Traditional RPGs vs. Story Games

I do not understand the holy war between “Traditional RPGs” and “Story Games”.

I’ve played many great immersive traditional games over the years, using systems from AD&D to RuneQuest to GURPS to Traveller to Call of Cthulhu. There was one game of In Nomine that was so intense it ended up filling my dreams that night.

I’ve also played some highly enjoyable Forge-school narrative-style games such as Primetime Adventures and InSpectres. Indeed, of my favourite new games of recent years has to be Umlaut: The Game of Metal, which screamed “Play Me!” the first time I read it, and every session has turned out to be huge fun. That’s a pure story game; there’s no GM, the mechanics are boardgame-like and revolve around narrative control. Every session have been memorable for all the right reasons.

But here’s the thing; they are really two different kinds of game. They both do what they do well. There is really no point in fighting a holy war over which one of the two is best.

It seems to me that this holy war is driven by personal feuds between rival cliques of game designers and their supporters. So we get that risible claim that the players of traditional RPGs were “brain damaged”, and the depiction of story game advocates as “swine”. All of which leaves the most actual players bemused and wondering quite what all the fuss is about.

It all reminds me of the messy Protofour vs. Scalefour battles in the world of model railways back in the late 1970s. And I still have absolutely no clue what that one was all about.

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2 Responses to Traditional RPGs vs. Story Games

  1. Michael says:


    The objective is to have fun. For me this needs a story element, but there are moments when you need to get miniatures out on a table and start laying out the areas of effect to get the common frame of reference going.

    Things like the running joke in an AD&D campaign involving “speed vampire slaying”, which evolved into “how many vampires can you kill before thier initiative comes up and they flee in terror?” cannot happen in the story based system. In case anyone cares, the answer is that the limiting factor is actually the number of vampires you can get into one killing zone.

    And no I never understood scalefour v protofour either.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Only three people ever understood what Scalefour vs Protofour was all about. One is now dead, one has gone mad, and the third has forgotten.