On Behavioral Realism

Celebrim

Legend
I mean, doe sthe game actually mandate role playing the bath? Or do you simply get the stats if the bath is present, and we just assume the bath takes place? I'm going to guess the latter...
Presumably roleplaying out the bath is optional, but the emphasis of the original poster was less on forcing the mandatory roleplaying of a bath as dealing with the problem of a group deliberately and pointedly roleplaying out not taking the bath (for whatever reason). Which to me matches the impulse in the N.E.W. ship creation rules of punishing you for designing a ship without any amenities, or the rules in Pendragon which cripple a knight that lives an impoverished lifestyle while rewarding one which spends in excess of their base maintenance rate.
 
Broadly speaking, I am wondering about encouraging realism in player behavior, particularly in games like D&D that have few mechanical incentives to do anything but hoard weapons and armor.
Generally this is something I hand wave 99% of the time in most D&D games unless it serves a specific purpose. If I were running a game with no specific plot or goal and gave the players free reign then I could see the game going in a more mundane day to day direction.
 

Reynard

Legend
Generally this is something I hand wave 99% of the time in most D&D games unless it serves a specific purpose. If I were running a game with no specific plot or goal and gave the players free reign then I could see the game going in a more mundane day to day direction.
Again, folks are focusing too heavily on the "bath" as an example. What I am talking about is acting in ways that resemble people rather than stock characters. Making decisions based on need and desire and personality and physical and mental (dis)comfort, not just what is most tactically superior, mechanically satisfying or even narratively appropriate.
 
Again, folks are focusing too heavily on the "bath" as an example. What I am talking about is acting in ways that resemble people rather than stock characters. Making decisions based on need and desire and personality and physical and mental (dis)comfort, not just what is most tactically superior, mechanically satisfying or even narratively appropriate.
When I said I handwave this I was speaking generally for this sort of thing because depending on their level, wealth and status somethings are just assumed and covered by the monthly living cost and the quality of living they wish to have. We agree on this from the start. My players will let me know that they want to spend enough to maintain a certain life style when it comes into play. Generally it doesnt come into play and we dont worry about it. Therefore most our games are concerned with the mechanical rewards and aspects.
 

macd21

Explorer
Again, folks are focusing too heavily on the "bath" as an example. What I am talking about is acting in ways that resemble people rather than stock characters. Making decisions based on need and desire and personality and physical and mental (dis)comfort, not just what is most tactically superior, mechanically satisfying or even narratively appropriate.
I think the problem is that things like taking a bath or other ‘realistic’ behavioural activities just don’t interest most people. And encouraging your players to be more ‘realistic’ is (usually) a bad idea. Your players are making the most tactically superior, mechanically satisfying or narratively appropriate decisions - why is that a problem? Forcing them to take account of things that hold no interest to them (like bathing) is just going to annoy them.
 

pemerton

Legend
He is just asking for ways, should he want to, to incentivise a less gamist approach. I'm using that term loosely. So what are the benefits of washing, splurging at a tavern, eating well, socialising with ones preferred gender, maintaining your equipment, updating your maps, acquisition of clothing, resting your horse, good grooming, paying for massages, sharing a decent drink...

Xanathars addresses some of these concerns, others not.

<snip>

Plenty games have additional conditions that do not exist within D&D. I believe Torchbearer has the Hungry condition. There is no great harm to the game by introducing a Dishevelled condition.
But I'm not sure that introducing a new condition, and more generally establishing benefits for washing, eating well, etc, will make the game less gamist. It just seems to be establishing new avenues for tactical play.

A friend and I were talking about how to run a successful game focused on treasure hunting in 5e and it led to a discussion on how players rarely seem to do things that real people do.

<snip>

This led to a more broad discussion of behavioral realism in RPGs, primarily about how players tend to operate largely in the game space when it comes to the very basic, human needs and desires and behaviors that rule our day to day lives.

<snip>

How do you try and encourage players to play like "real" people, who just want a bath after a sewer expedition or are willing to throw away half their earnings to impress the bartender?
I'm not sure, but you seem to be talking mostly about fairly traditional D&D play, with two features (which other posters have also noted):

(1) Treasure is essentially a PC build resource, and so there is no incentive to spend it on things that don't contribute to PC build;​
(2) The fiction of bathing, eating etc plays little or not role in actual game play, It's merely distracting colour.​

I mostly play games where at least one of (1) and (2) does not hold. I think (2) is especially important. Just to give one example, from an old Rolemaster campaign: when one of the PCs had spent all his money on the magic-enhancing drug to which he'd become addicted, and hence couldn't afford to maintain the lease on his personal villa, it had a big impact as his aspirations for social climbing collapsed, he lost his base of operations, and ended up a degraded pauper dependant on the charity of (and highly subject to manipulation by) a fellow PC.

That was a game in which housing and social position mattered because they were (among other things) central to the actual play of the game.

EDIT:
folks are focusing too heavily on the "bath" as an example. What I am talking about is acting in ways that resemble people rather than stock characters. Making decisions based on need and desire and personality and physical and mental (dis)comfort, not just what is most tactically superior, mechanically satisfying or even narratively appropriate.
In my Prince Valiant game the three PCs have all married (remarried in one case - that PC started the game as a widower; one of the othe PCs is his son). There was at one point a rivalry between two of the - some of which was played out in mechanical terms -, but it was ended when one found himself married to the daughter of the Duke of York somewhat against his own better judgement. That same character has also come very close to having an affair.

In this game it's also the case that time - week, seasons - often passes simply by narration. The PCs wear fine clothes on appropriate occasions. Etc. I think it has much of what you're looking for.

Compared to traditional D&D, the system has social resolution mechanics, factors emotion and relationsihps into resolution when appropriate, and makes the knightly life (as seen through the lens of Arthurian romance) central to play. There is very little wargame feel to the mechanics or the fiction.
 
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Asisreo

Explorer
What's interesting is while D&D splits its game into three pillars: Combat, Exploration, and Social; there is a subset to each that many put into a whole basket instead of subdividing as they are. Namely Social, which is basically roleplay. But Roleplay has two parts and players tend to have different opinions about each.

The first part is Story. This is the one where players desire cohesion, a narrative, and something with a beginning and end. When players opt to skip mundane stuff, they're opting to advance a story because they imagine that's more fun than getting immersed.

The second part, immersion, is when a player desires to live a second life. They don't want to play D&D, they want to live it. Therefore, mundane stuff is welcome to them. They want to describe their baths and how they eat and experience a world that reacts to those small details.

In the case that players don't want to engage with that, fine. Let them not be engaged. That's how they have fun. However, it would be unfortunate if the DM never gave the players a chance to try the more immersive side. That's why I ask about the finer details, even if they didn't have anything special prepared for the scenario.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I think the problem is that things like taking a bath or other ‘realistic’ behavioural activities just don’t interest most people. And encouraging your players to be more ‘realistic’ is (usually) a bad idea. Your players are making the most tactically superior, mechanically satisfying or narratively appropriate decisions - why is that a problem?
Because generally a group has more than one aesthetic of play, and if that is the case (as it obviously is) catering to only one of them is a recipe for boredom and disinterest from one or more players (particularly the GM).

This goes doubly true for actions which not only ignore an aesthetic of play, they actively interfere with the enjoyment of other participants (again including the GM). It's not impossible to have a situation where the same choices can be tactically superior, mechanically satisfying and narratively appropriate at the same time. Those aesthetics of play do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Where problems tend to happen is if the mechanics are pointing in directions contrary to what is narratively appropriate. If the PC is really a filthy beast and the player is choosing to play that way for a combination of reasons, that's perfectly fine and bothers basically no one (unless it is spotlight stealing, which is a whole other issue). But what you tend to find is players that are metagaming, playing their characters in a way that maximizes benefit mechanically (in this case, saving maintenance costs so as to purchase better gear), because they believe such actions carry no consequences.

For example, systems rarely have the granularity to care much about things that are inconvenient - like be miserable but not being actually injured. So players tend to insist their characters heroically and stalwartly persist through any hardship because the game says in essence that their is no consequence to doing so. And to a certain extent for a heroic game that's fine. But there comes a point were skipping meals, marching through the night, and being cold and damp ought to start mattering and does matter even in heroic fiction. If you don't have rules for 'comfort' then a lot of stories can't be told, and players will tend to produce transcripts of play that are silly and not compelling.

Which is why relatively simple rules that say, "If you don't pay attention to comfort, eventually your security will degrade.", actually add a lot to gameplay.
 
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pemerton

Legend
It is modern SF, year 2211, using a hacked Classic Traveller: Fusion Rockets and no easy Anti-Gravity.
I hope you don't mind too much if I connect your post to my own analysis above.

Clasic Traveller is another system where my (1) and (2) don't both hold: money isn't just a PC build resource - it can be, but can be hard to apply to those ends (eg if you've already got some good basic gear, 100 credits isn't taking you much closer to battle dress; and that's before we get to Law Levels); and the fiction of actual life - eg your example of hanging out in a casino - can be pretty central to play.

Or to put it another way: while PCs in Classic Traveller may sometimes be ruthless mercenaries (which your post brings out), the game nevertheless establishes a recognisably real paradigm of human life, within the fiction of the game rather than simply as some colour or window-dressing that doesn't actually bear upon what is central to play.
 

pemerton

Legend
systems rarely have the granularity to care much about things that are inconvenient - like be miserable but not being actually injured.
Does systems here mean D&D?

It's not hard to find systems that factor in emotional struggles or turmoil in various ways. I already mentioned Prince Valiant upthread - it's from the late 80s.

Even contemporary versions of D&D have psychic damage and associated conditions.

Which is why relatively simple rules that say, "If you don't pay attention to comfort, eventually your security will degrade.", actually add a lot to gameplay.
If the goal is to move away from a focus on the tactical and "gamist", I'm not sure that bringing more spheres of activity under the tactical and gamist umbrella is the way to go.
 

pemerton

Legend
The second part, immersion, is when a player desires to live a second life. They don't want to play D&D, they want to live it. Therefore, mundane stuff is welcome to them. They want to describe their baths and how they eat and experience a world that reacts to those small details.

In the case that players don't want to engage with that, fine. Let them not be engaged. That's how they have fun. However, it would be unfortunate if the DM never gave the players a chance to try the more immersive side. That's why I ask about the finer details, even if they didn't have anything special prepared for the scenario.
I don't think @Reynard is asking for advice on how to increase immersion by increasing narrations of bathtime. Apart from anything else, you can immerse just as easily in the look and smell and sound of the dragon you're slaying, so bathing has nothing special to offer on this front.

Reynard seems to be asking how to make the fiction of the PCs' lives more closely resemble real human lives. I think the answer is therefore to look at how your game generates fiction and what sorts of fiction matter to it. And this doesn't have to be done in the abstract. There are actually many, many easily-available RPGs that have solved the problem Reynard describes.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
A friend and I were talking about how to run a successful game focused on treasure hunting in 5e ...
I think you're starting off on the wrong foot with your game theme. If the core activity is abstract and unrealistic, you're requiring the players to shift the way they play to consider more personal details.
How do you try and encourage players to play like "real" people, who just want a bath after a sewer expedition or are willing to throw away half their earnings to impress the bartender?
The way you do that, IME, is to have the filth from the sewer be part of the characters' experience. I recall an AD&D1e setting where the DM didn't harp on the characters being dirty, tired and hungry, but he did keep you aware of it. So when we reached a town that was well set up to offer luxury to PCs, they took it up enthusiastically.

It may have helped that the prices, while high in terms of the mundane economy, weren't large chunks of the characters' resources. It wasn't a matter of spending all the money that we'd normally expect to spend on replenishing healing potions; we might have nibbled into that a bit, but we weren't making future adventuring appreciably more dangerous for ourselves.

"Throwing away half your earnings to impress the barman" or gambling with lots of money is more challenging. I've never felt the slightest urge to do such things personally, and most of my characters are fairly cautious people who've come by money through dangerous work, and don't want to lose it all.
 

Sadras

Hero
But I'm not sure that introducing a new condition, and more generally establishing benefits for washing, eating well, etc, will make the game less gamist. It just seems to be establishing new avenues for tactical play.
You may be right. Now I'm curious if I am approaching this incorrectly, how does one make an RPG less gamist?
 

Reynard

Legend
I think you're starting off on the wrong foot with your game theme. If the core activity is abstract and unrealistic, you're requiring the players to shift the way they play to consider more personal details.
Doing dangerous, thrilling work for money (and the potential for loads of it) is not abstract or unrealistic. People do it every day in the real world. There are still adventurers and thrill seekers out there, not to mention straight up mercenaries and actual, for real treasure hunters.The nature of it in a typical D&D campaign is different -- holes full of monsters rather than trying to steal antiquities from civil war ravaged nations, but it's not like, say, superheroing where there is no legitimate modern equivalent a player can hang their roleplay hat on.

The way you do that, IME, is to have the filth from the sewer be part of the characters' experience. I recall an AD&D1e setting where the DM didn't harp on the characters being dirty, tired and hungry, but he did keep you aware of it. So when we reached a town that was well set up to offer luxury to PCs, they took it up enthusiastically.

It may have helped that the prices, while high in terms of the mundane economy, weren't large chunks of the characters' resources. It wasn't a matter of spending all the money that we'd normally expect to spend on replenishing healing potions; we might have nibbled into that a bit, but we weren't making future adventuring appreciably more dangerous for ourselves.

"Throwing away half your earnings to impress the barman" or gambling with lots of money is more challenging. I've never felt the slightest urge to do such things personally, and most of my characters are fairly cautious people who've come by money through dangerous work, and don't want to lose it all.
Most of the people I have known in real life that make their living as thrillseekers of one sort or another were not planning long term with their pay.
 

Reynard

Legend
Reynard seems to be asking how to make the fiction of the PCs' lives more closely resemble real human lives. I think the answer is therefore to look at how your game generates fiction and what sorts of fiction matter to it. And this doesn't have to be done in the abstract. There are actually many, many easily-available RPGs that have solved the problem Reynard describes.
Just to be clear, I am not hoping for a game to be focused on these things, just that they exist in play, giving the fantasy that is the heroes' lives a more grounded feel even while they are raiding tombs full of screeching spirits in search of magic boots and whatnot. I like the quiet moments between battles where the human comes out, and I like heroes that display complex humanity. I like when mundane needs end up driving fantastic moments -- think of the brownies in Willow "We stole the baby while you were taking a peepee!"

The purpose of the thread was to get ideas on how to encourage that thing in players that tend to take a more practical approach to their roleplaying.
 

BrokenTwin

Explorer
Ryuutama would be a good example for how to add mechanical incentives to taking care of your character's comfort levels. Simply put, you make a 'condition' check once a day that's modified by the available creature comforts. Indulging in luxuries makes it easier to pass the check, and scoring high enough on the check actually gives your character a bonus for the day.
Granted, I think it would be easier to just use a system with these concepts build in and balanced around rather than trying to shoehorn them into a completely different system, but hey, if you're attached to whatever system you're currently using, then do what you can.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Just to be clear, I am not hoping for a game to be focused on these things, just that they exist in play, giving the fantasy that is the heroes' lives a more grounded feel even while they are raiding tombs full of screeching spirits in search of magic boots and whatnot. I like the quiet moments between battles where the human comes out, and I like heroes that display complex humanity. I like when mundane needs end up driving fantastic moments -- think of the brownies in Willow "We stole the baby while you were taking a peepee!"

The purpose of the thread was to get ideas on how to encourage that thing in players that tend to take a more practical approach to their roleplaying.
I think the most basic thing is just making fictional positioning matter more. Someone who lives in squalor, subsists off of the wilds near town, leaves their weapons and armor in disrepair, and always seems beaten down by life is unlikely to be well regarded as an upstanding part of society. Have the people in their lives, even if just a local barmaid express concern for them. Maybe some NPCs will refuse to speak to them until they bathe.

Do not do this to punish them. Make it have an impact. Make it a choice.
 

pemerton

Legend
You may be right. Now I'm curious if I am approaching this incorrectly, how does one make an RPG less gamist?
Well that's a big question! But you won't be shocked by my thoughts on it - reduce the emphasis on win/loss conditions; increase the emphasis on (i) the fiction of the situation, and (ii) consequences/"fail forward" so that the outcome of those situations is mostly encountered in the form of more fiction rather than winning or losing.

So in the example I posted upthread of the drug-addicted PC who lost his house and status as a result, of course the PC was losing and suffering but for the player the gameplay was going on, he still had actions to declare for his PC that mattered to the shared fiction, etc. So to use a really crude comparison, it wasn't at all like being dropped to zero hp in the typical D&D combat.
 

pemerton

Legend
Just to be clear, I am not hoping for a game to be focused on these things, just that they exist in play, giving the fantasy that is the heroes' lives a more grounded feel even while they are raiding tombs full of screeching spirits in search of magic boots and whatnot. I like the quiet moments between battles where the human comes out, and I like heroes that display complex humanity. I like when mundane needs end up driving fantastic moments -- think of the brownies in Willow "We stole the baby while you were taking a peepee!"

The purpose of the thread was to get ideas on how to encourage that thing in players that tend to take a more practical approach to their roleplaying.
Yes. I understand all this. And as I said, there are RPGs that have solved this problem - Classic Traveller and RuneQuest would be two of the classics. Probably anything PbtA, Burning Wheel, and Cortex+ are just some of the modern games that manage this.

So I think that rather than approaching the question purely abstractly, or from unexamined D&D premises, it's better to ask what those games have actually done to deal with the issue.

EDIT: And to reiterate what @Campbell has said, paying attention to the fiction is part of it. I would say not just fictional positioning (though that's important) but also consequences and orientation of play. If all the actual fiction of play unfolds as if the real, mundane world doesn't exist and doesn't matter - if "life" is just colour and backdrop - then it's no surprise that players don't engage with it.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
A friend and I were talking about how to run a successful game focused on treasure hunting in 5e and it led to a discussion on how players rarely seem to do things that real people do. The example that came up was the classic Inn situation: the PCs have been in the wild and the dungeon for a week or two and they finally come back to civilization, but when presented with prices for a room, a bath and a meal they decide to camp outside and eat rations to save money.

... Even players that are very good role players from a funny voices and defined personality standpoint generally, in my experience, don't do tired, sick, afraid, horny, fed up, etc... well.

... How do you try and encourage players to play like "real" people, who just want a bath after a sewer expedition or are willing to throw away half their earnings to impress the bartender?
Interesting. This is quite different from my experiences with a number of groups. It may be that your group has a strongly gamist slant — they get their fun from working with the rules and optimizing the in-game success of their characters. My group has a lot of theater people and we have the opposite problem; players get annoyed by rules that don’t let them develop the narrative they are looking for.

funny you should mention baths, because they have been quite prominent in our campaigns. I’ve seen a high-level wizard so happy to have a bath he sent his familiar on the next adventure (scrying and casting through him for about a session) so he could have another one. My secret agents were seriously ticked when they had to live undercover in a hotel so cheap it didn’t have baths. I’ve also run some anime style games and hot baths are a trope there.

If your group gets its fun by playing the rules, I’d suggest not fighting it. Add some rules that give bonuses for ‘realistic’ behavior — social check modifiers; protection against disease, etc. but in general, if that’s the game your players like, roll with it. A game doesn’t have to be realistic to be the best possible game for any given group!
 

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