I’ve been thinking about how RPG books are written lately, and it occurred to me that the tone of writing in books carries a lot of weight. It’s a tricky balance to strike, honestly, with some books coming off drier than bone in a desert, while others tend to come off as too cheeky and informal.
What triggered this for me was checking out Wu Xing: the Ninja Crusade, from Third Eye Games. Wu Xing is marketed as a game about ninjas, martial arts, mysticism and rebellion. The backstory is pure gold, betrayal, hatreds, fears and conflict. There’s an entire boatload of ninja clans each with powerful abilities and the kind of edgy conflict that I love about Ninja fiction in general.
Then there’s the fiction.
Generally Wu Xing’s fiction was pretty good, but if there was one thing that hit me, it was the dialogue. Conversations in the fiction were written with the informal tone of modern day conversation, and that threw me off big time.
I still find Wu Xing to be an excellent game (heck I even went to get the two supplements for it) but every time I read the fiction, my suspension of disbelief breaks. I keep telling myself that it’s trying to emulate Naruto or some other pop-ninja thing, but my engagement is broken.
I remember that the old Savage World’s test drive pdfs used to drive me nuts with all the Smilin’ Jack stuff too. That sort of meta-dialogue and commentary annoys me and tends to break my concentration, which is probably the other reason why I didn’t take too well to trying to read through the Dresden Files RPG either.
I’m not certain if this is just me talking, or if other people tend to have that sort of reaction to how certain books are written as well. It’s not a deal breaker, I’d still run or play Wu Xing and Dresden Files, but I can’t help but feel that there’s some form of disconnect that happens whenever I read stuff like it. How about you guys, do you have any sort of triggers that snap your ability to fully enjoy a book?