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  1. - Top - End - #151
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    Starfinder "scales" in the same sense that almost all games do, i.e. expecting high level characters do be doing high-level things. There are plenty of challenges that don't scale, e.g. hacking a random stooge's datapad probably becomes routine at some point, but by the time you can do it automatically the party has probably moved on to needing to hack something much more elaborate, like an entire corporation's data vault or security system. I wouldn't call it the Truenamer problem at all, whereby even your most entry level utterances stay difficult to use.
    Thats fine except that in all the 4e and Starfinder games I played it was never the mook data pads or dilapidated wood doors that you were dealing with anyways. Every time you rolled it was for an actual "level appropriate challenge", as soon as you leveled up the data was no longer on the mooks and the treasure was no longer behind the wood door. As much as people say that the DC of a door or hack doesn't change what really happens in play is that the adjective in front of the word 'door' or 'computer' changes, the DC goes up to be 'level appropriate', and you still need to roll 13+ to accomplish the exact same task as before.

    Saying the characters get better is ok and giving them bigger numbers is ok. But if the way the game plays means that your "expert" character still fails just as many rolls to do the same things at high levels as at low levels then your 'advancement' is essentially zero. Hiding it by changing a couple adjectives (wood door, steel door, magic door, etc.) is where the illusion of advancement appears.

    But that's not a function of crunchy rules either. It's a result of the "level appropriate everything" craze that's shown up in game design recently. Although I think it is easier to spot that kind of thing in a crunchy system. D&D 5e may have the same issue, but it's such a squishy system that it's harder to quantify.
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  2. - Top - End - #152
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Thats fine except that in all the 4e and Starfinder games I played it was never the mook data pads or dilapidated wood doors that you were dealing with anyways. Every time you rolled it was for an actual "level appropriate challenge", as soon as you leveled up the data was no longer on the mooks and the treasure was no longer behind the wood door. As much as people say that the DC of a door or hack doesn't change what really happens in play is that the adjective in front of the word 'door' or 'computer' changes, the DC goes up to be 'level appropriate', and you still need to roll 13+ to accomplish the exact same task as before.
    I'm not saying this doesn't happen, I'm questioning what about this scenario is supposedly unique to Starfinder. 3.5 also doesn't have many ordinary wooden doors in high level areas (like Baator) last time i checked - the expected challenge elements scaling with the party happens just as often there. And in both systems, you are perfectly free to pit the party against something that isn't going to challenge them much if you want them to feel powerful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    But that's not a function of crunchy rules either. It's a result of the "level appropriate everything" craze that's shown up in game design recently. Although I think it is easier to spot that kind of thing in a crunchy system. D&D 5e may have the same issue, but it's such a squishy system that it's harder to quantify.
    5e is in my opinion even worse at this; Bounded Accuracy means you're almost never going to actually outlevel a decent challenge, whether that be a lock or a militia, because having your stats capped at 20 means that lots of smaller things will continue to challenge you long after they ceased to be a challenge for a different edition's character.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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  3. - Top - End - #153
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    5e is in my opinion even worse at this; Bounded Accuracy means you're almost never going to actually outlevel a decent challenge, whether that be a lock or a militia, because having your stats capped at 20 means that lots of smaller things will continue to challenge you long after they ceased to be a challenge for a different edition's character.
    5e is weird because classes that are good at skills will tend to so massively outgrow other options that they trivialize challenges. That said this only happens because everyone else is locked into not having good growth for their skills so challenges tend to have to stay wooden doors because if they were set to where a rouge would have a challenge succeeding then no one could ever succeed on challenges.

    Like i said, wierd

  4. - Top - End - #154
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    So, in 5E, skill experts increasingly reliably succeed at the types of challenges that they specialize in as they level up, and other characters don't? That that would be considered "bad" or "weird" seems rather illustrative of how expectation is shaped by experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    A system that fakes simulation so well that the average player is unable to tell the difference, is ipso facto simulationist.
    Well gosh golly gee willikers, Kurald Galain! I didn't know that the word "simulationist" really means something other than I what intended it to mean! But obviously it only has exactly one precise meaning, of which you clearly have expert knowledge, so I must have been wrong!

    Furthermore, whether D&D can accurately be described by the word "simulationist" is all that I was concerned with! I totally wasn't talking about stuff that someone might dislike about it regardless of whether a particular term applies!


    "Sometimes sarcasm helps us think more clearly." - Dogbert

    First of all, others have already noted that it's clear to ordinary players that D&D is not a simulation. But that's actually besides the point. See, a game's merits as a simulation aren't a matter of "This game isn't a simulation" vs. "This game is a simulation". It's a matter of "I dislike how this game isn't a simulation" vs. "I like how this game is a simulation". One upshot of this is that if you don't care how simulationist a game is, then how simulationist it is is a matter of how well it meets other people's standards. Regardless, you're unlikely to convince anyone that they hold different standards than they think they do.

    I'd like to know what you'd like people to say in place of "I don't like how D&D isn't a simulation". It would be one thing if you didn't understand what someone meant, but when people explain what we mean, I'm not sure what your criticism of our word choice is meant to accomplish. If the term "simulation" isn't appropriate, what is? I must wonder whether perhaps you are not attempting to facilitate communication but to impede it, as through an insistence that freedom is slavery. Perhaps your issue is not in fact with the language that others are using but with the very ideas that that language is intended to express.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I think it's useful to define "simulationist"* at this point. As someone that's not a primary simulationist, here's my take:

    1) The system has, as a goal, accurate simulation of events
    2) The system tracks the things that would be important factors into a situation.
    3) The things tracked in a simulation of situation have the impact that they would - for instance, armor makes you take less damage on a hit-by-hit basis **
    4) The system tells you what happens in reasonably concrete terms ***
    5) The results from the system are generally plausible ****
    6) The most probable results from a situation in reality ***** are also highly likely in the system
    7) A character making a decision in a situation considers similar things to what a person in reality would be considering ******
    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    As for why I like "simulationist" systems? Because I want the decisions and challenges facing the character on the system layer to be the same as those facing the character on the fiction layer, and I hate disconnects. I hate seeing the result of a roll and comparing it to what was going on in front of the character and getting that gut-level "what the hell, that makes no damn sense" reaction. I hate being kicked out of the moment for the character and made to stop and think about some other layer of stuff going on.
    To further expand on point 7: Making the decisions and challenges facing the character on the system layer the same as those facing the character on the fiction layer makes the decisions and challenges facing the player on the system layer the same as those facing the character on the fiction layer. That facilitates empathy with one's character, as the two of you are in the same boat, as it were. If instead you know that things that look like good ideas to characters in the game world are actually bad ideas and vice versa, because their world is an illusion that actually operates on different principles than the characters believe it operates on, then that indeed creates a disconnect. But it doesn't even have to come down to good idea versus bad idea.

    Armor as uniform damage reducer isn't really all that much more realistic than armor as dodge enhancer. Combatants generally do not have armor of uniform thickness covering their entire bodies. But just treating armor as a damage reducer instead of a dodge enhancer makes it work differently from better dodging, and that brings player considerations much more in line with character considerations. It means that when the character is faced with a tradeoff between greater mobility and better armor, the player faces a tradeoff between greater mobility and better armor, not just a question of which option give the higher Armor Class.

    So that's something that I like that seems to be positively correlated with simulationism, but isn't even inherently simulationist: Having that which is fluffed differently be crunched differently, such that things that conceptually work differently from each other actually play out differently. As another example, I would prefer that a cleric with high Intelligence and low Wisdom be more similar to a wizard with high Intelligence and low Wisdom than a cleric with high Wisdom and low Intelligence is. I want differences in those "game stats" to represent important differences between what characters can do, not for the same "stat" to mean different things for different classes!

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Let's not do the HP = meat thing again? Please? It's rather senseless.
    If losing hit points doesn't represent serious injury but still injury short of being dying on the ground, what does? If nothing does, but people in the setting are still supposed to sustain such injuries, then that's a failure as a simulation.

    When the system outright literally describes hit point loss as "damage", it seems a bit disingenuous to suggest that the default fluff of losing hit points isn't damage to the character. Sure, it can be "refluffed" to "interpret" it as something else, but that's not simulation. Simulation makes the crunch match the fluff, not the other way around. It's easy to contrive appropriate fluff for crunch; player characters being superhuman by real life standards seems like the most straightforward approach here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    D&D models so many things other games don't bother to try, like bleeding, starvation/thirst, exhaustion, suffocation, heatstroke, frostbite, gravity, light levels, states of awareness, hazardous surfaces, cover/concealment, to say nothing of more fantastic terrains, conditions or abilities. If none of that counts as a simulation, I can only hope you've found a game that does, and enough other people to play it with regularly.
    It's funny that you should mention bleeding, as I've noticed that, in D&D 3.5, a magic weapon with the Wounding property causes Constitution damage due to blood loss; and, indeed, Constitution damage seems to be how the d20 System handles blood loss in general.

    One implication is that being stabbed good and hard with big sharp pieces of metal doesn't cause significant blood loss unless those big sharp pieces of metal are specially magically enhanced to do so, because there are no rules for that.

    More generally, you seem to think that having unrealistic, verisimilitude-lacking rules for something is more simulationist than having no rules at all, whereas I am of precisely the opposite opinion. If you leave out morale entirely, that's one thing. It's not terribly feasible to attempt to model even everything that would likely have a significant impact on a battle. But if you put in special fear effects, then you're choosing to include fear in your game, in which case I want it to be handled plausibly.

    D&D seems to have an ongoing theme of treating things as more special cases than they would be. I assume that that's because the designers approach things from an angle of "Hey, it would be cool if a character could do X" or "Let's make a monster that can do Y" or "It would be interesting if the PCs were subject to condition Z". Rather than "Who realistically could do X?" or "What would be the implications of something that could Y?" or "Let's try to believably model Z". Big honking difference in design philosophy there. The former approach isn't necessarily bad, but simulationist it ain't.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    This is still vague; "matching reality" could include all sorts of things. Say I stab a bandit in the gut with my sword. His involuntary flinch plus the sweat on my palms causes the hilt to twist in my hands, roll against disarm. The resulting smell is quite awful, roll against nausea. A spurt of gore from the wound goes for my (*rolls*) face, roll reflex vs. blind. Successfully jerking away from that caused my feet to slip in the mud underfoot, roll to save vs. prone. I failed that one, he gets pulled down onto me, roll strength vs. pin. And the smell is even worse down here, roll for nausea yet again...
    The idea is to give each possible result the same approximate likelihood as it has in real life. That "approximate" qualifier is important because it allows lots of probabilities to be rounded down to zero, which renders design much more tractable. Excluding fairly unlikely possibilities is generally fine, not only because "close enough is good enough" but because a more exhaustive list would be cumbersome; a fully exhaustive list is probably impossible. Of course, good estimates of probabilities may be hard to come by, especially if the system designer lacks any relevant expert knowledge. But so long as players don't know any better themselves, they probably won't notice the difference.

    Complete and total realism is an unattainable ideal. Nothing less complex than reality itself can perfectly simulate reality. What you want to avoid more than anything else is wildly implausible results that are clearly wrong. In the above example, the bandit's head should not explode unless something else is going on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    I disagree that it's a reasonable target
    What's unreasonable about trying to make a game realistic enough to avoid regular "What the hell?" moments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    I just don't agree with where the line is currently drawn. There is more than a bit of No True Scotsman flying around from where I'm sitting.
    You seem to think that having a rule for something is "simulating" that thing so long as the rule doesn't routinely produce flagrantly wacky results. Not giving plainly inappropriate outcomes most of the time doesn't mean that a rule is simulating something.

    And frankly, in exactly what sense does D&D even have rules "for" all of the things you mention? Does just using the word for something mean that a rule is "for" that thing, or e.g. does the thing called a sword need to actually work like a sword in order for the rules for it to be rules for a sword? And how much like a sword does it need to work? Is it enough for it to damage enemies when you swing it at them?

    For example, D&D has player characters become more skilled as they gain experience, which sounds realistic enough. By overcoming difficult challenges, they get better at overcoming challenges. Totally reasonable so far!

    But the skills that PCs improve at aren't necessarily the ones that they've been using. Regardless of whether it tends more towards a fixed class progression or an array of options to pick from at level up, I don't think that any edition has ever made PCs better at only stuff they've been practicing. Heck, sometimes a class progression contains weird changes without a real basis in what the class did up until then, like a Ranger suddenly gaining spellcasting.

    Characters needing training in addition to XP from adventuring is a patch on this problem that doesn't really render the system realistic. If they get their skills from non-adventuring training, then what do they need all of that XP for? And the answer of course is that leveling up isn't there to realistically represent character development, but as a reward for players.

    The fact that the system works like this is a plot point in On the Origin of PCs. Like, it's not just a throwaway joke about how silly the rules are; the fact that the characters live in a world that operates under the rules of a non-simulationist gave system plays a role in the story going the way that it does. (Yes, if the rules had been different, Rich would have given Haley and Vaarsuvius different backstories to explain their joining the Order of the Stick without really altering the course of the comic, but it would have changed that part of the plot of that prequel.)

    On a very high level of abstraction and very low level of resolution, there are rules "for" characters getting better at what they do. There are broad similarities to how people get better at stuff in real life. But there are also broad similarities between chess and a military battle. Does chess simulate a military battle? If not, could you make it a simulation of a military battle if you gave its pieces and its moves sufficiently evocative names? That's not even a rhetorical question; I wouldn't be shocked if some of the participants in this thread answered "Yes".

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    It's modeling, or at least attempting to model, aspects of the real world that most games (even most tabletop games) either don't or can't.
    D&D doesn't attempt to model things in the sense of trying to capture the ways that those things work. It uses those things as inspiration for its rules, and it borrows the words for those things. To the limited extent that it does seek to give plausible results, D&D doesn't pursue them through modeling per se, it just contrives to give results that "seem good enough" in most of the cases that not particularly simulationist players are likely to care about. It has rules "for" lots of individual things, but often they aren't treated as more specific instances of more general types of things. The rules are chosen because they give "good enough" results, not to make the relationships between game constructs mirror the relationships between the things that they represent.

    It would be a poorly coded simulation as a video game where whose internal functioning is unknown to the player, but it's worse as a tabletop game where you have to wrestle with its inelegant rules and see how fake they are. When I see how game "stats" and game interactions don't actually correspond to in-setting properties and in-setting interactions, that feels fake. Doing an unreliable job of giving correct results is frankly more forgivable when a system is trying to legitimately simulate, i.e. to make all of the stuff that it's tracking correspond directly to stuff in the setting. That way the rules are at least more intuitive and the problems should be relatively easy to fix: Just figure out which value or interaction somewhere is wrong!

    Dungeons & Dragons just isn't a simulation in a truly simulationist sense. It fails to simulate adequately simtastically. It's not, you know, a simmy sim! A simmy sim that feels... simmy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    D&D is useful as a common language, because most of us are familiar with it (even if we don't play anymore, or barely ever did.) Especially 3rd edition, since a certain webcomic most of us (presumably) came here to see uses it.
    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    One could even argue that that's one of the strengths of D&D - by not being a very strong "simulationist" or "narrative" or "gamist" game it opens itself to being enjoyed by a wider audience.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    It's obvious to my brand new (to TTRPGs, to RPGs, and to D&D) teenage players, basically from the start. D&D doesn't attempt to be anything other than a fun way to be able to pretend to be heroes doing heroic things. Or not. For me, that's a large part of the draw. It's not anything-ist--it's free from pretensions to following any theory or school of thought. It's absurd in parts, serious in parts, and a giant amalgam of "hey, that seems cool, let's do it!" And always has been. And, for me, that's the charm.
    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    Honestly, bearing a 'simulationist' (/'narrativist'/'gamist') flag is fairly meaningless. I'd almost say that none of them mean anything except on a relative scale -- i.e. 'X is more simulationist than Y (at least with regards to qualities which are important to me or my group),' or 'A is not simulationist enough for my needs, while B is (but....).'
    Well, here's the thing: The unqualified use of a relative term is implicitly in contrast to the norm. Someone who is three feet tall normally isn't called "tall" just because he has a height greater than zero. "People are stupid" is an absurd generalization, as obviously the average person is not of below average intelligence. And calling Dungeons & Dragons "simulationist" is likewise as absurd, because obviously Dungeons & Dragons isn't more simulationist than Dungeons & Dragons is. If D&D is the norm, then it's the implicit, default point of contrast, is it not?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    A counter example of something I'd say is decidedly NOT crunchy modifiers is Action Points (and their various equivalents, like 5e's Inspiration). It may be a modifier, but it's not a crunchy game element. It's just meta currency. You can *make* it more crunchy by making an in universe justification for it (like calling them Force Points in SWSE), but you still have to make their acquisition and use highly technical for it to become truly crunchy.

    I've always felt that the absolute best crunchy games, while possibly bulky, will be as streamlined as absolutely possible. Flawlessly technical, but reduced to a manageable set of data to track.

    And your fear that crunchy games leave less room for improvisation is somewhat unfounded. The perfect crunchy system wouldn't need improvisation because it would readily apply to any conceivable scenario. Though you're right that most attempts by real humans to make a crunchy game are very far from this ideal.
    You seem to be treating "crunchy" as a synonym for "simulationist". That's not what that means. "Crunch" is the game rules used to decide what happens. Fluff is the descriptions of things in the setting. Simulationism is making crunch match fluff! A pure meta currency has no attached fluff and is pure non-simulationist CRUNCH that a player can use to bite down on stuff in the game world! Chomp chomp!

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Narrative games, in general, have less of a planned story than other types of games, so there's nothing to derail.

    Where you really get "derailing" is in adventure-path style games, which tend to be a pre-designed story laid on top of a usually-fairly-traditional-or-crunchy game. Most of the popular narrative games explicitly advise against having a planned story.
    I seem to recall "narrativism" being defined as the story hinging on what players decide to have their characters do. And I'd certainly expect that determining where the story goes is what a "narrative ruleset" is for. And what's the point of building narrative conventions into the game rules if not to allow events to adhere to those conventions without having to follow a pre-planned plot?

    Whereas a verisimilitudinous "the dice fall where they may" game by nature eschews narrative convention; e.g. the main characters can pointlessly die due to bad luck. And so imposing plotted story means fighting the system at its very heart and soul, in a sense. Thus does vigorous railroading become the order of the day.

    But when such a system is free to be what it wants to be, not bound and enslaved by wicked modules for their foul purposes, the players not merely watching shadows on a cave wall but allowed to explore a world rather than the illusions of an ingenious demon... then the game becomes a complete and total glorious crapshoot that not only doesn't adhere to a pre-planned plot, but doesn't adhere to story tropes either.
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  5. - Top - End - #155
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    We were literally one day from the thread necro cutoff, Devils_Advocate. I don't think anyone is invested in their arguments anymore.
    Last edited by Willie the Duck; 2019-08-20 at 07:10 AM. Reason: came off as rude

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