D&D General D&D isn't a simulation game, so what is???

clearstream

(He, Him)
"Narrating based on direction" does not strike me as particularly simulationist, although perhaps you have an example in mind? (Eg upthread I mentioned that RM, unlike RQ, doesn't always give left or right side of the body, but that sometimes that is answered by other parameters of the situation, like knowing which side of the character a biting giant ant was on.)
Unless a GM is reciting the game text verbatim, it's all narrating based on direction. EDIT Also, which side is bitten is a fair example.

Upthread I pointed to a number of ways in which Torchbearer, while keeping some of the elements of PC build found in Burning Wheel, drops the simulationist aspects of PC building (ie BW lifepaths) in exchange for "choose from list A and list B and . . ." (ie class, hometown, social, specialty, PC relationships with a cap of 3, starting gear limited by carrying capacity).

The conflict system is not simulationist at all, given that outcomes are based on a negotiated compromise.

Non-conflict action resolution isn't either - it has some simulationist trappings, in the way obstacles are set, but the actual resolution process allows all sorts of non-simulationist interventions (choices about fate and persona, nature, traits, etc) and then the way consequences of failure are narrated is not simulationist at all (and is, rather, an example of the GM saying something that follows).

The systems for scene-setting - especially camp and town phase - are also very non-simulationist, even moreso than Gygax's city/town encounter matrix in Appendix C of his DMG.
I would agree with your above, so I suppose I am not understanding what you really mean. We agree that a game can have a setting that it nevertheless fails to count as a simulation of, right?
 

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Thomas Shey

Legend
We could take the minions to be unlucky and without will to live, but I felt the interesting question that you highlight is whether there can be an absurdist or surrealist simulationist game? One option is to say it's impossible, albeit it is likely intuitions will diverge as to what counts as absurdist or surrealist (are not many of the fantastical worlds of RPG to some extent absurd?)

I think the issue can be more of when one becomes too alien for people to engage with than absurd per se. At that point, while it might be possible to do it in a simulationist sort of way, I suspect the posture the game takes is the least of anyone's concern in that case.

Suppose we agree that a gamist design is one that is easy and engaging/interesting to do. Do we then agree that a simulationist - being not gamist - must be one that is not easy and not engaging/not interesting to do?

This, in a way, mirrors a perennial argument that took place back in r.g.f.a.: are the postures fundamentally incompatible? I never thought they were, but that there were absolutely tradeoffs as you pursued one over the others, and if you heavily pursued two, you were going to more and more squeeze the third out.

But of course I also think you never see just one in the wild; you have games that strongly chase one, but they don't end up entirely excluding the others.

I think usually with gamism the tension is much greater between keeping it engaging on a game level and easy to manage at the same time; there are obviously different sweet spots that work for different people, but the people who find really simple games engaging, if you dig into it, do so because they've moved all the engagement up to a non-mechanical level (sometimes in other elements, sometimes (as in OD&D) up to a kind of freeform sort of of parallel game). I think there's a distinct drop-off at each end with how much people find really simple or really complex games engaging on that level, which is why really complex RPGs are relatively rare, and to the degree they're successful, really simple games are either doing what I mention above, or are pursuing dramatist goals so the simplicity of the game experience is less relevant.

I feel reluctant to dismiss the possibility of finding RQ or ICE engaging or interesting, so if I adopt this definition must I be saying that the sole quality amounting to gamist design is play that is easy to do!? That feels like an impoverished definition (and I'd note the gap between the definition of gamist here and definitions of gamism elsewhere.)

Well, its admittedly my definition because I find it a more practical one (you can kind of point at it in work) than the one the Forge uses, and the one r.g.f.a. had was pretty vague because the number of heavy gamist participants in developing the model was very small (to the best of my knowledge, me and Gleichman). It existed because it obviously existed (there were people who were playing with a focus on things other than story, and other than exploring the world) but there weren't many people willing to chase it farther than that, and the two of us that were were less involved than the heavy duty dramatist and simulationist groups that were predominant. The Forge definitions are a little more specific (though I think flawed, as I've noted in my opinion about where genre emulation goes) but they also tend to be a bit more arcane.

The problem, anyway, is that in this thread many posters have said this or that element is gamist and not simulationist. I don't see how that can be judged unless they have a definition for gamist in mind that can be articulated and sustained. I guess folk could say something like - element X is uncategorisable, but certainly not simulationist. I don't think that is the sort of argument being made however. I think it is more of the form - element X can be categorised as gamist, and gamist is not simulationist, therefore element X is not simulationist. But if gamist isn't defined, the "therefore" in that sentence doesn't work because we can't rule out the union of G() and S().

I suspect they're saying that the element is neither simulationist nor dramatist/narrativist in intent, so it must be gamist in some cases (and keep in mind, its statistically likely some people in the thread consider gamism kind of a dirty word in regard to RPGs). That of course turns on you viewing all elements needing to fit in some incarnation of the three agendas, which I've always been agnostic about.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
How should we take this in cases where we don't have access to a designer's conscious and subconscious motives at time of our grasping and enacting their game design; or where said motives might be complex or vague, and coming into focus as they go? I feel that the more robust definition is to assert that the product must include references. The timing of their inclusion isn't at issue. Therefore

You can't say so with certainty of course. But I also don't think its unfair when you see outrgrowth setting elements that seem extremely convoluted to question whether they were there at first. And specifically with D&D when it was first developed, the setting was sufficiently sketchy that claiming a given rather unusual mechanical system was picked specifically to simulate the setting seems, at least, reaching a bit.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
The chart, and the sentences, don't seem consistent to me.

For instance, if I get punched, I will be bruised. If I get punched again, I will be bruised more. If I get punched and punched and punched I will get more and more bruised, perhaps even have bones broken, but I won't become critically injured unless the punches are to particular parts of my body - I'm quite unlikely to be killed if I'm punched repeatedly in the arm or leg.

There's a--complication about this. Shock, and death there from, is extremely hard to pin down as to why it occurs some times.

That said, you're correct that its very unlikely under normal circumstances that repeated relatively low level impacts to a limb are going to kill you. Honest, even much stronger or more damaging ones will usually only do so from bleeding out.

More generally, a person may be incapable of fighting - because exhausted, dispirited, their limbs are broken or beaten to bloody pulps, etc - and yet not in danger of dying.

Conversely, if I get shot in the head - @hawkeyefan's example - I do not become bruised, then wounded, then bloodied. I got straight to either critical or dead.

That depends on how you define "shot in the head" too; people have taken bullet wounds to the head and kept well into the period they were treated. They were wounds that usually didn't penetrate the skull, and avoided a major artery, but they were still headwounds caused by a bullet.

To sum up, wounds are complicated: as I said, once you get away from major organ damage or major bleeders, its very hard to predict exactly how dangerous a given wound will be.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
As a historical note, in the 70s Gygax explained demi-human level limits more from the angle of simulating the fantasy fiction which inspired D&D. As a reason why humans predominate as protagonists. He noted that if, for example, Elves could advance to any level, that combined with their long lifespans would mean that elves would most likely rule the world and humans would not be the most important or significant species in game worlds.


Of course this didn't really work, and wasn't the only necessary explanation anyway; it didn't work because OD&D and AD&D never assumed a particularly large number of high level people in the world anyway, so a bunch of elves firewalled against their level limits would have still likely ruled the world (its been a long time, but wasn't it something like 6th FM and 8th MU or some such?), and a set of elves that by natural inclination were not expansionist likely wouldn't.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
This, then, implies that literally all games are simulationist, so long as someone finds them to simulate something. I don't think that's very useful. That's why I consider the origins of a mechanic, and contrast them against their current usage, which absolutely can vary.
I believe that is avoided by the following set of requirements written into the definition I propose
  1. the models and rules take inputs correlated with the reference
  2. the simulation produces results including fiction correlated with the reference
  3. the correlation is evident enough that we know when we say something that follows that it accords with the reference
  4. inhabitants of the world can say things that will turn out to be true of the game rules
  5. all of the above are weighted by preponderantly: great in quantity and importance
In a sense you are exactly right, though, as I argue that simulationist is a pragmatic category: games can be more or less simulationist, and we should only call those that are more simulationist (satisfy preponderantly) rather than less "simulationist".
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Marvel Heroic RP/Cortex+ Heroic treats magic like any other ability. It doesn't use D&D-style recovery-on-a-rest at all, really. In D&D terms, this would be treating magic as an ability/skill check.

HeroQuest revised is similar. Whether an ability is magical or "mundane" is an aspect of the fiction, but doesn't generally affect how it is declared and resolved.

In Burning Wheel, when a magician casts a spell they have to test for Tax: each spell has a Tax rating, and you roll your Forte dice pool and take tax equal to your margin of failure (or no tax if you succeed). If your tax equals your Forte you fall unconscious; it it exceeds it you also take wounds. You recover Forte by resting, with the amount recovered determined by a Health check. In D&D this would be (very roughly) like having to make a CON check when you cast a spell, and losing hit points if you fail.

The idea of magic being rationed as its own distinct resource pool - whether D&D-style fire-and-forget, or power points (which is what RM uses, and kind-of what RQ uses, and what Classic Traveller uses for psionics) - seems first-and-foremost like a gameplay device.

Well, you can argue it has some simulationist value if your setting does not assume dominance of magic users and the like, and assumes relatively powerful magic. The societal impact of D&D magic and RQ spirit magic would be considerably different (RQ spirit mages weren't going to dominate anything, and that's not even accounting for the fact almost everyone had a little of it).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Is there not fantasy fiction generally limiting the use of magic powers via exhaustion prior to the publication of D&D?

I agree that power points and other totally independent resource tracks separate from exhaustion seem to derive purely from game mechanics. (Spell memorization being an special exception via Vance).

Its often hard to tell; one of the things that complicates discussions of this is that magic using protagonists were not overly in supply prior to D&D. There were some, but it was not a large number. And of course you have to deal with the issue of magic structures that were entirely ritual, or that appeared to be intrinsically risky, so they weren't overused for that reason.

But honestly, a power point system often is still a fatigue system in another form anyway; it usually just assumes something like spiritual rather than physical exhaustion (that's overt in the case of RQ).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Sure, that's happened. But as we all know, what else has happened is that people who have been shot in the head die instantly. This is something that is quite possible when a person gets shot in the head. I think we can all agree on that, right? That guns are deadly and it often only takes one bullet to kill someone?

"Often" is doing some heavy lifting here. "Can" is absolutely true, but how often a single shot is lethal (especially instantly) is extremely debatable once you start burrowing into available data. Its easy to have preselection bias here for a number of reasons.

So, if a game is attempting to simulate gunfights, the mechanics must allow for this possibility in some way. The system should also allow for flesh wounds and similar types of things that really happen, yes, but they must allow for the entire range of outcomes that can happen when a person is shot. A Level and Hit Point system renders the ability to portray a one-shot-kill almost nil. If simulation is a goal, then such a possibility should not be almost nil.

This, on the other hand, I agree with.

A simulation is going to allow for the one-shot-kill that is quite possible in a gunfight. Having levels and additional HP that make that impossible is pretty much the opposite of a simulation. Your HP as fuel gauge analogy doesn't really work because in a gunfight, someone who is incredibly skilled, a veteran of many battles, and otherwise ready to fight can take one step onto the battlefield and be killed instantly. In other words, a game system has to allow for all the fuel to be drained in one go if it's actually trying to simulate how gunfights work.

There are a number of ways to compromise these questions too; a luck resource that can be used to absorb damage to one degree or another can be layed over a system that is otherwise approximately real world can, by itself, produce a result not dissimilar to the D&D hit point model. With an open ended damage roll such as Savage Worlds, on the other hand, neither of those is a perfect defense because its possible to drown out the buffer. You can also have the question of how easy you want the buffer to recover--D&D has always made its hit points relatively easy to top off, with magic if nothing else; how much you want Savage Worlds bennies to recover is not as consistently accepted (and in any case recovering them is not within the control of the characters, and only to a limited degree to the players).
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
But don't all fictional mechanisms start with some goal of "how can I make this fit"? People don't just say "magic works this way for my novel" for abstract reasons. It's "magic works this way because it works better for my plot and world building." Star Trek had teleporters because it was cheaper, not because there was some over-arching logic.

There's a big difference between "It works better for my world building" (which is almost the definition of simulation) and "It works better in play" however. The latter is pretty much the textbook for a gamist design decision, which is why I claim that's how D&D magic started out. Same with almost all its mechanical decisions.
 

Oofta

Legend
There's a big difference between "It works better for my world building" (which is almost the definition of simulation) and "It works better in play" however. The latter is pretty much the textbook for a gamist design decision, which is why I claim that's how D&D magic started out. Same with almost all its mechanical decisions.
Poh-tae-toe poh-tah-toe. Both are authors making up something that suits their goal. 🤷‍♂️
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
That is genre emulation, a specific and natrativist concept. The kind of simulation most are discussing here is reality simulation (by certain standards of reality relative to the setting).
What’s the difference in emulating a genre vs simulating a genre?
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
What’s the difference in emulating a genre vs simulating a genre?

It depends on the genre. There are genres that are simply clusters of setting and interest elements that otherwise don't say anything super distinct. Then there are genres that have strong conventions; and many of those conventions (and this is important) are not acknowledged by people in the setting. You can't really "simulate" those because they're essentially metaworld structures; they don't have any existence that people in the setting can acknowledge without grossly altering the setting. Superhero settings are full of these, but they aren't the only one.

(A really simple one for the latter you see quite a lot of the history of comics is that an energy blast that blows a hole through a concrete wall will only KO or at worst injure an opponent who is avowedly not of superhuman toughness. How much attention this is paid to varies, but its common enough that people generally just accept it as part of the gig. Its presence in a game isn't really simulating anything about the setting; its a rule that exists above the setting because no one within it will ever acknowledge it barring fourth-wall breaking and the like.)
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It depends on the genre. There are genres that are simply clusters of setting and interest elements that otherwise don't say anything super distinct. Then there are genres that have strong conventions; and many of those conventions (and this is important) are not acknowledged by people in the setting. You can't really "simulate" those because they're essentially metaworld structures; they don't have any existence that people in the setting can acknowledge without grossly altering the setting. Superhero settings are full of these, but they aren't the only one.

(A really simple one for the latter you see quite a lot of the history of comics is that an energy blast that blows a hole through a concrete wall will only KO or at worst injure an opponent who is avowedly not of superhuman toughness. How much attention this is paid to varies, but its common enough that people generally just accept it as part of the gig. Its presence in a game isn't really simulating anything about the setting; its a rule that exists above the setting because no one within it will ever acknowledge it barring fourth-wall breaking and the like.)
So to simulate a comic genre wouldn’t we just have energy beams blow through concrete but not through people? I don’t understand why you say that doesn’t constitute a simulation?
 



Oofta

Legend
If you're just going to play the "there's no difference" card anything anyone tries to make distinctions in this thread, I'm just going to stop responding to you; its pointless.
You're trying to make a narrow focused discrimination based on motivation and thought process for the origin of fiction. I don't see the point, it's still total fiction. In addition D&D's magic is called Vancian magic because Jack Vance came up with the concept first. Gygax and Arneson may or may not have picked it because it also served their purposes, but they did not invent the idea.

Most authors up to that time didn't really explain all that much how magic work or what limitations there were. Magic was generally dangerous and only used by the bad guys who had virtually unlimited power or by novices who endangered others and themselves with their mistakes. Like many things in any game, it was a combination of borrowing from preexisting work and adjusting it to suit the needs at hand. Very few fictional tropes are created completely from scratch, whether for a novel or a game.

In a more general sense, because D&D grew out of war games magic was viewed as ammunition. So you could say that memorizing spells was simply modeled after the closest real world analogy making it more "reality based" than some other systems. I personally prefer more of a mana based, finite resource capability, but that's kind of where we've gotten with 5E. Also not particularly pertinent.

I think D&D does a lot of simulation of the real world. Everything from armor to weapons to exhaustion to how long you last in a fight to how far you can jump are all trying to simulate the real world. Whether you believe they're good or accurate simulations is a different issue. But making up new things for a work of fiction for things that do not exist? That's just kind of how it works. Even if there was some accepted fiction established at the time other than Vance that detailed how magic worked for ordinary humans (Gandalf for example isn't human) they had to invent all sorts of things. Is D&D less of a simulation because we have beholders?
 

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