Mythbusters: Reality Or Dramatic? What Do You Allow In Your RPGS?

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    Mythbusters: Reality Or Dramatic? What Do You Allow In Your RPGS?

    For those who don't know about the show. Mythbusters is a show where a team of of technical experts explore whether a myth of some sort is true. For example, some of the myths they've explored have been "bull in a china shop". "you can't polish poop" amidst others. They've explored pirate mytrhs and old west myths. The results are often quite surprising. They capture the results of their experiments on video tape so that they are there for all to see, and that arguing against the results is too much like arguing that two plus two does not equal four.

    So here's the thing. These are reality. For an example of a realistic result, they were exploring old west myths in one episode. One such myth they were exploring was the myth of whether or not the rope of a hangman's noose could be parted in one shot.

    This was seen in the the movie "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" in which Clint Eastwood's character The Man With No Name was running a con with a criminal. The criminal had a bounty on his head and they commit a crime in order to raise the price of the bounty so they can collect the bounty and split it fifty fifty. When his partner was being hanged, he'd use a Winchester repeater to shoot the rope and part the rope in one shot. His partner would fall to the horse and ride out of town.

    Now, the Mythbusters experimented this myth in one of their episodes. They also tried several different period firearms and shot at the rope. The bullets either missed the rope or would barely scratch it. They had it on high speed cameras so you could actually see what happened when the bullet struck the rope. essentially the bullets broke one or two strands of it.

    Eventually they got a marksman to shoot at the rope. He was able to cut the rope in two but it took a half dozen shots to do so. That's the reality of that myth.

    But the dramatic of that myth would be to part the rope in one shot.

    Now that's the basis of the question, if you were running a game, what would you enforce? Would you enforce the reality, that is assign the rope a certain amount of structural points to it before it can be parted?

    Or would you allow the dramatic, that is allow trhe player to part it in one shot?

    In other words, what is more important in your games, dramatic heroics or not?

    For me, since at least for me role playing games are for allowing people to be heroic so I would allow a player to part the rope in one shot. I think enforcing the reality of things actually limits players, and I don't really like doing that.


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    Depends on the game I'm running, but typically the Rule of Cool and dramatic logic reign.
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    Definitely the dramatic, but I would imagine that is what you will see the most responses for, so nothing new (I'm guessing).

    It's hard to bring too much reality into a game of magic, etc. I do get the point though, and as such there are elements of reality that are important and get stressed in a game as well - but the dramatic, or "cool" elements are the most important for the most part.

    Splitting the rope (I saw that episode in fact) was indeed not really happening in one shot, etc - and that was at the hands of an expert. But in my game, an arrow could conceivably do it with a good roll because it's cinematic and cool... dramatic as you say.

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    I'm definitely not a simulationist gamer. People have a chance to fail when they try something cinematic and cool, but I'll almost always give them a chance -- even if it's a tiny one.

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    Time for the girdles of giant strength story.

    Once upon a time, my 2E game got a little out of control with Strength-enhancing magical items. In short, every PC had one.

    Now, I got a little frustrated by this. The players had a lot of fun, and combat tended to go very quickly, but it really ate at me that I wasn't able to challenge this party in combat. (This frustration disappeared, of course, when I played and my co-DM took the reins. Trashing great wyrm red dragons in under four rounds can be fun, after all.)

    At one point*, I took out my frustration on one poor player who decided to punch open a very heavy, fortified, locked, and barred set of double doors. I dutifully rolled a couple dice and dolefully informed the player that his character had shattered his hands, wrists, and forearms, and his elbows now bent both ways. (When the player protested, I relented and allowed his character to open the door using a different method.)

    * Later, I took out my frustration on all the players by having an over-the-top powerful NPC steal all the items.

    I still think of that moment as a rookie mistake. No, a girdle of giant strength does not make a character Superman (who'd quickly destroy his own body if he ever tried anything you see in the comics without his invulnerability).

    But the more important question is this: what's the difference between comic-book reality, action-movie reality, and roleplaying-game reality?

    For my money, it's more fun if the answer is "in an RPG, you roll dice." I've watched many an action movie and thought in terms of skill checks, rolls to hit, and so forth, and you know? It works. So I'd have to say give me dramatically appropriate over real-world disappointing. Give me an attack roll and some damage, and we'll see if you manage to part that rope. Forget that it's essentially impossible in real life.

    And if I ever cite "Mythbusters" for reasons why something won't work in a Dungeons & Dragons game, make sure I'm laughed at heartily, will ya?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quantum View Post
    In other words, what is more important in your games, dramatic heroics or not?

    For me, since at least for me role playing games are for allowing people to be heroic so I would allow a player to part the rope in one shot. I think enforcing the reality of things actually limits players, and I don't really like doing that.
    If I'm playing D&D or similar, he's got a chance to part it in one shot. If I were playing a very gritty Call of Cthulhu, however, then I might not.
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    For me, I go for the dramatic - when it is dramatic.

    If it's your buddies on the line, their necks are stretching and you've just gotta make that shot, then go for it - but if you try and parley that one-off shot into a routine tactic, such as Blondie and Tuco's reward-fleecing scheme, then you'll find out it's not an easy trick to duplicate.

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    "called shot" has (or had, I honestly can't remember at the moment) a -4 penalty for just this reason!

    PC [Rolls a die, 14-4=10] "your bullet skims the rope, only freighing a couple strands, the rope is intact"
    PC [Natural 20] "the rope snaps in 2 and your buddy falls to the horse...

    But yeah, Cool always wins over real world
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    I think it's important to note that this isn't really an either-or question, but it's more of a continuum.

    At one extreme are groups where the guy with a Strength of 5 can bust in a sealed heavy portcullis by sheer strength because it's "cool". At the other extreme are groups that have rules for infected wounds, the psychological effects of killing people, heavy bookkeeping (every arrow, candle and orange counts!), etc.

    I'm in the middle, but towards the cool end. That Str 5 guy would be hosed, though.
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    It depends on the trick the pcs are trying to pull off. I'd let them shoot the rope because it's a standard trope in fiction as well as gaming. And honestly, I thought it WAS possible until I saw that MB episode. Damn them for ruining my fantasy. For some reason, though, I find that the Kevin Costner trick of firing two arrows at once just ruins plausibility for me. I'd let them shoot the rope, but the two arrows for the price of one thing ain't happening in my game.

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