15 May 2024

Own Personal Blorb/AntiBlorb

tl;dr: I like Blorb because it anchors on the concept of the oracular dice, that the DM facilitiates, guides the odds by writing the tables to be rolled on, but the dice decide fate. I like Anti-Blorb because it reflects how engaged players paint in the world too.

I read the original Blorb article and thought 'yes, of course' then I saw quite a lot of dismissiveness from commenters I otherwise respect that made me question had I missed something. After further digging I figure that the reasons they disagree is the portrayal of the principles of blorb as iron laws as opposed to a neat heuristic to make a GM's life easier. For that I find Blorb is great.

Hacking Technoskalds summary of Sandra's original model we have three tiers of in-world truth when the group sits to table and the curtain raises on the session:
Explicitly-noted facts are in the GM's binder to be uncovered as play begins
Rules or mechanics (including random tables) which generate truths about the world through play and how the dice fall
Improvised facts are things the DM will create in the moment to fill in gaps not covered by the first two

I find the toughest challenge over long form campaigns is keeping things consistent in-world. Everything reverts to the mean fantasy land mulch in my brain if I do not have some big hooks to hang a seperate world off - and things that remind me of the random little stuff I thought up that would be cool at some point. Setting it out in tiers helps me because it recognises the practical reality of some big set pieces get written up that you are going to use once the players find them, some stuff you are going to make up as you go along - but the intermediate tier is little systems and encounter tables is what helps keep things consistent.

I am fascinated by the description of 'blorby' by Fail Forward as a 'highly detailed pre-written setting' because it is to me one of the ways of *minimising* the detail you need to write into your setting. You generate some reasonable principles for the world - a good encounter table permits the players to wander wherever in a hex crawl for as long as they like. Combine that with mechanics like an overloaded encounter dice to allow any given encounter table entry to serve multiple duties - the encounter, the spoor, the lair, etc.

I like the specific expansion of anti-blorb - which again, weird name - because it maps to my table experiences over the long run.

Per Liches Libram Antiblorb follows the hierarchy:
explicit GM notes and overwise established truths, and if none exist
if the facts would be known to PCs, established player headcanon, and if that does not exist or is inapplicable,
if the facts would already by known to PCs, player fiat, and if that is not applicable,
procedures like random tables for generating truths flagged by the GM in advance, and if none exist,
GM fiat

My first read of 'player fiat' was very character driven 'my back story says' but when I think about my tables with longer running campaigns then it is much more the "I figure that..." of players deducing elements of the world that the DM simply had not yet considered. The DM may have arrived at a different answer if they had come to it alone but with the players here creating perfectly world-coherent answers, why not write it down and make it canon.

Pure unstructured improv for me runs the high risk of me whacking into some inconsistency that players will latch onto and either burn time on something that is not there or require immersion-busting back pedaling. The least wild improv I do the better because things getting generated off pre-thought-through procedures ought to be in-world consistent and support the players general vision of the world. Ideally this then sparks more player headcanon and player driven fact-making which then gives me more world-coherent material to riff off.

I like how Knight at the Opera talks through this approach and the benefits of this 'selective prep'.

It is also helpful as anything after long, draining days or weeks when the creativity within any given thing I am improving might be trying to draw from a dry well.

It helps me structure my creativity and keep the worlds consistent and different from each other, especially when there are gaps between games and switching between worlds.

Godspeed to those who can sit down and extemporise entire campaigns - I used to be able to do it back in college running IOU while my expresso machine ran continuously but not no more. These days, I blorb, because if I come up with a good idea, great! If the players tell me what great idea is implied by stuff I told them earlier, great! If I'm stuck but I've got some tables I can pull a quick random-but-tailored encounter out of, also great! And finally if I find myself way down this list - nothing prepped, the players don't know what should be here, it is off the charts of stuff I have thought of before - then we are in genuine blank space of the world and that is also engaging. Whatever I come up with here in this blank space is going to be informed by all the things it wasn't which at least is better than starting from absolute zero.

Joesky Tax - d6 Abandoned Heist Hauls
1. Smashed chest of small coins, obviously fallen from a great height, bloody scrapes along one edge, short trail of coins away
2. Multiple antique urns, with fading illusions to look like one of the urns, which has an illusion to look differently
3. A great rusted pile of chainmail, swords, helmets, halbards and other gear, within which glint gold and some gems
4. A tipped over coffin with a scarred lid, something crudely hacked off the center of it, scrolls tumbling out across the ground
5. An extremely obvious burial sight hides a chest of the local tax collectors. Multiple trails come too and from the burial pit, signs of multiple reburials.
6. Heavy bundles of fresh furs from a large, dangerous predator. Getting a bit gamey but treated soon might be sold for good coin

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