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D&D General On simulating things: what, why, and how?


As someone who's not at all fond of the "armor makes you harder to hit" paradigm (though I can see what its trying to do) this is extremely fraught with a system with elevating level hit points and highly varied damage output among opponents. I was not enthused how it worked out with AGE in play as levels advanced.

(Its not a coincidence that almost all armor absorption systems work with fixed hit points, and it they deal with much variation in damage done, usually have some secondary method to avoid damage since armor isn't going to help much).
That's a good point! Torg doesn't have elevating hit points. Back to the drawing board, I guess. Anybody else have any ideas?

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
It's not helpful to point out that there are games that actually address and handle the issues you're citing in this thread as friction points? I mean, heck, you don't even need to go play them, wouldn't looking at how they do it be helpful? I'm struggling with the concept of "it's not helpful to recommend possible solutions to my stated problems if it deviates from 5e." I mean, even if you have a strong and good reason to stick with 5e despite your listed friction points, how would looking at how a different game does the things be upsetting or harmful to your game?

Like, really. How could that possibly be harmful?
Of course looking at other games is helpful. I was referring to the idea that a person who has problems with the game they play should just stop and play a different one instead that may match better with their sensibilities. If that's not what you meant, I apologize.


I think you are missing the forest for the trees here.

If I say I want some sim elements surrounding,say, wilderness survival, it is clearly true that not all games,or even versions of D&D, treat the issue with the same degree of simulation. Some games don't model it at all, others give it short shrift, and yet others make an attempt to model it as well as that game's mechanics might.

I think maybe part of the issue is that a lot of the people in this thread arguing that D&D or even RPgS in general can't do sim is that those people are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. They are saying because dragons aren't real or because Constitution doesn't really model health and fitness you just CAN'T do sim and your shouldn't even try (and, weirdly, that if you do try you are a gate keeping ogre).

Not only does sim not have to be perfect for it to be a viable and fun part of the game,it doesn't have to apply equally across all aspects of the game. You can have heroes that both fight dragons and have to poop.
Sorry for swimming upthread a ways, but, it's a pretty fast moving thread and I wanted to use this point to springboard off of another question I received earlier, ie. where was the hostility coming from.

See, this, right here, is where the hostility comes from. Because I agree with @Reynard - I'd love to have some sim elements surrounding wilderness survival, or, social interactions. But, as soon as any are suggested, the "I love simulation" crowd swoops in to decry it and tell all and sundry that having mechanics for social interactions isn't really D&D, that all this stuff MUST be handled by free play and not mechanics.

The whole "simulation" thing is 100% disingenuous. It's always made in bad faith. Because it's not "I want simulation (as in real world definition of the word) in the game because it makes it more believable." That is never the meaning. The real meaning here is always "I want to call the things I want in the game simulation and anything I don't want isn't simulation so I can hold the rhetorical high ground and try to force everyone around me to play in only the way I find acceptable". Any examples of how the game really doesn't simulate anything are brushed off and ignored - "perfect be the enemy of good" or "there seems to be a real correlation between 4e fans and not wanting simulation". On and on and on.

This was never a "friendly conversation". This was 100% extension of edition warring from the get go. If it wasn't about forcing preferences on others, then it wouldn't be coming up week after week after week, in EVERY discussion, particularly any discussion about the future direction of the game. "Oh, they are changing design approaches, so, I'm going to take my ball and go home, D&D is dead to me". When it's pointed out that everything that people call "simulation" in the game is only applied to "stuff I like" and the rest is only simulation by virtue of "make naughty word up", then we get the victim card played - oh, you're just trying to shut down conversation, you're just trying to badwrongfun!

So, yeah, that's where the hostility is coming from. Fifteen YEARS this same conversation, virtually word for word, gets trotted out routinely to make sure that everyone knows who won the edition wars. Only it's getting more strident now because the most recent releases don't seem to be toeing the party line and suddenly the "simulation" crowd is getting scared that the new release of the game might not 100% cater to their preferences. We might even get... wait for it... shudder... quake in fear.... damage on a miss.

Hostility is the right word. I am pretty hostile about this.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
It's pretty clear that @hawkeyefan does understand, and is asking where does one draw the line? And so far the line at best seems to be around "magic" and "monsters", and no other kind of fantasticalness, even if genre-appropriate, need apply. Oh except I guess for specific exceptions granted by the rare non-magical class feature or feat that does so, like Uncanny Dodge and Evasion.
That sounds about right to me. I hope I haven't fallen into some kind of hypocritical verbal trap be saying so, however.


I think you are misunderstanding me, despite me having reiterated this a number of times in this thread: including some sim elements about specific things does not in any way preclude other things of more fantastical nature also existing in the same game or world. For example, wizards and dragons can exist, AND people can need to worry about having enough clean water to drink or risk dying of dysentery. I don't know how to make it more clear.

Well, I don’t know…maybe answer the actual question I asked instead of assuming I didn’t grasp what you said?

What would be a good reason to not simulate something in a game?

Maybe that will give us some frame of reference.


B/X Known World
Here, I think is an issue with time and leveling. We don’t let enough game world time pass between clumps of levels for the shifting context to make sense. WotC‘s adventures of course make a mockery of this with a single house exploration taking adventurers from 1st to 5th level (Death house I’m looking at you! :) )

I’m not sure how to fix this (or even if it needs to be fixed) but it also grinds my gears. The new starter set seems like it’s addressing it by limiting the leveling to 3rd with plenty of adventure in between.

I guess I would like the tier system to be more explicit in the leveling so that DMs know to make a periodic time break. It’s certainly how I’m going to try and structure things in my games going forward.
Another thing older editions handled better. You could only earn enough XP to level once then you were capped at another level -1. You had to stop and go back to town and train before you leveled and started earning XP again.


No flips for you!
Yet people with swords and spears can kill them. Just like they can kill mammoths. (Albeit with more difficulty.) This is not super weird. If you stop assuming that the dragons are cruise-missile proof super animals that can eat Challenger tanks for breakfast and instead assume that they're basically kinda tough dinosaurs with some magical addons, then humans with weapons being able to defeat them moves from "absurd" to "improbable but conceivable."
That's a pretty circular argument. The reason that it's realistic to kill dragons with spears and swords is because you can kill them with spears and swords in the game? I mean, that's the only place that dragons are killed, right? So now the game is defining the reality that we're simulating... in... the... game?


For the life of me I can't figure out why we are re-fighting battles of Edition War II in this thread.

You take the main point of the Edition Wars - probably the biggest talking point that was hammered over and over and over again for years - the lack of simulation in 4e - apply it again to 5e and then wonder why you're fighting the same battles?

Why not just talk about dissociated mechanics while you're at it? After all, that's pretty much EXACTLY what your definition of simulation is. Any mechanic that isn't tied to the fiction of the game (even if you squint) is dissociated after all. So, right from the first post, you were simply retreading edition war rhetoric. Only now, instead of having a small army of like minded folks who would shout down anyone who dared disagree, the pendulum has swung the other way and now the edition warriors of the past are on the back foot.
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When possible, I look to historical record, or game design based on it. When that isn't realistic, I go on what makes sense to me and my players. If there's a conflict, we discuss it and work it out. I like to think we're all reasonably knowledgeable folks.

Of course, that falls into the "making stuff up" category for a lot of you, and maybe you're right. But we all at least try to maintain verisimilitude as much as is practical. That we don't always succeed or that others have a different opinion doesn't invalidate the attempt, at least to us.
Now, how does that apply to the game though? It's mostly "making stuff up" which is system agnostic.

So, how do changes in the level of simulation change anything? Since you're not actually engaging the game anyway to world build and going with maintaining what feels right for your group, then why does it matter what the mechanics are?

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