Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Let's Get Critical

Books


Good literature--it tends to be of the type that submits to deep Critical Analysis. This may be intentional on the part of the author, as with William Gibson. It may be less so, as with Robert E. Howard. Or it may be intended, but the book nevertheless comes out a dud, as with Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union. Nevetheless, the good stuff, tends to be the sort where Critical Analysis reveals layer after layer of meaning, like the proverbial onion that keeps on giving. 

Movies



Good movies, on the other hand, don't necessarily have the same depth as good books, and when they do, it's often not a required ingredient. Unlike books, a movie is typically experienced for a couple short hours and that's it. Unlike books, you can't stop and think about it, or flip back to check what happened before and how it relates to what's happening now. The film just keeps racing ahead and any deeper meaning hidden there by the filmmaker is lost on 99% of the audience.

Just look at Refn's Drive. The movie has a metric ton of symbolism and meaning, and it's slow pace and great cinematography actually allow the audience more opportunity to identify it than in most films. And yet, all but the most overt symbols were completely lost on most viewers, with audiences describing the film as "boring". As much as I like Bergman, Kubrick, and Refn's movies, their love of intricately deep layers of meaning is not a required ingredient for a "good movie".

RPG's


So what about Role Playing games? On one hand they're like books--many published adventures have put a great deal of thought into their text. On the other hand, they're even more extreme than movies--the players experience the game as a game session in real-time, not as a text, and while you can rewind or re-watch a movie, live game sessions generally don't have that luxury. Plus, due to their non-deterministic nature, you don't know which material will be covered and it's even quite likely that scenarios will occur that explicitly aren't covered in the book. If anything, RPG's are most like improvisational performance art.


And Now for Some Practical Advice


Sooo...now I'm supposed to offer some great practical advice for adventure authors and DM's based on the preceding brilliant observation on the nature of pen & paper RPG's...Right. Any minute now...

Well, what I will say is this. Keep in mind that not all your brilliant ideas and witty text are easily translated to the format of the live game session. So try and focus on the stuff that does translate: tactical combat, stimulating mood, opportunities for PC development(either mechanical or narrative), challenging puzzles, wondrous exploration, or whatever you see works for you and your group.

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