D&D General And the Druid Explodes: Understanding the AD&D Design Space's Legacy

Ondath

Hero
What do you understand Gygaxian Naturalism to mean?

My understanding is that it means he tried to have the game world embody a certain self-consistent logic. For example, the trolls in one room of the dungeon having a food source of giant cave crickets in a nearby area. Or the extensive description of an ogre treasure horde in the 1E DMG, containing trade goods, furniture, furs and other items which would plausibly be the booty of their raiding and pillaging local villages and merchant caravans (rather than simply x amount of coins and gems). Or the layouts of the various lairs in the Caves of Chaos having functional rooms, like guard rooms, lookout points, sleeping chambers, there being children and women present in the lairs, etc. Or Frank Mentzer's classic example of having reviewed the manuscript for the Keep on the Borderlands and noticing that there was a ranking priest but the map was missing a chapel. So he added one. Allegedly other folks at TSR thought this was a bold thing for the new guy to do, correcting an oversight by The Illustrious Founder, and expected him to get slapped down, but so the story goes Gary agreed that this was an oversight and approved the addition.

In that passage I think Gary was using "realism" to mean strict adherence to fact or history (and mocking the idea that such is possible with a fantasy world) such as would often be expected by historical wargamers, and which some competitors (e.g. the makers of Chivalry & Sorcery) claimed to be attempting, with extremely detailed, "more realistic" rules.
It's true that Gygaxian Naturalism is more about worldbuilding - and notably, treating the game area like a living, logical area. But there's something more to it, especially this bit from Grognardia where the term was coined:
The end result of this is that Gygaxian fantasy is a simulation -- a fantastical one, to be sure, but a simulation nonetheless.
In contrast, Gygax says (in Snarf's quote): "It does little to attempt to simulate anything either."

So I think there is some inherent opposition between the two schools of thought. I'd guess that the gamist principles that Gygax espouses in the DMG more accurately reflect the Classic tradition in the hobby, while Gygaxian Naturalism is more in line with the Trad school of thought.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
It's true that Gygaxian Naturalism is more about worldbuilding - and notably, treating the game area like a living, logical area. But there's something more to it, especially this bit from Grognardia where the term was coined:

In contrast, Gygax says (in Snarf's quote): "It does little to attempt to simulate anything either."

So I think there is some inherent opposition between the two schools of thought. I'd guess that the gamist principles that Gygax espouses in the DMG more accurately reflect the Classic tradition in the hobby, while Gygaxian Naturalism is more in line with the Trad school of thought.
To my understanding Trad is a later thing, a mode of play focused on the ascent of story and the role of PCs as heroes in the world. Once Trad became the ascendent mode of play, for example, the concept of xp for treasure became absurd to a lot of players. Because the kind of fantasy they were trying to emulate was more inspired by LotR and Dragonlance, and less by Conan and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.

I think James at Grognardia described Gygaxian Naturalism (a concept within Classic play) pretty well, and I think it's not incompatible with most of what Gary wrote and designed. That one passage where he eschews any claim of attempting to simulate a fantasy world is a bit contradictory, but I don't think it's representative of his writing in general. In all those examples I cited Gary very clearly was trying to have the game simulate a fantasy world with its own kind of naturalistic logic, as James talks about.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I like this concept of “Arnesonian negative space” in contrast to “Gygaxian rules codification.” I suspect that, for most people who question druid metal armor restrictions, it’s not a question of realism, but an objection to a perceived arbitrary reduction in the Arnesonian space. The objection I typically see is not “it’s unrealistic for a druid not to be able to wear metal armor,” it’s “I want to know what happens if my druid character does wear metal armor.” If the answer is that they lose all Druid levels and have to start over as a 1st level character, well, ok. That may be a disappointing answer to a player who wants to play a druid and wear metal armor, but at least it’s an answer; the Arnesonian space is restricted, but at least it’s restricted because a rule says what happens if you do the thing instead of just “you can’t because you can’t.”
Any rule or law that justifies itself only with "you can't because I say you can't" is a bad rule, whether in D&D or real life; and if no further justification can be presented then that rule should be roundly ignored.

With Druids, a justification that the constriction of metal armour interferes with their connection to nature is more than good enough. Rule stays as per armour interfering with class abilities.

But even then, there's no justification whatsoever for banning a druid from temporarily suppressing her abilities (voluntarily or not) by donning a suit of plate mail, nor for outright banning a Magic-User from picking up a chair and trying to hit someone with it just because "chair" ain't on his allowed-weapons list. Those rules go bye-bye and won't be missed.
I think this may be more frustrating to an audience more familiar with WotC’s D&D. As you noted, in TSR’s D&D there were many such arbitrary restrictions - the only answer to why a magic user can’t use a longsword is also “you can’t because you can’t.” Whereas, in WotC’s D&D, a wizard absolutely can use a longsword. They just wouldn’t want to in most circumstances because they don’t gain whatever benefits the edition being played grants for having proficiency with a weapon. In this context, a rule that just says “Druids won’t wear metal armor” seems jarring, because such restrictions are not as commonplace. A player accustomed to such D&D expects a consequence for doing the thing their class isn’t supposed to do, rather than outright denial of the option to even attempt it.
Further, the expectation is that the consequence will make a modicum of sense; and it ain't just WotC-era players (and DMs) who think this way, we've taken roughly this approach since the early 1980s. With the Magic-User and the longsword, the consequence is that he's at a mighty to-hit penalty (and in our games all of that penalty counts toward his chance of fumbling, making him a risk to anyone nearby!).
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
I don't see these rules of mage can't use a sword or druids wear metal armour as being purely there to have a structure of a game.

These rules are in service of creating narrative and theme.

Druids don't wear metal armour because that isn't keeping in the theme of the game. This is hard coded in the rules. Mages have a d4 hit die not as purely a calculation of balance but because the authors want mages to not be as durable as fighters in the narrative that is created when the game is played.

If someone chooses to play a druid they are agreeing to not wear metal armour. It is part of the social contract when playing. The game doesn't need to provide a punishment because it is assumed people will play in good faith.

There is also no punishment from choosing to cheat by rerolling unwanted results but that doesn't mean that nothing happens when a player does it.
 



clearstream

(He, Him)
Any rule or law that justifies itself only with "you can't because I say you can't" is a bad rule, whether in D&D or real life; and if no further justification can be presented then that rule should be roundly ignored.
Doesn't it just lead to an infinite regress? When it comes to the bardic I mean arbitrary rules of games, at some point it's "just because" or more accurately "just because this lets us experience the play we hoped to experience". Play that excludes metal armored bards I mean druids in the case at hand.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Any rule or law that justifies itself only with "you can't because I say you can't" is a bad rule, whether in D&D or real life; and if no further justification can be presented then that rule should be roundly ignored.

With Druids, a justification that the constriction of metal armour interferes with their connection to nature is more than good enough. Rule stays as per armour interfering with class abilities.

But even then, there's no justification whatsoever for banning a druid from temporarily suppressing her abilities (voluntarily or not) by donning a suit of plate mail, nor for outright banning a Magic-User from picking up a chair and trying to hit someone with it just because "chair" ain't on his allowed-weapons list. Those rules go bye-bye and won't be missed.

Further, the expectation is that the consequence will make a modicum of sense; and it ain't just WotC-era players (and DMs) who think this way, we've taken roughly this approach since the early 1980s. With the Magic-User and the longsword, the consequence is that he's at a mighty to-hit penalty (and in our games all of that penalty counts toward his chance of fumbling, making him a risk to anyone nearby!).
But those are arbitrary judgements by you and your group, remember.

The PH tells us, in reference to Druids, that "metallic armor spoils their magical powers". You are making a decision to interpret that this spoilage is temporary. Perhaps choosing to wear metallic armor EVER breaks an oath/taboo/geas they take as part of gaining their magical powers, with the consequence that such powers are permanently "spoiled". Taboos and geasa are common in Irish myth and legend, where a hero suffers tragedy if the prohibition is ever broken.

One could choose to follow the rules strictly by interpreting the Magic-User weapon restrictions similarly. That as part of the training and rituals which imbue the M-U with their powers, they take on certain inflexible taboos and prohibitions, and if they ever break them, they would lose their powers (or at minimum, per the example of The Character With Two Classes, lose all xp for the adventure as their transgression disturbed their mental balance and interfered with their studies). Such a prohibition could apply to the use of weapons other than the staff and dagger (common ritual tools and symbols) as well as the dart (maybe it has some ritual symbolism, like the mistletoe dart which slew Baldur in Norse myth).

I can certainly understand that you find the absolute prohibitions to offend your sense of verisimilitude because the justifications given in the text are minimal and not as detailed as these I've suggested above. But you've still made a choice there. To import assumptions from outside the game (since detailed justifications haven't been given, there is no possible justification), and to depart from the written rules to better suit your own feelings about and preferences for the game. Rather than to find or invent more detailed justifications which work for you so you can stick by the rules. In this you're definitely in good company, clearly sharing an ethos with the designers of 3rd edition.
 
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