Grand argument stories

[Moderator’s Note: This post began life as a response to following comment Essential GM Advice in the GM Advice thread found here: Essential GM Advice]. As it started a new conversation, it was spun off into its own thread.]

I confess, I’m having a lot of trouble understanding what you’re talking about here. Can you give me a layman’s description of a “Grand Argument Story”? Can you explain why it makes ending a game difficult? Or making a game coherent difficult? (I’m not sure which of those two you are saying is hard?)

What do you mean by “do stories”? Your talk about “Railroading” makes it sound like you have stories in mind that people are expected to play through, but that doesn’t jive with “only the most chaotic sandbox wouldn’t have this problem.”

Basically: I can’t tell from your post what you want your games to be like.

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I confess, I’m having a lot of trouble understanding what you’re talking about here. Can you give me a layman’s description of a “Grand Argument Story”?

Grand Argument Story:https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Grand+Argument+Story%3A&ia=web

Can you explain why it makes ending a game difficult?

I didn’t say that.From what I can tell just watching boards, most games are stillborn. Having a game that is also a coherent story, as opposed to what most to all actually are, namely tales, i.e., failed stories, is the difficult part. Time and gravity eats us all. It’s built in, and not hard at all.

Or making a game coherent difficult? (I’m not sure which of those two you are saying is hard?)

Still didn’t say that. Please quote me if you think otherwise. Coherent, actual story, not game. The gamey bit is a distinct thing.

What do you mean by “do stories”? Your talk about “Railroading” makes it sound like you have stories in mind that people are expected to play through, but that doesn’t jive with “only the most chaotic sandbox wouldn’t have this problem.”

Because even “normal” games have “railroading,” if you want to look at it that way. I don’t really see why this is so hard to grasp. For example, a hard historical game set somewhere in Europe at the height of Christendom doesn’t permit of many anachronisms, such as, for example, SJW think, Feminism, equal rights, etc.

In other words, I can’t think of too many games where one may “do, be, and have it all, whenever you like.” Your “odds” of getting a story that way resemlbe throwing a loose pack of untampered cards into the air, to land land in order. It’s magical thinking and pixie dust.

TL; DR - I wan’t my “games” to be stories, just like most everyone assumes they are, when they are not. Without great, exacting effort, they never will be. My games never quite make it, nor do I have a reasonable hope that they ever will be, but the attempt does improve the end product, and people can sense it, even if they don’t know why.

I hope that helps; if not, I don’t know what else to peck at you.

Basically: I can’t tell from your post what you want your games to be like.

That seems like a really strange perspective to me. Having a coherent and consistent premise and setting (and editing ourselves accordingly) is not in any way related to “railroading”. (Although I have encountered people who think that “railroading” means limiting themselves in any way… I fail to see how that can be a useful definition for anything, when just about any successful and coherent game will have creative constraints in place.)

I can say that I have seen and continue to see highly coherent, un-railroaded, Grand Argument Story games/stories when playing at a high level with a good game design and good players. Certainly as good as most of the stuff we tend to see in the media, anyway. It’s definitely possible, even if it takes some skilled players!

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I was referring to this; There is no need to act like I am putting words in your mouth when I am just trying to understand the words you are using.

I still find some of your definitions problematic, and generally agree with Paul, but at least I think I see what you are trying to say now, thank you.

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Exactly, and I concur, but the lines can be rather subjective, and arbitrary. Who gets to say what railroading is?

Again, I agree.

Every story does, even if those crafting it don’t know what they are, or that they are in place.

Even if not, it is approachable. Regardless, “talk is cheap.”

Now that the thread has been split off, I’d be happy to talk about my perspective on railroading, but only if that’s of interest to anyone. Go ahead and ask, if you’d like! I’d happily share my perspective.

WT…?

If you’re referring to “railroading”, then I wouldn’t even call that even a nominal definition.

But, this is turning into a pissing contest. Peace, and out.

Thanks for sharing these links.

The idea of applying post-structuralist theory (I think? it’s been years since I read Saussure et al) to TTRPG adventure design is interesting, but my own experiences and understanding of the theories involved suggest that the fundamentally collective and thus anarchic nature of TTRPG play differs significantly from the relation between author, text and reader. So much that it makes highly structured story design inefficient at best and stifling to player choice and creativity at worst. One could also equally posit a theory based on structuralist works (say Propp’s) morphology, but the issue I’d worry about is the same - the level of control the designer (as substitute for author) would need to exert to maintain the structure in the face of player choice.

I suppose one could instead argue that at some level of deep structure there’s a form to TTRPG adventures that supersedes player intent and variance in GM. I don’t know that this is true, but I find the claim interesting enough (though I think hard to assert given the variety play experiences). In highly intentional games (I’m thinking genre emulation one shots mostly) it might be easier, because universal story elements could be woven directly into the system - but again I’m not quite sold on the idea.

I’m not a scene/narrative designer, GM or player though so perhaps I just underrate the appeal and possibility of what appears to me to be a very structured narrative and play experience.

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That’s a fair point:

We may all be imagining and/or thinking of entirely different things when we picture playing out an RPG which might qualify as a “Grand Argument Story”. I’d encourage @TeatroMensa to come back and clarify their vision of this thing - it would help us not talk past one another.

(I suspect it comes down to a fairly involved philosophical point of debate: whether humans are fundamentally and naturally story-telling creatures or not. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)

You can have players help you without pushing it as a responsability on them.

From creating the world map at the start of the game (players just need to come up with a landmark each so surprise doesn’t get ruined as you fill the holes and gaps in the map or describe their creations in detail), using their character choices to create fronts and NPCs (So, you chose an elf! What are elves like to you? Forest mystical aristocrats, eternal protectors of nature, or what?), create tension between fronts (so how do they fare with hobbits and vice versa? involve other players choices here but let them know it doesn’t have to influence the relationship between their characters, they can be best friends even if their people doesn’t tolerate each other) and even take their suggestions, ideas and fears when they least expect it and make them bigger!

And of course, coming up withh solutions is their work, not yours, as it has been stated before.

About telling Grand Argument Stories, it’s totally possible if you take out your own expectations about the story the players want to tell. Actually, Grand Argument Stories happen when you start following the players into them instead of trying to lead them into yours. Your work there as a GM is to keep consequences of the PC actions biting back at them, make those consequences unescapable. Let players make the stakes higher! that’s when Grand things happen. Never stop players from doing something: Ask them and help them to explain and justify their actions. If it changes the prep to make things more interesting, run with it and improvise or take a break, but keep it going!

If you keep prepping things so the PCs just have to go from A to B to C and do X, W, Z at each point so your grand argument story can come into life you are actually better playing a diceless collaborative writing game with actors able to follow your lead as a director instead of a tabletop RPG, mostly because players will come with their own RPG experience to the table or read the rules and think it is a game where their choices and tastes matter, and that will just get in the way of the experience you want to have (sorry if I’m assuming too much about your gaming idea, I’m not trying to be sarcastic and I do respect your way of playing, it’s just that in my experience, offering players a “game experience” will have them automatically thinking they will have a degree of control that won’t fit your expectations.)

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While I may be wrong,

  1. I’m not sure that some of the people here actually know what “Grand Argument Story” means. I’m getting the general impression that they don’t, but that they assume that they do.

  2. Regardless, and I’ll just assume that I’m wrong on point one if it will keep the peace, and order, I’m not sure that we’re allowed to discuss this here, on this thread, anymore. The criteria for splitting topics are still rather arcane to me.

My personal suggestion would be to use this opportunity to explain in your own words what a Grand Argument Story is, so that people can understand better where the conflict between their definition and your definition is. By dropping a link not just to an article but to a search engine, you suggest that you are not actually interested in a discussion around the topic, but rather in demonstrating superior knowledge of the topic.

I would also suggest that the language you use here, specifically, reads to me as if though you view these concepts in a negative light, and do not wish for them to be included in your games. This might lead to some discomfort from marginalized people, such as myself, which would further discourage people from engaging with you.

This is purely my reaction to the language you have used. I am not trying to ascribe an intent to your use of language, but I feel like something may have gone wrong with the encoding of your ideas into language.

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