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Of Mooks, Plot Armor, and ttRPGs

Thomas Shey

Legend
Oh, sure it can - and does. But if it's what the characters would do then my position is that we-as-GMs are duty-bound to let them do it.

Where my view is that people who are playing characters that consistently annoy other people are duty-bound to not run those kind of characters or find a game where they don't. People are not playing by themselves, and you don't get to ignore what effect its having on others; the term for that is "selfish".
 

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Thomas Shey

Legend
And all I'm saying is, the number of factors and interactions, the sheer amount of data needed, to MEANINGFULLY model something like a world is not possible.

And I'm disagreeing with you, probably because I'm disagreeing with your definition of "meaningful".

So yes, you can COLOR everything as being part of a web of cause and effect relationships which you have modeled. but the number of assumptions being made in lieu of a way to build such a model is so large that at some point we have to find some reason to pick one option vs another that is not based on simulation, but something. It could be 'what will make a good game', or 'what is most genre-appropriate' etc.

And this is why. I don't think you have to have every single thing based on a solid model to be getting an effective simulation. If that was true, almost no simulation in any context would be one.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I'm not convinced that the word "simulation" is a good one for what certain playstyles are doing. It certainly has a way of leading into the weeds!

I'm not much of a "sim" guy any more, but I used to be. I think what's being looked for is a game world that has a sort of life of its own. Like the real world, it doesn't care whether you live or die, it'll do its own thing regardless. If you want to make a mark on it, you'd better be prepared for it to make a mark back. It owes you nothing.

It's not that one is simulating the real world, so much that one wants an intense sense of verisimilitude. A sufficient illusion of reality to immerse oneself in.

I think this is generally fair. Its also why I say mixing in genre emulation is a problem. Genre emulation almost always requires actively ignoring features of the genre to one degree or another from an in-world POV for the genre to work. That can be a big problem for some of the same people who otherwise want that sort of effect (it was a persistent argument back in the RGFA days whether strong-genre games were compatible with that desire).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
RM and RQ don't model economics, seasons (in any meaningful way), thus don't model famines versus rich harvests (even though they have plant growth spells), etc. They are focused on only a few little bits of the world, and what makes them purist-for-system simulationist is that they adopt a particular approach to resolving action declarations that pertain to those things.

I think this is a very idiosyncratic definition of "little bits of the world" given the context of an RPG. And I very much do know of games that model at least the part of economics PCs are liable to interact with--Traveler--for example.
Yes, RPG game systems don't usually model macro elements too much--because, again, PCs don't interact with them in a way that a model would make any more useful. On the occasions they do (when playing people who are going to be interactive with that on a meaningful level, such as when PCs are expected to be in positions of power), they do. That doesn't mean they're focusing on "little bits of the world" unless one has the opinion that anything a PC is going to interact with is only "a little bit", which I think is a kind of useless view when talking about an RPG.

How is that not just an example of exactly what @AbdulAlhazred said, that it's not simulation but simply imagination?

A game system doesn't have to be doing all the lifting for something to be a simulation. At the point you view that it does, then no decision made on either side of the GM/player divide is compatible with something being a simulation which strikes me as an awfully hot take.
 

niklinna

satisfied?
As an addendum, and still recognizing that Simulationism is a pretty well established term in RPG discourse, might I suggest that Naturalism or Realism is closer to what some strains of Simulationism (particularly Purist for System) are about? There are areas where the literary use of those terms seems apropos, and others where it does not.

This is perhaps straying too far from the OP topic, though.

Edit: Added Realism! Such an oversight.
 
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If you go back to early sources, you see pretty quickly that some folks advocating Simulationism weren't trying to model the whole world, but were trying to have play unfold without the influence of narrative/dramatic tropes or demands:
Thank you for the link, I didn't realize that the term went all the way back to Usenet! (Though in retrospect I'm not surprised.)

I take a fairly draconian view about historical nomenclature - that if it no longer makes sense (or never did, really) then it should be changed. But it seems I'm a prophet crying out in the wilderness about things like changing every circuit diagram to match the flow of electrons and whatever! If "simulationism" is not a good term, let's come up with something better!

Also, I would be very wary of defining any playstyle (or anything, really!) in purely negative terms - in terms of what it is not. If you can't describe it in terms of what it is, you haven't really captured it and what people like about it.
Arguments that Simulationism is trying to actually model a whole world, and that it is therefore hopeless or pointless, are rather like catching a tennis ball at a football game and trying to get a home run
Ha! I like this analogy!
This represented a pretty big shift, away from narrative/dramatic concerns being used to influence or fudge otherwise Simulationist system outputs (trying to get a desired particular outcome), and to them being used to drive the action, right at the core, yet with unpredictable outcomes.
It is definitely a complete paradigm shift! That's how I experienced it - entering a new and different world of play.
 
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Its also why I say mixing in genre emulation is a problem. Genre emulation almost always requires actively ignoring features of the genre to one degree or another from an in-world POV for the genre to work.
Could you clarify the second sentence? Something seems to have gone awry, because I don't see how ignoring features of the genre help the genre work.

Do you mean that including things like magic, or more broadly genre assumptions like high heroic fantasy heroes heaping up piles of slain foes, don't provide the same degree of verisimilitude and thus make it harder to immerse?
That can be a big problem for some of the same people who otherwise want that sort of effect (it was a persistent argument back in the RGFA days whether strong-genre games were compatible with that desire).
I'm not quite clear on what desire, or what effect, those games aren't compatible with.
 

niklinna

satisfied?
Thank you for the link, I didn't realize that the term went all the way back to Usenet! (Though in retrospect I'm not surprised.)

I take a fairly draconian view about historical nomenclature - that if it no longer makes sense (or never did, really) then it should be changed. But it seems I'm a prophet crying out in the wilderness about things like changing every circuit diagram to match the flow of electrons and whatever! If "simulationism" is not a good term, let's come up with something better!
I actually agree with you (and suggested an alternative term in my followup post). But, we are obligated to seek the actual meaning of terms as used by their authors, or fail to understand what they were getting at. Note that this is distinct from explicitly and formally redefining a term in a new context, which is also sometimes appropriate (if confusing).

Also, I would be very wary of defining any playstyle (or anything, really!) in purely negative terms - in terms of what it is not. If you can't describe it in terms of what it is, you haven't really captured it and what people like about it.
Indeed! I wasn't involved in the discussions at the time, but if I had been, I might well have pointed that out. I almost ended my post with a comment about how this might have been a factor in Edwards making Simulationism such a big bucket, which some people have been pretty upset about.
 

I've mentioned an old street-level superhero game I played 20 years ago on this thread already (which is preserved in a Story Hour on this site). Looking back, I now suspect it was the tipping-point between "sim" and "nar" for me, and perhaps also for my GM.

It was a solo game, so there was room to get a LOT more into character backstory and development than would be fair in a game with more than one player. And I had in the back of my mind the idea of the samurai being on a collision course with bushido, of it being more or less expected the situation would come to a crisis.

So I created a character that was in a pressure cooker. The situation at the start of the game simply could not go on indefinitely the way it was - something would have to give at some point. I had no idea what! But I wanted to find out.

There were several aspects of that pressure, not just one. But probably the most explosive was the main character's relationship with his son on the one hand and his sidekick on the other. (Son doesn't know about sidekick, but sidekick does know about son - but hero doesn't know he knows! One reader described it as a "paternal love triangle"!)

Add the fact that the hero NEEDS his hero identity to let his bottled-up emotions out, and that he desperately NEEDS to believe that he's just an ordinary guy in his 'real life' - and thus NEEDS to keep son and sidekick in different compartments of his life - and you have a recipe for a truly glorious mess! I loved every second of it.

But we were playing it in Mutants & Masterminds 1e, which is a "sim" system. It chafed a bit. It captured the superhero action, but not the stuff I was actually interested in. When I encountered Fate a while later, I was hooked! (It may have helped that M&M 2e, which came out a couple years after we finished the game, took a surprisingly "nar" approach to character disadvantages! ie, when they cause an issue, you get a hero point, rather like a Fate compel. I loved the idea.)
 
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As an addendum, and still recognizing that Simulationism is a pretty well established term in RPG discourse, might I suggest that Naturalism or Realism is closer to what some strains of Simulationism (particularly Purist for System) are about? There are areas where the literary use of those terms seems apropos, and others where it does not.
Definitely not Realism! I see how the literature angle works, but from a gaming perspective I think it's a disastrous term. 'Naturalism' is much better, but doesn't feel like it's quite there. I think 'Illusionism' captures one aspect of it very well, but I suspect a lot of people would find it insulting, which certainly isn't the point.
 

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