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

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I am one of those people.
Well, so am I; hence why I started this thread.
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.
And my experience is exactly the opposite, and that seems to be the shared experience of a lot of people, both whom I personally know and who have shared their experiences online. There's a reason why that "dissociated mechanics" essay is so famous, and it's not because it's a hater spreading hateful hate; it's because it speaks to a lot of frustrations people had with that particular aspect of that particular edition.
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).
So in other words, the armor by itself, not taking into account any of your character's personal abilities, is worth a +19 AC bonus, is that right? That's impressive, appropriately so for a 30th-level character, but not beyond anything you could get with epic magic items in 3E; which is kind of appropriate, since elderly red dragons in 3E are epic-level monsters (e.g. a great red wyrm is CR 26).
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.
I agree, and looking at the epic and divine rules in 3E, it gets there.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
In the fiction as 3e sees it, is that "natural armour bonus" all explained as coming from the dragon's thick scales and hide or is there more to it?

Put another way: if my character carved off some of that hide-and-scales, took it to a good armourer, and had a suit of amrour made out of it, what AC bonus would it give me? Anything less than the same +30 that the dragon had would imply the rest of the dragon's bonus was coming from some other source; and if that other source isn't explained anywhere then your point is quite valid.
(Contrast AD&D: a red dragon's AC is -1, which is the same as highly enchanted plate mail.
I could be wrong, but I seem to recall there being a way-old Dragon article (or an article somewhere else?) regarding different types of dragon scale armour and what each had going for it.
 



pemerton

Legend
Do you want to read natural armor +30 and just move on or do you want to read a thousand words explanation of why the bonus is +30?
I want a game in which the fiction makes sense ("verisimilitude"), and in which the rules contribute to rather than undercut that fiction that makes sense.

A dragon whose hide is markedly tougher than the toughest armour that a magical smith can forge doesn't make much sense to me. It shows that the maths of the game have broken down, and the fiction has been sacrificed on the altar of that broken maths.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Do you want to read natural armor +30 and just move on or do you want to read a thousand words explanation of why the bonus is +30?
I want just enough explanation to tell me why, if a player has their character make armour out of that dragon's hide and scales, the character's AC bonus from that armour won't be as high as was the dragon's. That way, when the player (justifiably) asks about this, I have a ready-made (and backed-by-RAW) answer.

Otherwise, when the player raises this question, I'm left twisting in the wind.
 


Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I want just enough explanation to tell me why, if a player has their character make armour out of that dragon's hide and scales, the character's AC bonus from that armour won't be as high as was the dragon's. That way, when the player (justifiably) asks about this, I have a ready-made (and backed-by-RAW) answer.

Otherwise, when the player raises this question, I'm left twisting in the wind.
This is super easy to come up for an explanation, though. You could say the AC is partly magical, and that magic begins to fade when the dragon dies. Or the process of creating scale mail armor from dragon scales weakens them and causes some scales to loosen/fall off. Or that the lower AC is because on a Dragon, the scales cover almost the entire body, while humanoid scale mail doesn't.

And if you can't come up with an explanation on the fly . . . is that such a big deal? Is the simulation of D&D so fragile that your fun is ruined when the DM tells you that a feature exists for game balance purposes and it would ruin game balance to let PCs get all the features monsters have? Immersion isn't the end all be all of the game. Fun is. Fun can be ruined by unbalanced mechanical features. Is it better to preserve immersion and grant the players a set of +3 Scale Mail that gives you immunity to fire damage for killing a Wyrmling Dragon when they're at level 3, or is it better to preserve game balance and still give them the opportunity to make a nice magic item but not give it the full potential of the Dragon's version? Or if you make the mistake of giving an overpowered magic item, do you maintain immersion and railroad the party into losing it, choose to just deal with it and let them keep the OP magic item, or do you explain that it's causing problems for game balance and nerf it?

Does every monster in every bestiary in every 5e book need to provide an explanation for the AC, hit points, damage, ability scores, and other monster features? Or can a Dragon just have 19 AC because they're a dragon and need to be hard to hit. Does every monster need rules for why the PC equivalent of a feature is weaker than the monster's if they choose to make a magic item out of them? Or can the rules leave that up to the DM and not waste space on pages of repetitive and bland lore justifications? Why can't game features be designed around making the game balanced and not be constrained by requiring exhaustive lore justifications for every minute mechanic or perceived discrepancy?

The answer for the incessant "why? why? why?" of mechanical features or aspects of the game is almost always "A wizard did it". Why do owlbears exist? A wizard did it. Why do orcs exist? A god created them. Why can't I cast Shield of Faith and Guiding Bolt on the same turn if I have enough spell slots? Magic has rules, and those rules say Guiding Bolt isn't a cantrip. Why does that giant's greatclub deal 3d8 thunder extra damage but lose that when they die? Magic. Why are scales more protective on living dragons than as scale mail? Magic. Why can that Avatar of Vecna cast Meteor Swarm 3 times a day? Even level 20 Wizards can't do that! It's because he's a freaking god and the main villain gets god magic.

As a DM, it would just get exhausting to have to give expansive explanations for all minor details when the reason is for game balance and the lore justification will always be some flavor of "A wizard did it". It did get exhausting when I tried to do that when I first started DMing. Eventually I grew out of the notion that every mechanic needed a lore justification and decided game balance was more important. And it seems like WotC has learned that too, given the mechanical changes to recent monster stat blocks.
 


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