Systems That Model The World Rather Than The Story

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
In ye olde days, many RPG systems were constructed as the "physics engines" of the worlds of the game. That is to say, they were designed to describe the physical rules that governed the worlds, even if those rules were necessarily fantastic because the worlds they modeled were fantastic. In many cases, these systems became "universal" because, as physics engines, they could model many different worlds in different milieus because squishiness of flesh under duress (for example) was considered to be essentially the same between those worlds.

Those kinds of rules systems are less common now, with other concerns such as modeling genre tropes or story beats etc... have become popular. And those kinds of games are great for their purposes, but they don't quite scratch that "modeled physics" itch some of us have when we are pretending to be an elf.

I would like this thread to be a discussion of those sorts of games, old and new, and how to bring that feel to modern gameplay with an acknowledgement that there have been many developments in the hobby over the decades.

What I would not like this thread to be is a discussion about how this is bad and people should not want to do it, and if they do they are somehow playing wrong. I also do not want this thread to be a Theory discussion, particularly one that compares different approaches. You will not that I did not use the "S" word yet, and I would ask that if people do, they use the little "s" to indicate that we are not delving in to that area of discourse that seems to have been injecting itself into every thread of late.

Finally, I am not marking this a "+" thread, because I don't think it is necessary. That said, if you don't like games that model the world, and prefer games that model genres or media or stories or whatever, please consider just scrolling on by. Thanks.
 

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Reynard

Legend
Supporter
When thinking about games that attempt to model the world, the first thing that comes to mind is "book keeping." This was often a bane in the past, and probably still is, but one thing that I think might help is the proliferation of electronic tools. In general, I actually think VTTs can help bring back crunchy, world modeling systems because a lot of the niggling details that could be troublesome to work out at the table can be handled by the computer. The most basic example, which is I think a thing that is essential for these kinds of games, is inventory management, including encumbrance. The VTT or D&DB or whatever can keep track of how many days' rations you have left and how much they weigh. That's great.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The best thing about world-modelling systems is their neutrality. The world-as-modelled - and the system that goes with it - is what it is and is consistent within itself, and can then be put to more or less whatever use the DM and-or table want it for.

That's what's kept D&D settings like Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms afloat lo these many years: yes they're "kitchen sink", but that's the point - they are what they are and it's up to the table to make best use of them. This includes the degree of backgrounding or foregrounding people want to put on the setting, i.e. is the game all about the setting and its elements or is the setting merely a backdrop for whatever else is going on.

But yes, doing it this way while at the same time keeping things fair can certainly lead to more bookkeeping. IMO it's a price worth paying.
 

aco175

Legend
I would add that a lot of people like specific worlds such as Dark Sun or Planescape for their constraints and how that world differs from FR or Greyhawk. I have not played new Dark Sun, but recall old Dark Sun was more about survival over getting rich and famous. The goal was to get a steel sword over a bone one. This appealed to some. Playing a cabalistic halfling or a Mul was different than other worlds. People accepted that constraint.

I do not know if I want to touch all the modeled physics of all the race threads over the last couple years. I know I can have racial bonus and penalties in my game and my world but in general to have it in the PHB made things feel more 'real' to me.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
My understanding of the OG Boot Hill is that the rules were basically just actuary tables with die values to simulate the possible results of a gun fight. All RP stuff was free-form, the rules were just there to adjudicate physics as needed.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Just to be clear, I am not really talking about settings. I am talking about systems, specifically those that are mainly interested in modeling how things work, as opposed to how things aught to work to reflect a story or other "squishy" subject. How long does it take to travel from here to there? How much damage does a fall do? How many arrows can one carry? What is the air speed of a laden swallow? That sort of thing.

In essence I am talking about small-s simulation games, but trying g to avoid that term lest it turn this thread into Yet Another Theory Argument.
 

When thinking about games that attempt to model the world, the first thing that comes to mind is "book keeping." This was often a bane in the past, and probably still is, but one thing that I think might help is the proliferation of electronic tools. In general, I actually think VTTs can help bring back crunchy, world modeling systems because a lot of the niggling details that could be troublesome to work out at the table can be handled by the computer. The most basic example, which is I think a thing that is essential for these kinds of games, is inventory management, including encumbrance. The VTT or D&DB or whatever can keep track of how many days' rations you have left and how much they weigh. That's great.
I've found it really depends. When I run WHFPR 4e I use Foundry, the official tool, and all the bells and whistles. It's great. It really makes the run smoother.

I've tried running GURPS in both Roll20 and Foundry. Foundry is a better tool. In both instance though, we discovered that for GURPS specifically, it might just be easier to use the VTT as a map server and die roller, rather than try to use it to assess all the various modifiers. It's so many clicks and trying to find things on the screen as opposed to quickly totaling the modifiers, me telling the player the roll is at -7, and they push the Roll 3d6 button.

For bullet tracking, though, encumbrance, and stuff like that they are awesome. I run a lot of Savage Worlds, the Savage Worlds system for Foundry accounts for rapid fire and stuff. It makes my life easier.
 

DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
I think people overlook that we're not talking about absolutes here. The crunchiest physics simulators still make concessions to human playability and desired play style. No game that I am aware of models all forms of interpersonal combat realistically well.

I like games that simulate-- emulate, if you prefer-- the feel of the worlds of different (sub)genres of fiction, but not the tropes and narrative beats of those stories. I want games that model the Hyborian Age and the Mushroom Kingdom and Eternia, but not the formula and structures of Conan stories and Mario stories and He-Man stories.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I think people overlook that we're not talking about absolutes here. The crunchiest physics simulators still make concessions to human playability and desired play style. No game that I am aware of models all forms of interpersonal combat realistically well.

I like games that simulate-- emulate, if you prefer-- the feel of the worlds of different (sub)genres of fiction, but not the tropes and narrative beats of those stories. I want games that model the Hyborian Age and the Mushroom Kingdom and Eternia, but not the formula and structures of Conan stories and Mario stories and He-Man stories.
Yes. This is what I am talking about. The system can be bespoke, as long as it is still focused on how things happen, rather than why, if that makes sense.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
When thinking about games that attempt to model the world, the first thing that comes to mind is "book keeping." This was often a bane in the past, and probably still is, but one thing that I think might help is the proliferation of electronic tools. In general, I actually think VTTs can help bring back crunchy, world modeling systems because a lot of the niggling details that could be troublesome to work out at the table can be handled by the computer. The most basic example, which is I think a thing that is essential for these kinds of games, is inventory management, including encumbrance. The VTT or D&DB or whatever can keep track of how many days' rations you have left and how much they weigh. That's great.
I really like the resource die mechanic in Forbidden Lands. Instead of tracking how many things you have the die marks your supply. A D10 roll of 1-2 at check time reduces it to a D8 and so fourth until you are out. Player is informed on the supply and they get to decide when its time to re-up. I knwo this is more abstract than a strict weight and consumption model, but it also allows for a lot of factors. Maybe the PC rations their food and water well. Maybe they get lucky and the supply last longer than expected. However, they could also lose supply, it could go bad, etc.. Adds in a luck factor and makes it simplified for simulation purposes without bogging down play in minutia. YMMV.
 

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