Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Stories and RPGs

I had the chance to catch up on a lot of TV recently, and I noticed a lot of things that just don't seem to be features of most RPGs I've played over the years.

Most scenes have only two characters. Even if there are background characters, the scene is about the relationship or interaction of two characters. Of course there are scenes with more than two, but they don't make up the majority. Compare this to RPGs, in which the whole party is always present, all the time (and often with all their stuff in pockets and backpacks).

Most scene transitions don't care about travel. If a scene needs a character who was on the other side of the city just a moment ago, the character just appears in the next one. Sometimes it's represented by a knock on the door, or something similar, but the travel itself doesn't usually matter. And this applies to a wider range of things, not just travel. We need to remember in RPGs that we can skip some details without adversely affecting the story. Even if you want a William Gibson story, he leaves out the unnecessary details especially when he includes what seems to be atmospheric details. Only keep what you need.

Violence is a small part of TV shows, even action shows. With the exception of in media res, action is always preceded by lots and lots of talking, all of which builds to the tension that seems only to be resolved by violence. Most TV characters don't use violence as the first choice for solving problems, but in RPGs, it's a huge part of the game. See Rob Donoghue's Some Space to Think: Children and Tasers for more about this perspective.

And so on and so on. I think that game designers, GMs and players need to think about what they want from an RPG and play accordingly. Although, I think that if you really want all action all the time, you'll probably feel better playing a miniatures game than an RPG or story game.
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