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

pemerton

Legend
Hmm... for me, as I'm thinking about the imagined inhabitants, laws is right. In the sense of laws of nature, laws of physics, and so on.
I know what you mean by laws.

But causation and law are not the same thing. I know how I can (typically) cause a person to say hello, namely, by greeting them cheerfully myself. But no one knows what laws (if any) govern human behaviour. Only in certain special domains (primarily physics and some aspects of chemistry) is causation fully subsumed under laws.

For me, it's valuable to have in mind the perfect simulation, because the games we call simulationist are believed to be imperfect simulations or approximations (as you explain above). That forces reflection on the matter of degrees of granularity: all are imperfect, none have 1:1 fidelity to the reference cosmos*. [EDIT When it comes to what they dictate, none are comprehensive and all are representative.] We can only be placing games and their mechanics along a scale, where none are perfect.
I strongly differ in relation to this idea of "perfection".

What makes RM less than "perfect" as a simulationist RPG is not that its crit tables aren't fully comprehensive of all the injury that might follow from injury during swordplay. It is that its system of OB/DB split permits the player to inject a metagame agenda - their sense of the significance of a situation - that does not necessarily correspond to any reasoning their PC would be undertaking in the fiction. To put it another way, it permits author over actor stance at certain key moments of play.

And this goes back to the point that the goal of simulationist RPGing is not to achieve an engineer's or scientist's model, but is to eliminate the metagame and have the fiction unfold on a causal trajectory that is generated by the mechanics. And RM's attack tables achieve this even if they are not complete as a model.

Laws in turn provide me with a wonderful filter for simulationist mechanics. I can ask - could the imagined inhabitants of the cosmos have experiences, expectations and behaviours that are compatible with the mechanics? If not, then my supposedly simulationist mechanic deserves further scrutiny... perhaps rejection.
Here I find myself not knowing what it means for imagined people to have experiences, expectations and behaviours compatible with a RPG mechanic. That seems to be positing that the content of the clouds may or may not be compatible with the occurrence of the boxes - which seems to be a category error.

That doesn't make all games and mechanics necessarily simulationist, but it does mean we can't exclude on grounds of being approximate or representative.
We exclude on the grounds of being fortune in the middle, of prompting and constraining but not dictating narration, or inviting metagame intervention.

We can't tell whether a D&D PC on 1 hp or 0 hp is about to die, or is about to recover, until after we learn which happens to them. In other words, being on 1 hp or 0 hp is not revealing the imagined cosmos in action. It is consistent with contradictory imaginings!, and we don't know which one to imagine until after the event. As I have already posted, it is no different from Robin Laws remarks about narrating the ebb and flow of action points in HeroWars.

Are there examples of simulationist mechanics and processes, or of simulationist play, that you think Ron Edwards has mischaracterised? Do you disagree with his repeated contrast of RuneQuest and HeroWars/Quest?
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
But causation and law are not the same thing. I know how I can (typically) cause a person to say hello, namely, by greeting them cheerfully myself. But no one knows what laws (if any) govern human behaviour. Only in certain special domains (primarily physics and some aspects of chemistry) is causation fully subsumed under laws.
I am not seeking to find a match for causation. Rather I'm searching for a word that speaks to compatibility between the experiences of an imagined inhabitant and the game model and rules. That inhabitant's ability (at least in principle) to know how things are in their cosmos, which is the reference we desire represented by our game system.

What makes RM less than "perfect" as a simulationist RPG is not that its crit tables aren't fully comprehensive of all the injury that might follow from injury during swordplay. It is that its system of OB/DB split permits the player to inject a metagame agenda - their sense of the significance of a situation - that does not necessarily correspond to any reasoning their PC would be undertaking in the fiction. To put it another way, it permits author over actor stance at certain key moments of play.
When I write "perfect simulation" the sense I intend is that of a precisely complete and correct mapping between simulation and reference. Here you use "perfect" in the sense of ideal, and I agree with your example of that. A perfect simulation (in my sense) would not be ideal as a game, but a motive for considering it is to understand what a simulationist game need not be.

And this goes back to the point that the goal of simulationist RPGing is not to achieve an engineer's or scientist's model, but is to eliminate the metagame and have the fiction unfold on a causal trajectory that is generated by the mechanics. And RM's attack tables achieve this even if they are not complete as a model.
Reading once more your words above "does not necessarily correspond to any reasoning their PC would be undertaking in the fiction", I feel we're both grasping the intuition pump that I want to write into my proposed definition. We see that we can consider a mechanic in light of what an imagined inhabitant could know (or as you put it, reason about) and notice any shortfalls between mechanic and what would be ideally simulationist. If it seems that our imagined inhabitant could not reason in a way compatible with the rule, then something's up. That's very much why I value incorporating something about this into my proposed definition. Can you think of a better worded alternative?

Here I find myself not knowing what it means for imagined people to have experiences, expectations and behaviours compatible with a RPG mechanic. That seems to be positing that the content of the clouds may or may not be compatible with the occurrence of the boxes - which seems to be a category error.
Based on conversations we've had elsewhere, I feel we may need to accept a divergence of intuitions here. I am saying that a simulationist mechanic will be one in which the fiction (clouds) is made by the system (boxes) to correlate with the reference (cosmos). If a player can picture that their character can have an experience (bake bread, say) and expectations (it will be sustaining) then if the system fails to make that so it is not a simulationist (in that respect, anyway.) The system has an authoritative voice in fictional positioning.

We exclude on the grounds of being fortune in the middle, of prompting and constraining but not dictating narration, or inviting metagame intervention.

We can't tell whether a D&D PC on 1 hp or 0 hp is about to die, or is about to recover, until after we learn which happens to them. In other words, being on 1 hp or 0 hp is not revealing the imagined cosmos in action. It is consistent with contradictory imaginings!, and we don't know which one to imagine until after the event. As I have already posted, it is no different from Robin Laws remarks about narrating the ebb and flow of action points in HeroWars.
I don't see a necessary conflict between knowing how things are in the imagined cosmos after the process, or as it unfolds. No one's really pinned down why that matters, other than tautologically. I also don't see any universally accepted measure for quantity of process steps and information.

Are there examples of simulationist mechanics and processes, or of simulationist play, that you think Ron Edwards has mischaracterised? Do you disagree with his repeated contrast of RuneQuest and HeroWars/Quest?
No, my thoughts follow more the GEN disagreements with Edwards. "Ron Edward's points are actually bottom level techniques that support top level desires (or decisions in GDS)." I found that Right to Dream contained some enlightening discussion, albeit I found myself questioning the unexamined conflation of simulationism (a set of techniques) and immersionism (a desire). I prefer GENs choice of Explorative. I'm also strongly influenced by Gleichman's criticisms of GNS definitions of Gamist.
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
This is why stronger claims about laws and predictions and the like seem unnecessary to me.

The only reason I make the argument on this was that the distinction between genre emulation and setting simulation seems important to me, and I emphasize this to show why you kind of need to put the former separately, because in a literal sense, if the characters were allowed to look at it, they could potentially derive the genre rules; but if you let them do so you most likely would soon get the characters acting inappropriately (or at least every character would start looking like Gwenpool or Ambush Bug).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
What makes RM less than "perfect" as a simulationist RPG is not that its crit tables aren't fully comprehensive of all the injury that might follow from injury during swordplay. It is that its system of OB/DB split permits the player to inject a metagame agenda - their sense of the significance of a situation - that does not necessarily correspond to any reasoning their PC would be undertaking in the fiction. To put it another way, it permits author over actor stance at certain key moments of play.

If I understand how that works (and remember I only have the most passive familiarity with Rolemaster), I think splitting up offense and defense can be a perfectly legitimate decision based in-character; it involves assessing your opposition and whether you're in a hurry. Its not that far from some real tradeoffs you can make in some melee fighting styles in the real world. Which doesn't mean there can't be some metagame considerations, but its not intrinsic to doing that sort of tradeoff.

Are there examples of simulationist mechanics and processes, or of simulationist play, that you think Ron Edwards has mischaracterised? Do you disagree with his repeated contrast of RuneQuest and HeroWars/Quest?

I will do my thing about genre emulation again.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Just remember, that every version of this game ends in Rocks Fall Everybody Dies.

Not everybody...

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(or presumably also Pete Hutter)
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I don't see a necessary conflict between knowing how things are in the imagined cosmos after the process, or as it unfolds. No one's really pinned down why that matters, other than tautologically. I also don't see any universally accepted measure for quantity of process steps and information.

Well, in the case of hit points at least (and I can see other hypothetical cases where this is true) because it can matter in play not only at the end, but in the middle. Knowing that I'm winded but uninjured will impact how I play a character differently than knowing I have a number of gashes and a possible cracked rib.

No, my thoughts follow more the GEN disagreements with Edwards. "Ron Edward's points are actually bottom level techniques that support top level desires (or decisions in GDS)." I found that Right to Dream contained some enlightening discussion, albeit I found myself questioning the unexamined conflation of simulationism (a set of techniques) and immersionism (a desire). I prefer GENs choice of Explorative. I'm also strongly influenced by Gleichman's criticisms of GNS definitions of Gamist.

Well, he's probably following some of the discussion of the original r.g.f.a. simulationists, who, as I really, were also immersionists one and all and considered dramatism or gamism to one degree or another interfered with that. I have seen a number of avowed immersionists later who disagree with that, but there's always the question about whether they're entirely talking about the same thing.
I didn't realize Brian had still been interacting with the hobby when GNS came along; I hadn't seen him post anywhere for years by that point. I'd have been interested to see his critique there, since we were pretty much the standard-bearers for gamism in the r.g.f.a. days, even though we disagreed somewhat often.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Well, in the case of hit points at least (and I can see other hypothetical cases where this is true) because it can matter in play not only at the end, but in the middle. Knowing that I'm winded but uninjured will impact how I play a character differently than knowing I have a number of gashes and a possible cracked rib.
Agreed, for a system that works that way. One could imagine a representative system faithful to the reference cosmos, that doesn't resolve linearly forward.

Well, he's probably following some of the discussion of the original r.g.f.a. simulationists, who, as I really, were also immersionists one and all and considered dramatism or gamism to one degree or another interfered with that. I have seen a number of avowed immersionists later who disagree with that, but there's always the question about whether they're entirely talking about the same thing.
For sure. In many cases I am rereading to see if I can better understand that.

I didn't realize Brian had still been interacting with the hobby when GNS came along; I hadn't seen him post anywhere for years by that point. I'd have been interested to see his critique there, since we were pretty much the standard-bearers for gamism in the r.g.f.a. days, even though we disagreed somewhat often.
Here's a link to the comments attributed to him. I found this from stackexchange although I didn't capture that particular link.
 

pemerton

Legend
The only reason I make the argument on this was that the distinction between genre emulation and setting simulation seems important to me, and I emphasize this to show why you kind of need to put the former separately, because in a literal sense, if the characters were allowed to look at it, they could potentially derive the genre rules; but if you let them do so you most likely would soon get the characters acting inappropriately (or at least every character would start looking like Gwenpool or Ambush Bug).
I get what you're saying, and I don't think I've disagreed with any of it.

Eg when a player in RM uses an Adrenal Move, that is a thing their character is doing - people in the fiction can see the character performing their martial arts-type move. Whereas when a player in Marvel Heroic RP uses a plot point to step up the effect of an attack, this is not something that the people in the fiction can see - the attack already happened!, and was what it was, and the spending of the point is purely a metagame manipulation to establish a preferred mechanical outcome and resulting preferred fiction.

The focus here is on causal processes - events actually occurring, in time sequence - in the fiction. But it doesn't require any claims about laws, or about whether or not the simulationist mechanic models every in-fiction possibility.

If I understand how that works (and remember I only have the most passive familiarity with Rolemaster), I think splitting up offense and defense can be a perfectly legitimate decision based in-character; it involves assessing your opposition and whether you're in a hurry. Its not that far from some real tradeoffs you can make in some melee fighting styles in the real world. Which doesn't mean there can't be some metagame considerations, but its not intrinsic to doing that sort of tradeoff.
I'm not saying must, only can. It contrasts with RQ, where there is no comparable possibility of the player injecting their metagame priority into resolution.

This is why I prefer RM to RQ, and why I regard RQ as the more "pure" simulationist RPG.
 
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Thomas Shey

Legend
Agreed, for a system that works that way. One could imagine a representative system faithful to the reference cosmos, that doesn't resolve linearly forward.

I agree in theory, but in practice, its hard to see such a resolution system being constructed for a game that considers that kind of element important. Even games that don't consider such things important, but still have multipe steps tend to do them chronologically so that intervention can be practiced before things finally gel.

For sure. In many cases I am rereading to see if I can better understand that.

Good luck. If people consider variations of the Threefold confusing, wade into an Immersion discussion and try and come out knowing more than you did going in.

Here's a link to the comments attributed to him. I found this from stackexchange although I didn't capture that particular link.

Yeah, that reads like Brian. I think he's a little off on a couple of things at least: First, I don't think r.g.f.a. Simulationists were defining their preference by the negative the way he says; it just happens that that was a side effect of their preference for world-exploration over everything, but there were a few special-cases where things that could only be called metagame decision that would fit in their preferences; they just wouldn't be considered a virtue. Secondly, I think he underestimates the number of Dramatist proponents that were present back in the day, though the Simulationists did kind of drive the discussion.

Regarding GNS, most of his critique seems to be of its creator than the theory, though I do agree it shows one of the same issues GDS had; one wing was only there by sort of implication and became the place to pile misunderstanding on (game in GDS, simulation in GNS).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I'm not saying must, only can. It contrasts with RQ, where there is no comparable possibility of the player injecting their metagame priority into resolution.

Uhm, not so sure. Is there a real difference between that and deciding where and when to use your one Parry/Dodge? That can involve an in-character assessment of risk, or an out-of-character estimation of flow and how the GM is probably going to use uncommitted attackers.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
On causal, I have been wondering about the relationship of setting details to simulationism? Some examples

In RQ if I roll an 86 during character generation my character comes from a poor noble background (implied, there are poor nobles).
In RQ I can buy a cart horse for 50L.
In RQ I can buy and wear an open helm, similar to a Roman legionnaire helm.

These elements contribute I think to the simulationism (contrast adding a sportscar to the list of things for sale... that changes things, right?) I don't picture them as situated in mechanical chains of causation.

A simulationist design is one whose models and rules preponderantly take inputs and produce results including fiction, corelated with references; so that we know when we say what follows that our fiction accords with the reference, and the imagined inhabitants of the world can have knowledge corresponding to its rules.

I've avoided insisting on causation with static details in mind, that to me need to be present and in some way consistent in sustaining our impressions of the reference. They are at the model level of the simulation, therefore being definitional and not procedural. What I am here avoiding is assigning a greater priority to causes of events in the setting over facts about the setting. If the intuition is right, I may need to tweak the first part of the definition.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
On causal, I have been wondering about the relationship of setting details to simulationism? Some examples

In RQ if I roll an 86 during character generation my character comes from a poor noble background (implied, there are poor nobles).
In RQ I can buy a cart horse for 50L.
In RQ I can buy and wear an open helm, similar to a Roman legionnaire helm.

These elements contribute I think to the simulationism (contrast adding a sportscar to the list of things for sale... that changes things, right?) I don't picture them as situated in mechanical chains of causation.

Well, clearly proper simulation is going to be contextual. That's one of the reasons simulationist leaning generic systems are so difficult.
 


firstkyne

Explorer
Let the anger from offended D&D fans flow through you. Use it!

...to go check out the BRP games mentioned earlier, and also maybe GURPS Fantasy. There are definitely fantasy games that are more directly simulationist than D&D. GURPS, for example, uses something like 1-second combat turns, and has much more specific mechanics for stuff like damage from specific weapons against specific types of armor.
GURPS contains the tools to play in a simulation manner better than anything else I have played (38 years a rp-er). you can also opt for various rules which move the game style to cinematic or outright high fantasy. It's not entirely to my tastes actually, but it's better than most rpg systems. Definitely worth a try.
 

GURPS contains the tools to play in a simulation manner better than anything else I have played (38 years a rp-er). you can also opt for various rules which move the game style to cinematic or outright high fantasy. It's not entirely to my tastes actually, but it's better than most rpg systems. Definitely worth a try.

imo GURPS falls flat for cinematic play--I certainly tried, many times, but the way action is sliced up, and the way you have to layer on rules and/or points, always felt cumbersome. But it really is a simulationist's dream.
 

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