D&D 4E Bridging the cognitive gap between how the game rules work and what they tell us about the setting


log in or register to remove this ad

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Grudging praise and grudging concessions are always the sweetest because they are the most honest.
I have no idea what you're talking about. My being tired of arguing with someone who's preferences are so different from my own that very little common ground can be achieved is just how I feel. It doesn't make me any more inclined towards your position, which I still heartily disagree with.
 

I have no idea what you're talking about. My being tired of arguing with someone who's preferences are so different from my own that very little common ground can be achieved is just how I feel. It doesn't make me any more inclined towards your position, which I still heartily disagree with.
The irony here is that you don't seem to know what my preferences are. Which are "there are a lot of valid goals - and things should be assessed on how well they meet the goal."

My preference is to work out what works best. Yours seems to be the position that D&D, the game of hit points, classes, and levels, despite a core that is purely gamist (and a fun game at that) that you can add enough to it to make it feel realistic.

Mine is that you can put as much lipstick on the pig as you like, the additional parts are still makeup and D&D is still a pig - which is fine with me as what I want from it is delicious bacon.

This doesn't mean I don't like realism; I own more GURPS books than any other system. The difference being? GURPS tries to start with at least a humanoid not a pig. I'm more than good with realism - unless your specific tastes are a weird D&D mix which I consider a lipsticked pig. And I consider it that partly because I know games far better at realism than D&D can be with its core.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
The irony here is that you don't seem to know what my preferences are. Which are "there are a lot of valid goals - and things should be assessed on how well they meet the goal."

My preference is to work out what works best. Yours seems to be the position that D&D, the game of hit points, classes, and levels, despite a core that is purely gamist (and a fun game at that) that you can add enough to it to make it feel realistic.

Mine is that you can put as much lipstick on the pig as you like, the additional parts are still makeup and D&D is still a pig - which is fine with me as what I want from it is delicious bacon.

This doesn't mean I don't like realism; I own more GURPS books than any other system. The difference being? GURPS tries to start with at least a humanoid not a pig. I'm more than good with realism - unless your specific tastes are a weird D&D mix which I consider a lipsticked pig. And I consider it that partly because I know games far better at realism than D&D can be with its core.
From what I can see, your preference is, "the opinions of others on this issue are wrong, and I don't have to respect them by refraining from insulting language". I'm not saying that any version of official D&D cares more about verisimilitude than say, GURPS does. I'm saying it's a spectrum on multiple metrics, and not being all that realistic on one metric does not preclude it being more so on other metrics. You're welcome to stick with your "D&D is a pig" argument (a metaphor that seems calculated to be insulting and also a known phrase with negative connotations), but I don't find it conducive to civil discussion.
 

From what I can see, your preference is, "the opinions of others on this issue are wrong, and I don't have to respect them by refraining from insulting language". I'm not saying that any version of official D&D cares more about verisimilitude than say, GURPS does. I'm saying it's a spectrum on multiple metrics, and not being all that realistic on one metric does not preclude it being more so on other metrics. You're welcome to stick with your "D&D is a pig" argument (a metaphor that seems calculated to be insulting and also a known phrase with negative connotations), but I don't find it conducive to civil discussion.
There is an old adage "When the facts support you, pound the facts. When the law supports you, pound the law. When neither supports you pound the table." Your comment here is pounding the table. It's entirely going after me.

The facts - that the core of D&D is highly unrealistic thanks to classes, levels, and consequence free hit points being all you take before you drop support me. The philosophy - that trying for realism on a deliberately unrealistic core is building on sand (as your only actual relevant argument in the post I'm replying to is a tone argument) supports me. The statements of Gygax himself support me. You have no shreds of relevant argument left. Which is why you are pounding so hard on the table.

Some opinions are wrong. And I do normally refrain from insulting language - but if you are going to seek offence in a common phrase I consider that to be on you.

You however are spending time attacking me and not even bothering to try to defend your position. Just persisting in claiming that your position is correct despite everything you have offered having been debunked. And persisting in attacking me.

Goodbye
 

Voadam

Legend
How specific do you need me to be to satisfy you? Most of the content in the 2e era, particularly in the Monstrous Manual, the Historical Reference series and the Arms & Equipment Guide fits the bill. The 1e DMG as well as the Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides contain a wealth of world building info with an eye toward verisimilitude in many areas. I could easily go on.

Then what you're saying is yes, you need me to provide rules text verbatim or my examples don't count. Telling you where such rules exist (and implying the presence of much more) isn't good enough.
I would say that a specific example would be useful for someone trying to actually figure out what you mean by realism and verisimilitude.

Citing multi hundred page books in general like the 1e DMG that contains hugely divergent stuff within it, from how to keep players guessing to the defined weekly wages of a sapper unit in your army, is not really a useful reference to explain your specific point. It is just asserting your point is supported in there somewhere. "Most of the content in the 2e era" covers everything from Planescape to Spelljammer.

I really like my 2e Historical Reference The Celts Campaign Sourcebook but I would not hold up its ultimate weapon Gae Bolga proficiency as a high point of D&D realism. It is a technique to throw a spear with your feet to do the most damage a 2e warrior can do in the game with a weapon strike.

Gae Bolga
This is the rarest of all feats, and the hardest to master. In the whole of Celtic tradition, only the great Irish hero Cu Chulainn and Scathach, the woman-warrior who trained him, had mastery of the gae bolga. This is easy to understand in the light of what the feat entails.
The gae bolga is a barbed spear, which must be thrown using the foot rather than the hand. If it strikes, the spear's barbs tear through the victim's flesh terribly, almost guaranteeing death.
The feat of the gae bolga requires 6 weapon proficiency slots. A character must be already proficient with the spear and must have a Dexterity of at least 17 before this feat can be learned.
When the feat of the gae bolga is used, the character may make no other attacks in that round or the next, and loses all Dexterity-based AC adjustments for those two rounds. This is because the feat requires absolute concentration, and leaves the character off-balance. A normal attack roll is made for the attack, and if it succeeds, the character may use his level as a multiplier for the spear's damage. Thus, in the hands of a 3rd-level character, the gae bolga causes triple normal damage, while in the hands of a 10th-level character, damage is multiplied by 10.

It is decently accurate to the myths and so there is verisimilitude to the myths, but Celtic myths and folklore sometimes have an over the top Looney Tunes distinctly unrealistic feel to them.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
How closely a D&D game should hew towards our reality has always been a hot button topic, and I imagine it always will be. You can say "the game world is equivalent to 12th century Europe unless otherwise stated" but those "otherwise" statements will pile up quickly when historically, double handed broadswords and full plate wouldn't exist yet. And that magical creatures and spellcasters exist. And that "oh, yeah, that wizard's funhouse dungeon has rivers flowing through the air" or "oh yeah, that's an earth mote, it's a big hunk of rock that hovers in the sky".

I understand why "hit points" are a bone of contention, as that's a game mechanic used to simulate the reality of combat, and is not supposed to be part of the narrative. Characters don't know what hit points are, or AC, or what have you. But if someone is hit by seventeen arrows and doesn't die, characters will notice that, and the only way to explain that (the Gygaxian model of hit points), also rubs a lot of people the wrong way!

Attempts have been made to create game worlds based on the observable effects of game mechanics, and these are often decried as ludicrous or silly. But to maintain the fiction that game mechanics don't affect the world requires willful ignorance- the DM basically becomes Oz telling people not to look behind the curtain!

And how often have DM's been warned against players who actually bring up realism (Gygax himself comments on this) in an attempt to undermine the fantasy? Bringing up the laws of thermodynamics, heat convection, or actual science facts about how far something could be seen from a distance, or how much damage you should take from being within 5' of something as hot as molten lava?

And you also have to take into account how arbitrary all the rules elements are. Nobody started hewing at people with a long sword to figure out how much more damage it does than a short sword when writing rules for weapon damage. Or actively pitched people off roofs to calculate falling damage. How hot would a Fireball need to be to deal it's damage when it manifests completely and dissipates in a 6-second timeframe?

Does a lightning bolt travel at light speed? Does it function like real lightning? How does one produce a "ray of cold"? If an orb of acid does the same damage to everything it touches, what kind of acid are we talking about here? Would the existence of Fabricate jump start an industrial revolution? How does a D&D economy work anyways, when adventurers are constantly dumping wealth that has been out of circulation for centuries back into the market?

You can see how this can quickly spiral out of control. It's been postulated that Ancient Rome only needed better metals and a lack of slaves to have steam engines. In our 12th century analog world, adamantine and mithril exist, and slavery is considered an EVIL act!

On a fundamental level, there are many things that occur in a D&D game that defy logic or reason. That's why it's fantasy, after all. This isn't to say that there is no realism, of course, but any line drawn cannot be a straight one, because there are many exceptions, and at the end of the day, everyone has to agree that D&D is a game, not a simulation. This doesn't mean you cannot play the game in a serious manner, pretending that the world absolutely makes sense (it's a roleplaying game, after all), but it should also be acknowledged that there are many things that routinely break verisimilitude where we are given no explanation other than "hey, it's magic, go with it it".
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
How closely a D&D game should hew towards our reality has always been a hot button topic, and I imagine it always will be. You can say "the game world is equivalent to 12th century Europe unless otherwise stated" but those "otherwise" statements will pile up quickly when historically, double handed broadswords and full plate wouldn't exist yet. And that magical creatures and spellcasters exist. And that "oh, yeah, that wizard's funhouse dungeon has rivers flowing through the air" or "oh yeah, that's an earth mote, it's a big hunk of rock that hovers in the sky".

I understand why "hit points" are a bone of contention, as that's a game mechanic used to simulate the reality of combat, and is not supposed to be part of the narrative. Characters don't know what hit points are, or AC, or what have you. But if someone is hit by seventeen arrows and doesn't die, characters will notice that, and the only way to explain that (the Gygaxian model of hit points), also rubs a lot of people the wrong way!

Attempts have been made to create game worlds based on the observable effects of game mechanics, and these are often decried as ludicrous or silly. But to maintain the fiction that game mechanics don't affect the world requires willful ignorance- the DM basically becomes Oz telling people not to look behind the curtain!

And how often have DM's been warned against players who actually bring up realism (Gygax himself comments on this) in an attempt to undermine the fantasy? Bringing up the laws of thermodynamics, heat convection, or actual science facts about how far something could be seen from a distance, or how much damage you should take from being within 5' of something as hot as molten lava?

And you also have to take into account how arbitrary all the rules elements are. Nobody started hewing at people with a long sword to figure out how much more damage it does than a short sword when writing rules for weapon damage. Or actively pitched people off roofs to calculate falling damage. How hot would a Fireball need to be to deal it's damage when it manifests completely and dissipates in a 6-second timeframe?

Does a lightning bolt travel at light speed? Does it function like real lightning? How does one produce a "ray of cold"? If an orb of acid does the same damage to everything it touches, what kind of acid are we talking about here? Would the existence of Fabricate jump start an industrial revolution? How does a D&D economy work anyways, when adventurers are constantly dumping wealth that has been out of circulation for centuries back into the market?

You can see how this can quickly spiral out of control. It's been postulated that Ancient Rome only needed better metals and a lack of slaves to have steam engines. In our 12th century analog world, adamantine and mithril exist, and slavery is considered an EVIL act!

On a fundamental level, there are many things that occur in a D&D game that defy logic or reason. That's why it's fantasy, after all. This isn't to say that there is no realism, of course, but any line drawn cannot be a straight one, because there are many exceptions, and at the end of the day, everyone has to agree that D&D is a game, not a simulation. This doesn't mean you cannot play the game in a serious manner, pretending that the world absolutely makes sense (it's a roleplaying game, after all), but it should also be acknowledged that there are many things that routinely break verisimilitude where we are given no explanation other than "hey, it's magic, go with it it".
"Hey, it's magic, go with it" is to me miles better than, "Hey, it's a game, go with it", which is what so many folks are trying to make me swallow, especially if the magic is part of a cogent system.
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
Gae Bolga
This is the rarest of all feats, and the hardest to master. In the whole of Celtic tradition, only the great Irish hero Cu Chulainn and Scathach, the woman-warrior who trained him, had mastery of the gae bolga. This is easy to understand in the light of what the feat entails.
The gae bolga is a barbed spear, which must be thrown using the foot rather than the hand. If it strikes, the spear's barbs tear through the victim's flesh terribly, almost guaranteeing death.
The feat of the gae bolga requires 6 weapon proficiency slots. A character must be already proficient with the spear and must have a Dexterity of at least 17 before this feat can be learned.
When the feat of the gae bolga is used, the character may make no other attacks in that round or the next, and loses all Dexterity-based AC adjustments for those two rounds. This is because the feat requires absolute concentration, and leaves the character off-balance. A normal attack roll is made for the attack, and if it succeeds, the character may use his level as a multiplier for the spear's damage. Thus, in the hands of a 3rd-level character, the gae bolga causes triple normal damage, while in the hands of a 10th-level character, damage is multiplied by 10.

This is what you call "realism"? Because for me, this is overcomplicated as f, and honestly unfunny, to boot. Is one of those things I'll never bother to use in a game just because it adds a level of complexity to a game that should be about having fun and not stressing out.

If you like that kind of "realism", more power to you, I guess. I'll take an unrealistic game over this all the time, thank you very much.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
"Hey, it's magic, go with it" is to me miles better than, "Hey, it's a game, go with it", which is what so many folks are trying to make me swallow, especially if the magic is part of a cogent system.
But is the magic part of a cogent system? See if you think about it, the vast majority of magical things you see in a game fall mostly fall into "stuff players can't access". If Keraptis has built a giant aquarium using permanent Walls of Force or the aforementioned floating river with a permanent Reverse Gravity, or has bound a small army of Efreeti to ensure no player uses shenanigans to bypass his clever funhouse, and the players ask "hey, how did he do this?", the answer isn't "Feat A + Subclass B + Spell C" it's FIAT.

Now you might say players have no need for such abilities, and it might be unbalanced if they had them, but a cogent magic system would have answers beyond "well uh, Wish and lucky die rolls" or "a God/Artifact" did it.

Or hey, when you see a Human Noble shout commands at his bodyguards to give them all free attacks (with a refresh on a d6 roll), a player might say "huh, how does one get to be such an amazing leader?". Well the answer is, you don't. Again, it's fiat.

Enemy has a cool flying castle? Don't ask how, you're probably not getting one. Unless the DM wants you to, of course. Because there's probably not any rules for it in the first place (and if they are, it's probably rules for me and not for thee, lol).

You want to talk about a cognitive gap, this is a huge one, and it's existed from the very beginning of the game. But it's accepted because that's just how things are. NPC's have unique powers that players can't have, there's stuff in the world that has no explanation- how is that island floating in mid air? Uh...a rift to the Elemental Plane of Air. How was it formed? Magical cataclysm or something?

Now I'm not saying I want players to be able to access this stuff- I mean, you got to think about game balance, which is why NPC Drow have always had a host of special powers and bespoke gear that PC Drow can't have (and even if you capture it, oh sorry, it's reliant on Underdark radiation that never seems to bother the Drow you fight, but means the gear melts if sunlight hits it, lol). Or even why suddenly PC Kobolds no longer have Pack Tactics, but all the ones you fight still do.

But the fact that there's no explanations for any of it keeps the world from making any sense. You just have to shrug and say "man, I have no idea how the Curse of Annihilation works- that Acererak, wot a funny guy!"
 

Remove ads

Top