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Realism and blorb

Ouch, I found this thread:

Realism and klokkverk

I can’t register an account on the site so I’ll answer here.

For background, blorb is a playstyle I like a lot♥︎
And No Myth is its, well, it’s a playstyle that is blorb’s opposite in many ways. No Myth can also be fun enough and I’ve played that way in the past but once I found blorby play I never want to go back. I personally just enjoy blorby play so much more.

I’m gonna explain what it is, for background for people who aren’t nerded in to this.

In No Myth things that haven’t been actually said at the table can be changed freely. It doesn’t matter, right, since it hasn’t been said? As an example, thinking that “The criminal the players are seeking is in the third building they visit, no matter what addresses or streets they go to” is allowed in No Myth, and holding even that idea loosely “If I come up with an even cooler place for the criminal to hide during play then I’m certainly going to run with that instead” is also completely normal in a No Myth game.

In a blorby game, that kind of malleability is not allowed and instead the DM needs to follow prep, rules, or principles to determine where, for example, a particular criminal is hiding.

There’s nothing weird or philosophical about this so far.
It’s just different rules and principles that the game is based on.
Just like chess uses a board while poker uses cards.
Just like pizza uses dough while soup uses broth.

Blorb needs its set of principles to be blorby♥︎
A good little circular definition there.

I didn’t invent blorby play; both blorby and unblorby moments, or entire games, have been played in RPG since the seventies or earlier. I just, uh, I tried to make the principles to make blorby play happen a little bit more often, more cleary, and more easily. And they are, just like everything I make, a work in progress♥︎

Now we’re going to head steeply into the nerd talk. Feel free to check out at this point and return to this article later if ya wanna get super nerdy about this.

Thanuir is correct that blorb is a set of principles that are aligned with philosophical realism, as in universals are distinct from their instantiating particulars.

The word “realism” (in the context of aesthetic philosophy) can mean a world where specific things (like potions of water breathing that work for one hour) are “instances” or examples of a class of objects that in some sense exist. Not only the objects exist (in the game! Not yet, steam tunnels, not yet!), but the class of them exist. That idea has sometimes been called “realism” which is dumb because that word can mean a thousand different things.

In this sense, the world is “realistic” if it’s implied that there “exists” a class of items that are, say, 1h-water-breathing potions, whereas the world is “idealistic” if only the specific, individual bottles that we have seen so far “exist”. It’s a fight over what the word “exists” means.

So if someone says “They were down there for three hours? That’s not realistic, potions of water breathing only last for an hour!” they are correctly pointing out that the piece of fantasy fiction seems more aligned with Berkeleyan idealism than with philosophical realism but they might still be wrong (if there is more than one kind of potion of water breathing in this world).

The mathematician rolls his eyes at his companions’ muddled thinking and says, “In Scotland, there is at least one sheep, at least one side of which appears to be black from here some of the time.

Mathematical joke - Wikipedia

There’s absolutely a huge overlap between this kind of realism with the concept of “consistency”, but, crucially, it also involve consistency external to the on-screen narrative (i.e. the sessions we’ve actually played and said out loud) but still internal to the fictional world as a whole (i.e. planet al-Toril in my case).

The Strawberry Fields is an example of fantasy that isn’t realistic because there’s nothing to get hung about. It’s purely idealistic♫

Just saying that although one sense of the word “realistic” is “connected to, and evocative of, our everyday experiences”, the word (confusingly enough but this is the curse of all words) also has this other more ontologically related sense.

I write about blorb from time to time on the internet. Silmenume on a Story Games years ago didn’t like the name “blorb” and started calling it by the exonym “klockwerk”.

I know petty doesn’t cancel petty but I’ve edited the posts to not use his exonym. Back when we were having the discussions on Story Games, it was called blorb and that’s what I’ve been calling it here on my own blog♥︎

Silmenume writes:

There were claims made that information that was known to no one at the table, including the GM, had an effect on the game and was real.

The example back then was, let’s say the DM places a module such as White Plume Mountain in a distant corner of the campaign world and says “this, bar for any lined content, is canon in our campaign” after only having given the module a surface glance.

This happens all the time in our game. And, throwaway things in those modules can have far-reaching consequences on the sandbox as a whole.

I recently placed two shorter modules (The Cry of the Sea and Lai of the Sea Hag) in our campaign world. Just little throw-away side quest things. One of them has caused all fish and ocean life to die in a 100 mile radius and the other has, uh, it has had an even bigger consequence (I’m being vague because the players don’t know yet).

In neither case did I realize that those things would happen when I made those modules part of the canon game space.

Silmenume writes:

There were other serious problems and fiat claims that fell squarely in the realm of Epistemology that were violently avoided when brought up at problematic.

I don’t really agree with “violently avoided”; I spent hours and hours talking about the playstyle and I still do. I love blorb♥︎

People were seriously not getting it. They thought the steam tunnels were closer than they were. Not yet… that’s still a work in progress♥︎

They thought “Holy shit, is she saying that undead and dragons are real real? She needs therapy!” and the conversation derailed completely.

Silmenume writes:

Yes I remember the three tiers but that was avowedly a stop gap and a real problem for [blorb]. So you run into a situation where a written mechanic doesn’t exist so this is a sign of failure of the entire system. So the GM makes a call which is anathema to the theory of [blorb] but it stands. Then between games the DM writes down a rule to fit the problematic situation and now the mechanic is right and good even though the GM made the same call on the fly in game. It just doesn’t make sense to me…

Blorb is a nomic game♥︎

Silmenume writes:

The GM was to exercise agency during prep but to every extent possible not at all during play.

That is correct.

The DM’s job during prep is trying to create a game that will be awesome.
The DM’s job during play is trying to run the game fairly and consistently.

Silmenume writes:

When the game got to a point where a GM had to follow the principles where the rules didn’t apply was, to quote the same proponent, a failure of the functioning of [blorb].

A pretty unavoidable failure, so don’t worry about it♥︎
It’s how you grow and improve as a DM.

Silmenume writes:

The proponents did not argue that the information might come to light 6 weeks, months or years down the road and then affected the game but rather that even if it was never known to anyone it still had an effect. Buy the module. Put it on the shelf for 10 years. Throw it away unopened. It altered the Game State, so it was argued, and Game State was a Big Thing in [blorb] theory as championed.

Here’s how it works:

The Blorb Model

Let’s say two people are playing a game of gin (a century old card game).

Neither of them are ready to knock any time soon.

They are interrupted and they decide to pause their game state and resume it a different location.

They decide that the unseen cards in the stock pile are part of the game state and are to be transported undisturbed and with the same order, and they do so.

The top, let’s say five cards are drawn over the next five half-moves, some cards are discarded, hands are refined, and someone knocks, and the round is over.

Now, before the cards are shuffled:

Was the unseen card, currently on top of the deck, but at the time of pausing sixth from the top, ever part of the game state?

The answer to that question is 100% empty semantics.

Phrases can have different meanings in different contexts.

The definition our two players used when pausing their game state and moved their game certainly included the entire deck, order preserved but unknown, as part of the game state.

Some other group might use the definition that only cards seen by either player is part of the “game state” and that the deck for all intents and purposes is an unordered “bag” or “set”.

That “bag view” of the deck would be fine for gin.

But in a game like Magic, there can be cards that do have effects on “whatever card is currently fifth from the top” or lets you order the deck in various ways.

And, D&D is — because it is nomic — a game where you don’t know what effects or operations is going to be made on the game state.

Listen, if I tell you some things about what the phrase “game state” means in blorby games, and what operations our rules allow on said game state (for example, making a not wholly examined module a canon part of the game state), and your mind is clinging to a completely different set of semantics for that nine letter phrase, we’re going to have a hard time communicating.

This is why I use words like “blorb” and “gloracle”—so that we don’t get bogged down in what you already associate with words like “sandbox” or “challenge” or “adversarial”. Or “game state”.

Then Billy, who is cool, writes

Theoretically, I think it is better to say that the game state is made up of the information in all the above, rather than the various documents themselves (i.e., the fact that ghouls have 2 hit dice, rather than paper that says “Ghouls, 2 HD each”).


The blorb has ghouls that by default has, well, in my campaign they’re 5 HD if it just says “ghoul” but specific prep can override that; yesterday they met a ghoul that only had 2 HD because that was what listed on in the prep specifically. (Because they stumbled into a module that has ghouls that are explicitly 2 HD.)

Billy goes on:

I would propose we should probably think about the game state in a similar way. Rather than thinking of the game state as a collection of information, we should think of it as the structured model we use to answer questions about the fictional world.

I call the structured model “the gloracle” and I call the fictional world “the blorb”. But, I mean, those are just names. The important part is the ideas♥︎

DeReel says:

This means that [blorb] is no different philosophically from No myth. Only procedurally.

I don’t agree with that.

I’m not making any claims about human experience on Earth but blorb does rest on the ideas of realism (in the aesthetics philosophy sense) as distinct from No Myth and its “closet language theorem”—the idea that things only become real when they are uttered and heard, unlike in the blorb playstyle where things are considered canon before that.

I know I come across as too cool for school (and too much of a jerk for work) but I did get some kinda degree in aesthetic philosophy a few years ago before I found religion and became a weirdo so I’m not gonna get bedazzled when it comes to this stuff. Don’t worry.♥︎

Thanuir writes:

In roleplaying, [blorb] treats the fictional word as real as it can, to as large an extent as it can.


Listen, guys…

It’s just a set of rules & principles to run awesome games♥︎

Everybody in this party shining like Illuminati♥︎
That’s what it is. The truth and the light.

The blorb and the gloracle are game components (another word for game components is “ludemes”). The blorb is the make-believe world we play in, the gloracle the set of rules, prep, principles and die rolls we use to give us answers about that blorb world.

A subset of the game’s make-believery is known to two or more participants. Let’s come up with a word for it, the SIS maybe. (Stay in school!)

If you think of this No Myth style SIS as the entirety of the “game state” and then a blorb DM starts talking about their more wider, blorby definition of “game state”, you are gonna have a hard time.

In No Myth, the SIS is a very important ludeme. The act of telling makes it real. To bring it back to the example of the hunt for criminal above, once the players have learned where the criminal is, then that location becomes fixed and real. That’s all fine in a No Myth game, that’s just how a No Myth game works.

In a blorby game, the rules for fixing/canonizing the location of the criminal (or any other entity) happens earlier, that’s all. There are some principles to follow. Why anyone would want to play blorby instead of No Myth?

I can’t explain why.

I just love it.

When, in the game, going from house to house looking for that criminal or whatever, it feels different to do so in a blorby game than in a No Myth game. The “story”, the “on screen”, that part’s not different, but the amount I actually care about finding the right address changes. For me. YMMV.

I mean, for better and worse, right? Blorb and No Myth have pros and cons relative one another.