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The City of IF Story Part I

 
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 7:49 am    Post subject: The City of IF Story Part I Reply with quote

I've just posted the first of a five-part history of the City of IF here. This part includes lots of general thoughts, analysis, and speculation about roleplaying games.

Feedback, thoughts, reactions are all welcome here.
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brilliant! Thats why your the Mayor and the King.

When do I come in? Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating history.

I attempted one roleplaying game during lunchtimes at school when I was about 15 - it lasted for two 1-hour sessions before dying.

Apart from that, and until IF, I've done nothing more than play the offline, solitary computer games that have a similar theme.

I can't wait for the next chapter - how many attempts have you made, is this latest website IF v4.01 ?

Happy Writing. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is interesting, and a great addition to the site. It provides unique insight into IF's fantastic history, and offers a personal perspective on our cherished mayor. Largely unfamiliar with roleplaying games, this site has opened up a whole new world to me. As a child I found myself easily drawn into chapter books, while my peers still struggled with childhood stories. I began my adventures in the written word with mystery series designed for young readers, such as Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, and Nancy Drew. As I entered my teens, I found I favored science fiction, horror and fantasy, absorbing volumes of fiction by exchanging novels from across the dusty shelves of a used book nook. While reading brought me untold pleasure (and continues to do so) the stories by nature remained limited to what one author penned. Forced outside of the action, readers are prohibited from affecting the decisions the characters make.

Curious about online rpg’s, an interest sparked by watching my husband and his buddies build their characters and camaraderie on Shadowbane, I stumbled across Interfable. I discovered a whole new concept (at least for me) introduced on this website. A community of writers, readers, and roleplaying enthusiasts were sharing a unique art, creating worlds and characters cooperatively. I enjoyed forming associations with actual, responsive people, and over time recognizing distinctive personalities by screen names. The citizens of IF did not limit their imaginations to one contrived and rigid format, but instead explored varied arenas, each uniquely affected by not only the author drawing the concepts, but also by the interactions of the players undertaking these literary journeys. Out-of-character and out-of-game banter reinforced my affections for IF, as I read the opinions of a global citizenry tied together with one particular peculiarity- the storygame.

But enough with my personal musings, and back to the history authored by Key. I learned something about roleplaying from reading what you wrote. This history spares me (and any other rpg newbie) the painful discovery of the roleplaying limitations involved with local gaming, but more importantly it highlights the positive aspects of fantasy interactions. The great appeal of IF stems from the interactive nature of the games- offering friendship, fun, and recreation for dedicated citizens; while the casual player may always step in at any moment and join the adventure, simply by reading what has happened before their arrival. I look forward to the next installment of IF’s history, Key, whenever you decide to pen it and post it.

Technicalities:

Quote:
...and by fantasies such as C.S. Lewis's (should read:Lewis' ) Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien's Middle Earth.

...playing in the 1970s, roleplaying was an obscure pasttime (pastime) mostly confined to college...

...or a (an)upright churchgoer might play a shifty rogue...

...that question made me realize the limits of my favorite pasttime...

...are unconcerned about the popularity of their pasttime...

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PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could do a section on our CRAZY antics. Hee hee.
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PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A very balanced review that points out the good, bad and ugly of gaming in large groups. For anyone who thinks it reads like a discouragement against gaming, trust me when I say that it hasn't been painted in a negative light at all. Key simply states what is.

I had the extreme fortune of not being exposed to gaming in this way for the first time in my life. I was always a bit of a strange kid, and most of what I read was the most graphic of Stephen King, comic books, and the Cat Who... (etc), mysteries. I had no clue what fantasy was, and when I heard about it, I was one of the ignorant people who thought they were talking about romance novels. Smutty girly stuff- yechh.

I had seen the movie Excalibur though, and was probably one of few kids my age who weren't bored to tears by it. But other than that, an interest in fantasy just wasn't really there - and gaming? D&D? That thing they advertised in the back of my late 80's Batman comics (opposite the advert of a huge Three Musketeers Bar that archeaologists found after blasting), that showed a bunch of dorks with a lame dragon-esque picture behind them? No way, that was for idiots and losers. I had nothing against them, I just didn't want to be one.

So that had been my general attitude to that point. When I was fifteen, I met who you all know as Emperor. My mother had bought a copy of D&D because she thought it was a board game (that version came with a board, figures, and character cards), but I didn't touch it (it was for dorks!), and after she found out what it was, she didn't want anyone to have anything to do with it because she had heard it was Satanic and all that jazz. Well, she never got around to throwing it out (she spent money on it - ya know), and one day Emperor was over and we were bored as hell with absolutely nothing to do that day. He spots the game on the bottom of our bookshelf collecting dust and does a bit of a double-take, then asks me "Reiso... is that Dungeons & Dragons?"

So I'm embarrassed he's seen it (I'm not the coolest guy around, but you know how it is - and he is super cool, so I especially didn't want to look like a dork in front of him), and I say "Yeaaahh, my mom got it and blah blah blah..."

He asks if I've played it and when I say no he says that he has (surprise), and it's actually fun. Having nothing else to do, I said 'Why not?' and gave it a shot.

We gamed for about twelve hours. I was like an addict once I got started doing this, because it was practically untilled soil for me - the possibilities, the epic quality of the characters, the mythology, I could not get enough of this, and we gamed almost every day in the beginning, or near enough as makes no difference.

He also introduced me to the works of Feist, which pretty much began my love affair with Fantasy novels. I devoured every book I could find, and when I ran out of Feist, I moved on to CJ Cherryh, and whenever I'm caught up with her (she writes a lot), I always find another author - the field is so rich today that I don't ever see myself having nothing to read.

But back to gaming - usually, you need at least three people. One DM and two players has been the established minimum for the most part. I didn't know that, and all our gaming had been just the two of us. One of my earliest campaigns involved another mutual friend of ours running us, which was cool, but it was still low-pressure and just something different. We actually came up with a diverse variety of character types, and have run games where we both have more than one character going, as well as collaboratively ran a game for a third person. This has been entirely satisfying and enjoyable, and we game this way once a week to this day.

I tried group gaming for the first time a few years back, and to be honest found little appeal to it. Sure, I got to meet new people and socialize and all that, but most of the new people were people I could have been happy never meeting in my life. That's not a dig against gamers, and anymore I am the last person to call gamers losers or dorks - many gamers are the coolest people. But the ones I met in the games I tried were so eccentric that everything in their lives had to be dramatized, and of course there were the arguments about whose character got more stuff, who did the most important things, who was getting home how and when, who brought what snacks and drinks... it goes on and on. When it came down to it, it seemed like hardly any gaming got done around all the bullshit going on. I got tired of wasting my money and time on it, and just dropped out. Too many headaches about other people's problems when all I wanted to do was sit down and game.

But I still game with Emperor, and that is as satisfying as it has ever been, but we're lucky. We're both very creative people who are constantly pushing each other to greater and greater heights in terms of storytelling, and we just click really well. Even though we are both grown, writing music, and he has a child of his own these days, we still find time to game. If you're lucky enough to have a friend like that, one on one gaming with him/her might be a good solution to being able to game without the hassles and headaches of large groups.

Gaming is still a wonderful and great experience, but I think if I have learned anything it is that (like so much else in life), it has it's place and can not be allowed to take control of your life. I have been trying to bridge the gap between gamer and writer for quite a while now, and just haven't really been able to do it. City of If has been a great stepping stone in my accomplishing that.

If it wasn't for Smee already having a concept laid out that I could apply my editing skills to, I doubt I would have ever submitted anything and would have just been a lurker - but it did grab me, and by doing it as a storygame, the line between gaming and writing has been more blurred than ever, which was exactly what I needed. I've done more consistent, dedicated, quality writing because of this storygame than I have ever done in my life, and Emperor has shown a flourish for character and depth that I had only previously been able to see in his games. It's a thrill to see our efforts come together on the written page, and by being able to look at Thorns and Steel as a game, I just feel less limited in where it goes than if I were writing from scratch.

I also have to add that the site is very well run. Key does an excellent job of staying in touch with what the rest of us want and is constantly making changes and allowances on this site to keep it a great place for us all, while still managing to preserve his own vision of what it should be. If this is only phase one of a greater design, I for one can not wait to see what the finished product will be like. In the meantime, this site is just a great place to be. Throw in the real-time feedback from the players, and this whole site is an excellent tool for honing your skills as both a writer and a gamer.

What else could you want from a gaming site?
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"But I like it
Because it is bitter
And because it is my heart."  -- Stephen Crane
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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 1:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's great reading these gaming stories - suddenly the site seems even better.

Fascinating story Reiso, and I'm sure I'm not the only one glad to see you're become so much more than a lurker. The IFY nominations are a tribute to that. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As both a new visitor to your lovely (and lively) town and an old friend, I think this seems as good a place as any to make my first post.

I read Key’s discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of RPGs relative to other artistic endeavors with great interest. For me at least, he nailed the “7 Treasures”: those are exactly the pleasures I find in RPGing, and I think they should not be underestimated. A well-run, well-played RPG is a joy to be a part of, and “art” isn’t too strong a term for what takes place. As luck would have it, I’ve been part of a few of these. Of course, a badly-run, badly-played RPG can be exruciating – which doesn’t mean it isn’t “art”. As Sturgeon reminds us, 90% of everything is crap.

What really captured my attention were the “Dragons.” Key arrives at these by explicitly considering RPGs as an art form. In that context, there are a couple I agree with (“Location”, “Dependency of Players”), one that I see as a red herring (“Game Length” – look to TV for the appropriate analogy; the open-ended, evolving, neverending storyline that started with soap operas but has come to dominate all dramatic series). I understand this last as a “something I don’t like about RPGs” issue, but not as a fundamental flaw with the form.

That leaves “Price of Entry” and “Limited Number of Players”, and this is where things get really intriguing. In most art, there are creators and consumers, and the two are completely distinct (Borges argues that reading itself is an act of creation, but he's dead). The author spends great amounts of time and effort on creation, the residue that's left after the act of creation is a book, which millions (or, perhaps, tens) of people read.

RPGs are completely different. The players are both creator and consumer. The creative and consumptive (consumptive? that can't be right) acts are one and the same. And when creation is over, there's no residue to share (this is Key's biggest frustration). I suppose one could write up the campaign, or film every game session, but that hardly seems satisfying. Is there another form that's like this? Improv is close, but there's typically an actual performance, for an actual and distinct audience. Hmm, does sex qualify? (Now I'm thinking I could have chosen a better word than "residue" above). Anyway, I think it's a great point that the lack of some product or performance that can be shared with a larger audience will inevitably stunt the growth of the form. RPG gaming systems should evolve just fine - there are books, mechanics, rules to be reviewed, revered & reviled. But playing the game itself? Not so much.

It seems to me that, with this place, you're working toward a middle ground. It's an interesting setup: each of these works has, ultimately, one creator. The rest of the community doesn't just consume the work, though - they place constraints on the choices the author can make (hmm, that makes them sound like censors, so I'm clearly not articulating this well). Anyway, you give up some of the authorial control of traditional writing, trading for some of the spontaneity and improvisational aspects of RPGs. But you know this already.

One last point: I don't buy your analogy about reading novels. Since RPGs encompass both creation and consumption, you can't leave out the months and years the novelist spends learning to write well. The "first 200 pages" you refer to are the price of admission: they're the dues you pay to be part of the creative process. You don't pay those dues, you make lousy art - that's darn near universally true. This is my problem with your "High Price of Entry" dragon, as well: it's not lke going to the movies, it's like making a movie.

Ok, enough out of me. I hope I haven't worn out my welcome with my first post. I look forward to the next installments, but for now I've got stories to read while I'm here.

It's a nice town you've got here. I'm enjoying my visit (BTW, how about "Tourist" instead of "Newcomer"). Who knows, maybe I'll stay awhile.


Last edited by The Powers That Be on Thu May 26, 2005 12:21 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey everyone,

Thanks for all the great feedback and especially for sharing your personal histories of gaming. It's always interesting to see other perspectives.

Some thoughts in reply:

Mordok and Phang wrote:
When do I come in?

Part IV. There's lots of backstory before the action starts. Very Happy

Smee wrote:
how many attempts have you made, is this latest website IF v4.01 ?

This is the second domain (after Interfable). I've added more and more to Interfable and to City of IF over the past few years, but I wouldn't say that there's been more than one attempt, since it's all been based on the same storygaming idea.

ethereal_fauna wrote:
Technicalities
...

Thanks, Fauna. Fixed now.

Reiso wrote:
(A fascinating gaming story)

That's a fascinating gaming story, Reiso. I've done a bit of one-on-one gaming, but I had no idea that it could work over a long period. In the games where you play multiple characters, what is the roleplaying like? Do you actually have character-to-character interaction, or is it more that you have lots of different voices to interact with the NPCs?

Let me also add my voice to the general voice of welcome and happiness that you're not just a lurker Very Happy

The Powers That Be wrote:
What really captured my attention were the “Dragons.” Key arrives at these by explicitly considering RPGs as an art form. In that context, there are a couple I agree with (“Location”, “Dependency of Players”), one that I see as a red herring (“Game Length” – look to TV for the appropriate analogy; the open-ended, evolving, neverending storyline that started with soap operas but has come to dominate all dramatic series). I understand this last as a “something I don’t like about RPGs” issue, but not as a fundamental flaw with the form.


Welcome to the site, Mr. Be (or is it Mr. Powers :wink:?)

I agree that Game Length is a little different from the others, but I included it because unlike TV shows, for example, where you have a mix of different plot lengths even with a genre and there are lots of examples of shorter closed plots, in roleplaying it really does seem like almost every game is never-ending (or at least years-long).

I can't say that this is a fundamental limitation with the form, because I'm not sure why roleplaying is like this. You could certainly imagine one-shot roleplaying games; maybe roleplayers generally have a preference for the epic story, or maybe it's just that once they've spent time creating a character, they want to use those characters for a long time. But the fact that short games almost never happen is definitely a barrier to people experiencing the form. So I include it in the dragons rather than in the "things I don't like about roleplaying" bucket (personally, I love epic games anyway, as you can probably tell Very Happy).
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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First of all...

The Powers That Be wrote:
(BTW, how about "Tourist" instead of "Newcomer").

Wow, ask and ye shall receive! Now, send me all your money.

Key wrote:
I agree that Game Length is a little different from the others, but I included it because unlike TV shows, for example, where you have a mix of different plot lengths even with a genre and there are lots of examples of shorter closed plots, in roleplaying it really does seem like almost every game is never-ending (or at least years-long).

Interesting. Well, I have to tell you, Key, that one-shot roleplaying games, in my experience, are actually pretty common (after all, many groups base their games on prepackaged modules). Usually, the characters are carried forward from module to module, and there may be larger arcs to the storyline, but the game progresses as a series of short adventures, each with their own resolution. Some groups run almost exlusively one-shots, changing system and characters every 2 or 3 sessions.

Perhaps the games you're most familiar with were epic. There was this GM (game-master) I played with for about 15 years who invariably ran huge, sweeping, multi-year adventures - I remember one campaign where we played for a year and a half and still barely had an inkling of the GMs grand plan. Don't get me wrong - those were by far the best games I ever participated in - but when I started playing with other groups, I discovered that there were different approaches. So maybe you just had the wrong GM all those years... :twisted: :wink:

Enough criticism: love what you're doing here, think it's really something different, new and creative, and now I have to go read the second installment.
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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In response to how the multi-character gaming works between two people, it is quite actually rarely intentional. We hate the pre-packaged modules that Mr. Be has referred to, and create our own worlds, classes, histories, monsters and etc from scratch.

This entails anything from sketching elaborate maps to artificially aging papers, and even giving the NPC's full character stats that Lv up with the central characters. We have cobbled together our own version of the rules that fits our style of gaming better than the core rules (for example, we pretty much ignored thaco long before third edition wised up to it). So a lot of work goes into these. Because of this, we are often not satisfied telling only one story within them, and find ourselves returning to them.

We also like to play with time and space, and involve as many planes, dimensions and levels of existence we can manage. Invariably, each game has a new order to the rules of it's universe, which often is as much a factor as story elements are.

So what we end up doing is painting ourselves in a corner where at a specific moment in time, a current character being played, can not help but meet and interact with a former character. Not that it is, but we treat this like time travel in how we look at every conceivable consequence and reaction to when this happens, so we can't just ignore it; To his credit, this happens to Emperor more than it does to me, and what I make him do is play both (or in one case all), of the charcters in real time. He has a great ability to stay true to each charcter, no matter how difficult that makes things for him. One time, there was a point in which our theorhetical universes touched each other and we both had to play about five former central characters simultaneously, while still keeping track of the NPCs. On top of that was the complication of exactly who was the DM at the time; the line was very sketchy and blurred there, and for a while we weren't sure what decisions were in who's hands. We both ended up deciding things for each other's characters that time, because the main goal became cleaning up the mess that it made so we could move past it and get back to the current character's story. That was monstrous, but we pulled it off somehow.

The other way it happens is that one of us will enjoy an NPC character so much, that we will 'borrow' him from the other's created world, inventing an event to justify it. Because of how much we stick to the chronological details of things, something like this was like pulling a thread on a carpet and watching it unravel. It ended up distroying several fictional universes, and we actually had to tone it down for a while.

Lately, we have tried passing a game back and forth, and that also seems to be working well. I played a whole game through, then he handed me his closing notes and I progressed the timeline and ran a character for him through it, and now I am back in the player seat already with plans for my next turn at the helm. In short, we're always coming up with ways to change our game and make each session a fresh experience, without wasting material at the same time.

For us, it works.
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Sector 17 -- Rebuilding... ... ...

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter--bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter
And because it is my heart."  -- Stephen Crane
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PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Powers That Be wrote:
Interesting. Well, I have to tell you, Key, that one-shot roleplaying games, in my experience, are actually pretty common (after all, many groups base their games on prepackaged modules). Usually, the characters are carried forward from module to module, and there may be larger arcs to the storyline, but the game progresses as a series of short adventures, each with their own resolution. Some groups run almost exlusively one-shots, changing system and characters every 2 or 3 sessions.

Perhaps the games you're most familiar with were epic. There was this GM (game-master) I played with for about 15 years who invariably ran huge, sweeping, multi-year adventures - I remember one campaign where we played for a year and a half and still barely had an inkling of the GMs grand plan. Don't get me wrong - those were by far the best games I ever participated in - but when I started playing with other groups, I discovered that there were different approaches. So maybe you just had the wrong GM all those years... :twisted: :wink:


Hmm..well, you're probably right that my experience has been skewed to the epic side. I almost never played prepackaged modules, and my personal preference is for epic storytelling (also with custom rules like what Reiso has described). I've run several campaigns that are probably of similar length and scope to the ones you've played in, and most of the games I've played in have been epic as well.

But I do have some experience with modules (gears grind as he reaches back to junior high school), and from what I remember, you could almost never finish them in a single session. It usually took 2-3 sessions to get through, even if you started with pregenerated characters. If each session is 3-4 hours, that's 6-12 hours for a "one-shot" game session.

Of course, that's many hours less than an epic game, and less than time spent at some other activities (mmorpgs/simulations come to mind after writing the latest installment). But from the point of view of a casual newcomer, who might be interested in roleplaying but know nothing about it, I can imagine that it would be a big barrier. It's certainly more than lots of other things that might be competing for that person's time (e.g. watching a movie, playing a board game, etc.).

A few years ago, I took some classes in a form of improvisational theater called TheatreSports. The sketches we did were a lot of fun and reminded me of roleplaying in a lot of ways (nothing was prepared - it was like live make-it-up-as-you-go roleplaying). One of the interesting things about that form was that it was almost the exact opposite of roleplaying in terms of the length of time of each story. It was easy to do sketches that were two to three minutes long, and it grew harder and harder to sustain them the longer they got. The real masters of the art did "long form" improv that was 90 minutes to two hours. That was it: occasionally people would reuse characters, but I never heard of a story being carried from one time to the next.

Anyway, that form like any other has its own problems. But the short length of the sketches was a real advantage in terms of making it easy for people to come in and practice a bunch of different things quickly. And I see that dimension as a weakness of roleplaying games.

That's probably a longer answer than you needed to hear Very Happy . But thanks for the posting. I don't take what you're saying as criticism, just discussion. And it's good to talk about these things.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Games such as World of Warcraft and Shadowbane are very consuming role playing games. Instances require a certain number of players and large quantities of time. These are some of the dragons that aren't present in storygaming.

The reading factor I'm sure is a deterrent to some, like me for instance. Dyslexia makes becoming immersed in the storygames challenging at the very least. I become more fixated on the words, in concentration, and less able to imagine the scene being described.

Adding images to the storygames makes it easier to paint that mental picture of the story...I can get an image in my mind that sticks as I read the story word per word (rather than sentence by sentence...that's part of the struggle I face).

Stories presented like the Machine's Daughter help paint that image, and especially stories like An Angel's Destiny where a lot of work has went into animated graphics.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OmegaTerra wrote:
Adding images to the storygames makes it easier to paint that mental picture of the story...I can get an image in my mind that sticks as I read the story word per word (rather than sentence by sentence...that's part of the struggle I face).

Stories presented like the Machine's Daughter help paint that image, and especially stories like An Angel's Destiny where a lot of work has went into animated graphics.


That's the thing that 1st drew me here was the interactivity of the storygames, since I had played RPG's on message boards in the early 80's as text only and now the tech had improved to show the graphics even more.

While experiementing with different styles, I've found a good way to show comics on the web. I tried single panels with text balloons but they didn't show enough of the story, multiple panels, but they were too small and the text bubbles covered up too much of the image.

Then I started animating the images so you could get more of scenes and the text balloons would only show part of the time and this way it would be more clear in which order the dialougue was said and by which character, that I was having trouble with in traditional comics.

So I animated the comic in Poser with separate shots that I could edit together in Flash and add the dialogue in a way that makes it flow better. Then I added the details of the story side by side in text to give it more richness and texture than just animation alone.

There is a lot more interactivity possible with Flash, but it takes even more time to implement, most of it works out to the "choose your own adventure" style with multiple branches of the story. I had thought of putting games, and puzzles the were related to the story in with the animations but I'm not sure enough people watch the whole thing to be worth it.

Different kinds of interactivity and roelplaying has beem shown in Virtual Reality Online communities, I used to own a 3D world called Dragon where we had an RPG based on the Pern books with 3D avatars, and castles you could explore, but that's a bit beyond the scope of this site.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm, very interesting thread here. 'Spose I might as well join in... Wink

I'd never really written anything before I found IF. I've alway's enjoyed reading and got through books much faster than lot's of people I knew. It was pretty standard fare when I was younger; Famous Five, Redwall, Tin Tin comics.... stuff like that, but I don't really see that as bad. I read alot and it fostered my love of reading which has stayed with me even when English Literature teachers have been trying thier hardest to erode it.

I moved onto reading things like Carl Hiaasen and Raymond Chandler when I was in my mid-teens, but now I read lots of different things; fantasy (sometimes), Terry Pratchitt, Philip Pullman, and then the dude himself, H.P. Lovecraft. About this time I also discovered the fun of doing P&P RPing, though this has never translated for online RP forums. I just never got into those. I think that the best thing about RPing is that it gives you an excuse to be geeky, but you're still being social at the same time, while RP forums are just a bit geeky. That's just my opinion though....

My all-time favourite author would have to be Philip K. Dick though, and he really inspired me to see science fiction writing in a whole new light. His examination of Humanity, what it means to be human, and what humans go through really touched me and affected me unlike any other writer or genre. His use of alien worlds and dystopian futures may have been born out of stupidly rampant drug abuse and the fear coursing through America in the 50's and 60's, but it is so relevant nowadays, and his explorations of religion and the human mind in his later books remain some of the most fascinating and haunting things I have ever read.

And now I have IF! My first (ever) attempts at writing fiction were so well recieved here that I havn't looked back and now I love writing, and can't imagine not doing it. Confused
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Treasures and dragons. I love that image of the pros and cons of tabletop roleplaying.

The truth is, I've never done much actual roleplaying. I only found out that D&D existed when I turned 18, and by 19 I was running games, not playing in them. I've always preferred the creation aspect of roleplay games to the dragon-slaying itself.

Having said that, I agree completely with the treasures aspect of tabletop roleplay games. Those treasures still exist for me, and since I've stopped with the roleplay campaigns, nothing's yet come along to replace them completely.

The dragons I'm not so sure about.

Location, for example. In this day and age of video streaming and voice-chats, is it really necessary for everyone to be in the same room, the same town or even the same country to hold a decent campaign? I've heard of at least some attempts to have a live campaign running online, and I'd happily try it myself *shrug*

The price of entry? Only the Games-Ref has to know all the rules at the start of the game. The players simply have to draw up a character and know how to roll a dice when they're told - and how to act according to their character's personal prejudices and limitations. I was first introduced to a MERP campaign in my opening weeks at uni, and within an hour I had a character drawn up and was taking part in my first dungeon-bash. OK, it wasn't high art, but it was still an awesome introduction and one that I remember fondly to this day.

Game length: Speaking only from a personal viewpoint, I never looked upon that as a problem. From the first moment of drawing up my first character, I was hooked. When a book is good, you don't want to put it down no matter how long it is. The same with a campaign. If it ends, that brings its own rewards, but if it doesn't, you get to carry on developing your world and your characters for that bit longer and it's all good.

Dependency on players? That I do agree with. Groups are fickle and there's no getting around it. That I see as one of the prices you pay for having the one-on-one intimacy with the chosen characters.

Limited number of players? That's something I value about roleplay games. The intimacy of a group of friends gathering, getting to know each other, and each others' characters. I would like to see more people interested in roleplay-type games, but not at the expense of making it into a sport of the faceless mob.

In conclusion to this rather long-winded post, I'd probably go back to roleplaying (or GMing in my case) in a heartbeat, if there were any local clubs around. Unfortunately, the area where I live seems to suffer from the fifth dragon. As a gamer, I like roleplay, as a writer, I like storygaming. I'm on the fence here.

*curls up in the special stoat fence-basket*
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree - technology is a wonderful thing. Myself, Soily and BW - who was on the site for a while - recently engaged in a game of V:tM over MSN, along with another friend in town and two Americans. The location difficulty was basically ignored, though it is still highly dependant on the players availability.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gosh Soily, you sound very much like me when I was younger. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

RPGing. I did a lot of this when I was in college (to the detriment of my studies, but computers were always easy for me, so I didn't suffer much Wink ) I was nearly always the DM (this was back in the time when it was called AD&D, it had only just come out really). And sessions were usually all morning. The afternoons were spent in the bar. Most of the rest of the time was spent chasing after wenches*. Hmm. Thinking about it, I am amazed I passed anything.

Later on I was heavily into computer gaming, and did some programming as well.

Nowadays I daren't do an online game, I am scared I will like it too much, and then you wouldn't see me for about 2 months, when I would return having become bored with it.

And THAT is the difference between RPGs and here. I got bored of D&D, it is hard for me to find a computer game I don't get bored with real fast these days, but I have been here six months and so far there is no sign of me getting tired of the site. Plus I have written more since I arrived here than in the previous x number of years. I will finish something yet!


*With mixed results.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, I'll admit, I haven't read every post here, but I had a few thoughts to add to the writing which has inspired this conversation.

I have been a gamer since I was in 3rd grade. 31 now, I look back at a long life of gaming, including a LOT of thought on the subject of RPGs themselves. Therefore, I LOVED this editorial you posted, Key. Loved it thoroughly. It helped to add to some of the things I've considered in the past and I would like to possibly return the favor with some of the things I have discovered as well.

There is an element in RPGs that forms itself as both a treasure and a dragon, so I'm not sure exactly what to call it. But the gist of the idea is that RPGs are so addicting because they give us power. Power to ignore the dull, predictable, usually annoying reality we live in. As noted, most of the dragons invoved the interference from the real world butting into the storyline being played out.

In our characters, we take a mask, we forget ourselves and become someone else with whom we relate and often carry the highest respect for. Who was the last person who played a homeless, unskilled bum? We pull this character out from within us to the surface to expose this personality, a personality we could likely have been ourselves if life had gone the way it had for our character. We replace our foibles with strengths, and the game works with us to help this along, allowing us to be far more mighty or intelligent than we know ourselves to be, at least in pretend. What we are doing when we are gaming is, in a nutshell, stroking our egos. Sure we're telling a story. Sure we're just playing a game. But at the core, we are so hooked because our egos are getting out of gaming what we have failed to get out of life.

Ouch... hard truth. Does this stop me from gaming? Hell no. But perhaps it should. Because I have come to realize that if I were to focus more on the reality I am a part of then the reality I am imagining, I might be a bit more successful than I have been in life. Still, there is a point to this artform's side effect, and it does have some potential for real world application.

Most gamers you meet really are dorks, unfortunately; really are geeks. They hide in their fantasy world and rarely come out for a peek into the terrifyingly real world they live in. They have been rejected, probably worse so because mainstream sees the game itself as dorky thanks to the bad examples of many of its players. Some become dorky because society believes them a dork because they play the game. We all know society can be so terribly ignorant it hurts.

However, a gamer can take a different path. This path requires that he recognize that the game is helping him to unlock his potential. Gamers are some of the smartest people in the world. Was it their intelligence that led them to the game or the game which led them to intelligence? I think it was a bit of both.

When you sit like a vegitable in front of the TV, you are being fed the story, visually, audiably, in every way. It requires no immersion, no thought.

When you read, you visualize the story. You all know people who lack this ability entirely either because they hate to read or they don't read because they can't visualize... again a bit of both.

When you game though, you truly immerse. You not only visualize, you actively participate.

RPGs are losing something through the MMORPGS... I don't think a person who has merely played these games really has any clue what a tabletop gamer has experienced. He has done the next best thing to BEING there. The plot is alive, not sterile, as is the environment, more alive in the mind's eye than anything the computer can depict. There really is no comparison.

It is this active participation, immersion, social participation and problem solving that enhances the gamer's mind. The mind is but a muscle and must be used to become strong. The gamer does this, and he imagines what could be possible in our world as well. Gamers naturally go on to quickly grasp any philosophical concept, and in the back of their mind, successfully begin to bridge the gap between the unknown and the known, having learned, through the game, an ability to put the pieces of the real world together. We become conspiracy theorists because we are becoming awake, and aware.

It is the sheep who critisize us for being wolves. Unfortunately, throughout the process, our egos have been so unnaturally magnified that we often find it hard to relate to people on the sheep wavelength, and they see us as, at the very least, wierd, and probably a bit unsettling.

Being a gamer is not a way to fit in to our mainstream culture, and that is a huge dragon. But its a way to fit into a substream elite culture, and that is the treasure.

Storygaming helps our genius to reach a larger audience and call, in a less threatening way, to the sheep: come join us, we've been trying to get your attention because you really should see what we can see.

If you identify yourself with the sheep, don't worry, we don't mean to eat you. We mean to empower you. Give this a try and you won't be dissapointed.

Storygaming is a grand new take on RPG. A whole new format. The only thing I don't like about it so far is that it misses out on an unmentioned treasure: random results. Sure it may feel pretty random to the players, but the story really has no input from random chance, which most roleplaying games get through the dice. To me, the dice represent the role of the true creator. To me, giving "God" if you will, the ability to influence the game through the dice, you can be guided towards a story which bears more meaning for you in your personal life. All stories relate to us personally or they lack interest. It is up to us to decipher what a story means to us and what it suggests for us and our futures.

OK, so I'm getting a bit mystical here, but I can't deny that gaming has taught me that the real world is more fantastic than we can imagine.

So in regards to the positive aspects of Storygaming... I think it helps us to practice our ability to turn these incredible stories we've found in our games into something more real and tangibly sharable with others. We've gained so much from our experiences, we've imagined so many stories yet untold. What a great site to explore these concepts, and share them with a larger crowd than gaming permits. I think Key really hit the nail on the head with this site and with its whole concept!

Also, it addresses the dragon/treasure of the ego gratification in RPG. It addresses this problem by demanding that we come to a democratically reached decision. No one here is in complete control and therefore they cannot take complete credit. We still immerse ourselves in the story, but we can't play God. Even the author must respond to the whims of his players. The check on the ego is here, inherant in the form of this art.

This is a new story art method, and I think it should be respected as a major breakthrough, neither better, nor worse, than the major breakthrough that D&D, in its infancy, represented: equally as powerful to make a difference in the world. Thanks Key!

I could say more, so much more, but I usually say too much anyhow Confused
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really like that section on the different forms of interactive storygaming. I never really thought there would be so many different ways to play a character. Of course the ones I had always heard were the online RPGs, or the branching storyline. The third type I had never heard of.

When I first joine the site, when it was still known as Interfable, I think it was the appeal to writing that attracted me to this place. I have this distinct memory of typing in 'writing forum' into the Google search or something along those lines. I had already been immersed in writing when I tried to do in 7th grade, but already I was thinking I couldn't do 'cause half the stories I tried to write were dumb, and had nothing in them that could make the story appealing.

This may just be me. But knowing that I was writing for audience has kept me writing stories. Just having a place to post my stories for others to read gives me the encouragement I need to write. Also I was learning to improve on my writing abilities though I still have a lot to learn if I ever want to become published.

And storygaming itself helps the story keep it's center I think. It's the curse of writers' block that hits every author at some point. But since we know what the chapter is to be about, that idea keeps us grounded and holds us back from flying all around with rushed storylines. Well most of the time.

Those are my two-cents. Like Rav, I could go on, but I best stop here. Razz

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post, Ravagerrr! Very Happy A lot of excellent points that I had not thought of, or at least not in that way before.

I agree that part of the appeal of roleplaying games is that they boost our egos by giving us power within a fantasy setting. I would put a bit of a twist on that and say that the real ego boost comes not from the simple possession of power, but from gaining that power by overcoming obstacles. Creating 50th level characters with all the magic items in the book might be fun for an afternoon if you're 12, but the lasting enjoyment comes from winning those same powers and items through great struggle.

For example, you ask "who was the last person who played a homeless, unskilled bum?" but that's actually a viable starting point for a character - the ego boost could come from building him up. In my very first D&D campaign, we all played penniless escaped serfs who knew nothing of the world outside our manor. Those characters were a perfect fit for our lack of player knowledge about the game, and we had a blast gradually learning more and more about the world and becoming richer, more powerful, and more skilled.

I think the same sense of ego-building and achievement is part of the appeal of video games, and even some board games like Risk and Chess. The player faces a difficult challenge - often a human or computer opponent - and feels the thrill of power by learning to overcome it. Psychologists call this "mastery."

The difference between RPGs and these other games, though, is that in most of the other games, the way you obtain mastery doesn't usually translate to anything very useful in the real world. Getting to the top level of a video game, for example, might teach you hand-eye coordination, but in most walks of life that's not a terribly important skill. Some games, like Civilization, teach slightly more useful skills like strategic thinking and constraint maximization, but even there the skills are pretty dry and mathematical. From what I understand of MMORPGs, mastery is usually achieved by spending many hours in play doing the same things over and over again, so it's not clear what players are learning from that.

But in RPGs - or at least in good ones - mastery requires a combination of strategy, creativity, and teamwork. Those skills are widely applicable to many situations. I have a friend who I gamed with in college who's now the CEO of a technology company, and he talks about how the "party leader" skills he learned in gaming helped him be a better manager. For me, it works a little differently: I've noticed that the themes of the RPG games I create are also issues that I'm working through and having difficulty with in my own life. (I usually resolve them to my satisfaction around halfway through the campaign, which is when I get impatient to finish Smile ).

So this is a roundabout way of agreeing with another of your points, about how RPGs can unlock our potential.

I'd like to talk about how all this applies to storygaming, but I think my brain is fried for now (whew!). I'll have to come back to that question later.

Good thoughts!

Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The only thing I don't like about it so far is that it misses out on an unmentioned treasure: random results. Sure it may feel pretty random to the players, but the story really has no input from random chance, which most roleplaying games get through the dice.


Random results have been experimented in storygames by some authors.

Most notably in the Arena games run by Chinaren. He uses a high-level set of dice rolls to determine battle success. In his most recent chapter of Arena II that was expanded to also determine starting location, and chest contents.

I'm sure there was another one, but I can't recall it at the moment - I think he may have been Lebby.

I definately think there is plenty of scope for successfully adding random results to storygames. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, match one Blood Party was quite exciting to write actually! I didn't know the outcome until it happened.

The players sent me their player descriptions and in some cases tactics, and I used die to roll their locations and initiative rolls, as well as chest opening results (Smee is particularly unlucky with these) and pretty much any other action.

The result was I would write a bit, roll a dice, and then write a bit more depending upon the outcome. It really randomized it.

However, unless you have a chat game, doing this in SGaming would not really be practical. Too slow.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The way I see RPGs is just like Rav's. It's a person's escape from reality. To relate that to writing, an author writes best when they add a bit of their reality into the story. It doesn't have to be whole cupful, but just a little makes the story fun to write, fun to read. If you delve into a lot of stories, I think you can see the author in the characters in little ways. How it relates to storygaming, well, I think you can think about that.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Everything you said there Key was spot on. I would fully agree with you about the overcoming obstacles being a part of the ego boost. I stand corrected regarding the bum... now that I think of it, I have done similar kinds of plotlines.

But here's the dragon in the ego gratification... we get to feel like we have overcome a huge obstacle (fun and good right?), but, unlike our characters, and unlike the price to be paid in real life, we don't feel the PAIN that went into the accomplishment, the real struggle, the effort.

From our perspective we happily see ourselves defeating an Ogre in combat, but we didn't have to really put the effort in, just a bit of imagination. This is part of what makes the game so fun, but the downside is we then lose our resolve to overcome real world problems because we can get that same feeling of achievement through the game without all the real headache.

This can be very destructive for many of us RPGers and is something that I think gamers need to be aware of so that they can knowingly face reality and the game with different mindframes. Some can do this, even naturally do, but not all of us have recognized the need to differentiate real world success from RPG success, and those individuals are in trouble. I was one who was in trouble when I was in college. I couldn't care less what my GPA was, but I'd be damned if my character was going to be eaten by demons.

Not to totally down gaming, but I didn't really feel my whole point of the downside really got across. I hope this further explains it.

Does storygaming fix this issue?

In some ways, yes... again, by taking total control of a character and placing into the hands of a democracy, nobody is fully to blame and therefore, the feeling of success is not what drives the storygamer as much as the feeling of curiosity and intrigue, exactly the same kind of drive as a reader of a novel would have.

Additionally, the author, while you might say he would get a huge ego boost out of his works, is only going to do so if he has earned it. A good story attracts participants, while a substandard one loses its audience, therefore, the real world effort is needed to gain satisfaction in this manner.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I have also used the random method to determin results - in Blood Bowl, and a similar method will be used in A Tale of Four Swords, although a completely different system.

I find it gives unpredictable results, which is good, but as the two systems I'm using require a second party - namely Araex - it can take a long time between chapters.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well it is possible to use both targeted answers from user input in the form of a questionaire combined with random numbers in Flash. I had thought of using that as part of the Naked Angel presentation. Maybe I could do some R&D with it as part of the "An Angel's Destiny" stoygame.

It might get some more interactivity and challenge to put some like a quiz or a puzzle to be solved to be able to get to the next part, with it also partially determining what outcome you derive from the answers.

I did have a bot programmed to do the RPG when I had my VR world but I might be able to do something similar with the action script in Flash. It might get people more into the roles that way.

An Angel's Destiny: Chapter 3 now voting
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ravagerrr wrote:
,
Does storygaming fix this issue?

In some ways, yes... again, by taking total control of a character and placing into the hands of a democracy, nobody is fully to blame and therefore, the feeling of success is not what drives the storygamer as much as the feeling of curiosity and intrigue, exactly the same kind of drive as a reader of a novel would have.

Additionally, the author, while you might say he would get a huge ego boost out of his works, is only going to do so if he has earned it. A good story attracts participants, while a substandard one loses its audience, therefore, the real world effort is needed to gain satisfaction in this manner.


Good points, Rav. I agree that the feeling of success and despair (thats too strong, but I can't think of any other word), is shared by those who interact with the character, i.e. the readers, and the author. I think storygaming like a novel is a success only when both the author and the readers can relate with the character. Feeling empathetic is what I am thinking about.

And like you said, good stories attract numbers of participants. But of course having a good storygame is all based on trial and error. Someone of us hit success sooner than others.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Argon18 wrote:
I did have a bot programmed to do the RPG when I had my VR world but I might be able to do something similar with the action script in Flash. It might get people more into the roles that way.

Certainly worth a try. Smile
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Ravagerrr
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ravenwing wrote:

I think storygaming like a novel is a success only when both the author and the readers can relate with the character. Feeling empathetic is what I am thinking about.


Wow, there's a nail that's been hit directly on the head... GREAT point! That IS what we're really trying to accomplish here isn't it?
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