Narrativism vs traditional techniques

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  • Yes, but.
    The algorithm being PC-centered is where lies the point.
  • :bawling: this point :heartbreak:
  • edited May 2019
    "Predicate space" being built in the algorithm is not the whole of the algorithm. The raison d'être of the algorithm is for you to get an answer without interfering with the monsters having their lunch, which is typically a blorby technique.
    Paul_T's point that PCs actions are at the center of play is not a very strong point but it is not invalidated by a reductio ab absurdum (what if there was no algorithm). I'd say PCs actions are important because they reflect players decisions, which are important in any healthy game.
    So, that was just a bump. Paul_T's question before that was about the "situation". By that I think he meant "moment to moment". That is : when do you feel in your games that "yummy" feeling that "this (diegetic) thing is (going to be) cool" ? I hesitate between actual and near future because I don't want to frame the answer too much in a "play to find out" perspective.

    edit : (diegetic) or not
  • (Right. Diegetic or non-diegetic, it doesn’t matter: somehow we need criteria to determine what’s going to be fun and what is not. We need to determine what is salient and what is not. We need to determine what needs to be prepped and what does not. We need to know what is worth “zooming in” and what we can fast forward through.)
  • edited (diegetic)
    To me "zooming" is more dependent on the players judgement. Is it by nature or does it say something about my preferences ? Probably the later. Still, good question.
    Maybe a progamer reward of an uninterrupted execution.
  • So we do the characters meals because they would die and starve otherwise.
    In an urban campaign where we can just be like "OK you're making enough to support a Moderate Lifestyle" or whatever, we wouldn't.

    That particular saliency point is a challenge one, sure. But not all saliency points are. Salient points are about answers that we need to have in order for play to proceed and things that other mechanics build upon.
  • Hi Sandra,

    Feel free to call me a primitive screw head mostly because I'm very late to this thread but WRT -
    Blorby play is almost magical in how it can take you to another world and make that world real. That is valuable.
    - I can only argue by experience. The game I play in does the exact same thing to our human players except many times the game is 100% non-blorb. We will sit down, the GM will ask us to read off our characters and in less than 30 minutes were off and running and totally transported to another world. I am utterly delighted at the success of your GMing and design efforts but I can't think of a game that is more diametrically opposed to blorby play than ours is from yours. This isn't good or bad. Just a completely different approach to the process of play. Just one example - You push for absolute clarity of play (am I using the correct phrase?) while we embrace the fog of war.

    Just my 2 cents. Maybe 1 and half cents...

    Best,

    Jay
  • What's the best thing about the fog of war?
  • What's the best thing about absolute clarity?

    I know you've made many arguments for the value of absolute clarity and I've made many arguments in my threads about how lack of fore knowledge requires players to engage the same logic processes we employ in real life when faced with imperfect knowlege as we do in the game to create the cognitive map of reality.

    By capitalizing on the same logic process under similar conditions it becomes very easy to shift from one reality to another.

    Not better, just very very different.

    Best,

    Jay
  • To clarify, Silmenume, blorb isn’t about clarity [even though you’re right that I loooove clarity], blorb is about the game world being consistent and “real” and the DM not changing things around behind the scenes, instead sticking to the truth of “what’s really there”. The notes say that this room has a straw bed, a bowl of clear water and the two halves of a broken wand, that, under detect-o-vision, gives off the faint flicker of the school of divination, what do you do? That is blorb.

    What’s the best thing about absolute clarity?

    I know you’ve made many arguments for the value of absolute clarity

    That’s right. And for information separation as well; players don’t know everything right away but they understand when, why and how a rule is engaged. They don’t know that a monster is immune to lightning until after they’ve fired a bolt at her, but they understand how immunity works. Ideally your game have or would have similar knowledge; like how you know that daggers & arrows do PBP damage in your game. It wouldn’t be great if you didn’t know that, right? All of a sudden an arrow kills you and you were like “wait what? I had like 50 stamina left.”

    and I’ve made many arguments in my threads about how lack of fore knowledge requires players to engage the same logic processes we employ in real life when faced with imperfect knowlege as we do in the game to create the cognitive map of reality.

    By capitalizing on the same logic process under similar conditions it becomes very easy to shift from one reality to another.

    Yes, that’s the ideal. Decisions made on the diegetic layer.

    Player: “I search for traps!”
    Me: “Hold on… what, specifically, are you doing?”
    Player: “Oh, OK… how does the door frame look here?”
    Me: “It does look unusual… it’s lined with a bright orange metal; copper possibly.”

    etc

    In your game, some of the time the processes you engage are rolling d20s. Regardless of if you’re fighting or just looking (Perception and Intuition).

    You’ve been very generous sharing many examples of play.

    In your game a lot of the time the DM is saying “You do this, this and this. Roll a twenty-sided!” and you reply “1d20 + 7 = 8” and he says “OK the enemy does this, this and this! Roll a twenty-sided!” and you reply “1d20 = 16” and he says “Oh wow, it almost this this but you this and this and this! And then you this and this and this! Roll a twenty-sided!” and you reply “1d20 + 7 = 21” and he says “no you almost this but then this and this, and suddenly a big this!!!! wow! roll a twenty-sided!” and you go NATURAL TWENTY! and everyone cheers.

    And I’m like… wait when are you doing things except just listing numbers? Sometimes. Creating characters. Talking about the scenario before the game. But some of the time it’s the DM saying what you do. “You go in.” “You crash through the door.” “You pull out your knife.” That is not same logic processes I engage in real life.

    You’re right that me, in response to the player saying what they do, saying “Make an attack roll vs 17” or “Make a defense roll vs 16” rather than saying “Roll a 20-sided” is a difference between the games. That isn’t really a blorb issue; that’s more a clarity issue. Arguably in real life you know or at least notice whether you are parrying vs slashing, dodging vs rushing, blocking vs smashing. I’m never a fighter; I don’t know jack about real fighting but even I know that much.

  • edited May 2019

    I want to know what the characters say or do. That’s why I have them around the table. I am curious about their choices, actions, priorities. (That’s also why the argument upthread that I should replace them with an algorithm was stupid and/or that I should ditch the monster algorithm. I am a curious DM; I want to see the game world come alive and the characters be fully realized in that game world. I don’t hold any ideas of my own about what could, should or would happen.

    Similar to how Ron describes it in his video.

    Which makes me realize how weird it is that the entire GNS, where they took such steps to distance themselves from the relatively close schools of gamism & simulationism, with a couple of rare exceptions ignored the elephant in the room: railroading. Dismissing it as dysfunctional play, force, etc and then backpedaling with more neutral words like participationism & rollercoastering. Like guys, you know what G, N and S have in common? Play to find out. Which, at the time and even now, is something so radical and something so non-selfevident and something so controversial in the world of tabletop RPG.

    And before the threefold and the GNS the debates raged on and on about 1d20 vs 3d6, about dice pools and bell curves and linear dice and swinginess etc. Because that was all we understood.

    Instead, the three schools/camps identified should’ve been this:

    A. Having both elements and events pre-written
    B. Setting out some solid elements in the petri dish and seeing what happens in the game
    C. Having nothing, not even the elements, prepared, everything is pulled out of hat as you go

    Arguably between the Scylla of railroading on the left and the Charybdis of nihilism on the right, there is… playing to find out!

    That’s a technique that serves both Gamism, Narrativism and Simulationism. That’s where the battle lines should’ve been drawn.

    My limited understanding back in the actual 90s were that the choices were between A and C. Since I’m curious & lazy I of course went with C. Until the “mirror story” and I realized the life-changing magic of B.

    B FOR BLORB!!!

  • edited May 2019
    "wait when are you doing things except just listing numbers" What if it didn't matter if player or DM spoke as long as "the character does it" ? In the same way you say " I don’t hold any ideas of my own about what could, should or would happen", the player in Cary's game loses themself in their character. Being a player in this game, or a DM in a blorby game may share in common the experience of acting like an ego-less medium for characters / events.
    Of course, experiencing ego-lessness is probably not the end goal, it's the magic circle. The grain of sand of player individuality is easier to spot on a clean floor. ^^ Getting mystical #tipheret.
  • Again, DeReel, that interface is kind of an orthogonal question to blorb or unblorb.
    And, whether or not that interface is good or bad is also kind of a side-question to why I brought it up, which was in the context of engaging the same logic processes we employ in real life. Feeling like you're there, not just being a medium for another participant's expression of your character.

    #Sathariel was always my fave
  • I agree with @Silmenume that your games are almost entirely opposites of each other. The focus in your game (Sandra) is, it seems to me, to create something as "tangible" as possible that the players can then interact with. There are solid and predictable qualities and quantities and solid and reliable ways to interact with them. We know that there's something inside the treasure chest, and that, if we open it, Sandra won't change what it is on us. We know that the monsters will attack according to an algorithm. We know how much we can carry. And so on.

    Jay/Cary's game is all about the experience of the world/story/characters, and uses obfuscation on every level to achieve that.

    You want things to *be* as real and tangible as possible, and for player decisions to matter as much as possible. This demands transparency of method.

    Cary wants things to *feel* as powerful as possible, and for the players' emotional experience to be immersive and memorable. This demands "fog of war", so that you can feel the tension and fear and uncertainty and experience it vicariously.

    Complete opposites, in my opinion. I would engage in each of your games in a completely different way, and being a good player in them demands very different skills, approach, and mindset.
  • (Also, I'm not sure why the "fighting algorithm" went so far over your head. I was never suggesting that you should remove the algorithm - which is wonderful! - or write one for the players - which would be pointless. I was saying that this thought experiment - imagining either of those things, and seeing how undesirable either of them is - reveals a lot about your play priorities.)

    (For instance, if you started to think that "Threefold Simulationism" was your actual goal, you'd have to conclude that writing an algorithm for the PCs would be at least worth considering - it would play nicely into the "simulation", and give a better "answer", rather than giving one side a dramatic advantage over the other. And if your goal was an adversarial competition between the two sides, you'd want to take away the monsters' algorithm, because it handicaps one side. On the other hand, if your goal was to create a railroady story, you might want an algorithm for the PC side, and then to be able to improvise the monsters' actions, so as to steer the fight's outcome to your desired ends.)

    (But your solution, instead, suits your game perfectly: and that's because it enables precisely what you want - for the GM to act as impartial referee, while a clear and definite, "real", tangible process gives the players something to test their wits and skills against.)
  • edited May 2019
    Hi Sandra,

    To clarify, Silmenume, blorb isn’t about clarity [even though you’re right that I loooove clarity], blorb is about the game world being consistent and “real” and the DM not changing things around behind the scenes, instead sticking to the truth of “what’s really there”.

    First my apologies for mis-identifying what "blorb" meant. Adding confusion serves no one's interests in forum discussions. Mea culpa.

    Here's the rub with "what's really there." There is no ontological "there" there. It's all an artificial construct manufactured by human beings. As far as role-playing games are concerned (the act of Exploration as defined by Setting, Character, Situation, Color and System) the only "reality" that matters is the SIS. Which is also an artificial construct. The primacy of the SIS is so vital because it covers the idea of all the players interacting with it with agency as mediated by System. This is the uniqueness of RPGs as compared to other recreational pastimes. It is a group imagination process...a highly ritualized form of conversation if you will.

    We use physical props to influence this conversation but they are no more "truth" than the SIS. This includes having pre-written notes on "what's really there". Until these things enter the SIS directly in themselves (physical things) or affect the physical things (a pile of enriched Uranium that is causing radiation sickness in people but is itself not [yet] established) then they are merely potentialities under the control of the GM.

    I'm not arguing against game prep as a useful process. I'm just arguing that it is merely a technique to help with the player who is functioning in the role of "GM". If this technique helps the person of "GM" facilitate their players to "immerse" into the artificially constructed world then bully for the GM! Good for that person for finding a method of GMing that works for them. However that technique of prep does not represent "truth" any more than a game where the GM does no pre-game prep. As far as the SIS is concerned there is no difference. The only thing that matters are the words spoken by the GM. It is only then that when those words are accepted as credible via the Lumpley Principle do they matter.

    Now we get into issues of player protagonization WRT to CA's. There is a form of deprotagonizaton that crosses all CA's (when a player is shut out from entering anything into the SIS) but there is also CA specific player deprotagonization. Paul Czege argued this WRT how this worked in Narratist play which is very different with how player deprotagonization functions in Gamist play. I was going to post a link to the thread but the Forge Archives seem to be down.

    I'm seeing two basic thrusts to your arguments.

    First is a matter of trust among the players and the GM. Blorb preparation deals with this by not dealing with said trust but by player verification of GM pre-game notes. There are other ways of handling this including but not limited to game design, System and being consistently straight with one's players. I gave you the example of the Elf running on water for the latter.

    Second the magic of the Gloricle (which I believe is a description of "blorby" play) leads to player "immersion." Great! That is a Technique you employ to help facilitate getting your players to a state of being - that of "immersion". That's a hard thing to do in general and that you manage to achieve it regularly is to be commended. But it isn't the only way to facilitate the same effect in the one's players. I know this to be true because of the game I play in. I currently don't fully understand how it all works, but I've been afforded some theoretical assistance via Myth and Bricolage. I'm not implying this other method is better, I'm just stating that it does exist and it too works very well at facilitating player "immersion".

    I'll address your other points in a follow up post.

    Best,

    Jay
  • The focus in your game (Sandra) is, it seems to me, to create something as “tangible” as possible that the players can then interact with.

    Ain’t disputing that but I was replying to some specifics in the post such as the clarity-vs-fog-of-war question being A. orthogonal to the blorb question, and B. not that effective in its stated goal: get players engage to engage with real-world-logic. For which finchian style is more effective.

    You want things to be as real and tangible as possible, and for player decisions to matter as much as possible. This demands transparency of method.

    Transparency of method is great. But a game could be ran wholly blorby under the hood without having transparency of method. Obv given the cruel history of the 1990s there might be some lack of buy-in then. Hence transparency of method.

    Cary wants things to feel as powerful as possible, and for the players’ emotional experience to be immersive and memorable. This demands “fog of war”, so that you can feel the tension and fear and uncertainty and experience it vicariously.

    Arguably a game designed to fit those stated goals would be something like my old 90s game based on Fudge and Everway but that eventually went completely Fortuneless and was just all drama all the time based on blow-by-blow descriptions of actions in combat.

    Complete opposites, in my opinion.

    Right. But I was replying to some specific claims.

    Also, I’m not sure why the “fighting algorithm” went so far over your head.

    Over my head? Patronizing much?

    Scripting the participants actions is bad game design. Plain and simple.

    Some working games sometimes have characters do things that the players don’t want, like let’s say they have been werewolfized or they have a memory gap (a la Kutulu) but a fighting algorithm of this weight & complexity that scripts the PCs actions blow by blow would be just horrible for that purp.

    you’d have to conclude that writing an algorithm for the PCs would be at least worth considering

    No. No game would ever do that.

    The point of the sim is to get the players to experience the world. Otherwise you’re just chopping down trees in an empty forest.

    A railroad game would script out the entire battle (as sometimes happened in Theatrix days) to be dramatic rather than algorithmical.

    Althoooo…. nightmare vision of Theatrix flowchart…. or the flowchart for PC actions in Drakar 91 so much….

    OK, no good game would ever do that.

    The fact that this one railroad game scripted PC actions and this one sim game scripted PC actions was awful. It was bad game design.

    Drakar itself actually tells you to not use it (another example of how horribly incoherent that awful game was); tellingn you to illusionarily rattle some dice behind the screen instead (“and maybe have like a 10% or so chance that an arrow actually hit”).

    If your game has a concept of a PC in the first place (so “pooled PC games” like Microscope or Final Girl are exempt); a player character… you let the players run that character and then the DM run the world. My monster script makes part of the world “come alive”. Similarly to how the Contact→Summon→Bind sequence in Sorcerer make the entities in that game come alive. (Uh, religious folx please don’t misunderstand this.)

    Safeguarding the unwanted.

    The scripted monsters and unscripted PCs fit with blorb, yes. The clear role division with how incredibly different it is to play the game as a DM vs playing it as a player.

    And, the way I set it up, making it a script that’s actually engaging & challenging for the DM to run does tip my hand that I do love challenge games. For a RR game I would script the fights differently but for a exploration or sim game I’d script it the exact same. In fact, for a pure challenge game, instead I’d do something like Rune or 4e or Three Sixteen where the DM can apply her wits to try to win the fight instead of just executing a script.

    Anyway. Not the point. The point is that even considering scripting the PCs actions would’ve been… WHY THE HELL WOULD THEY EVEN BE AT THE TABLE REGARDLESS OF CA?!!?? To just be there to rattle of numbers for me when I say “roll a twenty-sided?”

  • Until these things enter the SIS directly in themselves (physical things) or affect the physical things (a pile of enriched Uranium that is causing radiation sickness in people but is itself not [yet] established) then they are merely potentialities under the control of the GM.

    OK, so that’s how you see it. Yes, that mindset is truly anti-blorby.

    First is a matter of trust among the players and the GM. Blorb preparation deals with this by not dealing with said trust but player verification of GM pre-game notes.

    No, if there is complete trust (somehow…?) you don’t need that verification to be blorby. Obv I do advocate for such verification.

    Second the magic of the Gloricle (which I believe is a description of “blorby” play) leads to player “immersion.” Great! That is a Technique you employ to help facilitate getting your players to a state of being - that of “immersion”. That’s a hard thing to do in general and that you manage to achieve it regularly is to be commended. But it isn’t the only way to facilitate the same effect in the one’s players.

    So I’ve written before about the two separate forms of immersion: buy-in–immersion and mood-immersion.

    Buy-in–immersion is when you all believe that what’s going on is “real”. You obv don’t do that, since you can write that it’s merely potentialities under the control of the GM.

    Mood-immersion is strong in your game. You get in character, you don’t tolerate out-of-character talk, every blow of the orc is described vividly & with great energy etc.

    Arguably I would want to have both.

  • Err even if I find the point weak, it wouldn't be that caricatural. Maybe like all conflicts are 1-1 and the other are helpers (plenty of games) or it's 2 front ranks and two back ranks max. That would be pretty scripted and still viable. But the players would have to find their challenge in, say, managing coins and vials, rather than maneuvering a combat space.
  • Sure. Here's a more realistic version of that we deal with all the time:

    When our characters search a space to try to find something, do we play it out (leaning on the player's skill and wits), or do we have them roll a Search check based on the character's capabilities?

    It's the same idea; do you value the player's ability to "play" and meet a challenge head-on, or do you want a more accurate simulation?

    Anyway, it's just a small sidenote; it's not really that important to the larger discussion.

    All I wanted to say was that "blorby", "gloracular" concepts and techniques have a very natural and effective application in something like a Gamist mode of play, and are often used that way. (I think transparency of method is more important here than you do, by the way, Sandra: I think that, because the methods never describe or align with the diegetical world perfectly 1-to-1, hiding them from the players makes less able to make smart choices. So your choice to establish transparency of method increases buy-in and enables better play: you *could* play without it, probably, but it's an effective tool, not to be overlooked.)

    This is all coming back to the original topic, which is whether "narrativism" is possible with "traditional techniques" and "blorby" prep. I don't see how "blorby prep" is as necessary in Narrativist play (and have yet to see an example to demonstrate why it would be harmful) as it is in this kind of game; you can have a totally effective Narrativist game with traditional techniques (whether it's a la Sorcerer or a la "spicy dice", as in Jay's game) without strict "blorb" whatsoever.
  • Sure. Here’s a more realistic version of that we deal with all the time:

    When our characters search a space to try to find something, do we play it out (leaning on the player’s skill and wits), or do we have them roll a Search check based on the character’s capabilities?It’s the same idea; do you value the player’s ability to “play” and meet a challenge head-on, or do you want a more accurate simulation?Anyway, it’s just a small sidenote; it’s not really that important to the larger discussion.

    Arguably the rule I’m tryna push [admittedly not going over well atm], which is that if you want your character to be “worse than yourself” you should do that using the insp/flaws system, is more dramatic than challenge based.

    A challenge based game could very well be limited by your characters skill & your build. You see this on optimization sites like Giant in the Playground all the time, how they always want to make sure there’s a skillmonkey in the party etc. In Magic the Gathering if you don’t have a guy on your side that can Forestwalk, well, then you can’t forestwalk. Skill challenges in 4e were based on a similar idea.

    For me the primary reason why I went for finchian and for the idea that you are not limited by your characters int or wis is the stance issue. You never have to remember to play dumb or play oblivious, you can just fall into the sense of presence & being there. (Same with my entire “dungeon for ants” spiel and larping things out. I want you to “be there”.)

    Because of the “mirror story” experience. Suddenly I was there. I felt the cold stone under my feet.

    All I wanted to say was that “blorby”, “gloracular” concepts and techniques have a very natural and effective application in something like a Gamist mode of play, and are often used that way. (I think transparency of method is more important here than you do, by the way, Sandra: I think that, because the methods never describe or align with the diegetical world perfectly 1-to-1, hiding them from the players makes less able to make smart choices. So your choice to establish transparency of method increases buy-in and enables better play: you could play without it, probably, but it’s an effective tool, not to be overlooked.)

    Yes, you’re right. It does suit challenge play well and a lot of my choices are made from a challenge perspective. People are into the soap opera layer and the challenge layer to various degree among our table; we have one player who completely checks out whenever there’s a puzzle.
    Your theory that challenge is a very powerful saliency meter was a good start, but…

    It’s rather that character life&death is salient. Character quest success is salient. Those things are salient regardless of CA.

    “Loaded guns on the table” theory; it’s OK if we go through a session without rolling dice just like we could get through a whole conversation without either of us reaching for our guns.

    But when someone might die, we need to make dice level engagements.

    I don’t know, last session, and we usually play three hour sessions on weeknights, There were strength saves and hp spends to withstand rushing water, cure wounds rolls meant to refresh people after exerting themselves vs the rushing water, and wis saves to handle a memory loss issue later. Oh, yeah, a d100 on a particular table [being vague b/c spoilers for Tomb of A]. That was it in terms of dice level engagement in a 3 hour session, which was spent doing puzzles and exploration.

    I don’t see how “blorby prep” is as necessary in Narrativist play (and have yet to see an example to demonstrate why it would be harmful) as it is in this kind of game;

    Maybe you’ve missed posts? I linked to this example earlier.

    you can have a totally effective Narrativist game with traditional techniques (whether it’s a la Sorcerer or a la “spicy dice”, as in Jay’s game) without strict “blorb” whatsoever.

    And I wrote this earlier:

    The reason for using hippie techniques isn’t because of technical necessity. Traditional techniques can handle anything. The reason the hippie techniques are mandatory is because of expectation management.

    Yes, the whole no myth, int-con thing is what I’m saying is bad (together with traditional techniques).
    That it’s a bad technique.

    Now, there are two reactions to this.

    One “you can’t say a technique is bad, how dare you be so narrowminded, the general class of statements that includes ‘This technique is bad’ is a thoughtcrime, a verboten thought, you need to be more openminded and open to the thoughts that say that all techniques are permissible and do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the technique”. To which… no; we can all imagine techniques that are bad. Using real russian roulette to resolve tasks. Overly cumbersome and unweildy rules. Using GURPS. Telling players that we’re definitely not going to do Cthulhu this time, I promise, it’s just a normal cyberpunk game and then doing Cthulhu in the cyberpunk game.

    Two “well, this particular technique is good. It’s certainly common and you have a big burden of proof on you if you want to argue for it being bad”. Which, yes. This is a better response. But we’ve had to slog through four pages of people not understanding my position (arguably my fault for giving this thread such an inaccurate title) and people having reaction “one” from last paragraph, the “how dare you say ANYTHING is bad? ’sall good man!”

    The arguments and examples I’ve put forth for it being bad have been ignored or overlooked by you, Paul; me and DeReel had a productive exchange about it where in the end he was like “I think it’s worth the cost” and I was like “no way” and that was the impasse.

  • I agree with @Silmenume that your games are almost entirely opposites of each other. The focus in your game (Sandra) is, it seems to me, to create something as "tangible" as possible that the players can then interact with. There are solid and predictable qualities and quantities and solid and reliable ways to interact with them. We know that there's something inside the treasure chest, and that, if we open it, Sandra won't change what it is on us. We know that the monsters will attack according to an algorithm. We know how much we can carry. And so on...

    You want things to *be* as real and tangible as possible, and for player decisions to matter as much as possible. This demands transparency of method.
    This thread has become really interesting to me. The "tangible" play here is exactly what I have focused my Torchbearer GM-ing on, and I think it's something the game does really well by making time, light, inventory, etc into completely player-facing currencies. I also play with transparent obstacles (the difficulty rating of each roll). Players can look to the back of the book and tell me the difficulty of brewing a certain elixir, or a vertical ascent with two climbers (I get to add +1 ob for extenuating circumstances, or grant them an extra die for an advantage, but that's the extent of my GM influence).

    I think the few of my friends that didn't take to the system either said that it was too complicated or it wasn't immersive. I don't actually think Torchbearer is more complicated than other dungeon crawling games, but far more of the rules are player-facing. This thread has helped me see why some folks had a problem with immersion. Every time I explained a new system, I was supporting my agenda of a transparent, tangible game but undermining their desire for a bit of "fog of war".
  • That's a good insight! I like that.
  • edited May 2019
    The immersionnist player who wants to blur the machinery I understand perfectly. As in a Larp where you want less things that derail your suspension of disbelief.
    What I found absurd and came to understand only lately is those players who invoke immersionnism to cling (my perspective obviously) to same old systems where the scenery is crowded with dice, game knobs and levers. The machinery protruding every step into the dreamscape. Sedimentation, calcification, fetishization sometimes. Trying not to judge, I just want to say : try different things, you'll be surprised how you'll like what you fear now.
  • Sandra,

    I think we might be reaching consensus here! That's nice to see.

    Here's what I'm getting out of this thread - you tell me whether I'm missing your point or not, ok?

    * Playing with traditional mechanics can set up an expectation of "blorby" play.
    * If that's not what you're doing, you can "telegraph" your game's actual means and goals far better if you use dramatically different techniques.
    * Otherwise, if you're playing "un-blorby", and the players are expecting "blorby", you'll disappoint people (or have other issues, or whatever).
    * If you're trying to run a Narrativist game using traditional techniques, it's really likely that you're running things in a "non-blorby" way, but the players are expecting "blorby" GMing, and therefore you'll be at odds.

    If that's your point, I agree 100%. I was expecting something... stronger... from the opening line ("Narrativism with traditional techniques is bullshit!"), though. Like some kind of fundamental incompatibility or some theoretical problem.

    I also agree that traditional techniques are not ideal for Narrativist play; but overlooking the dozens of published games and the decades of experience people have had playing in that style would be very strange - Narrativist play with traditional techniques is all there was for people for most of the lifespan of roleplaying games. And I recently played Sorcerer, which is traditional in many, many respects, and it was definitely Narrativist and we had a great time.

    Because of the “mirror story” experience. Suddenly I was there. I felt the cold stone under my feet.

    I think this is important to a lot of people! No doubt. And it's one reason to use "blorb prep" or traditional techniques, or both, for some people, in their Narrativist endeavours. But that's a very personal thing; for some people "blorbiness" helps with "feeling like you're there", for others it's that but also trust in the GM, for others still it's just about emotional connection to the story, and for some it's familiar mechanics that they don't need to spend any brain power parsing.

    I also like some aspects of "blorb" for this reason; but I don't *need* it at all to "feel like I'm there", as I've discovered after playing a variety of games. (Though the trust in the game, the process, and the people is really key; and that's where it might come into play for you and me. Not everyone needs that, though, particularly if they've never had bad GM experiences, for instance.)

    It’s rather that character life&death is salient. Character quest success is salient. Those things are salient regardless of CA.

    But when someone might die, we need to make dice level engagements.
    Ha! You really don't see how "character life & death" and "character quest success" are issues of challenge? All those are challenges for the players to confront and try to win.

    Have you ever played in a game where someone wanted to play a martyr, and wanted a glorious death? Or to see their character fall into a deep depression and commit suicide? Or tell the story of a man pursuing a "quest" for all the wrong reasons, failing, and learning something about himself in the process?

    There are lots of games and playstyles where those issues aren't on the table at all.

    I don’t see how “blorby prep” is as necessary in Narrativist play (and have yet to see an example to demonstrate why it would be harmful) as it is in this kind of game;

    Maybe you’ve missed posts? I linked to this example earlier.
    I'm sorry if you felt that I ignored that example. I thought about writing about it, but I thought I'd come off as even more annoying to you.

    You see, I think that example actually strengthens my argument here, rather than being a counterpoint.

    What I'm looking for is an example of Narrativist play with traditional mechanics, right? And how not using "hygienic" practices (I'm getting really tired of using "blorb" in sentences, I think I much prefer "hygienic" and "gloracle" or "principled prep") ruined the Narrativism.

    In this case, we have a game which is not very traditional (anyone who's read Lady Blackbird can attest to that, I think) and isn't supposed to be run in a traditional way (it specifically tells you not to plan ahead, and asking the players questions to establish the fictional situation should clue players in to its improvisational nature right away).

    Furthermore, there's absolutely no reason I can see to assume (from that writeup) that there was any Narrativism happening.

    What I see is players engaging in what they thought was challenge-based play, and being disappointed when it turned out that it wasn't. This could be read as a failure of non-blorbiness in challenge-based play, perhaps, but not as a failure to produce Narrativism.

    (I say "perhaps" because the players in this case were rather deluded, I think; coming up with the "steam dragon" solution is actually far more clever and interesting if it was their original idea than if it had been a "GM's plan". Their real disappointment was not that they didn't get to face a proper challenge and win... it was in their own misguided belief that the GM was controlling the whole experience and had planned it all out. In other words, it's not that their premise-addressing or challenge-overcoming was invalidated - again, coming up with that solution is just as clever and just as successful whether the GM improvised the dragon or not, so long as the GM didn't come up with the steam breath thing *in response* to their being out of coal - but that they were disappointed to discover Tod hadn't rigged it all from the start.)

    (Perhaps a better way to say it: they thought that "figure out Tod's secret plan" was the challenge here, and they were disappointed to discover that it was "figure out something that works on your own", instead. Personally, I would have been excited by that, rather than disappointed - it would mean that it was genuinely my original idea and a clever solution to the diegetic problem.)

    (None of that has anything to do with traditional vs. non-traditional mechanics or Narrativism at all - not that I can see, anyway.)
    Using GURPS.
    Ha! Thanks for making me laugh again. :) I'm going to miss these conversations if we can't continue them after August!
  • (As a sidenote: Your notes on Finchian techniques and stance are super smart and right on, by the way! Agreed in full.)
    • Playing with traditional mechanics can set up an expectation of “blorby” play.
    • If that’s not what you’re doing, you can “telegraph” your game’s actual means and goals far better if you use dramatically different techniques.
    • Otherwise, if you’re playing “un-blorby”, and the players are expecting “blorby”, you’ll disappoint people (or have other issues, or whatever).
    • If you’re trying to run a Narrativist game using traditional techniques, it’s really likely that you’re running things in a “non-blorby” way, but the players are expecting “blorby” GMing, and therefore you’ll be at odds.

    I’m gonna make it even weaker by changing the “really likely” to “possible”.

    If that’s your point, I agree 100%. I was expecting something… stronger… from the opening line (“Narrativism with traditional techniques is bullshit!”), though. Like some kind of fundamental incompatibility or some theoretical problem.

    Yeah that opening line was maybe why it was hard to get across my position; you asked if I knew that narr can do traditional techniques, I said that’s complicated and then I went to the entire super complicated spiel that amounts to that yes but if it happens to be unblorby and you’re doing unblorby with trad techniques you’re no good.

    Ha! You really don’t see how “character life & death” and “character quest success” are issues of challenge? All those are challenges for the players to confront and try to win.

    Have you ever played in a game where someone wanted to play a martyr, and wanted a glorious death? Or to see their character fall into a deep depression and commit suicide? Or tell the story of a man pursuing a “quest” for all the wrong reasons, failing, and learning something about himself in the process?

    Yes. Because character life & death and character quest, uh, let’s say result rather than success, aren’t only issues of challenge.

    There are lots of games and playstyles where those issues aren’t on the table at all.

    Which is the point I’m making.

    What I’m looking for is an example of Narrativist play with traditional mechanics, right?

    No. As I’ve said Narr can do trad just fine.

    Therefore, if you go back to that post you’ll see that I changed the example to unblorby play in traditional mechanics.

    And how not using “hygienic” practices (I’m getting really tired of using “blorb” in sentences, I think I much prefer “hygienic” and “gloracle” or “principled prep”) ruined the Narrativism.

    I don’t like the hygienic. It’s become kind of an iffy word since the racism thread.

    The gloracle is a tool for this playstyle and gloracular is a property that answers derived from the gloracle have. I guess you could synechdochicallly call the playstyle gloracular but we want to cut down on polysemic words, not increase the amount.

    Also I already registered blorby-games.com :bawling:
    Where I was thinking of putting up a vanilla or discourse site.

    So we need a word for these three things together:

    • three tiers of truth principle
    • wallpaper saliency principle
    • saliency time zoom principle

    Yeah principled prep is a good phrase for it.

    In this case, we have a game which is not very traditional (anyone who’s read Lady Blackbird can attest to that, I think) and isn’t supposed to be run in a traditional way (it specifically tells you not to plan ahead, and asking the players questions to establish the fictional situation should clue players in to its improvisational nature right away).

    It looks traditional enough to me and it obv did to that player.

    Furthermore, there’s absolutely no reason I can see to assume (from that writeup) that there was any Narrativism happening.

    Irrelevant to case which is:

    • trad play without principrep is bad.
    • narr play have a slightly higher chance of not prioritizing principrep.

    The first point is in action whether or not the second point has been invoked. Which is why the example is revelant. And it’s only the first one I could think of, I’m sure you’ve found many others. Such as that 1-HP-remaining lighting bolt.

    What I see is players engaging in what they thought was challenge-based play, and being disappointed when it turned out that it wasn’t. This could be read as a failure of non-blorbiness in challenge-based play, perhaps,

    Regardless of whether or not it was challenged-based play, it was failure of non-blorbiness with traditional techniques.

    but not as a failure to produce Narrativism.

    Which wasn’t the point of the example.

    it was in their own misguided belief

    Which is why it’s a question of expectation management.

    (PS thank you Tod for generously sharing this experience and please don’t feel like I’m picking on you)

    None of that has anything to do with traditional vs. non-traditional mechanics or Narrativism at all - not that I can see, anyway.

    Not with narrativism, see above, but yes with traditional mechanics. I def had games like LB and AW in mind when talking about traditional mechanics—now some of those might be run blorbily in which case there’s no problem. Others might be salvaged by adding on a heavy slew of hippie techniques.

    I’m going to miss these conversations if we can’t continue them after August!

    sandra.snan@idiomdrottning.org same address for email & XMPP

  • This thread has become really interesting to me.

    I think the few of my friends that didn’t take to the system either said that it was too complicated or it wasn’t immersive.

    Yeah, Torchbearer has buy-in immersion at the cost of mood immersion. My “project bathwater” a few years ago was my attempt to increase the mood immersion without giving up one drop of buy-in immersion. I’d have to give up cracking jokes all the time though and playing all those “hilarious” sound clips all the time. Fun fun fun. (Partying partying.)

    I don’t actually think Torchbearer is more complicated than other dungeon crawling games, but far more of the rules are player-facing.

    I’m really into the fact that the rules are player facing. I think the conflict rules are a bit complicated

  • Hi Sandra,
    ... Ideally your game have or would have similar knowledge; like how you know that daggers & arrows do PBP damage in your game. It wouldn’t be great if you didn’t know that, right? All of a sudden an arrow kills you and you were like “wait what? I had like 50 stamina left.”
    See, this is interesting. The reason for the very existence of this particular mechanic is very different from task resolution mechanics typically employed in Gamist facilitating games. The DM didn't create this mechanic (dagger & arrows bypassing stamina and doing straight PBP) so as to present the players with a ex-diegetic tactical option. He created this mechanic so that the players of high level characters never stop fearing (read - experiencing) for their lives in combat - even against your bog standard issue, Mark I, first level Orc. IOW that mechanic wasn't designed to clarify to the player what can and cannot be done but rather to instill a sense of player fear.

    Also note in your example of the surprised player at the implied sudden change of the fabric of reality of the fictional world. The presumption presented was that arrows doing direct PBP was never heretofore encountered. That was never the case. If the GM were to suddenly make a sudden hard break from the bricoled reality of the world there would be a riot at the table - that would be a form of CA specific player deprotagonization. Part of the Process of play in this CA is the player figuring out how the world works and that can only happen if the presented reality (read - the actions demonstrated within the SIS) is consistent. IOW - we don't need to have ex-diegetic mechanics to tell us that arrows are deadly when 40 years of gaming always had arrows act with the same lethal effect.
    In your game a lot of the time the DM is saying “You do this, this and this. Roll a twenty-sided!” and you reply “1d20 + 7 = 8” and he says “OK the enemy does this, this and this! Roll a twenty-sided!” and you reply “1d20 = 16” and he says “Oh wow, it almost this this but you this and this and this! And then you this and this and this! Roll a twenty-sided!” and you reply “1d20 + 7 = 21” and he says “no you almost this but then this and this, and suddenly a big this!!!! wow! roll a twenty-sided!” and you go NATURAL TWENTY! and everyone cheers.

    And I’m like… wait when are you doing things except just listing numbers? Sometimes. Creating characters. Talking about the scenario before the game.
    Unfortunately you got tripped up by the nature of the communicating in a textural medium. What isn't being accounted for, because it would be such a verbose process, is all the somatic stuff we're doing at the table. Much but not all, granted, of the GM saying "you do this" or "you do that" is his verbalizing our mimed actions. What you're hearing (or what I've posted) is only a part of the total communication process and for the most part is the lesser part during combat. Numbers are part of that communicative process. They point at the relative boon or bust of fate at that moment but the specifics come from the SIS which equals GM description. How (not what) he describes these events is a matter of style and mood and in the case of combat at our table the mode of description is designed to be as exciting and dramatic as possible. Those die rolls are part of that excitement because we don't know exactly what will come of them. We have to be deeply focused on the value of the numbers because of just how granular the combat is on a somatic level. IOW we have to be prepared to react instantly to a result that isn't what we hoped.
    But some of the time it’s the DM saying what you do. “You go in.” “You crash through the door.” “You pull out your knife.” That is not same logic processes I engage in real life.
    Most of this is covered in the above portion of the post, but I'm not seeing how these example statements invalidate the process of us players working out what is going on in the world - including such intangibles as the significance of any event, if any. Granted much of this is background but it does serve the purpose of maintaining the baseline of the world. Its when events stray from the necessary baseline that we engage the logic process. That logic process demands a baseline in order to work. To point to instances of baseline stuff as evidence of how the logic process doesn't work or apply misses the whole point of the baseline.

    There is more of your post to cover and I will get there as soon as I can.

    Best,

    Jay
  • Well, if that’s your position, we have nothing to disagree on. I think the “lighter” position is fairly uncontroversial.

    However, I also think that, for many people, applying non-blorb techniques is what’s made gaming really good for them. (I’ve just been reading discussions about this on the Gauntlet, which promotes the “make it up as you go along” method seen in Lady Blackbird and PbtA games and has become the dominant play style that people enjoy over in that community.

    If you consider PbtA “traditional” in that sense, then that’s a pretty big data point.

    I’d counter that “yeah, those games are traditional to a major extent, but the expectations they late out are very clear”.

    The problem Tod described (even if it as a problem at all!) is easily solved with a two minute conversation, in my opinion. (“This is a collaborative storytelling rpg, and there are no secrets between the players.”)

    Example:

    https://forums.gauntlet-rpg.com/t/secrecy-pros-and-cons/1810/11
  • Yeah, I've read this entire thread (blorb help me), and I still don't really have any idea of what Sandra considers to be "traditional mechanics" or "traditional techniques."

    ***

    Many, many games have some elements of the setting that are hard-prepped by the GM, while other elements are either improvised on the fly by the GM, or can even be authored by the players. Is this inherently problematic?

    I'm thinking of Burning Wheel. I've experienced serious problems with BW play, but not really related to the issue of, er, blorbiness. People I've played with generally understand intuitively that some setting info is pre-prepared, while some of it is generated in other ways. What matters in BW is the focus on the characters' Beliefs, and the bad stuff is anything that gets in the way of that focus.
  • The DM didn’t create this mechanic (dagger & arrows bypassing stamina and doing straight PBP) so as to present the players with a ex-diegetic tactical option.

    Yes, I understand that and I have similar motivation for the mechanics I design. It’s not about math tactics, it’s about creating an emotional response in the player that matches the intended diegetics (although I do take care so that the math tactics line up with what’s emotionally engaging diegetically; i.e. you don’t want the “best” move on the dice layer to be something completely unnatural and boring, a la the problem Magic ran into with the Odyssey expansion giving your patrol hounds first strike seven times, completely reduntantly, just so that you could have enough cards in your graveyard to fuel some other spell—I (and Cary) have someawareness of the dice-level tactical implications of the rules we design to prevent bad gameplay like that).

    He created this mechanic so that the players of high level characters never stop fearing (read - experiencing) for their lives in combat - even against your bog standard issue, Mark I, first level Orc. IOW that mechanic wasn’t designed to clarify to the player what can and cannot be done but rather to instill a sense of player fear.

    Yes, relying on player awareness of the mechanic in order to convey a particular emotion, which is exactly why I said it was cool. The PBP/Stamina rule isn’t shrouded by fog of war, players know to fear daggers and arrows.

    Also note in your example of the surprised player at the implied sudden change of the fabric of reality of the fictional world. The presumption presented was that arrows doing direct PBP was never heretofore encountered. That was never the case.

    Yes, I’m saying how weird it would’ve been if that would’ve been the case with the implicit understanding that such a weird gamestate would of course never be the case, because of the riot you mention:

    If the GM were to suddenly make a sudden hard break from the bricoled reality of the world there would be a riot at the table - that would be a form of CA specific player deprotagonization. Part of the Process of play in this CA is the player figuring out how the world works and that can only happen if the presented reality (read - the actions demonstrated within the SIS) is consistent. IOW - we don’t need to have ex-diegetic mechanics to tell us that arrows are deadly when 40 years of gaming always had arrows act with the same lethal effect.

    Exactly; consistency is valued. I just want to really, really emphasize how much I value similar consistency, beyond just the presented part of the SIS and into the hitherto unrevealed and unshared parts of the imagined space. Such as what’s in that box.

    Unfortunately you got tripped up by the nature of the communicating in a textural medium. What isn’t being accounted for, because it would be such a verbose process, is all the somatic stuff we’re doing at the table. Much but not all, granted, of the GM saying “you do this” or “you do that” is his verbalizing our mimed actions.

    I’ll grant you that. Even with my limited experience with more diegetic fighting we’ve noticed this phenomenon and its appeal. Very cool.

    Those die rolls are part of that excitement because we don’t know exactly what will come of them. We have to be deeply focused on the value of the numbers because of just how granular the combat is on a somatic level. IOW we have to be prepared to react instantly to a result that isn’t what we hoped.

    Right but what I’ve noticed is that this effect was heightened even more when you knew whether your dice roll is an attack roll or a defense roll.

    Granted much of this is background but it does serve the purpose of maintaining the baseline of the world. Its when events stray from the necessary baseline that we engage the logic process. That logic process demands a baseline in order to work. To point to instances of baseline stuff as evidence of how the logic process doesn’t work or apply misses the whole point of the baseline.

    I don’t like this idea of the “baseline”; or rather, it depends. When players set up their “default behavior” (“we always check the ceiling before entering any room”) that can work fine. When the DM is making assumptions (“this is what a wood elf would’ve done in that situation”) there is a role clash.

    Also, again, Jay, thanks for your patience and generosity in working through these topics.♥ I know how much you love your game and I can imagine how criticism of the game can sting.:bawling:

  • Well, if that’s your position, we have nothing to disagree on. I think the “lighter” position is fairly uncontroversial.

    However, I also think that, for many people, applying non-blorb techniques is what’s made gaming really good for them. (I’ve just been reading discussions about this on the Gauntlet, which promotes the “make it up as you go along” method seen in Lady Blackbird and PbtA games and has become the dominant play style that people enjoy over in that community.

    In which case even my lighter position is controversial.

    If you consider PbtA “traditional” in that sense, then that’s a pretty big data point.

    I’d counter that “yeah, those games are traditional to a major extent, but the expectations they late out are very clear”.The problem Tod described (even if it as a problem at all!) is easily solved with a two minute conversation, in my opinion. (“This is a collaborative storytelling rpg, and there are no secrets between the players.”)

    OK, so still talking about the expectation management drawback of combining no-myth with trad tech:
    I disagree because I think affordance & conveyance and user experience design are stronger communication vectors than a short conversation and that our consciousness works on many levels and that these vectors can override emotionally what we’ve “learned” in the conversation.

    But also let me introduce another drawback of combining no-myth & trad tech:
    It’s also a wasted opportunity because you could’ve blorb (or whatever the new name is gonna be), which would’ve been awesome. You have information separation, you have resolution mechanics on some level, you have players with one character each, you have the identifying stance, you have a GM / facilitator role. Those five things could’ve enabled blorby play, and yet…

    Yeah, I’ve read this entire thread (blorb help me), and I still don’t really have any idea of what Sandra considers to be “traditional mechanics” or “traditional techniques.”

    You’re right; I didn’t really know because that phrase is what the asker in PM used.

    But let’s say it’s these five things:

    • information separation
    • resolution mechanics (on some level)
    • players with one character each (i.e. no “pool” like Microscope / Final Girl, but yes maybe henches/stable/troupe like Ars Magica / Silmenume’s game)
    • identifying stance
    • game master / “playing the world” role (could be handled by multiple participants but those participants aren’t also playing player characters)

    A game is sufficiently hippie to get away with non-blorb if it fundamentally and experientally disrupts one or more of those five techniques. Microscope and Fiasco (not saying whether or not they are narr games) are obvious examples.

    With that definition, PbtA is more traditional-techniques than hippie.

    PbtA can still be saved if you are satisfied with the degree it is being MCd blorby (like Ron argued in his video)—it uses tier 2 truths (arguably too subjective for my taste but I’ve only ran the game once—I had a similar objection to Eero’s “recursive coin flip truth” yet other players have reported satisfaction with that degree of blorbiness) and it does use some tier 1 truths (the threat map). Sometimes “barfing forth apocalyptica” is really, really good wallpaper. But sometimes it’s elements that would’ve been better served handled gloracularly.

    Sil’s game, I do not know to what extent the elements in the scenarios are improvised (and to what extent the improvised elements are wallpaper vs salient).

    Lady Blackbird, I do not like. Arguably Blades took several steps towards a greater degree of gloracle engagement.

    Many, many games have some elements of the setting that are hard-prepped by the GM, while other elements are either improvised on the fly by the GM, or can even be authored by the players. Is this inherently problematic?

    That is the unproven hypothesis I’m laying forth, yes.

  • Yeah, no, sorry, that hypothesis completely contradicts almost all, if not all, of my best gaming experiences.

    It just... isn't that hard to get across to people what they can expect to be hard-prepped, and what they (or the GM) can author on the fly.

    Besides, in these games I'm talking about, we generally *don't* have completely trad tech at work. Now that I have your list of criteria, Burning Wheel does not have all that much information separation (dramatic irony is a MAJOR principle of the game), and most players don't seem to play it in identifying stance.

    So, if your hypothesis is that, when all five "trad tech" elements are in play, then play must be blorby to be satisfying, that's fine, because Burning Wheel (for example, though it's not a random example—it's very important to me) isn't entirely trad to begin with.

    Even PbtA games, while more trad tech than hippie, explicitly does not make the GM the world-builder. The rules of AW specifically make the players, from the very first scene of the very first session, and even during chargen, the world-builders. That sets the expectation just fine. The GM creates and runs the threats / fronts, sure, and maybe some NPCs. But PbtA does, in fact, disrupt your 5th criterion, quite heavily.
  • edited May 2019
    Yeah, no, sorry,

    Haha wow not the kindest way to put it♥

    that hypothesis completely contradicts almost all, if not all, of my best gaming experiences.

    Then we have contradicting experiences! So we need to do some more research♥

    It just… isn’t that hard to get across to people what they can expect to be hard-prepped, and what they (or the GM) can author on the fly.

    I’ve found that to be very difficult.

    Besides, in these games I’m talking about, we generally don’t have completely trad tech at work. Now that I have your list of criteria, Burning Wheel does not have all that much information separation (dramatic irony is a MAJOR principle of the game), and most players don’t seem to play it in identifying stance.

    So, if your hypothesis is that, when all five “trad tech” elements are in play, then play must be blorby to be satisfying, that’s fine, because Burning Wheel (for example, though it’s not a random example—it’s very important to me) isn’t entirely trad to begin with.

    Right, so to the extent that that is true, BW is safe. And if it is safe, it also doesn’t contradict the hypothesis.

    Even PbtA games, while more trad tech than hippie, explicitly does not make the GM the world-builder.

    I don’t think that’s always that clear.

    The rules of AW specifically make the players, from the very first scene of the very first session, and even during chargen, the world-builders.

    Oh, that’s true. It does. A good case of introducing fundamental & experiental hippie disruption to manage expectations. I am not convinced it’s sufficient but I’ll open the door to the possibility of it being so.

    The GM creates and runs the threats / fronts, sure, and maybe some NPCs. But PbtA does, in fact, disrupt your 5th criterion, quite heavily.

    There is one participant playing the world. The MC. And the other players are playing their characters (3rd+4th criterion). Thats’ what I meant by those three criterions (5, 3 and 4). Unlike something like Microscope.

    My experience with PbtA has been that the lack of blorbiness (or the mix of blorbiness & unblorbiness) have been to the significant detriment of the game experience.

    I’ve had really strong gaming experiences with not-blorb in completely hippie games like O Coco, Stacey’s HSP or Midsummer. [Hmm, thinking back to those three experiences: really strong player characters colliding hard against each other in a tight space—an issue quite orthogonal to blorb but also kind of a limited type of genre.]

    The ability of hippie games to be strong without blorb isn’t “on trial” here.

    The hypothesis is that games that have the traditional scaffolding of GMs, players, resolution, information separation might as well throw in a full gloracle since you’ve already put that dungeon master’s screen up, and will be all the better for it.

    For reasons such as

    • expectation management
    • buy-in immersion
    • “no paper after rock” principle
    • exploration/discovery

    and, one of the best reasons: the full gloracle allows finchian/lawsian resolution which is an awesome, “invisible”, stance appropriate, diceless resolution mechanic.

    I kinda bounced off Cthulhu Dark because while I love the mathematics behind the design and how it allows for some interesting choices while gradually increasing the risk to your character, I couldn’t really groove with rolling for everything. Like, I look in the shoebox on my aunts attic, what is in there? Oh, I need to roll? OK… I guess…

  • edited May 2019
    Doesn’t Silmenume’s game check off all of those criteria, and is also not very blorby at all, and is very successful and engaging for the participants?
  • As I wrote upthread, I don't know to what extent Sil's game is blorby since I don't know to what extent elements are improvised. To me, it sounds like the blorby moments have been the most memorable, exciting, best etc moments.
  • Yes: that was one of the examples I’ve been bringing up. :)

    My experience is similar to Deliverator’s, as well as, it seems, the general trending public of the whole PbtA wave: we can have traditional GM-player split and still get absolutely great gaming if we have the right approach. It seems really consistently and remarkably effective and popular.

    It all started with games like The Shadow of Yesterday and Lady Blackbird, in my opinion. A really fun play style!
  • “No paper after rock” makes a great deal of sense when the creative goal of play is to confront challenges. I’m not sure it’s terribly relevant at all if your creative goals aren’t about challenges whatsoever.
  • “No paper after rock” makes a great deal of sense when the creative goal of play is to confront challenges. I’m not sure it’s terribly relevant at all if your creative goals aren’t about challenges whatsoever.
    It's also relevant for discovery and for social interaction
  • I think that you need information separation for that, but not necessarily blorb. If I’m good at making stuff up on the spot, you can still have a great time discovering it or interacting with its denizens.
  • If I’m good at making stuff up on the spot, you can still have a great time discovering it or interacting with its denizens.
    That was the exact playstyle I had for twenty years. So that has been thoroughly experimented with.

    Interactions are much more solid and consequential when there's solid blorb underneath, and resolutions are also more solid (finchian/lawsian rather than just "Everway drama"; which tended to lead play subconsciously a long a path I subconsciously had dreamed up).
  • As I wrote upthread, I don't know to what extent Sil's game is blorby since I don't know to what extent elements are improvised. To me, it sounds like the blorby moments have been the most memorable, exciting, best etc moments.
    I'd argue that the very fact the no-one, not even Silmenume, can tell to what extent the elements are improvised or prepared, argues strongly that they're improvised to a significant extent. I think that precisely because of the value of preparation in making things feel real, GMs will often misdirect the players into believing more is prepared than actually is, and almost never in the opposite direction.

    Without a GM open about his methods, I think the best indication of fidelity to preparation is something like Paul's moon marooning story: something that, in retrospect, makes perfect sense in the context of circumstances and decisions made, while still feeling uninteresting, or directionless, or unsatisfying.

    @Silmenume, do you know the story I'm referencing? Do things like that happen in your game?
  • The players in an AW game just have too much ongoing input into how the world *is* for me to take seriously the idea that it's a traditional game. Sure, they may not usually portray elements of the world outside their characters, but they do create those elements, ideally throughout play, through the GM asking questions.

    Now, various other PbtA games do a better or worse job of integrating these considerations, to be sure.
  • edited May 2019
    The players in an AW game just have too much ongoing input into how the world *is* for me to take seriously the idea that it's a traditional game.
    In which case it's a sufficiently hippie-disrupted game for it to be irrelevant for the hypothesis

  • Is that fair, though? Once we're past the first session, an AW game often "reverts" to a pretty traditional playstyle (with the player contributions helping cement buy-in), with prepared Fronts/threats, countdown clocks, and other rather "traditional" forms of GM prep. I'd argue that AW's "first session" advice is quite non-traditional, but the rest of the game is far closer to "traditional" than what Sandra is talking about here (e.g. GMless, collaborative, no-prep, no hidden information, etc).
  • If I’m good at making stuff up on the spot, you can still have a great time discovering it or interacting with its denizens.
    That was the exact playstyle I had for twenty years. So that has been thoroughly experimented with.

    Interactions are much more solid and consequential when there's solid blorb underneath, and resolutions are also more solid (finchian/lawsian rather than just "Everway drama"; which tended to lead play subconsciously a long a path I subconsciously had dreamed up).
    Boy, can I relate to "lead play subconsciously along a path". So true! A great metaphor.

    However, have you ever played in an improvisational style where a) the players have far more input into the improvisation (e.g. the first session in AW), b) where the mechanical resolutions are solid, grounded, and objective (e.g. Burning Wheel, other strict "conflict resolution" games), or c) with an entirely different creative agenda in mind?

    What have your experiences with that kind of play been like?

    (My experience is that any of those three can be sufficient to undercut that "Everway drama"/subconscious path style of play. Get all three at the same time, and it's not even a possibility.)
  • but the rest of the game is far closer to “traditional” than what Sandra is talking about here (e.g. GMless, collaborative, no-prep, no hidden information, etc).

    In which case it benefits from being ran more blorbily.

    However, have you ever played in an improvisational style where a) the players have far more input into the improvisation (e.g. the first session in AW), b) where the mechanical resolutions are solid, grounded, and objective (e.g. Burning Wheel, other strict “conflict resolution” games), or c) with an entirely different creative agenda in mind?

    What have your experiences with that kind of play been like?

    A. Well, sufficiently hippie to not tread on blorb’s toes so that’s fine

    B. I played Mouse Guard and found it kinda frustrating because (this was only a one-shot though) we still had the scripted “path” even though our relative successes and failures “along” that path was something we had an ability to influence.

    My thinking is that these kind of mechanics can be effective tier 2 truths for purposes of gloracle. I rely on similar for my own game. E.g. instead of prepping exactly how many blood violas grow in each square meter of the jungle I have a rule for players making wisdom checks to find blood violas.

    C. Uhh….

  • edited May 2019
    Hi @shimrod,
    Without a GM open about his methods, I think the best indication of fidelity to preparation is something like Paul's moon marooning story: something that, in retrospect, makes perfect sense in the context of circumstances and decisions made, while still feeling uninteresting, or directionless, or unsatisfying.

    @Silmenume, do you know the story I'm referencing? Do things like that happen in your game?
    I read the link that Sandra was kind enough to provide. To answer your question in short - No. Never once can I remember a game that came anywhere near to what Paul had described.

    Now the longer reply. Our chosen style of game is epic heroic. A slow death to the elements just isn't part of the experience. FREX - instead of the piece being irrevocably broken it might just be badly damaged and need time to be repaired. Time that is not in abundance due to an extremely limited oxygen supply. We would also find that the planet wasn't so uninhabited afterall. So now we've got a ticking clock, a possible way out, action/hostile foes and longs odds on hope.

    Just before I joined the group there was a scenario that was very similar to what Paul described but set in ME. A ship had been caught in a storm and blown to a deserted island. The ship had been damaged and needed repairs to be seaworthy again. Food and water were in short supply. To keep thing moving the players had to explore the island for supplies whereby they found not one living creature. They quickly surmised something "bad" was on the island and raced against time to build a small stockade as the sun relentlessly trekked across the sky. Sure enough there were ghouls on the island and to make matters worse a PC had got caught outside the stockade when the sun went down. Apparently it was a new player and his face got so red (and a vein starting bulging on his forehead) that the GM actually stopped running to ask if the player was OK. Apparently the fear was this player was going to have a stroke or a heart attack. Seriously. Needless to say his character died a hideous death.

    However after the game when asked what he thought of his experience. He answered, hands trembling as he lit up a smoke, "That was the most amazing experience of my life. I'll never do that again. I play to relax."

    I'm sure this is obvious to anyone whose read any of my AP posts, we don't play a Klockwerk game. Situations are always introduced to increase levels of tension. One of the techniques our GM uses is to have at least one and usually several NPCs with the group to create or ratchet up conflict so all conflict isn't always just environmental - that being monsters or nature.

    Best,

    Jay
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