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View Full Version : Why can't realism and fantasy exist side by side?



Talakeal
2012-01-25, 02:52 PM
It seems like every day I see someone on this forum make a claim that you don't need to worry about logic, realism, or consistency in your setting or game rules because it is innately not realistic and when you have X doing X (usually multi ton reptiles breathing fire and flying or old men shooting fire balls out their fingers by chanting gibberish) then you don't need to worry about that little stuff.

This really bugs me as an author of fiction and RPGs and as a GM and a player I always try to keep things logical and consistent and as close to reality as possible except when directly involving fantasy elements, and these have their own internal consistency.

My question is, why? Why can you not have a realistic setting with fantasy elements added on?

Take for example the following campaigns and tell me at which point you think logic or realism needs to start applying:

a: A slapstick cartoony campaign.

b: a tall tale / anime campaign where everyone can do the blatantly impossible

c: a high magic fantasy game like Exalted

d: an enchanted world like Narnia

e: a traditional high fantasy setting like Lord of the Rings

f: a sword and sorcery campaign where the characters are real if incredibly gifted humans, the monsters are just big animals, and the magic is composed of long rituals that simply alter probability and luck

g: a hard science fiction game where all aliens and technologies comply with known science

h: a modern horror game which is set in the real world and only deviates where the "monster" is concerned

I: a modern action game that sometimes uses cinema physics

j: a game set on Earth in a fictional but realistic time or place

k: a historical campaign taking place in a real setting but with fictional characters and stories

l: a historical game where people reply real events or characters but with freedom to act on their own motivations

m: a precise historical reenactment of events.

n: Never, my imagination cannot be constrained, that is what real life is for.

Now, my second question, for those of you in the "fantasy doesn't need realism" camp, why could you not take one of the campaigns below the point where realism applies and introduce one or more elements from higher up on the list while keeping the setting otherwise the same?

Edit:

To clarify my initial point, there seem to actually be two separate cases where this argument it used.

The first is a matter of consistency in the setting. For example, if mages can generate infinite material with fabricate and wall of iron, and wizards of a level sufficient to cast these spells are found in every medium sized city, why are there still iron mines or smiths?

The second is the argument that if some things are fantastic, everything must be. For example because wizards exist the fighter cannot operate under a simulation of real world physics.

I don't think either argument holds weight, but I am trying to understand when people seem to make them on an almost daily basis on this and other forums.

DaMullet
2012-01-25, 03:23 PM
Generally when I see people complaining about realism in fantasy, they are actually talking about verisimilitude, which is more like 'internal consistency'. I don't think I've ever heard anyone claim that because dragons, logic doesn't work, though. That's new.

Aron Times
2012-01-25, 03:23 PM
Strawman. The trope you're looking for is Acceptable Breaks from Reality.

It's not that you shouldn't worry at all about realism and logic in fantasy, it's that you shouldn't worry too much about it because fantasy, by definition, is innately unrealistic.

One game system commonly derided as "lacking" in logic and realism is D&D 4e, with its cubed fireballs and cones, dissociated fluff and mechanics, and other such breaks from reality when viewed from a simulationist perspective. When you look at 4e as a roleplaying game, its mechanics suddenly make much more sense (firecubes and cubes of cold are easier to plot on the battlegrid, square-based movement is easier to remember than the equivalent in feet, and spellcasters aren't god because it would be unbalanced and negate all challenge in the game.

D&D 3.5 is a more "realistic" fantasy setting, and as we've seen with the Order of the Stick and the many novels set in 3e, it makes for good stories. However, it is horribly unbalanced in Core alone without house rules or DM fiat. It is still very fun to play, but its mechanics are hit-or-miss when you look at it as a game.

Morghen
2012-01-25, 03:28 PM
All I care about is that whatever I'm playing/watching/reading be internally consistent.

As long as it's plausibly explained within the bounds of whatever is going on, I'm cool.

The problem I have is when characters/story elements start NOT following the rules that previously held simply because the GM/author painted themselves into a corner.

A great example that has nothing to do with magic or impossible physics:

In the TV show "Alias", we see uber-spy types jet-setting around the world doing incredibly spy-y things to civilians and other uber-spy types. One of the main characters is THE main character's dad, Jack Bristow. Jack is a BAMF. We've seen him kill people in cold blood, the only reason he takes you prisoner is if he needs you for something, and in general, Jack is a humorless monster who don't **** around.

One of the women in The Agency (or whatever) betrayed The Agency to The Bad Guys. Several episodes later, Jack and some other people get into a shootout involving the Traitor-Lady. At one point, TL is standing near a tank of some kind of compressed gas and Jack shoots it, causing a big explosion. When the dust settles, he walks over to the motionless TL, looks at her body (which has no obvious mortal wounds) with contempt, DOES NOT SHOOT HER IN THE FACE FOR GOOD MEASURE, then walks away.

Of course she woke up a few minutes later and resumed her evil-doing ways immediately.

It was the most jarring, realism-breaking moment in the entire run of the series (and yes, I include all the Rambaldi silliness).


If I'm playing in a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"-style world, I am not at all bothered by a toaster that yells at me for burning the toast and slaps the butter knife out of my hand. If I'm playing a d20 Modern-style game that has no magic of any kind and that toaster thing goes down, the GM better be quick with the "Your OJ was spiked with LSD!"

Morty
2012-01-25, 03:33 PM
They can't? Says who? Sure, magic and other fantastic elements pretty much remove realism from the equation. But that doesn't mean the non-magical elements can't be realistic or that we can't expect the fantastical elements affect the real ones in a consistent, believable manner.

SamBurke
2012-01-25, 03:38 PM
1. Lord of the Rings is not high magic. It is actually incredibly low magic. Aragorn is most likely a level 6 Ranger or so (judging by what is visible on screen). And is worthy of leading a nation. There are a total of 7 Magic users in the entire known continent (6 Wizards + Sauron), excepting about a dozen magical rings. Yes, there are some magic items. However, those items are few and far between.

I have to totally agree with you: I never do something unless I can explain it. In fact, the world I"m currently working on is an attempt to setup DnD in a way that makes causality and sense to me.

If you're looking for realistic + Magic, do some Urban Arcana stuff, or any modern fantasy. It's been done before.

Out of the list, I'd not have logic in: A, B, C, G, H, I.

Vitruviansquid
2012-01-25, 04:09 PM
I'm not entirely sure of what you're asking because I can't seem to figure out your wording, so forgive me if this doesn't help...

Part of the dilemma for "realism" and fantasy existing side-by-side is that you're trying to represent characters, events, ecologies that are explicitly outside of human knowledge and experience. How are we perfectly normal human beings supposed to discuss whether or not a magician can create an effect with an explicitly supernatural power? How are we to discuss whether a super-skilled, super-knowledgeable warrior who explicitly knows more about weapons than anyone in the real world is using a weapon wrong? How are we to discuss whether a troll that doesn't exist in nature is strong enough to lift a boulder of some size?

But say we abandon the notion of realism altogether altogether and it's just the consistency or verisimilitude that matters... then how are the players to make a reference point from which to measure consistency? True, in some cases, the DM might tell everyone explicitly that you'll be playing a gritty, realistic setting or he intends to run the game as X or Y kind of genre with established conventions. But the definitive feature of many genres is the capacity for the extraordinary to happen. Take the Warhammer 40k setting. Its traditional tone is grimdark, crapsack worlds, but it also explicitly supports countless different worlds in which anything can happen, so even a paradise world with no war and no suffering can exist in the setting, even if it runs completely counter to every other expectation in the setting.

So, in reply to what I think your first question is, n is the point at which logic and realism should rule. We reduce realism because it's easier to allow a little margin of error when players cannot come to agreement on the specifics (and there are some other reasons, but I figure this suffices). Since not even modern historians can totally agree on what happened in many historical situations, I'm going to go ahead and say you're going to need a little sliver of fantasy to tackle even situation m.

As for when realism should "apply," this is a bit tricky because realism should always "apply." Even the most slapstick cartoons require some realism/verisimilitude to allow the audience to understand what's going on.

Bit Fiend
2012-01-25, 04:12 PM
I'm not too familiar with settings outside of High Fantasy so I cannot contribute on those.

I think the biggest problem in High Fantasy settings is that many don't bother explaining magic. For a magic system and it's implications to work I find it mandatory that it is thorougly explained, at least in the author's (or GM's) imagination. It has to be clear 1)what it's working principles are, 2)what limitations it has and 3)what the consumed resource in the process is, i.e. what price you have to pay to cast a spell. All this helps to shut down attempts at abuse: 1) can mean that an impossible level of skill/knowledge would be required for e.g. what most epic spells do, 2) usually means that the power of magic is just not capable of some effects (no raising dead in Dragon Age comes to mind), 3) the price for the desired effect(s) is to high for the spellcaster/universe to be able/willing to pay it (one magic train is no problem, several magic trains at once cause a lot of strain to the system... think of it like the limited amount of cpu).

Tyndmyr
2012-01-25, 04:23 PM
1. Lord of the Rings is not high magic. It is actually incredibly low magic. Aragorn is most likely a level 6 Ranger or so (judging by what is visible on screen). And is worthy of leading a nation. There are a total of 7 Magic users in the entire known continent (6 Wizards + Sauron), excepting about a dozen magical rings. Yes, there are some magic items. However, those items are few and far between.

This is not the case. Aragorn can take on tons of ringwraiths, there's a freaking magical army of the dead, dude had mad healing skills that overcame what appeared to be vile damage, had the requisite magic sword of legend(as did basically everyone in the party), There are five maiar alone(including saumon), casters such as galadriel are not maiar, but obviously magical anyway. hell, the healing by aragorn is magical, there's magical swords frigging everywhere, tom bombadil is magical, even. Plus, yknow, there's the fourteen Valar, the obviously magical ringwraiths themselves, the magical lock on the dwarven door....

Wait, there were non magical things in this series?

Middle earth is high magic.

Tavar
2012-01-25, 04:31 PM
The key is that it uses a very different magic system than DnD. This gets more obvious if one reads all of the additional lore about the world.

Also, people really should stop equating things that have the same name but are from different series. The only things that LotR Wizards and DnD Wizards share is a name and the fact that they are supernatural. LotR Wizards are effectively demigods sent to Middle Earth in order to counter Sauron, and bared from using much of their power.

Gnaeus
2012-01-25, 04:33 PM
My question is, why? Why can you not have a realistic setting with fantasy elements added on?

Lots and lots of reasons. Including:

It may be inappropriate to the Players due to age, preference, or other reasons. For example, most post-holocaust worlds, many war settings, many prisoner scenarios would logically have rape as an element. Many many players and DMs do not want to go there. Similarly, while players may enjoy having their PCs carouse at the tavern, having an angry bar-maid show up a year later with a screaming baby demanding a share in their loot is realistic, but may or may not be fun.

It is realistic for you to die if I stab you with a sword once or twice. It is realistic for even an excellent swordsman to die or be badly wounded in a fight against 3 marginally competent opponents. If you just spent 3 hours making your character and die in 30 minutes of play, most people think that isn't fun.

It is often realistic for a bad guy to kill a helpless prisoner/sleeping PC/trapped PC immediately, especially if they know that that PC is likely to eventually escape and become a threat again. Me? I totally want to see a goblin do a Coup De Grace on a paralyzed PC before he can break the spell. Many people do not like this.

Simulation is easy, realism is hard. 1d6 per 10 feet of falling distance is something I can compute without thinking about. Accurate falling damage isnt. "Realistic" combat systems (say Rolemaster, or some more detailed modern firearms systems) have lots of rolls, detailed hit charts or crit charts, and can really slow combat. Many people regard it as a bad thing.

The line between realism and fantasy may be blurry. In a world where there is a god of disease, and where I can give leprosy by saying a few words and touching my target, is there such a thing as a germ? Not that a player should ever know, but is it something the DM needs to get into to tell a story?

gbprime
2012-01-25, 05:04 PM
A made up genre with made up rules usually passes the smell test. But take a contemporary setting and add weirdness or super powers to it, and things go downhill fast.

But they don't go downhill universally. Look at the following tropes...

Fireball - you tell me a person can generate an energy which explodes like a Molotov or even an incendiary grenade? I can believe that because we know what grenades DO in real life.

Super Strength - Okay, so he can lift a city bus. But does he have LEVERAGE on it? Most parts you grab will bend or fall off under the weight of the bus... and if he chucks it at someone, where's the equal and opposite reaction part? Shouldn't that mess up his shoes or the pavement?

The first one is easy, the second takes work. Actually, a lot of things take work to get over the "suspension of disbelief" issue. And the more of them you stack on, the more you have to disassociate the game setting from reality.

Eventually you get to Tippyverse. (Why WOULDN'T you Teleport your commerce around?) :smallcool:

Talakeal
2012-01-25, 06:28 PM
Strawman. The trope you're looking for is Acceptable Breaks from Reality.

Are you saying I am making a strawman argument or I am responding to strawman arguments? Because I am not really making an argument, just trying to understand why people think "its fantasy so it doesn't need to make sense" is an acceptable basis for their argument.


1. Lord of the Rings is not high magic. It is actually incredibly low magic.
I didn't say lord of the rings was high magic, I said it was high fantasy. I.e. part of the genre which typically exists in alternate worlds with multiple races and a emphasis on good versus evil.
High fantasy and high magic are not the same. Lord of the rings is (arguably) high fantasy but low magic, while Harry Potter is (again arguably) high magic but low fantasy.


I'm not entirely sure of what you're asking because I can't seem to figure out your wording, so forgive me if this doesn't help...

Sorry, I was in a hurry when I typed up the original post (and this response) I will edit it to make it more clear later.

tribble
2012-01-25, 07:05 PM
Elven weaponry is enchanted to do that glowy blue thing as a matter of course. The Hobbit describes it as even applying to arrows. Elrond I think has some level of magic, and I know they don't call the greatest of the nine the witch-king for nothing. Beorn changes into a giant bear whenever he likes. Galadriel was doing magic long before sauron even thought of them. Denethor fought a long telepathic battle with sauron via palantir, which he lost. (although he certainly outperformed the only other wizard to use a palantir.) The wood-elves use magic to relocate a picnic several times in one day in the hobbit. Aragorn keeps a freaking armoury of magic knives on him that he distributes to the four hobbits. There's a conspiracy of talking ravens around erebor. There's a similar flight of talking eagles somewhere in the mountains. Sam sneaks about invisibly ganking orcs with the one ring and the orc's first assumption is "must be one o' those darn elves", which implies some things about elven magic, such as it being famous and widespread.

With the exception of the Galadriel bit (which could still be surmised if not confirmed even without it) I haven't even touched the silmarillion.

Middle-earth ain't faerun, but it's not nearly so unmagical as you make it out to be. It's higher magic than conan or what GRRM has released of a song of ice and fire so far. I question just how high your boundary for "low magic" is.

Fiery Diamond
2012-01-25, 08:31 PM
I think other people have responded pretty well, so I won't repeat them. I'll just add one additional factor/reason.

Rule of Cool.

Rule of Cool can be applied to different extents, too. On the extreme, you can have people saying "So what if it's impossible and doesn't make much sense at all? It's cool so we'll allow it! This is fantasy after all!" But it's a scale. Using the Rule to a lesser extent allows you to say "So what if doing spin attacks with your sword and having a sword in strange shapes don't actually work well in real life? This is fantasy, and it's cool, so why should we care about how it works in real life?"

nedz
2012-01-25, 08:58 PM
The kind of game I run is High Fantasy.

For a long time I worked on the principle that the best fantasy is that which is closest to reality. This isn't right or wrong, its just a stylistic position. What I mean is that there are laws of physics which apply to both mundane and magical effects. This is about causality, consequence of actions and believability. If you cast a fireball then once you have detonated it the mundane laws of physics immediately apply, well almost anyway.

For this to function you need a rational system of magic, ideally it will displace technology and function as its analog. Corners get cut of course: whilst there should be spells to increase plant yields, mine minerals and process them, and perhaps even mass produce widgets; these get scant support because they are dull. They still should exist, even if you just hand wave the boring bits.

Starbuck_II
2012-01-25, 09:39 PM
But they don't go downhill universally. Look at the following tropes...

Fireball - you tell me a person can generate an energy which explodes like a Molotov or even an incendiary grenade? I can believe that because we know what grenades DO in real life.

But grenades create pressure, Fireball doesn't.
Leverage is easier to believe than that.

enderlord99
2012-01-25, 11:24 PM
Look at your OP.
Now at Mark Hall's signature.
Now back at your post.
Now back at his signature.
Unfortunately, your post is not Mark Hall's signature... but it could smell like it.
The word verisimilitude is now diamonds!
I'm on a spaceship.

:smallcool:

Knaight
2012-01-25, 11:46 PM
Are you saying I am making a strawman argument or I am responding to strawman arguments? Because I am not really making an argument, just trying to understand why people think "its fantasy so it doesn't need to make sense" is an acceptable basis for their argument.
"It's fantasy so it doesn't need to make sense" isn't an argument that has been made. What has been made is "given that the general milieu of the setting has long since dispensed with realism demanding it from a particular facet is incongruous and harmful to verisimilitude", though not necessarily in such words.

huttj509
2012-01-25, 11:53 PM
A made up genre with made up rules usually passes the smell test. But take a contemporary setting and add weirdness or super powers to it, and things go downhill fast.

But they don't go downhill universally. Look at the following tropes...

Fireball - you tell me a person can generate an energy which explodes like a Molotov or even an incendiary grenade? I can believe that because we know what grenades DO in real life.

Super Strength - Okay, so he can lift a city bus. But does he have LEVERAGE on it? Most parts you grab will bend or fall off under the weight of the bus... and if he chucks it at someone, where's the equal and opposite reaction part? Shouldn't that mess up his shoes or the pavement?



I saw on a physics test a question talking about a scene from I think the Sarah Connor Chronicles where a large truck slammed into a Terminator, and the Terminator just shrugs it off without even sliding.

The goal of the question? Calculate the minimum coefficient of friction between the Terminator's feet and the ground.

Sliding a bit would be fine. Thrown into a wall and just getting up is great. Not moving at all crosses the line from "he's a badass" to "physics is broken," which if that's what you're going for, is fine, but if it's supposed to be the former, have him be a badass that reacts correctly to forces.

Then there's the famous "Superman grabbing gun barrel and bending it down." Superman has super strength. The gunman doesn't, in order to hold onto the gun as it's trying to flip put of his hands. At least Batman had a gadget that seemed to latch on to provide decent leverage on both sides of the bend point, though admittedly that scene went by quickly.

Depending on the game, different people have different areas that break their acceptable deviation from reality.

Fireballs? Fine. Firecubes? Easier to calculate (ah, ADnD fireballs in enclosed hallways, break out the calculator). Don't set things on fire? That might be a bit much for people.

Wizards who break reality regularly? Sure. Those same wizards NOT dominating the world with their power? Might need an explanation as to why. Though in a similar line I like "Sanderson's Law" for magic in stories, which is basically that if your magic is well defined and structured, you can use it to solve problems. If it's more "it's magic, no rules," using it to solve problems cheats the reader (Deus Ex Machina-style).

navar100
2012-01-26, 12:27 AM
It's not about verisimilitude. The "realism" approach is chastised because the reliance upon it forbids a fighter doing anything but "I attack" yet allows the wizard to burn people from over 400 ft away while flying invisible using bat poo. Because it's "magic", a spellcaster is allowed to do anything, but offer any "fix" to allow a warrior do fantastic things and the critics will cry "That's not realistic!" to shoot down the idea. Non-spellcasters must forever adhere to real world physics and notion of what can be done.

A fighter cannot jump 50 ft across a chasm. A wizard can just Dimension Door everyone across. A fighter cannot "hear the air" to be able to "see" invisible enemies to strike with perfect accuracy. A wizard can make people invisible all he wants. A fighter cannot hit a dragon just once and force it to make a saving throw or die. A wizard can send the dragon to another plane of existence. A fighter cannot find an inner strength to shrug off injuries for self-healing (Pre-4E). A cleric can bring the dead back to life, even if the creature died 20 years ago.

Lord Raziere
2012-01-26, 12:53 AM
Er, no, if I were to make a Wizard realistic, I would make such powerful spells very taxing in energy. flying and invisible? not possible but for the most powerful wizards in the entire world. any form of teleportation would take multiple wizards working in tandem to gather and direct the necessary energy to instant transport people so fast. fire wouldn't be nearly as controllable since its a reaction- so using magic to cause the necessary reaction to get fire that causes harm to people wouldn't exactly be controllable as a sphere of flame.

a realistic wizard are guys who can nudge how the world works and such, but can't do really powerful stuff without a lot of energy. a wizard who is god wouldn't be realistic at all. not unless the wizard spent a lot of time and effort making it so, and even then there would still be limitations and issues of energy and power; after all the energy for a spell has to come from somewhere and every action has a consequence.

basically? the more the magic deviates from reality, the more energy and effort it should take to cast it, and more consequences as a result of casting it should occur.

gbprime
2012-01-26, 01:52 AM
basically? the more the magic deviates from reality, the more energy and effort it should take to cast it, and more consequences as a result of casting it should occur.

Nice concept, but do you know any systems where it is implemented well? Mage: The Ascension, for example, does exactly this and manages to be utterly and irrevocably broken at the same time. :smallfrown:

Coidzor
2012-01-26, 02:02 AM
Well, this is actually one of the problem areas of D&D 3.X where obviously magical classes were able to get away with being a lot more competent whereas "mundane" classes were saddled with a whole bunch of unnecessary expectations that limited them and how good they could be at their jobs.

WalkingTarget
2012-01-26, 02:32 AM
Some issues: (see this old post for a longer rundown (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=4326024&postcount=3), mostly using information taken from Tolkien's published letters).

"Magic" in Middle-earth is mostly something fundamentally different from what you see in many/most other settings (literature and games).

Elvish "magic" is their ability to create things. Swords are exactly what swords should be, cloaks are cloaky, trail rations are perfect. They can fully realize their intention through their craftsmanship.


Elven weaponry is enchanted to do that glowy blue thing as a matter of course.

Not all of it - it seems to be specific to gear that was forged in Gondolin (for use in the "Goblin Wars" - the point is that they were forged to fight Orcs, so they had a built-in warning system).


The Hobbit describes it as even applying to arrows.

Debatable. There's a little bit at the beginning of the battle of 5 armies that describes flashing weapons, but it's not the same description as what the old gear from the Troll hole got.


Elrond I think has some level of magic, and I know they don't call the greatest of the nine the witch-king for nothing.

Elrond is the greatest lore-master in Middle-earth in the Third Age - a lot of the bad-guy "magic" is tied to what Tolkien calls "sorcery". We don't get a lot of detail for what that implies. The Witch-king has the general protective wards going on, sundered Frodo's sword from across the Ford of Bruinen, and has a "flames ran down the blade" effect at the Battle of the Pelennor, but a lot of what sorcery can do is up for grabs - it's inherently different from elvish "magic", though (see the confusion of the elves of Lorien when the hobbits used the same word for their gear as what's used for the work of the Enemy). Some of the biggest "magic" stuff done by the good guys is done by the Ring Bearers - which is derived, at the most basic level, from Sauron.


Beorn changes into a giant bear whenever he likes.

Yup, unexplained by anything else Tolkien discusses. I chalk it up to something written into the story before he tied The Hobbit into his larger Arda myths.


Galadriel was doing magic long before sauron even thought of them.

:smallconfused: Like what (other than the general elvish "making perfect things" stuff)?


Denethor fought a long telepathic battle with sauron via palantir, which he lost. (although he certainly outperformed the only other wizard to use a palantir.)

Not sure if he had a real battle (like Aragorn had). Denethor was just plain deceived. Sauron let him see stuff, always things that would make him despair, rather than just mindcrushing him outright.


The wood-elves use magic to relocate a picnic several times in one day in the hobbit.

See Beorn comment.


Aragorn keeps a freaking armoury of magic knives on him that he distributes to the four hobbits.

Aragorn gave them the blades in the films - where they were never mentioned as being special in any way. In the book they got the blades of Numenor from a barrow raised during the war with Angmar (and therefore the Witch-king - again the weapon tailored to the foe).


There's a conspiracy of talking ravens around erebor. There's a similar flight of talking eagles somewhere in the mountains.

The Thrushes at Erebor could understand the speech of men and some Men of Dale could understand them in turn. The Eagles are a special case, themselves, where they are the personal servants of Manwe, leader of the Valar.


Sam sneaks about invisibly ganking orcs with the one ring and the orc's first assumption is "must be one o' those darn elves", which implies some things about elven magic, such as it being famous and widespread.

They figure that it's some great high-elf hero - who are indeed mighty (especially compared to your run of the mill orc - a single elf intimidated Morgoth, Glorfindel and Ecthelion both took out Balrogs single-handed at the cost of their own lives - they have a terrible inner-fire) - an impression they had based on the fact that somebody fought off Shelob. Sam scares some orcs off here and there due to the light of Sting and the presence of the Ring making him seem greater than he was - reinforcing their expectations of the intruder. The only one he "ganks" is Snaga, who dies from a fall during a scuffle with Sam rather than swordplay (and after getting to the main gate he's not even wearing the Ring).


With the exception of the Galadriel bit (which could still be surmised if not confirmed even without it) I haven't even touched the silmarillion.

Middle-earth ain't faerun, but it's not nearly so unmagical as you make it out to be. It's higher magic than conan or what GRRM has released of a song of ice and fire so far. I question just how high your boundary for "low magic" is.

It's an intensely magical setting, agreed, just not in the way that most people expect these days. :smallsmile:

Lord Raziere
2012-01-26, 02:42 AM
Nice concept, but do you know any systems where it is implemented well? Mage: The Ascension, for example, does exactly this and manages to be utterly and irrevocably broken at the same time. :smallfrown:

same with Mage the Awakening unfortunately, but at least there is Paradox…

it may be the five-dot scale thing and the low mana costs. too abstract and too fast to advance. if it were more realistic, things like Forces, Matter and Mind would cost less, while Time, Space and Fate would be one of the most expensive spells to cast, and so on and so forth. manipulating matter into a different shape is one thing and is done often in real life. manipulating time however is entirely another would take loads of energy to cast….maybe even enough to power an entire city.

and then there is Life, in Awakening its easy. but if I were to do any magic involving the manipulation of biology realistically, it would be far more complex than most magic and would require a very precise mind, or a team of wizards all working together to control the magic to toy with the body just right. it wouldn't take that much energy, just lots and lots of control because biology is very complex.
and of course, while Mind stuff is simpler, its still more complex than simple matter and energy, because you have people thinking thoughts all the time and you trying to get into their heads, which could potentially damage said heads. you'd still need a lot of control to fool with minds.

basically? I'd take a look at all the things magic could do, then rank how complex and powerful they are- the more power and complexity it takes, the harder it would be do such magic. more power means you need more energy, more complexity means you need more control. the most complex and powerful thing magic can do of course, is reality-warping. the least powerful and simplest things are simply what you can ordinarily already do, just with magic.

truthfully I don't there is any rpg magic system out there that is realistic by my definition. even the limited powers of MMO blaster wizards are unrealistic -nevermind the wizardly gods of 3.5, Ascension and Awakening. I mean in Awakening alone rewinding time for a few seconds is at the same level of effort as manipulating light or sound, which realistically? isn't anywhere near each other.

Talakeal
2012-01-26, 03:57 AM
"It's fantasy so it doesn't need to make sense" isn't an argument that has been made. What has been made is "given that the general milieu of the setting has long since dispensed with realism demanding it from a particular facet is incongruous and harmful to verisimilitude", though not necessarily in such words.

While the second phrasing is more accurate and eloquent, the core of the argument is basically the same. Personally, I don't think most settings have dispensed with realism as a matter of course, and I certainly don't think expecting the areas where it hasn't explicitly violated reality to conform to it is breaking verisimilitude.

Most fantasy settings I see break from reality in only three major ways:

The presence of gods / ghosts / spirits that exist outside our dimension and subtly influence the world.
The presence of magical beasts, items, or sometimes places that draw upon some supra-normal energy source to violate the laws of thermodynamics to varying degrees.
And of course, some people can alter reality by casting spells of various sorts.

There are also abstractions made for game mechanics reasons, but those aren't (in my mind) intrinsically tied to the setting, merely the limitations of the tabletop format.

One of the main goals of fantasy literature, especially science fiction, is asking "What if?" What if the dead rose from the grave to consume the living? What if a man existed who could fly and was impervious to bullets? What if humanity was besieged by invaders from another planet or dimension? If you don't have a concrete notion of what is normal, these "what if?" questions cannot accurately by answered.

As for people not saying "It's fantasy so it doesn't need to make sense", I saw three different versions of this in three separate pages this morning, which is why I was prompted to make this post. I am not trying to make a straw man argument or play dumb, it really seemed like that was what people were saying.
For example in one thread, I believe it was the one about 7 tips for being a great DM, someone said that a in a world where a mage can learn to shoot fireballs from their elbows that there is no reason why a level 1 character cannot be considered an epic hero. (Forgive me if I am misquoting the original, I can't find the specific post, hopefully someone can point me to it). What does the face that wizards existing in the setting have to do with the power dynamic of the setting? One might as well simply say "It is all make believe anyways, so who cares if it doesn't make sense."


It's not about verisimilitude. The "realism" approach is chastised because the reliance upon it forbids a fighter doing anything but "I attack" yet allows the wizard to burn people from over 400 ft away while flying invisible using bat poo. Because it's "magic", a spellcaster is allowed to do anything, but offer any "fix" to allow a warrior do fantastic things and the critics will cry "That's not realistic!" to shoot down the idea. Non-spellcasters must forever adhere to real world physics and notion of what can be done.

A fighter cannot jump 50 ft across a chasm. A wizard can just Dimension Door everyone across. A fighter cannot "hear the air" to be able to "see" invisible enemies to strike with perfect accuracy. A wizard can make people invisible all he wants. A fighter cannot hit a dragon just once and force it to make a saving throw or die. A wizard can send the dragon to another plane of existence. A fighter cannot find an inner strength to shrug off injuries for self-healing (Pre-4E). A cleric can bring the dead back to life, even if the creature died 20 years ago.

It's funny, I am in the realism camp and I only play martial characters. To me having occasional supernatural elements in the setting adds an element of mystery and a fun challenge, but actually playing an obviously supernatural character is cheating.
I also don't see why a "realistic" setting innately favors spell casters (although D&D certainly does). Imagine a setting where fighters had monk saves, rogue skills, barbarian HP, twice as many feats, and a few actual class features. This character would play more or less realistically (although the HP system can get a bit wonky at times).
On the other hand spell casters could have all sorts of limitations on their power, and many settings do. Remove all the broken spells. Make spell casting take hours of concentration. Make spell casting very difficult or imprecise. Spell casting fatigues or even kills wizards. Spell casting attracts the attention of evil spirits who must be bribed. To target another person you need to make a voodoo doll using their hair and true name.
Just because magic gives you a free pass to make it up as you go along doesn't mean you have to make it all powerful and free of downsides.

Rakmakallan
2012-01-26, 07:06 AM
To me, it boils down to people's escapism. They play RPGs to act something different from their realistic and bland, worldly lives, thus preferring otherworldly and supernatural elements. Simply put, different is good. Even in this case though, the setting is expected to behave consistently upon itself, i.e. verisimilitude.

Another issue is the rules, and how well they tie with realism, but I'm not going to delve into this.

Personally, I am a fan of realism with fantastical elements mixed in, but only if they can be explained by contemporary logic and science. By this creed I got: 1) no deities, spirits, planes, teleporting, time-manipulation etc.
2) Magic has to be explained by physics and chemistry, all magic basically being chemical reactions scaled in size and speed.
3) The existence of all creatures has to be explained by evolution. This automatically kicks out demons, displacer beast, and pretty much everything supernatural. Dragons, however, are fair game as a branch that deviated from Archosauria and developed differently, for example exporting metal-containing vesicles under their skin cells to function as hide.
4) The world is deadly. One random sword thrust can kill you (even though it's not very common), you can lose limbs and organs and healing magic does not exist to help you, neither you can be ressurected. Fall from 10'? Congratulations, you broke a leg and a few ribs, shut up and stand still for 2 months until they heal.

gkathellar
2012-01-26, 07:53 AM
Everything has a logic to it. Even Loony Toons has rules — rules which are chiefly built around being funny to the audience. When the audience are themselves the source of a story's rules, I would call this external consistency.

The issue you seem to be raising with fantasy is that sometimes people prefer external consistency to internal consistency — that is to say, they prefer it make sense within their own personal framework of understanding (for which "it's magic" is a viable answer) than that it present its own framework of understanding (for which magic has to have some kind of ruleset).

You just have to think of this as a different set of assumptions about where rules come from. Those looking for internal consistency want to have fun by identifying and living within new rules and a new logic, while those looking for external consistency want to have fun by misapplying or ignoring the rules and logic they're familiar with.

Aotrs Commander
2012-01-26, 07:55 AM
I have some sympathy with the OP's question - I have seen that point brought up several times - again, usually in the cast/noncaster debate. I have occasionally, both here and on the WotC boards over the years, geniunely seen people before claim that as magic exists, and because D&D's rules are designed for ease-of-use, rather than simulation (or are hold-overs from more arbitary rules), that realism should be ignored.

I am a simulationist, at heart. (And I am not actually a huge fan of "rule of cool" because what you think is cool and what I do is likely to be very different.) I unilateral work on the basis that, whatever game I'm playing, the rules - and all their flaws - are nothing more than an imperfect abstraction of the "real" world. The flaws in D&D's rules, I consider to be flaws in the rules, not a flaw in the "real" world. You plays your rules system, you lives (or you attempts to fix) with it's drawbacks.

Were one to play in say Rolemaster, as I do sometimes, for example, the casters are very definately not overpowered; in fact I've had to houserule them up something rotten to remain competative in the sci-fi games we play in. So far, really the best thing the party's Archmage can do, is to cast Haste on the party, which basically doubles their activity in a round... Lightning Bolt just doesn't compare to energy weapons, particularly as the mage's OB often lags way behind those of the noncasters, and the mages don't get equipment to help them nearly so easily.

I work the from on the basis that everything is mundane and functions as due to physics unless specifically called out otherwise, due to magic and/or technology, and for the former, there are also rules and functions or a sort. Creatures have some sort of origin - mostly evolutionary, though magical creation exists, it is essentially achived through magical manipulation of DNA (though the world's denizen would not know it by those terms.)

I write all my world-building fluff - and everything else - as if it were the "real" world, and accomodate the game rules as secondary. One of the reasons I don't like 4E is that it's not similuationist enough for my tastes. 3.5 is not, frankly legions better, but in my opinion, it is built the right way around, and can the abtractions can be interpreted enough, on a case-by-case basis, that the balance it strikes between game and "reality" is reasonable enough for me to use. (If I wanted more "real", I'd use Rolemaster... Which is, incidently, a much better system for modelling Middle-Earth and indeed, did so for a long time.)

My main campaign world is one that I primarily designed for D&D, but would not be impossible to model in, say, Rolemaster, were I to choose the time to do so. The world fluff works from a heavily historical basis, on which magic gets slapped on the top. (Though notably, this world is much less magic-item heavy, so I have adjusted the rules mechanics to fit; everyone gets level-based static bonuses to gear instead, so magic items are only there to "do stuff" - and anyone not packing a ranged weapon will die a horribly bloody death against the fairly numerous flying enemies - and some of the more abusive spells have been curbed back.) The modelled result, would of course, be a different game to D&D, but the "real" world mechanics behind it would be the same.

navar100
2012-01-26, 10:58 AM
It's funny, I am in the realism camp and I only play martial characters. To me having occasional supernatural elements in the setting adds an element of mystery and a fun challenge, but actually playing an obviously supernatural character is cheating.
I also don't see why a "realistic" setting innately favors spell casters (although D&D certainly does). Imagine a setting where fighters had monk saves, rogue skills, barbarian HP, twice as many feats, and a few actual class features. This character would play more or less realistically (although the HP system can get a bit wonky at times).
On the other hand spell casters could have all sorts of limitations on their power, and many settings do. Remove all the broken spells. Make spell casting take hours of concentration. Make spell casting very difficult or imprecise. Spell casting fatigues or even kills wizards. Spell casting attracts the attention of evil spirits who must be bribed. To target another person you need to make a voodoo doll using their hair and true name.
Just because magic gives you a free pass to make it up as you go along doesn't mean you have to make it all powerful and free of downsides.

If wizards have to risk death to cast a spell, then admit already you hate players casting spells and play some other game. It's not the wizard's fault the fighter can't jump across the chasm. Don't punish the spellcaster to make the warrior feel better. It does not offend me the wizard can teleport or the cleric can bring (un)life to the dead. The point is not against spellcasting. The point is not to deny warriors being able to do nifty things because it's not "realistic". Let everyone shine in awesomeness rather than everyone dwell in misery of ineptitude. Both are "balanced", but only one of them does not hate player characters being "powerful".

Mark Hall
2012-01-26, 11:34 AM
Look at your OP.
Now at Mark Hall's signature.
Now back at your post.
Now back at his signature.
Unfortunately, your post is not Mark Hall's signature... but it could smell like it.
The word verisimilitude is now diamonds!
I'm on a spaceship.

:smallcool:

I gotta admit... I giggled at this.

Knaight
2012-01-26, 11:38 AM
If wizards have to risk death to cast a spell, then admit already you hate players casting spells and play some other game. It's not the wizard's fault the fighter can't jump across the chasm. Don't punish the spellcaster to make the warrior feel better. It does not offend me the wizard can teleport or the cleric can bring (un)life to the dead. The point is not against spellcasting. The point is not to deny warriors being able to do nifty things because it's not "realistic". Let everyone shine in awesomeness rather than everyone dwell in misery of ineptitude. Both are "balanced", but only one of them does not hate player characters being "powerful".

So settings where magic is risky are just inherently horrible and indicative of GMs that hate the players playing mages? Really? Sometimes, people want to play games where every character does not "shine in awesomeness", where every character is not "powerful". Sometimes people want to play relatively normal people, or those just a bit beyond the rest, which can mean limited, low power magic to fit. Sometimes people just want to break out the high powered wuxia. Both of these are valid, and the normal people option is not a GM hating the players having power, or a game "dwelling in the misery of ineptitude".

Mike_G
2012-01-26, 01:13 PM
I feel the OP's pain. Too ofdten has a discussion of some mechanic and whether ior not it seems reasonable been answered with "If llizards can fly, who give's a rat's that a 15th level fighter can walk away from a fall at terminal velocity?"

It's not the same thing. There's no reason a game can't have a realistic-ish mechanic for jumping or climbing or wouns and still have spells and monsters.

As far as "magic is altering physics! Of course it's better than swinging a pointy stick!" Spells can be as powerful or as weak as the designers want. Magic has no clear real world annalogue. You can make a system where a fall of 30 feet is hard to survive unscathed, based on real life, or work out decent odd of dropping a guys with an arrow, but magic can be calibrated wherever you want.

A gage match of David Copperfield versus a Navy SEAL would pretty much refute "magic beats brawn" in all settings.

There are plenty of sytems where casting spells is useful, but diesn't make you superman. In GURPS, you can put all your points in magic and be powerful, but not much more powerful than if you put all your points in combat skills. In 1st edition, you weren't superman until very high level, since casters had a bunch of weaknesses to offset the power of spells. 3e really tilted the tabel toward the casters by removing most of those weaknesses.

Talakeal
2012-01-26, 02:25 PM
If wizards have to risk death to cast a spell, then admit already you hate players casting spells and play some other game. It's not the wizard's fault the fighter can't jump across the chasm. Don't punish the spellcaster to make the warrior feel better. It does not offend me the wizard can teleport or the cleric can bring (un)life to the dead. The point is not against spellcasting. The point is not to deny warriors being able to do nifty things because it's not "realistic". Let everyone shine in awesomeness rather than everyone dwell in misery of ineptitude. Both are "balanced", but only one of them does not hate player characters being "powerful".

I agree that an all or nothing "Russian roulette" casting system is stupid, it was just an example of something some games (WHFRP for example) do to tone down wizards. If I were to design such a system I would prefer something like "you take damage equal to the spell level" and if you kill yourself as a result it is your own choice.

If you want everyone to be powerful, why not play a fantasy super hero game like Exalted, or hell, just free form RP a game where everyone is omnipotent.

I prefer a fantasy somewhere between Conan and LotR, with a little bit of Greek and Arthurian mythology thrown in. Amazing things do happen, but they are usually the work of the gods. Not saying that this is the only system, or the intent of any given published system (certainly D&D hasn't been for a long while), but it is still how I prefer fantasy. I like my heroes like Achilles (Iliad version), Beowulf, Conan, Aragorn, or even Batman or Eastwood's man with no name, guys who are larger than life and more skilled / gifted than most anyone in the real world, but still essentially human. To insist I have to bump them up to super hero / wizard levels kills the game for me.

3.5 isn't the ideal system for me, but even that is fine so long as the DM bans or nerfs a couple of the truly broken spells and doesn't allow a 15 minute adventuring day. Although I admit when we play we do usually allow martial characters to gestalt with fighter so they have enough feats and skills to actually contribute in multiple situations.

navar100
2012-01-26, 02:36 PM
So settings where magic is risky are just inherently horrible and indicative of GMs that hate the players playing mages? Really? Sometimes, people want to play games where every character does not "shine in awesomeness", where every character is not "powerful". Sometimes people want to play relatively normal people, or those just a bit beyond the rest, which can mean limited, low power magic to fit. Sometimes people just want to break out the high powered wuxia. Both of these are valid, and the normal people option is not a GM hating the players having power, or a game "dwelling in the misery of ineptitude".

Call of Cthulu. Enjoy.
Paranoia. Enjoy.
Shadowrun. Enjoy.
This is D&D. That is, I was talking about D&D. The main topic is valid for any game, but my response was in reference to D&D as to why fighters can't have nice things because it's not realistic yet wizards can burn people with bat poo because it's magic.

Mark Hall
2012-01-26, 02:41 PM
Call of Cthulu. Enjoy.
Paranoia. Enjoy.
Shadowrun. Enjoy.
This is D&D. That is, I was talking about D&D. The main topic is valid for any game, but my response was in reference to D&D as to why fighters can't have nice things because it's not realistic yet wizards can burn people with bat poo because it's magic.

This is General. No guarantee we're talking about D&D.

Mike_G
2012-01-26, 03:16 PM
Call of Cthulu. Enjoy.
Paranoia. Enjoy.
Shadowrun. Enjoy.
This is D&D. That is, I was talking about D&D. The main topic is valid for any game, but my response was in reference to D&D as to why fighters can't have nice things because it's not realistic yet wizards can burn people with bat poo because it's magic.


But even in D&D, that doesn't have to be, and wasn't always, and even now *isn't* the case, at least with Fireball.

A 5th level Wizard can burn you with magical fire for about 18 poiints of damage. A 5th level Fighter can hit you with a sword, for probably more damage.

The fireball has some advantages, like range, area of effect and the added aspect of setting some stuff on fire.

So it's unique. It's a bit different. There are times when hacking one bad guy for more damage is better, and times when hitting several distant enemies, wheile igniting the haylof the archers are hiding in is better. But it's not a simple case of "Magic is freakin awesome! Cause it's MAGIC!!! But swinging a sharp thing is kinda lame, becasue anybody can do that."

It's a balanced spell that works in a faux medieval fantasy world. It doesn't make armies obsolete any mroe than hand grenades made rifles obsolete. It's a spell that is cool and flashy and does soemthing a bit different than a sword, but works within the mechanics of the game.

So, yeah, even D&D as God--er--Gygax intended, can work like the OP wants it to.

nightwyrm
2012-01-26, 03:45 PM
One thing that always bothers me when talk of realism comes up is that what one considers "realistic" is highly dependent on that person's knowledge and the tropes he feels comfortable with.

Let's pick an example of a supers game where the villain invents a ray gun that can enlarge an ant to the size of an elephant. To someone who is comfortable with the comic books genre, that is acceptable and he may find no problem with it in terms of realism. To someone who knows about the square-cube law, it would be stupid that the ant doesn't collapse under its own weight. Or take the case of X-Men. To somebody who have a good understanding of biology and genetics, the idea that a mutant gene can allow you to fly or control the weather is completely unrealistic. On the other hand, even if someone knows that it is unrealistic, he may not have a problem with it because he is familiar with the genre and is comfortable with those tropes.

For myself, I grew up reading/watching anime and wuxia so I am familiar and comfortable with those tropes. So even if I know they're unrealistic, I'm don't have a problem even if those tropes shows up in other genres.

Yikes, I guess I rambled on a bit but I had just want to point out that a lot of the talk and disagreement about breaking verisimilitude can come down to a person's background knowledge and whether someone is comfortable with that break in reality due to other external factors (books/movies/TV shows he's grown up with etc.).

Morty
2012-01-26, 04:12 PM
I think that when talking about lack of realism in games, we can distinguish between intentional lack of realism and unintentional lack of realism. The former is when the goal is that a particular element simply does not conform to laws of physics - because of magic, cinematic feel or anything else - and the latter is when an element is supposed to be realistic, but isn't.

Knaight
2012-01-26, 05:45 PM
One thing that always bothers me when talk of realism comes up is that what one considers "realistic" is highly dependent on that person's knowledge and the tropes he feels comfortable with.

It's less that the tropes one feels comfortable with determine realism, and more that they are acceptable breaks. For instance, I am aware of the numerous reasons non-guided weapons would be terrible for space combat at extreme ranges, and have even run calculations on how variation in aim over the length of a barrel as measured by the displacement of the end alter angles and determine the size of targets that can be hit at varying distances (short version: If you have a kilometer long gun, and you can control the tip to the point where you are off by about the size of a single small molecule, you might be able to hit a several kilometer wide target at one light minute. Maybe.) which doesn't prevent me from running space opera style battles where people are shooting lasers at each other at extreme distances. I'm aware of how medieval combat actually works to the point where I know full well how completely and utterly wrong wuxia is from a realism perspective. That doesn't stop me from simulating wuxia. As for your square cube law example, I am also well aware of it - yet I have no problem when it is broken in fantasy. The difference between realism and acceptable variation from reality is clear, and what goes in what categories similarly clear - though it may still be wrong, in some cases.

Coidzor
2012-01-26, 07:44 PM
So settings where magic is risky are just inherently horrible and indicative of GMs that hate the players playing mages? Really?

It certainly seems to have a rather high chance of being traced back to some kind of bitterness on the GM's part, at least when it's been brought up on these boards in my experience, which, admittedly, can be pretty vastly different from others' experience, as I miss the threads where ToB is brought up in a rude way that so frequently get complained about and spark high volume ToB discussion threads.

At least, where the change is being done by the GM, rather than the system itself being set up that way from the get go, like, say, Dark Heresy. But then again, Dark Heresy is, in my experience, largely treated as a game one plays to watch how horribly the characters manage to die or mess up the universe.

Tyndmyr
2012-01-27, 10:35 AM
It certainly seems to have a rather high chance of being traced back to some kind of bitterness on the GM's part, at least when it's been brought up on these boards in my experience, which, admittedly, can be pretty vastly different from others' experience, as I miss the threads where ToB is brought up in a rude way that so frequently get complained about and spark high volume ToB discussion threads.

Here's the issue...it's not that low magic/chancy magic is inherently bad...it's that it tends to be used by poor DMs, much like low wealth, as a way of disempowering players because the DM dislikes those players tampering with his beloved plot or the like.

While a good DM could use the exact same elements in an entirely different way, I admit that mention of certain things tends to make me avoid certain games entirely. Things like "critical hit tables" and "random magical effects" are pretty high on that list.

Starbuck_II
2012-01-27, 12:00 PM
Or take the case of X-Men. To somebody who have a good understanding of biology and genetics, the idea that a mutant gene can allow you to fly or control the weather is completely unrealistic.

Actually, science has yet to discount telekinesis or weather control.
Flight is either/or
a. personal telekinesis
b. control over ones own gravity (thus you reduce it from being pulled down allowing you to jump farther), etc
c. wings (then we get to aerodynamic issue though)

Weather control is simpler. But either way, science has supported "nature is smater than you" theorem coined by Orgel's rule.

Talakeal
2012-01-27, 02:49 PM
Actually, science has yet to discount telekinesis or weather control.
Flight is either/or
a. personal telekinesis
b. control over ones own gravity (thus you reduce it from being pulled down allowing you to jump farther), etc
c. wings (then we get to aerodynamic issue though)

Weather control is simpler. But either way, science has supported "nature is smater than you" theorem coined by Orgel's rule.

I find most extraordinary creature abilities pretty easy to swallow, even if they seem to bend the laws of physics. Billions of years of evolution (or whatever higher power you might believe in) have had a lot more time to work out these issues than human scientists have, and there are lots of animals in the real world that do some pretty crazy things.

Still, a lot of the so called "super powers" I would deem as "supernatural" abilities using D&D technology, and would require something beyond normal physics such as manipulating quantum probability or utilizing extra-dimensional energy sources. The human brain simply doesn't have energy output for telekinesis on that scale.

If you tell me your supernatural being can fly with telekinesis, that's cool and fine by me, and although I probably won't play such a character (as I said supernatural powers feel like challenges when used by NPCs and a cheat code when used by PCs) I have no problem with it being part of the setting or an option for other PCs. If you tell me your mundane being can do something obviously supernatural without utilizing magic (crusader I am looking at you) then I have problems.

Coidzor
2012-01-27, 07:13 PM
Here's the issue...it's not that low magic/chancy magic is inherently bad...it's that it tends to be used by poor DMs, much like low wealth, as a way of disempowering players because the DM dislikes those players tampering with his beloved plot or the like.

While a good DM could use the exact same elements in an entirely different way, I admit that mention of certain things tends to make me avoid certain games entirely. Things like "critical hit tables" and "random magical effects" are pretty high on that list.

Yeah, basically. It sets off my danger sense and makes me less willing to trust that person as a DM.

Knaight
2012-01-27, 11:00 PM
Here's the issue...it's not that low magic/chancy magic is inherently bad...it's that it tends to be used by poor DMs, much like low wealth, as a way of disempowering players because the DM dislikes those players tampering with his beloved plot or the like.
I'd say that low magic/chancy magic, grafted onto a system like D&D is probably a warning sign. That said, the original presentation of it was that it meant the GM hated the players using magic, in any system - which has since been retracted.

SilverLeaf167
2012-01-28, 09:43 AM
In a novel of sorts I'm writing at the time, magic is limited simply by the fact that most spells tend to take a while to cast and aren't really even that powerful, while all casters are extremely specialized. For example, the main protagonist is only able to cast his most basic spells, such as creating torchlight from his hand or moving around light objects with telekinesis, from memory and with a single chant.
He is a summoning/creation specialist, which means that he is only capable of casting the most basic spells of other schools. Even in his field of expertise, he is only capable of conjuring mundane items and some small animals, and even that requires him to read aloud from his spellbook for multiple seconds, which can still be very useful, but only if he realizes how to use it to its maximum potential.

On the other hand, we have healers, who also are extremely specialized due to only being able to do that one thing. Their magic is like advanced medical technology taken a little bit further, rather than "Poke! Back to full health!". For example, they are capable of treating near-fatal wounds with spells, but the subject has to lie down and the healer has to chant for a while. After that is done, depending on the severity of the wound and the skill of the healer, the patient might still have to rest for a while before returning to action and may still require other treatment such as bandages and medicine. Resurrection is the stuff of legends, something which nobody considers plausible. Attempts in healing the dead have only resulted in very healthy-looking corpses and in the worst cases, reanimation as undead.


So basically, magic is very complicated and requires of years of training to learn, on top of extreme specialization on the caster's part (in D&D terms: specialize in one school, capability in other schools limited to cantrips) and still doesn't give most of them that much power. To make up for it, they only run out of spells after some serious spamming. Many consider their magical insight to be more useful for crafting rather than actual casting. I think this gives casters a reason to exist without being overpowered.

jseah
2012-01-28, 02:33 PM
Firstly, this is a subject that I normally get pretty involved in, so apologies if this gets way too long.

RE OP: The point at which logic and realism (or verisimilitude as clarified by later posts) is needed for me to treat the game or story seriously is at point B.

Anything other than blatant nonsensical comedy (because not-funny nonsense is too stupid to tolerate) needs to have internal rules that it obeys, and obeys strictly. No exceptions.

That's not to say that the reader/player has access to those rules, or that the rules are even completely laid out. Edge cases will always occur and rules governing those can be left vague or as guiding principles; and what characters 'know' is not necessarily true.


Secondly, and I think this will generate some disagreement, a story or game should stand on its own, as a fictional reality that we create and exists independent of us or the real world.
This means that the internal rules of the fictional reality should never ever be made with considerations to reality. Meta-elements that do not exist in the fictional reality must not be reflected in the rules. "Because it is fun" or "we find it cool" or "it's just easier that way" are lazy and does a disservice to the story or game.

That's not to say that we cannot make fun games or interesting stories. Making rules that result in "fun" is ok, making rules that say "have fun" is not.
They are guiding elements to constructing the fiction. They are NOT the fiction.
A quote to keep in mind from John von Neumann: "With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk". By defining parameters and how they behave, you can make your fictional reality do anything at all, and still be able to extrapolate to handle edge cases.


With those two principles, the fictional reality that results from its internal rules is perfectly normal from the inside. While it is not reality, and may look nothing like it, it follows its own rules, which hopefully generate interesting and fun and cool results/games/stories.

The key part is that by having a fundamental set of rules/parameters laid down, the writer or player or reader can explore the behaviour implied in those rules as well as the setting in general.
Writers and GMs and players can *use* it in clever ways and it makes perfect sense. From the inside. I think Sanderson's first law of magic was mentioned up-thread, a fantasy constructed this way can, in principle, be perfectly understood and still be able to do many many things.

A fictional reality that follows these holds more depth and breadth for the reader or players to explore, and thus is more interesting and fun to play or read about.

Kioku
2012-01-28, 03:59 PM
I think every setting should follow its own rules of how things work, but I try to go for a good realism level in everything C and up, because that's where it fits.

Fiery Diamond
2012-01-28, 06:25 PM
Response time!

Oh, note: not everything I say in the responses is directed at the person quoted; sometimes I just use the quote as a springboard.


Er, no, if I were to make a Wizard realistic, I would make such powerful spells very taxing in energy. flying and invisible? not possible but for the most powerful wizards in the entire world. any form of teleportation would take multiple wizards working in tandem to gather and direct the necessary energy to instant transport people so fast. fire wouldn't be nearly as controllable since its a reaction- so using magic to cause the necessary reaction to get fire that causes harm to people wouldn't exactly be controllable as a sphere of flame.

a realistic wizard are guys who can nudge how the world works and such, but can't do really powerful stuff without a lot of energy. a wizard who is god wouldn't be realistic at all. not unless the wizard spent a lot of time and effort making it so, and even then there would still be limitations and issues of energy and power; after all the energy for a spell has to come from somewhere and every action has a consequence.

basically? the more the magic deviates from reality, the more energy and effort it should take to cast it, and more consequences as a result of casting it should occur.

And what does this have to do with realism? No, I mean it. "The more magic deviates from reality, the more energy and effort it should ..." Should? Why? Magic doesn't exist in reality, so what boundaries and limitations exist on magic has absolutely no relationship to realism whatsoever. Yes, it may be that you find such settings as you describe more palatable, but that has absolutely nothing to do with realism.


Everything has a logic to it. Even Loony Toons has rules — rules which are chiefly built around being funny to the audience. When the audience are themselves the source of a story's rules, I would call this external consistency.

The issue you seem to be raising with fantasy is that sometimes people prefer external consistency to internal consistency — that is to say, they prefer it make sense within their own personal framework of understanding (for which "it's magic" is a viable answer) than that it present its own framework of understanding (for which magic has to have some kind of ruleset).

You just have to think of this as a different set of assumptions about where rules come from. Those looking for internal consistency want to have fun by identifying and living within new rules and a new logic, while those looking for external consistency want to have fun by misapplying or ignoring the rules and logic they're familiar with.

This is true, and a good point. Some people on this thread have made the claim that "without having a basic standard that looks like reality for the non-magical stuff, you can't judge what's normal or special in that setting!" This is patently false, and, and the person I quote indicates, sometimes beside the point.


So settings where magic is risky are just inherently horrible and indicative of GMs that hate the players playing mages? Really? Sometimes, people want to play games where every character does not "shine in awesomeness", where every character is not "powerful". Sometimes people want to play relatively normal people, or those just a bit beyond the rest, which can mean limited, low power magic to fit. Sometimes people just want to break out the high powered wuxia. Both of these are valid, and the normal people option is not a GM hating the players having power, or a game "dwelling in the misery of ineptitude".

I completely agree. It just seems to me that most of the people who are holding up realism as some sort of gold standard that settings should emulate for their explicitly non-magical parts are discounting that to some people, having the explicitly non-magical resemble reality is not necessary or even desirable.


I feel the OP's pain. Too ofdten has a discussion of some mechanic and whether ior not it seems reasonable been answered with "If llizards can fly, who give's a rat's that a 15th level fighter can walk away from a fall at terminal velocity?"

It's not the same thing. There's no reason a game can't have a realistic-ish mechanic for jumping or climbing or wouns and still have spells and monsters.

As far as "magic is altering physics! Of course it's better than swinging a pointy stick!" Spells can be as powerful or as weak as the designers want. Magic has no clear real world annalogue. You can make a system where a fall of 30 feet is hard to survive unscathed, based on real life, or work out decent odd of dropping a guys with an arrow, but magic can be calibrated wherever you want.

True, there's no reason that you MUST discount realism as a goal. But there's also no reason that you MUST accept realism as a goal. You can design a system where non-magical things are calibrated however you like as well, you know. Magic is called magic within the setting for a reason, and that reason doesn't need to be "because it breaks real-world physics." The fictional-world physics don't need to be the same as real-world physics, after all.


One thing that always bothers me when talk of realism comes up is that what one considers "realistic" is highly dependent on that person's knowledge and the tropes he feels comfortable with.

Agreed, but see the next one.


It's less that the tropes one feels comfortable with determine realism, and more that they are acceptable breaks.

*snip*

The difference between realism and acceptable variation from reality is clear, and what goes in what categories similarly clear - though it may still be wrong, in some cases.

Also correct. They may be wrong, as you note, based on the person's knowledge of reality. There is a difference between someone being fine with the square-cube law being broken and someone thinking that if an elephant can be that big, there's no scientific reason an ant can't be (because they aren't aware of that law). But here's the thing: ultimately, it doesn't matter. The person who's cool with a break from reality and the person who isn't aware that it's a break from reality are both having fun, and neither person is having issues with suspension of disbelief. Besides, we're not all experts on everything, so ultimately any setting created by one person or a small group of people is going to have elements that unintentionally differ from reality (and therefore aren't adhering to realism). This is not a problem, it is an inevitability. So why rally so hard for realism?

Besides, some people actually want more breaks from reality than actual realism in what they play/read/watch. There's no issue with that, either.


I find most extraordinary creature abilities pretty easy to swallow, even if they seem to bend the laws of physics. Billions of years of evolution (or whatever higher power you might believe in) have had a lot more time to work out these issues than human scientists have, and there are lots of animals in the real world that do some pretty crazy things.

Still, a lot of the so called "super powers" I would deem as "supernatural" abilities using D&D technology, and would require something beyond normal physics such as manipulating quantum probability or utilizing extra-dimensional energy sources. The human brain simply doesn't have energy output for telekinesis on that scale.

If you tell me your supernatural being can fly with telekinesis, that's cool and fine by me, and although I probably won't play such a character (as I said supernatural powers feel like challenges when used by NPCs and a cheat code when used by PCs) I have no problem with it being part of the setting or an option for other PCs. If you tell me your mundane being can do something obviously supernatural without utilizing magic (crusader I am looking at you) then I have problems.

Right, you have problems. So go ahead and steer clear of those things if you want. But don't complain that they're somehow bad in general, because there are plenty of other people who DON'T have problems with them. In fact, there are plenty of people who find that preferable to maintaining realism.

Okay, for this next one, I'm going to insert my responses into the quote as bold type.


Firstly, this is a subject that I normally get pretty involved in, so apologies if this gets way too long.

RE OP: The point at which logic and realism (or verisimilitude as clarified by later posts) is needed for me to treat the game or story seriously is at point B.

Anything other than blatant nonsensical comedy (because not-funny nonsense is too stupid to tolerate) needs to have internal rules that it obeys, and obeys strictly. No exceptions.

Assuming you're saying that this is necessary for your enjoyment, this is a perfectly acceptable thing to say. If, however, you intend this to be prescriptive of games/fiction in general, you are blatantly wrong. See the post which mentions Loony Toons above: sometimes things rely on external rules. Sometimes these mean temporarily violating the internal rules. And before you point out that Loony Toons falls under your "blatant nonsensical comedy" category, these things are not limited to things which are solely comedy.

That's not to say that the reader/player has access to those rules, or that the rules are even completely laid out. Edge cases will always occur and rules governing those can be left vague or as guiding principles; and what characters 'know' is not necessarily true.

No arguments here.

Secondly, and I think this will generate some disagreement, a story or game should stand on its own, as a fictional reality that we create and exists independent of us or the real world.
This means that the internal rules of the fictional reality should never ever be made with considerations to reality. Meta-elements that do not exist in the fictional reality must not be reflected in the rules. "Because it is fun" or "we find it cool" or "it's just easier that way" are lazy and does a disservice to the story or game.

Partial agreement and partial disagreement. Your first sentence I agree with - to a point. Independent of the real world, yes, but not independent of us; this disagreement is especially the case for games/stories where you know your players/audience. Hence my strong disagreement to the rest of what you have to say. If we're trying to create some kind of "high art" then I can see where this might be true. But in the majority of cases, for both games and other stories, we're not. Entertainment is a very heavily-weighted priority, and thus, "meta-elements" should be reflected in the rules. There is something screwy with how you're analyzing what's valid or not if you think that "fun" or "cool" are not valid reasons for building the rules of a game or story setting a certain way. It is also, unless you're shooting for "high art" or "artistic integrity," both of which are, in my opinion, usually completely irrelevant concerns, there is no way for your reasons to do a "disservice" to the story or game unless what you've chosen to do clashes with your audience's/players' sensibilities (an example of this being using a Deus Ex Machina for the reason of "I just wanted the problem to be solved somehow").

That's not to say that we cannot make fun games or interesting stories. Making rules that result in "fun" is ok, making rules that say "have fun" is not.

A large part of the rules for freeform involve things that essentially boil down to "don't ruin other people's fun" and "have fun," with the specifics or the rules laying out what things are deemed likely to interfere with or enhance fun for this particular freeform game. So...no, you're objectively wrong, unless you mean a rule that reads like "Rule X: Have fun doing whatever you feel like," which I agree would be pretty stupid.

They are guiding elements to constructing the fiction. They are NOT the fiction.

Eh...that depends. If you think that story and characters make the fiction and that what limitations and allowances for how they interact do not, then sure. I, however, think that setting is an important part of the fiction, and "a human can fly by casting a spell" and the "In the port city of Riversea, the law prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons" are equally parts of the fiction to me.


With those two principles, the fictional reality that results from its internal rules is perfectly normal from the inside. While it is not reality, and may look nothing like it, it follows its own rules, which hopefully generate interesting and fun and cool results/games/stories.

Absolutely nothing wrong with this approach (and I happen to like it), though I fail to see how this is reliant on the aforementioned principles, especially the one(s?) I disagreed with.

The key part is that by having a fundamental set of rules/parameters laid down, the writer or player or reader can explore the behaviour implied in those rules as well as the setting in general.
Writers and GMs and players can *use* it in clever ways and it makes perfect sense. From the inside. I think Sanderson's first law of magic was mentioned up-thread, a fantasy constructed this way can, in principle, be perfectly understood and still be able to do many many things.

Not disagreeing.

A fictional reality that follows these holds more depth and breadth for the reader or players to explore, and thus is more interesting and fun to play or read about.

Again, the conclusion does not rely on the premises.

I wonder whether me agreeing with part of what you had to say (and strongly agreeing, at that!) while disagreeing (again, strongly) with another part surprised you at all.

Talakeal
2012-01-28, 07:22 PM
Response time!
Right, you have problems. So go ahead and steer clear of those things if you want. But don't complain that they're somehow bad in general, because there are plenty of other people who DON'T have problems with them. In fact, there are plenty of people who find that preferable to maintaining realism.


The problem is not that they exist. The problem is that they are inconsistent with the other 99%+ of the rules and setting as written.

I can only think of two or three such things in 3.5, and even if I did a thorough search of the thousands of pages printed for 3.5 I probably would struggle to find a dozen things that break my suspension of disbelief which aren't listed as magical or supernatural*.

There are some games where that is the norm. I would not play in them for a long period of time, you might. That is absolutely fine with me.

However, when someone claims that is the norm in a setting where it is the very rare exception rather than the rule it does create a lot of friction.

I am not saying that I have a problem with those powers on their own, I am saying I have a problem because they are inconsistent with the setting as presented.

In Exalted, where reality is subjective and there is no hard divide between the natural supernatural, such a power would be fine and I would have no problem with it, because that is consistent with how the setting is presented.

Imagine for a second that in the next James Bond film they decided to give James Bond the mutant ability to fly and to shoot lasers out his eyes, then never mentioned it again in the rest of the series. I imagine people would be very confused and that movie would be looked upon very poorly, even by people who normally like super hero movies, because James Bond is a spy movie, not a super hero movie.

Assuming you didn't misunderstand me, and aren't simply making a personal attack (the literal reading of "you have problems") the way you bolded the word you makes it look like you are saying there is a sizeable group of people who actually prefer inconsistent rules / settings? To tell you the truth, I don't think I have ever met anyone who liked inconsistent rules (which is not the same thing as flexible rules or lack of structure, I have met plenty of people who like those), and I would shocked if this was actually a significant portion of the population.

*Not counting mechanical abstractions which have nothing to do with the setting.

Funkyodor
2012-01-28, 07:33 PM
The best quote I've heard in reference to fantasy gaming came while watching Futurama: Bender's Game.

Dwight: "You just have to lose yourself in the fantasy. You have to believe the impossible is merely preposterous. "

Lord Raziere
2012-01-28, 07:39 PM
Response time!

Oh, note: not everything I say in the responses is directed at the person quoted; sometimes I just use the quote as a springboard.



And what does this have to do with realism? No, I mean it. "The more magic deviates from reality, the more energy and effort it should ..." Should? Why? Magic doesn't exist in reality, so what boundaries and limitations exist on magic has absolutely no relationship to realism whatsoever. Yes, it may be that you find such settings as you describe more palatable, but that has absolutely nothing to do with realism.



it has everything to do with realism. more work is required for greater results, just like in the real world, realism. science and all the civilization we have made? took lots and lots of work. magic should also take work equivalent to how powerful the magic is. logical and realistic to me.

RedWarlock
2012-01-29, 03:45 AM
it has everything to do with realism. more work is required for greater results, just like in the real world, realism. science and all the civilization we have made? took lots and lots of work. magic should also take work equivalent to how powerful the magic is. logical and realistic to me.

I think the tripping point here is 'real world realism' versus 'in-game reality'. The original post was referring to the second, the response you quoted above was referring to the first, and you right there switched back to referring to the second, unless I miss my mark.


The first refers to The Real World (this world, not the MTV show) and how physics and the sciences in the fantasy world doesn't need to automatically copy the physics and sciences of the real world. Just because there are cells, atoms, and electrons in our reality on the microscopic scale, doesn't mean that there are any of these things in a fantasy reality like D&D. (Maybe instead of cells, we are just masses of meat and flesh and bone which grow, heal, die, etc, in response to the interplay of positive and negative energies which make up the mortal soul. There is no such thing as DNA, for instance.)
The second refers to 'baseline' reality, in the context of the setting world, and that magic which deviates minimally from the baseline should cost less than magic that deviates significantly from the baseline. (Which I agree with entirely, and have used repeatedly in my own work. It could also explain the difference between Arcane magic and druidic magic, for instance. They both use lightning bolts, but the arcanist evokes elemental energy from a distant plane to create the effect, while the druid more subtly tweaks and influences the wind, clouds, and natural energy to call forth a lightning bolt.)

Two entirely different references.

Coidzor
2012-01-29, 03:55 AM
it has everything to do with realism. more work is required for greater results, just like in the real world, realism. science and all the civilization we have made? took lots and lots of work. magic should also take work equivalent to how powerful the magic is. logical and realistic to me.

Except magic throws out those rules of mundane reality in favor of its own set of rules. Just because you can use the same rules doesn't mean that alternatives are not an option nor that one should only do it in X way.

Lord Raziere
2012-01-29, 04:05 AM
Except magic throws out those rules of mundane reality in favor of its own set of rules. Just because you can use the same rules doesn't mean that alternatives are not an option nor that one should only do it in X way.

So? I don't care. thats my form of magic. you can't make me alter how I want it go. You want something different, you make it :smalltongue:

Talakeal
2012-01-29, 04:58 AM
To clarify my initial point, there seem to actually be two separate cases where this argument it used.

The first is a matter of consistency in the setting. For example, if mages can generate infinite material with fabricate and wall of iron, and wizards of a level sufficient to cast these spells are found in every medium sized city, why are there still iron mines or smiths?

The second is the argument that if some things are fantastic, everything must be. For example because wizards exist the fighter cannot operate under a simulation of real world physics.

I don't think either argument holds weight, but I am trying to understand when people seem to make them on an almost daily basis on this and other forums.

SilverLeaf167
2012-01-29, 07:13 AM
To clarify my initial point, there seem to actually be two separate cases where this argument it used.

The first is a matter of consistency in the setting. For example, if mages can generate infinite material with fabricate and wall of iron, and wizards of a level sufficient to cast these spells are found in every medium sized city, why are there still iron mines or smiths?

The second is the argument that if some things are fantastic, everything must be. For example because wizards exist the fighter cannot operate under a simulation of real world physics.

I don't think either argument holds weight, but I am trying to understand when people seem to make them on an almost daily basis on this and other forums.
I frankly agree on the first point... If wizards are more common than blacksmiths and can produce better results more quickly and easily, I don't see much reason why blacksmiths would exist, or at least, why they aren't bankrupt yet. However, there are some ways to handle a situation like this... for example, it is very much possible that the wizards simply won't offer their services to other people, for setting-specific reasons.

The second point however is a bit exaggerated. Let's take the opposite example: is there any reason why fighters would have to obey physics, while wizards don't? It is stated in multiple sources, such as the DMG, that a D&D world may very well have physics entirely different from ours, and other content in the game supports this.

DonDuckie
2012-01-29, 07:31 AM
tl;dr

Bacause eventually you'll try to explain something fantastic, and all you can come up with is "midi-chlorians".

Or maybe because realistic and fantastic are two ends of a scale.
- cue counter-arguments about how nature/universe is fantastic.:smallwink:

Rakmakallan
2012-01-29, 10:17 AM
Not the midichlorian argument again...
It has been more than a decade, midichlorians (which on a side note are a terrible explanation but a rational-ish nonetheless) are canon material, fanboys did not like it because it destroyed the "mystical" feel of the Force. Ok, we get it. It still is Lucas' setting to do with as he pleases.

...which brings out the whole underlying point that few have acknowledged so far: People do not enjoy real world science in their fantasy. I have been trying to make my homebrew 100% realistic but still stumble upon inconsistencies every minute. It has been a longtime quarrel with the main group I GM, that it is supposed to be fantasy for precisely this reason, to provide a different setting and outlook from what we are accustomed too.

On the other hand, I have gradually shifted from a high-fantasy-whatever-let-it-be of conventional D&D to gritty realism. If it can't be explained with science, or at least a speculative far-fetched semblance of science, it simply can't exist. You want to add a few non-existent elements to make the switch to fantasy? Fine by me. Do you use magic that violates the law of conservation of matter, thermodynamics, utilises a different value for Planck's constant and so on? You had better provide a very good explanation and a solid mathematical basis, or else I am calling shenanigans. The introduction of supernatural elements simply makes things worse, since by definition again, supernatural is out of the universe's parameters, hence impossible to exist.

I bet you did not like my realism alternative, did you? It is just different styles of play, everyone, let us please deal with it and just stick to games that strike our fancy.

Firemage
2012-01-29, 11:44 AM
The problem with realism in games is, it's complicated.

If you really wanted realism you'd need to apply every phsics formula that's currently hold to be the most exact description of reality. And belive me, that's a lot to keep track of

You can't make a perfect simulation of a world. You have to put a limit somewhere, even on a computer.
Like many people said, the best thing you can hope for in a game is versimilitude - consistency. Something similar enough to reality.

If we're talking about films or novels things are a bit different. There you can be as realistic as you like. You don't necessarily have to calculate every little particle, gut feeling is enough.
And seriously, then it's merely a matter of style and taste. It then depends on the kind of story you want to tell.

Partysan
2012-01-29, 11:48 AM
It's not about verisimilitude. The "realism" approach is chastised because the reliance upon it forbids a fighter doing anything but "I attack" yet allows the wizard to burn people from over 400 ft away while flying invisible using bat poo. Because it's "magic", a spellcaster is allowed to do anything, but offer any "fix" to allow a warrior do fantastic things and the critics will cry "That's not realistic!" to shoot down the idea. Non-spellcasters must forever adhere to real world physics and notion of what can be done.

A fighter cannot jump 50 ft across a chasm. A wizard can just Dimension Door everyone across. A fighter cannot "hear the air" to be able to "see" invisible enemies to strike with perfect accuracy. A wizard can make people invisible all he wants. A fighter cannot hit a dragon just once and force it to make a saving throw or die. A wizard can send the dragon to another plane of existence. A fighter cannot find an inner strength to shrug off injuries for self-healing (Pre-4E). A cleric can bring the dead back to life, even if the creature died 20 years ago.

This however is partly a matter of differing grades in abstraction and failure to consider the consequences of scaling numbers.
To elaborate: It would not be out of place for a fighter in D&D to force a SoD with an attack targeted to a vital point, it's just that the designers wrote combat with a very high level of abstraction (AC, HP) while each spell has a very specific, less abstract effect. Similarly, a fighter with strength and dexterity values in the mid-high twenties (not unreasonable at mid-high level) would probably be able to move in ways that we see only in anime, that is movement akin to teleportation (too fast to see), very high jumps etc. It's just that the numbers are made to scale linearly without any actual interpretation, an inconsistency on its own.

GolemsVoice
2012-01-29, 12:02 PM
This however is partly a matter of differing grades in abstraction and failure to consider the consequences of scaling numbers.
To elaborate: It would not be out of place for a fighter in D&D to force a SoD with an attack targeted to a vital point, it's just that the designers wrote combat with a very high level of abstraction (AC, HP) while each spell has a very specific, less abstract effect. Similarly, a fighter with strength and dexterity values in the mid-high twenties (not unreasonable at mid-high level) would probably be able to move in ways that we see only in anime, that is movement akin to teleportation (too fast to see), very high jumps etc. It's just that the numbers are made to scale linearly without any actual interpretation, an inconsistency on its own.

Also, it probably wouldn't be a problem if the wizard could fireball people for XdX of damage, while the fighter hits people for XdX of damage. At some point, even a fighter's moves are going to be unrealistic, at least to those that know anything about fighting. The problem is that casters in general can do so much more. This is excusable in a way, since, well, it's magic, and it's per definition more versatil than fighting, because no matter how hard you swing your sword, you'll never bring back the dead, summon a monster or make contact with a god. Inventing new spells seems "logiacal" in a way, because people expect magic to be limitless, but there are limits to what people will believe a fighter can do, even if what they believe he can do is already pretty unrealistic.
A better way would be to somewhat beef up the fighter, because D&D IS unrealistic, so why not get the full benefits of the unrealism, and bring down casters at the same time.

Coidzor
2012-01-29, 02:20 PM
A better way would be to somewhat beef up the fighter, because D&D IS unrealistic, so why not get the full benefits of the unrealism, and bring down casters at the same time.

In the online D&D 3.X community, that's fairly handily accomplished by just playing T3 only games, maybe T3-4 games.

Talakeal
2012-01-29, 02:47 PM
The second point however is a bit exaggerated. Let's take the opposite example: is there any reason why fighters would have to obey physics, while wizards don't? It is stated in multiple sources, such as the DMG, that a D&D world may very well have physics entirely different from ours, and other content in the game supports this.

Should have to? No. But I think it should definitely be an option. As I said I want to play a character like Tanis Half Elven, King Arthur, Aragorn, Beowulf, Achilles, Conan, Batman, or Clint Eastwood. Such characters make up a HUGE portion of fantasy protagonists, and even fiction set in the D&D world. Telling someone who wants to play them "too bad, play a wuxia hero or leave" is pretty limiting to your audience.


That said, it is mostly on the forums I see this argument. The only things I can think of off the top of my head which break my suspension of disbelief in D&D are:

Crusaders healing with non magical divine energy.
War blades and 4E martial characters forgetting powers.
Epic level skill checks.
A few monster abilities which are EX when they should be SU.

There are also Obvious loopholes like some hulking hurler builds, and if the DM is bad at describing combat or doesn't use the "inescapable death" rules the HP system at high levels. But those are imo up to the DM rather than the book.


The problem with realism in games is, it's complicated.

If you really wanted realism you'd need to apply every physics formula that's currently hold to be the most exact description of reality. And believe me, that's a lot to keep track of

You can't make a perfect simulation of a world. You have to put a limit somewhere, even on a computer.
Like many people said, the best thing you can hope for in a game is verisimilitude - consistency. Something similar enough to reality.

If we're talking about films or novels things are a bit different. There you can be as realistic as you like. You don't necessarily have to calculate every little particle, gut feeling is enough.
And seriously, then it's merely a matter of style and taste. It then depends on the kind of story you want to tell.

I wasn't taking about Game Mechanics, I was talking about setting. I am well aware that you need to use abstractions for ease of play. The GM and players can narrate almost any such rules abstraction to make it seem realistic.
I can easily narrate HP damage, as poor a mechanic as it is, but I can't for the life of me explain why a 4th ed fighter forgets how to trip people after doing it once without it sounding really hokey and forced.

GolemsVoice
2012-01-29, 04:15 PM
In the online D&D 3.X community, that's fairly handily accomplished by just playing T3 only games, maybe T3-4 games.

And there are enough people who are okay with the power differenece, or people who see it and don't overdo it, and all of these are fine. Still, it's a bit sad that if you cared that everybody is roughly on the same level of power, you could only play the slice of D&D that fits the desired level.

GM.Casper
2012-01-30, 02:44 PM
Just because the story has dragons in it, does not mean that inner consistency, believable characterization or plot-hole free story no longer matters.

I'm fine with a magical sword breaking the laws of physics (as long as it does it in consistent manner), but if a supposedly non-magical one does it too for no good reason, I will have a problem.

Overall, I prefer maximum realism as long as fun or game-balance is not compromised.

Knaight
2012-01-30, 03:06 PM
The problem with realism in games is, it's complicated.

If you really wanted realism you'd need to apply every phsics formula that's currently hold to be the most exact description of reality. And belive me, that's a lot to keep track of

This is tangential, but I do want to address it anyways. You don't need to apply every physics formula - most are irrelevant. In the vast majority of fantasy settings, relativistic effects are completely and utterly irrelevant. Nothing is moving near light speed, and Newtonian physics is just fine. Similarly, odds are only the macroscopic are really dealt with in depth, which means that quantum mechanics is near worthless as well. Moreover, there is the matter of how specific you want to be. Take chemistry - say that a character drops a bunch of cesium in a lake. A bunch of things could happen, depending on realism: On one end, it floats, then goes into the sky. On the other, it reacts with water, forming hydrogen, which is then ignited - and the math is done to see exactly how much energy this releases, while looking into where it goes. That said, merely describing an explosive release of energy should be plenty for realism.

jseah
2012-01-31, 04:36 PM
I wonder whether me agreeing with part of what you had to say (and strongly agreeing, at that!) while disagreeing (again, strongly) with another part surprised you at all.
XD Partly agree was kind of what I was expecting.

Your example of Loony Tunes falls into blatant nonsensical comedy. Then sure, by all means, break 4th wall, do any sort of crazy things because the universe is unhinged anyway.
EDIT: also, I do not like Loony Tunes. Not anymore.

Also, I would like to say that the bits I posted are only my opinion and how I would run a game or write a story. I also find that my enjoyment of stories increases the more closely they stick to those principles.
So yes, I would say that those things are applying to people like me, and I hope I captured what the OP was thinking about.

Also, as you did point out, freeform games pretty much run totally counter to this.
Although in one that had strict internal rules, I would not find too much to complain about. The rules of the setting do not have to be mathematical and can exist only in mutual understanding. But they have to exist for me to enjoy the game.


I, however, think that setting is an important part of the fiction, and "a human can fly by casting a spell" and the "In the port city of Riversea, the law prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons" are equally parts of the fiction to me.
I did not mean that internal rules are "not the fiction". Yes, they are equally a part of the fiction as saying "at this time and age, the law of the city Ravemoor on the subject of slave labour is X".

I meant that statements like "rule of cool" and "have fun!" are guiding elements which you use to craft your rules. And should not be the rules themselves.


Most of this comes about because what I find "cool" or "fun" somehow isn't what other people find cool or fun. So in virtually every case, "rule of cool" translates to "does not make sense" to me.

My point is that by allowing exploration of the setting through a strict set of rules, the setting becomes something coherent that can be meaningfully explored. When the rules are simply "whatever you want" (and rule of cool often translates to that as well), then exploration is merely "making stuff up as you go".

Lots of people seem to like it. I do not.

DonDuckie
2012-02-01, 12:51 PM
Not the midichlorian argument again...
It has been more than a decade, midichlorians (which on a side note are a terrible explanation but a rational-ish nonetheless) are canon material, fanboys did not like it because it destroyed the "mystical" feel of the Force. Ok, we get it. It still is Lucas' setting to do with as he pleases.

I'm not even that much of a star wars fan, of course he can do what ever he wants... That doesn't make it good storytelling. And it wasn't.
It didn't destroy the mysticism, it just inserted a useless layer in an attempt to explain. In persuit of some relational(?) science. It did nothing.

And that is what the attempts of realism often does... insert layers of useless fluff, the fact that you know(describe) how it works, doesn't make it more or less realistic. It just removes the fantastic aspect. And therefore I argue they can't(reasonably) exist side-by-side.

The natural world is fantastic, and it's hard to call it unrealistic. But in RP it just becomes too much, that doesn't add to the story.

Sidenote:
A decade? Most references(actually most of everything) are more than a decade ago.

Rakmakallan
2012-02-01, 04:49 PM
I'm not even that much of a star wars fan, of course he can do what ever he wants... That doesn't make it good storytelling. And it wasn't.
It didn't destroy the mysticism, it just inserted a useless layer in an attempt to explain. In persuit of some relational(?) science. It did nothing.

And that is what the attempts of realism often does... insert layers of useless fluff, the fact that you know(describe) how it works, doesn't make it more or less realistic. It just removes the fantastic aspect. And therefore I argue they can't(reasonably) exist side-by-side.

The natural world is fantastic, and it's hard to call it unrealistic. But in RP it just becomes too much, that doesn't add to the story.

Sidenote:
A decade? Most references(actually most of everything) are more than a decade ago.

I found the storytelling to be quite fine, even if not on par with the original trilogy. The prequels are meant to represent an era entirely different from the years of the empire. Destroyed mysticism is just a fanboyish argument I'm quoting, like yours that the science is pointless. Nothing in a setting is really pointless, it's one more detail that contributes to the whole substance defining of the setting. Truly, the "science" behind midichlorians is barely plausible (though it interestingly seems founded upon the endosymbiotic theory by Lynn Margulis), but even in the soft-sci-fi of star wars, it could have been expanded on and properly reconciled with proper science in the expanded universe.

Which brings us to your point about realism being unnecessary fluff. I'd hate to go into definitions or tread into loathed gns territory, but each an issue of what you expect from a game or a setting. If you just want a solid basis to rp and/or simulate combat and events, then basically a consistent rule set will do. Is it enough, however, when you are attempting to narrate a story, engage in collaborative fiction? Probably, in the interactions of the characters, mechanistic details will not come up, but I feel it adds to the setting if everything has an explanation. And even this is a far cry from realism and logic. Magic that can't be explained in physical terms, supernatural effects, non-reproducible phenomena unrelated to stochastic procedures, divinity, all these destroy realism. In order for a setting to be consistent it doesn't suffice to avoid plot holes and rule fallibilities. It has to be formal down to the equations that govern the universe itself.

GolemsVoice
2012-02-01, 04:58 PM
Most of this comes about because what I find "cool" or "fun" somehow isn't what other people find cool or fun. So in virtually every case, "rule of cool" translates to "does not make sense" to me.

That's a thing that bugs me, how do we know what's realistic or not? What you consider realistic, I might not, and vice versa. Of course, there are obvious things, but take guns. I know next to nothing about guns. I have never fired one, I have never been in the Army, all I know about guns comes from watching movies (not the most reliable source even when they're fairly realistic), games (the same) and some people on the internet. So how am I going to define realism for me? What I consider realistic, or even just satisfying when it comes to guns might be grossly unjustified for a real expert. And let's not talke about when two experts disagree.

jseah
2012-02-01, 07:12 PM
That's a thing that bugs me, how do we know what's realistic or not? What you consider realistic, I might not, and vice versa.
No, that bit is fine. Guns might not work the same way between different settings (lethality differences say), but if they work one way in a setting, I expect not to see anything different.

But your objection applies to the rule of cool. Very much so.
People override setting rules via handwave saying "rule of cool!"; when I do it too, they'll complain. (I haven't actually invoked rule of cool, though I just *know* they will)

Not to mention I find the cool in using established setting rules to achieve unexpected, even unrelated, results. Like making bread slicers from portable holes. Operating along a very long chain of logic to make something very useful happen.

Ever looked at the more complex (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10120644/sigmavgmlaserreactor.jpg) reactions (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10120644/sigmavgmready.jpg) in Spacechem? THAT is cool. Took three hours and much frustration and two restarts, but it worked. It worked! MuahahahAHHAHA...
This is my design for the laser reactor on the last stage. You might be able to tell I am not too fussed about the fake chemistry. And blatant alchemy.

*ahem*

Anyway.

GolemsVoice
2012-02-01, 07:40 PM
It wasn't specifically aimed at you (although I quoted you), but I've heard enough discussions where people said "I have houserule X, because it makes the game more realistic" only for others to totally disagree.

As far as the "rule of cool" goes, I'm fine with it as long as everyone's fine with it, and on the opposite side, if everyone wants to play a more "low-key" setting, that's fine, too.

One thing to remember, however, is taht the "rule of cool" can allow different things for different settings. For example, if somebody wants to go crazy jumping stuff with his 20 DEX, 40-ranks-in-tumble-jumpe-and-balance Rogue in D&D, or emulate something he's seen in a video game, I'd let him, as long as he wasn't violating the rules too much. Because being cool in an action movie style is waht D&D is about, to me. It's about superhuman feats, and I like feeling superhuman in D&D.
In Hunter, for example, rule of cool could be invoked to give a player one last shotgun blast while the pray they've hunted for the entire scenario has the player on the floor, mortally wounded. He'll go either way, but maybe he'll go knowing that he brought safety to his city.

olthar
2012-02-01, 08:06 PM
The first is a matter of consistency in the setting. For example, if mages can generate infinite material with fabricate and wall of iron, and wizards of a level sufficient to cast these spells are found in every medium sized city, why are there still iron mines or smiths?

This is related to an argument that I've been making on and off for a while now. Magic, as seen in 3.5, makes no sense because the writers of the game didn't think about the implications of magic at all (well except in Eberron).


I always try to keep things logical and consistent and as close to reality as possible except when directly involving fantasy elements, and these have their own internal consistency.

Honestly, most fantasy elements don't have any internal consistency. Getting away from something as complicated as magic, let's talk about something like super speed. If you are the quicksilver or another superhero who moves really quickly, what is your superpower?
A: You run really fast.
B: You run fast and have amazing reflexes.
C: You run fast, amazing reflexes, and super strong bones.
D: You run fast, amazing reflexes, super strong bones, and amazing eyesight.
And this can go on. Think about what is involved in running at the described speeds of those characters. Airplanes require minutes to slow down but they can stop on a dime. Hitting things like birds or stuff can do serious damage to an airplane. Ever drive in the back seat of a convertible with the top down? It gets really hard to see because of the movement of air at 50 miles an hour.

Fantasy settings tend to ignore these elements though because it would be boring to explain all of them. People accept that falling 3 stories probably means broken bones even though the person can somehow run at super speeds and hit things while running that fast without getting hurt. Magic is just another version of this.


The second is the argument that if some things are fantastic, everything must be. For example because wizards exist the fighter cannot operate under a simulation of real world physics.

Why isn't a fighter fantastic? Roy, a mid-level fighter, has a strength of at least 24, which is around where you would expect your average hill giant or above average ogre to be. With that strength he can carry up to 700 pounds on his back all day long. If he wanted, he could pick up an object up to 1400 pounds and stagger around with it for a few minutes. While doing that he couldn't fight, but he could still lift it. He can fight with the 700 pounds on his back and only have a few minor penalties.


In response to the LotR stuff
LotR is very high magic, just not in the way most people think of magic these days. Nobody throws around fireballs, but it's there.

During the council of Elrond they suggest keeping the ring in Rivendell because nothing short of Sauron himself coming could take it. That means they are sure that the power of a few dozen elves and the few other nonelves could hold off the tens of thousands of orcs and other magical beings under Sauron's control unless Sauron himself came to fight. No overt magic discussion, but magic is clearly involved.

Gandalf and Glorfindel both came back from the dead (Glorfindel died during the fall of Gondolin also to a Balrog). Galadriel too mentions the power to hold off all of Sauron's followers.

Besides the obvious magic that Gandalf uses against the Nazgul, he manages to talk to a bunch of trees (aka ents), break a staff, break a sort of domination effect, travel great distances without tiring, talk to eagles, and a bunch of other things.

Aragorn is mentioned as being such a powerful figure that he could storm the gates of Mordor alone though it would be a bad idea. He gets into a mental fight with Sauron over control of the Palentir and wins unlike a maia (Saruman) and Denathor. Aragorn heals the literally unhealable affliction caused by the witch king of agmar who himself uses such obvious magic that it isn't worth discussing.

When characters mention the lack of magic in elf areas the elves themselves are confused because they don't see magic that way. The magic elements of the elven rings are to preserve the land and keep it safe and the same as it was in the past. The dwarven rings also give power, but the power of those rings is tied up in gold and the possession thereof.

If you want more obvious magic, then the Silmarillion is covered in it, but even there the magic is less obvious. Almost any time a character is singing magic is occurring. The most interesting magic battle in the book is played out in the songs of Finrod and Sauron. Luthien sang all of Angband asleep for a few minutes and there was the already mentioned shape change/illusion. More evidence of the singing is magic thing comes from Tom Bombadillo when he sings the hobbits away from the barrow wight. That was a very clear battle, but it was played out in song between the two characters.

One of the things that Tolkien did best was make magic a part of the world that fit rather than something that doesn't. Many people probably don't see the magic that the world has, but it's there.

Also, interesting thread link. I don't agree about the rings and their use, but still interesting.

jseah
2012-02-01, 09:09 PM
Fantasy settings tend to ignore these elements though because it would be boring to explain all of them.
Not difficult for the case of super speed. Just need to throw out conservation of momentum...

Well, ok, that does end up breaking alot of other things. XD

Talakeal
2012-02-01, 09:10 PM
Why isn't a fighter fantastic? Roy, a mid-level fighter, has a strength of at least 24, which is around where you would expect your average hill giant or above average ogre to be. With that strength he can carry up to 700 pounds on his back all day long. If he wanted, he could pick up an object up to 1400 pounds and stagger around with it for a few minutes. While doing that he couldn't fight, but he could still lift it. He can fight with the 700 pounds on his back and only have a few minor penalties.
[/SPOILER]

How the heck does Roy have a 24 strength? Assuming he started with an 18, which I would doubt because people don't make a deal about how he has maximum strength, he is only a level ~12 human, which would mean a 21 strength, and I don't think that with a 21 strength you break many real world strength records. A human in D&D can only get to a 23 strength pre epic without magical aid, not something I would think unreasonable assuming a person with perfect genes, nutrition, and the experience and dedication to get to 20th level.
With access to inherent bonuses you could get a further +5, again not unreasonable, a humanoid body structure could certainly support such a strength if altered to maximize strength, just look at the differences in Neanderthal physiology.
Then there is the girdle of giant strength. This is magic. I have no problem with magic augmenting a fighter, I just don't like the assumption that all fighters in the world MUST have magical augmentation because it is a fantasy world and mundane heroes shouldn't exist.


Aragorn is mentioned as being such a powerful figure that he could storm the gates of Mordor alone though it would be a bad idea. He gets into a mental fight with Sauron over control of the Palentir and wins unlike a maia (Saruman) and Denathor. Aragorn heals the literally unhealable affliction caused by the witch king of agmar who himself uses such obvious magic that it isn't worth discussing.


Admittedly It has been a long time since I actually read LoTR, so my knowledge may be a bit rusty, but if Aragorn is so mighty, we doesn't he single handedly solve every issue they come across, or do anything blatantly super human? Also, how does he heal a "literally unhealable" affliction, and how does it remain "literally unhealable" if it can be healed?

Mike_G
2012-02-01, 10:56 PM
The first is a matter of consistency in the setting. For example, if mages can generate infinite material with fabricate and wall of iron, and wizards of a level sufficient to cast these spells are found in every medium sized city, why are there still iron mines or smiths?


This is easy to reconcile.

Mages are supposed to be able to do awesome things. That's the point of mages.

The fluff is that mages are rare. I've seen the "why would anybody be a commoner" kind of argument, like the average person has a choice. Like the average peasant has a guidence counsellor who tellls him that he should try to get into a good Wizard's academy, or at least get an associates degree in Ranger, or he'll get stuck digging ditches with 2 lousy skill points and a d4 hit die.

The average person has his options limited by his family resources. Most villages won't have seen a high level mage, or PC at all. They have maybe a low level Adept in town, who can take care of the village's magical needs, and they do things like make tools and grow turnips the old fashioned way.

This fits the fantasy archetype of a local withcdoctor/hedge magician etc. Awesome is supposed to be rare. The average person doesn't *know* that the secret to great power is stabbing Kobolds until he can cast third level spells. The average person learns his father's trade and maybe gets a few levels out of it by overcoming droughts or plagues of locusts.

Why would a powerful Wizard stoop to being an iron wholesaler when he could have fame and riches and hot summoned nymphs in his harem and steal fire from the gods? The guy who thinks about cost and pricing and supply routes becomes an Expert with max skill points in Profession (Merchant) and Diplomacy and makes a pile of cash and retires to his country estate at 8th level with a 18 CHA trophy wife instead of risking being devoured by Balors.

The mechanics are good at dealing with a tiny minority of people who are the movers and shakers. The heroes who rise up to defend the vast bulk of society from terrible threats. They were never designed to simulate an assembly line of walls of iron for profit.

The designers looked at the classic fantasy world and took it as an assumption. Medieval Europe, but the myths are real. There really are dragons over the edge of the map, the woods have werewolves, trolls live under the bridges. There are hideous monsters who take the princess captive and threaten the welfare of the kingdom, and there are glittering knights or subtle rogues or holy crusaders or up and coming spellcasters who will brave these dangers that 99% of the population tries hard to avoid.

The game rules were made to simulate the adventures of this group and its antagonists. The general population of smiths, farmers, barkeeps and so on are extras and scenery. It was never assumed that the rules would be appiled to running a general store.

Talakeal
2012-02-01, 11:30 PM
Lots of stuff.

That was just an example, I think you are looking too much into it. However, that was kind of my point, I LIKE looking into such things rather than just hand waving them and saying "FANTASY! NO EXPLANATION NEEDED!"

I would like to say though, that in 3.5 by RAW wealth is extremely important, and the more money you can spend on researching spells or crafting items is directly proportional to your power as a wizard, so I would imagine that the powerful mages who wish to alter reality and challenge the gods would start by monopolizing the economy.

olthar
2012-02-02, 12:52 AM
How the heck does Roy have a 24 strength? Assuming he started with an 18, which I would doubt because people don't make a deal about how he has maximum strength, he is only a level ~12 human, which would mean a 21 strength, and I don't think that with a 21 strength you break many real world strength records.

Class and level geekery has him at 20 min unmodified. That still lets you carry 460 pounds on your back for 12 hours a day with only minor effects and lets you stagger around with up to 920 pounds. The 24 came from their guesses on minimum magical enhancement. That said, it is still a fighter doing the actions the magical enhancement is only affecting physical stats.


Admittedly It has been a long time since I actually read LoTR, so my knowledge may be a bit rusty, but if Aragorn is so mighty, we doesn't he single handedly solve every issue they come across, or do anything blatantly super human? Also, how does he heal a "literally unhealable" affliction, and how does it remain "literally unhealable" if it can be healed?
LotR
For the same reason that Gandalf didn't solve all of their problems or that instead of sending Glorfindel they sent merry and pippin; it wouldn't have made a good story. Even Gandalf, who undeniably has powerful magic, fights against regular orcs and stuff with a sword. How can Gandalf, who can slay a balrog, not just blow the orcs away like dust in the wind? Why didn't the witch king, who was prophesized to be unkillable by man, not just storm the gates of Gondor alone? Unlike in D&D where mages can contingency and stack buffs to make them essentially untouchable, magic in Tolkien's world did have some restrictions. A stray arrow would kill them even if they magically were able to stop the 999 ones shot before it.

We did get to see Aragorn fight off five of the nine including the witch king on weathertop though. It was not something that was long discussed as a feat of power in the story, but had Aragorn not been there they would have just killed the hobbits and taken Frodo to Mordor.

Blatantly super human? He outpaces the orcs and keeps pace with a dwarf and elf while doing so. He traveled the paths of the dead (and crappy peter jackson vision aside) he summoned the spirits of the oathbreakers.

As for the healing, the mark/taint of the witch king was considered unhealable until he came. Every victim since the witch king's beginning had died of it (that whole prophecy thing, which interestingly was made by Glorfindel). His healing it was another way of his demonstrating his power.

Oh, and he lived to be something like 270 years old.

Talakeal
2012-02-02, 01:22 AM
If you look at real world weight lifting records there have been observed humans with a strength of between 22 and 23, the cap for a human in pre epic D&D. Although the mechanics are somewhat abstracted, what they represent does not seem to diverge from reality.

As for Aragorn, there is nothing he does that I would call BS on if you told me that a real person couldn't do it. Admittedly, I would find it hard to believe that one person is the best in so many things, but that is what heroic fantasy is all about, the one in ten billion who only comes along every few generations, not the every man.
He accomplishes his feats through seemingly ordinary skills and abilities, which medicine, diplomacy, and swordsmanship, not by displaying various super powers. He cures Frodo with herbs, not a beam of light from heaven, he defeats orcs with strong arms and sure hands, not with the speed of the flash, the strength of the hulk, and the resilience of superman.
I really doubt that the books claim he could single handedly storm the gates of Mordor. If that where the case every enemy the fellowship encountered would have been laughed off. Why run from a cave troll and a few dozen goblins when you have a man capable of fighting off tens of thousands of goblins and entire tribes of Olag-hai?
Now, I will concede that living for hundreds of years is more than a human could accomplish, but he isn't a regular human, he is Numenorean, who are a different breed. Different species within the same genus can have wildly different life spans, so I don't see anything supernatural about a sub species of men living 2-3 times as long as normal, after all Neanderthals had a life spawn 2-3 times as short as Homo sapiens

gkathellar
2012-02-04, 08:10 AM
Not difficult for the case of super speed. Just need to throw out conservation of momentum...

Well, ok, that does end up breaking alot of other things. XD

Conservation of momentum and, uh, friction. At which point the universe (or at least the speedster) literally falls apart.


Admittedly It has been a long time since I actually read LoTR, so my knowledge may be a bit rusty, but if Aragorn is so mighty, we doesn't he single handedly solve every issue they come across, or do anything blatantly super human? Also, how does he heal a "literally unhealable" affliction, and how does it remain "literally unhealable" if it can be healed?

+1 to this. In the books, Aragorn's headcount is actually much lower, and IIRC there's at least one case of him and Boromir being forced to tag-team an orc chief who's too much for either of them in Moria. He's superhuman all right (elf blood and all), but he's by no means capable of taking an army in a fight. As for Gandalf, he's a giant freaking angel with a power limiter that only gets removed for enemies like the Balrog. The Witch King of Angmar needs an army because even if he can't be killed he can be beaten, and he knows for a fact that things other than women can kill him (Merry's sword for instance).

Fiery Diamond
2012-02-04, 12:27 PM
The problem is not that they exist. The problem is that they are inconsistent with the other 99%+ of the rules and setting as written.

I can only think of two or three such things in 3.5, and even if I did a thorough search of the thousands of pages printed for 3.5 I probably would struggle to find a dozen things that break my suspension of disbelief which aren't listed as magical or supernatural*.

There are some games where that is the norm. I would not play in them for a long period of time, you might. That is absolutely fine with me.

However, when someone claims that is the norm in a setting where it is the very rare exception rather than the rule it does create a lot of friction.

I am not saying that I have a problem with those powers on their own, I am saying I have a problem because they are inconsistent with the setting as presented.

In Exalted, where reality is subjective and there is no hard divide between the natural supernatural, such a power would be fine and I would have no problem with it, because that is consistent with how the setting is presented.

Imagine for a second that in the next James Bond film they decided to give James Bond the mutant ability to fly and to shoot lasers out his eyes, then never mentioned it again in the rest of the series. I imagine people would be very confused and that movie would be looked upon very poorly, even by people who normally like super hero movies, because James Bond is a spy movie, not a super hero movie.

Assuming you didn't misunderstand me, and aren't simply making a personal attack (the literal reading of "you have problems") the way you bolded the word you makes it look like you are saying there is a sizeable group of people who actually prefer inconsistent rules / settings? To tell you the truth, I don't think I have ever met anyone who liked inconsistent rules (which is not the same thing as flexible rules or lack of structure, I have met plenty of people who like those), and I would shocked if this was actually a significant portion of the population.

*Not counting mechanical abstractions which have nothing to do with the setting.

Ah. It seems we were arguing about different things, then. Also, I phrased that poorly. I meant "You have problems with that - this means that the issue is "you+the things you have problems with", not just "the things you have problems with." And I wasn't talking about consistency. I was talking about realism. You can be, as you noted just now, consistent without being based in real-world reality. That, in most cases, is what's important. If you want the non-magical aspects of games to reflect reality, stick to games where that's the case: and no, a game system is not a game. People aren't ruining D&D or being inconsistent with the baseline by adding in ToB and making it so people can launch miniature fireballs around with their swords, they're establishing a new baseline. And many people prefer for their baseline to NOT be grounded in reality, which is what my final statement you quoted was talking about, not inconsistent rules.



That's a thing that bugs me, how do we know what's realistic or not? What you consider realistic, I might not, and vice versa. Of course, there are obvious things, but take guns. I know next to nothing about guns. I have never fired one, I have never been in the Army, all I know about guns comes from watching movies (not the most reliable source even when they're fairly realistic), games (the same) and some people on the internet. So how am I going to define realism for me? What I consider realistic, or even just satisfying when it comes to guns might be grossly unjustified for a real expert. And let's not talke about when two experts disagree.

This is another point I tried to make. To some people, this is taken and interpreted as "Well then, since this is the case, why bother basing it in reality at all?" And there's nothing wrong with that.


It wasn't specifically aimed at you (although I quoted you), but I've heard enough discussions where people said "I have houserule X, because it makes the game more realistic" only for others to totally disagree.

As far as the "rule of cool" goes, I'm fine with it as long as everyone's fine with it, and on the opposite side, if everyone wants to play a more "low-key" setting, that's fine, too.

One thing to remember, however, is taht the "rule of cool" can allow different things for different settings. For example, if somebody wants to go crazy jumping stuff with his 20 DEX, 40-ranks-in-tumble-jumpe-and-balance Rogue in D&D, or emulate something he's seen in a video game, I'd let him, as long as he wasn't violating the rules too much. Because being cool in an action movie style is waht D&D is about, to me. It's about superhuman feats, and I like feeling superhuman in D&D.
In Hunter, for example, rule of cool could be invoked to give a player one last shotgun blast while the pray they've hunted for the entire scenario has the player on the floor, mortally wounded. He'll go either way, but maybe he'll go knowing that he brought safety to his city.

Good points.