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  1. - Top - End - #181
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Well, in RPGs, you're either RPing or Gaming. You're either rolling dice or interacting with the environment in character.
    What happens if the GM plonks down the BBEG just after I move my mini round a corner. No need to say anything as he has the right mini; just some laughing. We roll initiative, then I roll my attack and announce damage. The GM does the same, back and forth we go until the BBEG has fallen and I have 1 hit point left. Lets assume the rest of the party are elsewhere. A major part of the plot has taken place and the adventure moves to phase 2 with the BBEG's boss accelerating his plans. In my minds eye my character was battling this mighty demon and vanquished it, but nearly at the cost of his own life. Nothing needed to be described because we both have vivid imaginations (and we've both memorised the Monster Manual ).

    Was that fight a story or game?
    Last edited by Sensate8; 2018-01-02 at 12:39 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Yes, it just seems to be part of human nature. And that was my point actually.
    Also being aggressively offensive in a brand new thread and viewing it as defensively pushing back seems to be part of human nature on the internet.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    I'm having trouble understanding what bothers you so much about the idea that it is.

    Again, your language seems to be based around the complaint about being pigeonholed with a definition that is too broad to have meaning. So you're being confined to a limitless space. Exactly what is your complaint in that? You're being netted in a net so large you might as well not even be in a net to begin with. So what are you complaining about? How are you having anything forced on you if the thing being allegedly forced on you explicitly has no effectiveness on anything you say, think, or do?
    It's not about a pidgeonhole, or "identity", or whatever. It's simply because it's not factually true. And hey, fact matters more than narrative to some of us.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    I wasn't asking for rigorous proof of anything. I'm trying to communicate that so far your assertions up to this point seem incoherent, like you're jumping to emotional conclusions before thinking the whole scenario through.
    I'm starting with what I know to be factually true -- that some of us are not "doing story" when we play our characters -- and working from that.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    You get stuck on the semantics: "Everything is Story" vs "Everything can have a story." I'm a big defender of meaningful semantics, but in this case I really doubt that there even is one between these two phrases. Sure, in exact, literal interpretation, they mean very different things, but in idiomatic use of our language, they often are simply synonymous.
    In this case they have very different implications, both about reality, and about RPG play specifically.

    One implies that story is an inherent aspect or property or whatever of all things, of reality itself. The other only implies that stories can be told about anything that exists or happens.

    One implies that "doing story" is an inescapable part of how we play RPGs no matter what -- unless we resort to pure mechanistic resolution and a board-game-like approach, treating everything as the board or playing pieces in a detached or win-focused manner. The other only implies that story is something that can emerge, or can be a deliberate aspect of play if one chooses.

    "Story" is subjective, "facts" are objective. There is a single set of factual events that occurred in the formation of the solar system. If one stretches "point of view" to include inanimate objects, then the "story" of the solar system's formation is different from the "PoVs" of the Sun, Jupiter, Earth, or some Kuiper Belt Object. Likewise, the same set of factual events can form a very different story from the PoVs of different people, or characters, involved in or observing the events.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Both statements are doing nothing more than observing the "Nature of Story" as opposed to the "Nature of Everything." Again, Story is like Mathematics in that it is a means by which humans Describe things (to be distinguished from Prescribing things), which you are correct in pointing out that this will be dependent on perspective. Everything that exists has information about it that can be described through Story or Math. You could easily say, "Everything is Math" and you'd find quite a few people who would understand what you were saying without having to nitpick at the semantics (a few people might actually believe the metaphysical implications of all of existence being some relationship between different sets of numbers).
    This idea that "humans describe things via story" is not universally true... the idea that all things are "narrative" is a postmodernist conceit that has infested academia, politics, journalism, etc. Some people are most concerned with parsing out the facts than they are with forming or establishing or maintaining a narrative.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    A large part of the reason for this is that, just like Mathematics, there are several different levels to Story. Stories can be as simple as relating a sequence of events (through the storyteller's unique perspective, if pedantry must needs be), but often in RPGs we use a much more focused form of storytelling, much in the same way as a chemist uses a different set of mathematical formulas than an economist does.

    Back to the application specifically into RPGs: when roleplaying a character resolving conflict presented by a scenario, we typically solve these problems with either Game solutions or Story solutions. My favorite core example is the Locked Door scenario. Do you bypass the door through mechanical implementation of your character's skill (smashing or lockpicking), or do you simply knock on the door to elicit from the DM more information about the Story surrounding the door? This can make new Mechanical Game solutions available (e.g. diplomancing the person on the other side into opening the door), lose other Game solutions (stealth greatly loses viability), and at least provides the scenario with greater information (maybe no one was on the other side to begin with).

    Now, I don't really employ much concept of Story when playing the Munchkin card game, even though I've got some great emergent stories from some of the games I've played. Those games are pretty much all about burning the Story elements of RPGs to just make hammy, tactical decisions to maximize profit.

    RPGs can be played the same way and there's nothing wrong with them that do. But that doesn't make "collaborative storytelling" meaningless.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Well, in RPGs, you're either RPing or Gaming. You're either rolling dice or interacting with the environment in character. One of these is pure mechanical, the other is pure story.
    That is a false dichotomy.

    The two are not a binary. An in-character interaction with the environment can be also be mapped into a mechanical determination or resolution (automatic success, dice or other mechanic, automatic failure, spend some resource to succeed, whatever), and the result of a mechanical determination or resolution can in some/many instances include an in-character element.

    The two should be (IMO, from my sim-leaning perspective) synchronous, not dichotomous.


    Now, to bring this back to the question of "story" vs "character":


    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I personally don't see those two as dichotomous. The mechanical elements are merely the interface between the player and the fiction. It's how we translate from our world to the game world. You can do both at the same time (and usually do).

    That's why I don't feel that storytelling and roleplaying are mutually exclusive. I know I'm constantly doing both--every decision made for a character involves both "what would this character do" and "would this decision enhance the story being told, or is it boring?" It's why I'll often (as DM) have characters make substantially unoptimal decisions. A furious charge rather than a careful withdrawal.

    The narrative side also influences what characters get built. As a DM, I'm not going to build characters that are perfectly paranoid (a la the stereotypes of 3e wizards)--5D chess bores me (and my players). As a player, I'm not going to choose to build an incompetent, cowardly shopkeeper in a D&D game--it's bad for the narrative and the fun of the game.

    For me, "story" elements play the largest role on what characters do at the large scale--what their goals are, what their broad-brush characteristics are, etc. Characters I make, whether as a player or as a DM, are going to have goals, plans, and character traits that contribute to telling a fun story/creating fun scenes. If my players want to fight dragons (and dragons plausibly exist in the setting), I'm going to make sure they get some dragons to fight. If they'd rather talk down the dragons and negotiate with them, I'm going to make sure at least some of those dragons are amenable to such negotiation. It's why I won't play a coward who just wants to go home and has to be dragged kicking and screaming (or bribed) to come along. That works in single-author fiction (the Hobbit), but is annoying at the game table.

    The "roleplaying" elements are strongest when dealing with specifics--how would this character (based on established traits) react to specific situation X? But even then, there's usually a range of actions/reactions that would be "in character." Picking between that set is done based on story/narrative considerations.

    Spoiler: on being "out of character"
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    This is modified by the knowledge that real people act "out of perceived character" quite a lot. One of the most startling moments for me was realizing that my freshman Calc II professor (a gnomish man that was the spitting image of Fidel Castro, but shorter), who seemed to be the type that would read complex philosophical works or solve math problems in his spare time, was an avid video gamer. Same with one of my colleagues (a rather refined older gentleman)--he plays Call of Duty and other FPSs. This is something that seems "out of character," but is really an indication that the true character has been obscured or concealed or is broader/more nuanced than previously thought.
    That second paragraph briefly touches on what I mean when I say that I "don't do story", but then the subsequent paragraphs seems to conflate "narrative concerns" with "concen for the other players' enjoyment".

    When I'm deciding what characters I might want to play and narrowing down to one, the limits I consider are things like the setting (which is not "owned by" story), and the power level, and what the other players are making, and what sort of challenges are likely, and so on... it has nothing to do with "what sort of story is going to be told" or "what theme do we want to explore" or "what sort of arc do I want this character to go through"...

    Likelywise, when I'm deciding what the characters reactions will be be, what their decisions will be, etc, "what effect will this have on the story" has ZERO impact on my decisions. I'll avoid actions that actively ruin the game for other players, but that's it -- everything else is based strictly on the what I think the character would do. Let me be clear here -- "will this be more 'interesting'?" or "will this make for a better or worse 'character arc'?" NEVER come into consideration.

    I don't even like to see those considerations in straight-up fiction -- if the author's decisions along "narrative" lines are ever transparent and not utterly obscured behind the character acting in-character, it runs an extremely high risk of kicking me out of the story completely. There are books I've never finished because of repeated instances of this occurring.

    When it comes to playing an RPG (GMing is a bit different), "story" is absolutely outside my consideration or concern. I do what the character would do in that situation, bounded only by concern for the other players' enjoyment of the game. If a character acts on their honor instead of going for the greatest gain, for example, that's not because it makes for a better story or more drama, it's because it's what that character would do.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-02 at 01:04 PM.
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  4. - Top - End - #184
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post

    That second paragraph briefly touches on what I mean when I say that I "don't do story", but then the subsequent paragraphs seems to conflate "narrative concerns" with "concen for the other players' enjoyment".

    When I'm deciding what characters I might want to play and narrowing down to one, the limits I consider are things like the setting (which is not "owned by" story), and the power level, and what the other players are making, and what sort of challenges are likely, and so on... it has nothing to do with "what sort of story is going to be told" or "what theme do we want to explore" or "what sort of arc do I want this character to go through"...

    Likelywise, when I'm deciding what the characters reactions will be be, what their decisions will be, etc, "what effect will this have on the story" has ZERO impact on my decisions. I'll avoid actions that actively ruin the game for other players, but that's it -- everything else is based strictly on the what I think the character would do. Let me be clear here -- "will this be more 'interesting'?" or "will this make for a better or worse 'character arc'?" NEVER come into consideration.

    I don't even like to see those considerations in straight-up fiction -- if the author's decisions along "narrative" lines are ever transparent and not utterly obscured behind the character acting in-character, it runs an extremely high risk of kicking me out of the story completely. There are books I've never finished because of repeated instances of this occurring.

    When it comes to playing an RPG (GMing is a bit different), "story" is absolutely outside my consideration or concern. I do what the character would do in that situation, bounded only by concern for the other players' enjoyment of the game. If a character acts on their honor instead of going for the greatest gain, for example, that's not because it makes for a better story or more drama, it's because it's what that character would do.
    I've personally never seen a case where "what a character would do" is definitive and single-valued. There's always (in my experience) been a range of possible actions that would have all been "what the character might do and still be in character." That's how real life is. In fact, I consider characters that are so sharply drawn as to only ever have one choice to be symptomatic of bad writing, not good writing. Real people aren't that bright-line. They're...fuzzy. And so there has to be another criteria. Knowing what the character would do only goes so far, and it's rarely far enough.

    "Not being a jerk" is also not far enough--I want to maximize the fun of the table. That requires me to think of actively promoting the fun of the rest of the group (while preserving my own fun). That, to me, is partially story-related. It speaks to how I'd like to see that scenario unfold. As a DM, do I want it to be a close thing? Do I want it to be a hard-fought victory? What consequences do I want to have to write into the world because of their actions? As a player, how do I want to change the setting? How do I want my character to see and be seen by others? It's a feedback cycle.

    Not to mention that creating the character can't rely on the character to be built--that's circular. You have to have some non-character-based criteria to determine which out of the universe of all concepts you want to play.
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2018-01-02 at 01:25 PM.
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  5. - Top - End - #185
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    To Tanarii: I guess it all comes down to perspective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I'm starting with what I know to be factually true -- that some of us are not "doing story" when we play our characters -- and working from that.
    And that is the problem, you have taking the point people are trying to talk about as a truth without looking at why. Or maybe you have, but I don't think you have explained why you believe it to be true. Or maybe you did between some particularly heated posts that made my eyes glaze over, that happens.

    So I suggest you take a step back, explain what you mean by doing story, storytelling and/or collaborative storytelling. Then explain what goes on when you play a game, your particular play style. Finally relate the two. Its up to you if you want to do that, but right now I have a very clear idea of what your position is, but only the foggiest about why you hold it.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I'm starting with what I know to be factually true -- that some of us are not "doing story" when we play our characters -- and working from that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    "Story" is subjective, "facts" are objective. There is a single set of factual events that occurred in the formation of the solar system. If one stretches "point of view" to include inanimate objects, then the "story" of the solar system's formation is different from the "PoVs" of the Sun, Jupiter, Earth, or some Kuiper Belt Object. Likewise, the same set of factual events can form a very different story from the PoVs of different people, or characters, involved in or observing the events.

    Ahhhh, got it. "Story" is subjective, but "not story" is objective fact. Thanks for clearing that up.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    And that is the problem, you have taking the point people are trying to talk about as a truth without looking at why. Or maybe you have, but I don't think you have explained why you believe it to be true. Or maybe you did between some particularly heated posts that made my eyes glaze over, that happens.
    Because we're the ones playing the game, and we know what & why & how we're doing that.

    Someone else coming along and telling us: No actually, you're doing it because story, when we know we are NOT doing that, is a problem on their part. We know this for a fact because it's us doing it, so we can speak to it factually.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I've personally never seen a case where "what a character would do" is definitive and single-valued. There's always (in my experience) been a range of possible actions that would have all been "what the character might do and still be in character." That's how real life is. In fact, I consider characters that are so sharply drawn as to only ever have one choice to be symptomatic of bad writing, not good writing. Real people aren't that bright-line. They're...fuzzy. And so there has to be another criteria. Knowing what the character would do only goes so far, and it's rarely far enough.
    I agree that there's a range of possibility and that there's rarely "one true choice" for any one decision-point for the character, and other considerations can be taken into account.

    And those other considerations CAN include "story". I'm not against other people taking that into consideration -- so long as it's not actively detrimental to things like the boundaries of the space of possible things the character would do in that situation, or the enjoyment of the rest of the group.

    What I'm trying to get across is that they do not have to include story, and that for some players, they do not include story.


    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    "Not being a jerk" is also not far enough--I want to maximize the fun of the table. That requires me to think of actively promoting the fun of the rest of the group (while preserving my own fun). That, to me, is partially story-related. It speaks to how I'd like to see that scenario unfold. As a DM, do I want it to be a close thing? Do I want it to be a hard-fought victory? What consequences do I want to have to write into the world because of their actions? As a player, how do I want to change the setting? How do I want my character to see and be seen by others? It's a feedback cycle.
    As a GM, it's a bit different.

    As a player, I don't care about the story part. The character may have goals and work towards them, but that's the character. As the player, I don't have a preconceived notion of how things will unfold. I'm not trying to set up an "arc". I'm not "exploring a theme". I'm not doing tragedy, or comedy, or drama, or "action". I'm not telling a story.

    ("Don't be a jerk" here is a bit colloquial, along the lines of "First, don't be a jerk" -- of course it takes more than that, but I really don't want to go a-quibbling down that rabbit hole.)


    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Not to mention that creating the character can't rely on the character to be built--that's circular. You have to have some non-character-based criteria to determine which out of the universe of all concepts you want to play.
    Of course; I was only giving some examples of things that can constrain the choice space but aren't "story".
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    So, hypothetical question:

    Two people sit down to play two separate roleplaying games. They each have the same intent (say, to develop interesting characters, explore interesting settings and make decisions for a character), and each does and says exactly the same things as the other. One of them calls what she is doing "collaborative storytelling," the other calls it "tactical wargaming."

    Have they -factually- done the same thing?
    Last edited by Blackjackg; 2018-01-02 at 01:54 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    Ahhhh, got it. "Story" is subjective, but "not story" is objective fact. Thanks for clearing that up.
    That's not what I said.

    At all.

    For anyone who doubts that, read the examples again. In both cases, it's about how the actual events -- the raw, factual, uninterpreted happenings -- and the narratives told about those events, are not the same thing.

    Consider the classic example from crime dramas and real-life cases, of two witnesses who see the same events unfold and offer two different testimonies. Only one series of events can actually have happened, and that series of events is objective fact. The stories told about those events the witnesses can, in contrast, vary considerably, and be more or less factually accurate. The narratives are not the facts.

    In an RPG session or campaign, a certain series of events will unfold. Two different players may tell very different stories about those events, but the events are inherently the stories told about them.

    The map is not the territory.


    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    So, hypothetical question:

    Two people sit down to play two separate roleplaying games. They each have the same intent (say, to develop interesting characters, explore interesting settings and make decisions for a character), and each does and says exactly the same things as the other. One of them calls what she is doing "collaborative storytelling," the other calls it "tactical wargaming."

    Have they -factually- done the same thing?
    Possibly.

    But that might then lead to the question of whether either of them is using the correct terminology, if that matters.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-02 at 02:11 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    That's not what I said.

    At all.
    Sorry, was this not you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I'm starting with what I know to be factually true -- that some of us are not "doing story" when we play our characters -- and working from that.
    You claim your statement that you are not "doing story" is factually true. Objectively, not subject to debate.

    But you also say that "story" is subjective. Two statements, by you, in a single post, that conflict in such a way that it is not actually possible for both to be true. How is it possible that you don't see that?

    If "story" is subjective, then whether or not you are doing it is subjective.

    Gee whiz.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I agree that there's a range of possibility and that there's rarely "one true choice" for any one decision-point for the character, and other considerations can be taken into account.
    Then I'm curious. What other, non-story criteria do you use if there are a range of possible in-character actions? We seem to agree that character-based decisions are insufficient--what else is there?

    For me, juxtaposing "story" with "character" isn't productive at all--they're heavily correlated. Juxtaposing "story" with "mechanics" is a tiny bit better, but there's still overlap. "Story" is concerned with scenes and their resolution. Both "character" and "mechanics" are tools that inform "story."

    Stories (using the definition I've provided up-thread) are a natural consequence of playing role-playing games (even if they're not intentionally sought). The sets of decisions by the characters and the style of description, etc, naturally fall into scenes (largely self-contained bundles of events) that flow causally into each other. To avoid this you'd have to give a high-granularity (both temporally and action-specific) account of what the character is doing. Anytime you "fast-forward" a part (even overnight while everyone is asleep) you're creating scene boundaries. Same goes for editing descriptions--are all attack descriptions purely mechanical and fact-based or are some described more floridly than others? That's scene creation.

    This is different than a pure (unedited) 1:1 video record of a character's life--that's the closest analogue I can get that has no story elements. Of course one can always construct a story about that, but it's likely to be boring. But that's alien to my experience with TTRPGs (or RPGs in general). There's always a modulated flow of focus. Some things (going to the bathroom) are skipped over without comment. Heck, most of the time the characters' diet is barely mentioned. All of these are characteristics that I associate with "story."

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    As a player, I don't care about the story part. The character may have goals and work towards them, but that's the character. As the player, I don't have a preconceived notion of how things will unfold. I'm not trying to set up an "arc". I'm not "exploring a theme". I'm not doing tragedy, or comedy, or drama, or "action". I'm not telling a story.
    This is a case where I still think we're using incompatible definitions of "story."

    "Story" might include the intentional construction of arcs, themes, etc. Or it might not. Those are tools to tell better (or worse) stories, not an intrinsic part of the story itself. "Story" is about scenes and selective focus. Often things like arcs and themes arise naturally out of scenes, even when they weren't put there intentionally from the beginning. I've seen emergent themes and arcs in my games that I didn't see coming (and wasn't consciously working toward).

    I posted my working definition up-thread, care to comment on it?
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    Sorry, was this not you?



    You claim your statement that you are not "doing story" is factually true. Objectively, not subject to debate.

    But you also say that "story" is subjective. Two statements, by you, in a single post, that conflict in such a way that it is not actually possible for both to be true. How is it possible that you don't see that?
    ...

    Really?

    Are you that determined to "win the internet" that you're willing to take that gross misinterpretation and just run with it?


    In one statement, I said that it's objective fact that I'm not "doing story" in my RPG gameplay. That's true. I'm not. And so far, the only way you have, ahem, "proven" otherwise is to assert a bloated definition of "story" that includes all events ever.

    In the other statement, I said that the stories themselves are subjective, and that the factual events are objective. Not that whether one is doing story in an RPG is subjective -- the stories themselves.



    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    If "story" is subjective, then whether or not you are doing it is subjective.
    No.

    Listen to a bad pop-science documentary (the sort of thing that has largely ruined what used to be Discovery Science since the change to The Science Channel), and note how often they anthropomorphize things like planets and stars, or subatomic particles, and use words that make it seem as if they have personalities or desires; note how often they present the course of events as an outright narrative. They're not presenting facts, they're telling a story.

    Whether there's a story being told or not is a question with an objective answer, separate from subjective, narrative nature of the stories themselves.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Because we're the ones playing the game, and we know what & why & how we're doing that.

    Someone else coming along and telling us: No actually, you're doing it because story, when we know we are NOT doing that, is a problem on their part. We know this for a fact because it's us doing it, so we can speak to it factually.
    Exactly.

    It's as if I'm saying "I don't like broccoli, it smells like hot garbage", and someone who doesn't have the receptor for that group of chemicals in the cultivars of Brassica oleracea tries to tell me that I'm wrong because they can't smell it. (It's a thing, look it up.)
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-02 at 02:38 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    I just want to see if I'm getting this right. Semantic arguments seem to run like wildfire here.

    The breakdown seems to be coming from the word "Story".

    It appears that one definition of story is "A recollection of events that has passed or been completed". This seems to be one of the points behind the "RPGs are not collaborative storytelling" argument. Since the game itself is creating these points, it's not until the end can they be constructed into a story, right?

    The other argument seems to be that the act of playing is creating an emergent story that's constantly evolving. The Collaborative part of it indicates that there are many authors (Players and GMs) working together to create it. Instead of compiling things at the end, or connecting threads, the story is seen as 'living' and crafted during play. Kind of like a journal showing the 'story so far'.

    This may be a vast over-simplification, or missing the point entirely, but I just wanted to make sure I kind of understood exactly what's going on here for my own understanding.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Jama7301 View Post
    I just want to see if I'm getting this right. Semantic arguments seem to run like wildfire here.

    The breakdown seems to be coming from the word "Story".

    It appears that one definition of story is "A recollection of events that has passed or been completed". This seems to be one of the points behind the "RPGs are not collaborative storytelling" argument. Since the game itself is creating these points, it's not until the end can they be constructed into a story, right?

    The other argument seems to be that the act of playing is creating an emergent story that's constantly evolving. The Collaborative part of it indicates that there are many authors (Players and GMs) working together to create it. Instead of compiling things at the end, or connecting threads, the story is seen as 'living' and crafted during play. Kind of like a journal showing the 'story so far'.

    This may be a vast over-simplification, or missing the point entirely, but I just wanted to make sure I kind of understood exactly what's going on here for my own understanding.
    The definition that I tend to use in this context is as follows:

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

    Mirriam Webster has a quite nice definition as well

    "an account of incidents or events"
    Last edited by Tinkerer; 2018-01-02 at 02:49 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    So, hypothetical question:

    Two people sit down to play two separate roleplaying games. They each have the same intent (say, to develop interesting characters, explore interesting settings and make decisions for a character), and each does and says exactly the same things as the other. One of them calls what she is doing "collaborative storytelling," the other calls it "tactical wargaming."

    Have they -factually- done the same thing?
    The same would be true if one of them called what they were doing "naked cliff-diving".
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Jama7301 View Post
    The other argument seems to be that the act of playing is creating an emergent story that's constantly evolving. The Collaborative part of it indicates that there are many authors (Players and GMs) working together to create it. Instead of compiling things at the end, or connecting threads, the story is seen as 'living' and crafted during play. Kind of like a journal showing the 'story so far'.
    This is the argument that's effectively meaningless, if it's being defined in a way as to include all "act[s] of playing". Defining story in such a way as to include all acts of playing is both factually wrong (as some of us know we're not doing that), as well as effectively meaningless, as it's too broad to say anything meaningful about what's actually going on, about what a story actually is vs what it isn't.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2018-01-02 at 02:55 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Defining story in such a way as to include all acts of playing is both factually wrong (as some of us know we're not doing that)
    "Some of [you] know you're not doing what?" According to some definitions, you are participating in story creation, whether you intend to or want to or not. It's an inherent part of TTRPG game-play. According to the nebulous, unspoken definitions you seem to be using, you're not. But that's a conflict of definitions (two people using the same word to mean different things), not a factual conflict.

    You can't say a definition is factually wrong--that's meaningless right there. A definition may not apply, or it may lead to undesirable results, but definitions can't be wrong. They can be preferred, or not, but not wrong.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Not terribly interested in getting sucked into this quagmire however in my book "collaborative storytelling" is to "RPG" as "sport" is to "soccer". Just my 2cp.
    Last edited by Tinkerer; 2018-01-02 at 03:02 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    According to some definitions, you are participating in story creation, whether you intend to or want to or not.
    then those definitions are wrong. Because we know we're not participating in story creation. This is a fact. It's a fact we know, because we're the ones doing it.

    You can try to create a definition that says I'm doing something I know factually I am not doing, but that just makes the definition wrong.
    Last edited by Tanarii; 2018-01-02 at 03:08 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    then those definitions are wrong. Because we know we're not participating in story creation. This is a fact. It's a fact we know, because we're the ones doing it.
    If I may ask, as I may have overlooked this through the pages, what are you doing?

    Or, if it's easier to illustrate the point, can you provide an/some example(s) of what constitutes story creation and what doesn't? I'm afraid I'm in the "by playing this game, we're creating a story" camp, so I'm unable to fathom what actions or behaviors wouldn't fall under that umbrella.
    Recapping or summarizing helps my own understanding, to ensure I'm learning what people are saying. I apologize if I misrepresent you or your position while working through the topic

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    "Some of [you] know you're not doing what?" According to some definitions, you are participating in story creation, whether you intend to or want to or not. It's an inherent part of TTRPG game-play. According to the nebulous, unspoken definitions you seem to be using, you're not. But that's a conflict of definitions (two people using the same word to mean different things), not a factual conflict.

    You can't say a definition is factually wrong--that's meaningless right there. A definition may not apply, or it may lead to undesirable results, but definitions can't be wrong. They can be preferred, or not, but not wrong.
    Intent matters. Telling or creating stories is active and intentional, not passive. We're not creating a story, we're just creating a series of events about which a story might be told. A series of events is not identical to a narrative about that series of events. This is demonstrated by different subjective narratives being told about the same objective series of events.

    I can create a definition of "dog" that includes trees and boulders. That doesn't make that definition just as valid as the one that does not include trees and boulders.

    For a word to mean something, it has to also not mean other things, or it is a definition without a difference or distinction.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-02 at 03:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Jama7301 View Post
    If I may ask, as I may have overlooked this through the pages, what are you doing?

    Or, if it's easier to illustrate the point, can you provide an/some example(s) of what constitutes story creation and what doesn't? I'm afraid I'm in the "by playing this game, we're creating a story" camp, so I'm unable to fathom what actions or behaviors wouldn't fall under that umbrella.
    Making decisions for my character does, as if I were that personality, or more accurately my personality modified by the personality differences I've chosen to be different from mine for that character, in the fantasy environment.

    That's no more storytelling than making decisions about what I do in real life is.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Making decisions for my character does, as if I were that personality, or more accurately my personality modified by the personality differences I've chosen to be different from mine for that character, in the fantasy environment.

    That's no more storytelling than making decisions about what I do in real life is.
    Thank you.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    then those definitions are wrong. Because we know we're not participating in story creation. This is a fact. It's a fact we know, because we're the ones doing it.

    You can try to create a definition that says I'm doing something I know factually I am not doing, but that just makes the definition wrong.
    Honestly, this makes absolutely no sense to me. The following is a stylized analogy to show why it doesn't make sense--


    [Removed portion that was inflammatory and way too harsh. My apologies]

    I'll say it again. Definitions can be useful or not, but definitions are tautologies (inherently). By their own terms, they have no truth value (neither true nor false).

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    [1]Intent matters. Telling or creating stories is active and intentional, not passive. We're not creating a story, we're just creating a series of events about which a story might be told. A series of events is not identical to a narrative about that series of events.

    [2]I can create a definition of "dog" that includes trees and boulders. That doesn't make that definition just as valid as the one that does not include trees and boulders.

    [3]For a word to mean something, it has to also not mean other things, or it is a definition without a difference or distinction.
    [1] That's one (partial) definition. But not the definition others are using. And your definition is not privileged--there is no "true" definition of any word.

    [2] See above. Definitions are tautologies. None are valid or invalid, merely useful or not for a particular purpose. And since you've expressly declined to give one at all, you don't get to set the terms here. Private definitions of words that aren't shared by others are harmful--they only cause confusion.

    [3]No. That's not how language works. Most words in the English language are polysemous and have multiple (sometimes contradictory!) meanings. Natural language is inherently ambiguous (given to multiple interpretations). Say what you like, this is a fact that cannot be changed. Trying to deny it makes communication very difficult and rather pointless.

    Both you and Tanarii are playing Humpty-Dumpty here--"Words mean what I want them to mean." No, words mean what they're used to mean. The only important part is finding a meaning we can agree to stipulate on. And you guys have been expressly refusing to work toward that (essentially insisting that everyone agree with you or be wrong). That's highly unproductive.
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2018-01-02 at 04:03 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Alice: You're breathing.
    Bob: <angry>NO I'M NOT! YOUR DEFINITION OF BREATHING IS WRONG!</angry>
    Alice: ... I mean you're pulling air into your lungs, extracting oxygen from it, and releasing the waste products...
    Bob: NO I'M NOT. I'M THE ONE DOING IT!
    Way to flip it back to front, and make it not just insulting, but double so. You're not only telling us that what we we're doing isn't what we know we're doing, but you're intentionally doing it in a way to try and make us look stupid. We're done here.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Way to flip it back to front, and make it not just insulting, but double so. You're not only telling us that what we we're doing isn't what we know we're doing, but you're intentionally doing it in a way to try and make us look stupid. We're done here.
    I've gone back and edited that portion out of the post. It was way too harshly worded and needlessly inflammatory. My apologies. I'll try not to get that frustrated again. I respect your posts (on most other issues) and generally agree with you. I'm just struggling to comprehend here and getting frustrated at the lack of agreed-on definitions.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Like Max_Killjoy, I'm having trouble understanding why you feel the need to try and prove everything is story, especially when that's a meaningless and pointless definition, since it fails to distinguish anything.
    First off, I'm not trying to prove anything. Proof is far too much work and wouldn't convince anyone of anything anyway, because this is all subjective opinions about definitions.

    I completely disagree with Max that his position is objectively true.

    What I "feel the need" to do is answer your confusion about the definition you do not understand.

    "Don't try to tell us what is in our heads."
    "But it clearly matches this definition we are using."
    "That definition has no meaning."
    "But if it has meaning to us and you tell us it has no meaning, aren't you just telling us what is in our heads and what is not?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    The rest of your post seems to be an attempt to conflate "everything is a story" with "everything can be turned into a story by people", which aren't even remotely the same statement. Why do you feel the need to conflate those two concepts?
    Because I believe them to be actually, functionally synonymous? Lazy, perhaps, but we shouldn't vilify people for using idioms. We can just stop them when they say, "everything is story" and pedantically correct them by saying, "what you mean to say is that anything can have a story."

    And then they will probably remind you that the distinction is not applicable to that conversation, but it would be a far more reasonable response than, "don't tell me what I think."

    Quote Originally Posted by Sensate8 View Post
    What happens if the GM plonks down the BBEG just after I move my mini round a corner. No need to say anything as he has the right mini; just some laughing. We roll initiative, then I roll my attack and announce damage. The GM does the same, back and forth we go until the BBEG has fallen and I have 1 hit point left. Lets assume the rest of the party are elsewhere. A major part of the plot has taken place and the adventure moves to phase 2 with the BBEG's boss accelerating his plans. In my minds eye my character was battling this mighty demon and vanquished it, but nearly at the cost of his own life. Nothing needed to be described because we both have vivid imaginations (and we've both memorised the Monster Manual ).

    Was that fight a story or game?
    This is a bit of a loaded question, isn't it? "Consider this isolated scenario that has meaning whenever it isn't isolated in the manner in which it is being considered. Does it have meaning?"

    I would say it is the intention and design of an RPG to make sure Mechanics and Story are synchronous, but some games (Munchkin comes to mind) rather intentionally subvert this expectation in order to mock the genre. The dichotomy (for lack of a better term) exists because not every game manages to make Story and Mechanics synchronous at every point in the game.

    Sometimes the Mechanics create off the wall, really whacky Story implications that the table must either accept as a variance of the world they are in or Rule 0. Likewise, sometimes the Story doesn't mesh well with the system's design, sometimes leading to inconsistent mechanics (such as plot armor, but I don't want to limit it to poor implementations, since these can be tools for making a game better as well).

    I would not call them synchronous, but related properties, like in thermodynamics. A change in Volume of a gas (if anyone is picky with their TD, let's say it's an Ideal Gas) will naturally affect Pressure and Temperature, but they aren't simply parts of the same whole. They are directly related so a change in one affects the other, but not to such an extent that you can't simply compensate for the changes.

    I would say that the fact that some games can possess either one or the other demonstrates that they are not totally synchronous, while the fact that the presence of one easily accommodates the application of the other speaks to their not being mutually exclusive.

    TL;DR I think the premise of the OP is greatly oversimplified so that it can throw out answers that are valid, but disliked.
    Last edited by Pleh; 2018-01-02 at 04:22 PM.

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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I'll say it again. Definitions can be useful or not, but definitions are tautologies (inherently). By their own terms, they have no truth value (neither true nor false).
    And the definition of story that Tanarii and I are objecting to is not useful. It doesn't clarify, it doesn't distinguish, it doesn't enhance communication. It doesn't separate "story" from "not story" because according to that definition -- in the words of multiple people who support that definition -- everything is a story.

    E: And that broad definition also doesn't help understand RPGs, both because Mechanics and Story aren't mutually exclusive, and because there are things that aren't inherently Mechanics OR Story.


    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    [1] That's one (partial) definition. But not the definition others are using. And your definition is not privileged--there is no "true" definition of any word.

    [2] See above. Definitions are tautologies. None are valid or invalid, merely useful or not for a particular purpose. And since you've expressly declined to give one at all, you don't get to set the terms here. Private definitions of words that aren't shared by others are harmful--they only cause confusion.

    [3]No. That's not how language works. Most words in the English language are polysemous and have multiple (sometimes contradictory!) meanings. Natural language is inherently ambiguous (given to multiple interpretations). Say what you like, this is a fact that cannot be changed. Trying to deny it makes communication very difficult and rather pointless.

    Both you and Tanarii are playing Humpty-Dumpty here--"Words mean what I want them to mean." No, words mean what they're used to mean. The only important part is finding a meaning we can agree to stipulate on. And you guys have been expressly refusing to work toward that (essentially insisting that everyone agree with you or be wrong). That's highly unproductive.
    [1] Intent matters. That's not stipulation of this particular definition alone.

    If I'm walking down the sidewalk in the direction of where a candy store happens to be, but I have no intention of going into the candy store, then I am not going to the candy store. If I end up going into the candy store on a whim or because I realize I need to get change or whatever as I go by, but that was not my intention before that point, then I was not going to the candy store even though I ended up having went into the candy store. Intent matters.

    If someone is driving down the street and accidentally hits a pedestrian, they might be guilty of negligent homicide, but not murder. If someone is driving down the street looking for their enemy with intent to run them over, and then does so, that's first-degree murder. Intent matters.

    If I have no intention of creating a story, then I am not creating a story, even if a story happens to emerge or later be told. Intent matters.

    [2] The broad definition at hand here is not useful, see above, and in prior posts.

    [3] I'm not insisting that they agree with me. I'm insisting that I know my own mind better than they do, and that I understand my own experience of and enjoyment of RPGs better than they do.

    E: I would also point out, as kyoryu has tried to, that "story" as relates to RPGs does not exist in a vacuum, and that you're dealing with a third definition out there that explicitly separated elements you're lumping together into "story" based on figuring out previously unspoken differences in why and how people play RPGS... AND fighting a fourth definition created by people who hijacked the third definition and warped it into a mutant beast with the agenda of drawing battle-lines and literally staking claim to hobby.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-02 at 04:51 PM.
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    Default Re: Why collaborative storytelling is a meaningless phrase

    One of the big issues with "all games are collaborative storytelling" is that it's very easy to turn it into a judgemental statement about some games.

    A: "All games are collaborative storytelling."
    B: "Not really. Old school games were just going into a dungeon, and seeing if you could get treasure."
    A: "Exactly, it's still a story about people going into a dungeon."
    B: "That's a lame story. And I guarantee we're not thinking about story when we're doing that."
    A: "Yes, it's a horrible story. That's why you should play better games."

    Again, I'm not saying that anyone here is saying that, but that is the historical context of the pushback you're seeing.

    And a lot of it is rooted in this argument:

    A: "Well, hey, look at what we're doing, it's got story! That's so cool!"
    B: "Good for you. I still like what I'm doing, this old stuff that wasn't about story."
    A: "But this is better!"
    B: "I really don't think so. I like what I'm doing, you go ahead and do what you're doing, but I'm going to keep up my thing, mkay?"
    A: "But what you're doing is really story, even if you don't think so, therefore all games are about story, and the new stuff is just better!"
    B: "WTF?"

    Again, any statement about "all games are story" has got to use such a broad definition of "story" that it's useless as a statement about games, and is mostly an interesting statement about the human condition. So if you're claiming all games are "about story", or are "storytelling", then I'd have to ask - what isn't? If driving can be "about story" or "storytelling", then what isn't? Saying that something is <label> is only interesting if there are things that you can say are <not label>.
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