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Jade City and the Granularity of Prose Information

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:02 pm
by Jared Rascher
First off, wow, thank you so much for pointing me towards Jade City. I seriously love this book. I suspected I would when I listened to the episode where you talked with Fonda Lee, but I didn't expect the degree to which I would be engaged with the characters and the narrative.

Now, as I'm reading this, I'm wondering something, and it's causing some correlations, right or wrong, to form in my brain. Compared to a jianghu story told in a visual narrative, we know a lot more about exactly HOW the jade powers work in Jade City. The narrative goes into a little bit of the science, the different disciplines, and the degree to which different characters can engage with them. This feels like a lot more "nuts and bolts" of how everything works than we would get if this were a movie, where you might get an offhand comment about someone being strong at Deflection, but not getting a lot of detail about exactly what that means.

That thought led me to try and find the closest comparison I could find where there is both a visual representation of storytelling versus a prose story, and that made me thing of . . . unsurprisingly, Star Wars. The comparison, to me, is that you learn a lot more "nuts and bolts" of the setting in prose form than you do in the visual medium, and I don't think this is just the novel authors having different priorities, it's that the act of explaining through the prose narration of a novel feels more detail oriented than expressing the story through a more visual medium. For example, I love the new lore on kyber crystals and how they call out to Force sensitives, and how red crystals are those that have been forced into service to people that the crystal doesn't call out to, but if this lore had been introduced outside of a novel, I'm having a hard time picturing how you would do it without an exposition dump that chopped up the pacing of a scene.

Where am I going with this? All of this got me to thinking that the granularity of the rules system used for a game might be a "rules mechanic" version of the difference between expressing a story through prose versus through a more visual medium. I still think you can definitely have a granular game system that doesn't emulate a genre well, despite theoretically being able to model what happens in a genre (for me, this would be using Hero System for a jianghu storyline, as an example), but you can have a more granular system and a less granular system both emulate a genre well, but produce different feelings, and that's where I'm thinking this parallel between prose/visual, granular/not-granular might come from.

I'm saying all of this before seeing anything more than the shadow of the game that the two of you may be making, but it does put me in mind of the idea that more granular doesn't always mean clunky and badly suited for a flowing storyline, but may require more investment in rules mastery on the front end. Kind of like how the first chapter of Jade City had me thinking "oh, I get it, it's pretty much just a crime story with super powers," and halfway through the book I'm almost in tears because of the decisions people are making that they feel compelled to make, despite it flying in the face of everything they have been attempting to do up to that point.