NB: This is my summary of how “Blorb” works. I have opted to avoid discussing most of the philosophical underpinnings, largely because that is not the sort of thing I personally understand particularly well. In general, I am attempting to summarize her writing; to the extent I’ve misrepresented anything, it’s entirely my mistake. To be clear, I appreciate this approach. It’s not the only good way to run games… but it is a good one.
A blorb is a hard landscape. Things are true even before they are discovered. Run it fairly, even when things happen “off-screen”.
“Blorb” is a principle-based approach to sandbox roleplaying by Sandra Snan at Idiomdrottning. It emphasizes prep and the philosophical realism of the world as it is prepared. Once the session begins, game design and worldbuilding pause until the session concludes. Agency belongs to the players during the session to preserve this realism.
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.
Events should emerge from the “gloracle” (“a glorious oracle of dice and prep”, a structured model of the world) and should not be prepared as such, in favor of concrete entities like people, places, things, etc.
In general, this approach aligns particularly well with most OSR gaming, albeit not always.
Vincent Baker describes it thus:
Blorb is a disciplined, principled approach to old-school GMing. It emphasizes the reality of the game world, and provides fruitful constraints on the GM’s improvisation in play.
Because people bring pre-existing interpretations to some phrases, Sandra invents very specific words. This reduces confusion when people hear “simulation” or “sandbox” and think of Ron Edwards or Matt Colville. The term “blorb” shares its origin with the file format, both coming from a video game in which it is a spell for preserving the integrity of something.
Sandra describes three tiers of truth in descending order of concreteness:
- Explicitly-noted facts
- Rules or mechanics (including random tables)
- Improvised facts
Tier 3 should consist of facts that do not impact the players’ decisions and outcomes much. Subsequent prep should build on these facts and create Tier 1 or 2 truths, hopefully before they gain significance in the game (“Wallpaper Salience”). GMs will initially have more of this than ideal, but that’s because we start small and build over time.
Most truth in the game will consist of Tier 2 truths, because too much weight in Tier 1 overburdens the GM and the players. But these truths become truth during prep, before they are spoken out loud at the table.
Sandra believes that an over-reliance on improvisation by the GM is the weakness of modern FKR gaming.
This type of sandbox emphasizes diegetic mechanics (those that exist within the world) and worldbuilding. XP does not exist within the world (at least not as such), but item locations, relationships between people, and the functions of objects all do.
However, the GM may refer to game mechanics within the context of the world if they result in these sorts of concrete objects. Players may be told that an enemy carries 3d6 gold pieces or that a particular outcome on the encounter table has a 1 in 36 chance (2 on a 2d6). This reduces player confusion and also establishes a sense of authenticity in the world and accountability on the part of the GM.