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A blorb thought

Lumpley wrote in to say:

I had a thought, these years later, which is that a whole lot of us had a parallel eye-opening experience the first time we played an rpg with rules that actually worked. “…And I don’t know how to describe it, but everything we did, we actually did!” Nobody just made up the consequences of our actions and we didn’t have to pretend they were real, they actually were real.

It’s definitively possible to have these kinds of experiences in ways other than the blorb model, the blorb principles.

I’ll call this “emergence”, or emergent experences, where blorb is a non-exclusive subset of emergent experiences, and there are other non-blorby ways to achieve emergence. Good games need consequence engines.

But, I think emergence is rare in RPGs. And by that I mean sessions where the entire session is uncompromised by noone making up the consequences and we have to pretend it’s real. Take for example Harper’s famous story about the Kang Civil War. He was surprised to his core about the ideas that were coming to him so spontaneously and of such high quality. But that’s still “making up”. I certainly had those experiences (maybe not as good as the KCW but certainly deeply satisfying, resonant, and memorable to me if no-one else) during my best non-blorby sessions, or when writing fiction. You don’t know where your pulling it from, it just flows. “The tap”, I used to call it. Let’s define a version of emergence that explictly excludes that, on the grounds of being made up.

When I said “ermergence is rare”, let me say that there are two huge exceptions. OSR (which basically is what I ripped off blorb from) and story games.

Sorcerer, for example, is certainly is designed to have emergent moments if not entire sessions. Same goes for Dogs which basically is a blorb game. The one exception in Dogs is the whole “they are ambushing you and you don’t see or know about them, whaddayado?” which is brilliant, works, enhances the game but is un–2097-like since one of my fave design principles is that decision points should, to the greatest possible extent, be isomorphic between character and player. “Do I bring more torches or more food?” Not sure if that aspect of my design ethos is a necessary component of blorb or something I have tacked onto blorb, additionally. BTW, that isomorphism is the biggest difference between me and Blades in the Dark. Deals with the devil and so on. Apocalypse World, on the other hand, has plenty of isomorphic beats.

But story games or OSR games are just a tiny subset of RPGs being played and within those subsets, emergent play—consequence-engine driven play—is a subset still.

Also, to the blorb model’s credit, the ideas of the gloracle’s centrality, the three tiers of truth, etc are pretty generally defined. Take an emergent experience and I’ll, Maslow-hammer-style, squeeze and twist the description of it to map it to the blorb model. Perhaps the principle of precomittment, which is a pillar among pillars in blorb, is the most mutable component for experiments in achieving emergence in un-blorby ways. Putting emphasis on tier two truths, “generative” facts. If you go left it’s random if you go right it’s random enjoy your choice and its consequences.