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Why is point buy so reviled?

   
I think that if you’re going to talk about story with regard to RPGs (and I do), one should probably not default to the single-author novel as your model of storytelling.

RPGs are collaborative and emergent storytelling: there are multiple authors working together, and things like the rules and random rolls are part of the creative process, other “authors” with whom you are are working. To the extent that it resembles any form of public-facing creative writing, it’s a writer’s room on an American television show: people’s ideas are informed by other people’s ideas that they did not expect, the showrunner can veto your most precious idea, directives come down from the studio execs that this has to happen, actors leave unexpectedly, you’re limited by budget constraints, performance, direction and editing have a radical effect, etc.

Obviously, in detail it’s not really that, either, but it’s more like that than it is like the heroized single author as God in his or her solitary garret. But there’s a really big difference between RPGs and all types of public-facing creative writing: the people playing the game, the “writers,” are also the primary target audience, the “readers.” Things like rolls are there to serve the second function more than the first: they put the “emergent” in “emergent storytelling.”

Sure, @Voord 99 but for some reason, I can't think of a single narrative-focused game that has random character generation. Basically all of them use some form of point-buy or arrays (and Burning Wheel uses lifepaths, but those don't include rolling, AFAIK).
Unless we assume the majority of storygame authors to not know what's best for their style, which I wouldn't, obviously point-buy works best for narrative goals.

In fact, I'd offer an explanation why: you simply don't need dice to influence the character generation if your goal is a story. A story can be unexpected enough merely by the addition of other writers, as your example with US TV shows (and many authors of freeform stories would be keen to attest).

OTOH, if you want a simulation of the setting's reality...well, some randomizer is called for. Because in reality, way too many factors aren't under our control, and we can only adapt to that.

And let's not start with whether emergent stories follow the rules for making a good story. Then we'd have to define "what kind of story", because there's major differences between text-only stories and scenarios...and I simply wouldn't want to try and contemplate all the variants.
(Besides, many published authors don't follow those same rules!)

Frankly, I tend to think that a lot of the rhetoric around storygames mischaracterizes differences in the rules governing how the story is told as “story/not-story.” This is particularly in the case of things where the difference between them and “traditional” RPGs might be better characterized as giving the players places to do things that in “traditional” RPGs are the province of the GM or the system.

Chargen is a case in point, because in narrative-y games there is often a lot of flexibility in how the fluff for a character feature is defined, and the role of doing that is explicitly given to the player, not the system. That doesn’t lend itself to randomization, which requires you to be able to reduce options to a list. But it doesn’t lend itself to “Choose A, B, C, or D,” either. I.e., it’s not about randomization per se — it’s about what the system does or does not formalize and define.

EDIT: Since you edited your post, I don’t agree that many published authors don’t follow normal storytelling principles. It’s rare, except in experimental literary fiction, and even there one finds a lot of novels that are structurally traditional, and experimental in other ways. In the kind of genre fiction that RPGs tend to be related to, it’s very rare.

(No, George R. R. Martin is not an example. He builds his books around the hoary storytelling device of the cliffhanger ending, for God’s sake. Nor does he say he’s writing experimental fiction — he talks about how it was his years in TV that taught him the importance of storytelling structure and how to use it effectively. OK, there are divergences from conventional structure in A Dance With Dragons, because of the awkward division of material between it and A Feast for Crows. If someone wants to say that makes it their favorite book, well, OK. But, structurally, he writes very conventional novels. Structure is not what the novel is about or what happens in it - that’s content.)

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Originally Posted by Voord 99 View Post
Frankly, I tend to think that a lot of the rhetoric around storygames mischaracterizes differences in the rules governing how the story is told as “story/not-story.” This is particularly in the case of things where the difference between them and “traditional” RPGs might be better characterized as giving the players places to do things that in “traditional” RPGs are the province of the GM or the system.
Yes, but I don't think that's related to chargen. IMO, they synergize, instead.

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Chargen is a case in point, because in narrative-y games there is often a lot of flexibility in how the fluff for a character feature is defined, and the role of doing that is explicitly given to the player, not the system.
Hero has been doing that since the 80ies, at least. It does not a narrative system make.

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That doesn’t lend itself to randomization, which requires you to be able to reduce options to a list.
...and the Faserip retroclone, Icons and the lifepath chargen for Tianxia show you that everything can be randomized.
It just isn't the basic method, just like 3d6 in order isn't the basic method of D&D5e. Because it's not the right tool for the majority of players interested in such systems...meaning that, apart from people with a generally different approach to RPGs, most people that play a narrative system want to be able to represent (at the start!) exactly the character they want - not to be surprised (again, at the start).

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But it doesn’t lend itself to “Choose A, B, C, or D,” either.
See my point above. You can reduce them to a list, so you can choose one.

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I.e., it’s not about randomization per se — it’s about what the system does or does not formalize and define.
Yeah, I disagree, as should be obvious by now.
Let me reverse the question: do you really think that randomised chargen fits better with a story-based approach?

In case anyone needs it: Tl;dr
I disagree with the assertions in previous @Voord 99 post. IMO, the narrative systems use a non-random chargen not because a random chargen can't fit, but because it doesn't fit the main goals of the system - which is to produce stories.

Apologies for the late reply. It’s been a busy couple of days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AsenRG View Post
Yes, but I don't think that's related to chargen. IMO, they synergize, instead.
You’re going to have to explain that more clearly, I’m afraid. Your argument as I understand it is, is an argument from authority in the form of “Storygames types are aiming at story. They don’t like random chargen. Therefore random chargen is inimical to story.”

My response is “But I think that when they say that they’re aiming at story, they’re mischaracterizing what they’re aiming at.” (If you want something more charitable, their definition of story and mine differ. See below for mine.)

I don’t see how you can accept that they’re mischaracterizing what they’re doing when they say that they’re aiming at story, and then go on to use them as an authority anyway. If they’re not actually aiming at story, then their choices are irrelevant.

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Hero has been doing that since the 80ies, at least. It does not a narrative system make.
OK, I think there may be a translation problem here. I realize that you’re not a native speaker of English. The English expression “a case in point” means “an example.”

I.e., I wasn’t saying that this “makes” (defines) a narrative system. That would be silly.

I was saying that this kind of chargen is an example of the sort of thing that I mean. That it might be present in a system that might not be called narrative is only relevant if I’m using it to distinguish between narrativist and non-narrativist systems (and I’m not).

(I think your point is flawed in other ways —Hero’s player-defined special effects are a long way from Fate’s Aspects — but it doesn’t matter, as there is no hard-and-fast point at which a system falls into one or the other category, anyway, so the presence of any one mechanic doesn’t matter. I mean, D&D 5e has plot points as an optional rule.)

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Let me reverse the question: do you really think that randomised chargen fits better with a story-based approach?
It’s irrelevant. It makes no difference either way. It will, obviously, make a difference - in combination with many other things - in the type of story that a given game is likely to produce. But it makes absolutely no difference to the question of whether or not it is a story.

I think we’re dancing around the question of what a story is here, and so what it means to say that RPGs are storytelling.

When I say “story,” what I mean is a representation of a series of events. So when you say that what you want is “simulation” and not “story,” you’re talking as if these are opposed categories. But they’re not. A simulation is a type of representation.

If in your games, what you simulate is a series of things happening, then what you have is a story, and I don’t see how it is meaningfully possible to say otherwise. At that point, the only question is what types of stories you want and why you want them. Which is mostly an aesthetic question (in the broad sense).







 

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