horus
 member, 390 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sat 17 Feb 2018
at 00:46
Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
Mukashi, mukashi... (Once upon a time...)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away...


Why third person?  Because first person can be ambiguous in a narrative, and second person, as already mentioned, is somewhat annoying if overdone.

Why past tense?  I don't know.  Perhaps it's part of our conditioning as speakers of English?  Perhaps, as I hint at above, certain narrative forms are better from the point of view of the reader at conveying the flow of a story.

I think making a big deal of it is a bit much, personally, but GMs have full control of their games here (as is only right), and are free to set rules that work for them and their players.
OceanLake
 member, 1025 posts
Sat 17 Feb 2018
at 01:09
Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
Interesting, almost all GMs I've been involved with want present tense.
Heath
 member, 2932 posts
 If my opinion changes,
 The answer is still 42.
Sat 17 Feb 2018
at 01:30
Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
I explain to my players that it's like reading a script--it should be in present tense and only describe things that other players can see, smell, touch, etc., just like you were interacting in real life with people.

Third person past tense is not the best use of RPGing, I don't think.  Around the table it is first person present or future tense, typically.

Third person past tense is also going out of fashion in normal writing of novels and literature as well.
Samus Aran
 member, 379 posts
 Author, game designer
 Part-time Metroid fighter
Sun 18 Feb 2018
at 04:20
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
Heath:
Third person past tense is also going out of fashion in normal writing of novels and literature as well.


Now this is an interesting claim. Why do you say that?
warjoski
 member, 106 posts
Mon 19 Feb 2018
at 17:06
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
In reply to Samus Aran (msg # 23):

I do not mean to speak for Heath. But I have heard this comment made elsewhere. The context I heard it in was someone talking about how many new novels (as in just published) they had recently read that were in first person. Someone else replied third person was considered stodgy these days. That person made a point about video games, and how the act of playing from the POV of a video game character was informing our perception of what is a good narrative. Not sure I would agree but there it is.

As to why third person past...for myself it doesn't matter what POV is used, as long as it is used consistently by all the players. In sandboxes, where each player has their own storyline, this isn't a big deal. But if they are all on the same plot line, having to read four or five posts with different POVs can be confusing. Third person past tense is convenient because everyone knows it. Writing first person is a bit more difficult IMO. First is better for roleplaying, I agree. But not everyone on these boards really wants to roleplay. Many here are more interested in the gaming or rollplaying aspect. Third person past lends itself better to that as well I think.

One other advantage third person has for a GM is that players will use their character names instead of 'I' or 'me'. When it's in first person, the GM would need to check the side of the thread to see who posted a particular comment. When you have to do that for four or eight in a row, it can be confusing. I don't really find this to be a big problem. But I have to say it makes handling posts a little easier when you can glance through the text and know exactly who is speaking.
Brianna
 member, 2146 posts
Tue 20 Feb 2018
at 03:01
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
I really don't like to play first person; none of my characters are me, some of them are VERY different. To me that's the point of roleplaying, to play someone bolder, more adventurous, more damaged, whatever.  So the deeper I'm into the role, the less I wish to think of her/him as me, but as an alter ego.  In books, I prefer third person past, though some work well in first, even present.
engine
 member, 563 posts
Tue 20 Feb 2018
at 03:51
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
warjoski:
One other advantage third person has for a GM is that players will use their character names instead of 'I' or 'me'. When it's in first person, the GM would need to check the side of the thread to see who posted a particular comment. When you have to do that for four or eight in a row, it can be confusing. I don't really find this to be a big problem. But I have to say it makes handling posts a little easier when you can glance through the text and know exactly who is speaking.

When I was running a character using first person, part of the fun of it was posting in a way that made it clear that it was the character. In that case it was easy, because the character had a folksy way of speaking (though I still needed to think about how to get that across). I can see how that could get tiresome for all involved, but for the time I was doing it I had a lot of fun with it.
Kioma
 member, 32 posts
Tue 20 Feb 2018
at 06:35
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
I don't think I've ever come across a game here that requires - or even suggests - first person for anything, irrespective of tense.  I assume it's a love note to tabletop gaming, where someone will be more likely to say 'I throw a fireball at the monster' rather than 'Trogdor throws a fireball at the monster' (though I've seen that vary in tabletop games, too).

For my own part, I prefer third person, present tense.  I feel it puts me into the action more thoroughly by placing me within as it is happening.  Past tense feels to me more like telling a story after the fact, which draws me out somewhat.  I've also been writing RP posts in third person, present tense for so long that it's much easier for me and I tend to slide into it, so if I'm in a game where the GM demands past tense I have to think about it more and rewrite parts, which is also a bit of a come-down.

I don't consider it to be a dealbreaker, however.  Of all the things roleplaying troupes could break apart over, tense seems a small thing.

The way I see it, ultimately, everyone has their preferred manner of writing posts.  What constitutes 'immersion' is different for every player and some simply have a specific written aesthetic they prefer.  As long as the game is fun, everyone understands the posts and the players are enjoying themselves, what's the harm?  Sure, maybe you might want to impose a specific tense/person combo for consistency's sake, but it's not like most games get stuck up on blogs for general consumption or compiled and made into a novel (or series thereof).

I see clarity as being more vital to an ongoing game, and in that sense 'Trogdor burninates the village' is only one letter different from 'Trogdor burninated the village.'  Either way there's no doubting Trogdor's intentions.
horus
 member, 394 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Wed 21 Feb 2018
at 01:19
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
Very well said, Kioma!  Thank you.
chupabob
 member, 208 posts
Sat 24 Feb 2018
at 10:44
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
I run a couple of games. I have never made my players compose their posts in any sort of way. So long as the meaning is clear, I do not care. Frankly, when I see a screen or more full of posting rules, I do not send a RTJ to play in such a game either. The closest I have ever done to requiring anu sort of format style is recommending that players use different font colors to represent different languages in a campaign wherein not everyone shares a common dialect. My players refused, and I folded and started doing things their way -- because I am not drunk on my teacup of power.
Samus Aran
 member, 383 posts
 Author, game designer
 Part-time Metroid fighter
Sat 24 Feb 2018
at 10:53
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
I've seen a lot of required colored speech, too, which bugs the heck out of me. At least, when it's phrased that it's done because otherwise it's too hard to read speech I mean, how do you read dialogue in every story you've ever read? If someone's writing 1000+ word posts every time, I can see it, but otherwise it seems wholly unnecessary as a requirement.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1288 posts
Sat 24 Feb 2018
at 13:41
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
To me, colored speech helps distinguish different characters, and with each post being written from a different POV, it can help, but the really jarring thing is when most of the posts use color, but someone doesn't. Not is it inconsistant, which jarring all on it's own, but you also get used to seeing color as speech, and even though speech might be easy to distinguish when all text is the same, it becomes harder when the expectation and norm is to highlight speech, as then non-colored speech "fades," figuratively speaking, into the background. It isn't that it's hard in an objective sense, but that it's hard in a circumstantial sense where non-colored speech is abnormal.

So basically, requiring it makes sense in terms of wanting consistancy.
icosahedron152
 member, 849 posts
Sat 24 Feb 2018
at 18:43
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
Coloured speech is a bit off topic, but it's useful from a GM POV.

Frodo is reacting to something Pippin posted two days ago. Now, did Pippin actually say that, or did he only think it?

Sure, your GM can wade through all that black text and figure out whether Frodo is mind-reading or not, but it's a lot easier if the speech is in colour.

Anything that makes the GM's job easier, makes the game better.

And most GMs insist on <insert idiosyncrasy of choice> because <idiosyncrasy of choice> makes their job easier or more pleasant. That's reason enough.
engine
 member, 565 posts
Mon 26 Feb 2018
at 18:31
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
icosahedron152:
Frodo is reacting to something Pippin posted two days ago. Now, did Pippin actually say that, or did he only think it?

I'm curious about the reason for that level of review and scrutiny. What if Frodo is found to be "mind-reading"? Is he required then to correct his reaction? Does the GM work with the players to make Frodo's reaction make sense (such as by assuming that Pippin ended up saying the thing aloud at a later, undescribed time)? Does every reaction Frodo make receive that kind of scrutiny?

Frankly, I just wish people wouldn't post in the clear anything they don't want others to know. Actually, I would much rather that people relax about what others know, but I don't expect that to happen.

icosahedron152:
Anything that makes the GM's job easier, makes the game better.

Maybe. Anything that makes GMs less controlly often makes the game more pleasant too. I say this as a GM.
icosahedron152
 member, 850 posts
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 07:23
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
As I see it, the purpose of a RPG is to bring a bunch of people together to create an alternative reality in which they can have enjoyable adventures together.

Part of the GM's job is to adjudicate these make-believe actions. The GM needs to adjudicate both roll-play and role-play. If a PC has made an invalid dice roll, it's the GM's job to correct that. Likewise, if a PC has made an invalid contextual assumption, it's the GM's job to correct that, too. I see no difference.

How the GM corrects these matters, whether by asking for a re-roll or applying a corrective modifier, or whatever, is a matter best decided in that particular game.

Some matters are less important than others. If a PC has rolled 1D12 and scored 3, when he should have rolled 1D6, does it really matter? If he scored 8, then something probably needs to be done about it. Likewise, the GM will use his judgement if a PC has made a contextual error.

I wish people would actually read what their colleagues have posted, and determine for themselves whether their actions are valid (a process which is also aided by coloured text) but I don't expect that to happen all the time, either.

The most pleasant game is one in which everyone works together to create a valid and immersive game reality that everyone can enjoy.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1293 posts
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 11:09
Re: Why do so many GMs insist on third-person past tense?
What does that have to do with formatting?
V_V
 member, 692 posts
 You can call me V, just V
 Life; a journey made once
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 11:13
They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
I'm notorious for changing tenses and narrative perspectives. People I play under usually don't mind, as they never complain, or those that do I leave the game of. If there's really confusion, I try really hard, but otherwise, I think it's just an eyesore. Everyone understands. It's a game, and not professional edited or administrated one. It's not like I want to publish the threads as a verbatim novel.

So I couldn't give two shoes about all this literary voice and tense. People who do, they sit at other tables. It's their prerogative. It's ALSO mine. I don't mix with those people. If it bothers them, they or I leave. In any case we parts ways, unless I have five times the allotted time to edit and triple check my posts. I don't even grammar check. It's for relaxation, not being polished. I DO use RPoL to learn how to write, but grammar and narrative structure can be taught, the actually interesting parts can't be simply taught, these things have nuance. The plot, the themes and devices to illustrate these issues, are why people write and tell stories. Stories and all art needs imperfection. By definition.

Every author has their quirk, this is mine, and many other peoples'. Also, again, this isn't a novel writing site. Hell! My writing circle gets to that shoe last! AFTER everything else is discussed, it's not even the cherry on top. It's basically inconsequential to writers unless they do their own editing (which yes, many $ strapped people have to). I pay or trade editing. That's not my thing. It's an annoyance. I worry about the conventions of story-telling, not the crunch. Word choice is much more important than grammar. People don't SPEAK with perfect grammar. It's just simply fallacious to claim they, or you do. So sue me, or just choose other company. *shrugs*

It's the same issue (to me) as people worrying about colored speech. I like it. You can always turn it off. You can always edit my posts if you care that much. I'm here to cut loose. I worry about engagement, choice and consequence, not crystal clarity. If it's unclear, just ask a question you silly gnat. It's not a big deal. If it is, we'll never agree. Best to be transparent, than placate and ruin fun and waste time.

But yeah, people also get onto me about things I stress over that are little nitpicks. It's subjective. We all have peeves and all have passions. I'm with Marilyn Manson. I don't like pet peeves. I had a few pets, a cat and few lizards. My cat's name was Percy, or Gooda when he was being cute. I don't have time for pet peeves. Peeves aren't pets.

This message was last edited by the user at 13:21, Tue 27 Feb.

DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1294 posts
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 13:47
They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
I think you are missing a real big point. For some people, those nitpicks are requirement for relaxing and enjoying the game.

For example, some people can listen to a story with more plot holes than swiss cheese and enough inconsistancies to make the most hardcore conspiricy theorist's head spin, and yet they'd be able to become immersed in the story and enjoy it any way, but other people just can't, as all those plot holes and inconsistancies literally force them out of the immersion making it impossible for them to enjoy it.

The same can be said here. You V_V might find it relaxing to not worry about, but others will have such things be as obvious and attention grabbing as a nudist bursting into their bathroom popping balloons, and thus can quite literally deny them the enjoyment.

I'm sure that for many it is just preference, but also for others, it goes beyond mere preference.

I know, cause I'm one of those people that notices everytime the gm makes an inconsistant call, hence my preference for simulationist systems like d20, instead of storytelling systems like Fiasco.
engine
 member, 566 posts
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 14:27
Re: They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
DarkLightHitomi:
as all those plot holes and inconsistancies literally force them out of the immersion making it impossible for them to enjoy it.

They force themselves out of the immersion. The inconsistencies don't decide that for them, they decide it for themselves.

This message was lightly edited by the user at 15:20, Tue 27 Feb.

bkwrm79
 member, 111 posts
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 14:46
Re: They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
No.  There are books and movies where I can ignore the contradictions and have fun, and books and movies where even when I'm really trying to shut my brain down and just follow along, I keep getting jolted out of immersion.

Some people are really bothered by things that aren't explained, but I can get past missing info.  Some lucky people can maintain immersion in almost any circumstances, far better than I can.  It's an individual thing.

3rd person past tense works best for me in written RPs (fixed first person is great, rapidly rotating first person not so much).
engine
 member, 567 posts
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 15:08
Re: They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
bkwrm79:
Some people are really bothered by things that aren't explained, but I can get past missing info.  Some lucky people can maintain immersion in almost any circumstances, far better than I can.  It's an individual thing.

But it's not a thing set in stone. I used to dislike Star Trek for how unrealistic it was, and then I stopped doing that so I could enjoy it, and now I do. Attitudes and preferences can change.

If we're bothered by something that isn't done deliberately in order to bother us, we're letting ourselves be bothered. Indeed that's true for quite a few things that are done deliberately in order to bother us.
truemane
 member, 2114 posts
 Firing magic missles at
 the darkness!
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 15:19
Re: They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
I was about to say that I have a mild preference for present tense, because it makes it easier to write flashbacks and memories without having to linguistically separate all the varying past tenses.

But really I have a preference for games where no one takes the subject too seriously. In the same way, I wouldn't get along with a GM who was very serious about only posting things that other characters can perceive.

I colour dialogue when I'm ordered to, but only because my opinion on the matter is in the extreme minority (despite it being the most correct opinion- weird how that happens, huh?).

I can't imagine playing in a game that ran in first person. That's fine around a table, but I couldn't get into it on PbP.

All these things are completely arbitrary of course, and the impact of them is almost entirely dependent on how important they are to any given reader.

So, like almost every human relationship, the trick is to find people that either agree with the things you find important, or who don't find them important enough to fight about.
Shannara
 moderator, 3779 posts
 Keep calm, drink more
 COFFEE!!!!
Tue 27 Feb 2018
at 15:42
Re: They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
truemane:
So, like almost every human relationship, the trick is to find people that either agree with the things you find important, or who don't find them important enough to fight about.


+1
V_V
 member, 693 posts
 You can call me V, just V
 Life; a journey made once
Wed 28 Feb 2018
at 03:23
Re: They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
DarkLightHitomi:
I think you are missing a real big point.


No, I implied some people find it insufferable. I just don't play with those people. Objectively, hear me, OBJECTIVELY and scientifically it has been PROVEN people can decipher misspelled, poorly written and utterly bare minimum text. It's an eyesore.  Nothing more, objectively nothing more.

It's an eyesore. I did say this. To some that is not worth trouble....in my case to write, and their case to read. They are no more justified than I am. WE just don't mix. I see it as pedantic they see it as lazy, we are both subjectively right. We just don't mix.

I hate WATCHING sports. I play them on a casual level, but ball game is hell for me. Are sports wrong? maybe to some, to me though, I just don't spend time dwelling on that.

So no, I didn't miss anything. I do acknowledge there is not just one point to see/miss though. ;) huh?

I understand people disagree. It's best they know where I stand, and I know where they stand. It's also been shown being agreeable and tolerant increases relationships. I'm tolerant of other things. So I expect tolerance if someone is going to play under me. They are welcome to quit though. I certainly don't want someone in a game that isn't having fun. Seriously, no beef with that. I'm just not going to change. They don't have to either. Pick a different table. Nuff said.
V_V
 member, 694 posts
 You can call me V, just V
 Life; a journey made once
Wed 28 Feb 2018
at 03:29
Re: They believe in polished writing on a game site. Silly?
Shannara:
truemane:
So, like almost every human relationship, the trick is to find people that either agree with the things you find important, or who don't find them important enough to fight about.


+1


Very much +2 now.

This is the essence of life with people. Sweat over the very consequential and systemic problems Plato brought up so many centuries ago. Basically fight over the huge problems. For the stuff that matters, to YOU, or ME, just find those of like mind or who tolerate it. Yeah, very well said.

There was an episode of Good Mythical Morning (though I admit I rarely watch that channel) where Rhett was tasting all these (food?) flavors and he liked msot of them, and Link was like "no, don't like it" and Rhett was like "You know, that's why I get more dinner invitations. More people get along with people that don't say that. 'no, I don't like it'"