[Micro-rant] Casual Writing in Books Break My Engagement

Posted: November 23, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Roleplaying Games

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?

  1. mythicast says:

    I tend to enjoy fiction or fantasy writing that create their own colloquialism. I even enjoy it when they have common phrases or sayings unique to the world they are trying to create. There will be times though that even a single word or sentence will trigger something that would make me think that “maybe i’m imagining this differently than intended”. Not really a deal breaker, but it is like re-imagining an entire world… Like pressing rewind while a movie is in full cinematics to have it play differently the second time around (weird, but I have kind of a habit of reading a bit slowly because it plays like a movie in my head). I can totally see what you are saying and can totally relate. Hopefully its not too much to overcome. (for kicks I sometimes play things in my head with characters having different accents. lol)

    The only big thing that’s distracting to me would be characters that has an arc but turns out to be too flat to carry it or a character type that would be frequently used in a single book.

  2. Hikkikomori says:

    Yes, Wu Xing’s tone is too casual for it to be taken seriously.

    Its a perfect example of a good idea executed for a specific market.

  3. Nychuus says:

    I’ll keep my ultimate deal breaker really short: Anything d20.

    You could show me Shadowrun or Eclipse Phase in d20 and I’d instantly hate it with a passion.

    Why? D20, encourages a lot of rollplay since anything you try to do has to go through the d20 first where outcomes are always boolean and fickle.

  4. It’s probably the reason why I avoid a lot of historical-drama either in both TV and literature, mostly for the same reason. And is probably the reason why I don’t read fiction to RPG settings unless it’s modern day like nWoD stuff. Surprisingly they seem to get pretty spot in some of their fiction.

  5. dirty yasuki says:

    I feel you there. Have you read any of the fiction in the Exalted books? I felt like I was reading something written by a down on his luck writer from a high school sitcom like “Saved by the Bell” or “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”. It’s that juvenile.

    I know it’s supposed to be a rendition of anime and the style in which they are done. But it’s too much like drivel in most of the books. It’s not even like the good anime with actual believable dialog.

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