Story Now: An Odyssey

Subtitled: How I listened to an interview, got royally annoyed based on the words used to say things and not what was being said, ran the gamut of emotions as I chewed things out in public forums, and finally got what the heck was being said, even agreeing with it.

So it all starts here, with Theory from the Closet Podcast‘s interview with Ron Edwards at Forge Midwest. Briefly, Ron is the writer of the Sorcerer RPG and one of the founders of The Forge (explanation here), and a great portion of the interview centers around his definition of what story is, and how some games out there purported to deliver storytelling yet didn’t, actually harming the capacity of those who got into roleplaying through them to achieve what he calls Story Now.

There really is no way to sum up Ron’s interview, so you’d have to listen to it:

I heard about that interview first via Paul Tevis’s Have Games, Will Travel Podcast (in one of this shorter, more informal For a Few Games More episodes) and I liked what he said about Story Now and so on. You can find that episode (significantly shorter than the interview) here:

Shortle thereafter, Mick Bradley, host of various podcasts at The Harping Monkey, made a blog post about the Ron Edwards interview since he’d also heard Paul Tevis’s comments on it, and it was in the Comments to this blog post that I got involved and things began to develop.

There’s no way for me to condense all my comments and posts on the matter here, so I will give you specific links to my contributions in chronological order, so you can see how I indeed ran the gamut of emotions.

It starts HERE, at Mick’s blog post, with a simple, “I’ll check this out.” I went away for the weekend and the comments exploded on Mick’s post, promting THIS reply from me. Mick then REPLIED to my comment, after which I went and listened to the interview.

THIS was my first, gut reaction, and as you can tell, I was angry. How dare this Ron guy attack one of my favorite systems (White Wolf’s Storyteller System) and insinuate that I could not have fun with it (see below about this) and that I was somehow damaged for using and liking it! It was a classic “What the fuck!” moment. Mick tried to help by writing THIS and THIS, and it somehow helped, but I was still blowing steam and not thinking, just reacting, as you can see HERE, in my reply to Mick’s last two comments.

By now I decided that I wanted to see what Ron had to say himself, so I went to the Adept Press (his company) forums at The Forge and found the thread about the interview, read through it, and posted THIS. Another forum user, Matt Snyder (later I learned from Chimera Press and long-time Forge-ite), jumped in HERE to say Hi and address some of the issues in my post. Matt was very friendly, and that forced me to step back and drop any attitude I might have still had, and simply talk about what had bothered me and why. Immediately I posted THIS to Mick’s blog thread. By serendipity, I then came across THIS post by John Wick on his LiveJournal where he’s developing a new game, Houses of the Blooded; John’s essay could not have been more timely for me, as he talks about how good players can help be a part of the story using techinique and mechanics.

Back at The Forge, Matt explained some stuff to me in terms I am used to (as opposed to the jargon that has developed at The Forge as people approached games from a theoretical angle and created terms to refer to various pieces of what we call a game and the gaming experience) and suddenly a big chunk of it made sense in my head, as you can see HERE; quite to the contrary of what I had said in one of ny previous comments at Mick’s blog, Story Now WAS achievable, I just didn’t know how. Matt then came back with THIS post, which suggested something I had thought about but never looked into seriously: if the Storyteller System, for all that I liked it, was not helping me tell Story Now stories, why not change it? To which I replied THIS, going deeper into why I use the system and talking about my past experience playing with the Storyteller system, namely the 2 1/2 year Vampire chronicle I ran in the late 90s.

I have a small aside HERE, addressing the latter part of the interview, where Ron cleared up what was the raison d’etre for The Forge, and I realize that it is not what I had come to believe based solely on general opinion, which incidentally is very bitter towards The Forge. The Ron replies HERE, and he doesn’t really answer any of my questions, but basically tells me that I came in kind of looking for a fight and that he was not going to get into that, but that since I had started to come around, maybe we could indeed have a dialogue. I posted another following to Mick’s blog thread HERE, which includes a link to some research threads dealing with the whole issue we were discussing, namely White Wolf, storytelling (or a lack thereof) and Story Now.

My gut reaction (again) HERE was to say, “I didn’t come in here looking for a fight! How dare you!” But I didn’t say that, I went back and read my initial post and you know what, I DID come across as fishing for a fight. Which really wasn’t my intention, so I went, read up on some of the various references to the idea of Story Now and how White Wolf had not delivered on their promise of storytelling, then came back and rephrased my questions in a more agreeable manner HERE.

Waiting for Ron’s reply, Mick posted THIS, and boy did he find the right words to speak to me! I suddenly understood what Ron had been saying in the interview, and what Matt had been trying to explain to me. Ron indeed REPLIED, and though he admitted he couldn’t help me out with my specific question, he did give me a fantastic suggestion: start an Actual Play thread for the upcoming Victorian Age Vampire that both includes a preamble from the previous Vampire chronicle detailing “a relevant past experience, good or bad” and my “hopes and plans for the upcoming game,” so that other forum users could chime in and offer suggestions and criticism. And that’s indeed what I’m going to do in the next few days. Matt caps it with a quick REPLY and Mick finally joins in the conversation HERE.

So there you have it, folks: the sordid tale of how I went from being pedantic to understanding. I’m sure there’ll be more discussion, so you can follow the actual thread at the Adept Press forum HERE and Mick’s comments thread HERE.

I will think about the old Vampire game over the weekend, about things I liked and disliked, the lessons I can grab from that, and begin crafting my Actual Play thread, not to mention do character creation for the new Victorian Age Vampire game with my wife.


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