Words Banned by the Blur: SPLAT and FLUFF
There was a thread which started up on the Pinnacle site during my plague ridden month of March. I just noticed it yesterday. It was discussing one of the two words I really, really do not care for existing in the lexicon of gaming. Admittedly, it took some time to concede the necessity of the words flavor and crunch. You might say, “Hey, Sean, you’re being too sensitive. We’re just talking words here.”
Here’s the deal. Words are what I deal with. They are fueling my economy, my life. As such, I live in the sorcerous realm of semantics and, therefore, take words very seriously. They are magical and carry weight. Let’s get down to it.
The two evil words? SPLAT and FLUFF.
Splat, in and off itself, as a descriptor, is not necessarily bad. However, couple it as people are wont to do with book, and you have a VERY BAD THING. I wasn’t a fan of such works when I was strictly a consumer. I’m not a fan of them as a designer either.
Fluff is another word folks use for stuff which goes around the mechanical bits, often disparagingly. My word for fluff? FILLER.
Now to put these bad boys under the microscope.
Splat books came around some time ago. The legends vary. The roots are ultimately irrelevant to the fruit the tree bore. Splat books are generally viewed as ways of milking a line. I don’t like them at all. A great feeding frenzy rose with them (and which can, ultimately, be called as the main contributors in the collapse of the d20 market) with such suspect titles as The Halfling Rogue’s Ultimate Guide to Shoelaces and other such tripe. From time to time, there would be something of worth or merit, something which had value, but it was hanging out with the bad elements, and many folks started calling these good works as splat books as well.
What words do we use instead? We like the term source book or supplement.
Why? They shift the writer’s approach to something more serious rather than a hack piece of work. You take your work seriously and give it the respect it deserves and the chances are the consumers will too. Look down your nose at what you do? Why even do it then? Answer that.
But you guys have released X or Y! Maybe so. We try to fashion our works where you are not dependent on having BIG BOOK XXV to use ADVENTURE X. We strive to make certain you are not painted into the corner. We do the best we can and, so far, no real complaints.
Now, FLUFF, gets me grinding my gears faster than anything. Unless I know you’re trying to get under my skin or don’t work with me, and then it won’t matter (but may well decrease the chance of working together in the future). Who knows? Right?
Folks say all books have fluff, whether they’re an RPG or a traditional work of fiction. I beg to differ. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan had a lot of fluff in those pages. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt does not. Some folks can’t help but have some fluff in their stuff. On the other hand, I’ve always leaned heavily upon brevity. I tend to use words as the precious commodities they are. My rambles are often shorter than the first paragraphs of the more long-winded literati. So, in short, when you pick up something I wrote or had a hand in, whether it’s ten pages or two hundred, you can expect it to be packed full of stuff.
I tell my guys, when they first come on board. I don’t like FLUFF! Some of them sound befuddled and full of puzzlement. I allay their concerns by continuing further with this illustration, I am now about to share with you.
It is Thanksgiving time, and we are all gathered around this long dining table and a turkey is brought out on a platter and placed before you. It smells delicious. You are asked to serve and as you cut into it, you find it is filled with cardboard, disgusting, tasteless, cardboard. If you eat it, it most certainly will fill you up. It won’t really hurt you, I suppose (though I wouldn’t advise it). That is FLUFF.
Now, come over to the Blur’s table. Same scenario. You cut into the turkey and, guess what, it is filled with delicious cornbread dressing which serves to bolster and enhance the turkey. It certainly fills you up, but it is tasty. That is FLAVOR.
That is what we here at Reality Blurs expect from our crew: FLAVOR, not FLUFF. SOURCE works, not SPLAT books. ‘Nuff said.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!
I really like the differentiation between “fluff” and “flavor.” While they both serve the same role in a gaming product, the difference is in the intent and attitude of the creator.
Hmm, so I guess I shouldn’t pitch a book titled “The Human Sorcerer’s Guide to Combing His Hair in a Fluffy Manner” then…
Seriously though, I always took “fluff” to mean everything that isn’t rules (aka “crunch”). Possibly to broad a use of the term, but one that does seem to be in common usage. The filler/flavour distinction is a good one, and one that I’ll have to start using from now on.