a definition of story that allows them to claim that I am doing story...
    This argument is literally just that you're not wrong, and thus if anyone presents a definition that makes you wrong the definition must be wrong. It is then bolstered by two obvious examples where you're right, from which we're apparently just supposed to infer that you're right on the point of contention.

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