blorb or not blorb?

(blorb kinda means "the prep for the game is fundamental, improvising is what you do only when your prep has failed you and hopefully you don't have to do it, also prep things not events". If we have a nice canonical description give it to me so I can link it thanks.)

Here are a couple scenarios that my inner @2097 didn't know how to evaluate.

(a) Prep says "under the cloth is a cursed mirror which [does bad thing upon looking in it], but it's also really old and the curse may have lost its efficacy. Roll 1d6 and on a 6 the mirror is just a mirror". Players feel under the cloth, feel glass, assume it's a cursed mirror, take it with them, show it to an enemy, GM rolls a 5, enemy gets [bad'd].

(b) Same as above, but GM rolls upon entering the mirror room and knows it's a 5 the whole time the players have it with them covered.

(c) Prep says "it's either a cursed mirror or a steel plate with [info] painted onto it. When the players do something that would tell the difference, roll 1d6 and if it's a 6 then it's the steel plate. Please describe it in such a way that it's ambiguous as long as plausible, for example if they just reach under the cloth and feel it rather than looking."

(d) Same as (b), but prep says "GM, identify the character or characters with approximately a 1/6 chance to be the first to interact with the mirror. If multiple, choose between them randomly. Write this character down. If that character is indeed the first to interact with the mirror, it is not cursed."

(e) Same as (c) but with the which-character-first-interacts mechanics.

How blorby do those feel? Completely blorby? Compromised in some way?
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Comments

  • edited June 16
    D and E are right out. It can't be "contingent" like that. That is unblorb.

    B seems least bad.

    To be honest I think I do some A & C stuff.

    Rolling to see if doors are locked in In Search of the Unknown as the characters get close to the door, "enter the room" as it where. Which is B.

    Tier 1 truths just are blorbier to me than tier 2. More satisfying as a player. Tier 2 and tier 3 are more fun as a DM and ofc it's very difficult to do all tier 1 prepping an entire world. The fallback system solve the problem of our conflicting desire to prep widely and deeply. Tier 2 also makes sense for things that really are "alive"; i.e. other people going around in the dungeon locking & unlocking doors.
  • Also D and E are isomorphic to each other if I understand them correctly. Not that that makes them ok
  • edited June 16
    The first three seem totally fine to me, but (d) and (e) are quite interesting. I think a great deal would depend on the motives behind this mechanic. Why is it put together the way it is? What do we know about the characters or the players before we make the determination?

    (Figuring out what “interact with it” means could be tricky, too - what if two characters touch or see it at the same time? What if it’s the toad monster? - but that’s not as important a detail in terms of this thought experiment, I suppose.)
  • but it's also really old and the curse may have lost its efficacy. Roll 1d6 and on a 6 the mirror is just a mirror
    I really love that you put in a diegetic explanation for A, B & C. Going the extra mile♥

    The module that had the orig "mirror story" also has tons and tons of "runic tables" that are randomly cursed or not cursed. The equiv of "this dungeon has a lot of mirrors, ⅚ of them are cursed, roll randomly each time". Prepping widely & disclaiming decision-making. It's a tier 2!
  • Sandra,

    I've never seen anyone do (d) or (e), and they leave me scratching my head, like this is weird and it feels wrong. But... if there are indeed six characters, one is chosen randomly, and we could clarify what "interact with" means... isn't that just a form of randomization?

    If so, wouldn't it be totally acceptable?

    It's an interesting thought experiment, I think.

    There might be a pretty interesting underlying principle, as well, if we can figure out why it's "not ok". I have some glimmers of an idea, but nothing I could voice just yet without typing on and on and on...
  • But... if there are indeed six characters, one is chosen randomly, and we could clarify what "interact with" means... isn't that just a form of randomization?

    If so, wouldn't it be totally acceptable?
    You have put this well.

    I think what I'm trying to call out here, what my brain was pinging me about, is that blorb is not just about the effects which occur, but also about counterfactuals. If the prep says "on a 6 it is uncursed, unless you are playing with exactly 6 player characters, in which case choose one randomly beforehand and if it is quite clear that they are the first to interact with the mirror then it is uncursed otherwise roll", then there is no way for the players to distinguish between that prep and just "on a 6 it's uncursed". Literally impossible to distinguish if the GM does their job well.

    And yet.

    In one scenario, a character could say "if only I was the one to examine the mirror, it would be uncursed!" and be right (even though they could not know they were right) but their rightness in some sense makes no sense, and in the other they could not say that and be right.

    And to me, it feels like the truth of an undiagetic counterfactual undermines blorb!

    Whereas consider instead a mirror whose prep said "the characters were generated with 4d6-drop-lowest for each stat, right? well if the first character to interact had their second-highest ability be a 16 or more, then the mirror recognizes the innate strengths of its finder and the curse is lifted, otherwise the curse is present for another 100 years". That's about 1/6, but it feels like a perfectly blorby version of randomness to me.
  • That's a good "deep" read of the issue. The counterfactual claim makes it feel less "real".

    There's also a much "shallower" possible read, such as a higher-order principle in effect, something perhaps like "the contents of the blorb should not be contingent on the identity of the characters exploring it", and this technique, while technically acceptable in terms of its outcomes, is violating that principle, and therefore 'feels' off.

    (Although lots of blorby games break this!)
  • Counterfactuals are my favorite thing. I think they're incredibly useful for thinking about blorb or just hygienic GMing in general. One of the most important habits I have formed as a GM is, after a session, making sure that there are events that could have gone differently but for PC decision-making and/or luck of the dice. (This is particularly important if the session goes in the way that would have been most predictable or seemed most likely ahead of time.)

    These sorts of mechanics — D and E in Guy's original post—sort of almost break counterfactual thinking. Maybe that's why they seem problematic?

    I can give a great example from an actual module, by the way. Throughout "Against the Giants," when the PCs are searching treasure rooms or whatever, there will be like 100 barrels. And Gygax would write shit like, "the magic golden ring is in the 74th barrel the PCs search." Which is weird, right? Because it prevents things like saying, "If only we had searched in the opposite order, then the treasure would have been in the 26th barrel! We would have spent so much less time and resources here!"

    That's not identical to what Guy is talking about, but it just feels unnecessarily un-blorb. Like, why not just have barrels labeled #1-100, and ask the PCs what order they search them in, and the treasure is in #74? It's much more blorb and agency-respecting, IMO.
  • edited June 17
    "Under the cloth is a sentient magic mirror that plays a game of chance. When the characters enter the room, the mirror psychically detects them and chooses one randomly. If that character is the first to look at the mirror, the mirror discharges its magic as a harmless and instantaneous transmutation and becomes a normal, non-magical steel plate. However, if any other character looks in the mirror first, the mirror shatters and the character must save or die."

    There, now option (d) is blorb, right?
  • Very nice, Vivificient. :)
  • Option (d) two point oh is really neat, but also totally different from the original. You've got an intelligent magic item that can probably be contacted telepathically, and its behavior might be influenced by stuff like a character wearing a Mind Blank. It'll ping as magic to a Detect Magic spell before it's had a chance to transmute into a non-magical metal plate. And so on and so forth.
  • That die roll could be based on anything, and since the mirror is magic (even sentient perhaps), any good GM could come up with a diegetic justification for the mirror's bizarre method of "choosing" one PC, or "deciding" what it's going to do. Height, hair color, species, alignment...

    The last sentence of (c) - has me thinking about items which have the ability to randomly affect the GM's presentation. Off-the-cuff example: Imagine something like this in a module:

    1: The mirror is cursed and emits baleful energy: GM's description should be frightening.
    2: The mirror is cursed but the curse is well-veiled: GM's description should be innocuous.
    3: As (2) but it looks funny/weird: GM's description should be elaborate and symbolic.
    4: As (2) but it looks funny/haha: GM's description should be humorous.
    5: As (1) but favors a random PC: GM's description should make this PC feel safe from the curse, and they are.
    6: The mirror is not cursed, but GM's description should imply that it is.

  • So relieved to see a lot of people getting it; Viv, Jeph, AsIf etc. I really don't want this stuff to die with me.

    Guy & Paul: the prob with (the 1.0 versions of) d and e are that they are contingent. That's one thing you never ever want in blorb. Anything with even the slighest shade of "The keep is down the left path in the fork if they go left, the right if they go right" is a concentrated mass of anti-blorb.
  • Of course! Now it’s my turn to say, hey, that’s exactly what I just wrote, above. :)

    But it’s also an interesting example, because it rides the line of acceptability.
  • But... if there are indeed six characters, one is chosen randomly, and we could clarify what "interact with" means... isn't that just a form of randomization?

    If so, wouldn't it be totally acceptable?

    It's an interesting thought experiment, I think.

    There might be a pretty interesting underlying principle, as well, if we can figure out why it's "not ok". I have some glimmers of an idea, but nothing I could voice just yet without typing on and on and on...
    ♫that doesn't look like♫ ♫laa-aawn moo-oowing♫ to me♫♫
  • Of course! Now it’s my turn to say, hey, that’s exactly what I just wrote, above. :)

    But it’s also an interesting example, because it rides the line of acceptability.
    The 1.0 of D and E are beyond unblorb, they are anti-blorb.
  • The way I look at it, they’re *trying* to be blorb, but missing the mark, because of the contingency issue. But they’re close, in some ways, as Vivificient’s rewrite shows (which just puts a different gloss on the same technique, and makes it work). So that’s interesting!

    Here’s an interesting conundrum: does it change things if it’s all transparent and known to the players?

    Like, the GM’s methods are known, communicated to the players, and written in the module (so we could check later, if we wanted). The players know that the order in which they interact with the mirror matters, in other words. It becomes not just part of the reality of the game world, but also part of our “system” for how we interact with it up here in real life (at the table).

    That’s also kind of fun to think about. How much do those factors matter?
  • That degree of transparency would help make the 2.0 even better (Viv's remix) but not save the 1.0.

    I don't think 2.0 and 1.0 are similar at all.

    There is a little gnome that can teleport between treasure chests. She notes the characters when they enter the dungeon and selects one at random. When that character opens a chest, li'l gnomey teleports in. Good and blorby.

    vs

    There is a tea spoon. Select a character at random. When that character opens a chest, there's a tea spoon there. Undiluted anti-blorb.
  • For me, (a) and (b) are equally fine, with the implicit provision that the status of the mirror is also rolled whenever it would have to be determined in the fiction, which might also happen in a multitude of ways. If the mirror is unique, (a) is more convenient and easier to keep track of. (b) might be more convenient if these mirrors are frequent, or if the referee thinks they would be highly tempted to hint at which options is true.

    (c) asks the referee to withhold information - this, much as a request to provide information, feels bad. Players get the information they get via their play, and exceptions would require some strange effect. Maybe in some fey realm one always fails to keep track of whatever one tries to look at, for example, so that the referee should explain their appearance in detail but be awfully vague about their location.

    Concerning (d) and (e): I am not sure, but this might go back to the (dis/as)sociated mechanics - do we have an explanation of what is going on, or are we abstracting something with an explanation? Those tend to be more acceptable.

    This is, of course, a request for counterexamples.
  • I agree. I was thinking about the whole associated/dissociated discussion, because what Vivificient did with the rewrite is a very similar sort of conceptual reframing. They’re definitely sister topics.
  • Ass/Diss is to Klokverk what the humor theory is to medecine.
  • At best.
  • We have a fairly concrete situation here, and thus far the solutions have been improved by giving some kind of explanation them in the fiction.

    Give counterexamples. They make the discussion more useful. Statements are far less useful.
  • edited June 17
    @Rafu has nailed the whole thing in Thanuir's "dissociated mechanics" thread. But there is much less psychology and confusion in the GameState concept.
  • At best.
    So true!
  • edited June 18
    Example A, the latter example would be better in a klokkverk/blorb game:

    1. Referee selects a character. If that character is the first to touch the mirror, it is deadly; otherwise it is inert.

    2. The mirror, by using telepathy, randomly imprints on a single character. If that character is the first to touch the mirror it is deadly; otherwise it is inert.


    Example B, the latter example would be better in a klokkverk/blorb game:

    1. The spoon is in the first chest that is opened.

    2. An invisible gnome teleports the spoon so that it is in the first chest that is opened.


    In both examples, A and B, option two is better for blorb/klokkverk and more associated.

    When I am reading an adventure which includes stupidity like the spoon being in the first chest to be opened, I usually simple randomize the chest where it is, or roll a die to see if the spoon is wherever the players look or would otherwise determine the location by using their spoon sense or whatever. The implicit assumption is that someone has placed the spoon in a chest, and if there is no further detail given, than it might be in any chest, so I'll just roll randomly where it actually is.


    Examples A and B are textbook examples of associating the mechanic, with all the usual effects - they are more complicated than they would be without the association, they might interact strangely with play (as mentioned above: someone might be protected from telepathy or see the invisible or what not) and not create the assumed effect, but consequently they also more robust for players trying some strange experiment.


    My own method is not a textbook example of association. It can be seen that way, but it is not, at least for me, quite the obvious explanation it is in the scenarios A and B. I have not yet figured out a good explanation, but it should be within reach.


    To me, this suggests that if the mechanic is associated, it is fine. It might be bad for other reasons, but not being blorby/klokkverk enough is not one of them. (If the mechanism is too obscure, than it might seem unblorby/uklokkverk to the players, for example.)

    But I expect that there are other grounds for declaring something fine. This is why having actual examples is useful, whereas blanket statements do not add insight, only peer pressure. Give examples of blorby ways of determining whether the mirror is magical or not, and where the spoon is, that are dissociated.

    Since association is as relevant to the question as humor theory is to medicine (at best), this ought to be a trivial task.
  • One observation is that the unblorby/uklokkeverk scenarios are more predictable than the blorb/klokkverk scenarios.

    In unblorb, the spoon is in the first chest you open. In blorb, it might also be in the third one, or maybe you detect or interfere with the invisible gnome have a talk with them.

    Likewise with sensitivity to telepathy and the potentially magical mirror.

    This is not to say that the more unpredictable things are, the more blorb they are - the fictional world does not cohesion, too. But I certainly use the unpredictability of an adventure as a measuring device - if it is clear how it will end, it is less interesting, and there hopefully are some potential situations in the adventure where I have no idea what would happen.

    But I think nonpredictability is more of a heuristic, less a characterization.
  • edited June 18
    Humor theory meaning the early medical theory.

    It may be that you're right and that working on blorbiness will vindicate the idea of associated / disassociated mechanics. If it does, fantastic! I'll mow your lawn!

    edit: I'm adding noise to the conversation here, I'm sorry. I'll keep following along.
  • Thanks, I was confused by the "humor theory", but now it makes more sense. Edited my previous post.
  • edited June 18
    The visible tip of the iceberg is as you say : preparing the setting for a Klokverk is always making immanent, intra diegetic, "real in the fiction", associated factoids rules.
    But what is "associated rules" is still up in the air. Does it belong to rules, to people subjecting themselves to said rules, etc. It would be interesting to mine that lode now, equipped with a blorb golden path TM lantern.
  • 2097e has "dissociated" mechanics: How come I all of a sudden can fireball at lev 5. Did mommy teach me to burninate the country side. I can't shoot them anymore. It's getting dark, to dark for me to see
  • I would suggest sticking to the quantum ogre -type scenarios present in this thread, and leaving possible generalizations to other threads.

    Examples and specifics are a useful fundament on which generalities can later be built.
  • Right. What's the open remaining q for this thread, if any?
  • edited June 18
    Ooh, ooh, I have an example for consideration.

    Prep says "it's either a cursed mirror or a nonmagical mirror, normal in every way. When the PCs enter the room, choose one at random. If that character is the first to investigate the mirror, the mirror is normal, nonmagical. If another character, cursed. Six hundred years ago, the archwizard Palurum of Amathon theorized that such a mirror could exist, and offered several possible explanations for its nature and functioning, but his work on the subject remains both speculative and obscure."

    This mirror invokes canon offscreen gamestate without providing an in-fiction explanation.
  • Very funny, Gödel, but… not blorb.

    Obv "the mirror is normal, nonmagical" contradix the demonstrated nature & functioning of the mirror
  • edited June 18
    Obv no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an algorithm is capable of proving all truths about the blorb
  • Obv!

    However, in my opinion, the game's magic system is sufficiently associated that such apparent contradictions point instead to the limitations of our associated in-fiction/out-of-fiction conception of magic.

    I crack myself up, Sandra! Don't mind me.
  • Yeah, I’m with you, Vincent! That’s a great example.

    Thanuir, isn’t “let’s roll a die to see which chest the spoon is in” pretty obviously both blorb and dissociated?

    I think that the reason those “associated” versions you posted work better is because they’re more interactive. They assign logical causes to what’s happening, which allows us to consider different possibilities, instead of dictating something from on high and then twisting the fiction to match. I’m not sure whether that’s the same as association or not. (In great part because I’m not sure “association” can ever have a consistent definition, as we already hashed to death in the older thread.)

    Meanwhile, pondering the contingency issue is interesting. We generally want to avoid contingency in blorb, but do we know that it’s a rule without edge cases? I’m not sure just yet.
  • edited June 18
    In the distant future, Roko's Basilisk creates a fictional mirror with the actual ability to force the GM to say whatever it wants the GM to say...
  • A magical mirror that, when gazed upon, reveals the GM’s bank account number...
  • Here one that is quite dissociated, but not at all dependent on referee whim:

    Choose the character, whose player is sitting the closest to you/has the best cooper result/has been happily married the longest or closest to being happily married / any other completely out-of-game property of the players. If that character is the first....

    There might be something like this in some Lamentations adventure, but my knowledge is not encyclopedic.

    ---

    I think Vincent's suggestion does not nothing to help the referee make the decision, though it gives some hints if they want to roll for whether their characters knows about the matter or not.

    ---

    Paul's question with respect to the associatedness of rolling a random chest: Rolling a random one is the ground state - the item needs to be somewhere, nobody has determined where it is, so give equal chance to every option and roll. Just like determining who happen to be close when a trap is triggered but the exact locations of characters are unknown, or a myriad of other situation where one has to determine who or what is where.

    I would say it is trivially easy to associate if not associated, but here, more than elsewhere, this might depend a lot on the person's education (kind, not level) and way of thinking.

    ---

    Sandra, I think the idea is to look more carefully at what is blorby or not, and maybe try to find some more governing principles for that.
  • Sandra, I think the idea is to look more carefully at what is blorby or not, and maybe try to find some more governing principles for that.
    Oh I don't disagree
  • Absolutely.

    Consider:

    * If the character's player's birth year is prime, the trap applies a curse to the character.

    (Blorbiness depends on whether the prepper, GM, or the players - if they learn about the rule - know each other's birthdays or not.)

    * In combat, we take strict turns, one at a time, with everyone getting a turn before we start again.

    Entirely blorby but completely dissociated. As are many, many RPG rules.
  • edited June 18
    Thanuir: There can be propsitions constructed that are undeterminable whether or not they are blorby is what I'm saying.
  • edited June 19
    Up top, Guy starts with blorb and works outward. I want to see if I can work my example back toward blorb:

    L1, same as above: Prep says "it's either a cursed mirror or a nonmagical mirror, normal in every way. When the PCs enter the room, choose one at random. If that character is the first to investigate the mirror, the mirror is normal, nonmagical. If another character, cursed. Six hundred years ago, the archwizard Palurum of Amathon theorized that such a mirror could exist, and offered several possible explanations for its nature and functioning, but his work on the subject remains both speculative and obscure."

    This invokes offscreen canon gamestate without offering an in-fiction explanation. Not blorb.

    L2: Prep says "it's either a cursed mirror or a nonmagical mirror, normal in every way. When the PCs enter the room, choose one at random. If that character is the first to investigate the mirror, the mirror is normal, nonmagical. If another character, cursed. Six hundred years ago, the archwizard Palurum of Amathon created this mirror by accident, and while he was able to probe its nature and functioning to some extent, a complete understanding of it escaped him all his life."

    This invokes offscreen canon gamestate and gives the mirror an in-fiction origin, without offering an in-fiction explanation.

    L3: Prep says "it's a cursed mirror, but when the PCs enter the room, choose one at random. If that character is the first to investigate the mirror, the curse is broken and the mirror loses all magical potency. If another character, it remains cursed. Six hundred years ago, the archwizard Palurum of Amathon happened to see this character in a scrying pool, and, in the majesty of his power, created the mirror intentionally to have this effect, although his reasons for doing so are lost to us. Perhaps another vision in his scrying pool, of an even more distant future, led him to do so."

    This one's got offscreen canon gamestate, an in-fiction origin, an in-fiction explanation for its functioning (or at least a sketchy grounding of its functioning in the fiction), and it does away with the hilarious magical-or-not contradiction, but it still makes that random choice of character.

    I guess my questions are:

    1. My understanding is that the random choice of character means tier 2 truth, thus, not blorb. Sandra, is this what makes it not blorb, or have I seized on that incorrectly?

    2. Each step I take makes the mirror feel more real to me. Sandra, Thanuir, Jeph, Guy, how about you?

    Each step I take also makes the canon offscreen gamestate bigger, deeper, more complex, and/or more self-consistent. For me, this isn't a coincidence. What do you think?
  • Most of what you said sounds right, except...
    My understanding is that the random choice of character means tier 2 truth, thus, not blorb.
    Random choice of character is not a tier 2 truth. It is a mix of fixing the prep, then tier 3, then tier 2. What happened in L3 is this: six hundred years ago, Palurum of Amathon looked into a scrying pool and saw... [big blank in prep. really big. you can't insert a character here because that character might not even exist? you can't insert the random table "pick one PC" because that's not what the archwizard did at all]. So you, as GM, say to yourself "okay the closest reasonable fix to the prep is that the archwizard saw one of the people entering the room at around this time, but how do I choose?"

    Then to determine how you choose, you tier-3 improvise a new tier-2 rule for this room+archwizard+mirror encounter: you will pick uniformly at random from those people which Palurum of Amathon could have seen in their scrying pool.
  • L1 and L2 are both equally blorby/unblorby to me. I would be more comfortable with L3, especially if there was a wider context of the wizard as a diviner or prophet.

    If faced with L1 or L2, I would try to come up with some such rationalization, or just ignore the text and roll d6.

  • 2. Each step I take makes the mirror feel more real to me. Sandra, Thanuir, Jeph, Guy, how about you?

    Each step I take also makes the canon offscreen gamestate bigger, deeper, more complex, and/or more self-consistent. For me, this isn't a coincidence. What do you think?
    I'm not being asked directly, but I agree with all of the above.

    Some observations:

    1. From a blorb group, I think the issue is that "choose a character at random" selects from a contingent group (the PCs entering the room), which limits our ability to play this for a properly "blorb" perspective.

    It is contingent on out-of-game facts (like the characters being portrayed by human players), making it hard to adjudicate. When something is hard to adjudicate impartially, that seems to me to harm the integrity of the blorb.

    What if the PCs send a group of henchmen into the room, to investigate the mirror, for instance? What if some of those PCs are being played, just for the moment, by one of the players? (And so on.)

    Those are hard calls, in a way that a non-contingent offscreen gamestate answer would make easy.

    Consider this counterexample:

    The mirror has been covered since it was created. When a human looks into the mirror for the first time, roll a d6. On a 1, this is the person Palurum of Amathon scried two hundred years ago, and the mirror [does its thing].
    2. Vincent, you're using the term "offscreen canon gamestate" quite freely and confidently here.

    What does it mean to you?

    How is it distinct from "prep" or "backstory", or other such terms? Is there a categorical difference between, say, a backstory I write for my character, and this bit of text about the mirror? What parts of the texts you wrote are "offscreen canon gamestate", what parts refer to "offscreen canon gamestate", and which are not?
  • edited June 19
    More setting objects and facts (the wizard, their works, etc.) mean more ways for the players to indirectly interact with the trap (the mirror). They grant a simulacrum of reality. But if these informations are not accessible to the players, no gain.
    I see this as separated from the core of the question which for me is "targeting the players rather than the characters". The character is not targeted for being a body, a soul or anything present. Rather it is targeted as being a player character. What is described looks like a "suspense" technique, rather than a trap.
  • I've actually been wondering about the player-facing vs. GM-facing aspects of this, too. For instance, some "blorb" techniques could make things feel more "real" for players on one side of the screen, but not the other.
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