You'll find no argument with me. I simply find my prose is inadequate to convey most of what I want to say.
I agree with you on more than you think. Certainly the best of fiction can completely engross a reader more than a mediocre RPG. And, at least from where I stand, the standard for what makes "decent" sci-fi/fantasy is lower than "decent" mainstream fiction (mainstream for lack of a better word) if the sci-fi/fantasy gives a fresh take on something.
And here you will find me lacking as a writer. I've neither great prose nor stunning ideas. If anything, my general modos operandi is to take things I've seen in history and translate them into a fantasy setting. Yes, that's what Tolkein did, God bless 'im, but I'm no Tolkein. And as a reader, I find myself preferring sci-fi/fiction that's well-written over that which explores unique ideas.
Exempli gratia: My favorite fantasy novel of all time is "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. What I love about it, is that it excellently written. Does it have some unique ideas? Sure. There's naming magic (not brand new, but I like the take), there's a culture whose first language is signed (pretty cool, though actually not seen until the sequel), etc. But my favorite parts are the human ones, the ones that are just written spectacularly well.
I contrast "The Name of the Wind" with the Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett. It is full of rather unique ideas, a cosmology of demons, a unique rune-based magic system the likes of which I've not seen elsewhere, etc. etc. I read the first book, and I the ideas were enough to make me pick up the second. He's written two more I've not touched. Why? I find the writing to be mediocre at best. It's dull, it's repetitive, it's over dramatic. It's not interesting.
If I had my way, I would write like Rothfuss. But my skill is closer to a Brett. In short, when I say "I'm interested in making settings that one would want to *play* in, not just *read* about," I mean that I personally lack the skill to put my ideas into novel or story form. I write game things because I can do it well enough, and I do not write prose fiction because I cannot do it well. Go to Comment
Thanks for the analysis, axlerowes. Your deduction is correct: I'm first a writer, then a player, and last a GM - if at all.
So why write in this way? Several reasons. For one, note the headline in the browser: "Strolen's Citadel: A Role Playing Community." Most of the subs here are meant for game usage. There's a scant two pages in the "Articles - Fiction" section, and some of those aren't even prose. I try to write for the intended audience to some degree.
Another reason is, I consider gaming and game settings my favored medium. An analysis of my hard drive fill find many character sheets and setting ideas, and mere handful of attempted prose fiction. The Citadellian submission format is something I'm generally better at.
Reason the third: I wrote this for the "Five Room Dungeon" quest. This follows a fairly specific and linear format - I think you'll find most subs in that quest and with that freetext follow a similar outline. While aware that the GM must be prepared for many contingencies, I wrote this to fit the format while allowing some player selection.
In regards to the "GM VOICE," as you address it: You're right, this isn't exactly formatted to be dropped into a WotC book or anything. My syntax and tense are inconsistent in that way. I do try to write for multiple audiences, be they GM or player or just reader. I try not to pigeonhole the reader into thinking in a specific context, though it's geared broadly toward gaming.
On a tangential note, I know of two specific cases where this sub was used by GMs. One was Muro, as mentioned in his comment. The other was a fellow by the name of Ray who saw it in on Roleplaying Tips Weekly. He did as I anticipate Strolenites to do: adapt the dungeon to his own system and setting, adding and trimming where needed. Ray sent me the sheets he used, modified and including a few possible contingencies, maps, etc.; sadly I've lost the ZIP file in the years since, but he did keep the players more or less on the track I outlined above.
I do appreciate the viewpoints, axle. The devil always needs his advocate, and it does make one think. Go to Comment
Interactivity. If I wanted to write "standard fiction," it would be straight prose. Role-playing fiction is meant for a player/GM to use in their games. While one could certainly take standard fiction characters and drop them into a game, I'm interested in making settings that one would want to *play* in, not just *read* about. Go to Comment
This is well formatted and clearly written. I admire that a great deal. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with the use of GM voice. But I get the impression that you are more of a writer than a GM.
As a story/ piece of writing:
Someday a literary scholar will undertake a study of roleplaying writing (if they haven’t already), and in that contrived and irrelevant thesis the scholar will be forced to recognize the existence of a novel and modern literary voice or perspective: the GM VOICE
In the GM’s voice the speaker or narrator is addressing simultaneously the player and the character. If this voice occurs as it does here, in a GM supplement, the voice is both addressing a traditional audience which is following the story in a linear fashion, it all addressing the GM who plays the role of a writer or co-author and in this case it also addresses the “in game” or in story world as it if were real and independent. Let us consider the description of the first encounter.
Dozus starts with a limited third person present tense perspective
“After two days of steady traveling, the archaeologists cheerfully announce that the Sanctuary is but a few miles away. As they top the next dune, however, there is a distressing sight: an encampment of nomadic lizardmen. Notorious bandits native to the Inhap, the lizardmen are no pushover, especially given their ability to dive into and "swim" through the sand, making them difficult to track. As one of the archaeologists - a slender woman with a heavy accent - unhelpfully points out, the encampment is directly over the site of the temple.”
In these line we are told of events that happen to the characters from thei character's perspective: The lizard men are notorious from the character’s perspective, their presence is distressing from the character’s perspective, the archaelogists comment is unhelpful from the character’s perspective
This tells us what is happening almost as if it is story, but then we switch to a future tense: “Unless one of the party is lucky enough to speak Inhapi, the lizardmen will have to be removed by force. Expect strong resistance from the dozen of the tribe…”
Next we return to a more traditional narrative: “The three nod to each other and the old archaeologist begins to chant in a strange tongue. For several minutes, nothing seems to happen. Then, suddenly, the archaeologist slams the base of the staff into the ground.”
Later on Dozus will start to address the story tellers themselves: “so some knowledge of Sumuho’s history would be valuable”
You, the readers and member of the Citadel prefer this type of writing. Why?
Why didn’t Dozus just write this up as story? What do we gain from this write up that we would not gain from a direct story? This already a very linear narrative, there are few asides or maybes. If this had just been written up as a story would the Citadel be more or less inclined to give it as much love? Writing this as a linear traditional story would not make it any less useful as a roleplaying adventure template, in part because except in the climax section were are not forced to deal with any encounters that could have truly different outcomes.
As roleplaying encounter:
1) The lizard men: It is stated that the perhaps talking to the lizard could be a solution, but we know nothing about their style of communication. We can assume that they are violent gnome slaughtering bandits, so their motivation seems clear, but what if you are characters are not inclined to go slaughter a group of intelligent beings that have done nothing wrong to them. A simple solution would be have encounters with the lizard men that would generate specific animosity between the players and the lizardmen. Otherwise perhaps the lizard men could be developed a bit to make them more than just “monsters”. What if the players fail or reach a stalemate with the lizardmen? Why wasn't that considered implicitly by the author?
2) The puzzle: Here the players just need to repeat what the NPCs tell them is important. This is interesting in that makes sure your players understand where they are going, like a backstory pop quiz, but it doesn’t dig into the players either. The most efficient method for solving this puzzle is to make the character puppets for the NPCs. Not fun. Could the players talk the door into opening by teaching it phenomenology?
3) Setback: It is saving throw and set piece. Again the players are not strongly involved.
4) Climax: Did the archeologist really need the PCs? To make this more powerful their should have been some event that forced the PCs to bond with archeologist prior to this. A GM could insert one, but it should have been in the write up. Did the archeologist give off clues that they intended to betray the PCs? The PCs are no more than passengers in this plot.
5) Twist: I like the picture of the talking head. At least this has some open ended stuff going for it.
"Interactivity. If I wanted to write "standard fiction," it would be straight prose. "
Most modern fans of speculative approach the medium as spring board for their own ideas not as place to genuinely pursue or absorb the art. They are less concerned with the actually material than they are with the personal fantasies and possibilities that the story offers. Thus sci-fi and fantasy fans don't are willing to except bad writing or poor acting if there is an interesting idea behind the story. That has always been true, but I think that has shifted away from philosophical or political dialogs and focused on personal escapism. So called golden age Sci-fi/fantasy such as "We", "Anthem" and the Lord of the Rings were allegorical for political or social issues. Post Star Wars speculative fiction deals more providing a context that would appeal to the readers own fantasies. "Ender's Game" is the dream of every weak scared awkward kid. So I see modern fantasy and sci-fi writing as something written for the audience to play in.
Are you making the argument that story telling is less engaging than the story suggesting of RPG writing because in story telling the audience is just receiving and in story suggesting they are participating? Go to Comment