D&D General The Importance of Verisimilitude (or "Why you don't need realism to keep it real")

Stormonu

Legend
The TSR years' wizard didn't have risk or drawback, in terms of casting their spells, either. The control methods were the percentage chance to learn a new spell (and if you failed, you couldn't try again until you'd gained a level), the cap on how many spells of each level you could learn (which was often ignored), the need for higher Intelligence scores to cast higher-level spells (ability scores being harder, but by no means impossible, to raise in those editions), and spells being easier to disrupt during casting (due to more stringent concentration requirements and "segmented" casting times).
That's not quite true - all spellcasters could lose their spell if they lost initiative and got hit; further some spells themselves had side effects (haste's aging, shout blowing your heart out on the 2nd use, polymorph and the system shock roll, etc.). Though there weren't inherit risks from the mere attempt to cast (as in spell failure or miscast rolls unless you were doing something custom), there were enough overall drawbacks, often in the spells themselves, to keep them somewhat in check.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Hit points are like meat grown in a lab; it's technically meat, but you're not really sure you want to eat it.

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
That's not quite true - all spellcasters could lose their spell if they lost initiative and got hit; further some spells themselves had side effects (haste's aging, shout blowing your heart out on the 2nd use, polymorph and the system shock roll, etc.). Though there weren't inherit risks from the mere attempt to cast (as in spell failure or miscast rolls unless you were doing something custom), there were enough overall drawbacks, often in the spells themselves, to keep them somewhat in check.
I mentioned the ease of disrupting spells before their casting could be completed, though I'll grant you the issue with system shock checks (aging was another thing, though, as few characters that I was aware of actually had those ever apply enough to result in any sort of penalties, let alone premature death; ghosts caused that more than spells with aging requirements that I recall, even if spells such as wish tended to be exceptions).
 

"Meaningfully" is a loaded term, here. If you can cast it in the five minutes before raiding the dungeon, or if you have that much time between encounters, then it is "meaningfully" the same. Which is to say, if the effect of a successfully-cast spell is the same, then changing the circumstances under which it can be cast doesn't change what the spell is actually accomplishing.
The effect of the spell is in response to an attack that has just hit. It does not have a meaningfull effect because the entire point of the spell is that it is a reaction.
When you say "justification" here, the term is one that doesn't have a great deal of clarity. "Count as level 17" is in-and-of itself a metagame construction that doesn't have (very much) verisimilitude. (Which, I'll point out, we both agree on at this point.)
And yet it is clear, consistent, and foundational to D&D.
The more salient point is that you're drawing what seems to be an artificial connection between the popularity of fighters and most games not getting into the higher levels of play. That doesn't strike me as something that's the syllogism you're making it into, i.e. "fighters are the most popular class; most games don't go above level 10; therefore, the reason fighters are popular is because most games don't go above level 10." I don't think you can take this as a given.
Most games don't go above level 10 - which means that most people do not experience where the game is truly broken. I also believe that one reason most games don't go above level 10 is because the game is breaking by that point.
Well I don't know what you mean by "evidence" here, especially since personal preference is the raison d'etre of this entire thread. Or were you under the impression that there was some sort of objective truth being put forward here? Because the entire tenor of your posts at this point is both aggressive and defensive (e.g. when you start referring to people who have different takes on things as "pseudointellectual," you're at the point of name-calling rather than discussing). Which makes it ironic that your take on the linked article is "100% straight up misrepresenting things."
I'm sorry. Did you link something other than The Alexandrian's notorious piece of edition warring? In which he tried to dress up his personal preferences as something more general? If you did I apologise and should have checked the link.
I understand that a lot of people feel defensive that their preferred edition is the go-to for a good example of a bad example, or rather, an example of what a lot of people feel was the wrong way to make an edition of D&D. But the fact remains that it has performed the worst of all the 21st-century versions of the game. 5E's popularity isn't arguable, and 3.X not only lasted nearly twice as long as its successor,
You mean that 3.0 lasted half the length of its successor and the both massively overhauled and deliberately incompatible game that supplanted it in 3.5 lasted less time. While I'm almost certain that 4e was more profitable.

3.X wasn't one edition. And both 3.5 and 4e ended when they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for player-facing things to publish. Of course how long 3.0 would have lasted if the suits hadn't mandated a new edition even when 3.0 was launched is an interesting question. That Paizo were able to run their Adventure Paths as an Ideal Homes magazine thing was admittedly impressive.

But it's nowhere near as clear cut as you are claiming.
Let's leave aside that this does not meet the definition (in that just because you disagree with it doesn't mean it's deceptive, misleading, or false). Your position here is that the mismatch between powered and non-powered individuals is the reason why most games peter out around level 10;
Again, this is false. My position here is that most games peter out by level 10 which is about when the problems cease to be ignorable. This doesn't mean that this is the cause of all games petering out by then (scheduling is far bigger), merely that it is a cause and the main reason that people don't see how absurd things get. They don't play to that high level.
No, the major problem here is that you're (deliberately?) overlooking that I quoted those words from where they appeared in the dictionary.com definition of "verisimilitude" and then said that we as gamers redefined the word. I then went on at length about how we redefined it, and for what purpose, which was really the entire point of the OP.

And so yes, it is correct for me to say that you're (re)introducing those terms here, and that doing so isn't helpful. Likewise, you're again coming off as extremely aggressive at this point, and it's dragging down the tenor of the thread. Please stop.

Your exasperation is still showing through; leaving aside that non-magical "spike" recovery of hit points in 4E was a thing, and was a problem for a lot of people, arguing the examples doesn't mean that you're arguing the point.
First things first non-magical "spike" recovery of hit points in 5e absolutely is a very common thing; the fighter has it - and they are the most popular class in the game and one of the very few non-magical classes. And I don't recall seeing anyone complain about it after about 2014. Which leads to the question as to whether it was really a problem in 4e or whether it was a proxy - or whether it was only a problem because people had been educated by older editions that they shouldn't have it and what you call versimilitude I call a simple consequence of familiarity.

And if hit points map to a real thing at all we have real world examples of recovery of hit points in short periods of time without magic. Look at any boxing match. If a boxer is knocked for a three count, unable to stand, that's them running out of hit points. But they do stand back up, take a second wind, and they almost all come back stronger after a three minute short rest between rounds unless there's no gas at all left in the tank (i.e. they've run out of healing surges)

There is no magic here. Boxing in the real world looks much more like 4e combat with its combined healing surge/hit point model than it does the untiring attack spamming robots of earlier D&D editions who never want to stop for a few minutes to catch their breath.

But yes, I accept that 4e modelling the real world effects of fatigue and non-bonebreaking injuries much better than previous editions did lead to problems for people who wanted video game style consequence-free health bars where almost all recovery is magic rather than something more realistic and nuanced. But this is a big part of why I am saying the problem was familiarity. And this is a clear and unambiguous case of versimilitude being something that comes from familiarity with the model being used (and the explanations given which were too sparse in 4e) rather than from how it actually compared to reality.

And this of course is one of the other problems muggles have in (pre-4e) D&D. Not only are they not capable of going above and beyond what a realistic person can do - they can't normally do things like recovering by catching their breath that normal people can.
Nevertheless, there are criticisms to be made of narrative games,
Such as what they are or even if they are a category. Because most modern narrative games I have played simply do not have the features that most posters I've seen on ENWorld claim to be features of narrative games. And the features I consider narrative games to have don't fit what people criticising them make. (The obvious example here being meta-currency being more like a design stage than it is like a game style).
and the idea of dissociated mechanics (and why people find them unsatisfying) is very sound.
As long as we accept that the biggest factor causing people to associate a system is familiarity. The second biggest is personal preference. Any sort of modelling of reality comes way further down the list.
If you want to argue personal preference, that's fine, but you're obscuring the discussion that we're trying to have about why so many people don't care for them, which is the entire point of this thread. You can't really say "your opinions are wrong," even if you dress it up as "your critique is invalid."
I can however say "your justification is wrong and you are trying to dress up personal preference as some sort of principle".
The TSR years' wizard didn't have risk or drawback, in terms of casting their spells, either.
They were however soft-capped to fifth level spells. Which is about as high as you can go before the problems get overwhelming. And they had the drawback of being incredibly squishy (making being on the front lines high risk) because AC mattered much more before bounded accuracy and you had far fewer hp.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
The effect of the spell is in response to an attack that has just hit. It does not have a meaningfull effect because the entire point of the spell is that it is a reaction.
Just to interject here - how you analyze the point of the spell depends a bit on how you focus on it. The shield spell's point, I'd say, is to protect the caster from attacks by boosting their defense. That has been the point of the shield spell in every edition, but exactly how it has done so has varied from lasting through about 1 fight, to possibly lasting multiple fights, to primarily defending against 1 attack. The question is: is how it does so the point of the spell or a specific implementation of the point of the spell?
I'd argue the duration and casting time is the specific implementation, not necessarily the point of the spell and certainly not the entire point.

And I would add that if you and Alzrius can't agree on the point of the spell because of your different methods of focusing on what that point is, you're not going to agree on any conclusions from arguments based on it.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The effect of the spell is in response to an attack that has just hit. It does not have a meaningfull effect because the entire point of the spell is that it is a reaction.
Which is an admission that the spell is working as intended, reliably, each time it's used. So in other words, the effect of the spell unto itself is uncompromised even if you've made its activation cumbersome to the point of lacking utility.
And yet it is clear, consistent, and foundational to D&D.
But still lacks verisimilitude, which is to say, lacks an in-character presentation (at least in terms of clear distinctions, since most characters will recognize someone stronger and more competent than themselves). But as noted, no one is calling for "verisimilitude uber alles" except the idea's detractors when they misrepresent what its proponents want.
Most games don't go above level 10 - which means that most people do not experience where the game is truly broken. I also believe that one reason most games don't go above level 10 is because the game is breaking by that point.
Leaving aside that "truly broken" is an opinion (twice over, first for "broken" and then for "truly broken"), I think that you're overstating why that is. I find little to suggest that people have reached a certain level and then simply found the game so unengaging that they quit for how unenjoyable it is. Rather, it's a combination of other factors (many of them completely unrelated, such as real-world issues, while others are simply an issue of habituation making anything else seem more fun simply due to novelty).
I'm sorry.
I accept your apology, and appreciate you saying so. :)
Did you link something other than The Alexandrian's notorious piece of edition warring? In which he tried to dress up his personal preferences as something more general? If you did I apologise and should have checked the link.
This is an extremely bad-faith take on your part. The article in question is an entirely valid attempt to explain why 4th Edition was so unpalatable to himself and so many other people, and it does a very good job of it. He doesn't ever "dress up" his personal preferences, but instead tries (and largely succeeds) to help articulate something that a lot of people only intuited, nor does he hide that this is a matter of personal opinion.

To treat that as an attack on you, your likes, and your preferred game is to profoundly misunderstand what it's about, though it rather sadly explains a lot about the tenor of your posts here. I'd urge you once again to look at what's being said not as an attack, but rather to understand why 4E is being held up as an example of what isn't preferred in this regard.
You mean that 3.0 lasted half the length of its successor and the both massively overhauled and deliberately incompatible game that supplanted it in 3.5 lasted less time. While I'm almost certain that 4e was more profitable.

3.X wasn't one edition. And both 3.5 and 4e ended when they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for player-facing things to publish. Of course how long 3.0 would have lasted if the suits hadn't mandated a new edition even when 3.0 was launched is an interesting question. That Paizo were able to run their Adventure Paths as an Ideal Homes magazine thing was admittedly impressive.

But it's nowhere near as clear cut as you are claiming.
The parsing of 3.X between 3E and 3.5E as compared to 4E is largely a moot point, in that it insists on comparing 3.0 and 3.5's length's separately to 4E's unified whole, which is largely pointless because 4E itself was bifurcated by the Essentials line, which is a truism that's not undone by pointing out that Essentials wasn't a "point-five" edition the way 3.5 was. To quote D&D historian Shannon Appelcline in his overview of Heroes of the Fallen Lands:

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Compatibility. When Mearls began working on Essentials, one of his main priorities was keeping it totally compatible with previous 4e books. With the release of Heroes of the Fallen Lands, players could now see that changes were indeed pretty minimal, involving: errata; updated Feat and Magic Item systems; and updated philosophies for building characters. Of these, the difference between the character builds was the largest, and had the most possibility to be incompatible.

But the designers felt they weren't

Mearls paraphrased designer Rich Baker when he said, "the choice between a traditional build and an Essentials build would basically reflect different play styles". Baker expanded on this, saying "It’s perfectly ok if, at the same table, Joe is playing a Fighter straight out of the Players Handbook, with all of the power selections that he would ordinarily have had, and Dave, sitting next to him, is playing a Slayer, out of Essentials. Those Characters, essentially, are built the same, and are transparent to each other".

But that's not at all how the D&D roleplaying community treated the new rules. Between late 2010 and early 2011, 4e players seemed to fracture into "traditional" gamers and "Essentials" gamers. At first there were edition wars over whether Essentials had replaced the core rules, then for the next year each new D&D book was scrutinized for whether it was Essentials or traditional.

So, there's no mechanical reason not to use core and Essentials products together, but you could similarly have said that 3e books could be used with D&D 3.5e (2003) with almost no problem. In both cases, the roleplaying community disagreed.

In that regard, the simpler and less pedantic method is to measure the total length of 3.X's life against that of 4E(ssentials)' life, and that's without taking into account the additional time that the former received under the Pathfinder banner.

Again, this is false. My position here is that most games peter out by level 10 which is about when the problems cease to be ignorable. This doesn't mean that this is the cause of all games petering out by then (scheduling is far bigger), merely that it is a cause and the main reason that people don't see how absurd things get. They don't play to that high level.
Leaving aside that stating your opinions as a declarative ("this is false") isn't helpful to a productive conversation, I disagree wit your reasoning here. I don't think that it's axiomatic that people would necessarily see things getting "absurd" if they reached a higher level.
First things first non-magical "spike" recovery of hit points in 5e absolutely is a very common thing; the fighter has it - and they are the most popular class in the game and one of the very few non-magical classes. And I don't recall seeing anyone complain about it after about 2014. Which leads to the question as to whether it was really a problem in 4e or whether it was a proxy - or whether it was only a problem because people had been educated by older editions that they shouldn't have it and what you call versimilitude I call a simple consequence of familiarity.
Calling it a "proxy" strikes me as disingenuous here, as it again suggests an element of duplicity on the part of people who found fault with that idea. I believe that it's still the case with 5E, just that it's one which people have elected to live with insofar as it's being far less of an issue with regard to its application. Which is to say, it's less of a break in verisimilitude for a fighter to use Second Wind on themselves once per rest (short or long) than it is for the warlord to use their Inspiring Word on other people twice per encounter (i.e shouting other people healed).

Now, there's absolutely a discussion to be had as to why it is that a self-affecting power is easier to swallow for a lot of people than a power which affects other characters. But at that point we're veering even further away from verisimilitude, and I'd really like to bring the conversation back around to that.
And if hit points map to a real thing at all we have real world examples of recovery of hit points in short periods of time without magic. Look at any boxing match. If a boxer is knocked for a three count, unable to stand, that's them running out of hit points. But they do stand back up, take a second wind, and they almost all come back stronger after a three minute short rest between rounds unless there's no gas at all left in the tank (i.e. they've run out of healing surges)

There is no magic here. Boxing in the real world looks much more like 4e combat with its combined healing surge/hit point model than it does the untiring attack spamming robots of earlier D&D editions who never want to stop for a few minutes to catch their breath.
Which is an issue of modeling what's happening when hit points are lost, since the same mechanic is used to present injuries which you can't simply shrug off or ignore. Hence other models such as wound/vitality points. All of which is to say that there's a reason why I originally stated that verisimilitude wasn't an all-encompasing principle back in the OP. However, that caveat seems to have been lost. (All joking aside, I think the issue is that a lot of people didn't want an expansion of an area where verisimilitude had been set aside, and objected on those grounds; the 5E fighter can be called a compromise in that regard.)
But yes, I accept that 4e modelling the real world effects of fatigue and non-bonebreaking injuries much better than previous editions did lead to problems for people who wanted video game style consequence-free health bars where almost all recovery is magic rather than something more realistic and nuanced. But this is a big part of why I am saying the problem was familiarity. And this is a clear and unambiguous case of versimilitude being something that comes from familiarity with the model being used (and the explanations given which were too sparse in 4e) rather than from how it actually compared to reality.
I don't grant your premise that it did model the real-world effects of fatigue and "non-bonebreaking injuries" better than previous editions; quite the opposite really. Phrasing it this way is simply edition-warring, and no, you can't say that you're simply doing so in regard to edition-warring that was lobbed at you first. There needs to be a circumstance under which we can look at areas where 4E didn't do well without its de4Enders coming in to deny all premises and champion the game as the best edition ever in every imaginable regard. And if you find that hyperbole ridiculous, it mirrors the tenor of your posts here.

So how about dialing it down, okay?
And this of course is one of the other problems muggles have in (pre-4e) D&D. Not only are they not capable of going above and beyond what a realistic person can do - they can't normally do things like recovering by catching their breath that normal people can.
Which makes one wonder why 4E was so ill-received by so many people to the point that it had to be shelved so quickly if it did so well.
Such as what they are or even if they are a category. Because most modern narrative games I have played simply do not have the features that most posters I've seen on ENWorld claim to be features of narrative games. And the features I consider narrative games to have don't fit what people criticising them make. (The obvious example here being meta-currency being more like a design stage than it is like a game style).
If your issue is that people are misrepresenting narrative mechanics, perhaps it would be best to then not turn around and misrepresent verisimilitude in turn.
As long as we accept that the biggest factor causing people to associate a system is familiarity. The second biggest is personal preference. Any sort of modelling of reality comes way further down the list.
I don't believe that to be the case. While there are certain "definitional" characteristics of particular games that, in the minds of their audience, make those games what they are, that can't just be chalked up to "familiarity" with its not-so-vague implication that the alternatives are superior but people are simply too stuck on what they know to recognize that. There are, in fact, other issues of preference in play, and we should be able to talk about those without people who have different preferences coming in and threadcrapping by saying "your preferences are wrong!"
I can however say "your justification is wrong and you are trying to dress up personal preference as some sort of principle".
You can, but that doesn't mean you're correct. There's no "justification" going on here; only an attempt to explain something that a lot of people can intuit but have a hard time explaining. And yet, when someone tries, there's always someone who feels attacked by that and so comes in to sabotage the entire thing. :(
They were however soft-capped to fifth level spells. Which is about as high as you can go before the problems get overwhelming. And they had the drawback of being incredibly squishy (making being on the front lines high risk) because AC mattered much more before bounded accuracy and you had far fewer hp.
I'm not sure what you think that "soft cap" is that kept wizards to casting fifth-level spells and below, let alone what "problems" are "overwhelming" in that regard.
 
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Clint_L

Hero
With regards to the charge of edition warring and the article in question, that is not my take on that article, which I find quite thoughtful. I find even mentioning 4e, in particular, on this forum is very risky because anything that isn't 100% positive is often taken as a personal attack, so you have to be careful to frame everything very explicitly in terms of personal preference and, even then, it's generally best not to go there. But that can make it difficult to bring up even non-controversial facts when discussing a larger point (i.e. reasons that 5e been particularly strong in terms of sales).

For me, edition warring isn't criticizing an edition, or every post that criticizes this or that aspect of 5e would be edition warring...which would be a LOT of posts. We have to be able to critically examine all versions of the game, not just the current one. Edition warring is when one starts acting like one's subjective preferences are objective facts, and criticizing other folks for having different taste. But we have to be able to critically evaluate different editions without being accused of edition warring.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The problem is that "can" doesn't always mean "does." Players will, inevitably, seek to minimize their weaknesses and overcome their restrictions. How much they can do that will vary, of course, but the effectiveness of those brakes is highly contextual in nature...though that's usually done via verisimilitude also.

The TSR years' wizard didn't have risk or drawback, in terms of casting their spells, either.
Tell that to the party who just got fried because the MU overestimated how big the room was before casting Fireball; or the caster who just put herself in solid rock 20 feet below the surface on a failed teleport; or the ally who just dropped dead through system shock after an attempted Polymorph...the list goes on. :)

Add the requirement to aim AoE spells (which IMO should have always been there) and yeah, there's risk.
The control methods were the percentage chance to learn a new spell (and if you failed, you couldn't try again until you'd gained a level), the cap on how many spells of each level you could learn (which was often ignored), the need for higher Intelligence scores to cast higher-level spells (ability scores being harder, but by no means impossible, to raise in those editions), and spells being easier to disrupt during casting (due to more stringent concentration requirements and "segmented" casting times).
IME the biggest control in 1e - at least for combat spells - is the ease with which they can be interrupted. Out of combat, sure: cast away to your heart's content (until you run out of slots, that is).
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Tell that to the party who just got fried because the MU overestimated how big the room was before casting Fireball; or the caster who just put herself in solid rock 20 feet below the surface on a failed teleport; or the ally who just dropped dead through system shock after an attempted Polymorph...the list goes on. :)
I meant in terms of being able to complete the act of casting without necessarily causing some sort of backlash (like the wild mage would often do). Certain spells had potential risks or costs, though I think those tend to be somewhat overstated; part of the reason 3E did away with a lot of those is because people kept disregarding them anyway. Though the fireball one is one that I saw happen even in 3E. :D
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Most games don't go above level 10 - which means that most people do not experience where the game is truly broken. I also believe that one reason most games don't go above level 10 is because the game is breaking by that point.
With this I cannot disagree. 1e gets rather wobbly at about the 10th-11th level point; and our various deep tweaks and kitbashes have added about a level per campaign to that wobble threshold. I'm in a 12th-is level campaign now and the cracks are really starting to show, but thus far it holds together better than RAW 1e would have at the same point.

The question then becomes, is this soft cap a problem? I maintain that it is not, for the vast majority of players and DMs.
Again, this is false. My position here is that most games peter out by level 10 which is about when the problems cease to be ignorable. This doesn't mean that this is the cause of all games petering out by then (scheduling is far bigger), merely that it is a cause and the main reason that people don't see how absurd things get. They don't play to that high level.

First things first non-magical "spike" recovery of hit points in 5e absolutely is a very common thing; the fighter has it - and they are the most popular class in the game and one of the very few non-magical classes. And I don't recall seeing anyone complain about it after about 2014.
>raises hand<< I've been on about 5e's ridiculous natural-heal rates in all forms since 2014, as I was about 4e's prior to that. :)
They were however soft-capped to fifth level spells. Which is about as high as you can go before the problems get overwhelming. And they had the drawback of being incredibly squishy (making being on the front lines high risk) because AC mattered much more before bounded accuracy and you had far fewer hp.
The spell cap could be, to a point, circumvented with scrolls. And the squishiness is a great drawback.
 

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