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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)
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    Last edited by Morrus; Thursday, 6th September, 2012 at 06:04 PM. Reason: News article promotion

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