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The Fictioneers talk about Blorb again

Hi, I just now found this thread again.

Haven’t looked at it since I wrote my post.

Just wanted to say really grateful that Billy and Thanuir are trying to bring some clarity and perspective and represent my POV so well.

With blorb, one or two or paradoxically both of two things usually happen:

  1. They under-sell its complexity and think “unh? That’s nothing special? That’s just how every DM run their games”, or
  2. They over-sell its complexity and think “unh? That’s way too special and weird, no-one could practically run their games like that”.

But, it’s just a goal, an ideal, a set of principles to help make that ideal come a little closer.

I wouldn’t want to try to sit down at the table to run a Blorb game with this premise: “Welcome to my fantasy world. It has the land area of Asia and a population of 200,000,000. You can do anything you want! Which city would you like to start in?” No one in their right mind could prep for a game like that.

You start small (get the Starter Set or something like B4 The Lost City) and then keep playing in the same world, the same continuity, let the world get richer and richer. Our game has been going on for seven years and we play twice weekly.

To use my concerned pickpocket example, if the player didn’t realize the GM had randomly generated the surprisingly low amount of cash and started reading more into it

As Billy points out, Wallpaper Salience is a pretty important principle! I improvise emotional motivations why some NPCs have more or have less items / treasure / cash all the time. I have a name list that I often don’t look at and instead just come up with some thing. The NPCs personalities, moods, voices, quirks, I wing all of that stuff!

The amount of cash or specific items I am way less comfortable winging. Salient items means things that have pointy ends basically. If the guy has a healing potion according to the rolltable I’m not gonna take that away. Nor am I gonna add more money. The gloracle told us what was in his pocket

should the GM speak out of character to the player, and simply remind them that such results are “prepped” by a chart and randomly generated, and therefore there is nothing worthwhile to explore?

I talk to the players! I’m like “OK, this part might not be entirely blorby” or “I’m really tempted to go off blorb right now, but… enh, let’s not, let’s stick with the roll.”

Whether the GM does that or not, is the player “wrong” to pursue the matter further, for example, by interviewing the NPC they robbed, as it forces the GM to either verbally dead-end them with some kind of blocking summary or to improv a bunch of undocumened info?

Calling that “wrong” would be the most cart-before-horse thing I have ever heard.

Exploring the social situation is as much of an important part of blorb as any flagstone floor tapping or portcullis lifting.

Those NPC interaction moments are actually my fave part of DMing.

Also, I do actually have rules & roll tables to determine blorbily why a particular NPC might be in need of money. Because I’ve been running the game for seven years and I’ve been Tier Two Truthing it all this time (along with the other tiers of truth) which means creating a big toolbox gradually to solve exactly that kind of thing.

And, at the end of the day, the border ( even if merely roughly defined, and not ultra-exact) of what is acceptable GM behavior for Klokblorb is what confuses me.

“Klokblorb”. Lay off. Peeps don’t like the name. I get it. But you’re shutting down all dialogue with the making-fun-of-the-name, “klokkwerk” schtick.

I think one under-conveyed fact about blorb is that there’s this huge gap between unacceptable and ideal.

Some examples of unacceptable (I mean, if you are trying to do blorb. IDC what you do in other styles):

What is acceptable is starting small and building up, to the (unattainable?) ideal of this huge perfectly blorbily ran game world.


  1. Play the game honestly and straightforwardly. Be clear about how the game is set up. When Mercer says “OK, by doing that, you skipped over an encounter I thought you would’ve run into on the way”, it warms my li’l blorb-loving heart.

  2. For wallpaper type stuff, aim for prepping like five percent. IDK. It’s not satisfying to play an all improvised game but a little goes a long way.

  3. For stuff that can actually kill your char, or save it, like the presence or absence of gear or monsters or potions or gold or scrolls, that stuff should ideally all be in the hands of the gloracle. I.e. on roll-tables or on the map key. You’re not in the business of killing PCs, you’re in the business of selling rope.

They go on:

Mostly because it seemed like advocates for it were rather stricter than I could imagine being practical, given the truly open-ended nature of RPGs, even when you’re saying no to the playres going of to the capital to become merchants.

My advice to new DMs is to say no, is to say “OK I’ve only got basically this dungeon prepped and that’s it”. Iff you are intimidated by trying to blorbily run a huge region and don’t have a big toolbox yet and you’re new.

But after a while you can do all kinds of stuff! I have merchant rules. I give out XP if they go to the capital and become merchants.

It’s a sandbox game! They don’t have to be heroes, they don’t have to succeed at quests, they can just play around and do whatever. Explore, do quests, don’t do quests, try to start an army etc.

“When the players talk to the deputy, he tells them that the mayor’s daughter was often seen around the library…” then of course they could gain the same information from the minister, since it’s common knowledge. On the other hand, if it said in the scenario, “The deputy was the only one in the graveyard the night of the kidnapping, and he hasn’t told anyone,” then I wouldn’t contradict that by saying that actually the minister was in the graveyard instead.


I think the “dungeon grinder not heroic tourist” thing is somewhat true of my particular game (depending what you mean by those terms), but I’m not sure it’s true of the possibilities of these techniques in general.

Yeah. We do all kinds of socio-political, emotional drama stuff in between the dungeon crawls!

I definitely would not want to say, “It’s just a random encounter;

I would and will say that things are on the random encounter tables.

Here are some examples:

Dorks: “Man there sure are a lot of Istishia cultists in these caves, where is their HQ?”
Me: “They’re getting reinforcements by boat. I’ll take them off the encounter table once you clear out their other city.”


Dorks: “Where can we find this High Priest you speak of?”
NPC: “He hangs around on level four but you need to roll boxcars on the encounter table. That’s a one in thirty six chance. I never go down there, I’m not allowed so close to the egg. My job is to stay up here and man this machine.”
Dorks: “So if we camp out in his room, will he come there or not?”
NPC: “Sure! He sleeps there.”

Sandra seemed way more intense about the whole thing

I guess I just get very intense when people accuse me of being steam-tunnel crazy as was going on in those awful S-G threads!

Re the “nonsense” name, I tried calling it Sim but then Edwards messed that word up. I tried calling it sandbox but then Colville messed that word up. I was pretty much forced to make up a new word for it!

In my opinion, sure, it’s just “standard operating procedure sandbox” but whenever I said that, people would come with their “but in such-and-such sandbox, there is-or-isn’t such-and-such, so therefore you’re wrong, so there!”

Hence I had to come up with a very specific word so that whenever I was trying to explain this perspective it didn’t get muddled up with people’s preconceived notions. The name is one of those Infocom names like foo and frotz and xyzzy and bar and baz and quux and frobnicate. I first heard it in the video game “Enchanter”, where it’s a spell for preserving the integrity of something (which is why there is also a file format with the same name).

Nothing wrong with saying, “the guy you’re pickpocketing is a regular civilian, and the rule for that is they carry around 3d6 gold. Go ahead and roll that once you’ve made your pickpocketing check.” (Or whatever else determines the particulars of your game - whether that is, indeed, the focus, or something else.)

You can see how much trouble that will save you in a game!

Yep! Exactly how I run it!

Dorks: “I check their pockets, are they carrying anything?”
Me: “Yeah, added up altogether they’ve got 4d4 of those mysterious ‘bone disks’ you’ve been finding, so go ahead and roll that up.”

For example, I once played a “space exploration” game. We traveled around a map, and each time we stopped at a planet, the GM would “roll it up” on a chart, to see what it was like. Quite blorby but involved no prep (aside from the map). You can imagine a similar hexploration game: “you start HERE and you can go wherever you want. When you enter an unexplored hex, we roll to see what’s there using these tables.”

Yes. This is called Tier Two. As I wrote in the Quest Queue, “if everything is randomly rolled as you go along, where’s the agency? South becomes the same as north becomes the same as west because wherever you go, the dice are furnishing for you, so the choice about where to go matters less.”

The fallacy is then throwing away all tier two techniques. No, no, they’re great. They’ll let you fit a universe into a matchbox. You just need a steel skeleton of tier one prep in that universe. Have some real planets along all those random ones.

Whereas Sandra short circuits this question with characters being vaguely conscious of the rules (HD, XP) of the fiction world.

That’s right. And, the conceit is that the characters are talking Midani, and in the “translation” from Midani to our extradiegetic language, phrases like “messed up” come across as “almost no HP left” or “experienced” come across as “nine HD and some SLAs”.

We’re not doing a “the characters are in a virtual reality isekai” (like Bofuri or Rising of the Shield Hero) schtick. The schtick is that “In the characters own native tongue, they would be saying ‘half a dozen wolves’, not 3d6 wolves.”

But the schtick is by design. The intent is to afford us caring about what the gloracle has to say about the game in the gloracle’s own language, a language that includes dice and numbers along with blood and regret.

She clearly prioritizes accountability over transparency.

Do you mean accountability over opacity? Then yes.