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


The EN World kitten
Except that, if we assume that Shield works the way it has for the past fifteen years, the reason it works is because it is fast. "Hey! I've just been hit. So I'm going to stop, draw a pentagram, light wax, and chant for three minutes to protect myself from the incoming blow" doesn't work.
Again, you're drawing a distinction between "the act of actualizing the spell is itself inherently uncertain" and "the circumstances make it less than ideal." These are not the same thing, because circumstantial aspects tend to be subject to manipulation by clever players much more than inherent risks in utilizing something can be.
You can go back to the old "shield is like Mage Armour" paradigm - but that's fundamentally different from the modern Shield spell.
"Chant for three minutes" is also fundamentally different than the modern shield spell, so you're not exactly making an incisive point here.
No it isn't. It's an attempt to understand a festering garbage-fire of an edition warring article that showed nothing more than that the author was entirely trapped in his own paradigm and invented problems because of it.
You're wrong, and worse, you're presenting your opinion as if it were an objective truth. It's not. You might not like what the author is saying, have issues with their tone, etc. But the issues they bring up are very real, and are shared by a lot of people, regardless of whether or not you think they're legitimate.
Indeed. And what is being said is "I can't be bothered to understand why 4e does things the way it does so I'm gong to invent edition warring jargon".
Again, the idea that the only criticisms of 4E are that "people didn't understand it then, and still don't know" is to say that any criticism is invalid. This is not a sound principle to argue from, as it basically says that nothing you don't like is valid.
Meanwhile pretending 3.0 and 3.5 are the same edition rather than 3.0 being the shortest lived edition in history and 3.5 a shameless cash grab is simply false.
You'll find that the idea that they're completely different editions is very much an opinion that no one else shares, especially if you then turn around and say that 4E and 4Essentials are absolutely the same edition. Claiming that 3.0 and 3.5 should be treated separately necessarily requires that 4E and 4Essentials should treated the same, meaning that 4E only lasted for two years, and is therefore the shortest-lived edition in the history of D&D. Meanwhile, 3.5 not only got a two-year extension from Paizo, but then a ten-year one in the form of PF1, more than twice the length of 4E and 4Essentials put together.
Applecline is only partly right; plenty of people (myself included) played using a mix of the two parts at the same table. And you literally could not use 3.0 with 3.5 in the same way with no real issues when the classes had e.g. different skills and literally hundreds of spells were changed. The analogy does not hold.
So now you're saying that you know better than Alexander and Appelcline, and that the differences between 3.0 and 3.5 are salient enough to mark them as totally separate editions, whereas 4E and 4Essentials are basically the same game with no real differences between them? Yeah, no. At this point you've made it clear that you have no good-faith basis in anything you're arguing for, presumably out of some mistaken belief that everyone else is simply badmouthing your preferred edition and so deserves no serious rebuttals. Which is, of course, nonsense, and deserves to be called out as such.
So no I don't think you were right. I think that this is a rare case where Applecline was outright incorrect. And that the backlash against the different design paradigm in Essentials is comparable to the different design paradigm in The Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords - which was sometimes used with no issues at all in 3.5 games, while a lot of people decried it as "The Book of Weaboo Fitan Magic"
I'm going to trust the accredited historian of D&D more than I'm going to trust your "take it from me" stance here, especially since you've made it clear that you're not arguing from any sort of objective analysis (and let's just skip the bit about how "objectivity doesn't really exist, because everyone has inherent opinions about everything" shtick, shall we?). If you want to have your opinions taken seriously, it helps to start by acknowledging that they are opinions, and not trashing everyone who disagrees as being mistaken haters who don't know what they're talking about.
There's even a mini edition-war inside 5e with Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and a group that refuses to accept that and a minor fracture there.
Which not at all legitimizes the idea that 4E and 4Essentials weren't really a difference worth noting. Again, Appelcline has a lot more credibility than you do, and you don't have to look very far to see that there was confusion caused by the release of Essentials that can't really be compared to "people didn't like some of the changes in Tasha's."
And the simpler and less pedantic method is to treat the earth as flat. This doesn't make it correct.
Self-awareness is dead.
3.5 worked (despite selling less than 3.0) because it allowed the 3.5 designers to resell PHBs and all the splatbooks in a way that was incompatible enough. Meanwhile Pathfinder once again worked by allowing the designers to resell PHBs and a collection of new splatbooks.

A better metric would be to say that 3.X got three editions.
Even if you go with that highly-inaccurate and biased take on things, the fact that it warranted three iterations is all the proof you need that it was more successful than 4E. Which isn't surprising, since 4E was highly divisive and was rejected by a huge segment of the market, for very good reasons, one of which was its increased rejection of verisimilitude (hey, remember the actual topic of the thread before you started trolling? Yeah, it's back!).
Despite the fact that the fighter is literally healing themselves out of thin air - while the warlord is allowing people to spend their own resources. Somehow magical healing out of thin air breaks peoples versimilitude while encouraging people to dig deeply into their own resources and take inspiration from others to use their own stamina doesn't. And yes, a lot of this problem is that healing surges were poorly explained. While the other part is the "D&D versimilitude" crew almost entirely caring about D&D's tradition and not what people in the real world or in fiction do.
And yet, there's no mention of the fact that the warlord has a power actualizing someone's ability to heal themselves. With words. That aren't magical. Literally, they're using a power to let someone else spend a healing surge. Even if we leave aside the issue of trying to expand the lack of verisimilitude inherent to hit points by elevating the idea that they represented both physical injuries and the capacity to keep fighting (which was already a hard-to-swallow mixture, but previously had largely put the first interpretation front-and-center while ushering the second off into a corner), the fact that you had someone else making it so that another character could expend their own resources, and non-magical resources at that, was indeed a break from verisimilitude for a lot of people. You can't just write that off as "people only bring this up because they don't understand it." We do understand it, and it's an example of what's wrong with the entire paradigm for a lot of people.
Versimilitude was never all encompassing.
Yeah, no kidding. Go re-read the OP and its note about "proponents of verisimilitude don't say it's uber alles" again.
It was always a proxy for familiarity that never in many of the cases where it was brought up made any sense when compared with the real world. If it had been anything other than a mix of familiarity and feeling then the simple fact that the 4e fighter has to pace themselves when the 3.X fighter is an untiring robot, spamming the same attacks again and again would have had the versimiltiude people on the side of 4e. Those that didn't go over to a different game entirely (like GURPS or Rolemaster or any one of the dozens of other games that did things better this way than D&D).
This take almost comes close to being the sort of discussion we should be having here, if you weren't so interested in de4Ending your favorite edition from perceived attacks because it's being critically analyzed in a particular context. As it is, the issue of having characters gain fatigue over the course of a fight (or extended fights) is one that's worth examining, but so is the failure of modeling this around hit points, a resource that is primarily lost only when an enemy scores a successful attack against you (and this isn't undone by the "damage on a miss" mechanic that 4E introduced, especially since that didn't work on minions) and which can be "spike" regained via non-magical powers, repeatedly, at other people's usage. Don't get me started on trying to fold that in alongside also modeling actual injuries taken. It was never a good idea to mix-and-match those, and while 1E at least downplayed the idea (yes, we all know about Gary's famous essay where he describes hit points as being a mixture of vigor, stamina, luck, divine protection, etc., but he then had every method of regaining hp be focused around physical healing; the spells are named cure light wounds, etc., and you certainly aren't regaining luck or divine protection by resting in bed), 4E went in the opposite direction and played them up, expanding the areas where verisimilitude was compromised on, and that was a bridge too far for a lot of people.
And yet I have demonstrated how and why and a an example. You are not engaging with the example. Simply using "versimilitude" as your excuse with no actual evidence and no tie to real world situations. This is because versimilitude is and has always been a proxy for familiarity.
You demonstrated no such thing, and your example is something I already knocked down (see above). Simply put, your excuses lack substance (which is why they're excuses and not arguments). That's because verisimilitude is and always has been a legitimate vector for immersion; that you can't see it doesn't make it not so.
In short you want a safe space to edition war in peace? And not have your incorrect examples pointed out has being incorrect.
And here's where your mask slips off, because you're openly admitting that you think any instance of 4E being held up as a good example of a bad example is edition warring. In fact, as has already been pointed out in this thread, there needs to be a space where its failures can be examined without de4Enders coming in and decrying the effort as mere partisanship. Hence, everything you've posted in this thread thus falls apart.
There are plenty of areas where 4e didn't do well.
Good, good, now keep going...
For one the combat is far too slow. For another it surrendered much of the bonus of a class based system. It wasn't that the characters were samey - but the pacing and type of engagement pre-essentials could be. But when you start claiming versimilitude for the pre-4e video game style hit points with consequence free damage (or even the related "fighters can spam the same moves all day") then you are going to get disagreed with.
And yet you steadfastly refuse to see that intermingling hit points as a system for taking wounds with what should be a separate system for modeling fatigue is a bad idea. WotC should have known better, as by that point they'd not only put a wound/vitality model forward in their d20 Star Wars game, but had even showed how it could be used in D&D in the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana. Trying to say "no, it does work!" doesn't make it so.
Off the top of my head:
  1. It changed a lot and a lot of people liked the old way - with the most invested in the old way being the most invested.
  2. It was a complex game with a lot of modifiers and in a different way to 5e. I for one don't really miss hanging five paperclips off a model's sword.
  3. It was released before it was ready (they had a 24 month development cycle and went back to the drawing board after 10 months because Project Orcus was bad).
    1. A big consequence of this was that pre-Essentials combat hhad exceptionallly flabby monsters
    2. A second big consequence was some things were not fit for purpose at launch (Skill Challenges)
    3. A third was a lot was badly explained
  4. The first adventure (Keep on the Shadowfell) was a truly awful introduction; once you reach the Keep itself it's 17 chained fights in a row in bland rooms with nothing between them. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For that matter most of the early adventures were pretty bad.
  5. There were two major playstyles missing; the simple "I hit it" fighter (which was fixed by Essentials) and the "I win in prep time" wizard (which was deliberately left out).
And it didn't have to be shelved "so quickly" - it lasted longer than 3.0 and about as long as 3.5. It, like 3.5, had a full round of splatbooks for all the classes and a period nearer the end for weirder splatbooks. It didn't have (the almost certainly lossmaking) two dozen books for each of Eberron and the Forgotten Realms.
You neglected a large number of issues, which I'll go ahead and reiterate here (not necessarily in order of importance):
  1. It widened areas where verisimilitude had been rolled back as a consensus for playability (hit points being the big one), which was unpalatable to people for whom the old compromise was good enough.
  2. Large areas of its math were broken at the beginning, which was why there needed to be errata issued for skill checks almost on the same day of the game's release, and the monster math had to be fixed later on in the life-cycle.
  3. It was designed by committees that had wildly different goals, as has been noted elsewhere.
    1. Management wanted the game to function as a World of Warcraft analogue to try and draw in some of that crowd of gamers.
    2. Part of the design team wanted to make a tactical skirmish game that had more of a reliance on miniatures (increasing their necessity for play, hence the use of markers, etc.).
    3. Another part of the team was trying to push back on all of those changes, and objected to a lot of what was going on (e.g. Radney-McFarland and the issue with magic missiles now being able to miss).
  4. It completely spurned the third-party community with the GSL and its "poison pill" clause, which nobody liked, and by the time that clause was removed the ship on wider support had already sailed.
  5. Numerous unnecessary changes to things like lore, which gamers were attached to, the initial removal of the gnome as a PC race (which, contrary to popular opinion, had fans), deliberately holding back popular monsters for later monster books in order to ensure more sales, etc. Don't even get me started on the DDI.
If your issue is that I am pointing out that you are misrepresenting what you call narrative mechanics, and using versimilitude in a way that appears to be entirely a proxy for familiarity and that makes no sense to anyone not steeped in D&D traditions then perhaps it would be best to stop both.
My issue is that you are deliberately misrepresenting the issues being talked about with how 4E walked back on the extent to which verisimilitude was present in D&D, and treating that as an attack (which it's not), or a mistake of perception (which I've already proven it isn't), and are generally being unpleasant in doing so. In other words, quite threadcrapping.
Or possibly you'd be able to come up with counter-examples where versimilitude leads to you rejecting the familiar.
That would require that your own examples hold any weight in the first place, but I've already shown why they don't.
I'm not saying "your preferences are wrong". I'm saying "your description doesn't match your preferences". And your attempt to pretend the two are the same is the threadcrapping.
Except I've already shown how you're not only wrong, but wrong in a manner that's self-evidently so, to the point where it's demonstrated by your bad-faith takes on what should be obvious examples. Calling that threadcrapping is simply calling it like it is.
And I am engaging with your attempt to explain things - and pointing out that they do not actually match what you are saying. Your "explanations" are not Word of God. They are a potential explanation that doesn't actually match up with what you are saying what the issue is. And that you consider your explanations so untouchable that you consider a critique pointing out that your explanations are inaccurate in significant places to be "sabotage" is telling.
Being argumentative and rude is not "engaging," which is one of the reasons it's so hard to take what you're saying seriously. At no point have I ever said that my points are "word of god," and yet you go out of your way to mischaracterize them as that, and then when I point out that this is unhelpful and disruptive, you turn around and claim that it's wrong to characterize you that way. Does that make it clear why it's hard to take your posts seriously at this point?
People like familiarity. And familiarity helps build shared worlds. This is not complex. Making it something more than that however means that the "more" can be investigated and critiqued.
And yet people also have other reasons for liking verisimilitude, which is what this thread was about: articulating and exploring those reasons. Yet when a single instance of saying "and here's an instance of that preference being eschewed, and how people reacted to it," you're coming in to say that their preferences are wrong, or aren't worthy of respect, or that the verisimilitude was never there (or always there and was never reduced), etc. None of which engages with the discussion, but simply tries to scuttle it.
Just out of curiosity what would have changed about your argument if you'd written "familiarity" in your OP every time you wrote versimilitude? Sections 2-4 would have been identical - and you wouldn't have borrowed and then discarded a dictionary word.
It would have been a completely different argument. Literally, you're saying that it's not about verisimilitude at all, but something else completely, i.e. simple nostalgia and resistance to change. That's not verisimilitude, and never has been. If you can't understand that, that's on you, but don't ruin the thread for everyone else.
Is this a question based on not knowing the AD&D experience and hit point charts?
Interesting how you can't seem to articulate what the soft-cap on spell acquisition (beyond fifth-level spells) actually is.
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Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:
@Alzrius and @Neonchameleon :

For the second time, this thread is not about warlords or 4e.

Also, acucsations of "bad faith" are assertions about the state of mind of the speaker. We recommend you avoid them because: 1) You probably aren't a telepath to know their state of mind, and so are likely wrong, and 2) Even if you are correct, the assertion generally escalates conflict, rather than de-escalates, making it a poor rhetorical choice in this venue.

If you two can't discuss amicably, maybe stop discussing before it gets out of hand and you get more than red text. Thanks.
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The EN World kitten
In an effort to try and salvage the thread, I'm going to let this digression with @Neonchameleon go (and Neon, I hope you'll do the same), and make no more replies to it. Let's just agree to disagree, and leave it at that.

Tony Vargas

So will that be a dragon that like, breathes Verisimilitude at you, nerfing your un-realistic abilities if you fail the save? Or will it be a more nominally logically consistent/realistic dragon, like the hydrogen balloon dinosaurs from The Flight of Dragons.


Victoria Rules
... It was a complex game with a lot of modifiers and in a different way to 5e. I for one don't really miss hanging five paperclips off a model's sword.
Huh. 40 years in this game and using paper clips to indicate modifiers or status never once occurred to me. Different colour clips for different modifiers or statuses, I assume; e.g. blue for invisible, orange for slowed, green for hasted, etc.?

I learned something today. Thanks!

p.s. now I just have to figure out how to make this work with character pieces who don't have handy sticky-out bits like swords or arms...


Mod Squad
Staff member
p.s. now I just have to figure out how to make this work with character pieces who don't have handy sticky-out bits like swords or arms...

Rings - if they don't hang on a protrusion, they settle on the base. F'rex:



Victoria Rules
Rings - if they don't hang on a protrusion, they settle on the base. F'rex:

I'd considered rings in the past, but some of the old metal minis I use have bases small enough that the rings would just fall off when the piece was picked up. I've also tried putting coins or poker chips under the mini, but the same problem arose: when the mini was moved the other bits didn't go with it, and would sometimes be missed.

Something actually hanging on the mini that stay with the mini when it's moved, though: that's a new idea to me, and if the hanging things don't topple the mini over it could work really well. Will try this next session, I think.

Edit to add: and I have hundreds of coloured paper clips, so the resource is already in place.


AC represents a creature's total ability to not be damaged by physical attacks.
I thought hp are also part of this - the ability to turn a threatened fatal blow into a (near-)miss, etc.

I mean, in AD&D a giant slug has high hp but not especially high AC.

I would probably tell them that the AC reflects the thickness of the hide and the dense muscle underneath, whereas to make armour for a character it is more like just the outer surface of the hide.

Like, I can wear a jacket made out of alligator hide but I'm not going to be anything like as tough to injure as an alligator.
So what is the difference, then, between AC and hp? Why does CON (which tracks the alligators muscle) improve hp but no AC?

On this account, AC and hp are just mathematical parameters that are being varied together in order to produce (what is taken to be) satisfactory game play; but from the point of view of the fiction neither seems to be representing anything distinct or identifiable.

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