An alternate history “what if”, written as if the creator of the thread and those reading it are from an ATL where event “X” unfolded differently from the way it did in OTL, that poses the question what if history had gone as it in fact did. For example, a “what if” from a time line where someone walked in on Lee Harvey Oswald as he took his 1st shot @ JFK, which hit as per OTL would be- DBWI: Oswald Gets Off A Second Shot And Kills JFK?
DBWIs are collaborative by nature. Thread participants are expected to act in-character, as if coming from the ATL world described in the initial post. As the thread evolves, the realities of this ATL world are revealed and fleshed-out by discussing how the A-ATL world (that is, OTL) world might look. Thus, there is alternate history not just in the events being described, but in the perspective and assumptions behind them and in the supposed comparisons to the “real” history as laid out by the thread starter.
Constructive responses to a DBWI question are those that present and discuss consequences and developments to event “X” with creativity, imagination and intelligence, and do so within the bounds of reason and plausibility. Keeping things real and logical are, in part, what separates a DBWI from a role play game. Please note that it is considered bad form to predict OTL accurately. Likewise, forecasting extreme socio-economic, cultural and political shifts or improbable ramifications that cannot be reasonably expected to occur as a result of event “X” is also frowned upon.
In general, a DBWI discussion works best when …
The phrase “DBWI” is sometimes used in a wider way to mean any sort of role-playing, including “Future Blind What If” to mean role-playing in a future setting. A contemporary use is expressed in Redem's celebrated The Many Nations of North America, aka “How did you live the war?”
Much less commonly used is “Triple Blind What If” which has various definitions - one is e.g. TBWI: What if the South had won the Civil War (rather than being defeated in 1861?) to introduce two new layers of role-playing.
Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy was (Before he was banned.) very fond of DBWIs, but his DBWI threads have a strange tendency to attract inexperienced members who fail to understand the concept, making him storm off in a huff.
Straha was infamous for hijacking DBWIs, and turning every DBWI-ATL into some post-nuclear exchange dystopia. Such is generally considered bad form.
Ynnead was responsible for a number of DBWIs that have either (i) degenerated into Ameriwank, and/or (ii) involved n00bs selectively discarding the details established in previous posts.
Recently, people have seen DBWI used in other contexts and affixed it to a normal WI because they don't understand its meaning. ASBBWI has also appeared as a superfluous label for a WI in the ASB forum. MrP was last seen screaming and calling for his shotgun, only to break down in tears when Torqumada reminded him that Britons cannot have guns.
Codae coined the terms “DB Discussion” (e.g. DB Discussion: Was King Louis XXIV good, or bad?) and “DB Chat” (e.g. DB Chat: Your thoughts on the Canadian presidential elections) to denote ATL threads from the Chat and Discussion forums, respectively.
Since there seems to be ongoing confusion over the difference between Double-Blind/Future Blind What Ifs and Role Playing Games, I think it's time somebody posted a short guide explaining it. Since I seem to be the only one interested in such a guide, I've take it upon myself to write one up. Onward!
What is a Double-Blind What If?
A Double-Blind What If (or, DBWI) is a type of alternate history “What If” written as if the thread starter and commenters are from an alternate timeline where a stated event unfolded differently from the way it did in our timeline. The participants discuss the topic from the point of view of this alternate timeline, the details of the timeline being filled in through the conversation.
What is a Future-Blind What If?
A Future-Blind What If (or, FBWI) is a particular type of DBWI written as if the thread starter and commenters are from a hypothetical future, most commonly discussing how an event that has already occurred in our timeline would have changed their history if it had happened differently. The participants discuss the topic from the point of view of this hypothetical future, the details of the timeline being filled in through the conversation.
What is the difference between a DBWI, FBWI and a Role Playing Game?
In a DBWI or FBWI, the participants engage in a limited and more academic form of role-playing wherein they write from the point of view of people living within the alternate timeline, but do not assume roles of characters. In other words, it is assumed that you are yourself in the alternate timeline participating in what is otherwise a normal topic on an alternate Alternatehistory.com.
In a Role Playing Game, the participants assume the roles of characters with names, lives, and histories often dramatically different from their normal selves. They then engage in either a discussion of the alternate timeline or future from those characters' points of view. This type of Role Playing Game is often referred to as a “Double-Blind Role Play” or “Future-Blind Role Play”.
The two are very similar and it's common for DBWI/FBWI threads to eventually transition into a DBRP/FBRP, often due to one participant stepping in who doesn't quite understand the difference. Unfortunately, this can be problematic: while DBWI/FBWI threads are allowed in the Discussion Forums (Before 1900, After 1900, Future History, and Alien Space Bats), DBRP/FBRP threads are considered Role Playing Games and are moved to Shared Worlds. Please keep this in mind when starting or participating in a Double-Blind or Future-Blind.
An example of proper DBWI/FBWI:
DBWI: How could the relations between X and Y have been better?
Person 1: Well, if we look back to the opening of relations in 19XX with the XXXXXX crisis we see that the Y Junta government was in no place to actually engage in territorial negotiations with X of the XXXXXX. So the best way to do that is to either render the territorial problems null or alter the government positions. Perhaps have the 19XX coup never happen?
Person 2: While I think that's fair it would probably have been easier to alter X instead. Back in 19XX the YYYY lost in the national territorial referendum by X%. If you can tip the referendum then Xs policy regarding XXXXXX would have never formalized under ZZ.
Person 1: Okay, I see your point, but how could we tip the refendum?
Person 3: Seeing as the referendum was initiated by DDDD, which later collapsed under the 19XX CCCCC scandal just 2 years later you could have someone leak information regarding CCCCC before the referendum was ever brought up.
*Cue people discussing the nature of the territorial dispute in a historical context without trying to outdo and contradict each other. The thread progresses like an actual history thread.*
An example of a DBRP/FBRP:
Roleplay: How could the relations between X and Y have been better?
Person 1: If the damn Xs just realized that the fucking land belongs to us good Y's then there would be no problem!
Person 2: No it doesn't, the land belongs to the X's and if you Y's would just stop using it as an excuse to prop up your BS government then we could actually get somewhere.
*Cue 3 days of people pretending to be people who are deeply involved in everything., contradicting each other every 2 posts, and bringing in extra stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the thread. Oh, and maybe something about genocide and conspiracy theories*
Types of What If - Types of ideas for alternate history scenarios.
AH Challenge - Alternate history scenarios posed as a creative challenge.
Question: What's up with DBWI ? - Discussion on the state of DBWI discussions by the mid 2010s.
Double-Blind (DBWI) and Future-Blind (FBWI) What If FAQ - FAQ created in April 2015, courtesy of Pkmatrix.