The dysfunction of unblorb

It's often pretty shocking to me how extremely audacious the big model wiki can be
http://big-model.info/wiki/Dysfunction
After discovering that site a few months back I've become much more insufferable and unapologetic myself too!
Looking at the examples under "taxonomy of horrors", I ain't disagreeing that those things are bad, but I'm like… so is unblorbiness…!? (W/o sufficient hippification.)
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Comments

  • What do you want out of this thread?
  • I'm curious, too.

    I'm not at all a fan of the wiki (there's some weird stuff there!), so I'm in agreement with you there, Sandra.

    I don't think that list of "horrors" (yikes!) is supposed to be comprehensive/all-encompassing, but who knows - that's just my reading of it.
  • I'm with Adam on this.

    Dysfunction can and does show up in all of the Creative Agendas. So what? I've argued that deprotagonization is CA dependent. It takes a different form in each of the different CA's. OK. Nothing particularly controversial about that.

    That the wiki poorly represents what was discussed? I'm not going to disagree.

    So, to reiterate Adam's question - what are you looking to accomplish?
  • The subject line suggests that the topic is "the dysfunction of unblorb".

    So, what is that? What causes it, and how bad is it?
  • Purp of this thread is that…
    there is this norm that you can't say "I think this is good gaming, I think this is bad gaming" when it comes to some things but no such taboo when it comes to other things. I've been feeling (and will probably continue to feel) guilty for making wide blanket statements on the applicability of blorbiness to all roleplaying.

    But there are so many things that are more OK to consider to be bad and bad roleplaying, bad GMing and so on. That's what I wanted to examine. Why do I feel like I've stepped in an electric fence everytime I say it should all be blorb!
  • Isn't that probably part of why The Forge ended up so focused on Actual Play?

    If everyone at the table enjoys unblorby play then it's not going to be dysfunctional. If you join and you don't have fun, then it is, even if nothing else has changed about the game. The Dysfunction wiki entry, notably, is focused on symptoms.

    "I had a bad experience doing X" (or even "I have never had a good experience doing X") is very different from "X is universally bad."
  • That webpage is definitely not what I should strive to emulate. I need to remember that.
    But I get flak for saying that I think play should be blorby.

    You're right that the analogy breaks down. They're concerned with people being specifically unhappy. I'm like but you'd be more happy with blorb…
  • Sandra,

    I like the Blorb principles, to a point, but if I followed them rigidly, I would not enjoy running games anymore.

    I don't enjoy a lot of prep, memorizing stuff, or long lookups during play. I tend to replace deep prep with a rule like "create principles which guide making up stuff on the fly, and stick to them."

    You'd probably hate playing in my games! My games are not dysfunctional.
  • Unlike Adam, I love blorb principles but I would be quite happy to apply them strictly, and have done so a fair bit in my long-ago gaming history.
    (Although i agree that it is often not practical.)

    However, MOST of my gaming since then has not been blorby at all (except for some OSR play), and it’s been some of the best gaming I’ve ever had.

    For instance, over in my Dogs in the Vineyard thread, I’m exploring some seriously anti-blorby techniques which seem to be making the game a lot better.

    It’s hard to take a statement about unblorby play always being bad when I’d have to somehow rethink my life and consider most of the gaming I’m doing now and have done (like Dogs) and many of the games I see other people enjoying (like much/most of what I see in Gauntlet games!) as Totally Bad and Not Fun.

    I think it’s possible to convince someone how something they think is fun is actually bad, but you’d have to really demonstrate (a) how it’s bad in the first place, in very clear terms, and (b) show them how to make it better.

  • edited July 17
    And as for myself, if I chose to run a game for which the rules were written in a blorby way, then I'd run it in a blorby way, since I strive to run the game the designer intended, judging by the spirit of the system. But I wouldn't volunteer to run such a game these days. Someone I care about would have to really want me to do it.

    We've already ascertained that you wouldn't enjoy playing in my games either. But they please my players and perform exactly the functions they were intended to perform, thus, they are not dysfunctional.
  • The specific way I've tried to achieve blorb so far definitely isn't perfect or perfectly satisfying especially when it comes to other concerns.

    But let's examine unblorb. Frank & plain & blatant unblorb. What are some examples?

    What's the core gameplay loop of unblorb?

    Unmoderated, unilateral insertion or manipulation of game state entities.

    By one person: the GM. That's ultimately what we're looking at when we're looking at unblorb (or antiblorb, which is "unblorb presented as if it were blorb"—but let's stick to examining unblorb for now, that's enough of a can of worm).
  • You do recognize the implicit prejudice you've placed in the title of the thread, yes? It's a little like saying "Let's talk about all the ways you suck because you like eating sardines."

    Phrased that way it's not bound to generate much input from sardine-eaters, and nothing but redundant polemic from sardine-haters.

  • If you eat sardines in this day and age you do suck. I'm not going to condone sardine eating. The pacific sardine stocks have collapsed. And overfishing exacerbates the effects of climate change.

  • Point taken. Care to address the object of the metaphor?
  • I take a lot of flak personally from you and others for believing, with my limited dataset, and my fragile human perspective, that unblorb is almost always a bad game play interaction.

    Saying that games that use the traditional GM/PC role division should always be blorby is very taboo. The norm is to only speak of your own game table and any type of universal statements are met with shock.

    But the point of the thread was to point out that there are gameplay patterns that even the most unblorby of unblorby GM would also concede was dysfunctional and bad. As yukamichi correctly pointed out, that was a bad argument on my behalf because a lot of those more universally reviled game play patterns are more obvious and apparentsources of unhappiness for at least some of the participants. After that was pointed out, I kinda agreed that the thread wouldn't really serve its purpose well.

    For example hitting your fellow players physically at the gaming table is something that I would generally recommend to not do, for any one, unless you really really know what you're doing. I would never say "oh well that's something any group can decide for themselves". I mean, they can. But I can still make a general recommendation and say that table top roleplaying game should generally not involve physically hitting your fellow players. I don't have any power to enforce that recommendation. I don't have any way to come and take your hitting stick away from you.

    So in tabletop RPG, ever since unblorby techniques were invented, initially used anti-blorbily (i.e. presented as blorb), we've slowly gotten this culture of "ok this stuff is going on but we are accepting it". For example, it is taboo to call fudging "cheating" or even sometimes to call it "fudging". (Which, fine, if using those names makes it impossible to talk about it because they have such loaded connotations then we can call it something else, that's fine by me as long as we talk about it.)

    The reason I started the thread was to sort of defend my self for all the hate I'm getting for saying that I think games should, generally, be blorby (ior hippified). The 90s games culture is still very strongly rooted, very defensive.

    But it had the opposite effect. I honestly believe the traditional GM/PC split kind of needs blorb in order to really shine. I do. And if that notion can become more widespread, maybe I can finally play again and not have to GM all the time. I'm so scared that blorby play will die with me.
  • edited July 17
    I appreciate your model, and I admire your dedication to it. The only flak I give you is for the categorical nature of your assertions on games you are not involved with.

    You may recall my old thread "I want to be a machine," in which you participated in a similar negative way (roles reversed). And while I admit that I began the thread by making categorical assertions myself, by the time we'd reached page 2 or 3 I'd corrected my statements to make it clear that I was only speaking of my own personal approach, for any who might wish to adhere to it. It became an explication of a personal praxis, rather than a universal value judgment.

    That's what I'm advising for you, both here and in the other threads.

    As for the death of blorby play, well, I've already talked about how I used to run D&D in a very blorby way. My feeling is that my preference for--and ability to dedicate my time to--blorby play is directly and inversely related to the age of my oldest child.

    It turns out--for both myself and my players--that it wasn't sorely missed.
  • The specific way I've tried to achieve blorb so far definitely isn't perfect or perfectly satisfying especially when it comes to other concerns.

    But let's examine unblorb. Frank & plain & blatant unblorb. What are some examples?

    What's the core gameplay loop of unblorb?

    Unmoderated, unilateral insertion or manipulation of game state entities.

    By one person: the GM. That's ultimately what we're looking at when we're looking at unblorb (or antiblorb, which is "unblorb presented as if it were blorb"—but let's stick to examining unblorb for now, that's enough of a can of worm).
    Well, that's not exactly how it is. Blorb games have tier 3 truths, which sort of erode a bit the feeling of realness, so they're not pure in their blorbiness. Some unblorby games might have a solid game state, just because of a long time playing together that campaign. So for me at least there's no hard line to draw between both, and even blorb games require a process to acquire those techniques, so they might transition from an unreal initial state, to a more real later one.
    To label some gaming style as bad, we'd need a pretty clear dynamic that's harming people, and problematic gaming should be easily recognised, when contrasted to fine gaming. The line that separates blorb from unblorb seems to me a bit blurry.
  • It turns out-- for both myself and my players--that it wasn't sorely missed.
    So that's my epitaph.
  • edited July 17
    No need to be so dramatic. I'm just saying that in that vast virtual field of possible ways to play, blorbiness is but one spectrum among many, and that the determined value of one or another playstyle is relative to both players and GMs in ways that must consider those other dimensions as equally (or potentially even more) important. As the demands of being the sole breadwinner in a growing family increased over time, my choice was to either begin valuing those other dimensions, changing my approach to GMing, devising different types of systems, and finding players with similar values, or to put gaming away in the box labeled "childish things" and quit doing it altogether.

    Note that I'm not saying blorby play is childish, nor am I calling you a child. We all have such a box, and we all put different things in it. I'm talking about mine. There are plenty things in that box I still love dearly and would love to pull out again, but on the other hand there's life, which has its own plans and often forces one to change one's priorities. Raising kids is a huge factor in this regard.

    I also stopped reading massive book series and refined my taste for short stories. Clearly, that doesn't mean that all writers of massive book series suddenly became "bad" or "childish." But neither does it mean I have settled for something of less value.

    It just means that my view now contains other qualia that need to be considered--such as emotional affect, narrative structure, session length, cognitive load, and personal time, to name some easy examples--and that everything is relative.

  • For example hitting your fellow players physically at the gaming table is something that I would generally recommend to not do, for any one, unless you really really know what you're doing. I would never say "oh well that's something any group can decide for themselves". I mean, they can. But I can still make a general recommendation and say that table top roleplaying game should generally not involve physically hitting your fellow players. I don't have any power to enforce that recommendation. I don't have any way to come and take your hitting stick away from you.
    Our GM periodically circles the table and whacks any appreciably inattentive player with the Stick of Awareness like some Rinzai Zen master, and gosh darn it we like it that way thank you very much!

    Even if I agree with you probably like 99.5%, there's a part of me that thinks rolling mouse skulls or running an erotically charged sexventure sounds fucking awesome, even if they're not things I can see myself ever enjoying the way that they do. I'm all the more fascinated by the people who make things I think are awful work, because how they manage to do it often reveals something about games that I'd never thought about before.
  • AsIf I'm dramatic because I'm sick. And it has made me think that all of this is going to be gone.

    yukamichi.

    Right… but drinking Simple Green can be dangerous. I wouldn't make a general recommendation to use that in combination with ayahuasca.

    I'll get back to one of the core dysfunctions of blorb. Maybe old Forge heads will get a kick out of this:

    In a traditional 90s game the player is tied up with a bunch of rules and restrictions for what they can do, both in character creation mode and the playing-the-game mode.
    The GM otoh just gets a bunch of peppy advice, sometimes advocating straight up unblorby or antiblorby actions. The thesis is that this is a dysfunctional power imbalance. So there are two ways out of that bind. One is to hippiefy. Let the player loose! The other is to blorbify. Tie the GM up the same way the players are tied up.

    The purpose of this isn't primarily fairness but the idea that interacting with entities is more engaging ("tangible") when they haven't been arbitrarily injected or manipulated. I.e. when they are part of the game state and not just smoke & mirrors.
    Obv blorb vs unblorb is kind of a non-issue when it comes to a tight chamber drama where there are pretty much no entities except the PCs themselves.
  • Sandra,

    I really don't see any "flak" or "hatred" coming towards you from anyone here - and, least of all, me. I admire what you do, love blorb techniques, and participate with eagerness in all these threads because this stuff is AWESOME.

    Saying, "here are some cool techniques and they are really fun!" is a great way to start a conversation.

    However, if you want to start a thread entitled "the dysfunction of unblorb", we all come eagerly awaiting some explanation of description. Like Khimus, here:

    To label some gaming style as bad, we'd need a pretty clear dynamic that's harming people, and problematic gaming should be easily recognised, when contrasted to fine gaming. The line that separates blorb from unblorb seems to me a bit blurry.
    Don't misinterpret this as hatred! It's quite the opposite:

    It's people saying, "ok, you've made your claim. Now explain it! Tell us more!"

    Where's the dysfunction you're describing?

    It's eagerness and curiosity. :)

    What I would like to hear:

    * An explanation of why unblorby play is dysfunctional or "bad". Who is hurt, upset, or having their fun ruined?

    * Is this *always* the case in unblorby play, as you are suggesting, or are there exceptions?

    * What is an example of unblorb play that led to some real, interpersonal problems?

    For instance, if we take your example of "hitting people at the table", it's easy to see how it could go wrong: someone could get hurt. How does one get "hurt" in unblorb play?

    * Finally, how is this kind of hurt or dysfunction unavoidable in unblorb play?
  • Again, it's all about the way you put it. I'm absolutely sure that many MANY people would download a book on "How To Blorbify Your Game" - and some percentage of them would use some percentage of that information to positive effect. A few of them would go whole-hog and run their games in a 100% blorby way, from then until eternity.

    But to make categorical statements about a continually-changing field of endeavor with tons of creative angles, potential levels of focus, styles of use, and design intentions - and to do it in a place that assigns positive value to things like "hippy" design and "narrativist" mechanics - is to court antagony.

  • The message that this thread was a complete flop and exacerbated the problem has been received loud and clear
  • Another question would be, if blorb has tier 3 truths, why doesn't that make blorb too dysfunctional.
  • edited July 17
    (Paul, scroll up, we crossposted.)
    to do it in a place that assigns positive value to things like “hippy” design and “narrativist” mechanics - is to court antagony.
    You were giving me similar grief in PMs. The “I’ve never seen this place put in so much effort to grok what is essentially a type of ‘trad’ approach.” line of reasoning. The vibe I get is: That I don’t belong here. That is place is extending me enough courtesy as it is. And you don’t have to tell me twice. The place is literally shutting down.

    But you know what? This was the perfect place for this stuff. This place…
    1. Is hep to game theory
    2. Doesn’t like the power imbalance between GM and player in 90s style games
    3. Doesn’t like 90s games period!
    I’ve brought it to many forums and they bite my head off. Especially more trad focused places do. More 90s games style places do.

    S-G is a place where structured game design is appreciated. PbtA took off here too because the MC had to follow principles and agenda and moves. OSR already had a foothold here, even the ideas around “hygienic” techniques a la Eero.

  • Another question would be, if blorb has tier 3 truths, why doesn't that make blorb too dysfunctional.
    While I’ve acknowledged time and time again that the tier 3 idea is one of blorb’s biggest problems and I’d like to come up with a way to do things differently,

    there are some things to say in tier-3’s defense.
    1. Unblorb is unmoderated injection or manipulation of entities in the game state. Tier-3 is following a rule.
    2. My own game now hasn’t had any tier-3 stuff in many months. It’s a bootstrap technique. It’s something you use to go from not being able to run games at all, to be able to run fully blorby games. Gradually.
    I procrastinated for a year and a half. I was struggling with the Bat in the Attic stuff and the ACKS stuff. And I could never get it done. Then the 5e starter set came out and I was like “OK. This is fine. I’ll start small”.

  • Hippy designs are fine! They are off the hook and has been off the hook from the first post I made about this. If you want to tell or create a story, go with hippy designs. If you want to play pretend while you are experiencing things actually happening, go with blorby designs. Both are things humans like to do.
  • edited July 17
    The vibe I get is: That I don’t belong here. That is place is extending me enough courtesy as it is.
    That's not my message at all. I'm amazed in an envious way at the traction you've attained with this line of thinking, and I don't judge you negatively in any way. I told you, I am an eclecticist. I think everyone can learn something from everyone.

    As for belonging... I believe you've been at SG longer than I have - because I remember not knowing you but recognizing your posts and taking you as a significant figure in this new place I was trying to assimilate into - so if anything, you belong here more than I do.

    I never said, nor meant to imply, that SG is not the place for blorby stuff. And I've even told you that I welcome blorby stuff at fictioneers.net as well. It is only and only and ONLY your mode of assertion that I rankle at, and because I'm not the only one who feels this way, you feel mobbed and perceive it as griefing.

    But it isn't.

    It's just a reminder that relativism is real.

    We love you, Sandra.




  • thank you♥
    1. Unblorb is unmoderated injection or manipulation of entities in the game state. Tier-3 is following a rule.
    Well that's not 100% true. Many games that you've labeled as unblorb have pretty decent principles to make up content/rulings on the spot. Apocalypse World has them, Burning Wheel has them, even Blades in the Dark to a certain extent. So, unmoderated, they're not.

    Even if you tell me tier 3 is just following a rule, that rule lets the GM inject or manipulate the game state. Principles in AW are also rules. Otherwise the whole blorb issue would be solved by inserting a rule in every rulebook allowing the GM to make up stuff when there's nothing else available. I don't think that's the spirit of the theory you're developing.
  • The number one game I've labeled as unblorb is Lady Blackbird. (Sorry John!)

    Khimus, I’ve acknowledged time and time again that the tier 3 idea is one of blorb’s biggest problems and I’d like to come up with a way to do things differently.
  • But it’s a bootstrap technique. It’s something you use to go from not being able to run games at all, to be able to run fully blorby games. Gradually.

    I procrastinated for a year and a half. I was struggling with the Bat in the Attic stuff and the ACKS stuff. And I could never get it done. Then the 5e starter set came out and I was like “OK. This is fine. I’ll start small”.
  • I’m getting a really weird sense of deja vu, didn’t we have this argument a few weeks ago?

    In case I’m confusing stuff I did write with stuff I thought about writing, here’s my arguments again.

    Part of me really wants to go to bat for a weak version of Sandra’s arguments. Something like: The chasm width problem is an actual issue in game design and games that deal with it are superior to ones that don’t.

    I’d even go so far as to say she’s maybe right about (weak version) ‘if you haven’t solved chasm width, then you’re better off with a Hippy game than something more trad like.’

    Unfortunately the only good way of doing this is what @Paul_T suggested and looking at it on a game by game basis. Which he tried to do with Dogs. Now I haven’t played Dogs so I’d feel guilty trying to make blorb adjacent arguments just from reading the text. Also I’m lazy.

    The other issue is that I don’t fully agree with Sandra. Chasm width is a problem. Rock/paper and wallpaper into salience aren’t. Also, and this is really key, I think a lot of the problems that blorb kind of fixes, are problems at the level of purpose. With a clear shared agenda ‘some’ of those problems would go away.
  • Part of me really wants to go to bat for a weak version of Sandra’s arguments. Something like: The chasm width problem is an actual issue in game design and games that deal with it are superior to ones that don’t.
    I’d even go so far as to say she’s maybe right about (weak version) ‘if you haven’t solved chasm width, then you’re better off with a Hippy game than something more trad like.’
    The other issue is that I don’t fully agree with Sandra. Chasm width is a problem. Rock/paper and wallpaper into salience aren’t.
    For the purps of coherent game design, they’re not. And yes, that’s a major win right there. But for the purps of… “tangibility”… are they OK or are they iffy?

    I mean, Dave in the other thread said how unsatisfying 2-truths (generated truths) are compared to 1-truths (prepped truths) for him (as a player).
    Also, and this is really key, I think a lot of the problems that blorb kind of fixes, are problems at the level of purpose. With a clear shared agenda ‘some’ of those problems would go away.
    But I think the activity could be further enhanced by addressing those problems directly, i.e. moderating the injection and manipulation of entities in the game state.

    BTW this stuff does look new to me. Thanks for posting it.
  • In case you you were going to say "aren't solutions", Paper→Rock is a general solution to chasm width that you can apply to all kinds of trad games to make them more blorby, because while prepping, you have the goal to make chasm widths that are interesting&relevant for a wide variety of characters. Overly long or overly short chasm widths aren't interesting. Then, while running, switch agenda from "interesting & relevant" to "just stick to the gloracle".

    But other games can have specialized solutions that are even better solutions than Paper→Rock and thus do not need Paper→Rock.
  • And "wallpaper into salience" is a misstatement. (Maybe a misstatement I made the other day but still.)
    The idea is that wallpaper is something that isn't really subject to the chasm width problem since it's not an input or prerequisite for any outcome or consequence in the blorb. Iff it becomes salient, you can no longer treat it as wallpaper.
  • edited July 17
    If you want to tell or create a story, go with hippy designs. If you want to play pretend while you are experiencing things actually happening, go with blorby designs. Both are things humans like to do.
    But there's that blasted binary again! The vast majority of designable playspace is what you call unblorby, and always will be. In fact it will continue to expand as long as there are humans creating ways to do things we haven't yet thought of with living fiction.

    On the design level, that's because artists are artists, and will always find ways to blur or tweak or slice existing ideas along newly-appreciated lines of difference. There's a million ways to cut a chicken that don't glean the main portion of their satisfying value from, say, "only cutting in parallel slices 30-degrees offset from the spinal column."

    Maybe some of my cuts are blorby and others aren't. Maybe I cut it differently on different nights, and for different reasons. But it's still 100% of a whole chicken. And as long as everyone at the table thinks it's yummy, then it's yummy.

  • Sandra,

    I really hope you can believe us when we say that we love you. I mean that with 100% sincerity.

    I've been sad that I've rankled you and that you haven't written to continue our email conversation. I've been sad that you want to leave. I've tried to talk you into coming over to Fictioneers to continue the conversation there.

    You have been the most interesting and unique voice at Story Games lately, and that's something that I hope will continue somewhere else when this place shuts down.

    Here are some quotes just from this tiny little short thread, alone, never mind all the other positive engagement you've had elsewhere!

    I like the Blorb principles
    I love blorb principles [...] I would be quite happy to apply them strictly, and have done so a fair bit in my long-ago gaming history.

    Note that I'm not saying blorby play is childish, nor am I calling you a child. We all have such a box, and we all put different things in it. I'm talking about mine. There are plenty things in that box I still love dearly and would love to pull out again

    I agree with you probably like 99.5%
    I admire what you do, love blorb techniques, and participate with eagerness in all these threads because this stuff is AWESOME.
    I'm absolutely sure that many MANY people would download a book on "How To Blorbify Your Game" - and some percentage of them would use some percentage of that information to positive effect. A few of them would go whole-hog and run their games in a 100% blorby way, from then until eternity.
    I'm amazed in an envious way at the traction you've attained with this line of thinking, and I don't judge you negatively in any way.

    [...]

    We love you, Sandra.
    In addition, I think that:

    1. "How to Blorbify Your Game" or "Powered by the Blorb" would be an amazing product/line of thinking/document, and I would support it in every way I could.

    2. You don't need to worry that blorb will ever die! I, for one, will carry on its torch wherever I go.

    Eero has talked here about blorb (in his own terms), as have all the people who interacted with him. So do many/most OSR people, and the OSR movement is HUGE these days.

    It's not going anywhere! It's a great part of gaming that needs to be celebrated. And you are a great part of Story Games that we continue to celebrate, or we wouldn't be here in these threads, interacting with you.
  • @2097

    This stuff gets so complicated to talk about properly it gives me analysis paralysis. So this is going to be rough as fuck.

    Let me rephrase what I mean. ‘I’m far less hygienic about rock/paper than you are’ and given the type of games we run that makes sense. I actively embrace wallpaper becoming salient so I don’t need tech to stop it happening. Although I do still need to be hygienic about it because it has to ‘start’ as wallpaper. I’d delight in the players using the tar I chose as wall covering to defeat the boss later. As long as I’m not deciding the tar is wall covering ‘because’ it could be used to defeat the boss.

    As for tangibility.

    Let’s say we’ve already prepared a situation + characters. The advantages of me of being very clear about entity introduction (through prep or whatever) are...

    1) I get to play the fiction rather than the tension. I don’t have to think about making it interesting or good, I can just let the clockwork unwind.

    2) The emergence is more impartial. Even with the best of intentions I can subtly railroad, strong prep prevents this.

    3) Everybody is looking to resolve the situation rather than expand it.

    So I’m not sure how much tangibility plays into it. I think 3 is ultra important to me and might be my version of tangibility but at this point my brain is getting fried.
  • edited July 17

    Maybe some of my cuts are blorby and others aren't. Maybe I cut it differently on different nights, and for different reasons. But it's still 100% of a whole chicken. And as long as everyone at the table thinks it's yummy, then it's yummy.
    Right!

    I actually agree that much/most of trad gaming could and would benefit from blorb techniques. I certainly use them when I run trad games! (Including "hardcore blorb" if I'm doing OSR-style gaming.)

    However, the boundaries are blurry and sometimes it's not clear which side of the line things fall on. Sometimes hybrid forms produce great results.

    Let's look at this:

    In a traditional 90s game the player is tied up with a bunch of rules and restrictions for what they can do, both in character creation mode and the playing-the-game mode.
    The GM otoh just gets a bunch of peppy advice, sometimes advocating straight up unblorby or antiblorby actions. The thesis is that this is a dysfunctional power imbalance. So there are two ways out of that bind. One is to hippiefy. Let the player loose! The other is to blorbify. Tie the GM up the same way the players are tied up.

    The purpose of this isn't primarily fairness but the idea that interacting with entities is more engaging ("tangible") when they haven't been arbitrarily injected or manipulated. I.e. when they are part of the game state and not just smoke & mirrors.
    Yes! 100%.

    Story gamers and Forge-heads have been going on and on about this for a long time.

    You might find it interesting to know (or maybe you already know?) that when Vincent published Apocalypse World, he got a lot of flak from other story gamers about this very design feature. "This game gives the GM too much power! Where are the limitations on the GM? Where are the game structures that control the GM's role from taking over the game?"

    Apocalypse World is/was a very surprisingly traditional game, even compared to Vincent's earlier designs, and it was coming out at the same time as games like Archipelago and Fiasco.

    While some people still find it too "traditional" for their tastes, it seems to have stood the "real world test": the guidance in the book, the thorough explanation of Agenda and Principles, and the design features which guide the game in more player-driven ways seem to have worked for a LOT of people. The game has been tremendously popular and has generated - for many - their favourite roleplaying experiences.

    But, yeah, he faced all these criticisms. And I don't think they're invalid! Apocalypse World is about as close to that "dysfunctional power imbalance" line as I will dare tread, unless it's with people I really like and trust.

    A reference, if you're curious:

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


    I think you're absolutely right about this being dangerous design territory.

    However, the fact remains that some groups really *like* having a strong, auteur GM who takes control of the game, and have a great time with it.

    For example, I don't like railroaded traditional GMed play, as a rule. But we've discussed it a bunch with David_Berg, and I've told him that if he wants to run a railroaded game for me sometime, I'm down to try it. It would be a fun thing to experience, especially given the context of all the things we've discussed over the years.

    If we actually did sit down and knowingly and willingly put that experiment into practice, would it be fair to call our play "dysfunctional"?

    (It's not as hypothetical as it would seem, by the way, since we played a whole Sorcerer mini-campaign recently, and that game is definitely at least 90% traditional in terms of mechanics and it is entirely unblorby. And we had a great time!)

    Obv blorb vs unblorb is kind of a non-issue when it comes to a tight chamber drama where there are pretty much no entities except the PCs themselves.
    Also true! Agreed.

    Doesn't this kind of exception cause a problem for your thesis, though? I can run a "tight chamber drama" and play it in a traditional style, no problem. And I think it could be very fun! (Think of Braunstein games and Paranoia, for example.)

  • Part of me really wants to go to bat for a weak version of Sandra’s arguments. Something like: The chasm width problem is an actual issue in game design and games that deal with it are superior to ones that don’t.

    I’d even go so far as to say she’s maybe right about (weak version) ‘if you haven’t solved chasm width, then you’re better off with a Hippy game than something more trad like.’

    Unfortunately the only good way of doing this is what @Paul_T suggested and looking at it on a game by game basis. Which he tried to do with Dogs. Now I haven’t played Dogs so I’d feel guilty trying to make blorb adjacent arguments just from reading the text. Also I’m lazy.

    The other issue is that I don’t fully agree with Sandra. Chasm width is a problem. Rock/paper and wallpaper into salience aren’t. Also, and this is really key, I think a lot of the problems that blorb kind of fixes, are problems at the level of purpose. With a clear shared agenda ‘some’ of those problems would go away.
    Thanks, AlexanderWhite!

    I agree with all of the above - both with you and with Sandra. I think Sandra's dead on about "the chasm width problem", and I also would sign off (with caveats) on the following:

    (weak version) ‘if you haven’t solved chasm width, then you’re better off with a Hippy game than something more trad like.’
    Sandra, I would love to see talk to you about Dogs. It's a really interesting game that mixes traditional and non-traditional elements. So far, my impression is that it plays best with a mix of blorb and unblorb: blorby Town creation/prep, some intentional unblorby mixing in of character issues and Relationships, and entirely unblorby (but principled) mechanical solutions, like basing opposition dice on the number of Dogs participating in a conflict.

    I've tried a variety of approaches to all these things, and that's where I've landed so far. I'm open to other thoughts and ideas, but, unfortunately, it seems like no one around here has bitten the bait!

    Sandra, if you want to talk about an unblorby, traditional game that's not Critical Role or the Spicy Dice Middle Earth game, we can chat about my Dogs game or my My Life with Master game. Neither is as purely traditional as those other examples, but I'm happy to talk about any aspect of either game!


  • (It's not as hypothetical as it would seem, by the way, since we played a whole Sorcerer mini-campaign recently, and that game is definitely at least 90% traditional in terms of mechanics and it is entirely unblorby. And we had a great time!)
    What's unblorby about Sorcerer? Other than the bonus dice?
  • I’m curious because for me Sorcerer is ‘nearly’ the gold standard for N blorb. If Sorcerer really isn’t blorby then my understanding of what blorb is, is totally off.
  • Also, and this is really key, I think a lot of the problems that blorb kind of fixes, are problems at the level of purpose. With a clear shared agenda ‘some’ of those problems would go away.
    Yes. This.

    This is why Apocalypse World works for people. This is why Burning Wheel works for people. This is why Sorcerer works for people.

    Have a "clear shared agenda", and you'll cut through problems. Blorb techniques are fabulous for enabling a certain particular and specific playstyle, but I would never have understood when and how to use them without a clear sense of creative agenda - that, in my experience, is what makes it all work.

    They need to go together, in my experience - omit either element, and you're just spinning your wheels.



  • I’m curious because for me Sorcerer is ‘nearly’ the gold standard for N blorb. If Sorcerer really isn’t blorby then my understanding of what blorb is, is totally off.
    Scratch that.

    I think I’m muddying the waters here.

    I think looking at how blorby or not Sorcerer is would be really interesting though.
  • Sure! Start a new thread? It's possible we all disagree on what 'blorby' means, too.
  • edited July 18
    Thanx for the pep talk guys. It does make a difference.
    I’d delight in the players using the tar I chose as wall covering to defeat the boss later. As long as I’m not deciding the tar is wall covering ‘because’ it could be used to defeat the boss.
    My own play group have sometimes expressed dissatisfaction with that. The tar example ended up not being that bad but at another time I had wallpapered a weird property to a building, sort of a weird time altering liquid and they started playing around with it and I was like “oh God I accidentally steam dragon”…
    Maybe some of my cuts are blorby and others aren’t. Maybe I cut it differently on different nights, and for different reasons. But it’s still 100% of a whole chicken. And as long as everyone at the table thinks it’s yummy, then it’s yummy.
    This “benevolent dictator” mindset is something I am not into anymore and am not going to sign off on. No matter how benevolent the subjects perceive their ruler. Having that sort of power over other people is not cool in my book. They are bound by the law and you are above the law.
    However, the fact remains that some groups really like having a strong, auteur GM who takes control of the game, and have a great time with it.
    Kyriarchal structures comes into play here as well. In my pre-blorb games, once I’ve started running for guys I had a harder time “taking control” of the game.
    If we actually did sit down and knowingly and willingly put that experiment into practice, would it be fair to call our play “dysfunctional”?
    Yes.
    Doesn’t this kind of exception cause a problem for your thesis, though? I can run a “tight chamber drama” and play it in a traditional style, no problem.
    It’s not an exception. It’s completely inline with the thesis. If there are no entities to unblorb, then there’s no problem. My best experiences pre-blorb were games like that; when it was only our PCs colliding with each other. My worst experiences pre-blorb where when we were engaging with external entities like mysteries to solve, enemies to fight, treasure chest contents to discover. Because I saw it as all smoke and mirrors (I had no idea that they could be blorby).

    As far as Dogs and Sorcerer go, I have talked extensively about them in these threads. It seem’s pretty obv that Lumps isn’t super comfortable talking about Dogs. He pulled it out of print.


  • If we actually did sit down and knowingly and willingly put that experiment into practice, would it be fair to call our play “dysfunctional”?
    Yes.
    Well, you'll have to explain that one! Because I have no idea why.

    (And as for Dogs, I have no idea what you mean. Also, I really doubt Vincent would be upset in any way by our discussing possible prep techniques for the game. I understand he's not happy with the way Native Americans are portrayed in the text, and I respect that, but it has nothing to do with a 'blorb' conversation.)

  • edited July 18
    I’d delight in the players using the tar I chose as wall covering to defeat the boss later. As long as I’m not deciding the tar is wall covering ‘because’ it could be used to defeat the boss.
    My own play group have sometimes expressed dissatisfaction with that. The tar example ended up not being that bad but at another time I had wallpapered a weird property to a building, sort of a weird time altering liquid and they started playing around with it and I was like “oh God I accidentally steam dragon”…
    That's a really illustrative example! I can definitely see how that improvisation might mess with your sense of "blorbiness". (And I've had the same experience, too!) I wonder if the players felt the same way about it?
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