The mythic perspective (also credibility, game state)

Thanuir's picture

There are different ways of looking at roleplaying games. Presenting such ways is one of the major benefits of rpg theory, in my opinion.


This is the by-now classical Forge theory perspective. Who has the right to establish what in a roleplaying game? Maybe you take turns to say a sentence that is now true, respecting the earlier inputs. Or maybe there are some tokens. Or maybe the game master plays the world and the players their characters.

Game state

This was established by Sandra, Jeph and others at Story games. What are the true statements concerning the state of the game, which restrict or determine what will happen next? Maybe it is "no myth" play where only what has been publicly said and accepted is true, or maybe it is klokkverkblorb play with an extensive description of the game world and the game rules that is big enough that nobody really has a handle on all of it. Or maybe a drama game where character motivations are well-defined and established, but we are not so careful about he physical context and where the grocery store lies and how many floors does the library have etc.

Mythic lens or relationships

Discussed by Jay recently on Story games, and by Chris Lehrich and Jay and maybe others, way back on the Forge. What are the interconnections and relationships between various things in play?

"Roll for initiative." is a ritual phrase that indicates combat, but also evokes a certain game mechanical procedure, but also describes what happens in the fiction ("I go to the bar and ask about the guy with silver hair." "Yeah, roll for initiative.").

The game is set in Japan, so tattoos are a sign of Yakuza.

The game was started with "You are standing on the edge of a fiery pit. There is a figure, like a mummy wrapped in rainbows instead of toilet paper, and with black spots for eyes and a white nothingness for mouth, looming over the scene. Then you wake up." Henceforth, rainbows, fiery pits and mummies, and in a darker game, danger or threat, have now been tied together. If there is a pride parade, someone is likely to ask if anyone has been dressed up as a rainbow mummy.

The totality of these interconnections is the meaning of something. (This grandiose statement is probably false, but should point in the right direction.)


All the perspectives above are always viable means of analyzing any play. The benefits of using each vary from game to game.


None, yet. This is not a description of mythic play or the simulationism creative agenda or any other style of play; rather, this is how I understand a perspective that is fruitful for looking at Jay's accounts of play and theory explanations. Also, the notion of there being several perspectives one can take into use or not, depending on context, is useful, even if nothing new.

(Funny fact: It is a very good measure of mathematical skill to see if someone can understand derivative via the formal definition via limits, as the slope of a graph, as a speed of change, as a linear approximation, as a mapping from one function space to another, and so on. There are probably more elementary examples of the same idea, but this is a traditional one in studies of university students. Anyways, having several ways of looking at a thing and being able to change between them seems to be a useful cognitive skill.)

Paul T.'s picture

I agree with your perspective on different mental models of play or different ways of thinking about an activity or a process.

I’m not sure the ideas you listed all operate on the same “scale”, so to speak, but it’s good to consider them as different angles we might use to talk about phenomena in roleplaying.

DeReel's picture

Can you roughly distinguish various scales and associate them to certain favoured Perspectives (the word is well found : easy to understand, and it says something different than playstyle). So we have a matrix for a first categorization. Or, if that's just my classification kink showing, nevermind.

Paul T.'s picture

I am not sure that the scales in question are clear and could be easily classified and ordered.

But, for example, the perspective on mythic play doesn’t in any way obviate the need to discuss credibility, nor does it say anything about the existence - or not - of a hypothetical “game state”.

Thanuir's picture

Every game has a state. (Maybe it is the empty state when starting an Universalis game, or whatever.) You always have some game setting, some resources, usually some characters, or at least you will have them as soon as the game starts, because otherwise where is the play?

Every game has questions of credibility. Every roleplaying game always has some rules for who can say what and when in order for something to be accepted into the fiction. Maybe they are a complicated mess of point buys and character attributes that tell precisely how likely it is for you to be able to say "I find water in the desert.", or maybe it is the game master having this right and nobody else having any rights.

Likewise, every game has components which have relationships and associations to each other. These come from the wider culture, previous experiences of the players, the in-jokes between the players (if they know each other), and so forth.


Maybe one can impose a hierarchy on these. I have no idea.

DeReel's picture

Hello, I found what I suspect is a mine of Sim games : people telling things about a world. With elements of gameplay I recognize from Mythic playstyle video ("staying with it", the role of the music notably) With rules for it, but it mostly feels freeform. Rules and setting mostly designed to allow creativity by relieving pressure. A shared world full of spirits and memories for many of those games : Millevaux, by Thomas Munier.
And here's an entrance to to this mine :
It's in French, so you may want to use a traductor for the pdfs.
The game is "just" a list of characters, their problems, their objectives, their relations. It's the sandbox variation in a series.