D&D 5E Realism and Simulationism in 5e: Is D&D Supposed to be Realistic?

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So I'm not allowed to state that I disagree?

You're allowed to state it, but its a meaningless contribution other than to show the other position isn't univesal, which I don't think anyone thinks.

I've tried explaining what I do, why I do it and why I think it works, or at least works for us. I get nowhere so why bother.

On the other hand I'm going to apologize for stating my opinion.

You don't need to apologize. Just don't be surprised of the response is "So?"
 

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Oofta

Legend
You're allowed to state it, but its a meaningless contribution other than to show the other position isn't univesal, which I don't think anyone thinks.



You don't need to apologize. Just don't be surprised of the response is "So?"
I wasn't the one who brought up the subject in the first place. I just disagreed with your proclamation.

In any case, have a good one.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
You're conflating abstraction with dissociation.

All mechanics are abstractions, yes. It's their raison d'etre. But not all mechanics are dissociated and many more are not nearly dissociated enough to cause an issue because those mechanics are reflecting something that can easily be explained in the fiction.

Example: attacking a foe with a weapon. Unless we're in full-blown LARP mode, we need abstracted mechanics to reflect the uncertainty of a) whether that attack will connect and b) if it does, how much effect does it have. Dissociated? Not really - the mechanics reflect what's happening in the fiction fairly closely.

However, if a meta-currency allows a player to arbitrarily change the result generated by those mechanics (e.g. "I'll use my miss-becomes-a-hit token") then it's dissociated all over the place; which is one reason why I really dislike those sort of meta-currency elements.
Oh, am I? Interesting. Is an abstraction what we call acceptable dissociation? Abstraction is where we generalize about what's happening because we can't fully model the targeted interaction. We roll dice to attack with a sword and see if we hit and if we manage to reduce another abstraction to the point that we can fictionally say that the target is dead. And a dissociated mechanic is where the player is making a choice that the character isn't, if I have it correctly. So the character is choosing to swing the sword at the target and reduce some ineffable value in the hopes that this one will be the hit that makes it fall down? No, the character is trying to kill the target. So we have a bit of dissociation that's being swept under the abstraction rug. We can tell because no amount of description of the actual action the player is imagining the character doing aligns to the mechanic except in the most general way. "I attack with Cappa Ferro!" There's dissociation everywhere -- it's inescapable. No, the term is really only used for those bits that a player doesn't like and thinks that there's enough space to slide in dissociation as a handy marker. It's not used as an actual bit of analysis, because doing so admits that there's so much dissociation involved in any RPG that any discussion about them can only form with an arbitrary threshold being set. You see this when people talk about mechanics being more or less associated, acknowledging the scale, but still setting some arbitrary marker for good/bad.
 

Edit: Phone pushed through my post LONG before I was ready to post it. Will fix it.

Yeah, and? Most theories start out naive and develop nuance over time.
Would be far less of a problem if there were meaningful appetite for such nuance or less pushback against criticism of its current state.

Still, it may be possible to develop a framework around it, and develop more descriptive terms than "suspension of disbelief" or "verisimilitude" which people tend to dismiss out-of-hand.
TBH I find that a very remote possibility at best, because it looks a hell of a lot like a euphemism treadmill: repeatedly trying to revive the same flawed argument over and over with new coats of paint. "Dissociated" mechanics plus the tacit requirement of physical real-world intuition exactly reproduces the demand that non-magical things must feel (not be, just feel) "realistic" while magic things are allowed to be whatever the author says they are.

I don't think it's useful or practical to only use tools that are reliable. Perfect tools are nice, but perfect tools are not common. Heuristics exist because unreliable tools are extremely useful and often more potent than the alternatives because they better fit the real world.
I guess I just expect more out of tools than "eh, sometimes it works and sometimes it actively distracts."

Code smell is something that comes up quite a bit with programming, for example. The presence of certain patterns doesn't mean that code is poor, but it does suggest where code might be poor or might have issues in the future. It's called code smell precisely because it's an imprecise and even sometimes wholly subjective measure largely based on experience.
Yeah this....doesn't do anything to increase my appreciation of the idea. It sounds like impenetrable, dismissive "I know it when I see it" talk, obscuring actual improvement behind (to use an Orwellian term) "bellyfeel." "I can't tell you why it's bad, I just know that it's bad" is worse than useless as far as I'm concerned. And as soon as you can actually say why it's bad...why would you not say so, rather than resorting to a vague and nonproductive criticism?

Well, that's the whole problem with magic, isn't it? Narratively it can always make sense because magic can do anything it wants to. That doesn't mean that fighter doesn't need to make sense, though. If anything, it suggests only that wizard (or magic) need a harder system to work within to define it's limits. Given the open-ended nature of the game world in TTRPGs (as opposed to board games or CRPGs) I don't really think that's practical. Although some open-ended magic systems do exist, they're more pain than they're worth, IMX.
I refuse to believe that magic, as a whole, cannot be part of a balanced game with non-magic. Which is part of why I have such a strong commitment on this issue.

On a wider angle, no, I don't think Vancian casting like 5e particularly makes much sense.
Would you then say that all (pseudo)vancian casting is necessarily "dissociated"? (Also: if it makes sense to others but not to you, does that not weaken the claim that being "dissociated" is an innate aspect of the mechanic itself, and instead indicate that it is a feeling individual players may or may not have about it?)

I find that it's better to assume that, absent the literal presence of some deductive or inductive proof or citation of the same, any claim of "objectivity" is merely a rhetorical device to express the conviction of the author's beliefs rather than any soundness of the reasoning. That's a safe assumption in virtually all scenarios. Very, very few things are ever objectively anything at all, especially when it comes to something as foundationally subjective as game theory in TTRPGs.
While the articles did not explicitly use the word "objective" or the like, it was very clear to me from context that the whole purpose, reiterated in both the introduction and the conclusion, was to reify dislike of 4e, to make it "this is not a feeling I have about something, it is an innate characteristic of something."

Perhaps instead the labels might want to be "necessary" and "unnecessary", given as some of these mechanics are rather necessary for a game to be and remain playable while others are unnecessary and can - without diminishing anything else about the game - be amended so as to have greater degrees of "association" or excised entirely.
These suffer equally serious problems. Nothing is "necessary" in the sense most people want it to mean, that is, absolutely and objectively indispensable, such that no change, no matter how insignificant, could be permitted.

Also, as I have argued many a time, the standards of "it's playable" or "you can have fun/enjoy playing it" are not useful. That is, any game which is somehow literally impossible to play, or which somehow genuinely prevents literally anyone from enjoying playing it, is axiomatically so horrible it should never have even made it to the page, let alone the gaming table. Even the absolute worst, most offensive pieces of game design around almost always clear these bars. E.g. there are folks, exceedingly few but they DO exist, who have somehow played and enjoyed FATAL; if that isn't a thorough repudiation of "it's playable"/"it can be enjoyed," I don't know what is. (Note, though, that there is a difference between these and "it plays well" or "it's fun for almost everyone," but both of those statements are dramatically more difficult to prove than the aforementioned ones...and necessarily much more subjective.)

If my preference is to have associated mechanics where possible (and I'm not sure it necessarily is) then that's still not a value judgement, it's a preference.
Preferences are value judgments. By definition. Prefer, "to like better or value more highly."

Option 4: have between 6 and 8 encounters between long rests and look at the averages. Doesn't hurt to accept that DPR isn't the only number that matters. It's always balanced out reasonably well for my groups and I've been playing since 5E was released.
Ah yes, because non-spellcasters have ever so much to contribute when fighting is ignored and you can play in their wide open lack of non-generic features for non-combat.

Pull the other one.

Yup. I like X better than Y, and don't want a D&D where Y is prominent.
Okay. Why should your preferences get top billing?

Sure. Unfortunately, people tend to bend terminology toward their own purposes, and its hard to stop (see any topic ever using the term "immersion").
And my argument is that "dissociation" plus the unspoken requirement of "this must reflect my intuitions about the real world" is literally exactly "immersion" operating with new trade dress. It's the argument equivalent of a corporate rebranding because the old name and logo carry too much negative baggage. But because the core, the logic of it, remains unchanged, such superficial changes merely let the argument trundle forward without having to address the issues that led to the bad reputation in the first place.

Yes we did, and my assessment was not based on familiarity. I've played more 4e than 5e. I didn't bother to argue with you further, as historically that has not been particularly good use of my time. Nor I have great desire to participate in some proxy edition wars which this seems to have become.
If people continue to invoke an argument explicitly constructed for reifying dislike of 4e, they should expect fans of 4e to not like it.

Shame, as the original topic of the thread was rather interesting.
Really? We've rehashed the "realism" question at least a couple times a year on this forum. What made this topic different?

Well, yes. That's the whole point: where there's an equal choice, go with the associated mechanic every time.
Why?

Obviously, and again that's the point: don't use dissociated mechanics unless you have to, in full knowledge that those "have to" times are going to arise.
(Emphasis added.) Why not?
 
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I wasn't the one who brought up the subject in the first place. I just disagreed with your proclamation.

In any case, have a good one.

My "proclamation" doesn't need to be universal to be true. Nothing is true for everyone in the hobby, so random exceptions don't really say anything.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Why?

(Emphasis added.) Why not?
Two questions with the same double-barrelled answer: because the further removed the mechanics become from directly reflecting a consistent fiction a) the less believable it all becomes and b) the harder it becomes to get and stay even just a little bit immersed in one's character.

Solutions: try where possible to keep the mechanics reasonably well lined up with the fiction. Eschew meta-currency mechanics of any kind. Change mechanics that result in ridiculously unrealistic fiction (5e whack-a-mole combat, I'm looking right at you) such that what they reflect is closer to something at least vaguely resembling reality. Make the exceptions just that and clearly note them as such; 95+% of these will involve magic, and that's fine as long as it too works consistently.

Or, if the intent really is to turn D&D settings into Toonville where anything goes except realism, state this clearly on the box as a warning and we'll back away slowly.
 

Two questions with the same double-barrelled answer: because the further removed the mechanics become from directly reflecting a consistent fiction a) the less believable it all becomes and b) the harder it becomes to get and stay even just a little bit immersed in one's character.

Solutions: try where possible to keep the mechanics reasonably well lined up with the fiction. Eschew meta-currency mechanics of any kind. Change mechanics that result in ridiculously unrealistic fiction (5e whack-a-mole combat, I'm looking right at you) such that what they reflect is closer to something at least vaguely resembling reality. Make the exceptions just that and clearly note them as such; 95+% of these will involve magic, and that's fine as long as it too works consistently.

Or, if the intent really is to turn D&D settings into Toonville where anything goes except realism, state this clearly on the box as a warning and we'll back away slowly.
So..."dissociation" is just a different term for "immersion-breaking." What's the point of it, if it's literally just synonymous with that?
 

Dissociation and association are closely related to diegetic and non-diegetic, but there are some differences which make the additional terms somewhat useful.

Some things are both mechanical and diegetic and associated. "My wizard knows how to cast the fireball spell".
Some mechanics are not strictly speaking diegetic in themselves but related closely to things which can be referred to diegetically in the fiction and are therefore associated. Hit points in D&D are confusing for a whole lot of other reasons, but in many other games such as say, Symbaroum, where they are specifically meat points, they are non-diegetic but associated. "I have one hit point" in that case translates into "I am badly wounded and in danger of dying if I press on".

"I have one fortune point remaining" is not associated because there is (probably) nothing that can be referred to in the fiction that links to the mechanic. The character does not make the decision to be lucky this time - or really any decision at all related to the mechanic.

Some things come in complex packages which can be partly referred to in the fiction and partly not, like hit points in D&D. In these kinds of cases the distinction is not particularly useful.
 
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Preferences are value judgments. By definition. Prefer, "to like better or value more highly."
Don't be obtuse. Someone can clearly say I prefer games that don't have dissociated mechanics" without necessarily meaning "games that have dissociated mechanics are objectively bad games".

Either we accept the distinction exists or posters need to stop telling people to express things in terms of personal preference rather than judgements of overall value.
 

Don't be obtuse. Someone can clearly say I prefer games that don't have dissociated mechanics" without necessarily meaning "games that have dissociated mechanics are objectively bad games".

Either we accept the distinction exists or posters need to stop telling people to express things in terms of personal preference rather than judgements of overall value.
I apologize, I genuinely am not trying to be obtuse or pedantic, I'm trying to make a point: whether or not you couch it in preference terms (which clearly highlights that the value judgment is personal to the speaker) or in "X is good or bad" (which ascribes the value judgment to inherent qualities that implicitly should induce such a value judgment in anyone), it's still a value judgment. I, and presumably Ovinomancer, ask people to use the preference terms because that cleanly dodges any hint of the "this is an objective, inherent attribute" thing we have issue with. Ethics and aesthetics are the two main branches of axiology, the study of making value-judgments, though ethics is somewhat irrelevant here (since this is not about how people should behave). They're all value judgments, but some are presented as (in effect) "well of course I couldn't feel any other way, that's what it is" while others are "this is just how I feel about it." The frustratingly common tendency toward the former muddies arguments...and is part of why I don't care for "dissociated" mechanics as an argument, at least in the way it was presented by its original author.

Analogically, someone can clearly say "I prefer ice cream that doesn't contain chocolate" without necessarily meaning "ice cream that contains chocolate is objectively bad ice cream," but both things are still value-judgments.

Importantly, going back to Ovinomancer's post, they mentioned that "dissociated" mechanics, as a concept, do not appear to do useful work outside of the value-judgment context. That implies that the value-judgment IS doing useful work! But if the useful work disappears when the value-judgment does, it seems reasonable to ask, "Why not just express the value judgment by itself? It seems possible to do so, and it does not seem that much is lost by doing so." And I would, personally, say that you accomplish exactly that thing by saying, for example, "I struggle to maintain the enjoyable experience of being 'in-character' when I have too many reminders that that character is not actually real." Not only is this making the value judgment the core of the statement, but this is actually actionable, something we can truly discuss rather than simply hit-and-run commenting or protracted acrimonious debate. Maybe there are things that can be done about this, e.g. "in that case, you should consider <x system>" or "ah, then you probably don't want to play <y group of classes>" or "here are tools I've used to help ameliorate that problem."

Some things are both mechanical and diegetic and associated. "My wizard knows how to cast the fireball spell".
Some mechanics are not strictly speaking diegetic in themselves but related closely to things which can be referred to diegetically in the fiction and are therefore associated. Hit points in D&D are confusing for a whole lot of other reasons, but in many other games such as say, Symbaroum, where they are specifically meat points, they are non-diegetic but associated. "I have one hit point" in that case translates into "I am badly wounded and in danger of dying if I press on".
I don't really get what the function of "associated" is here. You aren't making choices either way with the hit points, so it doesn't seem that HP are "associated" even in the example given. (I know nothing about Symbaroum myself.)

That is, if we generalize it out from "choices my character makes/information my character personally has" and into "things that relate to choices my character makes/information my character personally has," then almost all mechanics are fundamentally "dissociated" in D&D, because they arise from character creation and advancement, which are both (by the author's own words) "dissociated." That seems a logical dead-end. But if we do not do this thing, then it seems that HP are neither "associated" nor "dissociated," because they have nothing to do with the choices made or actions taken.

So...is there some third path out of this dilemma?
 
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That is, if we generalize it out from "choices my character makes/information my character personally has" and into "things that relate to choices my character makes/information my character personally has," then almost all mechanics are fundamentally "dissociated" in D&D, because they arise from character creation and advancement, which are both (by the author's own words) "dissociated." That seems a logical dead-end. But if we do not do this thing, then it seems that HP are neither "associated" nor "dissociated," because they have nothing to do with the choices made or actions taken.

So...is there some third path out of this dilemma?
Not getting this or why you think it matters.
 

Not getting this or why you think it matters.
If we perform the generalization you seem to be asking for, then "dissociated" mechanics applies to essentially everything in D&D--that is, there are near zero "associated" mechanics--because, by the original article's own admission, character creation is inherently "dissociated," and essentialy all other (mechanics-related) choices draw, to some extent, on the character so created. If we don't perform that generalization (whether because I have misunderstood you so it wasn't relevant to begin with, or because you agree with the foregoing), then I don't understand how or why HP are relevant to the "dissociation" because you don't make choices about HP in the first place, and thus they cannot be relevant to either "association" or "dissociation."

If the former, it would seem "dissociated" mechanics is conceptually useless from the get-go, since it applies to almost everything. If the latter, then I don't see the relevance of mentioning HP at all, because they cannot be "associated" nor "dissociated" because you don't actually make choices regarding HP.

(For the record, I do think one should make the above generalization, mostly because the original article kinda-sorta implies one should but never explicitly says so. But if you do, it reveals a host of issues...which is what I've been arguing.)
 

I don't see why character creation is relevant. I don't see how character creation can be dissociated or associatd because there isn't even a character yet.

Nor do I see why whether one decision about character creation or advancement whether associated or not necessarily affects whether later mechanics are associated or not.

I also don't know what the generalisation is that I'm supposed to be asking for?
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't see a whole lot of corn being grown on the lawn of the White House, but that doesn't mean that Washington, D.C., is unrealistic or that there's no food around or that if you go there you should primarily meet farmers fresh from the fields or craftsmen.
Washington DC is at the centre of one of the most powerful hubs of production ever to exist in the history of the world. It is impossible to move through today's world without encountering evidence of US production (eg the computer I'm typing on right now is running software written in and sold from the US).

The world of Middle Earth, as presented by JRRT in The Hobbit and the LotR, has very little in common with the US, or even with 12th-13th century China. It is not a productive hub. The northwest is sparsely settled. We see no signs of industry. Just tropes - the folk of the Shire, the red-faced innkeeper in Bree, etc.

You're presuming the descriptions must be complete and comprehensive, and I don't see why that might be the case at all. The economics aren't relevant to the story so they wouldn't be featured beyond what is immediately visible. "You didn't include what isn't relevant so therefore it's unrealistic," is just not a justifiable line of reasoning.
I'm not assuming anything. I'm reading the books, including what they describe, and noting that it is unrealistic.

Who made all the crockery in Bag End, described in the opening chapter of the Hobbit? Where are all the fine cheeses coming from? The waistcoats and pocket handkerchiefs? The description is fitting for a 19th century English gentleman, similar in some ways to Toad of Toad Hall. But the wealth of 19th century English gentlemen wasn't produced out of isolated villages of dozens of people with no industry, no mining, no importing and exporting, etc.

Rivendell is the seat of power for elves in the region, right?

<snip>

Even the map of middle earth is questionable, frankly. It is, after all, generally understood to be the map that Bilbo and Frodo made for their autobiographical accounts. Frodo in particular was interested in avoiding settlements, especially after the near miss at Bree. Do you think all these regions have names, but nobody lives there because there are no cities on the map? Or is it more believable that they just wouldn't be included because they weren't relevant. That's how stories about real events are told, isn't it?
I take JRRT's account - in his stories, his appendices, his maps - to be more authoritative than yours. The story of how the northwest became ruin and desolate is told in Appendix A.
 

pemerton

Legend
Is that treatment realistic enough to allow you-the-reader to easily believe the various peoples in the setting can exist as they do and can have done so for long enough to establish the history as presented in the novels? To wit, could the Hobbits have believably lived in the Shire for the hundreds of years it seems they have? Sure. Could the Elves have believably lived in Rivendell for lo these many centuries? Sure, and remember they control some forest lands around that valley and could be sourcing food from there. And so on.

If yes to the italicized question, then job done.
The answer to the italicised, as far as Middle Earth is concerned, is a clear "no". The Hobbits live like they're at the centre of world production (ie 19th century England) when, in the fiction, they are a tiny and isolated people. We have readily available real-world evidence of what the material conditions of life are for small villages on the periphery of the world economy, both historical and contemporary. The Shire is not consistent with it.
 

pemerton

Legend
Thing is, in the novels we only get decsriptions of those bits of the setting the protagonists encounter.

Even so, the Shire lands (and those around) are shown as fertile enough to feed whoever lives there and have some left over for export...and we do know the Hobbits export pipeweed. We don't see the smithies and the breweries and the tailors etc. because they're not met in the story, but we do see the weapons and ales and clothes they produce - they have to come from somewhere and are left to reasonably assume those more industrial elements are present, if unseen. We also know there's more to Bree than just the Prancing Pony thus some of those industrial producers could easily be there or somewhere nearby.
You don't make your world realistice simply by asserting that it is so.

I mean, I could write a fiction about Fiji in which every Fijian villager, at the time of their colonisation, had a carriage and a watch which they had bought by exporting surplus crops. But no one would believe it.

The fiction doesn't become more realistic by giving the peasants funny pseudo-English names and describing them as wearing waistcoats and eating English cheeses. How are the hobbits generating the relevant surpluses? Who is producing all the product they import?

Those are rhetorical questions, by the way. They have no answer. JRRT didn't write answers to them; I'm not even sure he asked them. They are not remotely germane to the nature or the goals of his books.
 

Yes, because cheese and waistcoats definitely could have only existed with the full industrial might of the British Empire... :rolleyes:

What I've been wondering where Bilbo's mantelpiece clock came from as that seems to be completely out of place given the tech level of the setting, but it also a single item that could have curious history (a gift to some Baggins ancestor from a genius dwarven artisan) and IIRC is only referred to in the Hobbit which is overall written more in less serious style.

In any case, when I said that fantasy should try to be consistent, I definitively didn't mean this sort of nitpicking about things that are vaguely descripted in the work in the first place.
 

pemerton

Legend
Here's the link between "dissociated" mechanics and JRRT's economics:

If you think that there is a realistic explanation for the economics of The Shire and Bree and Rivendell and Lorien, sitting just outside the page; then there is an explanation for why the Battlemaster can't Trip anyone at the moment - again it's sitting just outside the page, waiting for you to work out what it is!
 


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