I was playing in a game where Amit Moshe (City of Mists) was running us through a noir based supernatural game. As our characters were running around, using our powers to chase down a cult, and playing a generally narrative based game, Amit said…

http://gnomestew.com/game-mastering/gming-advice/directing-the-camera/

116 thoughts on “I was playing in a game where Amit Moshe (City of Mists) was running us through a noir based supernatural game. As…

  1. I think a more syncretic/eclectic approach will reassert itself in the long run as we all absorb these techniques and tropes and add them to our repertoire. There’s no reason we can’t switch on the fly between comic panel, prose scenery, camera angles, video game elements, or whatever other concepts we’ve assimilated over our lifetimes. The right tool for the right job, and the toolbox keeps expanding. Sure, we may get comfortable with that hydrospanner or really get into the heft of that mallet for a while, but eventually we’ll pick up some other new shiny thing and those will just become one more option to grab when we need them.

    Just my 2c.

  2. < ![CDATA[I think a more syncretic/eclectic approach will reassert itself in the long run as we all absorb these techniques and tropes and add them to our repertoire. There's no reason we can't switch on the fly between comic panel, prose scenery, camera angles, video game elements, or whatever other concepts we've assimilated over our lifetimes. The right tool for the right job, and the toolbox keeps expanding. Sure, we may get comfortable with that hydrospanner or really get into the heft of that mallet for a while, but eventually we'll pick up some other new shiny thing and those will just become one more option to grab when we need them. Just my 2c.]]>

  3. Oh man, I even have to watch this when talking about literature in a literature class! The language of film is so prevalent that it’s tough to get away from it in all mediums. What’s funny is that I’m currently reading Dos Passos. He was writing in the 1920s, and was described as using a lot of filmic techniques. But that was all new back then, so his way of creating a scene was novel. But now, I find myself applying the terminology to stuff that was written way before that, and I have to remind myself that other metaphors are probably a better/more accurate fit.

  4. < ![CDATA[Oh man, I even have to watch this when talking about literature in a literature class! The language of film is so prevalent that it’s tough to get away from it in all mediums. What’s funny is that I’m currently reading Dos Passos. He was writing in the 1920s, and was described as using a lot of filmic techniques. But that was all new back then, so his way of creating a scene was novel. But now, I find myself applying the terminology to stuff that was written way before that, and I have to remind myself that other metaphors are probably a better/more accurate fit.]]>

  5. I’d love to see a game designed from the ground up, all the way down into the procedures, based on a different narrative paradigm. Probably novels, since a few folks still read those. But it’d take a deep understanding and internalization of what makes novel length storytelling structurally different than television and movies. Tall order.

    I do think this is one of the major friction points Our Thing has with some schools of OSR-y play, or just conventional modern D&D. Forcing events and description into scenes sucks so bad when the game isn’t about that, like, at all. It’s too self aware and authorial.

  6. < ![CDATA[I'd love to see a game designed from the ground up, all the way down into the procedures, based on a different narrative paradigm. Probably novels, since a few folks still read those. But it'd take a deep understanding and internalization of what makes novel length storytelling structurally different than television and movies. Tall order. I do think this is one of the major friction points Our Thing has with some schools of OSR-y play, or just conventional modern D&D. Forcing events and description into scenes sucks so bad when the game isn’t about that, like, at all. It’s too self aware and authorial.]]>

  7. I wonder how many people under the age of 40 have even heard a radio drama. I mean other than podcast addicts who mainline This American Life or Welcome to Nighvale.

    Old-timey radio dramas like the Star Wars reading, right?

  8. < ![CDATA[I wonder how many people under the age of 40 have even heard a radio drama. I mean other than podcast addicts who mainline This American Life or Welcome to Nighvale.
    Old-timey radio dramas like the Star Wars reading, right?]]>

  9. It doesn’t shock me that the main medium most people experience stories in these days is the one we use in games. That seems accidentally smart, in a wisdom-of-crowds kinda way. And while I can imagine certain games that this wouldn’t jibe with, and while I can imagine that a game focused on a different metaphor would be quite fun, I don’t think this is something that ruins a lot of games.

  10. < ![CDATA[It doesn't shock me that the main medium most people experience stories in these days is the one we use in games. That seems accidentally smart, in a wisdom-of-crowds kinda way. And while I can imagine certain games that this wouldn't jibe with, and while I can imagine that a game focused on a different metaphor would be quite fun, I don't think this is something that ruins a lot of games.]]>

  11. Unreflectively assuming the metaphor works in every case sure seems like it delivers a not-optimal experience at the very least. Ruin is strong.

    Prrrobably most players are not especially sensitive to, or especially need, optimal experiences. Good enough is good enough!

  12. < ![CDATA[Unreflectively assuming the metaphor works in every case sure seems like it delivers a not-optimal experience at the very least. Ruin is strong.
    Prrrobably most players are not especially sensitive to, or especially need, optimal experiences. Good enough is good enough!]]>

  13. I guess I should have clarified: a modern game. Something that uses the state of the art, understands perfectly well that there’s no such thing as a universal “how role-playing works.” Which is the problem with the old pre-television-metaphor games, yeah?

    First generation: like a wargame, with a couple new twists

    Second generation: like D&D (and in the case of everything that wasn’t D&D: like D&D except for our totally innovative twists, like no levels, or playable ducks)

    Third generation: like “an RPG”

    Fourth generation: like television

  14. < ![CDATA[I guess I should have clarified: a modern game. Something that uses the state of the art, understands perfectly well that there’s no such thing as a universal “how role-playing works.” Which is the problem with the old pre-television-metaphor games, yeah?
    First generation: like a wargame, with a couple new twists
    Second generation: like D&D (and in the case of everything that wasn’t D&D: like D&D except for our totally innovative twists, like no levels, or playable ducks)
    Third generation: like “an RPG”
    Fourth generation: like television]]>

  15. Robert Bohl I think it’s a very narrow lens (ha!) through which to view RPG communication as a whole.

    It also has implicit assumptions baked in about the player’s role as a participant — that they are the same passive observer they are when watching TV, and that they have an authorial distance from the immediate situation (holding the camera instead of being the one at whom it’s pointed).

    Heck, even the idea that making your PC is basically like fan-casting your favorite novel: “She looks like Michelle Yeoh, but with pointed ears.” Again, the extremist criticism is that this is lazy shorthand that a) possibly overlooks nuance and b) excludes the possibility of the viewer (the other players) of filling details themselves — i.e., it doesn’t leave room for the recipient to contribute, even if it’s to their own private, mental model.

  16. < ![CDATA[Robert Bohl I think it's a very narrow lens (ha!) through which to view RPG communication as a whole. It also has implicit assumptions baked in about the player's role as a participant — that they are the same passive observer they are when watching TV, and that they have an authorial distance from the immediate situation (holding the camera instead of being the one at whom it's pointed). Heck, even the idea that making your PC is basically like fan-casting your favorite novel: "She looks like Michelle Yeoh, but with pointed ears." Again, the extremist criticism is that this is lazy shorthand that a) possibly overlooks nuance and b) excludes the possibility of the viewer (the other players) of filling details themselves — i.e., it doesn’t leave room for the recipient to contribute, even if it’s to their own private, mental model.]]>

  17. Aside, some of this is coming from my Tolkien study. I have yet to read “On Fairy Stories”, but on a podcast they were talking about how Tolkien expressed distasted for dramatization of fantasy stories (the stage, in his case, but we can say film, too), because the implementation can never live up to the possibility of the human imagination. E.g., the podcast gave the example of this huge feat (killing a dragon) that gets maybe one sentence in The Silmarillion but would be a huge SFX extravaganza in a film — yet would have none of the power.

  18. < ![CDATA[Aside, some of this is coming from my Tolkien study. I have yet to read "On Fairy Stories", but on a podcast they were talking about how Tolkien expressed distasted for dramatization of fantasy stories (the stage, in his case, but we can say film, too), because the implementation can never live up to the possibility of the human imagination. E.g., the podcast gave the example of this huge feat (killing a dragon) that gets maybe one sentence in The Silmarillion but would be a huge SFX extravaganza in a film — yet would have none of the power.]]>

  19. I dunno. I don’t think you can assume that just because you’re using filmmaking techniques that it’s going to make people more passive. That’s certainly not what I’ve experienced since I started using them.

    Again, I won’t say that it’s impossible this could be a problem for someone, I just haven’t seen a large, negative impact in play in my admittedly-limited experience.

    And again, I definitely see the value of thinking differently. I just reject the idea that it’s a problem being avoided rather than a different avenue being tried, if that makes sense.

  20. < ![CDATA[I dunno. I don't think you can assume that just because you're using filmmaking techniques that it's going to make people more passive. That's certainly not what I've experienced since I started using them. Again, I won't say that it's impossible this could be a problem for someone, I just haven't seen a large, negative impact in play in my admittedly-limited experience. And again, I definitely see the value of thinking differently. I just reject the idea that it's a problem being avoided rather than a different avenue being tried, if that makes sense.]]>

  21. Robert Bohl Maybe I’m not being clear, but I feel like you’re assuming that I am assigning blame or making pronouncements. E.g., “implicit assumption of being a passive observer” doesn’t equate to me saying, “This technique makes people passive.”

    I mean, when you describe something your character does by describing the camera technique used to film them, you are literally putting yourself in the stance of an author viewing the character from a distance. You can’t describe that camera angle otherwise. (I.e., you’re not describing a literal camera circling your PC in the fiction.)

    The only ruination I’ve asserted at this point is what happened to me in one instance of play. And “ruin” was maybe too strong, as I had plenty of fun. It’s just that I was dumbstruck. “Yeah, WTF am I thinking about this game in those terms?” Ditching that paradigm made the game better for me afterwards.

    What I am saying now is:

    1) Hey, we should think about what this technique says about us as consumers of fiction/experience and as players of games.

    2) Defaulting to this technique should probably be avoided, unless the game being played demands it (e.g., PTA), i.e., it is not a cure-all.

  22. < ![CDATA[Robert Bohl Maybe I'm not being clear, but I feel like you're assuming that I am assigning blame or making pronouncements. E.g., "implicit assumption of being a passive observer" doesn't equate to me saying, "This technique makes people passive." I mean, when you describe something your character does by describing the camera technique used to film them, you are literally putting yourself in the stance of an author viewing the character from a distance. You can't describe that camera angle otherwise. (I.e., you're not describing a literal camera circling your PC in the fiction.) The only ruination I've asserted at this point is what happened to me in one instance of play. And "ruin" was maybe too strong, as I had plenty of fun. It's just that I was dumbstruck. "Yeah, WTF am I thinking about this game in those terms?" Ditching that paradigm made the game better for me afterwards. What I am saying now is: 1) Hey, we should think about what this technique says about us as consumers of fiction/experience and as players of games. 2) Defaulting to this technique should probably be avoided, unless the game being played demands it (e.g., PTA), i.e., it is not a cure-all.]]>

  23. Smart post, Mark. We have a long history of smart techniques introduced by new games, that are then crammed into EVERY game whether the game benefits from it or not. I hadn’t considered that very same thing might have occurred with the adoption of the language of film around games but I definitely see it now and the way it can be detrimental to some games.

    Though I have to point I have seen this same conversation in OSR circles about how indie gamers try to use this language and these techniques in OSR games and then complain about the experience, so you’re definitely not the first to notice it. 😉

  24. < ![CDATA[Smart post, Mark. We have a long history of smart techniques introduced by new games, that are then crammed into EVERY game whether the game benefits from it or not. I hadn't considered that very same thing might have occurred with the adoption of the language of film around games but I definitely see it now and the way it can be detrimental to some games. Though I have to point I have seen this same conversation in OSR circles about how indie gamers try to use this language and these techniques in OSR games and then complain about the experience, so you're definitely not the first to notice it. ;)]]>

  25. Bret Gillan Yeah, I can see filmic language not working at all in dungeon-crawly games, as players are never in author stance, and it’s typically a succession of stimuli –> response loops. “The water is up to your chest!” “I try to swim to the green lever!” “The lever is rusted solid!” “Shit!”

  26. < ![CDATA[Bret Gillan Yeah, I can see filmic language not working at all in dungeon-crawly games, as players are never in author stance, and it's typically a succession of stimuli –> response loops. “The water is up to your chest!” “I try to swim to the green lever!” “The lever is rusted solid!” “Shit!”]]>

  27. Another thing I’m wondering is how actively subverting this technique might affect play.

    E.g., in a horror game, it might be more thrilling to describe things in very immediate terms instead of camera shots. “The creature’s tendrils slowly slide over your cheeks, cold and slimy.” as opposed to, “We pull back and see the creature reach it’s tendrils to cover Andrew’s face…”

  28. < ![CDATA[Another thing I'm wondering is how actively subverting this technique might affect play.
    E.g., in a horror game, it might be more thrilling to describe things in very immediate terms instead of camera shots. “The creature’s tendrils slowly slide over your cheeks, cold and slimy.” as opposed to, “We pull back and see the creature reach it’s tendrils to cover Andrew’s face…”]]>

  29. I pretty much only like scenes/beats/etc language, the language of film and TV, for RPGs. I know there’s other approaches but they all turn me off. In this case, then, I’m sympathetic to folks who don’t always want to go with that kind of thing, but on the other hand I don’t think that impacts either my own play or my design.

  30. < ![CDATA[I pretty much only like scenes/beats/etc language, the language of film and TV, for RPGs. I know there's other approaches but they all turn me off. In this case, then, I'm sympathetic to folks who don't always want to go with that kind of thing, but on the other hand I don't think that impacts either my own play or my design.]]>

  31. In a similar train of thought, Megadungeon #1 had some interesting ideas in about deliberately refraining from clarifying any ambiguity or confusion the players might be experiencing in the game fiction as a way of generating interest and cementing the realness of the setting. I’ve been thinking about that a lot! Filmic techniques are about greater shared clarity, but there’s probably a lot that can be gained in some circumstances by subtracting it.

  32. < ![CDATA[In a similar train of thought, Megadungeon #1 had some interesting ideas in about deliberately refraining from clarifying any ambiguity or confusion the players might be experiencing in the game fiction as a way of generating interest and cementing the realness of the setting. I’ve been thinking about that a lot! Filmic techniques are about greater shared clarity, but there’s probably a lot that can be gained in some circumstances by subtracting it.]]>

  33. In the new OTE, we even specifically talk about sharing meta knowledge with players that their characters don’t know, like “so there’s a psychic vampire in this scenario” or “she walks away thinking that pretty soon she’s going to have to kill you.”

  34. < ![CDATA[In the new OTE, we even specifically talk about sharing meta knowledge with players that their characters don’t know, like “so there’s a psychic vampire in this scenario” or “she walks away thinking that pretty soon she’s going to have to kill you.”]]>

  35. Great post, Mark Delsing.

    I’m a with Cam Banks on this in that I enjoy it. Finding the language of filmmaking to use in RPGs game me a way to explain what I was seeing in my head.

    And that’s what roleplaying, is about, right? A bunch of people all pretending together trying to get everyone on the same page of “pretend”? Filmmaking is not only fairly well understood, spatially, it’s also a concise language for moving visual media.

    So if I want to impart how close the riders are following, I can say “you hear the hoofbeats. They’re close”, or I can pull the Fellowship of the Ring trick and explain how the camera zooms out to show the distance between Arwen and the Ringwraiths. No matter what style of prose you use for the former, I don’t think it’d get as clear as the latter.

  36. < ![CDATA[Great post, Mark Delsing. I'm a with Cam Banks on this in that I enjoy it. Finding the language of filmmaking to use in RPGs game me a way to explain what I was seeing in my head. And that's what roleplaying, is about, right? A bunch of people all pretending together trying to get everyone on the same page of "pretend"? Filmmaking is not only fairly well understood, spatially, it's also a concise language for moving visual media. So if I want to impart how close the riders are following, I can say "you hear the hoofbeats. They're close", or I can pull the Fellowship of the Ring trick and explain how the camera zooms out to show the distance between Arwen and the Ringwraiths. No matter what style of prose you use for the former, I don't think it'd get as clear as the latter.]]>

  37. < ![CDATA[Oooooh I would um... I would be very cautious around language like "that's what roleplaying is about." It can be! It can be. That’s my preferred mode as well. But it’s just a mode.]]>

  38. Aaron Griffin NO UR DOIN GAMING RONG!!!111!

    In my Champions example, getting me out of my film assumptions helped me get on the same page as the GM. I immediately had a better understanding of the tone he was going for.

    It goes both ways is what I’m saying. NOT using film language is as much a technique as using it, I think.

  39. < ![CDATA[Aaron Griffin NO UR DOIN GAMING RONG!!!111! In my Champions example, getting me out of my film assumptions helped me get on the same page as the GM. I immediately had a better understanding of the tone he was going for.
    It goes both ways is what I’m saying. NOT using film language is as much a technique as using it, I think.]]>

  40. Aaron Griffin your typical D&D dungeon crawl brings everyone to the same page via map and markers at a minimum, and crafted 3D terrain and miniatures are a fairly common upgrade.

    (Let’s please not have the “D&D isn’t even an arrpeegee” discussion, it’s embarrassing.)

  41. < ![CDATA[Aaron Griffin your typical D&D dungeon crawl brings everyone to the same page via map and markers at a minimum, and crafted 3D terrain and miniatures are a fairly common upgrade. (Let's please not have the "D&D isn't even an arrpeegee" discussion, it's embarrassing.)]]>

  42. Aaron Griffin For me “getting on the same page” translates to shared imagined space, which is a default part of RPG play — it’s not an RPG without it. So, sure, I’d agree that creating that space is one of the things we do when we play an RPG.

    I don’t know if one technique is inherently better for maintaining that space than another, though.

  43. < ![CDATA[Aaron Griffin For me “getting on the same page” translates to shared imagined space, which is a default part of RPG play — it’s not an RPG without it. So, sure, I’d agree that creating that space is one of the things we do when we play an RPG.
    I don’t know if one technique is inherently better for maintaining that space than another, though.]]>

  44. Oh, wait, let me back up a little bit.

    I thought Aaron Griffin was saying “explaining what I’m seeing in my head” was the connector to “that’s what roleplaying is about.” I read too quickly, and you’re talking about getting everyone on the same page. And you like the language of film to make that happen.

    I do too! I don’t think anyone’s actually disagreeing that they like it, yeah?

    Sorry sorry, my replies were unnecessarily snarky. Reflexive mode from a lot of years of entrenched one-true-wayism wars.

  45. < ![CDATA[Oh, wait, let me back up a little bit. I thought Aaron Griffin was saying "explaining what I'm seeing in my head" was the connector to "that's what roleplaying is about." I read too quickly, and you're talking about getting everyone on the same page. And you like the language of film to make that happen.
    I do too! I don’t think anyone’s actually disagreeing that they like it, yeah?
    Sorry sorry, my replies were unnecessarily snarky. Reflexive mode from a lot of years of entrenched one-true-wayism wars.]]>

  46. Paul Beakley oh hmm, I guess I was excluding that sort of thing because it generally doesn’t need linguistic explanation, film related or otherwise.

    I’d still submit that getting everyone on the game page when playing pretend – whether it’s all in your imagination or moving your guys around on a map – is kinda the meat and potatoes of the thing.

    Mark Delsing I’m sure there are people who read more novels or comics or other things more than they watch TV or movies, and I imagine for them, the language of camera movements would fall slightly flat.

  47. < ![CDATA[Paul Beakley oh hmm, I guess I was excluding that sort of thing because it generally doesn't need linguistic explanation, film related or otherwise. I'd still submit that getting everyone on the game page when playing pretend - whether it's all in your imagination or moving your guys around on a map - is kinda the meat and potatoes of the thing. Mark Delsing I'm sure there are people who read more novels or comics or other things more than they watch TV or movies, and I imagine for them, the language of camera movements would fall slightly flat.]]>

  48. I feel like comics and books have scenes, too. But there’s a huge swath of games that barely recognize the concept. They embrace near-total moment-to-moment narrative.

    The idea exhausts me (literally) these days, but more power to anyone that works for.

  49. < ![CDATA[I feel like comics and books have scenes, too. But there’s a huge swath of games that barely recognize the concept. They embrace near-total moment-to-moment narrative. The idea exhausts me (literally) these days, but more power to anyone that works for.]]>

  50. < ![CDATA[It did. And I don’t remember if it was a rule or just Michael Miller’s hack of his own game, but he would even bring a thought balloon prop so people could indicate that kind of monologue.]]>

  51. Yeah, classic With Great Power… does a lot with panels and pages, particularly in combat. In character creation, you had a sort of meta-character sheet called “the Scratch Pad” that held all the long-term info about your character, regardless of what Aspects were involved in this particular issue. (Yeah, there were issues, too.) I even went so far as to try to relate what we used to call “Fortune in the Middle” to the process of a writer, a penciler, and an inker collaborating on a comic.

    And the thought balloon (which survived to the new version), is a great way to indicate to others at the table that you’re narrating your character’s inner thoughts, rather than their spoken dialogue.

    There’s lots to learn from all kinds of media. Film and television are so ubiquitous that it makes it easy to communicate with strangers at a convention table (the only gaming I do these days).

    But I’ve also explained the role of Humanity in Sorcerer as the game’s soundtrack. The lower the Humanity dips, the more tense the music is.

  52. < ![CDATA[Yeah, classic With Great Power… does a lot with panels and pages, particularly in combat. In character creation, you had a sort of meta-character sheet called “the Scratch Pad” that held all the long-term info about your character, regardless of what Aspects were involved in this particular issue. (Yeah, there were issues, too.) I even went so far as to try to relate what we used to call “Fortune in the Middle” to the process of a writer, a penciler, and an inker collaborating on a comic.
    And the thought balloon (which survived to the new version), is a great way to indicate to others at the table that you’re narrating your character’s inner thoughts, rather than their spoken dialogue.
    There’s lots to learn from all kinds of media. Film and television are so ubiquitous that it makes it easy to communicate with strangers at a convention table (the only gaming I do these days).
    But I’ve also explained the role of Humanity in Sorcerer as the game’s soundtrack. The lower the Humanity dips, the more tense the music is.]]>

  53. A thing I love about RPGs is that they are unique in that we are simultaneously the authors, actors, directors, camerapersons, special effects artists, and audience, both by turns and all at the same time. This has been said before, but it seems relevant to this convo.

    I think the tv/cinema visual tropes are good and valid shorthand to get mainstream folks into gaming. Sure, it means not everyone you meet at the table grew up with their nose buried in a book, eschewing human contact in favor of living in their own head. But do we even really want to be those people anymore? (answering for myself, yes, sometimes, absolutely)

    I don’t think there’s any worry about imaginative people being prevented from contributing, whether to the shared model or their private one. Drawing from cinematic rather than literary tropes is just a different form of imagination, no less valid. Billions of modern fanfic writers will back me up on this, I’m sure.

    Switching between frames of reference or techniques is like switching stances, you probably don’t even notice you’re doing it most of the time. At least that’s my experience.

  54. < ![CDATA[A thing I love about RPGs is that they are unique in that we are simultaneously the authors, actors, directors, camerapersons, special effects artists, and audience, both by turns and all at the same time. This has been said before, but it seems relevant to this convo. I think the tv/cinema visual tropes are good and valid shorthand to get mainstream folks into gaming. Sure, it means not everyone you meet at the table grew up with their nose buried in a book, eschewing human contact in favor of living in their own head. But do we even really want to be those people anymore? (answering for myself, yes, sometimes, absolutely) I don't think there's any worry about imaginative people being prevented from contributing, whether to the shared model or their private one. Drawing from cinematic rather than literary tropes is just a different form of imagination, no less valid. Billions of modern fanfic writers will back me up on this, I'm sure. Switching between frames of reference or techniques is like switching stances, you probably don't even notice you're doing it most of the time. At least that's my experience.]]>

  55. No one’s even mentioning the use of scenes in things like stage plays. That’s a whole other framework worth considering.

    Also, I think the frameworks and shorthands we use to establish SIS are more profound than purely functional. They are the means by which we construct the characters, action, and story. They determine how we relate to and conceptualize the fiction. So I think our choices matter, and I wonder sometimes why games don’t make more of an effort to hard code alternatives. Imagining the action as a manga vs an art house film changes how we interpret what’s happening. It’s almost a part of the specific language of an instance of roleplaying.

  56. < ![CDATA[No one’s even mentioning the use of scenes in things like stage plays. That’s a whole other framework worth considering. Also, I think the frameworks and shorthands we use to establish SIS are more profound than purely functional. They are the means by which we construct the characters, action, and story. They determine how we relate to and conceptualize the fiction. So I think our choices matter, and I wonder sometimes why games don’t make more of an effort to hard code alternatives. Imagining the action as a manga vs an art house film changes how we interpret what’s happening. It’s almost a part of the specific language of an instance of roleplaying.]]>

  57. I think it’s generally accepted that we live in a post-video world where even novels, for example, have absorbed cinematic approaches and visual language. Compare — for example again — Elmore Leonard’s descriptions with Jane Austen’s.

    If we look at RPing as a literary genre of its own (with sub-genres), it has its own demands that arise from the form. Just as a writer brings all their influences to their novel, an RPG group brings their influences to their game. That’s going to include cinema, in varying proportions according to the individual and group. But just as a novel influenced by video is still a novel, it’s still an RPG. An RPG with its own strong sense of form (eg Apocalypse World) is agnostic on whether it’s ‘cinematic’ or not.

    Some RPGs try consciously to replicate the techniques of video. This is easier for people who watch lots of film/TV, have studied film theory etc. It’s less easy to cut out these sources of inspiration because video is now so ubiquitous and modern novels are using them too.

    (I once pinched a description of an NPC from Fritz Leiber: “she looks personable, but used by life”. Entirely uncinematic but I wasn’t really thinking about it, I was just pulling something from my pool of inspiration. The description went over well btw.)

    When I ran Pendragon I consciously eschewed video as a reference: I drew as much as possible from textual sources, avoided character pictures etc. That was possible mainly by soaking myself in literary sources. But we all still had Excalibur in our brains, not to mention Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

  58. < ![CDATA[I think it’s generally accepted that we live in a post-video world where even novels, for example, have absorbed cinematic approaches and visual language. Compare — for example again — Elmore Leonard’s descriptions with Jane Austen’s. If we look at RPing as a literary genre of its own (with sub-genres), it has its own demands that arise from the form. Just as a writer brings all their influences to their novel, an RPG group brings their influences to their game. That’s going to include cinema, in varying proportions according to the individual and group. But just as a novel influenced by video is still a novel, it’s still an RPG. An RPG with its own strong sense of form (eg Apocalypse World) is agnostic on whether it’s ‘cinematic’ or not. Some RPGs try consciously to replicate the techniques of video. This is easier for people who watch lots of film/TV, have studied film theory etc. It’s less easy to cut out these sources of inspiration because video is now so ubiquitous and modern novels are using them too. (I once pinched a description of an NPC from Fritz Leiber: “she looks personable, but used by life”. Entirely uncinematic but I wasn’t really thinking about it, I was just pulling something from my pool of inspiration. The description went over well btw.) When I ran Pendragon I consciously eschewed video as a reference: I drew as much as possible from textual sources, avoided character pictures etc. That was possible mainly by soaking myself in literary sources. But we all still had Excalibur in our brains, not to mention Monty Python and the Holy Grail.]]>

  59. < ![CDATA[Michael Miller But I’ve also explained the role of Humanity in Sorcerer as the game’s soundtrack. The lower the Humanity dips, the more tense the music is.
    That is effing brilliant, sir.]]>

  60. Tim Koppang …the frameworks and shorthands we use to establish SIS are more profound than purely functional.

    THISTHISTHISTHIS!!!

    Let me reiterate that I am not saying “using screenwriting language is bad”. I’m saying what Tim says above so eloquently.

  61. < ![CDATA[Tim Koppang …the frameworks and shorthands we use to establish SIS are more profound than purely functional.
    THISTHISTHISTHIS!!!
    Let me reiterate that I am not saying “using screenwriting language is bad”. I’m saying what Tim says above so eloquently.]]>

  62. < ![CDATA[Jeff Zahari When I ran Pendragon I consciously eschewed video as a reference…
    How did the players react?
    When something is ubiquitous, that’s maybe a signal that we should question said ubiquity.]]>

  63. I’ve played De Profundis for a medium stretch. I even made props and mailed them in coffee-aged envelopes!

    The letters I wrote were actually less about describing a physical event than they were about describing the character’s reaction to it, so I don’t know if it’s fair to compare the two.

    Unless… are you suggesting that spatial and visual description are a thing that doesn’t always work? My view is that filmographic language is ideal for describing this sort of stuff, but if we’re describing feelings or reactions or other things aside from that, then it flounders.

    Is that what you’re aiming for?

  64. < ![CDATA[I've played De Profundis for a medium stretch. I even made props and mailed them in coffee-aged envelopes! The letters I wrote were actually less about describing a physical event than they were about describing the character's reaction to it, so I don't know if it's fair to compare the two. Unless… are you suggesting that spatial and visual description are a thing that doesn’t always work? My view is that filmographic language is ideal for describing this sort of stuff, but if we’re describing feelings or reactions or other things aside from that, then it flounders.
    Is that what you’re aiming for?]]>

  65. Mark Delsing I guess what I’m saying is it’s not easy to put into practice because that’s how people think now. It’s not really possible to think your way back into historical ways of thinking.

    I may be the oldest person commenting here and yet TV and cinema were already part of my world experience as a child. I read a lot of books as well but a visual language is intrinsic to my imagination. That’s still images too, as we live in about the richest environment (historically speaking) for visual images of all sorts.

    The players in my Pendragon game reacted in various ways, I’d say related to how good they were at literary tropes and language. Not sure it made an enormous amount of difference because the whole game bends you toward a specific RPing experience in an Arthurian mode and my efforts were just some decoration.

  66. < ![CDATA[Mark Delsing I guess what I’m saying is it’s not easy to put into practice because that’s how people think now. It’s not really possible to think your way back into historical ways of thinking. I may be the oldest person commenting here and yet TV and cinema were already part of my world experience as a child. I read a lot of books as well but a visual language is intrinsic to my imagination. That’s still images too, as we live in about the richest environment (historically speaking) for visual images of all sorts. The players in my Pendragon game reacted in various ways, I’d say related to how good they were at literary tropes and language. Not sure it made an enormous amount of difference because the whole game bends you toward a specific RPing experience in an Arthurian mode and my efforts were just some decoration.]]>

  67. Aaron Griffin First off, I think it’s so cool that you’ve actually played De Profundis. I assumed it was a curiosity.

    Second, I’m just saying what Tim elucidates above. I.e.,

    There are lots of methods we can use to communicate the SIS to each other. Let’s acknowledge the effect of these techniques and question why and when we use them.

  68. < ![CDATA[Aaron Griffin First off, I think it's so cool that you've actually played De Profundis. I assumed it was a curiosity.
    Second, I’m just saying what Tim elucidates above. I.e.,
    There are lots of methods we can use to communicate the SIS to each other. Let’s acknowledge the effect of these techniques and question why and when we use them.]]>

  69. I think calling spatial description “filmic” is oversimplifying, personally.

    When I hear that term I think camera angles, panning, zooming in/out, fading out, smash edits, montages, “set piece,” specifying scene elements as thematically important, cutting, second unit footage (landscapes that set the tone and convey setting assumptions, but not protagonists or plot), soundtrack comments (scary tense music, the swelling theme, drum beats, your own heartbeat), “screen time” as a persistent metaphor (wiki McLuhan on why), slo-mo, “handheld,” etc etc.

    If you call all sis-synchronizing description “filmic” it renders this conversation meaningless. Imo.

  70. < ![CDATA[I think calling spatial description "filmic" is oversimplifying, personally. When I hear that term I think camera angles, panning, zooming in/out, fading out, smash edits, montages, "set piece," specifying scene elements as thematically important, cutting, second unit footage (landscapes that set the tone and convey setting assumptions, but not protagonists or plot), soundtrack comments (scary tense music, the swelling theme, drum beats, your own heartbeat), "screen time" as a persistent metaphor (wiki McLuhan on why), slo-mo, "handheld," etc etc. If you call all sis-synchronizing description "filmic" it renders this conversation meaningless. Imo.]]>