On Behavioral Realism

I feel like this is more of a D&D problem than an an RPG problem more generally. Let's use D&D as the stand in for games of it's type, just to be clear. The game provides you a very granular spending resource in GP, and a bunch of ways to spend it. Some of those ways, like new gear, have obvious beneficial in-game consequences, while others, like our fabled exemplar hot bath, do not. Players who inhabit the squalid huts on the very end of the gamist spectrum only want to spend in-game resources on things with tangible in-game benefits. Despite my light mockery, that's fine if that's their table, whatever. I find it unappealing and unfulfilling, but whatevs.

As has been mentioned upstream, some games dodge this issue in a bunch of ways. Keeping our focus on D&D for a moment though, I think it's a function of the table and the players, not so much the game. I'd bet those same players would roll their eyes if their DM tried to deny them service at the fancy armorer because they looked like a bunch of dirty ragamuffins. I would probably address this general idea as part of session zero. If the table wants to hand wave it that's fine, but if they want to play it to the moist, soapy, hilt that's cool to.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
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.
I agree with this. You can even develop a standard D&D adventure where this will come into play. I've run plenty of adventures that featured a fair amount of social intrigue. You can include gentle hints that markers of status will matter. Staying at a fine inn will improve their standing. Spending money on "frivolous" things will buy access or favors. In addition to the practical benefits, if you make it fun (allowing the spotlight to shine on characters in unusual ways), the players may discover that they love it.

And maybe not. As many have said, it may just be that your players don't care about this aspect of the game; they may even actively prefer to imagine themselves as flea-bitten rogues on the edges of society.
 

pemerton

Legend
I feel like this is more of a D&D problem than an an RPG problem more generally. Let's use D&D as the stand in for games of it's type, just to be clear.
Yes. I agree with this.

The game provides you a very granular spending resource in GP, and a bunch of ways to spend it. Some of those ways, like new gear, have obvious beneficial in-game consequences, while others, like our fabled exemplar hot bath, do not.

<snip>

Keeping our focus on D&D for a moment though, I think it's a function of the table and the players, not so much the game. I'd bet those same players would roll their eyes if their DM tried to deny them service at the fancy armorer because they looked like a bunch of dirty ragamuffins. I would probably address this general idea as part of session zero. If the table wants to hand wave it that's fine, but if they want to play it to the moist, soapy, hilt that's cool to.
Just focusing on this, there are a bunch of ways to respond to it.

One is to more-or-less assume that the PCs bathe, polish their armour, etc - as a GM, just narrate all that stuff, or narrate other stuff in ways that take it for granted (eg "OK, so you're washed and dressed and ready for the Duke's ball.") Either ignore gp costs for this stuff, or set things up so the PCs are hosted by someone (a local personage of some sort) who meets the costs, or whatever. In 4e this is easy enough because these basic costs don't scale much where as treasure values scale rapidly. So at a certain point "Knock of 10 gp for the day's upkeep" might be slightly annoying record-keeping but doesn't actually matter to the players' positions.

Prince Valiant makes this even easier, because it only includes a money sub-game as a tip of the hat to RPGer expectations. There are no rules for acquiring more money, nor for spending it. (In our game we use the Pendragon price lists when necessary.)

Another way is to make repairing gear, keeping clean etc itself something that matters in play. Burning Wheel does this; so can Rolemaster and probably RQ. But on this approach it's not just a matter of GM "gotcha"-ing but of mechanics and frameworks to support it. (Eg in the BW game where I'm a player, I had to use a Duel of Wits to persuade my irritated wizard sidekick to repair my dinted armour. That wasn't a distraction from play; that was play.)

For me, at least, the idea of introducing baths and polishing rags and the like purely as immersion-inducing colour seems like the least appealing option. Because it does't matter to play and isn't very interesting in itself.

they may even actively prefer to imagine themselves as flea-bitten rogues on the edges of society.
Which is also great. And can itself be part of play - both fiction and system - if we want it to.

But if the players want their PCs to be normal people, and don't want to dilute their valuable treasure (= victory points in much D&D play), then just going with assumptions and narrations seems like the easiest approach.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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...
Sure, but I don't think roleplaying the bath is what the OP was after. I think he was more looking for...

Player: "Okay. We're finally back in civilization after 6 weeks in the wilds. The first thing I do is go find the inn and get cleaned up. Then I eat a good, inn cooked meal. When I'm done, I'll go look for the Duke to let him know what we found."

Then the player can roleplay with the Duke and/or his minions. I don't think the OP was looking for a detailed play by play of the bath scene.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Sure, but I don't think roleplaying the bath is what the OP was after.
You guys should note what I was responding to:

Which means you actually published an RPG with one of the strongest mechanics for mandatory roleplaying a bath on the market.
(Bolding mine)

So, really, don't look at me. You trying to tell me this isn't what the OP was talking about. Heck, Celebrim trying to tell me that. Well, I wasn't the one who brought it up. Sheesh.
 
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dragoner

Dying in Chargen
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.
I think the difference lies between realistic and mundane behavior; what I want is for things to be realistic, yet not descend into the mundane, which becomes boring. I mean, I work with spreadsheets all day, if I have to open one at the game table, I'm not happy.

Credits are credits, we don't track them down to the single credit too much, credits are a vehicle for the story, similar to the space ship is a conveyance; so they make a decent amount, and spend a lot as well, but the name of the game isn't counting credits. I would let them buy Battle Dress if they had the credits, skill, and were willing to go on the adventure to get it. Combat Armor is a better deal, however. I'm not against them having good armor as it's good insurance of dying off hand, which even with good armor, two characters have died, and two others have come within a hair's breadth of dying.

I always try to have a wheel within a wheel going on, using the available random resources of the game, combined with improvisation. The casino was a way to use their gambling skills to pick up some money, and also meet new NPC's, such as a ruthless reporter I modeled after Holly Evans from Press on Masterpiece. Plus the luxury is nice to dream a bit about, and allows for the players to do some exposition about their characters.

An example of random rolls and improvisation; the players attacked a space liner, and I rolled the liner had a cargo of gold, I quickly made up a story of the Lacertaen Iridium, a lost cache from a rebel government, that the corrupt Navy Intelligence operatives (Like Fat Leonard) were trying to smuggle out. After boarding the liner and defeating the navy troops, they found that their ship had taken hundreds of millions of credits worth of damage (repair cost rolls), this lead to a wild chase of them limping their damaged ship from system to system, trying to keep the Iridium secret, until they met a Wintermute type AI that was running a bank from a neutral starport, where they were able fence it for 10% of it's value, getting their ship fixed, and a few million extra credits. This has lead to many other adventure hooks, with them filling in the spaces, and it all comes together.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
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.
I believe you. However, there are other reasons in games for doing dangerous and exciting things. In modern games, it's often been "we're the only people who defend against this invasive horror" (or weirdness). In fantasy games that have societies adapted to the way that danger builds skill faster than safe study, it can be a reasonable phase of a career.
 

Reynard

Legend
I believe you. However, there are other reasons in games for doing dangerous and exciting things. In modern games, it's often been "we're the only people who defend against this invasive horror" (or weirdness). In fantasy games that have societies adapted to the way that danger builds skill faster than safe study, it can be a reasonable phase of a career.
Yeah, there are some very strange impacts on culture and society if we decide to take the rules of the game as the physics of the world. It's not bad, necessarily, but it creates a world that resembles our own less and less. Imagine what a society would look like if it were true that the more peril you put yourself in, the more superhuman you became and more quickly?
 

Asisreo

Explorer
Yeah, there are some very strange impacts on culture and society if we decide to take the rules of the game as the physics of the world. It's not bad, necessarily, but it creates a world that resembles our own less and less. Imagine what a society would look like if it were true that the more peril you put yourself in, the more superhuman you became and more quickly?
We'd just be saiyans.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The characters live in a very different world from us. In real life, there is some sort of meaningful benefit to taking a bath every now and then. It might be hard to quantify, but it makes you feel better. There's a good reason for you to act in this way.

In the game world, that benefit doesn't exist. It isn't the case that the players are imagining it poorly, or acting out-of-character. It's just a different world, that works in different ways. In the game world, a bath doesn't make you feel better. And given that, the players are acting in a way that makes sense for their world.

If you want the players to act in a way that aligns with your vision of how the real world works, the most logical course of action would be to introduce some sort of penalty that's associated with actions you view as un-realistic, or a bonus associated with realistic actions. At a point during the 5E playtest, they suggested that you might need a comfortable environment (such as a tavern) in order to gain the benefits of a long rest; something like that should be sufficient for most purposes.
Probably unnecessarily punitive, but certainly there could be benefits to resting in comfort, and there should* be consequences socially for smelling like two weeks in “the poop”, as they put it.

As for a bath having no benefit in the game world, it’s really easy IME to convince players that there is. I just describe conditions that make them want to take a bath. Their muscles ache, they’re covered in a layer of grime and sweat, they can smell themselves, etc. Then, the innkeeper just assumes they’ll want a bath, and tells them where the baths are.

*assuming one shares the OPs goals and desires
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah, there are some very strange impacts on culture and society if we decide to take the rules of the game as the physics of the world. It's not bad, necessarily, but it creates a world that resembles our own less and less. Imagine what a society would look like if it were true that the more peril you put yourself in, the more superhuman you became and more quickly?
I always assume this was only true for the PCs, who are more discovering their power than magically gaining power by fighting bodaks.
 

Reynard

Legend
okay. What’s that got to do with what I said, though? The two don’t (necessarily) conflict.
You said "I always assume this is only true of the PCs" which I interpreted as meaning that only PCs level up, and as such what I was saying is that the PCs are not inherently different than the NPCs from an in world perspective. What makes them different isn't that they gain XP and level up and gain powers. What makes them different is that they are willing to go into holes looking for treasure.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You said "I always assume this is only true of the PCs" which I interpreted as meaning that only PCs level up, and as such what I was saying is that the PCs are not inherently different than the NPCs from an in world perspective. What makes them different isn't that they gain XP and level up and gain powers. What makes them different is that they are willing to go into holes looking for treasure.
The mechanics don’t reflect the “physics”. The PCs are tangibly more powerful than most people, at level 1. Whether that is reflected in the fiction is up to the group.
NPCs don’t level up unless the DM decides they do because the NPCs aren’t PCs. That’s it.
Unless the DM decides otherwise, the town guards don’t level up when they defend their town from a monster that’s worth plenty of xp to level up a party of 1st level PCs, because the guards aren’t PCs.
 

Reynard

Legend
The mechanics don’t reflect the “physics”. The PCs are tangibly more powerful than most people, at level 1. Whether that is reflected in the fiction is up to the group.
NPCs don’t level up unless the DM decides they do because the NPCs aren’t PCs. That’s it.
Unless the DM decides otherwise, the town guards don’t level up when they defend their town from a monster that’s worth plenty of xp to level up a party of 1st level PCs, because the guards aren’t PCs.
That's a perfectly valid way to view the world and the relationship between it and the player characters. However, i don't particularly like that view. It makes the PCs special just for being PCs. There's no reason a town guard couldn't gain a level after helping defend from the orc attack. After all, that's a perfectly valid player character backstory.

This is actually related to the overall idea of behavioral realism: plot armor, special status and relative power level are all things that contribute to players not taking their characters' place in the world seriously or realistically. As such they don't worry about mundane stuff like being tired, hungry or dirty.

I'm not saying PCs aren't special. They are the protagonists, so the things that happen in the game necessarily center on them. But they aren't, in my view, categorically different than the other characters and creatures that inhabit the world. They are different by deed.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
That's a perfectly valid way to view the world and the relationship between it and the player characters. However, i don't particularly like that view. It makes the PCs special just for being PCs. There's no reason a town guard couldn't gain a level after helping defend from the orc attack. After all, that's a perfectly valid player character backstory.

This is actually related to the overall idea of behavioral realism: plot armor, special status and relative power level are all things that contribute to players not taking their characters' place in the world seriously or realistically. As such they don't worry about mundane stuff like being tired, hungry or dirty.

I'm not saying PCs aren't special. They are the protagonists, so the things that happen in the game necessarily center on them. But they aren't, in my view, categorically different than the other characters and creatures that inhabit the world. They are different by deed.
Sure, and their deeds define them as PCs, which use different rules in the D&D game.
 

Reynard

Legend
Sure, and their deeds define them as PCs, which use different rules in the D&D game.
I don't follow your logic, insofar as it seems like you are making an authoritative statement to the effect. I could be misinterpreting you, of course. It is easy to ascribe tone to text, and if so I apologize. But if you are saying that the GAME says PCs and NPCs are categorically different in the fiction, I would say you are wrong. They use different rules (in this edition) because it makes the GM's life easier, but it doesn't mean in the fiction they are different kinds of entities.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I don't follow your logic, insofar as it seems like you are making an authoritative statement to the effect. I could be misinterpreting you, of course. It is easy to ascribe tone to text, and if so I apologize. But if you are saying that the GAME says PCs and NPCs are categorically different in the fiction, I would say you are wrong. They use different rules (in this edition) because it makes the GM's life easier, but it doesn't mean in the fiction they are different kinds of entities.
I didn’t say they’re categorically different in the fiction. I said they use different rules.
 

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