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


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pemerton

Legend
Funny, I have several friends who used to play 4E D&D. They quit because of how verisimilitudinous it wasn't, at least compared to 3.5 and PF1.
I wouldn't touch 3E D&D with a 10' pole. I find the combination of RQ-ish combat manoeuvres, pseudo-RQ-ish skills (I call them "pseudo" because the system has no actual account of what the increasing skill DCs mean; they're purely mechanical abstractions with a fig leaf of fiction over the top like "really well-crafted lock") and abstract Gygaxian core combat (initiative, attacks per round, damage per attack, damage measured in hit points) utterly unappealing.

The poster child for my dislike of this system is dragon's natural armour. A red dragon can have a +30 or higher "natural armour bonus" (Dragon, True :: d20srd.org). At the same time, the most enchanted magical plate armour, at +5, grants +13 AC. What is it, in the fiction, that makes that dragon's hide tougher than the strongest magical armour? The system has no answer: it's just maths to make the game work.

I find there to be zero verisimilitude in this system.

(Contrast AD&D: a red dragon's AC is -1, which is the same as highly enchanted plate mail. Or contrast 4e D&D: an ancient red dragon's AC is 48, which is similar to the 45 and 47 of the heavily armoured 30th level fighter and paladin in my game.)
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I wouldn't touch 3E D&D with a 10' pole. I find the combination of RQ-ish combat manoeuvres, pseudo-RQ-ish skills (I call them "pseudo" because the system has no actual account of what the increasing skill DCs mean; they're purely mechanical abstractions with a fig leaf of fiction over the top like "really well-crafted lock") and abstract Gygaxian core combat (initiative, attacks per round, damage per attack, damage measured in hit points) utterly unappealing.
And there's nothing wrong with that. This thread was never about trying to showcase that anyone's likes or dislikes are somehow objective qualities of what's good or bad. Rather, it was to showcase why some people find verisimilitude to be useful, and prefer that it be placed above (or at least, not below) other considerations in designing a fantasy world, and to then look at methods by which that goal is either helped or hindered by certain methods that are used or not used in that manner.

In that regard, 4E was only mentioned with regard to the fact that it seemed (to a lot of people) to lend itself less to that particular method of engagement...which of course brought in the usual suspects, thinking that their preferred edition was being dissed and rising up to defend it, in a manner that's depressingly familiar. As @Clint_L correctly noted, criticizing an edition isn't attacking it, and there needs to be an allowable method of looking at a(ny) game and analyzing where it falls short, not necessarily of its own design goals but of the expectations people have for it and how well it fits with what they want out of a TTRPG experience.

But we keep seeing (the same) people threadcrapping by seeing any negative review of their preferred game as an attack that justifies retaliation.
The poster child for my dislike of this system is dragon's natural armour. A red dragon can have a +30 or higher "natural armour bonus" (Dragon, True :: d20srd.org). At the same time, the most enchanted magical plate armour, at +5, grants +13 AC. What is it, in the fiction, that makes that dragon's hide tougher than the strongest magical armour? The system has no answer: it's just maths to make the game work.
I mean, I don't disagree that this is an issue, but it seems like a comparatively minor one. A line or two about draconic toughness could fix this. Don't get me wrong, it would be better for that to be expressed in the game itself (though I wonder if there's a supplement out there, first- or third-party, that does so), but filling in absolutely everything strikes me as having feasibility issues.
(Contrast AD&D: a red dragon's AC is -1, which is the same as highly enchanted plate mail. Or contrast 4e D&D: an ancient red dragon's AC is 48, which is similar to the 45 and 47 of the heavily armoured 30th level fighter and paladin in my game.)
Did your paladin get to that AC with a single suit of enchanted plate armor? Or did they do it with a combination of items and features? Because if it's the latter, 3E allows for the same.
 



The poster child for my dislike of this system is dragon's natural armour. A red dragon can have a +30 or higher "natural armour bonus" (Dragon, True :: d20srd.org). At the same time, the most enchanted magical plate armour, at +5, grants +13 AC. What is it, in the fiction, that makes that dragon's hide tougher than the strongest magical armour? The system has no answer: it's just maths to make the game work.
I'm really not a huge fan of 3e, it is unwieldy, convoluted and bloated. However, this specific example doesn't seem super weird to me. Dragon is way larger than a person, so its armour can be significantly thicker than what a person could carry. So it is like comparing a massive armoured vehicle to a personal armour.

I find there to be zero verisimilitude in this system.
What I liked about 3e, was that there was relatively robust fiction->rules connection, meaning that it was often pretty straightforward what sort of rules should represent a given fictional entity. Now whether those rules made much sense in how they represented the fiction is another matter...
 
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MGibster

Legend
Hm. It seems almost as if verisimilitudity depends on one's personal view of how a fantasy world should work.
It's true. What I accept in one setting I might not accept so easily in another. What I would find ridiculous in Call of Cthulhu I could accept in D&D without batting my eye. And it's sometimes really hard to understand why people accept some fantastical elements and reject others.
 

pemerton

Legend
And there's nothing wrong with that. This thread was never about trying to showcase that anyone's likes or dislikes are somehow objective qualities of what's good or bad. Rather, it was to showcase why some people find verisimilitude to be useful
I am one of those people.

In that regard, 4E was only mentioned with regard to the fact that it seemed (to a lot of people) to lend itself less to that particular method of engagement
In my personal experience it is the most verisimilitudinous version of D&D - moreso than AD&D; moreso than 3E for the reasons I posted not far upthread; and based on my impression that 5e D&D is, when it comes to verisimilitude, a revision of AD&D, moreso than that version also.

Did your paladin get to that AC with a single suit of enchanted plate armor? Or did they do it with a combination of items and features? Because if it's the latter, 3E allows for the same.
The fighter's AC is due to his scale armour, with a +1 for his Warpriest paragon path heavy armour training (AC base 25 for level, +1 for paragon path, +19 for +6 Elderscale armour: total 45). The paladin's AC is due to his plate armour and shield (AC base 25 for level, +20 for +6 Godplate armour, +2 for heavy shield: total 47 - the magically meliorating armour also grants an additional +1 AC per milestone prior to an extended rest).

The toughness of hide and scale of an ancient red dragon is comparable in toughness to a great warrior or demigod wearing the most enchanted of heavy armours. Which is verisimilitudinous, in my view.
 

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