[HeroQuest-RPG] Re: Travel Narratives in Glorantha

From: David Cake <dave_at_b8wR4MDIqu5aayCcmFiy0Jl6MlHk-GnKXL1SD4lC5n-qDMZDH5YyvDG-JQBy_5IeSteLp5e>
Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2008 10:35:30 +0930

At 7:27 PM +1100 30/1/08, John Hughes wrote:
>According to GSN theory, a popular school of applied gaming philosophy
>(one which I'm personally not too attached to: I'm a genre theorist, and
>which I also note has undergone further refinement: see
>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNS_Theory ) sees roleplaying games as
>concerned with three main axes of behaviour:
> * Gamist behaviours reinforce competition and challenge
> * Narrativist behaviours reinforce story and theme
> * Simulationist behaviours reinforce experience and celebration of
>source material
>In this typology, DnD stands as an example of extreme 'gamist' play. You
>work the system, you win, you level up.
>Glorantha has much more of a narrativist flavour, though campaigns can
>take on a variety of different hues.

        Glorantha really is traditionally simulationist. RQ was perhaps the most classic example of simulationist tradition in mainstream gaming. And its clear emphasis on exploring the complex game world in all its fascinating detail tends to make a lot of play simulationist by default. Its HeroQuest that is narrativist, and that sometimes sits uneasily with Glorantha.

        Now we are on the HeroQuest group here, and its true that a lot of the Gloranthan old school have wholeheartedly embraced the narrativist style of play, and its certainly the HeroQuest style, but I think a lot of us come to narrativism via a deep immersion on the simulationist exploration of Glorantha. I think the sheer amount of detail actually makes Glorantha a quite difficult setting for narrativist play for players unfamiliar with it - though its a great setting for narrativist play for people that are familiar with its details.

        Glorantha is full of stories. Great stories. But in the RQ era, and to some extent even now, its full of other peoples stories - its grand sweep, Argrath and the Emperor etc, was already set and your characters weren't the ones at its ultimate centre. The core of narrativist play isn't just narrative, its specifically a narrative created by your players and starring their characters, narrative created fully collaboratively within your group. Glorantha appeals to players who love narrative but its very fullness of narrative can sometimes make it harder to run a true narrativist game than a blank slate might. I think as a community we have learnt how to deal with this problem in creative ways, for an ultimately richer gaming experience, but we had to learn (and well known examples of play like the various Seattle Farmers games where a big part of how we learnt as a community). I think its almost the default style of Gloranthan play to walk a tightrope between narrativist and simulationist play, trying to braid your characters individual narratives into the grand narratives (mostly created by Greg) that sweep them up. When you sit down to create a narrative within your group, Gregs voice is somehow always there at the back of the group (which is OK by me, because I like Gregs stories, but its a distraction to classic narrativist play).

        I wouldn't be surprised if narrativist play fades back into being the less dominant style of Gloranthan play, as simulationist returns with Mongoose RQ etc. Simulationist play is an easy natural fit for Glorantha, as Glorantha rewards it with an enormous amount of fascinating detail about the world to discover. Simulationist play plays to Gloranthas strength, which is the sheer amount of wonderful source material.

>These limitations are worth stating explictly. Among them are
>Glorantha's simplistic and unreflexive view of religion (albeit, one
>shared by many western roleplaying games), its over-reliance on an
>universalistic and discredited model of mythology (Campbell) that denies
>much of what is interesting about real mythological processes, its
>creeping essentialism, gender bias, and deeply conservative 'boys own'
>seventies masculism. All of these have both positive and negative
>aspects, of course, but all of them constraint the types of stories that
>can be imagined and told, and by whom.

        Glorantha contains all these things, but also antidotes to many of them.

        Certainly I know my own love of Glorantha went through a significant renaissance in the 90s when we learnt a lot more about a goddess, and religion, that stood against all these things, and the subtler and deeper struggles going on within Gloranthan religion became clear.

>I think if there is one thing Glorantha has taught us about notions of
>the monomyth, it is the deep emptiness that lies at the heart of the
>Campbellian concept of 'hero'. The hero wars are forcing us to engage
>with the weaknesses in this concept in a conscious way. Its my own hope
>that we can forge new meanings, better understandings. Genre fatigue is
>a challenge for us all. The current outbreak of revisionism and motif
>cloning (where details are expanded seemingly endlessly without any
>further insight or fresh ideas) are both symptoms. The danger, already
>partially realized, is that the weight of repetitive detail can outweigh
>any return on roleplaying investment in terms of enjoyment and insight.

        Yes, I see a sense of genre fatigue or something like it. The things that seemed such great sources of inspiration a decade ago (the day to day struggles and political machinations of cattle herding tribes, empires based on mysticism, even extinct megafauna) have become the new cliches, things that over time have become less the sources of exhilarating creative tension as they become more mined out and seemingly the sources of reactionary restriction.



Powered by hypermail