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    Gygax on Realism in Game Design

    Since we're going back to the beginning, I decided to unearth the beginning, and actually read some stuff in high Gygaxese. I'm beginning to think I might have liked Gary, tendency for long-winded, slightly pompous rants aside.
    Interestingly, most of the variant systems which purport to “improve” the game are presented under the banner of realism. I have personally come to suspect that this banner is the refuge of scoundrels; whether the last or first refuge is immaterial. “Realism” has become a bugaboo in the hobby, and all too many of the publishers — TSR included — make offerings to this god too frequently.

    ...

    When fantasy games are criticized for being “unrealistic” — and by fantasy I certainly mean both imaginary “science fiction” games and heroic fantasy — the sheer magnitude of the misconception absolutely astounds me! How can the critic presume that his or her imagined projection of a non existent world or conjectured future history is any more “real” than another’s? While science fantasy does have some facts and good theories to logically proceed from, so that a semblance of truth can be claimed for those works which attempt to ground themselves on the basis of reality for their future projections, the world of “never-was” has no such shelter. Therefore, the absurdity of a cry for “realism” in a pure fantasy game seems so evident that I am overwhelmed when such confronts me. Yet, there are those persistent few who keep demanding it. The “camel” of working magic, countless pantheons of gods and devils, monsters that turn people to stone or breath fire, and characters that are daily faced with Herculean challenges which they overcome by dint of swordplay and spell casting is gulped down without a qualm. It is the “gnat” of "unrealistic” combat, or “unrealistic” magic systems, or the particular abilities of a class of characters in the game which makes them gag.

    ...

    D&D is a make-believe game. It is designed, however, to facilitate close personal involvement in all aspects of play; this makes suspension of disbelief easier for those who can initially accept a game form which does not relate to any reality except a few tenuous areas... It is a game for the imaginative and fanciful, and perhaps for those who dream of adventure and derring-do in a world all too mundane. As a game must first and foremost be fun, it needs no claim to “realism” to justify its existence.

    (Bolding mine, a few italic tags missed due to age)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails garygygax_2.jpg  
    Last edited by Morrus; Thursday, 6th September, 2012 at 07:04 PM. Reason: News article promotion

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    Many who critised missing realism did not do so about the rules system but about the adventures preented (hello huge hydra in a smallish room with only normal doors).

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    Most of my problems with rules systems aren't about realism, if they do not intend to be set in the real world, but about logic, elegance and internal consistency.
    Everyone is weird, but those who are weird in the same way call themselves normal.

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    Don't bring Gary into this. He was less than fond of 3e, and we can probably be safe in saying he would have been less kind about 4E. He would be laughing his ass off reading the threads in this forum.

    You need to quote Cook, Tweet,Heinsoo, Mearls, and others if you want to Edition War about how 5e is shaping up or should.

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    I wiuld just keep in mind that the discussion about reaism and gaminess were very different at the time he said that. People were making intricate and extraordinary attempts toward realism that you just dont really see today. I dont know that one can take a 30 year old quote from Gary and assume it sheds much light on what the man would have though about current discussions concerning things ike martial encounter powers or putting game play considerations ahead of setting considerations. I think he was really talking more against attempts to break combat into detailed and realistic mechanics.
    http://www.rpgnow.com/product/131611/Sertorius

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    We owe a lot to Gygax...

    But, If I were to judge that writing as I do others here and now, well, he didn't seem to have a lot of confidence in his own position. If you have to *start* the piece by calling people names (even highfalutin' names like "scoundrel") then perhaps your point isn't nearly as strong as you think it is...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    If you have to *start* the piece by calling people names (even highfalutin' names like "scoundrel") then perhaps your point isn't nearly as strong as you think it is...
    This, very much. And I would disagree about the 'mildly pompous', too. He is VERY pompous, as a rule.

    And considering the fact that he himself produced several rule-systems that got frequently house-ruled out because they were too cumbersome in attempting 'realism' (notably weapon speed factors), quite possibly he should be less ready to throw stones.
    "All right, I am not the Shadow. You have nothing at all to worry about. Except, oh, wait, I'm pointing a gun at you."

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    My communities:

    I think he just playfully paraphrased an old quote.. Don't remember the author, but it went like this: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel".
    Made me chuckle actually.

  9. #9
    Don't bring Gary into this. He was less than fond of 3e, and we can probably be safe in saying he would have been less kind about 4E. He would be laughing his ass off reading the threads in this forum.
    Why? 3E is an aberant game compared to previous editions. 4E in general was a heck of a lot more closer to the original game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    I wiuld just keep in mind that the discussion about reaism and gaminess were very different at the time he said that. People were making intricate and extraordinary attempts toward realism that you just dont really see today. I dont know that one can take a 30 year old quote from Gary and assume it sheds much light on what the man would have though about current discussions concerning things ike martial encounter powers or putting game play considerations ahead of setting considerations. I think he was really talking more against attempts to break combat into detailed and realistic mechanics.
    I don't think so. He was making a point about "fun" being more important than "realism". He did not made a scale about it, or "how much realism is too much realism". Nor he was talking about complexity. You don't really need to make systems more complex to make them more realistic. For example: "you get maximum hit dice at first level. You roll your hit dice at second level. You don't gain more hit points, ever" isn't a complex rule. And it is much more "realistic" than having 200 hp at lvel 20 and being able to fall from the Empire State. His point (and I agree), is that fantasy RPG shouldn't try to be "realistic", they should try to be "fun". One could argue that the ablative mechanic of having a big bag of hit points work greatly as "plot protection" for the PC, and thus is inherently superior to other, more realistic mechanics where a single hit can kill you right on the spot. I certainly can live with HP, and honestly think they work great for D&D. Gygax point was, precisselly, that you shouldn't worry about your game being "realistic", but being "fun". Some people might agree with Gygax, and some others might disagree with him. This is no different than any other thing where Gary has a stance (like Vancian magic). Some people will agree, and some other will not.

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