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

Irlo

Hero
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.
Yes. AC and HP are abstract. They don’t represent one specific thing, but they can represent any specific thing that suits the fiction.
 

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pemerton

Legend
Yes. AC and HP are abstract. They don’t represent one specific thing, but they can represent any specific thing that suits the fiction.
This is why I find 3E's notion of a "natural armour bonus" to be the poster child for everything that I dislike about that version of D&D.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
The fact that "natural armor bonus" is set completely based on the target CR of a creature is a bit immersion breaking, but this sort of thing isn't exactly new to D&D- the game has always had creatures with AC set pretty much "because". Sometimes they tell you "it's wearing this armor", sometimes they'll mention the creature has high agility.

Sometimes the Arcanadaemon has AC -2 because, I don't know, it's a powerful extraplanar entity, I guess?
mm2.jpg
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Giant slugs having loads of hit points is one of the relatively few hit-point-related things I've never had any trouble explaining in the fiction: all those extra hit points represent all the fat and blubber you have to chop through before you get to anything significant enough to really hurt the thing. :)
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Yes. AC and HP are abstract. They don’t represent one specific thing, but they can represent any specific thing that suits the fiction.
I agree that they're abstract, but I'm of the opinion that the problems come in when they try to represent more than one thing at the same time.

As I noted before, hit points are a prime example of this. Ask most people who don't have a background playing D&D what an instance of their character losing hit points represents, and 99% of the time (or more) they'll say something to the effect of "the/my character is taking damage." What they won't say is "they're getting tired/running out of stamina."

There's nothing wrong with wanting to model exhaustion and fatigue in terms of a depleting pool of points that requires resource management. But having it do double-duty, i.e. having the same pool of points also measure how much injury you can withstand before your life is in danger, is a mixing of concepts that tends to be unpalatable for a lot of people, because it invites conflating two things which aren't the same (even if you can make the case that they're related).

Armor Class has the same problem, in that it combines "avoiding the attack entirely" with "receiving the attack in a way that no injury is dealt." That's what I liked about 3E's use of "touch AC" (representing dodging the attack altogether) and "flat-footed AC" (tanking the hit without being hurt), even if the latter had overlap with damage reduction. That AC bonuses were themselves listed as discrete modifiers, with the bonus types at least suggesting what they did from an in-character point of view, was an added bonus (see what I did there?). A monster having a "natural armor" bonus is flat-out said in the DMG to be "...the type of bonus that many monsters get because of their tough or scaly hides," and which is explicitly said not to add to flat-footed AC.

Does a given monster's natural armor bonus exceed what a magic suit of plate mail has? Sure, but that just tells you that the monster's hide is tougher than even magic plate mail. Which is fine; some monsters are just that tough. Can you make a suit of armor out of their hide that has corresponding toughness? If not, that's likely due to some aspect of the hide being lost in the collection or preparation of their carcass; coming up with a verisimilitudinous explanation isn't that hard, even if it is a gap in the rules.

To be as clear as possible, this is all a matter of personal preference and opinion; no one is saying anyone else is right or wrong. But I don't think it's an unpopular opinion among gamers to say that verisimilitude, i.e. where the rules tell us what's happening in the game world, and why/how it happens, can be impinged when those rules move away from that in-character explanation, which is what happens when you start putting multiple, disparate representations of what's happening onto the same set of mechanics.
 
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Tony Vargas

Legend
This is why I find 3E's notion of a "natural armour bonus" to be the poster child for everything that I dislike about that version of D&D.
It was really only completely gonzo when a humanoid monster you could Polymorph into had weirdly high natural armor, that then stacked with whatever sources of AC you had from your gear and spells....

...aside from that, you could've shrugged and figured it was another 'just because' abstraction, so that fighters wouldn't be hitting the poor monster with every one of their nth itterative attacks, or power attacking to the extreme or whatever .... you really had to watch out for those full-BAB fighter in 3.x, so OP... :rolleyes:
 


Tony Vargas

Legend
How is a "natural armour bonus" supposed to be an abstraction. What is being abstracted?
everything that makes a huge thing oddly hard to 'hit,' in the abstract D&D sense of hitting meaning may or may not make physical contact, but does push the target closer to defeat? Scales, thick hide, lack of vulnerable bits to target, supernatural physiognomy, magical protections, alien psychology....
 

pemerton

Legend
So here's a thing.

In AD&D, a trained warrior (1st level fighter) with STR 16 or less hits AC 10 on a 10 or better. If wielding a longsword, that blow has a good chance to be fatal against an ordinary person (d8 damage vs hp which can be determined in various ways in the DMG, but are probably no better than d6).

Put that ordinary person in a suit of plate mail, and their AC becomes 3, and the warrior needs a 17 or better to hit them. That reduces the chance of being killed by seven elevenths (4 in 20 to hit, vs 11 in 20).

If we use weapon vs armour, from memory its +2 and -2 respectively for 8+ to hit the unarmoured person (13 in 20) vs 19+ (2 in 20).

What is the empirical basis for these ratios? Or are they just things that the wargamers made up that felt OK?
 

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