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Author Topic: Level of Detail (within a submission)  (Read 838 times)

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Offline Chaosmark

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Level of Detail (within a submission)
« on: December 22, 2012, 03:55:50 AM »
Since it has come up in two different places now, I think it would be wise to address what my thoughts are with respect to the level of detail within a submission.

The key point, the one that remains above all else, is that you must have enough detail within your submission to adequately describe it. We can't use a submission that doesn't provide enough details, and a submission that we can't use, while not entirely worthless, is worth much less than one that is usable. We are, after all, a GM resource site. (Of course, there are times when you specifically disclaim detail in favor of just presenting the core idea; this is the purpose and goal of the 100 Word submissions. However, these are a special case, and not the general case.)

From this first point flow the rest of the ideals. On the one hand, you should have details. Details help add verisimilitude to a work, they help immerse the GM into it and allow him to truly understand the ideal of the submission, thereby knowing how to extend it on the fly while using it. On the other, you don't want to overload a submission with too many details. Nobody cares about the color on the armor of the statues, unless that fact has a special significance to the submission you're weaving.

The magic phrase is "relevant details". You want to include enough details that a GM can pick up your submission and use it with as much or as little modification as they desire, but you don't want to include so many pieces of minutae that they simply cannot process and use it all. This is a hard line to walk, and is extremely ambiguous. A larger submission lends itself to more detail than a small submission does, but again, the detail should always be important to the narrative set forth within the submission. Unimportant details should be exorcised like leech-demons, while significant details should be nurtured like sprouts, for they are the subtle lifeblood of a submission that provide all the options that the PCs might take.
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Offline Shadoweagle

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Re: Level of Detail (within a submission)
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2012, 08:55:47 PM »
Here's my two-bob worth:

I think you're more or less bang on the money with many of my thoughts on the matter too, but as for everything I think it depends on many factors, so the level of detail required is different on a sub-by-sub basis.

The writing style of the product and the manner in which it is presented is a factor into the detail of the subs. Some subs can have much in the way of prose, backstories and journal entries which a GM would never add in-game, yet truly lightens up the Sub as a whole by making the reader more immersed in the moment (two beautiful examples spring to mind; http://strolen.com/viewing/The_Tree_of_Bone and http://strolen.com/viewing/The_One-Eyed_Red-Eyed_Crow ).
Other subs are far more systematic or mathematical in approach, and this is okay, too. Their precise manner helps the reader to understand exactly what is trying to be described. (A good example is http://strolen.com/viewing/Non-Euclidean_Architecture_Part_1 ).

Too much info can easily drown a sub, and in many cases more does definitely NOT equal better.

All in all, the core idea needs to be precise, detailed and useable. On top of that, the manner in which it is protrayed should be well-written, with few grammatical errors or spelling issues, if possible. I feel that as much crap can be added as one likes to add flair and colour to their Sub, as long as it doesn't ever distract from the core idea or make the sub a chore to read.

It should to be a set of ideas and descriptions which may be adapted by a GM for use in their personal situation. Whether this is a straight copy/paste into their game, or just taking the core idea and flushing out all the extras.

Lastly, it depends on personal taste. At the end of the day, I am a writer, not a roleplayer, as such, my posts tend to lean towards the dramatic, descriptive and in a linear path - twists and such aren't explained at the start, but rather described when they need to be brought out. This is not the way some people would like - GM's may like to have everything explained to them at the start so they know exactly what the sub entails.

In addition, what is plenty of details for one person, may not scratch the surface of what another person would like. Which is why constructive commenting and user-submitted ideas are a terrific feature of this website, which allows for more ideas to be presented and expanded on at any given moment.

And to conclude, I'll echo CM's words; "Relevant Details".
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Level of Detail (within a submission)
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2012, 11:26:16 PM »


How do you separate the details from the thesis in the context of items submitted to support gaming?  Does the content become fully realized only at the gaming table?  A central theme in both of the above posts is that the information should be useful and accessible to the GM. 

"It should to be a set of ideas and descriptions which may be adapted by a GM for use in their personal situation"

" You want to include enough details that a GM can pick up your submission and use it"

Does this criteria mean that the true meaning, value and merit of a submission will only be realized and formed at the gaming table?  If that is the case than can relevance and irrelevance be decided within in the submission?  Or will relevance be decided at the gaming table?  If sub mission is seeking to a tell story or make a point independent of what happens at the game table how do we evaluate it?  Shadoweagle discuss the this somewhat, because Shadoweagle is a writer not a roleplayer and the piece of prose  rather than the game is the end result.  He asserts that as long as the content does not become self-indulgent and the piece has clear message which is support by its content than all the content is relevant.

"feel that as much crap can be added as one likes to add flair and colour to their Sub, as long as it doesn't ever distract from the core idea or make the sub a chore to read. "

Shadoweagle also alludes to the fact that relevance in eye of the beholder.  Do you spend more time describing what your female lead is wearing or what she is thinking? 

But what if what you are describing is a detail?  What if the entire submission is content to support some larger message or narrative that is not present in that submission? Chaosmark's Gaol's post deals with the something like this, that submission is not intended to stand on its own. 

"the purpose of this prison isn't as a place that the players would be incarcerated in, it's a stopover point that they interact with as part of a larger set of goals" 

So unlike a writer, like Shadoweagle, Chaosmark's prose and the content of his sub is not the end product. The prison sub itself is only a detail and its relevance is determined by placing it in the context of other work.  If you view the sub autonomously does anything in it fit the criteria of relevance? 

By the nature of RPG fiction many of things are written out of context in as much as the context happens in game and therefore none of it will be relevant.  Thus do you need to create a narrative context within the submission? 
     

Offline Shadoweagle

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Re: Level of Detail (within a submission)
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2012, 11:42:40 PM »
Mmm, I will conclude one final thing to this discussion before I jump ship :p

 I personally believe that the act of arguing the depth of a particular submission is moot, as even though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, at the end of the day the submission is a piece of art made by the author, and the amount of detail added to the submission is the exact amount he either intended, or is willing to add. If the author takes the advice of a comment and adds to the submission, that is at his discretion, but it lies on the commentor to be satisfied (or dissatisfied, which may be the case) with the information that is given. The submission is a gift given to others to read, and it is not the author's duty to alter it to how a third party desires.

SE out!
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Level of Detail (within a submission)
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2012, 07:50:22 AM »
I like the tone of S.E. last words must better than the first posts that included a lot of "must have" "needs" and "shoulds".  But can we and we should discuss a submission as one would discuss a house, a planned route for cross country travel or a set list? Should we consider the pragmatic (language, game use), narrative (does it tell a story, is it a good story) and intellectual (does it explore fully the concepts and ideas it lays out)?  Or are such considerations moot?  If they are moot than what contributions of the readers carry value and comment makers carry value?  But this is taking away from Chaosmark's theme to this thread.  This thread was another thread about how to write a submission, specifically to consider what details are essential to include. 

CM: "The key point, the one that remains above all else, is that you must have enough detail within your submission to adequately describe it. We can't use a submission that doesn't provide enough details, and a submission that we can't use, while not entirely worthless, is worth much less than one that is usable. We are, after all, a GM resource site. " 
So this point is moot?

CM: "Nobody cares about the color on the armor of the statues, unless that fact has a special significance to the submission you're weaving." 
The author care enough to write about the color of the armor.  Do we have the right as critics to dismiss it as moot or significant?

Offline Chaosmark

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Re: Level of Detail (within a submission)
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2012, 03:48:37 PM »
When a post is so very obviously expressing an opinion, as my post was, and SE's post was, "must have", "needs", "should" and other such imperative requirements are always at the discretion of the reader. It's an opinion, of course it's going to include deontological language; when someone believes something, they don't say, "I believe this is how things should be", they say, "This is how things should be". When you believe something, that is how the world appears to be. Disliking that someone expresses their opinions in such a manner seems rather pointless.

There are a number of ways to approach a submission, and discussion about such. How one wishes to do so is entirely dependent on the speaker and the audience. Individuals like SE and I who are primarily writers will tend to prefer to discuss and organize them with narrative considerations and presentation in mind. Others, such as Muro and Ancient Gamer, have a very heavy focus on being a GM and their subs tend to reflect that focus on usability.

Of course, we do state in the newbie breakdown that "The purpose of Strolen's Citadel is to be a site for the inspiration and discussion among GMs, as well as players", which in my mind makes us a GM resource site. This means that I don't just write my submissions as if they were just a piece of literature, I want to make it useful to someone. That doesn't mean that I'm going to sacrifice my vision of something just because it might not be immediately usable or that it'll take some work to be used, but it does mean that I'll do my best to add hooks (where appropriate) where a GM can connect it to their existing worlds. That is simply how I write my subs; I don't expect everyone else to do so. Each author is their own person, and must needs write their submissions the way that they feel is appropriate.

When providing commentary on a submission, it is up to the commenter to decide what they think is relevant to the submission. If that means noting pragmatic considerations about usability, narrative considerations about formatting and literary structure, or intellectual considerations about how the sub could be expanded, so be it. I've done all three, and had them be well-appreciated by the author in question. There isn't a hard and fast rule about what comments are appropriate for what submissions, and any guidelines you're given are just that: guidelines.

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So this point is moot?

I honestly don't know what is being asked here.

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The author care enough to write about the color of the armor.  Do we have the right as critics to dismiss it as moot or significant?

Yes, because that's the point of critically analyzing things. You have to make note of both the good and the bad if you're going to provide commentary that an author can use to improve a work. But, and this is a very important point that should not be ignored, the author is not obligated to agree with your opinion or care. We want to provide constructive criticism, but in the end it is purely our opinion, and the author can disagree. If the author feels that the color of the armor is important, then it's their right and obligation to make note of the armors color. If they don't think that something needs to be said, then they aren't obligated to think up or include such details. The author is the final arbiter of what does or does not go into their submissions.

Likewise, we are the final arbiters of our votes. What considerations go into those votes are entirely up to us as voters.
P(A|B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B)

By the power of Bayes!

Acolyte Lithil Darkheart – Level 1 Necromancer
STR: 1 | END: 2 | CON: 3 | DEX: 3 | CHA: 3 | INT: 3

Current guild quest: --