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    Default Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    It was getting majorly off topic, so starting a new thread based on:
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...readmill/page4
    And
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/shows...&postcount=100

    Whenever someone drops the line "RPGs are about collaborative storytelling" I sets me off on a rant. For a simple reason. It's a meaningless phrase.

    The vast majority of people saying this, when asked what they mean, will come back with a variation on "sitting around with other people, doing stuff with our characters and having stuff happen". Which is otherwise known as "playing an RPG". In other words, they're using a circular definition. Playing an RPG is playing an RPG. It's a meaningless phrase.

    Conversely, when I talk about storytelling in RPgs, I break it into two different things:

    1) narrative resolution or narrative mechanics for resolution. Thing happen because they need to happen for the story, or are better for the story. This can be by GM fiat, player fiat, or a mechanic built into the game system. This is different from causal resolution, where things happen because they connect to what the PC is attempting to accomplish, and resonance outcomes for that, where "reasonable" is based on the assumptions of the system.

    2) Emergent storytelling. This is where you're doing stuff with your characters, and then recounting the events after the fact. A story emerges from what has happened, but is distinct from the actual resolution to events occurring causally or narratively, whichever method is being used. In other words, emergent storytelling is the story that emerged, and you have once you are done, so it tells you that you're looking at the story that emerged.

    Cooperative storytelling is meaningless because it nothing about how resolution of given events is handled, nor acknowledges that stories don't exist while events occur. All it does is sound meaningful, without providing any actual meaning.

    (This one probably doesn't need a Fight Me! It's gonna happen anyway. )

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    I would tend to agree.

    Part of it is, I think, that said "RPGs are collaborative storytelling" assertion was made with a deliberate intent, by a certain sort, but was picked up as a general and fairly empty definition by the broader community.

    There's a distinct difference between sitting down to tell a story, and having a story emerge. I can tell a story about what happened at work today, but I didn't go about my day making decisions based on what would make the best story; a sports journalist can tell a story after the fact about a football game, but the players don't deliberately play out a story. (I've known a couple people who make real-life decisions based on what amounts to "what would make the best story", and they tend to be the kind who need figurative or literal bailing out on a regular basis... ugh.)

    Then there's the conflation of other elements with the actual "story" part. Character, setting, etc, do not depend on deliberate story, those are separate elements.

    Some people associate good stories with in-character decisions, consistent characterizations, solid worldbuilding, meticulously uncontrived plots, etc, so when they say "what would make a good story", they're looking for the sorts of things that also make a good roleplaying game experience. Other people use the phrase "what would make a good story" as a call for Narrative Causality, which amounts to "things happen because the story I wanted to tell needed them to happen", and that almost always results in a BAD story, whether deliberate or emergent.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    The vast majority of people saying this, when asked what they mean, will come back with a variation on "sitting around with other people, doing stuff with our characters and having stuff happen". Which is otherwise known as "playing an RPG". In other words, they're using a circular definition. Playing an RPG is playing an RPG. It's a meaningless phrase.
    In attempting to demonstrate that the phrase is meaningless you've just assigned it a definition. There's also a difference between a synonym and a circular definition. If I use the term mixed liquor volatile suspended solid, and people ask what I mean I'll generally explain it as a measurement of the amount of biomass in wastewater*. By your argument, that is otherwise known as MLVSS, I'm using a circular definition, MLVSS is MLVSS, and thus it's a meaningless phrase.

    *Its a bit more technical than that, but.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Part of it is, I think, that said "RPGs are collaborative storytelling" assertion was made with a deliberate intent, by a certain sort, but was picked up as a general and fairly empty definition by the broader community.
    Indeed. It's possible it had a more specific meaning at some point, but I never see it used that way any more.

    (I've known a couple people who make real-life decisions based on what amounts to "what would make the best story", and they tend to be the kind who need figurative or literal bailing out on a regular basis... ugh.)
    I'm always a little horrified when people talk about the story of their life.

    Other people use the phrase "what would make a good story" as a call for Narrative Causality, which amounts to "things happen because the story I wanted to tell needed them to happen", and that almost always results in a BAD story, whether deliberate or emergent.
    I think it's likely to end in a bad story if the GM does it, and does it with a specific story in mind from the get go.

    But some narrative resolution RPGs out there encourage the GM to make that decision without a specific story in mind. AW comes to mind. It doesn't actually have a narrative resolution system other than GM fiat, but the strong strictures / checklist it puts around GM fiat effectively make it system on the GM side of things.

    Conversely, I know there are other RPGs out there that encourage the players to put a direct hand in narrative resolution, not just the GM. Now if someone were to use the term "cooperative storytelling" to mean "the DM and player cooperate in using narrative resolution", it'd have meaning. But that's not how it is typically used.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    In attempting to demonstrate that the phrase is meaningless you've just assigned it a definition.
    I've referenced how it is typically used. In a way that makes it meaningless. Having a definition doesn't make something meaningful. (Edit: for that matter, being a definition doesn't always make something meaningful.)

    There's also a difference between a synonym and a circular definition.
    Fair. But using it synonymous for the thing it's being used to explain is circular and meaningless.

    If I use the term mixed liquor volatile suspended solid, and people ask what I mean I'll generally explain it as a measurement of the amount of biomass in wastewater*. By your argument, that is otherwise known as MLVSS, I'm using a circular definition, MLVSS is MLVSS, and thus it's a meaningless phrase.

    *Its a bit more technical than that, but.
    Not being familiar with what you're talking about, I can't really comment on if you're failing to explain the thing with the so-called explanation. But it sounds like you're doing it back to front to me. As in, to be analogous to what I'm talking about, it seems like it would be telling someone you measure the amount of biomass in wasterwater, then explaining that it's all about MLVSS. When asked what MLVSS is, you explain it's measuring the amount of biomass in wastewater. That would make MLVSS a meaningless phrase.

    Similar to how various industries coin phrases for something else all the time, which are really meaningless in that they don't really add explain the underlying this, while giving the impression of it. Military and IT acronyms for example.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-12-28 at 05:42 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Collaborative Storytelling clearly includes (at least) some RPG's but there is no need for the Collaborating storytellers to take on roles or for it to take the form of a game.
    Going the other way, RPG's that aren't CS can also occur (though once choices are meaningful they almost certainly are - edit I'm now not so sure about that)

    "sitting around with other people, doing stuff with our characters and having [story] stuff happen" matches the definition of C-S (with the bit in italics not being overly relevant) and justifies their version of RPG being an example of CS while still of course still being an RPG.
    Last edited by jayem; 2017-12-28 at 05:46 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by jayem View Post
    "sitting around with other people, doing stuff with our characters and having [story] stuff happen" matches the definition of C-S (with the bit in italics not being overly relevant) and justifies their version of RPG being an example of CS while still of course still being an RPG.
    Adding the word [story] changes the meaning considerably. Now you're talking about narrative resolution.

    (Edit: that's not a problem or anything. It just means you're one example of someone that doesn't agree with the way I say the phrase is most often used, and uses it differently.)
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-12-28 at 05:54 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    "Collaborative storytelling" certainly exists as a thing-- something like Fiasco is a very different beast than even a narrative-oriented RPG like Fate. I'd argue that the crucial distinction is in how attached players are to their characters--not just emotionally, but mechanically, functionally. In an RPG, players take the role of one discrete individual, and can primarily shape the world at large through their direct actions. By contrast, in a collaborative storytelling game, there is a lot more freedom--players can take control of NPCs and random quirks of fate. But they're also not so much "games" as "guided brainstorming tools."

    A secondary distinction might be player goals-- in an RPG, you're making choices mostly with success in mind, or at least what your character would percieve as being the "right" choice. By contrast, in a CSG you'll often screw your own "character" over in the name of creating a more interesting overall narrative.

    ...actually, the whole distinction of "player" verses "GM" is a pretty good indicator that you're playing an RPG, not a CSG.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Adding the word [story] changes the meaning considerably. Now you're talking about narrative resolution.
    Unless there's good reason to think otherwise assuming they didn't mean to include story stuff seems like running a risk of straw-manning. After all it's already your summary of the argument.
    And while it does change the meaning (though quite what counts as story stuff I don't know*). I don't think I am directly going to narrative-resolution . Yes some story-stuff will need resolution.

    *I think maybe character development, obstacle overcoming, and world reshaping would count.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    "Collaborative storytelling" certainly exists as a thing
    Quote Originally Posted by jayem View Post
    Unless there's good reason to think otherwise assuming they didn't mean to include story stuff seems like running a risk of straw-manning. After all it's already your summary of the argument.
    And while it does change the meaning (though quite what counts as story stuff I don't know*). I don't think I am directly going to narrative-resolution . Yes some story-stuff will need resolution.
    In other words, both of you guys agree that if someone says "the point of D&D (or other RPG) is collaborative storytelling" or "roleplaying is collaborative storytelling", they're using the phrase meaninglessly, as opposed to talking about actually working on a narrative? Or do you believe these folks that trot out that trite phrase to describe D&D / RPGs / roleplaying really mean collaboratively working on the narrative?

    (jayem narrative resolution doesn't need to be an all or nothing thing. It often is, but I'm not suggesting that it's required.)

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Collaborative storytelling is storytelling that's collaborative. Playing a game where you do nothing but fight things without thought for any kind of story is not that. Telling a story together is that, even if you're not playing an RPG.

    So it's not a meaningless phrase - it's a phrase with a meaning which is almost strikingly obvious.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    Playing a game where you do nothing but fight things without thought for any kind of story is not that.
    Really? It's certainly an emergent story, at the minimum.

    This sounds remarkably like the elitist and wrong-headed claims that doing nothing but fighting and dungeon-crawling isn't roleplaying.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Really? It's certainly an emergent story, at the minimum.

    This sounds remarkably like the elitist and wrong-headed claims that doing nothing but fighting and dungeon-crawling isn't roleplaying.
    I mean, if you're just throwing random, dissociated encounters at a group, rather than having a specific location, story, or anything else. I mean, "The party fought a series of disconnected level-appropriate encounters without moving around much" may technically be a story on some overtly truth-by-stipulation level, but it's not a story in any real sense. So you can stop putting words in my mouth and taking other ones out (like the part where I specifically said fighting things without any thought for story is not storytelling).
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    In my mind: collaborative storytelling is multiple people (in the author position) working together to tell a story. This is a broader category than role-playing games, because it includes things like two people throwing ideas back and forth and writing a book with them.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    You can have collaborative storytelling without roleplaying or gaming. You can also have roleplaying + gaming without collaborative storytelling.

    CS without RG: I will write a paragraph of a (text) story, then pass it to you. You add a paragraph, and pass it to the next person, ...

    CS + R without G: We each choose characters to portray and write a (text) story, with each of us writing the scenes/parts of a specific character.

    CS + G without R: Not so common, but sometimes I see this kind of thing in After-Action Reports for computer games like Dominions, Crusader Kings, or other nation-builders. The players play out a game, then after the fact someone writes a story post-hoc about why things went the way they did.

    RG without CS: A prewritten module or railroaded campaign. Characterization is up to the players, but the story is fixed and isn't the object of the exercise.

    I'd say there's a subset of roleplaying games which are specifically designed to aid in collaborative storytelling. Usually this involves some sort of explicit division system for narrative control - either through things like dramatic editing tokens, or through players having specific responsibility for different aspects of the story. Most mainstream RPGs don't actually directly try to support collaborative storytelling, but also don't particularly preclude it either, so there's nothing stopping a group of D&D players from having a table culture more along the lines of 'lets tell a cool story together' than 'abstract strategy game time!' or 'we're each going to have a power trip' or all sorts of different things. So the term is meaningful inasmuch as it defines a particular design direction you could try to push on, but not as a 'definition of RPGs'.
    Last edited by NichG; 2017-12-28 at 08:16 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Basically you don't agree with how people are using a term because you prefer phrasing/quantifying it differently. Also you are applying your personal experiences with ttrpgs to everyone's experiences with ttrpgs.

    So Semantics & Pedantry. Huzzah! =P
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by lunaticfringe View Post
    Basically you don't agree with how people are using a term because you prefer phrasing/quantifying it differently. Also you are applying your personal experiences with ttrpgs to everyone's experiences with ttrpgs.

    So Semantics & Pedantry. Huzzah! =P
    Actually, I was claiming that the people who use it are using it in a meaningless manner.

    Every time someone responds to this thread saying no, actually, they use it to mean actually telling a story together, as in narrative resolution or something similar that's actually related to story, that's another person showing me I'm wrong about common usage.

    Every time someone claims they're telling a story together, but not actually using narrative resolution or anything similar related to story, that's someone backing up my point.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2017-12-28 at 09:07 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    If you don't see how doing things with no story and no attempt at story doesn't create a story, that's on you.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Every time someone responds to this thread saying no, actually, they use it to mean actually telling a story together, as in narrative resolution or something similar that's actually related to story, that's another person showing me I'm wrong about common usage.

    Every time someone claims they're telling a story together, but not actually using narrative resolution or anything similar related to story, that's someone backing up my point.
    My thing is, even if you're not thinking in terms of "we're going to set up satisfying character arcs and a narrative resolution over the course of this campaign that wraps up the loose ends!" ...in many games that don't end prematurely, this happens.

    If a character has a goal, and over the course of the game they either reach that goal or fail at it, that's a character arc. If trouble is brewing in the kingdom and it eventually turns out that devils are behind it and the characters head to the Nine Hells, manage to defeat the demons, and save the day by the end of the game... That's a narrative resolution. The overarching plot of the game has been resolved.

    No one at the table might be actively thinking in those terms, but games that have a decent amount of roleplay and a plot wrt what's actually happening in the game, rather than just "this is a dungeon crawl," wind up having... well, plots. Characters moving through plot makes a story. And in a good game, it's not just the DM putting the entire thing on rails, hence saying that it's not just the DM's story (and hence the fairly common DM advice that if he just wants the players to be on rails to tell the story he wants to tell, he should write a book rather than trying to DM it)—everyone is collaborating on telling it because the players are making decisions for their own characters, and those decisions impact what happens and especially at higher levels impact the game world itself.

    Story emerges from characters interacting with and moving through plot. And because everyone is working together rather than the player's decisions not having any impact at all—at least, in a good game—that's why it gets called a collaborative story. I'm just not seeing the confusion here or the "well if you use this phrase you obviously just don't know what it means and want to sound smart while saying nothing." Or, to be honest, you repeated insistence that you can't actually have a story until after the fact. If people get up on a stage and improv a full narrative, with character arcs and narrative resolution, and people go "wow, that wound up being a pretty incredible story!" it's just weird to insist that, no, it was NOT a story, because while the events are emerging there's not actually a story, it's only a story when recounted after the fact.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Roleplaying is a conversation.
    Sometimes we interrupt this conversation to roll some dice and see where the conversation goes next.
    The same skills that make a person good at conversation make them an ideal player in all of the ways that are not purely mechanics-based.
    Over the course of this conversation, a story is developed. Whether on purpose or as a byproduct, it happens.

    Conversations require multiple people and since rpgs are usually noncompetitive they can be described as Collaborative without being a stretch.

    Storytelling is literally just the telling of stories, even if made up on the fly. Improvised storytelling is still storytelling. We are all telling the stories of our individual characters within the context of the greater story of what happens around them, anyways. Stories are frequently made of smaller stories. We often call these Subplots.

    So when someone says Collaborative Storytelling, they're using two words to encapsulate a lot.

    In essence:
    Collaborative Storytelling easily contains both of your definitions, and if they don't feel the need to expand on that, it can be left there.

    To review:
    Collaborative because everyone at the table is invested (ideally) and helps make it what we decide it should be. (Emergent, narrative, neither, whichever)

    Storytelling because we all assume the role of storyteller for our own subplots (the characters) and contribute to the overall whole, whether purposefully or not.

    It's wide-reaching and people struggle to explain what they mean by it. That doesn't make it meaningless. Just poorly explained.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    In other words, both of you guys agree that if someone says "the point of D&D (or other RPG) is collaborative storytelling" or "roleplaying is collaborative storytelling", they're using the phrase meaninglessly, as opposed to talking about actually working on a narrative? Or do you believe these folks that trot out that trite phrase to describe D&D / RPGs / roleplaying really mean collaboratively working on the narrative?

    (jayem narrative resolution doesn't need to be an all or nothing thing. It often is, but I'm not suggesting that it's required.)
    Yes in the sense that it's a different activity from Pratchett and Gaiman co-authoring Good Omen's.

    No, because if they said "Football is collaborative storytelling" or even "Monopoly is collaborative storytelling" they'd be wrong. There's something different about the stuff that happens in many RPG's that is different. And it's important. Because of all their inputs stuff happens.

    I chose Terry&Neill as an easy example of collaboration in authorship, but as both of them dwell on the importance, ubiquity and togetherness of story, it is quite fitting.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    In my mind: collaborative storytelling is multiple people (in the author position) working together to tell a story. This is a broader category than role-playing games, because it includes things like two people throwing ideas back and forth and writing a book with them.
    This fits my definition.

    But this means that most RPGs, like D&D and most D20 ones, are NOT collaborative storytelling games. Collaborative storytelling has several authors, RPGs like D&D only have one author: The DM.

    Now sure, people cry that players as they do like 5% or so of the creative game play are authors too....like if someone writes one page of a novel, sure they are an ''author''...though really a ''co-author''.

    In the RPGs, like D&D the DM is doing at least 95% of everything....with the players doing maybe 5%. It is not an even split. Dm: Creates a whole world, Player: Makes one character.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    RG without CS: A prewritten module or railroaded campaign. Characterization is up to the players, but the story is fixed and isn't the object of the exercise.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    But this means that most RPGs, like D&D and most D20 ones, are NOT collaborative storytelling games. Collaborative storytelling has several authors, RPGs like D&D only have one author: The DM.
    You know what, I spoke as if role-playing games were a strict subset of collaborative storytelling. I am going to have to resend that because yes, not all role-playing games are collaborative, or even storytelling. Mind you all the best ones are. OK, my favourite ones are designed with the intention of also being collaborative storytelling, most systems you can actually run with or without that.

    For instance, D&D often does have the assumption the players are just along for the ride. But there have been plenty of moments of collaborative storytelling. In my last session I ended up writing an NPC contact because the GM forgot to fill it in. Now this was ultimately flavour text, I did say this was but a moment, but we got a scene about buying bread at a bakery that we wouldn't have otherwise.

    On the other hand, I have played systems where setting is an explicate part of game set up and is collaborative. The GM has most of the control over it once play starts, but by then the shape of it has already been decided by the group as a whole. Also games with proactive PCs shifts things as well because that shifts more of shaping the narrative to the players. The world reacts to them and not the other way around.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    This fits my definition.

    But this means that most RPGs, like D&D and most D20 ones, are NOT collaborative storytelling games. Collaborative storytelling has several authors, RPGs like D&D only have one author: The DM.

    Now sure, people cry that players as they do like 5% or so of the creative game play are authors too....like if someone writes one page of a novel, sure they are an ''author''...though really a ''co-author''.

    In the RPGs, like D&D the DM is doing at least 95% of everything....with the players doing maybe 5%. It is not an even split. Dm: Creates a whole world, Player: Makes one character.
    While the DM may be making quantatively more stuff, since everything that happens in D&D games (or at least everything that happens "On-screen") involves at least one player character, or at least the player characters are present, or using some kind of ability they have to do something. The players are, one hopes, participating as much in the actual doing of stuff as the DM, at the very least between them if not individually.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    I'm guilty of using this phrase, though here's my excuse and reasoning for why I'll probably keep using it.

    I've played in a lot of groups with one or more new players that are fully up front about not understanding what they should be doing. Telling them that we're telling a "collaborative story" is easy enough to understand and it gets across the basic point of what we're doing.
    Iop brain.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    In my mind: collaborative storytelling is multiple people (in the author position) working together to tell a story. This is a broader category than role-playing games, because it includes things like two people throwing ideas back and forth and writing a book with them.

    I agree it's a broader term than roleplaying game. I've done a lot of collaborative storytelling with my kids as bedtime stories where they impact the story with their ideas, no roleplaying involved.
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    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    So, to be clear on your point: You do not consider 1 author setting the parameters for a story (i.e. "Let's tell a story set in Tolkiens Middle Earth, where Sauron recovered the One Ring"), and taking responsibility for writing the actions of several characters of said story, while other authors take responsibility for writing the actions of a single character each, to be "Collaborative Storytelling"? If they all write it down and (try to) get it published, does this count as CS, and it is no longer CS if they don't write it down, and use dice to generate some random content?
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

    - L. Long

    I think, therefore I get really, really annoyed at people who won't.

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Again, I go to my three interaction types in RPGs

    1)
    GM: "This is the situation"
    Player: "I do this."
    GM: "This is the new situation."

    2)
    Player 1: "I move my piece in accordance with the rules."
    Player 2: "I move my piece in accordance with the rules."
    Player 3: "I move my piece in accordance with the rules."

    3)
    Player 1: "This happens."
    Player 2: "Then this happens."
    Player 3: "Then this happens."

    Few games are strictly one type or another, and most blend at least two. "Cooperative storytelling" is primarily when everyone is engaging in type 3 interactions for the majority of the game. Fiasco, Microscope, Penny For My Thoughts, Kingdom - these are all good examples.

    My personal beef is the "it's all about storytelling." No, it's not, unless you stretch the definition of "storytelling" to the breaking point, and make it so expansive that any human activity can be "about storytelling."

    It's also worth noting that most of the worst examples of "narrative causality" or the like do not happen in what are commonly termed "storygames" - that movement is all about *not knowing* what will happen, and finding out through play. "Narrative causality" is kind of the direct opposite of that. If you don't know what the story is in advance, the idea of things happening "because they have to" is rather silly. Most "narrative causality" in RPGs is a direct result of railroading, and "story games" or "narrative games" generally position themselves opposite of railroading.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2017-12-29 at 06:34 PM.
    "Gosh 2D8HP, you are so very correct (and also good looking)"

  29. - Top - End - #29
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Whenever someone drops the line "RPGs are about collaborative storytelling" I sets me off on a rant. For a simple reason. It's a meaningless phrase.

    The vast majority of people saying this, when asked what they mean, will come back with a variation on "sitting around with other people, doing stuff with our characters and having stuff happen". Which is otherwise known as "playing an RPG". In other words, they're using a circular definition. Playing an RPG is playing an RPG. It's a meaningless phrase.
    Nonsense.

    RPG's consist of two things. Rolling dice and telling stories. Either of these things are possible without the other. If you're rpg'ing with the dice, there is an element of a game of chance in your collaborative storytelling. This is a variable: Sometimes it's more correct to state that there is an element of collaborative storytelling in your game of chance.

    So at one extreme of the spectrum, you're all about the dice rolls, and at the other - all about the storytelling.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Again, I go to my three interaction types in RPGs

    1)
    GM: "This is the situation"
    Player: "I do this."
    GM: "This is the new situation."

    3)
    Player 1: "This happens."
    Player 2: "Then this happens."
    Player 3: "Then this happens."
    I might argue that your 1 and 3 are essentially the same thing, but on different scales.
    "This happens" is another form of "This is the situation"
    "I do this" is just a more limited scope of "Then this happens", as the "this" in this case, applies to a singular reference point, rather than a broader one.

    Furthermore, I might argue that "this is the situation" only occurs at the very beginning, everything that follows is "Then this happens". Action and reaction. The situation itself may not change do to action, but there will always be some form of reaction. Ultimately, changing the situation is (usually) the end goal...unless you refer to the immediate situation, i.e.

    GM: You wake up in bed. You hear screaming coming from outside.
    Player: I get out of bed, and look outside.

    The player has technically changed the immediate situation of "being in bed", and nothing else. If the overall situation is "A mad wizard is attempting to destroy the world", said player still has a long way to go towards establishing a new situation. To that point, the player has done nothing to change the "you hear screaming outside" situation yet.
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

    - L. Long

    I think, therefore I get really, really annoyed at people who won't.

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