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September 20, 2010



I remember the magic candle series... I liked those a lot as i did the early Ultimas. Nothing to date beats the good times I had playing D&D with a great storyteller of a GM though.

I know how you feel about being dissapointed with the stories in many computer RPGs. Its hard to define adequetly but they are often seem hollow and unoriginal. Maybe we have seen to many RPGs and are hard to impress now.

Chris Busse

Totally opposite for me. I found Universalis and the other cooperative storytelling "games" to be a complete turn-off. It is the structure and game rules that I enjoyed. As storytelling and drama substitute became more and more the norm in RPGs, the more I lost interest. Role-playing as originally invented by Gygax wasn't about telling stories, it was about playing a role in a group, healer, fighter, etc. These were grognards, wargamers, miniature movers; not wanna-be actors. I recognize that you represent a large number of people and their desires; it's just not my cup of tea. If I want to sit down and tell stories, I can do that without a game context needed. I haven't found that desire rise up yet though.

Jamie Fristrom

Really? "Games" in quotes? "Wanna-be actors"? Those are pretty inflammatory, pejorative comments for someone who says it just isn't their cup of tea. Admit it, you hate us.

Well, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr. Gygax right here.

Gygax: I hear-I heard what you were saying. You-you know nothing of my work. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.

Oh yeah, you've never seen that movie, you don't know what I'm talking about...

Chris Busse

I use game in quote, because I don't believe they are, in fact, games. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game

As you say, it's cooperative storytelling. Which is a pastime, in and of itself, but it's not a game. I'd qualify both games and storytelling as "play", for sure.

Though I haven't seen Annie Hall, nor have plans to...

As for knowing Gygax's work, I'm confident that I'm significantly more informed on the subject than most people. I spent several years running in old gaming group circles and even exchanging emails with some of the original creators before they passed.

I've read Gygax's words on the subject on forums and the idea that RPGs were meant to have players acting out their parts is much more heavily scoffed at by Gygax than I have the skill to convey. He was a much more cocksure and curmudgeonly man than I ever will be.

I should have been more clear in my repudiation of your point of that this is what they were meant to be, as opposed to the people who play them. For you (and many others), sure. But not inherently no, and not by the people who invented the pastime. It's possible Arneson's group was more into this, but again, from everything I've read it wasn't that either.

As for "hate", no. While I might profess hate in my usual popping off style, I think hate takes prolonged passion/interest against something. So few things reach that level in my life.

I'll stick with not my cup of tea. Which I'll admit is fairly damning, because I'm fairly game to try most things and usually, as noted above, I'm indifferent to things. I actively don't enjoy the shared storytelling pastime; and wouldn't engage in it in the future given the chance. But hate, no; I generally save that for injustice in the world.

Jamie Fristrom

Hey, I was just trying to be funny, I didn't mean to piss you off.
You're probably right about Gary.

Pretty sure that all of these games we've mentioned, from Universalis to Fiasco (the most rules-light of the bunch), count as games by that wikipedia definition though. They're structured activities with goals, rules, challenges, and interactions.
I hope so, anyway, because otherwise I shouldn't be talking about them on "Game"DevBlog.


(Or a session of D&D where I played a Celt and tried to speak with an outrageous irish accent - and somehow didn't realize until later that I was the only one doing a funny voice.)

Hmmm...I must have missed that session. Bummer.

Dr. Cat

I'm still somewhat stunned by the fact that people attribute how storytelling & roleplaying a game is, or how hack-and-slash & level-up it is, to which rules system you use. Back in the 70s, the various games I played in covered that whole spectrum even though they were all D&D games (well, one Empire of the Petal Throne campaign). The only determining factor was who the DM was, and what type of game they wanted to run. To think that a DM wouldn't make their campaign exist at the exact point on the spectrum of story/roleplay vs. fight fight fight, regardless of which game system he/she picked, is somewhat alien to me.

I will grant that, especially in the 70s but still now, many game groups would be at a particular place on that spectrum just based on "what they learned these games are like" from the few other gamers & campaigns they experienced before starting their own - sometimes as few as just one. I suppose if you'd run into one or even zero previous campaigns, the tendencies in your rules books you learned from would determine what style of campaign you'd assume you had to run. Our gaming group was fortunate I guess, it had various DMs who sensed the range of possibilities early on.

And yes, I know the generic term is GM now, but in the 1970s there were only DMs and the term GM hadn't been coined yet. :D

I will note various forms of free-form, non-combat-oriented roleplay have been thriving on some of the text MUDs since the early 90s. Not the DikuMUDs and the LPMUDs (hack and slash), but on the MUSHes, MOOs, MUCKs, MUSEs, TinyMUDs, etc. We still get a lot of it on Furcadia, too!

Jamie Fristrom

A couple of you have now said "It's all about the GM" - What a lot of the people on Story-Games or the Forge would say to that is something like, "Ok, but can we take what that GM does and make a system out of it, so those of us not already blessed with a friend who is an awesome GM can have that sort of fun too?"
And that's what they do with games like Lady Blackbird or the new hotness, Apocalypse World. Or they make everybody the GM with games like Geiger Counter and Fiasco.
To be fair, 4th edition D&D systematizes GMing too - it has got the strictest guidelines yet for GMs that I've seen in D&D, saying things like, "Monsters don't attack unconscious characters" and they've even pretty much stolen D. Vincent Baker's "Say yes or roll dice" and made that a page in the new DM's guide.


I just want to say - thank you for this post.

This has turned me on to story games in a major way, and I managed to connect with a guy here in the city to try out http://tckroleplaying.com/marscolony/ which was really fun.

Looking forward to digging into this more.

Thanks again for spreading the word about story games!

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Jamie's Bragging Rights

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    1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die Nomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
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