Created By: DracMonster on February 25, 2013 Last Edited By: DracMonster on March 27, 2013


Descriptive stuff to set the ambience in a game

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We don't seem to have a page for this, it's fan speak that has more or less graduated to official jargon. Does it warrant a page? Flavor Text sort of covers it but "fluff" is a little more expansive -- it's probably Omnipresent Trope territory, unless there's especially notable examples.

"Fluff" is a term for descriptive stuff in a game that helps set the tone. It is the opposite of "Crunch" -- actual rules and gameplay mechanics. Examples can include descriptions of a race or character's personality, the history of a nation or the lore behind a magic item. Although fluff doesn't directly impact gameplay, it often indirectly shapes it -- if your quest involves dwarves, it's probably going to end up in a mine at some point.

The term originated in the late nineties when "theatrical" tabletop RPGs came into vogue. A number of systems were published with lots of descriptive stuff but very few actual rules, since they were intended to be "acted out" rather than played as such. This prompted accusations from the RPG fan community that these games were "fluffy," lacking substance.

Although it started out as a derogatory term, nowadays it is neutral -- well written fluff is very important to assist Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Fluff and crunch have become industry standard jargon and not just in tabletop RPGs. Flavor Text is one common form that fluff takes in Collectible Card Games and MMORPGs.

Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • February 25, 2013
    A related trope is All There In The Manual, where the fluff is the sole source of background info.
  • February 25, 2013
    "Fluff" is a fairly broad term. I personally associate it with light, happy, pointless fan fiction. How about Fluff Vs Crunch, since we don't have crunch either?
  • February 25, 2013
    Yeah, and I hear it often applied to shipping fics. Might not be the best term, unless there's citations for it.
  • February 25, 2013
    Well, here's a couple citations:

    It's a very established term. I'm aware it could cause confusion so I'm open to suggestions -- I was going to make Crunch a redirect but incorporating them both could work. Crunch is kinda close to People Sit On Chairs, though, you can have a game without fluff (Chess, Go) but it intrinsically has to have some form of crunch to actually be a game.

    Maybe Game Fluff or Descriptive Fluff
  • February 25, 2013
    It's Padding and Filler.
  • February 25, 2013
    ^Uh hmm, technically yes, and that was the original intent when the term was coined, but now it's generally considered a positive thing as long as it's balanced with actual rules for playing.
  • February 27, 2013
    What is the difference between fluff and Flavor Text? That Flavor Text is associated with specific rules?
  • February 27, 2013
    Flavor Text is a means of expressing it. Tie in novels are another example. Fluff is basically any fiction underlying a game to help you "get into it" that has no direct impact on the rules or mechanics. (Like the Waste Of Time Story behind why you're shooting aliens in a Shoot Em Up or FPS.) Almost every game has some fluff except very abstract ones like Tic Tac Toe. In monopoly when you pick up the yellow card it doesnt say "take ten bucks", it says "you have won a beauty contest" (or somesuch, havent played that in a long time.)
  • March 25, 2013
    Flavor Text is a type of fluff but hardly the only kind.

    I support the name Fluff Versus Crunch since that will use both names while putting them in a disambiguating context. To those unfamiliar with the terms, "fluff" could just as easily be "the stuff inside the chair cushions" and "crunch" could be "the attribute of crackers that makes them crunchy."
  • March 25, 2013
    Agree; I'm not familiar with this usage of the term.
  • March 26, 2013
    I suggest this to be just a description lage with no examples. Seems like it's way too broad.
  • March 27, 2013
    Support calling it Fluff Versus Crunch or something in that vein. Fluff on its own has a major use as the name for happy relationship drama fics.