We're Geeks. We Play Games.

I'll put something more exciting here later.

In the meantime, have a beverage and relax. It could be awhile.

What beverage would I suggest?

  • A nice sangria.
  • An old fashioned.
  • A Long Island Iced Tea.

Role Playing or Story Telling? Yes.

I stumbled across this post from 2011 discussing the difference between role playing games and storytelling games. It was quite interesting to me as I am a huge fan of the more storytelling type games (Dread, Penny For Your Thoughts, etc. I'm dying to play Don't Rest Your Head but haven't had the chance yet), while Ben prefers the structured mechanics of role playing games.

The ideas The Alexandrian puts forth in the post definitely got me thinking. Let's look first at his definition of RPGs versus storytelling games:

"So roleplaying games are defined by associated mechanics — mechanics which are associated with the game world, and thus require you to make decisions as if you were your character (because your decisions are associated with your character’s decisions).

Storytelling games (STGs), on the other hand, are defined by narrative control mechanics: The mechanics of the game are either about determining who controls a particular chunk of the narrative or they’re actually about determining the outcome of a particular narrative chunk.

Storytelling games may be built around players having characters that they’re proponents of, but the mechanical focus of the game is not on the choices made as if they were those characters. Instead, the mechanical focus is on controlling the narrative."

Hmm. I agree and yet, as he continues to explain in his post, this can get quite fuzzy. With typical RPGs, the GM has a set story that he* is leading his group through and players make decisions based on what their characters can do according to their character sheets. In the Dread games I have run, there are 3 Acts which help structure the story and I guide the players through these acts, but the details of this story are left up to their control and often it's not what I had planned.

RPGs do seem to be more character mechanics based while Storytelling Games (I just can't use STGs, it sounds like a disease) allow for more creativity in the narrative, and yet I have been a part of RPG groups where we take the GM by surprise and completely derail his narrative plans (Luckily, it's been with great GMs who roll with it and adapt, allowing for an exciting adventure) and in the storytelling games I've played, the narrative is driven by the character's choices and that is a part of the mechanics.

This definition is a good place to start though, as a base for understanding our preferred mode of play. When playing in a group with people who love the RPG mechanics and those who love the Storytelling mechanics, it's helpful to know how that plays into their enjoyment of gaming.

"Because characters are narrative elements, players who prefer storytelling games tend to have a much higher tolerance for roleplaying mechanics in their storytelling games. Why? Because roleplaying mechanics allow you to control characters; characters are narrative elements; and, therefore, roleplaying mechanics can be enjoyed as just a very specific variety of narrative control.

On the other hand, people who are primarily interested in roleplaying games because they want to roleplay a character tend to have a much lower tolerance for narrative control mechanics in their roleplaying games. Why? Because when you’re using dissociated mechanics you’re not roleplaying. At best, dissociated mechanics are a distraction from what the roleplayer wants. At worst, the dissociated mechanics can actually interfere and disrupt what the roleplayer wants (when, for example, the dissociated mechanics begin affecting the behavior or actions of their character).

This is why many aficionados of storytelling games don’t understand why other people don’t consider their games roleplaying games. Because even traditional roleplaying games at least partially satisfy their interests in narrative control, they don’t see the dividing line."

As an aficionado of storytelling games who plays with a group made up of both types of players, this is helpful to my understanding of our differences in what we see as a good game. Perhaps it will be helpful to those coming at it from a mechanics point of view as well, to better understand what "the other side" enjoys. For me, the best solution is a game which combines the two, as well as alternating games and types of games that we play as a group.

Where do you fall in your preferences? Traditional RPG mechanics? Storytelling? A mixture of both? And do you have any suggestions for games which mix the two well? Or any good storytelling games you would suggest (I would love to run more storytelling games in the future, we seem to have an abundance of more traditional RPGs)? Please do share in the comment section!


*Or she. Obviously.