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

Some people just want to define what the word simulation means for everyone else. That if any aspect of D&D does not follow that strict definition, than no aspect of D&D can be considered simulation.

Nobody has come up with a better alternative, so I will continue to consider D&D a necessarily crude simulation of a magical world.
I suggested other terms, like 'depiction'. A depiction (IMHO which I hope is not too controversial, but who knows, lol) SHOWS something. It might be used to recognize what it depicts or even extract some traits (IE if I look at a picture of your Maserati I learn that it is red and has 4 wheels, etc.). In my opinion this is a more useful word to use for most of what goes on in RPGs than simulation.
 

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Oofta

Legend
I suggested other terms, like 'depiction'. A depiction (IMHO which I hope is not too controversial, but who knows, lol) SHOWS something. It might be used to recognize what it depicts or even extract some traits (IE if I look at a picture of your Maserati I learn that it is red and has 4 wheels, etc.). In my opinion this is a more useful word to use for most of what goes on in RPGs than simulation.

Let me rephrase then. You are adding criteria to simulation that I do not. I don't see any value to those criteria, I would not know any of those things were even considered criteria if it were not for this forum, nor is it related in any way to the question posted by the OP. It may work better for you to call it a depiction but nobody else I know would know what you're talking about or why.

If y'all want to discuss topics from a game theory standpoint, that's fine. Start yet another thread about it so I can ignore it. But can we not devolve into this word parsing on every thread that alludes to these academic technical terms that have nothing to do with the topic raised?
 

Let me rephrase then. You are adding criteria to simulation that I do not. I don't see any value to those criteria, I would not know any of those things were even considered criteria if it were not for this forum, nor is it related in any way to the question posted by the OP. It may work better for you to call it a depiction but nobody else I know would know what you're talking about or why.

If y'all want to discuss topics from a game theory standpoint, that's fine. Start yet another thread about it so I can ignore it. But can we not devolve into this word parsing on every thread that alludes to these academic technical terms that have nothing to do with the topic raised?
I'm not sure exactly how I'm stopping you from having whatever discussion you wanted to have. Obviously we are not going to fully agree on some things. That's fine.
 

Like if making chocolate chip cookies has a DC 5 and making macarons has a DC 15, then that simulates the latter being quite a bit harder to successfully make.
No. It makes up that macaroons are harder to make than cookies.

Simulation, as used by proponents in this thread, is a synonym for “my way of doing make believe” with false ”other games lack consistency” style gatekeeping assertions thrown in for good measure.
 


Oofta

Legend
This is just declaring that you do not want a discussion based on any premise that isn't "what Oofta does should be considered correct and never challenged."
No, it's acknowledging that unless I agree whole-heartedly with you, you will never stop telling me I'm wrong. It's hardly new. You're adding in special criteria, requiring simulation across the board, etc. There's no point because you will never agree that anyone else's definition of simulation is valid. 🤷‍♂️
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:
It is about time for the two of you to put each other on ignore, before someone gets and end they do not prefer.
 

Hussar

Legend
No, a movie of a car is not a car simulation. It ILLUSTRATES the car, so it is a DEPICTION of the car, but there is no substance here. No properties of the car are mapped to any properties of a simulation such that there is a single mathematical/logical MODEL which describes the behavior of both of them. Without that, you simply have a depiction. A SIMULATION must be an ANALOGY. It has to contain some essential features which stand in for essential features of the simulated thing. Without that, its something else.

I think the 'granularity argument' does have some essence of truth in it. That is to say, if a simulation only corresponds with the thing it simulates at a very few points, then it is likely that the ways in which we want it to be an accurate analogy will fail. Still, as you point out, its circumstantial.
Honestly, I'm a bit more pragmatic about it. I don't mind the idea of filling in the blanks, so long as there is some guidance as to what those blanks actually are. For example, if we took a series of still pictures of a car on a road.

1. Car is driving on road. It is raining.
2. Car is going around corner, the tail of the car is way out of alignment and the car is obviously skidding.
3. Car is in the air, upside down, the guard rail around the corner is broken.
4. Car is a ball of fire on the ground.

Is this a simulation of a crash? Maybe not. But, it doesn't take a genius to fill in the blanks here. If we take out pictures 2 and 3, we have no idea what happened. But, with a bit of granularity, we can make some pretty educated guesses. So, as far as I'm concerned, it's close enough to a simulation that I'm not going to get too fussed about the exact nomenclature.

That aside, I do disagree with @Ovinomancer in that the jumping rules are a simulation of anything. Again, the lack of granularity hurts it. By the rules, a halfling, a human, a horse and an elephant all jump exactly the same distance if they all have the same strength. That's not much of a simulation. That's much more a simplified rule of thumb for an action that doesn't come up all that often but, needs something for when it does. So, we use "Move 10 feet, jump STR in feet." It's simple, it's easy and it gets the job done. But, if that's bar for a simulation, I'd say that's a very, very low one. True, you do get the point across - player declares that his character jumps, character jumps X feet, done. So, it does have a fairly 1:1 correlation between what the player declares and what happens in the fiction, so, there is that. But, as a simulation, it's seriously lacking.
 


Hussar

Legend
Like if making chocolate chip cookies has a DC 5 and making macarons has a DC 15, then that simulates the latter being quite a bit harder to successfully make. Further that we add character's baking skill to the roll simulates that some people are better at baking than others. We can critique detail and accuracy of the simulation, but I think it is silly to say that it not a simulation at all!
Ok, let's work with this. But, instead, let's use a contested roll, because that's a little easier to illustrate my point.

A tells a lie to B. So, we use Deception vs Insight. All very well and good, and, from a certain point of view, looks like simulation. After all, some people are better at telling lies and some people are better at reading people. Ok, fair enough. So, A rolls and gets final total of 6. Very bad roll, not terribly skilled. So, he's not very good here right? He's got some huge tells and his voice has gone up into pitches that only dogs can hear.

But wait. B rolls and gets a final score of 5. So, now, we have a situation where the established fiction - A is really bad at this particular lie contradicts the result - despite it being a really obvious lie, B, who is not stupid or incapacitated in any way, believes the lie.

So, what happened in the fiction? Do we go back and retcon A? Character A was actually smooth and suave and told a convincing lie that convinced B who is normally a cagey, good judge of people? Or what? Well, the game certainly doesn't help us here. The game and the system couldn't care less how we narrate this. Because the game isn't concerned, at all, in this case, with anything approaching a simulation. All it produced was the result - B believed the lie. Do the die rolls count? When do they count? How do the rolls and the mechanics influence play? After all, A succeeded in the check. Is there a difference if I succeeded with a 6 or I succeeded with a 26? What's the difference and where do I look for any guidance on that?
 

Hussar

Legend
No, it's acknowledging that unless I agree whole-heartedly with you, you will never stop telling me I'm wrong. It's hardly new. You're adding in special criteria, requiring simulation across the board, etc. There's no point because you will never agree that anyone else's definition of simulation is valid. 🤷‍♂️
Ok, in the interests of moving this forward, I would posit the following definition of a simulation:

A simulation in RPG's is a system which will, through the use of that system, directly inform the narration of that event.

Would that be an acceptable definition? So, by that definition, I suppose that jumping actually would qualify as a simulation mechanic - although, as I mentioned earlier, not a particularly compelling one - because there is a pretty clear line between using that system and the narration of that event. Player declares that his character jumps, moves 10 feet and jumps his Str score. Fair enough, that works pretty well.

But, by the same token, the quantum backpack also qualifies as simulation because there is a clear line narration here. Player declares that the character prepares for the mission (although the exact preparation isn't specified, but, it is established that the character prepared), character goes on the mission, character needs a specific piece of equipment, reaches into the backpack and has that piece of equipment.

Character can only do this X number of times before the end of the mission, but, that upper limit is never declared in game, it's a purely mechanical construct - the framework of the simulation, not the simulation itself.

Would you accept, @Oofta, this definition?
 

Ok, let's work with this. But, instead, let's use a contested roll, because that's a little easier to illustrate my point.

A tells a lie to B. So, we use Deception vs Insight. All very well and good, and, from a certain point of view, looks like simulation. After all, some people are better at telling lies and some people are better at reading people. Ok, fair enough. So, A rolls and gets final total of 6. Very bad roll, not terribly skilled. So, he's not very good here right? He's got some huge tells and his voice has gone up into pitches that only dogs can hear.

But wait. B rolls and gets a final score of 5. So, now, we have a situation where the established fiction - A is really bad at this particular lie contradicts the result - despite it being a really obvious lie, B, who is not stupid or incapacitated in any way, believes the lie.

So, what happened in the fiction? Do we go back and retcon A? Character A was actually smooth and suave and told a convincing lie that convinced B who is normally a cagey, good judge of people? Or what? Well, the game certainly doesn't help us here. The game and the system couldn't care less how we narrate this. Because the game isn't concerned, at all, in this case, with anything approaching a simulation. All it produced was the result - B believed the lie. Do the die rolls count? When do they count? How do the rolls and the mechanics influence play? After all, A succeeded in the check. Is there a difference if I succeeded with a 6 or I succeeded with a 26? What's the difference and where do I look for any guidance on that?
Nothing is contradicted and nothing needs to be retconned. A lies relatively poorly and B is not paying attention and still doesn't notice this. We obviously don't interpret this result as A lying well. Imagine if there was third person in the room, their DC for detecting that lie would still be rather low. So yes, here the results actually tell us something about what is happening.

As for whether how much you succeed or fail mattering, it can. You can use degree of success/failure, and DMG mentions it. (But as usual, doesn't really give much useful advice on the matter.) I try to insert some sort of degree of success/failure when it would make sense, sometimes just for flavour.
 

Oofta

Legend
Ok, in the interests of moving this forward, I would posit the following definition of a simulation:

A simulation in RPG's is a system which will, through the use of that system, directly inform the narration of that event.

Would that be an acceptable definition? So, by that definition, I suppose that jumping actually would qualify as a simulation mechanic - although, as I mentioned earlier, not a particularly compelling one - because there is a pretty clear line between using that system and the narration of that event. Player declares that his character jumps, moves 10 feet and jumps his Str score. Fair enough, that works pretty well.

But, by the same token, the quantum backpack also qualifies as simulation because there is a clear line narration here. Player declares that the character prepares for the mission (although the exact preparation isn't specified, but, it is established that the character prepared), character goes on the mission, character needs a specific piece of equipment, reaches into the backpack and has that piece of equipment.

Character can only do this X number of times before the end of the mission, but, that upper limit is never declared in game, it's a purely mechanical construct - the framework of the simulation, not the simulation itself.

Would you accept, @Oofta, this definition?
I don't think there is, or needs to be one definition of what a simulation is. It will always come down to subjective standards. For example there's nothing wrong with the quantum backpack, but at that point you're simulating a specific fiction tool, in this case the flashback. You're no longer simulating the real world nature of cause and effect. Which is fine if you go in with that mindset. When I DM sometimes the flashback is background, other times it's minor and I'll allow it because it doesn't really change the current state of the reality the PCs live in. But at a certain point there's no take backs because it would be too disruptive of the "feel" that I'm trying to model. As much as I would like to suddenly realize that I had remembered to pick up milk from the store I'm going to have eggs for breakfast because I don't feel like going back out.

In a similar fashion, I fully accept that much of D&D is not realistic. I also believe that many aspects qualify as simulation. It's reality + action movie logic and tropes + magic.

But I also don't see why it makes much difference. Different people have different definitions. So? Some people want to claim that all dragons have the same toughness and capabilities of the dragons in a box office movie flop (I had to look it up) rather than the fiction established by the rules of the game. Which is fine, we all have different perspectives on this stuff.

I understand people want one clear definition, I just don't think there is one. Even if there was one, I don't see how it would affect gameplay. So, like, peace out, live and let live but I am trying to bow out of this conversation.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Would you accept, @Oofta, this definition?

Why should he have to, when the OP gave a the definition they intended in the opening post?

Maybe folks would learn something if they stuck with someone else's definitions for a while, rather than trying to impose others.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Why should he have to, when the OP gave a the definition they intended in the opening post?

Maybe folks would learn something if they stuck with someone else's definitions for a while, rather than trying to impose others.
Good grief, this is where you draw a line? Saying that the is no definition and there shouldn't even be a conversation on any definition is fine, but offering a definition for discussion to someone isn't?
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
One of the things that gets undersold when it comes to how we represent things in our games is not accounting for cognitive load, our ability to reason about things and pure practical play.

Both Worlds Without Number and Pathfinder Second Edition use abstracted encumbrance systems. Are they more accurate than ones we account for exact weights? Not really. However, the numbers are much easier to use at the table, much easier to reason about and take less handling time. An encumbrance system we use will always be more accurate than one we do not.

A system that is painful to use or more trouble than it's worth will not see use at the table. We're going to end up ignoring it most of the time. Sometimes we end up with more accurate simulation in play by using systems that help us manage the load, so we do not end up eliding it.
 

Hussar

Legend
Nothing is contradicted and nothing needs to be retconned. A lies relatively poorly and B is not paying attention and still doesn't notice this. We obviously don't interpret this result as A lying well. Imagine if there was third person in the room, their DC for detecting that lie would still be rather low. So yes, here the results actually tell us something about what is happening.

As for whether how much you succeed or fail mattering, it can. You can use degree of success/failure, and DMG mentions it. (But as usual, doesn't really give much useful advice on the matter.) I try to insert some sort of degree of success/failure when it would make sense, sometimes just for flavour.
But there is no third person in the room. Your interpretation is one possible, but, not the only one. Additionally, if A is a PC or B is a PC, you are now telling that player how to feel, which I know is off limits here. Far too many folks absolutely lose their cool over that and the primary point of a simulation mechanic is that the DM isn't dictating how a player feels.

I can interpret this as A lying well. Nothing in the situation contradicts that. So, we have mutually contradictory results from a mechanic and the mechanic cannot resolve it. So much for simulation. Simulations should not result in mutually exclusive results.
 

Hussar

Legend
Why should he have to, when the OP gave a the definition they intended in the opening post?

Maybe folks would learn something if they stuck with someone else's definitions for a while, rather than trying to impose others.
Well, considering that he's already rejected that original definition (as well as anyone else's), I'm just trying to find a common point for discussion. We're not allowed to use the general use definition of simulation, because that's too "academic". We're not allowed to use the definition more commonly associated with the Forge, because that's too different from the dictionary definition. So, I'm rather at a loss what the word actually means when @Oofta flat out states that the word should not have a single definition and that any simulation apparently is entirely subjective.

So, could you explain to me how to go forward from there? If the word means whatever the speaker wants it to mean, whenever it's convenient to mean one thing and then mean something else when that's more convenient, how does one proceed in discussion?
 
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pemerton

Legend
Honestly, I'm a bit more pragmatic about it. I don't mind the idea of filling in the blanks, so long as there is some guidance as to what those blanks actually are. For example, if we took a series of still pictures of a car on a road.

1. Car is driving on road. It is raining.
2. Car is going around corner, the tail of the car is way out of alignment and the car is obviously skidding.
3. Car is in the air, upside down, the guard rail around the corner is broken.
4. Car is a ball of fire on the ground.

Is this a simulation of a crash? Maybe not. But, it doesn't take a genius to fill in the blanks here. If we take out pictures 2 and 3, we have no idea what happened. But, with a bit of granularity, we can make some pretty educated guesses. So, as far as I'm concerned, it's close enough to a simulation that I'm not going to get too fussed about the exact nomenclature.

That aside, I do disagree with @Ovinomancer in that the jumping rules are a simulation of anything. Again, the lack of granularity hurts it. By the rules, a halfling, a human, a horse and an elephant all jump exactly the same distance if they all have the same strength. That's not much of a simulation. That's much more a simplified rule of thumb for an action that doesn't come up all that often but, needs something for when it does. So, we use "Move 10 feet, jump STR in feet." It's simple, it's easy and it gets the job done. But, if that's bar for a simulation, I'd say that's a very, very low one. True, you do get the point across - player declares that his character jumps, character jumps X feet, done. So, it does have a fairly 1:1 correlation between what the player declares and what happens in the fiction, so, there is that. But, as a simulation, it's seriously lacking.
Ok, in the interests of moving this forward, I would posit the following definition of a simulation:

A simulation in RPG's is a system which will, through the use of that system, directly inform the narration of that event.

Would that be an acceptable definition? So, by that definition, I suppose that jumping actually would qualify as a simulation mechanic - although, as I mentioned earlier, not a particularly compelling one - because there is a pretty clear line between using that system and the narration of that event. Player declares that his character jumps, moves 10 feet and jumps his Str score. Fair enough, that works pretty well.

But, by the same token, the quantum backpack also qualifies as simulation because there is a clear line narration here. Player declares that the character prepares for the mission (although the exact preparation isn't specified, but, it is established that the character prepared), character goes on the mission, character needs a specific piece of equipment, reaches into the backpack and has that piece of equipment.

Character can only do this X number of times before the end of the mission, but, that upper limit is never declared in game, it's a purely mechanical construct - the framework of the simulation, not the simulation itself.
Based on your "pictures of a car crash", your jumping and your backpack example, plus @Oofta's reference upthread to a fighter somehow evading the dragon's blows, 4e's power Come and Get It also counts as a simulation: the fighter performs some sort of manoeuvre with their weapon, and as a result their nearby enemies end up closer. The power doesn't specify what the manoeuvre is (it could be a threat, or a feinted opening, or some sort of wrongfooting with a reach weapon) nor why the enemies move (maybe they are aggravated, maybe they are opportunistic, maybe they are out-manoeuvred by the fighter). But it certainly tells us how things end up!

So it is a systems which, through its use, directly informs the narration of the event of it being used (ie directly informs what happens in response to the fighter engaging in their manoeuvre, whatever that happens to be).

It also satisfies the OP's notion of "if you squint, it looks like real life" because in real life skilled fighters can trap or lure in opponents who come to close.

But I've never heard anyone call CaGI it simulationist, so something must have gone wrong somewhere!
 

But there is no third person in the room. Your interpretation is one possible, but, not the only one.
Yes, but I'd rather use coherent interpretation which doesn't change depending on how many people perceive the event.

Additionally, if A is a PC or B is a PC, you are now telling that player how to feel, which I know is off limits here. Far too many folks absolutely lose their cool over that and the primary point of a simulation mechanic is that the DM isn't dictating how a player feels.

I can interpret this as A lying well. Nothing in the situation contradicts that. So, we have mutually contradictory results from a mechanic and the mechanic cannot resolve it. So much for simulation. Simulations should not result in mutually exclusive results.

What B's player gets told, is that they do not notice any particular signs of nervousness or other tells associated with lying. What they will do with that information is up to them. They do not need to believe A if they don't want to.
 

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