Narrativism vs traditional techniques

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  • Jay,

    I think that's a perfect example of how non-blorby techniques (e.g. "have at least one NPC to create or ratchet up conflict") can be used to augment a game, even (perhaps especially!) given traditional resolution mechanics and a GM/player split. I know that's not what you were trying to do, but it's a really good one. :)
  • Paul,

    Always glad to help!!

    Best,

    Jay
  • edited May 30
    I generally think that different people prefer different things and different games are made for different players with different tastes and have different design goals. To me it all comes down to preference.

    I have definitely had the feeling some people are expressing, where I love PbtA games but I wonder if it’s possible to make them a bit less wiggly and fiat feeling. I’ve played and MCed PbtA probably only a dozen times so take the following with a grain of salt. I always felt like if a PCs character happed to die it would be because of a choice I made as a MC rather than a natural result of the mechanics.

    Maybe I didn’t understand the rules well but that is how it felt and there’s something I don’t like about that. It takes away the true danger of the situation and makes character death into a player’s decision (the MCs) wherein death doesn’t seem random and there could be bad feelings between players.

    I would like a PbtA game where the real risk of death was present and things were a bit more cut and dry, and didn’t feel so dependent upon the MCs improved choices. The game I MCed was The Sword, the Crown and Unspeakable Power, which is a great game. I’ve also played AW and DW. Maybe I MCed it in a different way than typical? Is this impression I’m getting accurate or is death more a cut and dry and the result of game mechanics and the fudging was on my end?

    Maybe it is the sense that your making up enemies on the spot sometimes, which can feel arbitrary, rather than preparing the encounters beforehand. It might be nice to do a sandbox kind of thing with PbtA so it felt a bit less arbitrary and MC determined? Obviously, the drama is the main point of most PbtA games and character death isn’t the focus but it would be nice, for personal tastes, to make if it felt less wiggly.

    Edit: I just read Kenny_J’s response on the “Are there non-trad, non-d&d sandbox games?” which went into the idea of doing a PbtA sandbox style game. I think it would do a good job addressing some of looseness and helping to make the game feel more solid and less MC fiat dependent. Kenny’s got some really cool ideas.
  • 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.
    Thank you for clarifying this, this hasn't been clear. "Klockwerk" that's a great word for blorb♥

  • have at least one NPC to create or ratchet up conflict

    That’s not necessarily unblorby♥

    (The “it’s not Klockwerk” and “The DM can introduce situations post-hoc” are unblorby though. Are we finally reaching some closure on that mystery…? It’s looking more and more like 90s Sandra :bawling: Pitch dark, candles lit, only diegetical (and mimetical, obv) talk allowed, kobayashi maru)

    To me feels like arguing about what kind of food someone likes.

    To me it’s kinda more like me saying that my cooking really improved since I realized that grinding up pepper fresh is very different–much better–from using pre-ground pepper. It’s like I want to exchange some cooking experience with you guys.

    We’re doing game design research. And we’re also teaching each other. We can’t really teach each other if we’re like “naw, it’s all good, it’s all kumbaya”. If something does look bad to me, then it’s not great if I just hide that sentiment. Maybe I’m wrong and I can learn, and/or maybe my explaining of the benefits I’ve found with doing the complete opposite will be fruitful either directly or indirectly.

    My aiming rules version three got like “ok, this looks cool” reactions on here and on reddit but then on Giant in the Playground they got absolutely savaged and that was kinda hurtful but that led to me rewriting them and making them way better. Not that I’m encouraging being hurtful either. This thing we’re doing here (this game design research—all for the purp of making the best D&D houserules of all time) is difficult & challenging and I don’t know the best way to do it.

  • I know the burden of proof was initially on me for making such a bold statement: “all games that tread on the toes of blorb need to be blorb (games that, by being sufficiently hippie have ensured that they don’t look or feel blorby don’t need to be blorby)”.

    But I’ve given plenty of reasons for why I think that. It would be cool/fair if you guys (well, some of you have come around and/or some of you were already kinda with me on this) also gave some reasons beyond just “it’s been my experience that unblorbiness is cool”.

    Because it sounds to me like either the blorby parts are the cool parts (the death of guy on ghoul island, once he was outside the blockades, def sounded like the application of Karma&Fortune rather than Drama [to use Everway terms]), or the game is sufficently hippyfied to not qualify for the scaffolding necessary for blorbiness in the first place.

  • edited May 30
    We can’t really teach each other if we’re like “naw, it’s all good, it’s all kumbaya”. If something does look bad to me, then it’s not great if I just hide that sentiment.
    Yes, that’s true. I basically just mean the different general RPG game design categories often appeal to different tastes. But I definitely agree that there is a big difference between a good game and a bad game within those categories. For example, their are a lot of GMless games that just leave the players hanging and don’t do a sufficient job of reconstituting some of the stuff the GM does.

    I was basically trying to say something like the following: I like both D&D and PbtA games, and there are bad designs within those two different game design categories, but that D&D and PbtA have different features and they can both be good games but just appeal to people with different tastes. But I agree that some games are better than others and if one is discussing design it’s necessary to make judgments about that if one is going to get anywhere.

    To tell you the truth, I’m kind of lost on this thread; I haven’t posted in a while and I’m not caught up with the topics you all have been discussing and the new jargon you all are using—I’m seriously not even sure I totally understand what the conversation is about. I think I’ll have to read everything closely to get up to speed.

  • edited May 30
    The price of blorb is you've got to wait longer to get the juice. With made up facts, bang you're there, always, anyhow, instafit.

    The benefits are so obvious even bad GMs see them right away.
  • This might be seem unrelated but I think a lot of Narrativist games fail because the participants don’t have a shared model for drama. You get a lot of stuff happening, a lot of hi-jinx, but it’s emotionally unsatisfying. The mechanics tend to get used to introduce ‘stuff’ rather than resolve conflicts on the dramatic level.

    Most 90’s games fail (for Narrativism) because the situation isn’t strong and the characters are weak. There’s no shared interesting in ‘resolving the already untenable situation’, so instead the GM ends up introducing elements ad-hoc to make things interesting. The problem is that interesting is ill defined.

    If we’re on the same page about what’s interesting and committed to playing to find out, then no-myth elements are less intrusive because the character actions are still consequential.

    If you’re not on the same page then games like Apocalypse World create different versions of the ‘quantum ogre’ problem. Either our choice is inconsequential because the GM just fudges behind the scenes (for drama) or the resolution system ends up introducing ‘ogres for drama’ rather than actually resolving the conflict we want resolved.

    Or to put it in entirely different terms. Apocalypse World relies on the spirit of emergence more than it does on mechanically nailing things down.
  • I think the previously mentioned Lady Blackbird game with the dragon is a pretty good 'no blorb is good too' example. The game wasn't gelling, the laid-out setpiece wasn't really going anywhere. So, the GM pulls a dragon out, and boom - everyone is enthused and really into it. That kind of spontaneity and ability to react to the situation at hand with whatever inspires you as you go is powerful. I don't think the players' reaction to finding out that there's no myth there afterwards is especially relevant to how good the play was - that's just them being ignorant of the game - but with a clued-in group that wouldn't matter.

    Games like Lady Blackbird work well because they give you enough preprepared stuff to springboard off and a narrow enough scenario that you don't get lost, but the implementation details are up the players/GM. The GM bounces off the players, takes their input, and outputs something that's highly tailored to what they want to do.

    There are narrativist games that I think would be improved by blorb as well. Off the cuff - the ones that would be improved by it are games where NPCs have an independent mechanical existence (stats, I guess), or where the solidity of the setting is important. Poison'd is the first thing that comes to mind, and I've run it enough times to know that my make-it-up-as-you-go approach generally doesn't improve things.

    More freewheeling games are fine without this - having the GM freely incorporating ideas they crib from the players and reintegrating stuff that comes up offhand is a powerful technique.
  • edited May 31

    I know the burden of proof was initially on me for making such a bold statement: “all games that tread on the toes of blorb need to be blorb (games that, by being sufficiently hippie have ensured that they don’t look or feel blorby don’t need to be blorby)”.

    But I’ve given plenty of reasons for why I think that.
    Ok! I'm going to keep being a contrarian. :)

    The only reasons I've heard so far are that "blorby play feels more tangible" (debatable, but true for many, sure) and that "you might set up the wrong expectations, for people who've played games in that style before". The latter is either easy to fix or not an issue at all, in my opinion (counterpoint: if your experience with trad roleplaying is all 90s storyteller mode and Quantum Ogres, why would you expect any blorb at all when you see traditional mechanics? you might expect quite the opposite).

    Are there any other problems or potential failure points?
    It would be cool/fair if you guys (well, some of you have come around and/or some of you were already kinda with me on this) also gave some reasons beyond just “it’s been my experience that unblorbiness is cool”.

    Because it sounds to me like either the blorby parts are the cool parts (the death of guy on ghoul island, once he was outside the blockades, def sounded like the application of Karma&Fortune rather than Drama [to use Everway terms]), or the game is sufficently hippyfied to not qualify for the scaffolding necessary for blorbiness in the first place.

    That's a very fair question. I think we've been covering a lot of them in these conversations, but I can reference a few. I think @DeReel basically has it, in their rather more pithy statement, above, but we can expand:

    * The example of "the NPC to create drama" Jay described is a good one. There's nothing at all blorby about either a) making sure there's always an NPC around who could create drama, nor b) using that NPC to create drama whenever it's needed.

    The benefits over strict blorb seem pretty obvious, too: there is always tension and drama, and the GM can "steer" things more in that direction, to create more exciting play for the players.

    * I mentioned the thought experiment of a version of Apocalypse World where all the "choose from a list" moves and options were randomized instead. Isn't it obvious how that would harm the game and make it worse? (It is to me; we can discuss it more if someone finds it not so.)

    * The "ice moon" scenario, and similar frustrating experiences (TPKs, for instance) never need happen, because we can always improvise/create new material to keep the game and the story moving. (I'm fairly confident at this point that someone like Cary would have improvised something interesting on the ice moon, had that been his game, and we would have had several hours of exciting, engaging play, instead of sitting around being angry at each other.)

    And a new one, which is huge:

    * Working with principled prep and consistent resolution methods means that we need to, by definition, treat similar qualities and quantities the same. We can't, for example, resolve one instance of trap-finding one way and another one a different way, simply because we're not interested, the GM has a cool idea, or it's late at night.

    If you drop that restriction, you can zoom in and out much more freely, to create tension, drama, excitement, and to follow your interests as players and as a group. You can get straight to the stuff that interests everyone, and spend more of your playtime focused on that.

    Example:

    In something like 2097e, when you come to a small town looking for a particular person, we might have a procedure to follow for whether we find them or not. We might end up dicing it out only to find that, no, you don't find them, or play through interactions with other characters, while we try to puzzle out their identity. It's exciting and it challenges the players, but there is lots of room for "dead air", wasting time, or anticlimactic resolution.

    In a game like AW, the MC has the tools to offer the PCs an interesting dilemma instead ("offer an opportunity with strings attached", or something like that) and then frame an exciting and dramatic scene with that person, set up to maximize the potential for interesting interactions, danger, romance, and thematic weight. (Instead of finding them in a random place and at a random time, we can think like a movie director and "find them" at dusk, with their child in their arms, bleeding to death.)

    By the way, I agree 100% with @2097 and @Jeff_B_Slater that most PbtA games are far too "loose" and dependent on MC judgement for proper "blorby" play. I'm not happy with how I expressed my thoughts on the matter back here, but we had a lengthy debate about it a few years back, and I still stand by my position:

    http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/18672/is-aw-suited-to-gamist-challenge-based-play/p4


    EDIT: one more

    * The ability to adjust the game on the fly (and quickly) to suit player interests and priorities, in ways that allow us to get to the 'good stuff' fluidly and efficiently, even if we started out with the wrong premises (by accident, or due to lack of skill). We can adjust to each other easily and in real time, and expand into new areas in a way which having to retool the ruleset and prep doesn't allow without a lot of work, not only in the game itself but outside of playtime, as well.
  • If you're curious about how a game like AW manages to straddle the "trad" format but still produces more story-oriented play, we've had some discussion of that here:

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/21417/apocalypse-world-and-pvp-sex-and-gore/p1

    (Mostly the first three or four posts are relevant.)

    http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/21327/how-much-power-does-the-gm-have-in-powered-by-the-apocalypse-games

    (This is one if much more thorough.)
  • I know the burden of proof was initially on me for making such a bold statement: “all games that tread on the toes of blorb need to be blorb (games that, by being sufficiently hippie have ensured that they don’t look or feel blorby don’t need to be blorby)”.

    But I’ve given plenty of reasons for why I think that. It would be cool/fair if you guys (well, some of you have come around and/or some of you were already kinda with me on this) also gave some reasons beyond just “it’s been my experience that unblorbiness is cool”.Because it sounds to me like either the blorby parts are the cool parts (the death of guy on ghoul island, once he was outside the blockades, def sounded like the application of Karma&Fortune rather than Drama [to use Everway terms]), or the game is sufficently hippyfied to not qualify for the scaffolding necessary for blorbiness in the first place.
    For me, the benefit of unblorb is that you can pack a full story arc in few sessions, while having most moments of play be dramatic and pointing to the premise. You don't waste time fighting filler monsters or undertaking routine tasks for the sake of fairness or internal consistency. Most of us get feed on stories constantly and have a gut feel for dramatic moments, and that's what many of us appreciate in a game. Could I play 20 sessions until a character survives long enough for a story to develop and a climax to build up, purely for diegetic reasons? Not very likely. The epic campaigns I've had in 10-12 sessions, sometimes even less, with DW, BW or AW would undertake many more sessions with blorby play.

    Me other argument is that roleplaying is telling stories around a campfire, with rules. Many of us instinctively know that this is all made up in the spot, that no SIS exists prior to the act of play. The game and the world and the story are the words we speak. Thus, games operate on a narrative logic where different rules dictate what we may or may not accept as a valid outcome. Here, it's all about narrative and even this focus on blorby content is a narrative genre. So, applying narrative rules like moves isn't "arbitrary", it's in fact quite consistent when well executed, because we all have a sense for climax, pacing, spotlight, drama, etc. It is a style to be practiced and refined as much as the discipline required to GM a blorby game. And the effects of perfectly nailing the scene towards which the tension's been building is perfectly evident in players' reactions.
    I'd argue that players need discipline even when they mostly play their characters in story games. I've had players ignore baits for flags they had stated, portray their characters in weird ways they can't justify. So even in traditional story now games, players have a HUGE responsibility if they want a great campaign to unfold, so that's already a big difference with other traditional games.
  • Hi Sandra,
    @Silmenune - 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.
    @2097 - Thank you for clarifying this, this hasn't been clear.
    That hasn't? Huh. If you are willing, would you be so kind as to explain your thinking? I'm rather curious why that is. Any other posters here feel that what I've been describing in the game I play in as a rigid game either in resolution mechanics or of "story" development?
    "Klockwerk" that's a great word for blorb♥
    If you wish to make use of the Klockwerk in lieu of blorb or as a synonym of blorb, help yourself!

    Best,

    Jay
  • The price of blorb is you’ve got to wait longer to get the juice. With made up facts, bang you’re there, always, anyhow, instafit.

    You’re not really there though. In an unblorby game, all that is solid melts into air. All the heavy moments I’ve had with unblorby games have been about the characters and their collisions with each other; the characters being the “real” part of those games. The made up “facts” being completely meaningless.

    The benefits [of unblorb…?] are so obvious even bad GMs see them right away.

    Then I must be beyond bad having ran unblorby games for two decades and only seeing 100% drawbacks to introducing unblorby elements into the diegesis.

    This might be seem unrelated but I think a lot of Narrativist games fail because the participants don’t have a shared model for drama. You get a lot of stuff happening, a lot of hi-jinx, but it’s emotionally unsatisfying. The mechanics tend to get used to introduce ‘stuff’ rather than resolve conflicts on the dramatic level.

    Right; unblorby games work well when it’s the people and how they change when faced with each other or faced with NPCs or faced with themselves. An “ogre” or whatever becomes completely meaningless and quantum (as much as a hard time I have with Courtney b/c Gamergate). I think we’re on the same page around a lot of this, Alexander.

    Here’s how an unblorby game could work well:

    Alice: “Guys, let’s say there’s an owlbear or an ogre or something and it’s dangerous and your character, Bob, is letting the rest of us down”
    Bob: “OK, Alice, sounds good to me. [switches to in character] Don’t worry guys, I’ll handle this [mimes putting hand on sword handle]
    Carol: “We’re so glad we hired you as our cave guide, Bob!”

    etc etc and the “about” becomes about the relationships between Bob and the rest of the group after he messes up the ogre fight or whatever.
    Having the game be “about” the ogre becomes utterly meaningless. Kinda the biggest problem I had with BW/ Mouse Guard. Yes it was sad that our mouse friend died but the GM kinda made that happen by putting that bird in our path. It wasn’t a real bird. The good part of the game was tryna play our characters to the hilt, play to our beliefs and such.

    I’ve sometimes pejoratively thought the same thing about the worst of the “adventure paths”:

    In the context of Robin’s Laws player types (yes I know the later book he did for WotC added “instigator” and a few more), a big flaw of those types were that they all presupposed playing along with the railroad. There was no “my kick is to forge my own destiny” or similar. Given the railroad, of course I’m gonna be a “method actor” or w/e, that’s the only thing I can do that isn’t being shot down by the GM as being disruptive. And the book is so utterly dismissive of the method actor. “Give them some kinda weird mirror or something so they can enjoy themselves”.

    The “fun” of the game becomes method acting; and given the solid challenge that other real people provide, that can get heavy and good. (Maybe that was what Sartre’s No Exit was really about: “Le jeu de rôle, c’est les autres”…?)

    Hmm so even in unblorby games the good part is the solid and tangible and real part… :bawling:

    Or to put it in entirely different terms. Apocalypse World relies on the spirit of emergence

    Wait, what? That was kind of a 180° from where I thought you were going.
    Emergence is what you can get with solid elements and mechanics, that’s the cool part.

    To see what kinda outcomes emerge from the “petri dish” of diegetic and dice-level elements.

    The only reasons I’ve heard so far are that “blorby play feels more tangible” (debatable, but true for many, sure)

    In this post I broke down that reason into a couple of sub-reasons. Buy-in immersion, “no paper after rock” fairness, true exploration (in the discovery sense not the GNS sense)

    and that “you might set up the wrong expectations, for people who’ve played games in that style before”. The latter is either easy to fix or not an issue at all, in my opinion

    So a lot of people have put in that opinion without arguing for it but whenever I express my opinion I have to also bring along reason & argument?
    Which is fine, I have. It’s how conveyance & affordance are stronger communication vectors than words.

    It’s like a door that says “pull” in tiny letters but has a large flat push surface on your side and a thin pull handle on the opposite side and no visible hinges on your side. Normally you’d push such a door. “But it says pull!” “But we had the conversation that things aren’t ‘real’ in this game!”

    Also, why would “things aren’t real” be a selling point :bawling:
    If I wanted to hear you tell a story we could play more of a story telling game like Untold or Microscope or Once Upon A Time.

    (counterpoint: if your experience with trad roleplaying is all 90s storyteller mode and Quantum Ogres, why would you expect any blorb at all when you see traditional mechanics? you might expect quite the opposite).

    Yes, this is a good counterpoint; I can offer the following experience to strengthen that counterpoint.

    The “mirror story” happened in the second blorby game I played. I first played in a B4 The Lost City game. I thought it was a one shot and that we had done most of the things you could do. I thought the dungeon was fairly linear. I got home, got the module, started reading it and was like “Really? We could’ve gone here and here and here instead? People prep places and not just branching events? And there was several levels below our level?” [Later I found out that the GM was bummed that I had read the module because we could’ve played on.]

    That experience sorta subconsciously prepared me for the “mirror story” a few weeks later.

    The counterpoint is also a really good case for transparency of method. If you’re used to the 90’s stuff, it takes a while of playing with transparency of method for it to sink in that “holy shit, all of this is real…?” #BlackLeaf

  • The example of “the NPC to create drama” Jay described is a good one. There’s nothing at all blorby about either a) making sure there’s always an NPC around who could create drama, nor b) using that NPC to create drama whenever it’s needed.

    As I already wrote above, having NPCs creating drama is absolutely blorby and good and expected. “Always around” or “whenever it’s needed” is unblorby but also not necessary.

    The benefits over strict blorb seem pretty obvious, too: there is always tension and drama, and the GM can “steer” things more in that direction, to create more exciting play for the players.

    But when that tension and drama is make believe it’s hard to take it seriously…? Even if you have Cary’s ♫hypnotic voice♫ (Jonathan Tweet has been reported to have a similar level of authority when he runs games) I’m likely to go “you’re just making that up”. Sil has reported that only 10% of new players stay with the game.

    I mentioned the thought experiment of a version of Apocalypse World where all the “choose from a list” moves and options were randomized instead. Isn’t it obvious how that would harm the game and make it worse? (It is to me; we can discuss it more if someone finds it not so.)

    “Obviously”/“intuitively” it seems to me that the moves with options that are set up to rely on the specific diegetic circumstances are hard to “randomize” productively but that some of the “ok nothing happens they are looking at you things are awkward the rules tell you to make a move now” moves could benefit from being mechanical & gloracular / “random” / decision-making-disclaimed.

    The “ice moon” scenario, and similar frustrating experiences (TPKs, for instance) never need happen, because we can always improvise/create new material to keep the game and the story moving.

    That is the bigges strike for blorb of all time though. If TPK’s can always be avoided and it’s all fail forward then life&death becomes up to GM whim. The guy who was killed outside the stockade on Ghoul Island was murdered. If you can introduce ex machina for one thing, it’s always the GM’s fault when an ex machina is not introduced. Cary could’ve saved that guy’s character. It’s no longer the gloracle saying you died, it’s the GM. (Also when I started running the game for guys I found that they would be like “No you don’t . I don’t die.” so life & death weren’t only meaningless, it was also non-existent.)

    Why is there even a mechanic for being stranded on desert islands / ice moons if not for adding serious and real [read: blorby] risk to travel?

    I’m fairly confident at this point that someone like Cary would have improvised something interesting on the ice moon, had that been his game, and we would have had several hours of exciting, engaging play, instead of sitting around being angry at each other.

    So when I had my ice moon story when the players were drowning in a trap, I was like “I can’t find a way out of this, time to roll up new characters I guess” they said “hold on we have an idea” used their diegetically deduced assumption that traps reset at dawn and their magic cello to conjure a waterproof cottage inside the cistern to wait it out and then barbic inspiration to force the cistern door open. And when I had the second ice moon story last Tuesday I said “OK I don’t know how you’ll survive this, time to roll up a new character I guess” he spent like five minutes flipping through the PHB rereading his class features and his prepared spells and then brought out his spare character. Fail faster♥

    Working with principled prep and consistent resolution methods means that we need to, by definition, treat similar qualities and quantities the same.

    That would’ve been huge but that’s not reflective of how we play. We have one resolution mechanic for “zoomed in time” and another for “zoomed out time”. For example resolving a week of pit fighting with three rolls. XGE p 131. (Because your life&death isn’t really on the line in that environment and the interesting things is finding out what the fallout is from the week of fighting. Also this is another example of how life&death&success as a saliency indicator is subtly different from challenge; in a pure challenge came of course you’d zoom in on every single fight.)

    We can’t, for example, resolve one instance of trap-finding one way and another one a different way, simply because we’re not interested, the GM has a cool idea, or it’s late at night.

    Obviously “we use our standard secret-door finding protocol” is common practice.

    If you drop that restriction, you can zoom in and out much more freely, to create tension, drama, excitement, and to follow your interests as players and as a group.

    You can’t really create real create tension, drama or excitement though. Only tell a story about tension, drama or excitement.

    In something like 2097e, when you come to a small town looking for a particular person, we might have a procedure to follow for whether we find them or not. We might end up dicing it out only to find that, no, you don’t find them, or play through interactions with other characters, while we try to puzzle out their identity.

    So the specific mechanic I use is that the person’s location is given gloracularly (often tier 2: random). This lead to awesome play during our Glitchworld campaign when the person in question was a dangerous intellect devourer who would try to kill people and take over their bodies [which I rolled out] wherever it went. So having “wherever it went” be answered by the gloracle was a thrill.

    And the other half of the mechanic is that the rando other people’s knowledge of that person’s location was random. It could be “does not know but pretends to know in order to get money” or “does know but is afraid of being accused of being in cahoots”.

    It’s exciting and it challenges the players, but there is lots of room for “dead air”, wasting time,

    …? You’re not sitting silently aroud the table hemming and hawing, you are playing the game.

    or anticlimactic resolution.

    The possibility for anticlimactic resolution makes climactic resolutions awesomer. And, anticlimactic resolutions are cool too. I was really into that ice moon story as you might remember.

  • In a game like AW, the MC has the tools to offer the PCs an interesting dilemma instead (“offer an opportunity with strings attached”, or something like that) and then frame an exciting and dramatic scene with that person, set up to maximize the potential for interesting interactions, danger, romance, and thematic weight. (Instead of finding them in a random place and at a random time, we can think like a movie director and “find them” at dusk, with their child in their arms, bleeding to death.)

    I appreciate you adding the appropriate scare quotes to “find them” there.

    The following is something that happened in our Curse of Strahd campaign. The players had been occasionally running into this non-player dracula hunter (Esmeralda) and they rolled her up on a random encounter again just outside of Strahd’s (a dracula) chamber. (A one percent chance.) They were retreating to rest up & gear up before entering that chamber but she was obviously on her way in there. Then between sessions I rolled out the fight and she got turned into a dracula herself. The next time they rolled her up (again, a one percent chance) it was again just outside the chamber. She tried to trick them to come close so she could draculize them but they didn’t fall for it, she got put down and stricken from the encounter table.

    Having had something like that happen, for real, why would I ever want to go back to “movie” land?

    For me, the benefit of unblorb is that you can pack a full story arc in few sessions, while having most moments of play be dramatic and pointing to the premise. You don’t waste time fighting filler monsters or undertaking routine tasks for the sake of fairness or internal consistency.

    There’s nothing routine about fighting a monster that can kill you or making sure you don’t rack up too many starvation days that can kill you.

    Could I play 20 sessions until a character survives long enough for a story to develop and a climax to build up, purely for diegetic reasons?

    Actually surviving real danger for 20 sessions would make the campaign by definition epic af.

    Not very likely. The epic campaigns I’ve had in 10-12 sessions, sometimes even less, with DW, BW or AW would undertake many more sessions with blorby play.

    And we’ve had plenty of legendary 10-12 session campaigns in our D&D game. LMoP, glitchworld and both our aQ campaigns were all that length. Right now we’re doing something bigger (we’ve had 65 sessions) but that’s hardly un-epic. We’re just really invested inthe particular maguffin.

    Me other argument is that roleplaying is telling stories around a campfire, with rules. Many of us instinctively know that this is all made up in the spot, that no SIS exists prior to the act of play. The game and the world and the story are the words we speak. Thus, games operate on a narrative logic where different rules dictate what we may or may not accept as a valid outcome. Here, it’s all about narrative and even this focus on blorby content is a narrative genre. So, applying narrative rules like moves isn’t “arbitrary”, it’s in fact quite consistent when well executed, because we all have a sense for climax, pacing, spotlight, drama, etc. It is a style to be practiced and refined as much as the discipline required to GM a blorby game.

    Believe me, I know. I ran games that way for 20 years. All in “story logic”. “First this happens, then this happens, then maybe this could happen, and here I’ll improvise a bit, and then…”

    Making the pivot to “world logic” was momentous. It’s a completely different way of thinking. It’s not just “a narrative genre”. It is completely buying in to the imagined space even before it is shared. This is huge.

  • edited May 31


    * Working with principled prep and consistent resolution methods means that we need to, by definition, treat similar qualities and quantities the same. We can't, for example, resolve one instance of trap-finding one way and another one a different way, simply because we're not interested, the GM has a cool idea, or it's late at night.

    If you drop that restriction, you can zoom in and out much more freely, to create tension, drama, excitement, and to follow your interests as players and as a group. You can get straight to the stuff that interests everyone, and spend more of your playtime focused on that.
    I think your other points are solid, but this one might benefit from some examples and elaboration.

    Even in hardcore sandbox paly it is not necessary to treat all cases at the same level of abstraction, even if they are treated with the same level of seriousness.

    Sometimes a player tries to find a hidden item by pushing a chest in case there is something under it. Sometimes they say "We spend a two days going through the building; throughout search. We use chalk to mark which places have been searched already. What do we find?"

    However, what one typically would not do is glossing over difficulties or uncertainties with mere narration, in the style of "After travelling for days and outwitting some trolls, you finally reach the mountain. You sneak past the orc horde and find your brother on the top floor of the tower.". Unless the characters are powerful enough, the integrity of the fiction would require some representation of the risk and uncertainty.
  • Hi Sandra,

    @Silmenune - 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.
    @2097 - Thank you for clarifying this, this hasn’t been clear.That hasn’t? Huh. If you are willing, would you be so kind as to explain your thinking? I’m rather curious why that is. Any other posters here feel that what I’ve been describing in the game I play in as a rigid game either in resolution mechanics or of “story” development?

    Ontological rigidity of diegetic elements

    I was unsure about whether or not the actual diegetic elements (presense & power-level of orcs for example) was made up on the fly (as the other posters here believed) or if they were more “solid” and “real”. I didn’t, and don’t, know Cary’s specific procedure.

    That is a question that isn’t really related to rigidity of resolution mechanics or rigidity in story development.

    As for those two points, you’ve been clear, kinda:

    Rigidity of resolution mechanics

    You’ve sometimes given the impression that you believe Cary kinda makes things up and changes things and that it’s all meaningless, and you’ve sometimes given the impression that you believe Cary has real rules in place such as PBP vs stamina. This ambivalence is the mythic bricolage. But which is it?

    Rigidity of “story” development

    That’s not really here nor there.

    Rigid stories are not something that either of us are into and they are un-blorby; there’s no point in engaging the Klockwerk if you have a pre-set outcome already.

  • @Thanuir: sorry for the crosspost. I typed as quickly as I could. I appreciate the way you phrased it and agree.
  • @Jeff
    D&D and PbtA have different features and they can both be good games but just appeal to people with different tastes.
    D&D being my favorite game by a significant margin I think both D&D and PbtA have some fundamental flaws around this area ("realness"/blorb) and appreciate the opportunity to try to hammer down exactly what that is.
  • edited May 31
    I thought of another advantage:

    Back in Forge days, the idea that anything prepped wasn't yet "real" until it was actually narrated into play was referred to as No Myth.

    No Myth is powerful and useful in that it allows more room for player contributions: ideas, narration, colour details, ideas, and so forth are based on mutually known facts, and therefore there is no danger of "contradicting" unknown prepped material.

    This can be really key to making various kinds of collaborative gaming systems and tools work; solid prep would get in the way of that kind of dynamic or those kinds of techniques.

    In this way, "non-blorb" (or No Myth) improves our ability to design and play games which call for player input into the fiction.
  • Rigidity of resolution mechanics

    You’ve sometimes given the impression that you believe Cary kinda makes things up and changes things and that it’s all meaningless, and you’ve sometimes given the impression that you believe Cary has real rules in place such as PBP vs stamina. This ambivalence is the mythic bricolage. But which is it?
    I've noticed this in Jay's descriptions of his game, as well.

    My best understanding is that it likely varies from case to case (for instance, in combat, I've seen Cary occasionally use the damage rules and occasionally ignore them in favour of simple colour narration). The players, however, have full trust in his ability to make the right call and therefore sort of "assume" that there is always logic behind what is being said and played. A sort of mild self-deception.

    In the meantime, the concept of "Mythic Bricolage" lays the groundwork for celebrating that kind of ambiguity instead of seeing it as "rule-breaking".


  • I think your other points are solid, but this one might benefit from some examples and elaboration.
    True. It's not just about scale, but about "seriousness" as you put it, objectivity, and consistency.

    You describe it well here:

    However, what one typically would not do is glossing over difficulties or uncertainties with mere narration, in the style of "After travelling for days and outwitting some trolls, you finally reach the mountain. You sneak past the orc horde and find your brother on the top floor of the tower.". Unless the characters are powerful enough, the integrity of the fiction would require some representation of the risk and uncertainty.
    That's exactly what less "blorby" approaches allow us to do. For some styles of gaming, that's really useful and handy.
  • edited May 31

    Having had something like that happen, for real, why would I ever want to go back to “movie” land?

    I think the key is that, for you and your group and your game, you really value the impact that objectivity in resolution can bring. The very fact that Esmeralda turning into a vampire is very unlikely means that it's so much more meaningful.

    However, for a group that doesn't value the objectivity as much, the advantage is precisely the inverse: that this cool moment - Esmeralda turning into a vampire - can happen pretty much every time they play.

    They don't have to wait through ten sessions where Esmeralda doesn't turn into a vampire. They can effectively "fast forward" to the moment where she does, and play that out.

    They're trading off frequency and consistency of "cool moments!" for the impact of those cool moments. Kind of a quality vs. quantity thing, I suppose, to put it crudely.

    But then if you imagine that the ability to come up with those moments is the skill the players want to use as often as possible, non-blorby play gives them far more opportunities to do so.

    In one case it's a rare thing that only happens when the gloracle wills it. In the other, you've removed the gloracle so that you can do it all the time, at every session.
  • Hi Sandra,

    I said that only a small percentage of new players make the cut. It's very rare that a new player doesn't wish to play again.

    Best,

    Jay
  • edited May 31
    Back in Forge days, the idea that anything prepped wasn’t yet “real” until it was actually narrated into play was referred to as No Myth.

    Yes…? I’ve referred to it several times in this thread…!

    However, what one typically would not do is glossing over difficulties or uncertainties with mere narration, in the style of “After travelling for days and outwitting some trolls, you finally reach the mountain. You sneak past the orc horde and find your brother on the top floor of the tower.”. Unless the characters are powerful enough, the integrity of the fiction would require some representation of the risk and uncertainty.
    That’s exactly what less “blorby” approaches allow us to do. For some styles of gaming, that’s really useful and handy.

    As Thanuir put it, “Unless the characters are powerful enough”. In D&D they aren’t, but you could easily write a game that has the inverse of Cthulhu Dark’s “If the players try to fight the monsters they will die” rule while still being prepped blorbily. Dogs come to mind when you just outwit trolls & sneak past orcs all day until you actually have to escalate to dice because there might be some salient fallout. [Yes the “there is an ambush here that you don’t know about” rule in Dogs is unblorby; I’m talking about an other rule of Dogs right now OK?]

    In such a game orc hordes and foolish trolls might even be [but doesn’t necessarily have to be] “wallpaper”!

    However, for a group that doesn’t value the objectivity as much, the advantage is precisely the inverse: that this cool moment - Esmeralda turning into a vampire - can happen pretty much every time they play.

    It can’t really happen. They can only tell a story about it happening.

    It’s very rare that a new player doesn’t wish to play again.

    Thanks for clarifying this.

  • edited May 31

    As I already wrote above, having NPCs creating drama is absolutely blorby and good and expected. “Always around” or “whenever it’s needed” is unblorby but also not necessary.

    Yes. But the "always around" and "whenever it's needed" are precisely the qualities I flagged, and I did so intentionally. Clearly it's not necessary for your play priorities, but it is for Cary's.

    Absolutely necessary, in fact.

    Because they have chosen to make that a high priority, and they like it that way.

    Why is there even a mechanic for being stranded on desert islands / ice moons if not for adding serious and real [read: blorby] risk to travel?

    Exactly right! You've nailed it on the head.

    Let me rephrase what you wrote:

    If you don't want to add serious and real risk to travel, you should remove the mechanic for being stranded on desert islands / ice moons.

    And that's precisely what this type of game does.

    The possibility for anticlimactic resolution makes climactic resolutions awesomer. And, anticlimactic resolutions are cool too. I was really into that ice moon story as you might remember.

    So true! It's a tradeoff, though, with all the other things I'm listing. Some people like it and some people don't! I can see the appeal of both sides, frankly (as you know, I'm a big fan of "blorb" and principled prep; I just wouldn't use it in this style of gaming, where it will just get in the way of the fun).

    So, then, where does the drama come from? You describe it well here:

    That is the bigges strike for blorb of all time though. If TPK’s can always be avoided and it’s all fail forward then life&death becomes up to GM whim. The guy who was killed outside the stockade on Ghoul Island was murdered. If you can introduce ex machina for one thing, it’s always the GM’s fault when an ex machina is not introduced. Cary could’ve saved that guy’s character. It’s no longer the gloracle saying you died, it’s the GM.

    You can’t really create real create tension, drama or excitement though. Only tell a story about tension, drama or excitement.
    You are so right!

    So, then, why doesn't everyone do that?

    1. Some people really don't want to "create real tension". They very much want to "tell a story about tension, drama, or excitement". That's more fun for them. They don't like the real tension; they like the storytelling.

    It's a different kind of pleasure. I enjoy it sometimes. A lot.

    2. However! Non-blorby games can still totally have real tension, drama and excitement. My favourite kind of non-blorby game has strict and solid, tangible resolution mechanics for what happens next, which puts very real stakes on the line.

    An easy example is any game which allows you to stake your character's life on a particular instance of conflict resolution. (You've played Dogs, you said: that's a game that does this well. You can always choose to "give" in a conflict if you don't want to take more fallout. This means that your life is never on the line except when you choose it to be... and that becomes the rare, impactful, powerful, memorable thing, instead. Except it's based on pure player choice instead of random gloracular outcomes. In this sense, it's more pure; it happened because it was that important to you, not because the dice happened to fall that way this one time.)

    Much like how those anticlimactic moments in "blorby" play make it even better, as you wrote earlier:

    "The possibility for anticlimactic resolution makes climactic resolutions awesomer."

    The version of that in Dogs is something like:

    "The possibility of folding in any conflict means that those times when you do choose to risk your life for something you care about, it really means something."

    That's a form of drama and excitement that's really tangible and really cool, and doesn't rely on blorb or prep in any meaningful way.

    It's also super intense and super fun!
  • Not to be contrarian, but I don't personally feel like you can have real tension because of the inherent fictional nature of the events. Unless you're like, playing with actual bodily harm on the table or something, but it's safe to assume that ya'll aren't (I hope!).
    It's all fabricated. It's just a matter of how you present that fabrication, and personal preference. The stakes and tension you buy into will always feel more real to you than the ones you don't buy into. Blorb isn't inherently any more real. It's just what you buy into the most. And like, this is coming from a place of that I've played blorb games, and I'm not the type who buys in that kind of way. They were the most artificial thing imaginable to me. It didn't feel at all like life. It felt like a computer simulation at best to me.
    And yeah. Just something to think about on the topic of "real" vs. "not real". I generally agree about things feeling more real when they're preplanned, but I take that in a totally different direction, as you know, and the whole thing is just a matter of personal preference.
  • edited May 31

    Before I get into replying to Paul, I want to add something (for the purps of our mutual goal of “game design research”, I don’t think it strengthens my case). Esmeralda becoming a dracula, Abu being saved by the cult of Usamigaras, and the extended murder spree of the intellect devourer named “Cookie Tin” were memorable to me because they were story beats that didn’t really involve the PCs, they happened completely gloracularly. The players weren’t particularly impressed because from their perspective, cool things happen every game. Two sessions ago the heist, one session ago the frankenthrow & the petrification was kinda overshadowed by their “Contact Other Plane” shenanigans, and last session several story beats [more challenge stories than Narr stories but I’m fine with that] similar to “mirror story”. For all the life changing magic of the mirror story in my own life, it’s kinda miraculous how often it does happen in finchian style play. It’s no wonder it happened to me the very second session I played with this kinda game.

    Yes. But the “always around” and “whenever it’s needed” are precisely the qualities I flagged, and I did so intentionally. Clearly it’s not necessary for your play priorities, but it is for Cary’s.

    Absolutely necessary, in fact.Because they have chosen to make that a high priority, and they like it that way.

    You misunderstood what I meant. I didn’t mean that the NPC incited drama was unnecessary. I meant that you can have NPC incited drama through the gloracle if you set up ways for the gloracle to introduce NPCs and for those NPCs to incite drama.

    Exactly right! You’ve nailed it on the head.

    Let me rephrase what you wrote:If you don’t want to add serious and real risk to travel, you should remove the mechanic for being stranded on desert islands / ice moons.

    Yes. That was what I meant exactly, yes. If you have that mechanic you should use it, if you don’t want that kind of play you should not have that mechanic. You should have a mechanic where the player characters are just strong enough at astronavigating that they don’t get stranded on ice moons, or a setup where they don’t navigate their own ship but are instead passengers among the well-established space lanes.

    Just as how in my game I don’t have the players roll to see if they strapped on their shield correctly, you don’t have to have a game where you roll to see if you astronavigate correctly.

    If you don’t want to add serious and real risk to travel, you should remove the mechanic for being stranded on desert islands / ice moons.

    And that’s precisely what this type of game does.

    No, my point is that traditional games played unblorbily has the mechanic, sees the mechanic do it thing, but then flinches on the outcome and cheats the situation. Which is bull.

    You can’t really create real create tension, drama or excitement though. Only tell a story about tension, drama or excitement.
    You are so right!So, then, why doesn’t everyone do that?

    Well answer one is that what we’re tryna find out in the thread (yes I know you gave some answers just below, I’ll geto them) and answer two is that blorb isn’t being taught. I had no idea how easy it was until I learned it from the blog of [OSR asshole #4], [OSR asshole #1] and [OSR asshole #27].

    Some people really don’t want to “create real tension”. They very much want to “tell a story about tension, drama, or excitement”. That’s more fun for them. They don’t like the real tension; they like the storytelling.

    In which case traditional techniques do them a disservice and hippie techniques would really help them.

    An easy example is any game which allows you to stake your character’s life on a particular instance of conflict resolution. (You’ve played Dogs, you said: that’s a game that does this well. You can always choose to “give” in a conflict if you don’t want to take more fallout.)
    […]
    “The possibility of folding in any conflict means that those times when you do choose to risk your life for something you care about, it really means something.”

    That’s a form of drama and excitement that’s really tangible and really cool, and doesn’t rely on blorb or prep in any meaningful way.

    But it does rely on blorb prep. The town and the NPCs and their dice pools are prepped. Blorb prep is why Dogs works.

  • Not to be contrarian, but I don’t personally feel like you can have real tension because of the inherent fictional nature of the events. Unless you’re like, playing with actual bodily harm on the table or something, but it’s safe to assume that ya’ll aren’t (I hope!).

    The stakes of not getting to play that character anymore, or not getting to take that character where you wanted to take her, or not getting to do what you wanted with her, can be plenty intense enough to be “real stakes”.

  • edited May 31
    Aren't questions of where you want to take a character and what you want to do with them not a thing in blorb? I thought letting things happen without preference towards outcomes was a big part of the point.

    I'm also not sure I'd call those real stakes. They're manufactured game stakes, you know? It's still artificial. It's just a type of artificial that the group decides is acceptable to them. It's what the group buys into.
  • Aren’t questions of where you want to take a character and what you want to do with them not a thing in blorb? I thought letting things happen without preference towards outcomes was a big part of the point.

    Right; you can wish for something but the wish usually isn’t granted.

    I’m also not sure I’d call those real stakes. They’re manufactured game stakes, you know? It’s still artificial. It’s just a type of artificial that the group decides is acceptable to them. It’s what the group buys into.

    Could you clarify this a bit? How is having your character sheet torn up not real stakes?

  • edited May 31
    2097 what's your take on the following?

    http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/360
  • Oh, I fell down into the challenge mindset again. Let me try again: emergent outcomes from "solid diegetic elements" is what I'm into
  • It's only stakes if you've bought into caring about whether or not your character sheet is torn up. By its nature, it's fabricated. You've chosen to play by rules that say the character sheet is torn up if you do the wrong thing, and you've bought into the idea that having your character sheet torn up matters, you know?

    The times I played with blorb GMs, I failed to buy into the idea that having my character sheet torn up mattered, because character death is something I'm categorically incapable of buying into, you know?
  • (Not caught up on the above, but wanted to add a note:)

    Another advantage can be that, when you have confidence that the group/table will make something interesting out of anything that happens, and when certain choices aren't "penalized" (because they're bad solutions to challenges), it frees everyone up to play their characters with verve, elan, irrational desperation, recklessness, and other attitudes that can be really fun and add to the joy of the game for everyone else.

    Lots of times you see people coming from "dangerous" and "this choice really matters" traditional-style games (especially old-school dungeon type games, for example), and they've become so used to being careful and timid that they don't do well in more 'narrative' games.

    The adventurer who enters a dungeon and starts checking every floor plate with a 10-ft pole is very effective at surviving. But they make a *terrible* protagonist in an "action movie" kind of story, and same goes for a romantic comedy.

    Removing certain elements of "blorb" and allowing a more freewheeling approach can really free up players to play characters who are interesting and don't make "optimal" choices, which are often the most interesting characters in our favourite stories.

    That can have quite an impact on games, as well.
  • edited May 31

    You misunderstood what I meant. I didn’t mean that the NPC incited drama was unnecessary. I meant that you can have NPC incited drama through the gloracle if you set up ways for the gloracle to introduce NPCs and for those NPCs to incite drama.

    Ooh! OK. You'll have to explain that, then, because I don't know how you'd do that.

    In blorb play, you can often end up in a situation (to continue the metaphor) where there is no longer an NPC around to create drama. When that happens, you have to stick to your prep - you can't just introduce a new one to suit your needs.

    So what do you mean?

    No, my point is that traditional games played unblorbily has the mechanic, sees the mechanic do it thing, but then flinches on the outcome and cheats the situation. Which is bull.

    Oh, yeah, that's not fun for me either. (I don't know whether I should take a stance on this as some kind of objective truth of gaming, though... I'd have to think about that.)

    But a game can have all kinds of traditional elements but not "full blorb". Sorcerer and Apocalypse World (or whatever; pick your own example!) have a traditional player/GM split and all that but don't include mechanics for "getting lost on an ice moon". (And I would argue that it's because the designers were well aware of this potential pitfall and designed smartly around it.)
    answer two is that blorb isn’t being taught. I had no idea how easy it was until I learned it from the blog of [OSR asshole #4], [OSR asshole #1] and [OSR asshole #27].
    (Hehe!)

    I'd say that "playing full blorb" is very demanding and difficult. It requires time, attention, constant tweaking (rulings, updating prepped material, etc), discipline, lots of trial and error, course correcting, and so on.

    You do well because you clearly put a lot of time and effort and thought into it. For some people, it's very impractical (maybe they have no time to prep at all; maybe they have a learning disability - whatever).

    It's not an "easy" approach; some other, looser approaches are much more practical for people. That's also a significant advantage.

    Some people really don’t want to “create real tension”. They very much want to “tell a story about tension, drama, or excitement”. That’s more fun for them. They don’t like the real tension; they like the storytelling.

    In which case traditional techniques do them a disservice and hippie techniques would really help them.
    I agree with you there! Absolutely.

    But it does rely on blorb prep. The town and the NPCs and their dice pools are prepped. Blorb prep is why Dogs works.

    No, not at all. It's simply an example, first of all - there are many such forms of "tangibility" in non-blorby games, and, for me, at least, Narrativist play depends pretty heavily on them.

    But, more importantly, the dynamic I described wouldn't be any less true in a game that didn't have prep but used Dogs mechanics. The fact that the GM is expected to prep a Town doesn't change that fact. (It occurs in other ways in Apocalypse World, for instance, even in the first session. And, in theory, it could come into play in an initiation conflict in Dogs, too, which is explicitly unprepped in any way.)

    The prep here is a total red herring; the key is that all kinds of interactions in play can result in tension, drama, and uncertainty. Sticking to principled prep is just one of many ways to achieve that (and, for many people, a highly unreliable way to get there, depending on what they value or care about).

    (Remember these rules, for example? They don't need principled prep to feel dramatic and exciting, just a character and a situation we care about.)
  • They're manufactured game stakes, you know? It's still artificial. It's just a type of artificial that the group decides is acceptable to them. It's what the group buys into.
    (Yeah. This is right. Once we buy into certain stakes being tangible and meaningful and interesting to us, they become "real".)
  • There's a really important distinction that gets overlooked a lot (especially by genre fiction people, since genre fiction is very focused on objectivity) of real vs. meaningful. Things can be real without being meaningful, and likewise, things can be unreal/artificial and meaningful.
    Realistically, what you're discussing isn't whether or not something is real. It's what does and doesn't invoke meaning for you.
  • edited May 31
    What Emma said. There is no "there" there. It's ALL fictional. What matters is what is meaningful and how we go about achieving it. Let us not forget that ALL of this is, at base, a very ritualized form of conversation between real human beings.

    Definitionally blorby must require that the players inspect the GM's notes at the end of each session if "truth" is to be validated. Otherwise there is no way for the players to "know" what they experienced completed comported with the "real" tangible notes of the DM. Plus said notes would have to be in a form that are unalterabe. If this action of verification of matching the physical world to the diegetic world is not taken then the argument that gloracular play indeed occured is unsupported and is merely conjecture from the players' perspective.

    (I hate posting by phone....especially when I should be asleep!)

    Best,

    Jay
  • 2097 what's your take on the following?

    http://lumpley.com/index.php/anyway/thread/360
    I love it and I refer to it all the time including in this very thread where I already linked to it

    I think we're pretty much on the same page♥
  • It’s only stakes if you’ve bought into caring about whether or not your character sheet is torn up. By its nature, it’s fabricated. You’ve chosen to play by rules that say the character sheet is torn up if you do the wrong thing, and you’ve bought into the idea that having your character sheet torn up matters, you know?

    The times I played with blorb GMs, I failed to buy into the idea that having my character sheet torn up mattered, because character death is something I’m categorically incapable of buying into, you know?

    Gotcha. Yeah focusing on the stakes was a dead end I guess. I shouldn’t have gone down that line of reasoning.

    The “realness” is something else, it’s not just about the stakes.

    There’s a really important distinction that gets overlooked a lot (especially by genre fiction people, since genre fiction is very focused on objectivity) of real vs. meaningful. Things can be real without being meaningful, and likewise, things can be unreal/artificial and meaningful.
    Realistically, what you’re discussing isn’t whether or not something is real. It’s what does and doesn’t invoke meaning for you.

    Good distinction, but I do value realness. For me it was a mindblowing experience and I thought it could never happen in a tabletop roleplaying game. I though it was outside there capability of the medium. Pre “mirror story”, I would’ve been right there witcha saying it’s all made up, it’s all story, it’s all narrativium etc.

    What Emma said. There is no “there” there.

    That’s core of where we disagree.

    The goings on in the Forgotten Realms or whatever is as real as my laundromat appointment last week or my next dentist appointment this upcoming fall. It’s all theoretical and imagined [after all, I’m not arms deep in laundry right now or having my teeth done right now; it’s all just hypothetical] but there are some “fixed points” to it that make it interesting and legitimate to talk about beyond just “a story”. Imagination and reality.

    Definitionally blorby must require that the players inspect the GM’s notes at the end of each session if “truth” is to be validated. Otherwise there is no way for the players to “know” what they experience completed with the “real” tangible notes of the DM. Plus said notes would have to be in a form that are unalterabe. If this action of verification of matching the physical world to the diegetic world is not taken then the argument that gloracular play indeed occured is unsupported and is merely conjecture from the players’ perspective.

    That’s right.

    I built that trust by letting them inspect whenever they wanted and I still let them do that. That’s not something that happesn every session. It was something we did the first couple of weeks in 2014. During the last couple of months it has only happened once; something kinda unexpected was in the prep and I insisted on showing them even though they were like “no, no, we trust you” but we still had a laugh (a sad laugh because it was kind of a horrible thing) by verifying it. It’s not a Schrödinger box where only what happens is real, or only what’s observed is true. It’s all real and they know that.

    So whether or not it’s known that gloracular play occured, it did occur.

  • Another advantage can be that, when you have confidence that the group/table will make something interesting out of anything that happens, and when certain choices aren’t “penalized” (because they’re bad solutions to challenges), it frees everyone up to play their characters with verve, elan, irrational desperation, recklessness, and other attitudes that can be really fun and add to the joy of the game for everyone else.

    Not all rulesets have to put the character’s competence (wrt saving their own asses) in question the way D&D does just to be blorby.

    The adventurer who enters a dungeon and starts checking every floor plate with a 10-ft pole is very effective at surviving. But they make a terrible protagonist in an “action movie” kind of story, and same goes for a romantic comedy.

    Because they are treating the situation as real. Which is what I want out of the medium. If I wanted a movie, I’d watch (or make) a movie. If I wanted a hippy story game I’d play a hippy story game. (Those are great.)

    Removing certain elements of “blorb” and allowing a more freewheeling approach can really free up players to play characters who are interesting and don’t make “optimal” choices, which are often the most interesting characters in our favourite stories.

    You mean portray them in a story. Not be them in the other world, which blorb allows.

    Ooh! OK. You’ll have to explain that, then, because I don’t know how you’d do that.

    It’s true that as DM I can’t inject NPCs at will; they are pulled through the encounter table and through the map keys. Our current game kind of an exception where they also have the gloom stalker’s wife who is a constant NPC. They also had a son but he died.

    But instead of controlling the presence of NPCs [and their accompaning drama] in any given time, I do the opposite; through saliency time zoom principle we control the flow of time itself. No drama? Time passes quickly until there is drama. Through an NPC or other porte-monstre-trésor element.

    Oh, yeah, that’s not fun for me either. (I don’t know whether I should take a stance on this as some kind of objective truth of gaming, though… I’d have to think about that.)

    It seems like there is this taboo against saying that a particular mechanic is better or worse than another. Idk I just don’t think that way. If something is better it’s better? An Eldritch Blast cast at level 5 is better than an Eldritch Blast cast at level 1? Blorb is better than non-blorb? Five ants is a bigger number than four elephants?

    But a game can have all kinds of traditional elements but not “full blorb”. Sorcerer and Apocalypse World (or whatever; pick your own example!) have a traditional player/GM split and all that but don’t include mechanics for “getting lost on an ice moon”. (And I would argue that it’s because the designers were well aware of this potential pitfall and designed smartly around it.)

    Again, my game doesn’t have you roll to see if you strap on your shield correctly. Some things you can just do. You can design a game where you can just travel in space competently without risk of getting stranded on an ice moon and still be blorby.

    I’d say that “playing full blorb” is very demanding and difficult. It requires time, attention, constant tweaking (rulings, updating prepped material, etc), discipline, lots of trial and error, course correcting, and so on.

    You do well because you clearly put a lot of time and effort and thought into it. For some people, it’s very impractical (maybe they have no time to prep at all; maybe they have a learning disability - whatever).

    I do well because I started with the dinky 32 page starter set booklet and grew the game slowly & gradually from there.

    I volunteer as a meditation teacher in a shikantaza group and I always say that meditation is the hardest thing in the world but don’t worry you can’t do it wrong. Losing focus and then finding it again is the process, much more so than if you would’ve constantly held focus [the process of catching yourself strengthens your metacognition which is the main benefit of mindfulness practice, if you would’ve constantly held focus all the time you would’ve only strengthened your awareness of primary sensation]. The three tiers of truth is similar: you fall down to tier 3, you fill the gap, you try again, you fall down to tier 3, you fill the gap, you try again. That is the process. Successfully surfing on only tier 1 and 2 truths throughout an entire session happens, especially this late into a campaign, but the third tier is there for a reason. It’s a loop that always helps you to keep on the straight&narrow.

    It’s true that the way my brain works helps me run games. I didn’t mean to be ablist against all the neurotypicals :bawling: But that is why I want to teach blorb.

    No, not at all. It’s simply an example, first of all - there are many such forms of “tangibility” in non-blorby games,

    “Tangibility” is blorbiness.

    The prep here is a total red herring; the key is that all kinds of interactions in play can result in tension, drama, and uncertainty. Sticking to principled prep is just one of many ways to achieve that (and, for many people, a highly unreliable way to get there, depending on what they value or care about).

    Tension, drama and uncertainty arise from tangible elements (such as player characters) colliding with each other. There’s no real tension, drama and uncertainty to collide with something that just melts into air upon impact. Burning Wheel creates very tangible characters.

    (Remember these rules, for example? They don’t need principled prep to feel dramatic and exciting, just a character and a situation we care about.)

    In the end I never had any good experiences with that ruleset and moved towards the more absolute pro-blorby position I’m putting forward in this thread.

  • edited May 31
    there’s nothing routine about fighting a monster that can kill you or making sure you don’t rack up too many starvation days that can kill you.
    Sandra, if you can't concede that:
    1. Some people aren't interested in random encounters.
    2. Fighting to death every fight for no reason is not interesting in every genre. Hell, fighting even is specific to some genres.
    3. Survival isn't a priority in every genre.
    You're kind of making for me the point that blorby play is too rigid about it's priorities, to the extent of harming the priorities of other genres.
  • edited May 31
    Stealing @Silmenume's use of "Klockwork" play because I think it is evocative and descriptive. I am eager to transfer the concepts I'm gleaning to my forum-resistant group and having evocative terms helps.

    I would say my two preferred styles of play are:

    a) No-prep (not counting day-dreaming or aesthetic prep), cut right to the drama, frame every scene around a core theme or premise. (I call this Narrativist but I know that's a loaded term). Kingdom, Follow, and my fav PbtAs (AW and Masks) do this well.

    b) High-prep, what's on the page can't be changed (I mostly run adventure sites by @Fuseboy, @Thor_O, etc ), pacing is baked into the rule-set, follow the players around and adjudicate as transparently and consistently as possible.

    These are both fun for totally different reasons. I love the feeling of "getting it right" by adding in a plausible, well-foreshadowed twist in a system where you have the leeway to introduce new elements freely. I also love when my hand is off the wheel (like the randomly rolled vampire hunter-turned vampire) and happen to get a satisfying result. In the latter example (Klockwork), the core gameplay loop needs to be fun, satisfying enough that I'm not drumming my fingers waiting for an emergent plot development that might never get rolled.

    I have played some systems that are designed for relatively Klockwork play (not in it's platonic form, but there are degrees) and I like them a lot less when they GM takes a tighter rein over events.

    For example, Torchbearer is my go-to system for this kind of play. However, it sometimes falls pretty far short of this bar.

    In one scenario, the GM has a map of dungeons prepped and says "Here are the travel rules. Go for it." It's totally up to the players which dungeons they engage with, when they retreat to town, how they address the threats at each location, etc. This allows for nearly full-Klockwork play. They risks and rewards are tangible and the GM has no tools for steering them in one direction or another.

    In another scenario, the GM shows up each week with a dungeon prepped and tells the players how they get hooked into the adventure. I often end up playing in this mode; it's the only way to playtest an adventure site on a reasonable timeline, or run for only a couple of sessions without wasting prep. The Klockwork factor here is way lower. It still works, and the players have plenty of leeway in the environment (there's no hard-scene framing by the GM after the adventure is started) but it's a significant difference.

    My other example is complex enough that I am going to make a new thread.
  • edited May 31
    Good workshoping going on and I've missed so much. A bit metaphysical at times (the reality of fiction etc.) ;p
    Simulating a world or a story genre, the random generator of dramatic incidients, all this reminds me of Spinozza's physics : there are things and the relations between things, which are a sort of thing in their own way. This kind of distinction really benefits from being cleanly built from the ground up. Else, we navigate between clouds and dice but without knowing where the interlocutor is.

    I want to emphasis a point : that you can (and I'd argue it's always the case) have the whole table merely move air only half heartedly, and then a ping pong ball could float on that air stream, and that's when things begin to feel real. I like a good "(fishing line) plunger" mechanic to detect this moment, Rickard's postural vote in Imagine being my model at the moment. There's no more reality before than after. It's called intensity, and it's common to take it for truth or reality, because it's really convincing. "Intensity" meaning is wider than "fun" (a useful distinction when talking about character death).
  • edited May 31

    @moconnor, we might be pretty much on the same page

    @Khimus…

    there’s nothing routine about fighting a monster that can kill you or making sure you don’t rack up too many starvation days that can kill you.

    Sandra, if you can’t concede that:

    Some people aren’t interested in random encounters.Fighting to death every fight for no reason is not interesting in every genre. Hell, fighting even is specific to some genres.Survival isn’t a priority in every genre.You’re kind of making for me the point that blorby play is too rigid about it’s priorities, to the extent of harming the priorities of other genres.

    I don’t think in terms of “genres” since it’s more of a trip than a “story” but I’ve written in this thread about games where there is no fighting and no survival and they’re still fully blorby. The “sneaking past the orc tribe, outwitting the trolls” example, the “navigating easily past any dumb ole ice moons” example, the “I don’t have them roll for strapping on their shields” analogy.

    So you can scratch that point 2 and 3 from your list.

    Q1 is more interesting. Are random encounters a necessary element for blorby play? For me it’s def one of the key techniques. Moving bangs from the GM’s control to the gloracle’s (some on the random encounter list and some on the map key). It’s all about disclaiming responsibility of introducing diegetic elements.

  • Is randomness necessary? Could they all be only from the map key?
  • 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
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