Saturday, February 3, 2024

Saturday Long Read: Lich Van Winkle on Story

If you've got a chunk of time (like, ACOUP blog post chunk of time), this is a worthy read:

Yes, you ARE telling a story.

But you aren't composing a novel or reading a script. (Not during an RPG session, anyway.)

As someone who lived through a lot of this - with "hack and slash" becoming pejorative, then back to "story" becoming pejorative, and numerous ricochets between, I was interested. It's a long read but worth the time.

These days I play loosely plotted, hack-and-slash games, but I'm okay with it being a story. Most of the dumb and fun setting details we have - Cornwood, the Iron Church, Dwarven as a dead language, etc. - emerged in play but provide the details to the story of the sack of Felltower that helps make it interesting. I don't go for backstory beyond a sentence, maybe two, but front story? Sure, it's not great literature or a prize-winning novel, but it's a story nonetheless. And my "war stories" posts tend to get a lot of hits and comments. Go figure. People want to follow along with the story of my minimally-plotted game. So this resonated with me.


  1. He says playing chess is telling a story. By that standard, sure.

    1. I gave the example of chess as the lowest bar for how a game can be telling a story and I said, "how much more so for RPGs!" The point in the blog post is that RPGs are doing a lot more story telling than chess. I encourage you to read the whole post and not pick one little example out of context.

  2. Thanks, Peter. I agree. An RPG doesn't need much back-story, if any, and it doesn't need to be prize-winning. Who would give the prizes, anyway? Maybe some actual play videos get a lot of views... but I'd say comparing our games with literature can even get in the way of a fun RPG session. RPGs are a different medium. The retellings, like your war stories, are fun, too, but it's probably more fun actually to be at your table.


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