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Author Topic: No limit ?!  (Read 5483 times)
Wenlock
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« on: February 29, 2004, 04:22:22 AM »

Hello, I'm a newbeee and I wondered a short time in which forum I could put this thing...... Well, in case I made a mistake, let me know.

Here's the point : RPG is hard to define, but that's perfectly logical for such an "odd" game that conception changes (or "could change") with every new player.
So, can we define any limit, any groundmark that can allow us to say "after this point, it's no more RPG but something else" ?

To me, RPG is "leisure", but I once met a guy who was paid for game mastering and found it "normal"; I often played without any dice/charactersheet/rule (only consistentness* and honesty); I played "multi-table" games, played at one table with 2 GM, played by mail, considered RPG like a narrative experience or a "makebelieve" play-ground, met MUD's users arguing on "roleplay", a frined of mine is his 5 years old children's GM, "narative" games often use small "games in the game" (the sentence you have to say in "Dying Earth", the "description overbid" in Feng Shui, etc...), the most often suitable sentence in RPG stay "As long as you have fun from it that's cool..." (but it's true for many things, including fishing and sex)...

So, is there any limits to RPG ?
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2004, 06:02:04 AM »

By limit are you asking to define the form of roleplaying?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2004, 07:49:09 AM »

Hello Wenlock, and welcome to the Forge!

(Jack, that's a failed courtesy roll. C'mon, man.)

We've had a lot of discussions here about whether role-playing can be defined, and how it might be. Personally, I tend to stick with descriptive categories, rather than definitions, but some other people are fairly happy with their own definition-statements.

Can someone provide a list of links for "define role-playing" threads, please? This is a legitimate inquiry and deserves our best attention.

Best,
Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2004, 05:27:40 PM »

Hi Wenlock,

There are lots of things that RPG's tend to have with them. It's important to be careful not to think all of them are important. For example, one doesn't define a car by it having fuzzy dice and go fast stripes. Likewise, the 'fuzzy dice and go fast stripes' of roleplay don't need to be there, whatever they happen to be.

Here's the most recent definition link, which has some good thoughts and more informative links inside: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9793

I'll supply a brief suggestion on it myself. One strong element of Roleplay is being presented with a set of limited choices provided from an outside source (typically human) and then making choices, which will present character (presenting to just the chooser or himself and others, doesn't matter).

And by limited, I mean any number of choices which isn't unlimmited in amount, high or low (though typically its quite low...eg, those choices a human might have). Limited is important, because with infinite choice, expressing character is quite hard and perhaps impossible. That's why the outside source is also important, it cuts the choices considerably, removing it from daydreaming.
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Lorenzo Rubbo-Ferraro
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« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2004, 06:39:43 PM »

O.K. I maybe continuing the never ending story hear but…

Of the various defintions of a Role Playing Game at Noon's thread: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9793 none of them seem to include the obvious: "telling of a story".

I don't know what a good definition would be but I think it would have to include "the telling of a story" or “controlling characters in a story” in it. Isn't this the main reason why we game?

At least this would eliminate suggestions that monopoly, chess etc... are Role Playing Games.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2004, 07:03:48 PM »

Quote from: Lorenzo Rubbo-Ferraro
O.K. I maybe continuing the never ending story hear but…

Of the various defintions of a Role Playing Game at Noon's thread: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9793 none of them seem to include the obvious: "telling of a story".

I don't know what a good definition would be but I think it would have to include "the telling of a story" or “controlling characters in a story” in it. Isn't this the main reason why we game?

At least this would eliminate suggestions that monopoly, chess etc... are Role Playing Games.


Hi,

I'm lead to believe references to 'story' might not be a good idea. Story is what you get after the session, after everyones made their choices and done their thing. Certain, in a normal book, if its being co-authored, there is no story until they have both written their contributions.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2004, 12:07:31 AM »

Story is a problematic term in roleplaying. The dictionary defines it as a series of events related in a narrative, but this definition is unsatisfying. If that's all a story is, then why is Jaws a good story but Jaws II not as good, Jaws III worse than Jaws II, and Jaws the Revenge utter crap?

My research tells me there is something more to story than just relating a series of events. Robet McKee refers to this as a good story well told, or just story for short, although GSWT may be a term worth hanging on to.

However, not everyone believes that a story is the puropose of roleplaying. They use something that looks like a story, but it is not a story. Not a good story well told at least not without some judicious editing, usually requiring leaving out things that may have taken hours of play time.
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Wenlock
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2004, 06:34:51 AM »

Am i aiming to define the "form" of RPG ?
Yes, indeed, but not only the different "shapes" RPG can take but, in a kind of "reverse-engeineering", to define the core of RPG by searching for his limits.
Or maybe, discover this core himself can take different shapes.

I'll go and read the thread you proposed, and then come to see if I can make my question clearer. :)
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Wenlock
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2004, 07:35:12 AM »

Well, now I've read.
It's been very usefull, not only for it's giving me some specific english RPG's vocabulary but also for the "shape of mind" those threads show.

Most of you seem to agree with the idea that RPG can't really be "concretely" defined. I do, too.
But I'm trying to find, maybe, some concrete "frontiers" to RPG.

I've read about "shared imaginary space" : well, I agree it's one of the RPG basic needs, but you can share an "imaginary space" without playing any way : while arguing about Star Trek saga (the universe it describe, exchanging points of view about it's story's meaning or characters and so on), you're already sharing such a thing.
That's why I think "shared imaginary space" is part of definition, but isn't by itself sufficient.

French language define a "game" as "something you do only for the fun you take from it", that's mean game can't have any other goal than "leisure", or it's no longer "just a game".
But can't a RPG deal with a "message" (in the politic/psylosophic meanning), can't it support a cause and in spite stay a RP game ?
Isn't RPG an imaginary way of practicing your "free will" ?
Can't we play RPG for any other goal than "leisure" ("knowing yourself" and all that stuffs, sharing your mind -in the very first meaning, pretext for sharing time with friends...) ?
Or arent' those goal's part of the leisure ?

So, I'm trying to make my question more precise by spliting it in several ones (only 5 for the moment) :
-Does practicing RPG for money kills the "game" part ?
-Is leisure the only possible goal for RPG ?
-Can we count (and, by the way, limitate) the numerous forms of RPG ?
-Is there any "bad way" to consider RPG, a state of mind or a specific maner to play it that can be pointed out like a "wrong way" ?
-Does "roleplaying" means "performing it for other players" ? Logically, can you roleplay alone ?
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Doctor Xero
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2004, 11:07:17 AM »

Quote from: Wenlock
So, I'm trying to make my question more precise by spliting it in several ones (only 5 for the moment) :
-Does practicing RPG for money kills the "game" part ?
-Is leisure the only possible goal for RPG ?
-Can we count (and, by the way, limitate) the numerous forms of RPG ?
-Is there any "bad way" to consider RPG, a state of mind or a specific maner to play it that can be pointed out like a "wrong way" ?
-Does "roleplaying" means "performing it for other players" ? Logically, can you roleplay alone ?

Vladimir Propp described the Russian folktale by way of morphology, as did Joseph Campbell the heroic myth.  Morphologies are studies of patterns (forms and structures) without specifying functions.

Used in this fashion, morphologies list the most common components but include the idea that, while whatever's being described will have a threshold number of those components, most will not have all of them.  Furthermore, it does not specify what thematic or entertainment or metaphoric or whatever function each component might have.  Morphologies belong to the descriptive-not-proscriptive school of analysis, of which I am a member.

I have come to the conclusion that roleplaying games are best defined morphologically rather than definitively.

Also, morphological definition sidesteps such common function controversies as those involving gamist/simulationist/narrativist and those involving roleplayer/powergamer.  However, morphological definition also excludes questions about whether practicing RPGs for money kills the "game" part or about whether leisure is the only possible goal for RPGing, which may not work for you.

Still, I think that "defining" RPGs is a separate question from determining or judging which RPG experiences are healthier or more aesthetically valid or more proper.

I hope this perspective helps.

Doctor Xero
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
Wenlock
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2004, 05:41:43 PM »

Could you be more precise and specific, please ?
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2004, 10:44:34 PM »

Welcome, Wenlock.
Quote from: Wenlock
I've read about "shared imaginary space" : well, I agree it's one of the RPG basic needs, but you can share an "imaginary space" without playing any way : while arguing about Star Trek saga (the universe it describe, exchanging points of view about it's story's meaning or characters and so on), you're already sharing such a thing.
That's why I think "shared imaginary space" is part of definition, but isn't by itself sufficient.
I'm thinking that this probably in part refers to my suggestion on the linked thread,
Quote from: where I
I'd say that role playing games are probably best defined thus:
    The mutual creation of events within a shared imaginary space through manipulation of imagined elements.[/list:u]
I agree that you can share an imaginary space through other activities; however, I think that if you are creating events through manipulation of the imagined elements, you are probably role playing.

The one doubt I have about this is that you can create events within a shared imaginary space through manipulation of the imagined elements in collaborative writing. The objection to this would be that collaborative writing is distinct from role playing. I'm not entirely persuaded that it is; it may be that collaborative writing is a specific application of role playing not usually considered.

In arguing about Star Trek, you are probably not mutually creating events within a shared imaginary space.
    [*]Most commonly, you are recounting events and information, not creating them.[*]Less commonly, you are unilaterally creating such events and conveying them to listeners for their consideration.[*]If in fact you are mutually creating events, as in cooperatively creating a new possible Star Trek story, then how is this different from role playing?[/list:u]It's not a final or perfect definition, but I think it's about as close as we've gotten so far.

    --M. J. Young
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    Wenlock
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    « Reply #12 on: March 02, 2004, 09:17:05 AM »

    Thanks. :)

    Quote from: M. J. Young

    The one doubt I have about this is that you can create events within a shared imaginary space through manipulation of the imagined elements in collaborative writing. The objection to this would be that collaborative writing is distinct from role playing. I'm not entirely persuaded that it is; it may be that collaborative writing is a specific application of role playing not usually considered.


    This is especiall interesting to me.
    I worked on scenrios with a team and, if it's not always RPG-like, mostly because it is rarely lived as a "game", some experiences confirmed your theory : many similarities do exist in the creative "operation".
    But I'll object that rather proove that RPG is a creative activity, much more than creative activities are "RPG-like", of course.

    But, that wasn't actually my point and I'm still asking : is thre any "objective" limit to RPG ?
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    Nathan P.
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    « Reply #13 on: March 02, 2004, 09:29:32 AM »

    Well, there's a whole bevy of activities that are pretty objectively not roleplaying, so in that sense, there are limits to RPGs. For example, playing soccer is not role-playing. The limit question comes up, I think, once you start working in shared imaginary space in whichever context. As a starting point, though, I think you could say that if you are not involved in creating or manipulating a shared imaginary space, then you are not roleplaying.

    Thank you for your time,
    Nathan P.
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    Nathan P.
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    M. J. Young
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    « Reply #14 on: March 02, 2004, 06:56:56 PM »

    Quote from: Wenlock
    But, that wasn't actually my point and I'm still asking : is thre any "objective" limit to RPG ?

    First, you're welcome.

    Second, did Nathan answer your question? I'm not certain what you mean by an "objective limit". There are role playing games in which everyone has, or can take, control over any character at any time. There are RPGs in which there is no referee or central control figure. Some have extremely minimalist rules, including freeform systems that more closely resemble improv but are still played as games. There don't seem to be limits here.

    But I think I'm having trouble understanding the question if it has not yet been answered. Perhaps you can give an example of what an "objective limit" would be.

    To attempt to provide some starting point, would any of these be valid examples?
      [*]Sports require physical activity such that you cannot play without moving around (I was going to say "getting out of your chair", but then immediately realized that wheelchair basketball is a sport). Thus basketball, tennis, and tetherball are sports, but knock hockey and chess are not.
      [*]Board Games require that there be a board which is integral to play, such that the game cannot be played without the board unless all players are capable of visualizing the board in their minds. (This overcomes the objection that superb chess players are able to play chess without the board or pieces simply by knowing the position of every piece and declaring their moves verbally.) Thus Trivial Pursuit is a board game, because the movement of pieces on the board is essential to play, but Jeopardy is not a board game because no board is needed. (Both are Trivia Games.)[/list:u]
      Is that what you're after? What sort of limit can you imagine that might or might not apply to RPGs?

      --M. J. Young
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