Narrativism vs traditional techniques

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  • I don’t think in terms of “genres” since it’s more of a trip than a “story”
    But you're aware that, other than as a metaphor, the act of roleplaying is not a trip, but a collective narration, right? Not talking about agendas and any of that stuff, but of the social act of playing. If an anthropologist were to observe us while we play, he wouldn't say we're having a trip.
    So, for me, talking about genres is actually more pertinent in my opinion. And that is the blindness I don't like in the sandbox movement. Theirs is, too, a narrative genre with verisimilitude rules.
  • I guess I lost that awareness after suffering from it under 20 years thinking it was all narrativium and then suddenly got deluded into thinking it is real and am currently 100% delusional. And/or I mistakenly believed it was all narrativium and then suddenly got aware that it's real and am currently more aware than I was before
  • edited May 2019
    There's nothing wrong with 'narrativium'. Some people just buy into different narrativium than others do. I'd chalk it up in a lot of ways to differences in world view, thought processes and preferences with fiction.

    For instance, my anti-immersion techniques would likely ruin things for you, but for me they work above all else because I don't approach fiction immersively and am not a believer in traditional immersion because of my views on the political role of fiction in society.
  • True, that wouldn't be unblorby, but…

    Having them be able to move around on their own (which random encounters enable) make it come alive♥

    I'm running a dungeon now where there aren't random encounters and that's such a big problem compared to the Castle Ravenloft where like invisible hands fly towards you and serve you wine from chalices or an angry mob comes and wants to kick dracula's ass or whatever
    Is it a problem just for you as the DM (not enough surprises)? Or for the players as well? Are the players aware that there's no randomness?
  • edited May 2019
    On the topic of PBTA games and player expectations:

    A couple years ago a friend of mine ran a big Dungeon World campaign in a West Marches style. This was a wilderness exploration game with an open table, two GM's, multiple games per week, etc. I played in a dozen sessions out of around 50.

    This game was in "full-blorb" mode. My friend and the other GM prepared everything extensively and shared all their notes to keep things consistent. They made a bunch of changes to the moves and playbooks of Dungeon World to remove anything that involved making things up on the spot, and though I did not see the GM-side rules, it's my understanding that they also added more detailed rules and guidelines to the game about which moves could be used in which circumstances, in order to ensure the world worked consistently when switching GM's.

    From my point of view the underlying consistency / prep / no-fudge attitude was obvious. Telltale signs included (as Paul would predict) occasional boring sessions where we went out exploring somewhere and didn't find much of anything, and the occasional player death due to bad decisions and bad dice rolls. This was very much what I had signed up for and I thought it was obvious that this was what the game was going to be like from the GMs' pitch.

    However, there were other players who had a very hard time accepting the fact that the GM would not contradict his rules or prep. This was especially the case with experienced Dungeon World players. There was one player who was always at odds with the GM, trying to insert his own ideas or getting frustrated when his solution to a problem was foiled by the hidden parameters of the problem. There were one or two other players who blamed the GM when their character died (although they had gone into an obviously dangerous area and performed obviously dangerous actions). And there was somebody else who complained the GM used the "deal damage" move too often in combat, rather than offering them interesting choices. Several of these players quit the game in frustration.

    So, this game was a case where the presence of a game with non-traditional mechanics (Dungeon World) caused (some) players to have the wrong "anti-blorb" expectations. Basically the opposite problem to the one this thread has been talking about.
  • There's also a big level for me where my intent inherent lack of buy-in to blorb is a product of how strongly I'm against worldbuilding in fiction.
  • (BTW before I dig into these new replies I want to add something)

    I am aware that "I used to believe what you folx believe but now I my position is this complete opposite thing" doesn't mean that I am right and isn't a valid line of argument or reason or whatever.

    All it does mean is that "I don't believe X" isn't a good argument from y'all since I used to not believe X either so I don't put a lot of stock into not believing X in-and-of-itself.
  • There’s nothing wrong with ‘narrativium’. Some people just buy into different narrativium than others do. I’d chalk it up in a lot of ways to differences in world view, thought processes and preferences with fiction.

    For instance, my anti-immersion techniques would likely ruin things for you, but for me they work above all else because I don’t approach fiction immersively and am not a believer in traditional immersion because of my views on the political role of fiction in society.There’s also a big level for me where my intent inherent lack of buy-in to blorb is a product of how strongly I’m against worldbuilding in fiction.

    Because you want to tell a story! Which is cool, stories are cool & important. With blorb I get to live the story which is cool in another way. Less fruitful for political discourse as I tried to convey in the racist ancients thread (that it had been my experience that these types of games weren’t as good for conveying a political or philosophical position as a more hippie game would’ve been).

    Is it a problem just for you as the DM (not enough surprises)? Or for the players as well? Are the players aware that there’s no randomness?

    I think it’s more of a problem for my own enjoyment. The players know how the game is set up. Basically there is 1 monster type (that are “wandering”; the map key has more) instead of rolling from a table.

  • edited May 2019
    You're still telling a story, Sandra. It's just a story that doesn't care about literary sensibilities, and that is deeply focused on traditional immersion. You're not living it. You're just deeply invested in the story.
  • Vivs♥♥♥♥

    That is really interesting.

    There were one or two other players who blamed the GM when their character died (although they had gone into an obviously dangerous area and performed obviously dangerous actions). And there was somebody else who complained the GM used the “deal damage” move too often in combat, rather than offering them interesting choices.

    Huh. So not enough transparency of method…? When it’s not clear to what extent the gloracle is responsible, the GM takes the blame?

    What I’m hearing is that in 90s games, or when there’s an expectation of the game being ran 90s style, there isn’t really player buy-in into hard outcomes. And these Dungeon World veterans expected the game to be ran in the 90s style; not sure what that says about DW!

    I’m learning about Freebooters of the Frontier which seems to be more of a blorby take on DW? More than Vagabonds of Dyfed which I have more of a love-hate relationship with. I don’t know enough about FotF yet to make a call.

    And ofc I’m going at it from the other direction; using AW concepts like “moves” & “setup” to be able to manage IIEE prompting in a natlang fashion with mine and Paul’s “Oh Injury!” ruleset on top of D&D (and, for me, on top of my already existing “Introducing Late Night Fighting” spatial predicate layer).

    And there was somebody else who complained the GM used the “deal damage” move too often in combat, rather than offering them interesting choices.

    I want to look at this specifically.

    Conversely, if you want to make a fight easier, you can do it on the fly without trouble. Make the enemies less clever, or untrained. Don’t make them use spears to keep enemies at bay- instead, they stab wildly, heedless of danger.

    To me, this is bull. It’s not that I want the game to be super lethal—I run a game that’s much less lethal than the LL-AEC game where the “mirror story” happened—it’s hat I want the salient interactions in the game to be consequential and consistently adjudicated. In D&D, that saliency is life&death. In Cthulhu Dark or Kult the saliency is your ability to pierce the veil. (Not that that mechanic is particularly blorby in either game. And I guess it’s a bad example in Cthulhu Dark since it also retires your character which wasn’t the point I was trying to make.)

    Realizing that in DW the monsters can “deal damage” directly was a key part of making “Oh Injury!” work. Having a concept of “harm” (wounds, LIs, DSF, death saves, unconsciousness) to inflict when there wasn’t a good diegetic defense.

  • edited May 2019
    I think it’s the opposite of what you’re seeing, actually. (Although, of course, I’m just guessing too!)

    It’s not 90s style, where the GM acts to present a story. It’s 2010s style, where the players expect the GM to “draw maps but leave blanks”, to make room for collaborative improvisation. The GMs took a more “blorby” approach, so they stopped “leaving blanks”. The players got frustrated because they didn’t get to participate in some collaborative improvisation anymore, but could only interact with the GM’s prep. There were no more blanks to fill, so the players couldn’t contribute in that way anymore.
  • You’re still telling a story, Sandra. It’s just a story that doesn’t care about literary sensibilities, and that is deeply focused on traditional immersion.

    I guess the word “story” can be defined very broadly.

    You’re not living it. You’re just deeply invested in the story.

    This part I’m not really buying.

    If I’m disabled and I am talking on the phone to tell my friend (who is in the grocery store) to get corn and peas and unhulled sesame seeds and she gets it for me with money that I gave her for this purp, am I not shopping for corn and peas and seeds? I’m not physically there, but I’m consequentially interacting with the items in the store via proxy. That shopping trip is not really “just” a story.

    If I’m telling her how to fix her bike “OK now try popping off the chain… still stuck?” over phone, I’m still helping to fix the bike.

    I hope this metaphor can convey part of why the “mirror story” was so effective. We were interacting with a tangible thing and my imagination went into overdrive, adding in detail such as temperature and smells that neither the DM nor the module said, just that my mind just… went there.

    Unlike the grocery store, the space in the game is imagined [it doesn’t exist physically anywhere in the multiverse] and we’re interacting with it via words (spoken & written). But we’re still interacting with it, my relationship to it is the same. Just as in my mind I am picturing the store shelves “No, go to the frozen section, that canned corn isn’t worth it” when I’m directing my friend in the grocery store.

  • I want to mention that "it is not real" is a red herring. The relevant question is not about things physically existing. The relevant question is what kinds of ways of finding out what claims about the fictional situation are true there exist.

    In a game where narrative right, from the game master or a player, determines what is true, the only way of answering questions about the fiction are asking whoever has the right to declare that. Most games assume that people will also keep the fiction internally consistent, which means that questions can also be answered by looking at what has been established. But if something has not been established, then there is no a priori way of finding out how it will be.

    Sandboxy games try to have as much determined by other means as possible - the established fiction, preparation and procedures. Fiat is used as little as possible, which is still a fair deal, but often mostly for inconsequential details (colour in jargon).

    Essentially, the ideal is that rights of narration should not matter at all, because the relevant decisions are not based on that.

    OSR play has a referee because it is a game of exploration and making decisions under uncertainty. Otherwise it would be very easy to run without a game master.

    Sandboxy play is more "real" in the sense that we can see what is real by looking at the adventure module or other prep, and anyone could look it up and come to more or less the same conclusion. Anyone could roll on the wandering monster table, or the "who rules over this village" table, etc. Or if one is playing a modern game set in the real world, anyone can see where the nearest grocery store or hospital is, or how long would it take to drive from here to there.
  • edited May 2019
    I wouldn't say you are shopping for corn and peas and unbilled sesame seeds in that scenario. Your friend is shopping, following your instructions.

    With the helping with the bike example, you're helping, but helping doesn't require physical action.

    The mirror story as I've heard it is a case of getting deeply invested in the fiction - filling in parts of it yourself, etc. That doesn't make it real. It makes it meaningful.
  • Sandra,

    If you take the stance that “realness” is based on prep, does that mean that unprepped things aren’t real?

    If I ask you what colour the wallpaper is, and you say, on a whim, “yellow!”, and later in the game I invent a spell that turns yellow things into acid, and then use it to survive an encounter in that room, is that “real”?

    I’d argue that it feels plenty real, and is exactly how tangibility can function in non-blorb games (from a fictional perspective).
  • I think it’s the opposite of what you’re seeing, actually. (Although, of course, I’m just guessing too!)

    It’s not 90s style, where the GM acts to present a story. It’s 2010s style, where the players expect the GM to “draw maps but leave blanks”, to make room for collaborative improvisation. The GMs took a more “blorby” approach, so they stopped “leaving blanks”. The players got frustrated because they didn’t get to participate in some collaborative improvisation anymore, but could only interact with the GM’s prep. There were no more blanks to fill, so the players couldn’t contribute in that way anymore.

    Well, the specific frustrations they were having with the game seemed to indicate that that wasn’t the problem in Vivs’ example. @Vivificient, please chime in!

    In a game where narrative right, from the game master or a player, determines what is true, the only way of answering questions about the fiction are asking whoever has the right to declare that. Most games assume that people will also keep the fiction internally consistent, which means that questions can also be answered by looking at what has been established. But if something has not been established, then there is no a priori way of finding out how it will be.

    Sandboxy games try to have as much determined by other means as possible - the established fiction, preparation and procedures. Fiat is used as little as possible, which is still a fair deal, but often mostly for inconsequential details (colour in jargon).Essentially, the ideal is that rights of narration should not matter at all, because the relevant decisions are not based on that.OSR play has a referee because it is a game of exploration and making decisions under uncertainty. Otherwise it would be very easy to run without a game master.Sandboxy play is more “real” in the sense that we can see what is real by looking at the adventure module or other prep, and anyone could look it up and come to more or less the same conclusion. Anyone could roll on the wandering monster table, or the “who rules over this village” table, etc. Or if one is playing a modern game set in the real world, anyone can see where the nearest grocery store or hospital is, or how long would it take to drive from here to there.

    Very insightful. “Colour” = “wallpaper”.

    [Emma, in the quote I edited “unbilled” to “unhulled” I hope you don’t mind♥]

    I wouldn’t say you are shopping for corn and peas and unhulled sesame seeds in that scenario. Your friend is shopping, following your instructions.

    With the helping with the bike example, you’re helping, but helping doesn’t require physical action.The mirror story as I’ve heard it is a case of getting deeply invested in the fiction - filling in parts of it yourself, etc. That doesn’t make it real. It makes it meaningful.

    We’re on the precipice of falling into semantics land here; you’re applying your definitions of “real”, “meaningful”, “shopping”, “fition” and “action” in a way that almost but not quite meshes with the definitions I was intending when writing what I wrote.

    That’s also why I like using very alien words like “gloracle” and “blorb”; less risk of other semantics being applied to the same lexeme.

    When I visit the game world via a character, that doesn’t require a lot of extradiegetical action on my part as a player (I mean, a little bit, maintaining the sheet, rolling dice etc—comparable to being physically able to operate a phone in the bike helping analogy). It does require diegetical action: going to the inn, listening for rumors, packing my bag etc.

    If you take the stance that “realness” is based on prep, does that mean that unprepped things aren’t real?

    If I ask you what colour the wallpaper is, and you say, on a whim, “yellow!”, and later in the game I invent a spell that turns yellow things into acid, and then use it to survive an encounter in that room, is that “real”?I’d argue that it feels plenty real, and is exactly how tangibility can function in non-blorb games (from a fictional perspective).

    Yeah I’ve been pondering this question for the last couple of days as this thread has been bubbling and I’m glad someone asked it explicitly. I was hoping to have come up with an answer by then though.

    The yellow-whim-acid example does reflect our gameplay accurately, with the tier three loop and the wallpaper↔saliency interaction.

    It’s unreal if I have a mirror that’s harmless but I change it to be harmful on a whim or to steer the story.

    But what about when wallpaper becomes salient?

    The core idea is “in a cloud, bones of steel”.
    A cloud of unreality with a core of reality.
    But what about when parts of that cloud ossify? (Uh, sorry if gross analogy.)

    To start answering this question, let’s look at my emotional response (because of course. #emo2097 ).
    To me, that is less satisfying. The immense satisfaction of emergence out of interacting with the room’s properties, combined with the dissatisfaction of those properties not being part of the real.

  • So not enough transparency of method…? When it’s not clear to what extent the gloracle is responsible, the GM takes the blame?
    Yes, this was probably part of the cause. Like I mentioned the GM's had some additional rules and procedures that they were using that were not player-facing. (That was part of the premise of the game--you are exploring a mysterious world, you don't know its rules, can you figure them out and use them to survive? Which is common for some things like the random encounter tables. But they may have taken the principle too far in some cases.)
    What I’m hearing is that in 90s games, or when there’s an expectation of the game being ran 90s style, there isn’t really player buy-in into hard outcomes. And these Dungeon World veterans expected the game to be ran in the 90s style; not sure what that says about DW!
    I think it’s the opposite of what you’re seeing, actually. (Although, of course, I’m just guessing too!)

    It’s not 90s style, where the GM acts to present a story. It’s 2010s style, where the players expect the GM to “draw maps but leave blanks”, to make room for collaborative improvisation. The GMs took a more “blorby” approach, so they stopped “leaving blanks”. The players got frustrated because they didn’t get to participate in some collaborative improvisation anymore, but could only interact with the GM’s prep. There were no more blanks to fill, so the players couldn’t contribute in that way anymore.
    I think more of the latter in this case, especially for the one player who wanted to narrate his own solutions to problems.

    Maybe a bit of the former too. The players upset about dying may have been used to GM's fudging results to save their beloved characters.

    I can't give a completely certain answer since it was a few years ago, and it is about the expectations of other people who are not me, and I heard about some of these complaints and conflicts second-hand from the GM.

    For what it's worth, I should mention that the majority of the players did understand and accept the blorby (clockwork? that's a good word for it) nature of the game.
    I’m learning about Freebooters of the Frontier which seems to be more of a blorby take on DW?
    I think the GM in this game mentioned he had looked into that but found it was designed more for randomly generated wilderness adventures than for the full Ben Robbins deep history approach. He may have incorporated some material from it though--I'm not certain.
  • @Vivificient, how much do you know about what the GMs did to make DW more strict? That sounds challenging. If you know more, have you written or posted about it anywhere - or have they? Would be interesting reading (but should probably be kept out of this thread).
  • Yes, this was probably part of the cause. Like I mentioned the GM’s had some additional rules and procedures that they were using that were not player-facing. (That was part of the premise of the game–you are exploring a mysterious world, you don’t know its rules, can you figure them out and use them to survive? Which is common for some things like the random encounter tables. But they may have taken the principle too far in some cases.)

    I use that technique all the time. “Yes, turns out we’re doing disease rolls every day. You should’ve gotten a guide they would’ve told you to get bug salve.” I’m a bit of an unapologetic b_____ #cruella

  • @Vivificient, how much do you know about what the GMs did to make DW more strict? That sounds challenging. If you know more, have you written or posted about it anywhere - or have they? Would be interesting reading (but should probably be kept out of this thread).
    I'll ask my friend about it. He might be willing to come register here and start a thread about it.
  • I'll ask my friend about it. He might be willing to come register here and start a thread about it.
    I'd be interested to hear it!

  • While there's no denying that events in the game do not actually exist physically, in my experience sometimes things can feel "real" in a way that goes beyond simple investment.

    Dreams are not real, but most of us have a difficult time telling them apart from reality even when they're ridiculous.
  • Yes. This is me every morning.

    1. Waking up.
    2. Realizing I had been dreaming.
    3. After a while, realizing “hold on, that means that that other embarrassing thing I did was also part of the dream?”
    4. mixed feelings of relief with the existential anxiety of not being sure what is real or not
  • But an rpg session is not a dream either. It can get as real as a truly good book or oral narration could.
  • Just the same, a good book can make you forget at times that the story isn't real. Or at least, the body forgets, I guess. I'll never read a book like "It" all by myself in the basement ever again. :) A good book, movie, or group can figuratively transport you "there".
  • Just the same, a good book can make you forget at times that the story isn't real. Or at least, the body forgets, I guess. I'll never read a book like "It" all by myself in the basement ever again. :) A good book, movie, or group can figuratively transport you "there".
    Well, then we're talking again about a subjective state inspired by narrative or even scenic techniques, which supports my assertion that sandbox/blorb is a genre like any other.
  • It's like saying a telephone is a music genre
  • Arguing semantics on the internet at 11:36 pm on a saturday night fml:bawling:
  • It's really not, Sandra, no offense, and trying to position it as not story is elitist and bizarre.
  • Feel free to use the words "story" and "genre" however you like, I was wrong to protest. People have their own long-attached connotations to the words and phrases they use #polysemy
    That's just a fact of how natural language works. I have to face that


    To me this experience more like a specific medium than a specific style.

    Elitist? Stories have advantages to trips. Sometimes you want to tell a story rather than to go on a trip. Trips aren't better than stories. Just different.

    Bizarre? I guess. :bawling:
    "No offense" doesn't make a statement less mean :bawling:


  • The act of grocery shopping or bike fixing is fundamentally different from telling a story. But living that life creates a story, in a sense.
  • God I started crying for real #emo2097
    sometimes I feel like there's like three meters of glass between me and everyone I'm tryna explain things to and it's just so hard to communicate through all the limits of language, rhetorics, semantics, metaphor…
  • edited May 2019
    There’s another old debate here, too:

    When you’re “inside”, or “living the fiction”, what rules does it operate by?

    For some people it’s “real” when it obeys the expectations of reality (realism, simulation, etc). For some people it’s when its rules are consistent and immutable, so they can weigh the consequences and make smart decisions. For others it’s when it is presented to them in a way that’s similar to how they would experience it “if they were really there” (Finchian trap-finding, Jay’s game). For a lot of people, though, it can also be because it obeys the rules of familiar fiction or stories. (For example, you can imagine yourself as Spider-Man rescuing innocent people in New York, and that feels “real” to you. The moment you punch a bad guy through a pane of glass, though, and he dies from infection from all the cuts, that’s... no longer *right*. The “real” Spider-Man world you were in until now has just been broken and you’re back at the table, annoyed at the papers and dice and what your friend just said.)

    For some people, things feeling like a familiar story *is* what brings them to that feeling of “I was really there”!
  • Don't sweat it. Get some sleep! (Advice I should also take, haha)

    I don't think anyone means any ill-will here. If there wasn't value in discussing the things you've brought up, no one would be engaging! I think this thread has been a success in many ways.
  • By "wasted opportunity" I meant that it's like getting in the car in order to eat popcorn.

    If you wanted to take a trip you didn't need the popcorn (and you do need the ignition keys) and if you wanted to tell a story you didn't need the car. And the car is just confusing.
  • I hear you. :)

    But some people like dice pools, and some people just don’t feel like it’s really a road trip unless they’re having popcorn, too.

    It’s not that complicated, I think. In Forge terms, it’s Creative Agenda and Technical Agenda - two almost entirely orthogonal concerns.
  • edited May 2019
    The moment you punch a bad guy through a pane of glass, though, and he dies from infection from all the cuts, that’s... no longer *right*.
    That was sort of always the difference between Marvel & DC (back in the sixties, these days they're more similar to each other). These types of mistakes would happen and it'd be sad and it'd feel real. The drug dealer that gets killed in Spectacular \#64 comes to mind, or the accident with Gwen in Amazing \#122. IDK, otoh you're right that those beats have some issues.
    Don't sweat it. Get some sleep! (Advice I should also take, haha)
    Thank you♥
    I will

    talk to you tomorrow my friends♥

    ps hope i didn't stress you out emma
    thanks for engaging
  • It’s not that complicated, I think. In Forge terms, it’s Creative Agenda and Technical Agenda - two almost entirely orthogonal concerns.
    Just as how medium and genre are somewhat orthogonal which is what I'm trying to say
  • A question for the blob-people:
    How do you deal with players bored or uninterested? It's possible that you just designed a boring scenario or dungeon and players don't seem too engaged in terms of fun, even if they're invested in it because of their characters' goals. So they won't just go do something else. From what I've read, you'd resist the temptation of just improvising something interesting, like the dragon in the lady Blackbird anecdote. You just wait and make adjustments between sessions? Is it ok to change prep already written (but unused) between sessions?

    Another question: can blorby immersion get torn apart by players portraying their characters in an unblorby way? Or this technique doesn't apply to them? For example sudden changes of personality, taking actions for extra diegetic reasons, inventing stuff about their characters that was never established, etc.
  • edited May 2019
    I'll try a quick summary of what I've been talking about here. Perhaps it will help someone!

    1. In Sandra's style of gaming, there is an agreed upon method (all the gloracle, prep, procedures of play, and GM style/technique) which serves as the "foundation" for play. It's consistent and solid and players know what to expect. This lends a tremendous "solidity" or "tangibility" to play which is enjoyable, and makes things feel more "real".

    2. Some people don't care about solidity and tangibility and just want to tell stories in a freewheeling way. That's cool, too, but it's not what we're focusing on here. (In this style of gaming, we trust the players' judgement to make choices matter, instead of the procedural mechanics; instead of saying "here's a format for making choices matter", we say, "I trust each of us to make each others' choices matter by taking them into account as we create story". Just like "bad blorb" play, this can fail, but it can also work.)

    3. In Narrativist play that seeks to feel real and solid, though, how does that work? Much like all the klockwerk which underlies 2097e, we need a solid foundation which grounds the game and makes choices matter. It's consistency of player roles, advocacy for characters, and consistent, principled resolution. I trust that you will play my opponent to the hilt, and fairly, while we have pre-established rules for how they interact and how we find out who "wins" or how it all turns out. We don't need to prep distances on a map, traps, or combat stats, because the conflicts we're interested in don't concern those things. We don't need rules for getting stranded on ice moons, but we do need rules for what it means when your character is willing to lose their life to stop mine from doing what he wants to do (for a simple example; each game will be different).

    Once we establish the groundwork for these conflicts and solid, consistent methods for resolving them, we get emergent outcomes and exciting "real" play, just like with blorb methods.

    (GM-as-storyteller, 90s play fails on both counts: first, the GM doesn't necessarily lay the groundwork for conflicts and stick to it, and, second, the methods for resolving them are either not consistently applied or hopelessly obscured. So this is very distinct from that.)

    In those conversations about "what differentiates AW from traditional play", we talked about quite a few of these things. Unlike GM-mediated task resolution, which is famously open to interpretation and "cheating" (like the classic case of the GM asking for more and more rolls until you succeed), AW has all kinds of rules and procedures which produce solid, tangible outcomes we can't cheat around.

    Good examples include that a) NPCs don't and can't arbitrarily have different numbers of hit points, and b) certain moves guarantee the PCs can hurt them reliably (so no NPC can be bulletproof), c) all kinds of moves guarantee players access to reliable and important information (like the reading moves, deep brain scan, and many others), and d) many rules and moves simply give the players the ability to create and state immutable facts about what things are and what they mean: for example, an advanced seduce/manipulate allows you to make any NPC into an "ally".

    Those rules and restrictions all work with each other to produce emergent, tangible outcomes in a way that you don't get in "90s GM as storyteller" games. They are real and unexpected and lasting.

    All of these design elements work against murky, unclear play, and ruin the possibility of a railroading GM trying to create the story they want. Add the explicit principles of play and play culture surrounding the thing, and you get something which is very, very distinct from 90s trad games, despite having lots of similarities at a level of procedures and techniques.

    It's a nice middle ground between total No Myth and "full blorb", and it's a really fun and popular way to play.

    You can get similar play from even more traditional rulesets if the GM is able and willing to adopt a strict and principled approach to how they create and adjudicate situations. This can look nothing like "blorb", but is similar in that it can be an objective and consistent, principled means of creating opposition and conflict which makes everything in play feel "more real".

    In short, Sandra's objections about "non-blorb" play degenerating into 90s-style "GM moves the goalposts" nonsense are not entirely wrong (that can totally happen!), but they're trying to paint in black and white what is actually a wide spectrum that has so many different positions for a variety of fun and cool play, in different shades of grey.

    (Again, Critical Role is a pretty fun example, in some ways. I see no reason to think that it's full-on "railroaded", linear play, but it has elements that are incredibly anti-blorby. Despite that, people clearly are enjoying themselves a lot. It's far less principled in this sense than AW, but neither is it "blorby", and certainly isn't a morass of horrible "GM moves the goalposts" nonsense which doesn't seem real to anyone. I see no reason to assume that if it was made "more blorby", the participants would enjoy the game more. Same goes for Cary's game. It would be a tradeoff, in both cases. They would gain some things and lose others - others that they really value.)
  • A question for the blob-people:

    Please try to be kinder♥
    I’m already bummed out enough:bawling:

    How do you deal with players bored or uninterested? It’s possible that you just designed a boring scenario or dungeon and players don’t seem too engaged in terms of fun, even if they’re invested in it because of their characters’ goals. So they won’t just go do something else. From what I’ve read, you’d resist the temptation of just improvising something interesting, like the dragon in the lady Blackbird anecdote. You just wait and make adjustments between sessions? Is it ok to change prep already written (but unused) between sessions?

    I’ve sometimes scrapped the entire campaign when that happens. (There was this guy that was kind of a jerk to the other players.)
    I’ve sometimes cut sessions short.
    I’ve sometimes had patience that things will get awesome soon enough if they only get a little bit deeper or w/e.

    For the record I’ve been in a higher rate (proportionally) of “bad” games of Microscope and Fiasco than bad games of D&D.

    Also we have a web page where the players can list the “unexplored edges” of their progress and vote on them. If it stalls out they just bring up that page and look over some of the options they’ve put in there to see where they can go next.

    Another question: can blorby immersion get torn apart by players portraying their characters in an unblorby way? Or this technique doesn’t apply to them? For example sudden changes of personality, taking actions for extra diegetic reasons, inventing stuff about their characters that was never established, etc.

    That’s not something I have a lot of experience with. Anyone else from “my” side want to field that one?

    I was running this module where “gods” can possess characters giving them a new personality which was part of the selling point of the module, giving it a mythic feel, and the players were like “ewww… does lesser resto work?” They are so invested in their own immersion.

    Some of the things you list are things that would be the most disruptive to that player themselves and not so bad for anyone else at the table.

  • Hating on 90s play is like a warm comfortable blanket♥
  • You can get similar play from even more traditional rulesets if the GM is able and willing to adopt a strict and principled approach to how they create and adjudicate situations. This can look nothing like "blorb", but is similar in that it can be an objective and consistent, principled means of creating opposition and conflict which makes everything in play feel "more real".
    At some point, this becomes "blorb"/clockwork; some of these mechanics qualify for being tier 2 truths.

  • So let's say we're playing Air Chess.

    Air Chess is exactly like normal chess, but there's no physical board or game pieces. It's up to us, the players, to remember the positions of the pieces. When we make a move, instead of physically reaching out and manipulating a piece, we say, "Queen to D6" or whatever.

    Are we telling a story? No. Obviously no.

    .

    We're playing Air Chess, but not on an 8x8 board. This board is HUGE! Much bigger than we can hold in our memory at any given time. Infinitely large, actually.

    One of us, let's say me, has a Diagram. It's shows the starting state of parts of the board. Not all of it, though! But I've also got some rules that let me figure out what the board looks like, some of the time. Alternating squares of black and white. Pawns arranged in infinite straight files. Kings always next to queens. And I've got an algorithm that needs some time to work through, but lets me fill in blank unmapped spaces on the board.

    You're still not allowed to look at any of this, only I am. Oh, and I'm allowed to write down notes, now. But you can ask me questions about the current state of the board. I need to answer you truthfully.

    Are we telling a story now? Still nope!

    .

    We're playing Air Chess on a HUGE board, and I've got the Diagram and some algorithms and can write notes but you have to interrogate me to remind yourself of the state of the board.

    And the board evolves when we're not looking at it. There's some generative process that applies local changes, like Conway's Game of Life. Klockwerk processes. It's my job to apply those processes when we come back to somewhere we've ignored for a while, and communicate the results to you.

    And we've named each of the pieces on the board, things like Alice and Bob and Cary and Duke.

    And instead of referring to spaces as E1 or B6 or whatever, the places have names, too. "The Village of Homlett." Or, "The Cave of the Blue Medusa."

    Are we telling a story now? I don't think you.

    .

    We're playing Air Chess on an infinite board and I have the key and the algorithms and the pieces and spaces have names.

    Except we're not using the rules of chess. We're using the rules of physics, as best we can understand them. Instead of saying "Alice from Village of Homlett to Cave of the Blue Medusa," you say, "Alice walks from Homlett to the Cave," and I say, "They're two miles apart, so that'll take about 40 minutes. In that time, the water pouring into the cave rises another foot and a half."

    Are we telling a story now?
  • edited May 2019
    Hi! I usually just lurk, so this feels sorta awkward.

    I share 2097s view that playing ttrpgs blorbily is very different from telling a story (or reading a story for that matter). It's still fiction, but the way I'm interacting with it is very different.

    I remember my first contact with ttrpg "realness" and I think it's an interesting datapoint, because its almost the opposite of the mirror story.

    We played DoD Chronopia, a truly unblorby 90s style game. The GM admitted to changing the stats of some soldiers once to save our lives.

    Me and another player were escaping a dungeon. We'd been kidnapped by an unknown organisation and I figured we'd find some explanation of who they were and why we were there. We pretty soon came to a room with several doors (the GM painstakingly drew it up for us) and we opened one and anti-climactically found ourself out in the city once again.

    It was a worthless story. The prepped map and our choices had been respected to the detriment of "excitement" - and I was thrilled! That dungeon was a real place with doors that opened up to rooms that we'd never see. It didn't have a satisfying narrative arc - and it felt like real life.





  • edited June 2019
    The invented dragon in AsIf’s Lady Blackbird game.
    Ok, that's an interesting example. What I read here is the players were unclear on what the principles of this style of gaming were.
    I'm late to the party, but what happened there was everyone except for one player being thrilled with the improved nature of the solution, while that other player was not. So that's really a case of differing views within the group itself. Just to clarify. I'll go as far as to say that his previous experiences with other, more prepped games brought him to the table with a specific set of expectations that weren't Blackbirdesque.
  • So let's say we're playing Air Chess.

    Air Chess is exactly like normal chess, but there's no physical board or game pieces. It's up to us, the players, to remember the positions of the pieces. When we make a move, instead of physically reaching out and manipulating a piece, we say, "Queen to D6" or whatever.

    Are we telling a story? No. Obviously no.

    .

    We're playing Air Chess, but not on an 8x8 board. This board is HUGE! Much bigger than we can hold in our memory at any given time. Infinitely large, actually.

    One of us, let's say me, has a Diagram. It's shows the starting state of parts of the board. Not all of it, though! But I've also got some rules that let me figure out what the board looks like, some of the time. Alternating squares of black and white. Pawns arranged in infinite straight files. Kings always next to queens. And I've got an algorithm that needs some time to work through, but lets me fill in blank unmapped spaces on the board.

    You're still not allowed to look at any of this, only I am. Oh, and I'm allowed to write down notes, now. But you can ask me questions about the current state of the board. I need to answer you truthfully.

    Are we telling a story now? Still nope!

    .

    We're playing Air Chess on a HUGE board, and I've got the Diagram and some algorithms and can write notes but you have to interrogate me to remind yourself of the state of the board.

    And the board evolves when we're not looking at it. There's some generative process that applies local changes, like Conway's Game of Life. Klockwerk processes. It's my job to apply those processes when we come back to somewhere we've ignored for a while, and communicate the results to you.

    And we've named each of the pieces on the board, things like Alice and Bob and Cary and Duke.

    And instead of referring to spaces as E1 or B6 or whatever, the places have names, too. "The Village of Homlett." Or, "The Cave of the Blue Medusa."

    Are we telling a story now? I don't think you.

    .

    We're playing Air Chess on an infinite board and I have the key and the algorithms and the pieces and spaces have names.

    Except we're not using the rules of chess. We're using the rules of physics, as best we can understand them. Instead of saying "Alice from Village of Homlett to Cave of the Blue Medusa," you say, "Alice walks from Homlett to the Cave," and I say, "They're two miles apart, so that'll take about 40 minutes. In that time, the water pouring into the cave rises another foot and a half."

    Are we telling a story now?
    This seems like an incredibly convoluted mind exercise only built to prove your point. Every step further you make away from chess rules makes it look more and more like fiction, and those awkward restrictions at how players signal their actions end up being a collective narration. For instance, if you were to explain the game to me like this, I'd instantly suggest dropping the names rule and having the board visible to everybody. Why use that, if this isn't fiction? I don't intent stories while playing settlers of Catan, it's a waste of time.
    I'd rather ground the discussion in actual play experiences.
    Take the standpoint of an external observer. He didn't read that over complicated explanation. He's just exposed to what they're saying and doing. He hears your example: "Alice from Village of Homlett to Cave of the Blue Medusa," you say, "Alice walks from Homlett to the Cave," and I say, "They're two miles apart, so that'll take about 40 minutes. In that time, the water pouring into the cave rises another foot and a half."
    What is it, from a linguistical perspective? A narration. It's oral, shared, and participation is limited by rules. Is it a game, too? It has some elements common to games, but rules can fluctuate a lot ("physics") and there's no clear winning condition.
  • Note to self if I ever get reincarnated: semantics worst degree of all time

    ♥Flanellis!!♥♥ My friend!
    Did you read the whole thread? Somehow we made it to… six pages
  • Are you @2097 and @Paul_T actually disagreeing? Is my brain fried?

  • edited June 2019
    you say, "Alice walks from Homlett to the Cave," and I say, "They're two miles apart, so that'll take about 40 minutes. In that time, the water pouring into the cave rises another foot and a half."
    What is it, from a linguistical perspective?
    "I walk from Homlett to the cave" ← performative illocutionary speech act

    "They're two miles apart, so that'll take about 40 minutes." ← perlocutionary speech act

    "In that time, the water pouring into the cave rises another foot and a half." ← indirect perlocutionary speech act

    "e4×d5" ← performative illocutionary speech act (in air chess) / indirect perlocutionary speech act (as commentary accompanying a visible move made on a visible board)
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