Narrativism vs traditional techniques

I think narrativism is bullshit when used with traditional techniques. This is common but I just Do Not Want. I don't have any problems with a game like Fiasco or Nerver av stål or Microscope. When those kinds of games appeared I thought they were cool.

Playing "Pathfinder with bangs" I think is bull. Adding bangs to a traditional game—and I'd argue that's what Sorcerer does/is—is something that does not sit well with me.

To me the pre-writing / frustrated author GMing style (story "before": gnusto) works best with a game set up around it (like Chuubo's if you want the players to write stories [which is cool], or something like Dread or some shit like that if you want the GM to write stories) and the story NOW (nitfol) goal works best with a game using completely alien & non-traditional techniques.

And by "works best" I don't mean more effective. Not at all. What I do mean is that it's least likely to undermine the glory of blorb and the blorbiness of the gloracle.

Let me try another way: no-one is going to think the GM is railroading you in Microscope (also, there is no GM).

So I'm not saying that most narrativist games are using alien techniques. I am saying that story games that use alien techniques (typically but not necessarily GM-less being one of those techniques) are less threatening to me as a devotee of blorb.

With that said, finding which nitfol techniques work well with blorb without undermining it can enhance a blorb game a lot. There's nothing wrong with giving a couple of opportunities for Addressing some Premise in the sandbox as long as it doesn't come at the expense of the sandbox. It's actually a really nice mix.

The trick to doing two things at once is to decide which of the things matter the most to you and accept that the other thing is compromised. For example, putting mittens on while running down the stairs requires me to keep stair running in my mind in a way that I wouldn't have to do if I wasn't also putting mittens on. Just running down the stairs I don't have to think at all, the body just does it automatically. But also putting mittens, I have to be accepting of the fact that there's an occasional gap or fumble in the mittens-pulling-on because I sure as heckfire don't want there to be one in the stairs-down-running.

And I don't want there to be a compromise in the integrity of blorb.

So for me a super weird & alien game like Fiasco, Microscope, the Skeletons… they stay so far away from blorb (no risk of falling in stairs) so I feel safe with them. A game like Sorcerer on the other hand is like "nooo you're gonna trip & hurt yourself!".

Unless you take care and move all bang-like-stuff through the "sandboxifying queue" that is rolltables & map keys, make them less scripted and more part of the organic world (handing responsibility of introducing them over to the gloracle)—and make them something that the hobos might miss or that maybe don't happen. An example of a fail is in my beloved Lost Mine of Phandelver which is almost the perfect adventure but there is one room where someone is "juuuust about to get killed when the hobos arrive" — rereading the adventure right now, the room description looks innocuous and not "time-sensitive" (the guy is just beaten up & is being interrogated) but my players somehow got the impression that the moment was "scripted" and it wasn't well received therefore. "Deep Carbon Observatory" has this problem too, which is unfair to it; the event generator system for the very first part flows SO naturally into each other, and the choices the players make are so seamlessly integrated, that it feels completely scripted and that there were never any choices in the first place, making it feel like a completely railroaded & therefore crappy sequence. So those are some pitfalls you have to watch out for when working with the bane of all sandbox: "events".

The random rumor table is a very valuable tool to place things like this on.
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Comments

  • edited May 24
    Amen to that.

    You seem to be rejecting what used to be called "vanilla narrativism" on the Forge a million years ago, and I'm fine with that. "Vanilla narr" existed as an evolutionary step, and now that we've developed games with dedicated techniques there's no need to go back to that except to satisfy one's historical curiosity.

    And I say that as someone who's quite fond of Sorcerer! But I don't believe I would be able to play Sorcerer any effectively had I not played Apocalypse World before, as well as read through it, it being such a good treatise on how to MC itself (that which no Sorcerer edition or supplement is). And I believe I "get" Apocalypse World thanks to having experienced more compactly designed games before that: had I come to it exclusively from playing Pathfinder adventure paths, who knows what I'd have read into it!

    To introduce RPGs to new audiences, or to introduce "story now" play to more "traditional" RPG audiences, I'll keep using tightly designed games such as Follow, Dog Eat Dog, Montsegur 1244, SKEW, Lovecraftesque etc., thank you, and I wouldn't dream of indulging my quirky Sorcerer habit on such occasions. :)
    Actually, I do use a lot of games with a GM role for new-to-RPG audiences too: Psi*Run, Fables of Camelot, On Mighty Thews... But in these games the "GM" has a clear and well-defined (support) role, and I make that more obvious by showing my work all the time.
  • edited May 24

    ♥ Thank you Rafu

    I got some follow up Qs in PM and I wanted to clarify/rephrase using some more Forge friendly lingo. Note that I really really prefer to use the RISS model, a model that arose here on story-games itself. By yours truly so ofc I understand it better because anytime something is wrong with it I can just change it.™

    In the Big Model there’s this whole separation of Technical Agenda and Creative Agenda. Something that we’ve been over many times here as well.

    This thread started because I got the question in PMs “Are you suffering under the misconception that Narrativism is all about non-traditional techniques?”

    To which the answer is…
    blorbiness is more about technical agenda (thank you to @AlexanderWhite for reminding me of this in PMs, I keep forgetting about it) than creative agenda. The whole creative agenda thing isn’t part of the RISS model btw. Maybe RISS cover some of the same ground, maybe it doesn’t.

    I do not like, want, enjoy, endorse, accept, recommend, review highly, appreciate or smile at games that “tread on the toes” of blorb while violating the principles of blorb.

    That leaves two categories of Games Liked By Sandra:

    • games that are clearly distinguishable from blorb
    • games that adhere to the principles of blorb & gloracle

    So to answer the question, which to remind the audience was: “Are you suffering under the misconception that Narrativism is all about non-traditional techniques?”

    the answer is:

    Good narrativism is about non-traditional techniques.

    Now, “good” isn’t the same as “all” or even “most” or even “a lot”. I’m aware that games that Rafu reminded me are called “vanilla narr” exist. I just try to not think about them.

    Also “good” in this context means liked by Sandra for what that’s worth—not very much possibly!

    To augment this, appreciating some of the things that narrativism thinks are cool, wanting some of that in your game, putting some of that in your game, while never letting it override gloracle, or lead to compromises with blorb, is very cool & something I do myself.

    Things like Premise & Addressing It, things like Theme, things like Moral Choices etc.

    If that happens? Cool! Putting in things that make that more likely to happen? Cool! Giving up blorbiness to enforce it? No, hold on, that’s not me, man, that’s not my bag.

    If you want a game that’s all about that stuff and making absolutely sure that that stuff comes up—that can lead to some very powerful game sessions and I’ve had some absolutely unforgettable experiences. Hey I pay good money to go to fucking jeep larps and junk like that! The key then being non-traditional techniques in order to not violate the holy taboos of blorb.

  • Rafu said:

    Actually, I do use a lot of games with a GM role for new-to-RPG audiences too: Psi*Run, Fables of Camelot, On Mighty Thews... But in these games the "GM" has a clear and well-defined (support) role, and I make that more obvious by showing my work all the time.

    #2097StampOfApproval

  • So my reco, then, is: play blorb, get really really sharp at making good encounter tables & map keys [I usually, uh, use store bought modules for this because I'm so busy edition warring talking RPG philosophy].
  • I feel like a lot of the more hardcore-sandbox-purist advice already tends to acknowledge this? Like, if you don't bite at an adventure hook, then there should be consequences.

    If you don't save the princess, someone else does and gets the reward, or maybe the bandits kill her and there's a crisis of succession.

    If you don't pacify the upstart cult now, their influence continues to grow and they become a major force.

    Adventure hooks might not be bangs in the purest sense, but I suspect if you try to do a narrative sandbox they'd probably end up pulling double duty (they're sort of analogous, aren't they?). And while conventional storygaming wisdom suggests that you should jump at these opportunities because storygaming loves conflict (and maybe also because it inherits some of trad's obligation to play along), perhaps in proper sandbox style the actual bang is/should be the choice to engage or not, and the consequences come from that choice.

    I don't know how much that constitutes Real Actual Narrativism though. It feels more like in-character Microscoping almost?

    I once saw someone describe the ideal experience of being a bottom (in the sexual sense) as "getting what you want without having to ask for it." I keep coming back to that description a lot when it comes to roleplaying games. It has been my experience that there are a lot of roleplaying bottoms who hate storygaming's/narrativism's tendency to be up front about what you want to see happen, and who cluster around variations of pseudo-sandbox or SIM play or blorby games that are curated to provide a very thin slice of experience.

    Anyways the point there (and I apologize if this is one of those things that's so blatantly obvious that nobody ever says it and I just don't realize it) is that sandbox play might not really be about all the procedures and the superficial descriptions of what goes on, as much as it is about that desire to get what you want without having to ask for it. All the superficial dross of the game is just there to obfuscate the workings by which someone else acknowledges that our desires are valid, to soothe the anxiety and guilt we feel over wanting things.
  • yukamichi said:

    I feel like a lot of the more hardcore-sandbox-purist advice already tends to acknowledge this? Like, if you don’t bite at an adventure hook, then there should be consequences. […]If you don’t save the princess, someone else does and […]If you don’t pacify the upstart cult now, their influence continues

    Yeah, I need to get better at remember that I didn’t invent all this stuff♥
    I certainly have learned a lot from sandbox bloggers, in the OSR & adjacent.

    yukamichi said:

    Adventure hooks might not be bangs in the purest sense, but […] they’re sort of analogous, aren’t they?

    Oh I tried to make that very point! I need to get better at writing :bawling:

    yukamichi said:

    in proper sandbox style the actual bang is/should be the choice to engage or not, and the consequences come from that choice.

    Of course.

    yukamichi said:

    Anyways the point there (and I apologize if this is one of those things that’s so blatantly obvious that nobody ever says it and I just don’t realize it) is that sandbox play might not really be about all the procedures and the superficial descriptions of what goes on, as much as it is about that desire to get what you want without having to ask for it. All the superficial dross of the game is just there to obfuscate the workings by which someone else acknowledges that our desires are valid, to soothe the anxiety and guilt we feel over wanting things.

    Oh wow you went from saying obvious things (the stuff I replied to above) to saying something completely non-obvious. And while it’s something that definitely doesn’t square with my own experience [being completly smitten with blorb qua blorb then the “mirror story” happened]; I can see a lot of 90s style illusion being motivated by that feeling you just described. “Man, nothing is happening in our sandbox, I better cheat things so that they do happen.”

    That’s also why I say that the second most common game master mistake is not being able to let time pass. If the characters are doing nothing and they aren’t in a place where they can see what the world is doing, let time pass as quickly as you can. Say “OK, three hours pass and then there’s a knock on the door”, don’t wait for 3 hours at the game table irl. This sounds ridiculous to people who know how to GM without making this mistake but it’s a super common mistake!! If nothing happens for 3 weeks in the game then nothing happens! Just fast-forward to when something does happen. Three years later, here are some signs of how the cult’s influence has grown or whatever.

  • edited May 24

    To reiterate how I feel about Apocalypse World…

    One core blorb technique is the three tiers of truth.

    1. Prepped facts.
    2. Generated facts.
    3. Made-up-on-the-spot facts.

    You look to tier one first and then only if there’s a gap, you fall down to the next tier.

    Tier one stuff is the best & the most blorby [a specific magic mirror], tier two stuff is amazing because you can prep for a very wide range of player actions. Tier three is… forgive yourself, give yourself a kiss on the cheek & do better next time, patch the hole!

    AW does use generated facts. But the way it generates the facts seems to me, and it’s almost a year since I last played a PbtA game, so I’m not sure, to be too subjective to count as gloracular. If that’s right, it doesn’t qualify as blorby. It certainly does use traditional techniques (classes, leveling up, rolling dice to resolve things, GM/player separation).

    Since AW is absolutely brilliantly designed (I’m certainly not sleeping on picking a couple of raisins from the AW cookie over in the “remapping” thread), the uncertainty around this point means that it teeters between being completely awesome and being unacceptable for qualify for good game. It’s like if there was a speed running sport where doping was forbidden and some guy made a world record. He is either the fastest guy at the sport, or he just sucks.

  • edited May 24
    This is also why I don't like, and never have liked, Lady Blackbird, even though I like many of @John_Harper 's other designs. It relies on tier three rather than having it is a worst-case hope-to-not-use-it safety net which is my preference.
  • For people who don't value blorb over all else, ofc AW & LB & BW have a more uncomplicated appeal.
  • edited May 24
    @AlexanderWhite sent me a 2018 video that I just finished watching where Ron explains that his prep for Sorcerer is often solid & blorby. That is not clear from the text of the game.

    But that's fine, that just sets me up for a nice 見合い argument:
    Either Sorcerer is a fully blorby game, in which case all is well in the world and the narr fans can play fully blorby games & we can have peace in the jungle, or it's not, in which case it falls even harder under the "treading on the toes of blorb" category.

    2097 victory either way!
  • The following can’t be blamed on Adam & Sage, and even less on Vincent, it’s from that crappy Dungeon World guide that came out of Something Awful.

    But it’s indicative of how bullshit Dungeon World can get:

    DW guide said:

    How Difficult is This Fight?

    A really common question is “how much can I throw at a starting party?” And the answer is, “as much as you want.” It’s really easy to increase or decrease the difficulty of an encounter: just make harder or softer moves. If you want to make an battle more difficult, then use harder moves: make the enemy faster or stealthier. Describe how they use their spear to keep the PCs at arms length. Describe how they dodge and weave around the battlefield, or surround the players, or fight tooth and nail. “You stab the goblin in its belly, but it grabs your arm and starts gnawing on it. Take 2 damage; the thing is crazed and feels no pain.” Remember, you’re focusing on the fiction here, this is not a game where armor class and damage dice rule everything. Monsters are differentiated not by mechanical differences, but by description.
  • (That doesn't have anything to do with narrativism but everything to do with unblorbiness)
  • I love the bottom analogy.
  • Not really into it personally
  • So there’s probably a few different families of Narrativism. I’ll describe how my family works and you’ll see why changing the mirror is bad play.

    The player needs a character who wants something and has beliefs about how the world works.
    The player needs to actually care about this. They must be invested in a preferred outcome or the game is no fun.

    The GM also has to care about the character and be invested in a preferred outcome.

    If the player has a preferred outcome and the GM has a preferred outcome then guess which outcome will happen?

    If you want the story to actually be emergent then:

    The player must play with fidelity to character, even when it works against their preferred outcome.

    The GM must play with fidelity to (?), even if works against their preferred outcome.

    The ? Is of course the world.

    Now you can further spike all this by adding dice mechanics and other good stuff. The fact remains that none of that works if there is no fidelity.
  • I have a kind of tangential question, but is Fiasco really a narrativist game? I've found in the many times I've played, that it's equally likely to address some premise, as it is not to address anything specific and just imitate the carcass of a movie (like, just play in a superficial layer).
  • I don't exactly like identifying narrativism with the techniques it uses, but perhaps I need to read about that blorb theory in order to better engage the thread. Do you have any like links to read about it?
  • Blorb seems to mean "prep."
  • So there’s probably a few different families of Narrativism. I’ll describe how my family works and you’ll see why changing the mirror is bad play.

    Preaching to the …???
    My whole schtick is that I want the mirror to not change!!!!
  • @AlexanderWhite I agree with you 100% and I don't understand where the misunderstanding is. Maybe you should try to convince @Paul_T
  • Blorb seems to mean "prep."

    You'd think. But this is what I have to deal with:
    Rickard said:

    2097 said:

    In Svart av kval, vit av lust the map is created as part of play; I don't count it as prepped.

    The map creation is the prep. It's just that everyone is in on it.
    2097 said:

    I just really don’t want people after I’ve died to be like “Oh wow we’re playing Once Upon a Time, a typical blorb game just like 2097 intended it!” It’s not.

    Part of ‘explorable’ means discoverable.

    I honestly don't see the point in differentiating between "An idea I came up with four days ago" and "An idea I came up with just now".
    Maybe there was more posted in that thread after I had died of shock after seeing Svart av kval, vit av lust being described as a prepped sandbox game. Unless that was a joke. Well "prepped sandbox" or not, it sure as heckfire isn't a blorb game. (I like it though, it's clearly distinguishable from blorb).
  • If it is just prep, why is that thing about making things on the spot being bad? Seems pretty demanding for games with GMs, even more for narrativist game where you must be ready to improvise. Prepped content is all fine, but many time players don't bite your hooks or steer play in a different direction, which is fine. Is the GM responsibility to prep for every possible branch of the story?
  • People can't have it both ways; dissing me for coining new words [or rather, stealing from Enchanter's spell list] and tryna confuse & redefine the words I would've used otherwise if I weren't coining new words.
  • Khimus said:

    Is the GM responsibility to prep for every possible branch of the story?

    Don't prep story branches. Prep places with problems & goals. Porte-monstre-trésor as the French say.
  • 2097 said:

    Khimus said:

    Is the GM responsibility to prep for every possible branch of the story?

    Don't prep story branches. Prep places with problems & goals. Porte-monstre-trésor as the French say.
    It was just an expression written in a hurry. I was talking about the Story Now kind of preparation, but even then, you can't account for all possible places your players might try to visit, even more when running for example urban games where their options aren't constrained like a dungeon or some other natural environments.

    But leaving that aside, I don't fully buy in those "musts" about how prep must be done. It seems a very particular style of GMing prep technique that you seem to be broadly applying to games that don't fit in. Especially since you seem to not apply it to the other games you praise, like Fiasco, where every player makes things up... all the session. I know, Fiasco is GMless, but I don't think all games with GM can be dumped into the same bag, and GMs be judged according to the same principles.

    With some Story Games, I think the purpose of having those flags defined, is that when making something on the spot, you can tie that thing to one of those flags. For example, in AW, you need to make an NPC on the spot, so you tie them to an existing front, or to an NPC or gang/group that's tied to the PCs. You're still making sth on the spot, but your improvisation is thematically linked to the important content of the campaign.
  • The principle I read Sandra as striving for is something like diegetic coherence, implying both internal consistency among all of the made-up things about the world and the sort of asymmetric distribution of information that makes it possible for players to feel as if they are "discovering" a pre-existing world. It's possible to achieve that in different ways, I guess, but it's definitely part of the point of the traditional GM's prep.
  • The principle I read Sandra as striving for is something like diegetic coherence, implying both internal consistency among all of the made-up things about the world and the sort of asymmetric distribution of information that makes it possible for players to feel as if they are "discovering" a pre-existing world. It's possible to achieve that in different ways, I guess, but it's definitely part of the point of the traditional GM's prep.

    That's fine, but I don't think that's a universal property of games with a GM, more like a must for sandbox or exploratory ones. Do I really want to "discover" a pre-existing world when playing a story now game? How does that mingle with, for example, one use for wises in Burning Wheel, where the player may state as part of their intent a fact about the setting, and then roll to see if it's true? Or, for example, the first session (or first 2 sometimes) in Apocalypse World or Monsterhearts, where mostly the GM will ask the players for details about the scenario in order to make the fronts.

    So, how could those games be judged by this specific expectation for GM prep, when in their rules they explicitly go against it several times? I can probably find even more examples, like Circles in BW.
  • This isn't addressed to anyone in particular. I find it helpful to talk about what we want in our games and why certain techniques support or don't support that thing. The RISS which I think 2097 is using as a basis for a lot of this discussion definitely does get into that, particularly where it points to where certain techniques step on one another's toes.

    But at the same time I still feel like we have a lot more words for techniques than we do for experiences. Sometimes it's hard for me to express what I want from a game because I don't know it until I see it, or even if I know what it is I have a hard time expressing it to someone else.

    It's obviously a way more subjective thing than technique but it still seems worth talking about. Here are some phrases that have helped me to understand what folks are striving for with blorby play:
    "Holodeck" play <- This is one I've heard 2097 use
    "Escape room" play <- Someone else on the internet talked about it this way

    There's a particular kind of experience that I call "playing 20 questions with a doorknob" which I really like. So far I can only get this experience through blorby play.
  • Great post @ebear
    You too @Bill_White
    Khimus said:

    So, how could those games be judged by this specific expectation for GM prep, when in their rules they explicitly go against it several times?

    Those games are…
    guilty! By their own admission!
  • Oh, I agree...the whole point of the Forge almost twenty years ago was to bring out into the open the idea that people play TRPGs in different ways for different reasons. Sandra, you don't see yourself as asserting anything more than your preference, do you?
  • 2097 said:

    I do not like, want, enjoy, endorse, accept, recommend, review highly, appreciate or smile at games that “tread on the toes” of blorb while violating the principles of blorb.

    […]

    Also “good” in this context means liked by Sandra for what that’s worth—not very much possibly!

    Does the idea of “doing it wrong” even exist in this era of the long tail? :bawling:

    People will just say “oh i’ll keep my badwrongfun thankyouverymuch!” no matter what I say

    Even if I try to explain that these legendary & amazingly tightly-designed games absolutely suck :bawling: people won’t believe me.

    So to answer your question:

    Sandra, you don’t see yourself as asserting anything more than your preference, do you?

    I guess I’ll have to learn to accept that these games exist. But the more I learn about design, the harder that becomes.

    There are examples of @skinnyghost (maker of DW) saying that such-and-such “is” a bad or boring game.

    Never fails to make me gasp. Growing up on Lojban language where there is no copula verb, saying something like that seems so… unthinkable to say something like that. But maybe I can whisper it in a lower case whispered indoor voice…

    one of these days I’ll say it…

  • 2097 said:


    The trick to doing two things at once is to decide which of the things matter the most to you and accept that the other thing is compromised. For example, putting mittens on while running down the stairs requires me to keep stair running in my mind in a way that I wouldn't have to do if I wasn't also putting mittens on. Just running down the stairs I don't have to think at all, the body just does it automatically. But also putting mittens, I have to be accepting of the fact that there's an occasional gap or fumble in the mittens-pulling-on because I sure as heckfire don't want there to be one in the stairs-down-running.

    And I don't want there to be a compromise in the integrity of blorb.

    I'm super charmed by this metaphor by the way. I can think of a specific campaign where things became more and more glove focused until I ended up in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. I had to beg my group to port our game over to a more glove focused system (read "dungeon world"). I think I've mentioned that before.

    And it goes in the other direction too. I sometimes use blorby techniques when I play Trollbabe, but in that case the stairs are the nitfol techniques and the gloves are the blorby ones... I guess what I'm saying is I fall down the stairs a lot.
  • I missed this because I was taking forever typing.
    2097 said:

    Does the idea of “doing it wrong” even exist in this era of the long tail? :bawling:

    People will just say “oh i’ll keep my badwrongfun thankyouverymuch!” no matter what I say

    Even if I try to explain that these legendary & amazingly tightly-designed games absolutely suck :bawling: people won’t believe me.

    LOL I'm dying

    I think part of the trouble I have with games that ride the line is that I have no idea how to set expectations for people I'm playing with. I run Monster of the Week which is a powered by the apocalypse game pretty regularly. I have a really hard time figuring out what the priorities of that game are. But at the same time people seem to love when I run that game. It's excruciating for me though because I can't isolate what they like about it and I don't know what my role is.

    Also last weekend I met someone who had played some Delta Green but otherwise didn't have much rpg experience. He told me he wanted to play in an illusionist game straight up, he said he wanted a game (I'm paraphrasing) "where it feels like you have a lot of options but no matter what you choose to do you end up in the right place at the right time and it's a good story". I told him it sounded like the games that I used to run when I was first starting, I called them "dinner theater" games, he said that sounded great. It broke my heart because I don't want to do that anymore.

    I ended running Barrowmaze for him and some folks using Knave, does that make me a bad person? I think they had a good time.
  • edited May 24
    @2097

    To tie together what you and @ebear are saying. I think we live in an age where we can just watch and see. We have hours and hours of all types of games being played on video. Anyone can just go watch @skinnyghost play and judge him in turn.

    I don’t mean in a horrible way either. You can compare two groups using the same or different systems and make a claim of preference.
  • edited May 24
    To be fair, I've had some players occasionally tell me it looked like I was improvising (like, in a bad way) for a particular session. Is it a fault of mine, because I didn't set the expectations right? Does that particular player want something the game can't deliver? Or is it an issue with how I improvised that day, because it looked too obvious?
    I don't have an answer. Perhaps due to them being hybrid (games that have a GM but also story gaming techniques), players kind of expect certain things they expect from more traditional games.
    But also, is it fair to expect such effort from the GM? I was recently looking at the prep tools for stars without number, and they require plenty of time! And it is supposed to be a game that gives you tools to build a sandbox easily.
    I think it's more ethical and realistic for everyone to accept that yes, we're making it up while we play, than place such a burden on a single player's shoulders. In many cases, these expectations lead to GMs maneuvering to push players into the area they've actually prepped, or getting frustrated when their prep or hook is blatantly ignored.

    Also, I've noticed that many of my campaigns sort of feel "in the air" for the first 2 or 3 sessions, until I get a grasp on what the group wants, and start prepping with that in mind. But it seems to happen to many story now games: for example in AW the first session tends to be weak, since there are no fronts and the GM is mostly gathering information. Coming to that first session with a scenario already prepared would be fine, but also the GM would be building the fronts based on his interests instead of the players' ones, and it might all fall to pieces when players show no interest in your prep (a scenario all too common in trad gaming).
  • Khimus said:


    But also, is it fair to expect such effort from the GM? I was recently looking at the prep tools for stars without number, and they require plenty of time! And it is supposed to be a game that gives you tools to build a sandbox easily.
    I think it's more ethical and realistic for everyone to accept that yes, we're making it up while we play, than place such a burden on a single player's shoulders. In many cases, these expectations lead to GMs maneuvering to push players into the area they've actually prepped, or getting frustrated when their prep or hook is blatantly ignored.

    Yeah that's definitely a real thing. To be clear I'm actually coming from a place of making things less burdensome for myself. For one thing when I run a blorby game I usually don't make the prep myself, sometimes I do, but a lot of the time I buy it. I like reading modules, it's fun for me. So for me building a sandbox is really just a matter of picking a couple of location based modules with similar tone, adding some connections between them, plopping them down a map, and filling the spaces in between. But if I'm being honest it took me a while to get there, I don't think there are really shortcuts.
    Khimus said:

    To be fair, I've had some players occasionally tell me it looked like I was improvising (like, in a bad way) for a particular session. Is it a fault of mine, because I didn't set the expectations right? Does that particular player want something the game can't deliver? Or is it an issue with how I improvised that day, because it looked too obvious?
    I don't have an answer. Perhaps due to them being hybrid (games that have a GM but also story gaming techniques), players kind of expect certain things they expect from more traditional games.

    I feel this 100%, it's basically what I'm complaining about. I'm choosing to lay it at the feet of the system saying that it should be setting expectations for me. But there's probably a way of setting those expectations myself, it's just hard. Especially when you're playing with people that don't use the same vocab, that's why I was trying to find better words for different types of rpg experiences.
  • ebear said:


    I think part of the trouble I have with games that ride the line is that I have no idea how to set expectations for people I'm playing with. I run Monster of the Week which is a powered by the apocalypse game pretty regularly. I have a really hard time figuring out what the priorities of that game are. But at the same time people seem to love when I run that game. It's excruciating for me though because I can't isolate what they like about it and I don't know what my role is.

    I actually consider this to be a major problem with the design of many less... self-aware? PbtA games. Dungeon World, Monster of the Week, and many others.

    I love Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts and Sagas of the Icelanders (for instance), but many of the other games jumping on the PbtA bandwagon seem to be really confused about what their actual play priorities are.

  • Sandra,

    I'll second Bill's question. Is this purely a question of "Sandra's tastes" (which no one can really argue with!), or is there something fundamentally at stake here that we can discuss? Is there a problem or issue with traditional play techniques mixing with Narrativist priorities?

    If so, what do you think of games like Critical Role (which are definitely traditional, and definitely at least in part Narrativist - certainly many of the "high points" of the game are either fully Narrativist or very close, even if the game isn't hitting that 100% of the time)?

    Or, more to the point, perhaps (when talking of "blorb" and "sandboxes"), this example here (which you said is "awesome")?

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/484116/#Comment_484116
  • Also important to note: there is a big spread/distinction between what Sandra refers to as 'blorb' and 'traditional techniques'. We can have sandbox design in an entirely non-traditional game, and lots (maybe most?) games using traditional techniques are definitely NOT blorb (e.g. Silmenume's "spicy dice" game).

    I feel very safe saying that, by Sandra's standards, Sorcerer, Apocalypse World, and Dungeon World are not "fully blorby" games (although all can end up featuring a lot of sandboxy GM prep).

    Ultimately, it's really about separating the techniques (e.g. traditional mechanics, prepared sandbox, impartial resolution, player narration) from the creative goals of play. Almost any combination is possible with the right design.

    (By the way, I agree that Fiasco is not a particularly Narrativist-supporting game. It's probably possible to get that kind of play out of it, but it certainly isn't "built in", and rarely happens, in my experience, unless everyone at the table is hardcore gunning for that anyway. It's highly non-traditional and can create great stories, but I wouldn't call it an explicitly Narrativist game, nor categorize it that way myself.)
  • Paul_T said:

    ebear said:

    I ended running Barrowmaze for him and some folks using Knave, does that make me a bad person? I think they had a good time.

    Love you so much ebear♥
    Barrowmaze, area one, room 80: the birthplace of blorb & holy site of the gloracle!!!
    Knave great game! (It has kind of a mathmistake in that since you roll d20 + mod to get to the target number or equal, the roller is favored so you never want to use the “defenses”; that’s why in 2097e the defense roll is AC minus twelve, not minus 10.)

    Khimus said:

    To be fair, I’ve had some players occasionally tell me it looked like I was improvising (like, in a bad way) for a particular session.

    Were you?

    Khimus said:

    But also, is it fair to expect such effort from the GM?

    I have to be careful in how I answer this question because I don’t want to gatekeep people away from GMing blorbily, I want to ease more people into GMing blorbily.

    So the cool thing about the three tiers of truth model is that you start simple. A small town, a couple of small dungeons, some rumours, some encounter tables. When you fall back to tier three, you pat yourself on the back, pick yourself up, keep going, and before next session you patch the hole (most often by adding mechanics or tables for this kinda thing). This is a feedback loop that lets you start simple and always keep improving.

    I was playing with a group of newbies a few months ago, I just grabbed the classic “Holy Sword!” one page dungeon and gave them some level 5 pregens. It was gonna be boardgame night and I wasn’t sure if they would be into D&D so I didn’t want to put too much effort in. And then whatever they tried I had a rule for it. (I play Finchian trap-finding style, but plenty of things are rule-driven such as I’ve picked up the Veins of the Earth method of setting climbing DCs.) And they were so impressed at how they could do anything but yet it all had rules and felt solid. Well, because I’ve been in this “feedback loop” of the three tiers of truth and improving over 5 years of play.

    I tried to prep an ACKS sandbox according to the rules in that book and completely bounced off it. I tried rolling up a sandbox according to some of the more ambitious blog posts out there. Completely unpossible. (I’m just too lazy & too busy tripping balls & posting on S-G.)

    Then when the 5e starter set came out, that was perfect. One flimsy little booklet of rules and one flimsy little booklet of sandbox. I see the PHB, the MM, and the DMG as “expansions” to the starter set and the starter set as the core game♥ I was terrified of DMing but man I love those flimsy booklets and those blue dice♥♥♥♥

    Also, I need to augment the three tiers of truth principle with the “wallpaper saliency” principle. It’s 100% fine to improvise things that are mere color. From principles & a feel of the characters and world. “What wallpaper is it in here?” “Oh, it’s torn, they seem to not really care about their abode.” When things become salient, then you can’t improvise those things anymore. For example a spell that lets you teleport through yellow surfaces. Then suddenly you might need a “random wallpaper table”!

    Here’s an example both of the wallpaper saliency principle and of how this “feedback loop” of the three tiers of truth is still ongoing. It’s a path leading forever towards the horizon and I’m still growing and improving as a DM. Most recently a player wanted to know if moss grew here. Normally falls under “wallpaper” & can just be improvised. Buuut I have a house rule where you need to buy spell components for the spell Light, and one of these is moss. So after that session I made rules for whether you could find these components and if so, how much you could find. Etc etc.

    This is also where the “rulings not rules” thing come in. A principle popular in the OSR, one that if it means “decide things on the fly rather than refer to rules” I kinda disagree with, but I’d love it if it meant: Start simple, but then save your own rulings so you can refer to them later.

  • Khimus said:

    I was recently looking at the prep tools for stars without number, and they require plenty of time! And it is supposed to be a game that gives you tools to build a sandbox easily.

    There’s an app for it!

    Khimus said:

    I think it’s more ethical and realistic for everyone to accept that yes, we’re making it up while we play, than place such a burden on a single player’s shoulders.

    Often the opposite is true, like in GURPS where it takes hours for a player to build a character (unless, again, you use the app) whereas the GM in the “How to be a GURPS GM” book is told to fudge & cheat & just make things up. That’s not ethical either.

    Khimus said:

    In many cases, these expectations lead to GMs maneuvering to push players into the area they’ve actually prepped

    Yes… that’s not great. I try to learn to prep lightly and widely.

    That’s also one of three reasons why I don’t play with minis. If I set up elaborate dwarven forge dioramas I would also be setting up expectations. If I were playing with minis… (I saw these on YouTube the other day](https://www.etsy.com/listing/634345997/pocketdm-the-mobile-dd-dm-kit) [not affiliated] that I thought were a cute solution.)

    (The other two reasons is the “first person/Wizardry/Phantasy Star/Zork/no ants!” rule, and the “in 5e they’d just stand still and chop anyway since the powers aren’t as spatial as they are in 4e” issue.)

    Khimus said:

    or getting frustrated when their prep or hook is blatantly ignored.

    This is something that you can kinda quickly grow to love.

    When I started DMing (I had already been GMing / railroading [improvised Gromit style no-myth / intcon railroad, but still] for many years) I was a player in a B/X game and in an 1e game. So I was already in love with the high agency of blorby play. So when the players (I mentioned this in the other thread just now didn’t enter the “level one area”, I thought that was just awesome. My reaction was… “It’s working! There is agency!!!”; I finally felt that play was… “taking off” and the train became a plane! And this metaphor became a wreck!

    Our second campaign I had set up at sorta family soap opera / inheritance drama with a shop that I expected the players to get to gradually know and maybe get involved in. I had also a thief that was casing the shop that I thought the players might fight. But the first thing they did was try to rob the shop! And then when they met the thief he became their best friend and is now the best & most beloved NPC of all time! Abu Mee’ma Khiry al-Masuli, one-eyed kenku & adventurer!

    Paul_T said:

    Is there a problem or issue with traditional play techniques mixing with Narrativist priorities?

    If, and only if, these “priorities” lead to compromising the integrity of blorb, then: yes, there is a big problem.
    If you can maintain blorb but still value “cool story happening” then we’re on the same page. Our second al-Qadim campaign, Corsair Council, where we set up Hillfolk relationship & “scenes”, yet kept strict blorb and used D&D as our “physics engine”, arguably had such goals.
    Paul_T said:

    If so, what do you think of games like Critical Role

    As I said in the other thread, I don’t want to criticize other DMs who are trying their best (I learned my lesson after TitansGrave). It’s a show. I have a pretty low bar for the quality of play on a show. It would be just as dumb to try to criticize the gameplay on the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. Matthew Mercer is a great guy. SUPER cool.
    I’ve watched maybe 20 eps or so of Critical Role; I think I’m up to like ep 16 or so of the second campaign (yes I’m way behind; I just don’t like to watch TV when I have mental health issues, it’s not a good activity for me) and I’ve seen a handful of eps of first campaign.

    Their use of gloriously detailed encounter areas is obv not a good idea (see above). They don’t do full OSR style sandbox play but they let the dice fall where they may & develop the areas where they see the player character’s going. Ryley’s analysis was completely off and was dumb. If I were to judge it, I couldn’t because I don’t know what’s going on in Mercer’s head or behind his screen. And, again, I don’t want to scare people away from blorb, I want to teach them so that they can reach blorb.

    One of my players is a big crit role fan and at first they said “Oh, can’t you do this or this or this thing more like Mercer” and I said “No, I’m gonna do it my style” and then now, a year later, the same player said “Oh, I was watching crit role and it was so annoying how they did this or this or this, I wish they did it more like you” and I was like… yes! vindicated!

    Because in the end all you need to satisfy are your own group. Mercer’s cast is happy with him as a DM and he certainly cares about the game and is invested in it and in them.♥♥

    Now, I want there to be more blorby games in the world so I finally can get to play that enchanter noble I rolled up.

  • Paul_T said:

    Or, more to the point, perhaps (when talking of “blorb” and “sandboxes”), [this example here (which you said is “awesome”)(http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/484116/#Comment_484116)?

    Yes, that describes pretty much my ideal play. With a tiny caveat: I’d be careful prepping so much of the dungeon after seeing the characters, I like to do the brunt of that that before seeing them (“no Paper after seeing Rock” principle).

    Because nothing in that example that I can see violates the integrity of blorb.
    Paul_T said:

    Also important to note: there is a big spread/distinction between what Sandra refers to as ‘blorb’ and ‘traditional techniques’.

    Which leads to the core of the point.

    The question I was asked by an anonymous asker in PMs was “Are you, Sandra the 2097th, saint, quadruple phd, roshi & bodhisatva, really dimwitted enough to believe that narrativism can’t use traditional techniques?”.

    And the answer is… drumroll…
    No, I know they can. But games that use traditional techiques while not being blorb are awful. Games shouldn’t step on the toes of blorb if they don’t respect the integrity of blorb. Uh. I hate myself for sounding like [famous OSR asshole #1] or [famous OSR asshole #2].

    Paul_T said:

    We can have sandbox design in an entirely non-traditional game

    A disputed statement and I expressed my disagreement in the other thread already.

    Paul_T said:

    and lots (maybe most?) games using traditional techniques are definitely NOT blorb

    When have you heard me express love for these 90s style games? Do Not Want! Deleted the comment about Sil’s & Cary’s game specifically because I’m still holding out hope that I’m missing something.

    Paul_T said:

    I feel very safe saying that, by Sandra’s standards, Sorcerer, Apocalypse World, and Dungeon World are not “fully blorby” games (although all can end up featuring a lot of sandboxy GM prep).

    From my first read of the text they appear to not be. But if that were true, these masterpieces would suck, and that can’t be right…?

    Here is a video I was sent in PMs where Ron explains that Sorcerer & Apocalypse World can be ran somewhat blorbily. I wasn’t convinced, but I’m not Ron or @lumpley and I can’t look into their heads. It certainly seems that from Lumps’ example texts that he is “making decisions” on how things should be to a greater extent than is wholly blorby.

    Paul_T said:

    By the way, I agree that Fiasco is not a particularly Narrativist-supporting game. It’s probably possible to get that kind of play out of it, but it certainly isn’t “built in”, and rarely happens, in my experience, unless everyone at the table is hardcore gunning for that anyway. It’s highly non-traditional and can create great stories, but I wouldn’t call it an explicitly Narrativist game, nor categorize it that way myself.

    Stupid plans executed perfectly & find out what happens. Premises: greed, risks, relationships, trust…

    Sorcerer’s incredibly low bar for what counts as having a premise makes almost any game a narr game.

    In the RISS view it’s fine, it’s cool, it’s super intensive & game enhancing to mix & match, & we use techniques from all four corners in our game, but you need to be careful about what principles are the most important.

    Since the RISS is about techniques, not creativity.

    In our Tomb of Annihilation game the characters are fucked up. They hate each other but they need to hold out for the final stretch to reach the maguffin. They cheat on each other, they break up their engagements, they steal from each other, they wreck each other’s marriages, they abandon each other in danger, they lie to each other, but here so far from daylight amid the stench of rotting meat where every grave is an open wound… they only have each other. It’s the greatest show on Earth.

  • edited May 25
    2097 said:

    Paul_T said:

    Or, more to the point, perhaps (when talking of “blorb” and “sandboxes”), [this example here (which you said is “awesome”)(http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/484116/#Comment_484116)?

    Yes, that describes pretty much my ideal play. With a tiny caveat: I’d be careful prepping so much of the dungeon after seeing the characters, I like to do the brunt of that that before seeing them (“no Paper after seeing Rock” principle).

    Because nothing in that example that I can see violates the integrity of blorb.
    The problem is that, by doing the prep before seeing the characters, you'd be erasing/removing most of the fun that Alexander is describing. You'd be actively hurting that game by making it more "blorby".

    Consider, for example, how that whole game/story/experience would be undermined if there was no gold or treasure to be found at all. The premise only works because we've connected "Max needs gold for the orphanage" to "he can get gold by facing great danger (in the dungeon)". Take one or the other away, and we've no longer got the awesomeness Alexander is describing.
    2097 said:

    Paul_T said:

    We can have sandbox design in an entirely non-traditional game

    A disputed statement and I expressed my disagreement in the other thread already.

    Sure, but you're completely wrong. :)

    Even if you don't accept the examples being used, it would be no problem to design a new game of this sort, from scratch. Unless you really think there's a theoretical reason that couldn't be? (Other than your a priori belief that this is a sacrilege.) If so, you'd have to tell us what those reasons are...
    2097 said:


    [On heavily-GMed 90s games:]

    When have you heard me express love for these 90s style games? Do Not Want! Deleted the comment about Sil’s & Cary’s game specifically because I’m still holding out hope that I’m missing something.

    [Then, on Apocalypse World, Sorcerer, Dungeon World, etc:]

    From my first read of the text they appear to not be [blorb]. But if that were true, these masterpieces would suck, and that can’t be right…?

    Oh boy.

    At this point, it sounds like you've accepted the truth of your own claim (essentially that blorb = good, and non-blorb = bad, or at least worse) despite evidence to the contrary.

    That's a pretty unfortunate position to be in, kind of like a Creation Scientist refusing to look at geological records.

    It seems you've elevated your own preferences to a sort of faith-based dogma. That's unfortunate! I think you'll limit not only your thinking about games and design this way, but also limit your future gaming experiences because of such a short-sighted perspective.
    2097 said:

    Sorcerer’s incredibly low bar for what counts as having a premise makes almost any game a narr game.

    This is a sidenote and not very important to the larger conversation, but this is a fairly significant misreading or misunderstanding of how premise and Narrativism operates. The reason that potentially tautological-sounding premise works in Sorcerer is because everything about the design of the game pushes you further and further towards answering that question in an interesting way. From the Kickers and Bangs to the very premise of the game: that you can bend reality and summon Demons to do your bidding.

    It's no simple or small thing; it's big and, if you follow the steps of the game's process, it really gets pumped up to 11. That's not a "low bar" at all, but quite the contrary. I could see people seeing how exaggerated and central that premise becomes in Sorcerer and assuming that anything lighter and subtler must NOT qualify as Narrativism, which would be a mistake as well.
  • Paul_T said:

    The problem is that, by doing the prep before seeing the characters, you’d be erasing/removing most of the fun that Alexander is describing. You’d be actively hurting that game by making it more “blorby”.

    Because I value blorbiness significantly higher than hitting story beats.

    In other words, sure I want story, but I want the story to take place in the world; and that “worldiness”, tangibility, blorbiness is the immutable frame for the story.

    Paul_T said:

    Consider, for example, how that whole game/story/experience would be undermined if there was no gold or treasure to be found at all. The premise only works because we’ve connected “Max needs gold for the orphanage” to “he can get gold by facing great danger (in the dungeon)”. Take one or the other away, and we’ve no longer got the awesomeness Alexander is describing.

    That’s how priorities work.

    In practice, I do add some things to the map & to the encounter tables based on player input. Like the dragon cult one of my players created for our Tomb of A game. So I do do some of this.

    Paul_T said:

    2097 said:

    A disputed statement and I expressed my disagreement in the other thread already.

    Sure, but you’re completely wrong. :)

    Rhetorically, it’s a bad idea to use a statement which with I disagree strongly & vehemently & absolutely, as a premise to argue for me to change my position on another statement.

    Paul_T said:

    Even if you don’t accept the examples being used, it would be no problem to design a new game of this sort, from scratch. Unless you really think there’s a theoretical reason that couldn’t be?

    “No problem” building a blorby game that isn’t blorby…?! :bawling:

    Paul_T said:

    At this point, it sounds like you’ve accepted the truth of your own claim (essentially that blorb = good, and non-blorb = bad, or at least worse)

    To be specific:

    • blorb = good
    • non-blorb sufficiently distinguishable from blorb = good
    • stepping on blorb’s toes without being blorb = bad
    Paul_T said:

    despite evidence to the contrary.

    Nooo… in light of having experienced the greatness that is blorb♥

    As I said, the more and more I experience as a player, as a GM/DM, as a designer: the harder time I have with these games.

    Paul_T said:

    That’s a pretty unfortunate position to be in, kind of like a Creation Scientist refusing to look at geological records.

    [I guess I put evolution on people’s mind by referencing the greatest show on Earth earlier]
    Kinda the opposite? The more I learn about games & gaming the more highly I value blorb.
    Just as the more I looked at the geological record the more stoked I became about evolution and how awesome it is.

    Paul_T said:

    It seems you’ve elevated your own preferences to a sort of faith-based dogma. That’s unfortunate! I think you’ll limit not only your thinking about games and design this way, but also limit your future gaming experiences because of such a short-sighted perspective.

    Just like your idol Ron says in the vi-de-oh, he would make AW more blorby if he were to run it again.

    Paul_T said:

    2097 said:

    Sorcerer’s incredibly low bar for what counts as having a premise makes almost any game a narr game.

    This is a sidenote and not very important to the larger conversation, but this is a fairly significant misreading or misunderstanding of how premise and Narrativism operates. The reason that potentially tautological-sounding premise works in Sorcerer is because everything about the design of the game pushes you further and further towards answering that question in an interesting way. From the Kickers and Bangs to the very premise of the game: that you can bend reality and summon Demons to do your bidding.

    It’s no simple or small thing; it’s big and, if you follow the steps of the game’s process, it really gets pumped up to 11. That’s not a “low bar” at all, but quite the contrary. I could see people seeing how exaggerated and central that premise becomes in Sorcerer and assuming that anything lighter and subtler must NOT qualify as Narrativism, which would be a mistake as well.

    I’m def not disputing that the bar for successfully addressing a premise is incredibly high and goal-post-movey. Like in the example with Max the thief; him going down into a dungeon to find gold for orphans and there is no gold in there would be pretty ironic/interesting/satisfying for me (@AlexanderWhite is free to chime in) but in your estimation it failed to address the premise.

    What I’m saying is that the bar for having a premise is incredibly low. Addressing the premise that’s another matter.

  • edited May 25
    2097 said:

    Because I value blorbiness significantly higher than hitting story beats.

    If your point is that you value blorbiness highly, then of course you must be right! Your preferences and your priorities are entirely your choice.

    But isn't the whole point of this thread to make the argument that there is actually some kind of problem or issue with Narrativist priorities and "blorb" techniques mixing?

    Otherwise, I'm lost! What are we discussing?
    2097 said:

    Paul_T said:

    Even if you don’t accept the examples being used, it would be no problem to design a new game of this sort, from scratch. Unless you really think there’s a theoretical reason that couldn’t be?

    “No problem” building a blorby game that isn’t blorby…?! :bawling:

    No, of course not that!

    It would be no problem to build a game with non-traditional mechanics that uses blorby prep/sandbox techniques.
    2097 said:

    Just like your idol Ron says in the vi-de-oh, he would make AW more blorby if he were to run it again.

    Wait... what? He talks about making AW more sandbox? I find it hard to watch those videos (I don't know where you're getting these "idol" ideas!), but that's a topic that's interesting enough that I may try to check that out. Interesting!
    2097 said:

    I’m def not disputing that the bar for successfully addressing a premise is incredibly high and goal-post-movey. [...]

    What I’m saying is that the bar for having a premise is incredibly low. Addressing the premise that’s another matter.

    Oh, well, that doesn't really matter: for successful Narrativist you need to address the premise. That's the significant part. (I'm not even sure what "having a premise" means if you don't address it; but it definitely wouldn't be satisfying gaming or a satisfying story.)
    2097 said:

    Like in the example with Max the thief; him going down into a dungeon to find gold for orphans and there is no gold in there would be pretty ironic/interesting/satisfying for me (@AlexanderWhite is free to chime in) but in your estimation it failed to address the premise.

    I think telling a story about a thief named Max who tries to find gold and it turns out there's none to be found could be quite interesting and entertaining. Occasionally, such a twist is warranted.

    But it's a question of practicality and repeatability:

    What if we had four or five PCs, each with a stated goal or premise, and we failed to address all of them? Keep in mind that this means that each player came to the game hoping to deal with that issue/topic/dilemma, and not a single one was actually brought out in play. Now imagine doing that over and over and over.

    Those aren't going to be happy players.

    It would be like sending D&D adventurers into a dungeon with no monsters, no traps, and no treasure. I can imagine an unusual, single adventure where that's the case and it's still interesting... but it's not a really a sustainable model for "what you should do when your friends say they want to play D&D with you". They'll be disappointed; it was only the shock value that was making it work in the first place - working against expectations. Once those are no longer the expectations, the "trick" doesn't work anymore.

    The D&D players want to fight monsters and collect treasure. Max the thief wants there to be an orphanage, the potential for finding gold, and some scary stuff that he must decide whether to face or not. That's the whole point of the way the player set up that character.
  • Paul_T said:

    But isn’t the whole point of this thread to make the argument that there is actually some kind of problem or issue with Narrativist priorities and “blorb” techniques mixing?

    The thread has drifted to be about that, yes. Which is fine, good, cool, nice topic.
    And that problem/issue is that if a player has the expectation of blorb, it sucks when blorb is compromised.

    Paul_T said:

    Otherwise, I’m lost! What are we discussing?

    The original question from an anonymous asker via PM was “Are you aware, Sondra my dorling, that there actually are narr games that are traditional?”

    That question has been settled by now I hope? I’ve demonstrated the full extent of my knowledge, or if you’d rather call it ignorance, on the topic.

    Paul_T said:

    It would be no problem to build a game with non-traditional mechanics that uses blorby prep/sandbox techniques.

    Cthulhu Dark, when run wholly blorbily, being an example…? Sure. That’s fine. (Or Everway for that matter.)

    Paul_T said:

    Wait… what? He talks about making AW more sandbox? I find it hard to watch those videos (I don’t know where you’re getting these “idol” ideas!), but that’s a topic that’s interesting enough that I may try to check that out. Interesting!

    That’s how I understood it!

    He says, after expressing dissatisfaction with the “Gromit style laying tracks as you go”, that:

    Should I MC Apocalypse World I would very much take the front [I guess threat map in 2e, 2097’s comment] seriously, and instead of improvising the existence of things or people, I would instead be reactive and unplanned regarding the consequences of particular roles and particular interactions.

    Again, the video is here. Thanks to a fan sending me this in PM, much apprec♥ (Let me know if you want credit for this or if you want to be anonymous!)

    Paul_T said:

    Oh, well, that doesn’t really matter: for successful Narrativist you need to address the premise. That’s the significant part. (I’m not even sure what “having a premise” means if you don’t address it; but it definitely wouldn’t be satisfying gaming or a satisfying story.)

    Right… but I also though the premise had to be this high-faluting high-art thing like we’re acting out The Glass Menagerie at the table or something like that. But now I know that finding a “cool enough” premise is much simpler & easier than I thought.

    Paul_T said:

    The D&D players want to fight monsters and collect treasure. Max the thief wants there to be an orphanage, the potential for finding gold, and some scary stuff that he must decide whether to face or not. That’s the whole point of the way the player set up that character.

    Listen, don’t strawdoll me too much now. I’m on record advocating for porte-monstre-trésor: place/problem/goal.

  • 2097 said:

    Also, I need to augment the three tiers of truth principle with the “wallpaper saliency” principle. It’s 100% fine to improvise things that are mere color. From principles & a feel of the characters and world. “What wallpaper is it in here?” “Oh, it’s torn, they seem to not really care about their abode.” When things become salient, then you can’t improvise those things anymore. For example a spell that lets you teleport through yellow surfaces. Then suddenly you might need a “random wallpaper table”!

    Here’s an example both of the wallpaper saliency principle and of how this “feedback loop” of the three tiers of truth is still ongoing. It’s a path leading forever towards the horizon and I’m still growing and improving as a DM. Most recently a player wanted to know if moss grew here. Normally falls under “wallpaper” & can just be improvised. Buuut I have a house rule where you need to buy spell components for the spell Light, and one of these is moss. So after that session I made rules for whether you could find these components and if so, how much you could find. Etc etc.

    This is also where the “rulings not rules” thing come in. A principle popular in the OSR, one that if it means “decide things on the fly rather than refer to rules” I kinda disagree with, but I’d love it if it meant: Start simple, but then save your own rulings so you can refer to them later.

    Oh, now it all clicks for me! Thank you! This sounds like a most useful set of advice to me. :heart:
  • Rafu♥♥

    I need to get better at documenting / teaching this stuff
  • You've definitely explained that well before, so it's not new material - but perhaps that's the first time Rafu sees that particularly expression of it. I agree that it's good!

    And, Sandra, thank you for the link again! I'll have to check that out. :)

    Now, a few minor points:
    2097 said:

    And that problem/issue is that if a player has the expectation of blorb, it sucks when blorb is compromised.

    Very true! However, in a Narrativist game, the desire for blorbiness would be *very low*, so it's unlikely to be a sticking point for anyone. (More to the point, if I'm running a Narrativist game, I'm not going to set up any false expectations of blorbiness.)

    We either set out for the get-go that we might compromise the blorbiness, or we find a way to make the premise-addressing emergent, and stick to the blorbiness (as in Alexander's example).
    2097 said:

    “Are you aware, Sondra my dorling, that there actually are narr games that are traditional?”

    That question has been settled by now I hope? I’ve demonstrated the full extent of my knowledge, or if you’d rather call it ignorance, on the topic.

    I... think so?

    What are our conclusions? What we you trying to learn?
    2097 said:

    Cthulhu Dark, when run wholly blorbily, being an example…? Sure. That’s fine. (Or Everway for that matter.)

    Yeah, exactly right.
    2097 said:

    I also though the premise had to be this high-faluting high-art thing like we’re acting out The Glass Menagerie at the table or something like that. But now I know that finding a “cool enough” premise is much simpler & easier than I thought.

    Yeah, exactly right. Lots of even great art has simple premises - perhaps "friendship is worth more than money" or something like that.

    But roleplaying doesn't have to be "great art" in the first place, so the bar can be far lower. (Consider some children's stories, for example, which have a very simple and obvious moral.)
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