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Does the term "realistic" have any meaning in RPGs?


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I think realism is the wrong word. What many people probably mean when they use it in this context, is that next to everything in a game should make sense according to the logic of the game and its world.

 

When I start a game and learn how the magic in this game works, I accept this - if those rules are suddenly broken for no good reason, then my immersion breaks.

 

Also, that those rules, logic and lore are complex, satisfying and consistent. 

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As far as realism in fantastical settings goes I am very fond of the Discworld, it has it all, Dwarfs, Trolls, Humans, Gnolls, Zombies, Werewolves, Vampires, Elves(of a sort) and many more.

 

It also has magic that can change reality on the whim of a powerful user.

 

What makes it great for me is that all the people(humans and all the rest) in it are people when you come down to it even if they start out as stereotypes.

 

It really shows how a world with all these races and magic would work if it was real.

 

And of course even if you are the most powerful being on the Disc a sock with a half brick in it will at the very least ruin your day.

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The problem also gets complicated if you are adding in comedic elements to your fantasy world. Like for example in the movie Aladdin it all seems pretty consistent with the setting, all fun Arabian Nights stuff. But the genie does a Jack Nicholson impression which should destroy the illusion but for the most part you just accept it, jokes aren't always a part of "reality" so they can break the rules.

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when you do not talk about a simulation or a game that tries to imitate something real (FIFA, NHL etc), realism is how believable and consistent what you see is. a "realistic" fantasy game is one that makes sense and the concepts within it are not up in the air. it gives you in some way or another a (believable within the lore) reason for what is going on and wont just go with "that's how it is because that's how we made it, deal with it"... and of course it will not have inconsistencies like 

"i name you sir John and bestow upon you the title of count of X province." said the king

5 minutes later

"You, boy. I have a rat problem in the storeroom, get down there and clear it for me!" said the castle's cook

"Ok". said sir John, count of X, a lv20 fighter that has killed demons and dragons and whatnot

5 minutes later

"Hello stranger, what is you business in the throne room?" asks the guard that was present in the ceremony a few minutes back

Edited by teknoman2
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The words freedom and liberty, are diminishing the true meaning of the abstract concept they try to explain. The true nature of freedom is such, that the human mind is unable to comprehend it, so we make a cage and name it freedom in order to give a tangible meaning to what we dont understand, just as our ancestors made gods like Thor or Zeus to explain thunder.

 

-Teknoman2-

What? You thought it was a quote from some well known wise guy from the past?

 

Stupidity leads to willful ignorance - willful ignorance leads to hope - hope leads to sex - and that is how a new generation of fools is born!


We are hardcore role players... When we go to bed with a girl, we roll a D20 to see if we hit the target and a D6 to see how much penetration damage we did.

 

Modern democracy is: the sheep voting for which dog will be the shepherd's right hand.

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but again, your observation (or affirmation) that we is using realism and mature and adult different from each other were exact the point we were making.  given the near guaranteed failure o' finding common ground for such terms, we suggest people discuss individual features and aspects o' a game and then explain why doing a particular way would make the game better.  somebody bring up weighty gold and starts talking about verisimilitude, immersion or realism and we is gonna have problems.  why does weighty gold make game better?

 

I would say that those words are used because it is often hard to describe why such things like weighty gold makes game better, as it usually comes down to feeling that visual and mechanical representation in the game gives to player. It is very similar to aesthetics, that you have gut feeling what you prefer and what you despise, but when you start to think why you have such feelings and what are the specific points that you like and don't like and how they could be replicated and why replicating them would make you like product more, we come in very difficult territory where most of the people don't know even basic directions let alone have ability direct other people.

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but again, your observation (or affirmation) that we is using realism and mature and adult different from each other were exact the point we were making.  given the near guaranteed failure o' finding common ground for such terms, we suggest people discuss individual features and aspects o' a game and then explain why doing a particular way would make the game better.  somebody bring up weighty gold and starts talking about verisimilitude, immersion or realism and we is gonna have problems.  why does weighty gold make game better?

 

I would say that those words are used because it is often hard to describe why such things like weighty gold makes game better, as it usually comes down to feeling that visual and mechanical representation in the game gives to player. It is very similar to aesthetics, that you have gut feeling what you prefer and what you despise, but when you start to think why you have such feelings and what are the specific points that you like and don't like and how they could be replicated and why replicating them would make you like product more, we come in very difficult territory where most of the people don't know even basic directions let alone have ability direct other people.

 

it is ok if a desired change is simple a matter o' aesthetic choice, but am thinking that use o' "realism" or "verisimilitude" is not used because people is unsure what word to use. rather, the folks who use "realism" instead o' "personal aesthetic" is doing so with purpose.  such people realize (conscious or unconscious) that "personal aesthetic" is a pure subjective measure and it is impossible to make claims that changing features 'cause o' Bob's gut  will make the game better for anybody other than Bob.

 

"you need to add weighty gold to PoE because, well, I like weighty gold."

 

is not a particular compelling argument, is it? reality adds an objective quality for the proponent o' weighty gold.  gold has weight in real life, so further away game gold behaves compared to real world gold (e.g. its volume and weight) the further it has strayed from an objective measure, regardless o' whether that measure is actual meaningful. 

 

as a gameplay feature, many folks likes micromanagement.  heck, insofar as character creation is concerned, Gromnir enjoys more such micromanagement as 'posed to less... though we realize that the more such options you add, the more opportunities you create for breakage.  the more complex you make any system, the more opportunities you create for something to go wrong.  even so, we get the folks that might want weighty gold because they genuine do likes that level o' micromanagement.  as the developers increase the options and details a player needs keep track of, the happier the micromanager becomes, perhaps because they feel that their choices has greater impact on how the game plays.  therefore, weighty gold improves the gameplay experience for some.  fine.  Gromnir disagrees.  is just an example, but is an example that reveals that we can have a very useful debate regarding the gameplay value o' weighty gold w/o resorting to largely aesthetic and extreme selective preference for realism.

 

realism has as much inherent value in a crpg discussion as does immersion.  is a meaningless word w/o considerable explanation and illustration and frequent it is used as a cheap dodge to avoid admitting that personal aesthetic is the only real motivation for demanding realistic ___________. 

 

HA! Good Fun!

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"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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I think there's an important idea that should be emphasized before things go much further: "realistic" is actually a hugely useful property in fiction. The closer something is to the ordinary, the more easily people can assimilate it into their everyday understanding of how things work and more accurately intuit potential consequences, and that's vital if your story or game is supposed to be function as anything but surrealism. For example, look at the Fireball or Flight spells from Dungeons and Dragons. They're magical effects and despite the in-joke spell components there's no adequate explanation for how their primary effects jibe with normal physics. And that's fine--they can still be adequately included in thought experiments by treating them as unexplained exceptions to the normal order of things. You can still present satisfying explanations for where all the smoke goes after the Fireball explodes or what happens when a Flight spell ends because in the absence of explicit exceptions people default to "common sense" and we've all been taught that hot smoke floats upwards and that people under the effect of gravity fall down. That's a useful and near universally accepted event generator and it doesn't cost a writer anything. Even doggedly fantastical settings like Discworld only function as an exception to such things because we have a vast store of literary references that allow us to play the "It works like in book/movie/cliche X" game for a long, long time before finally resorting to "It works just like in the UK, alright?"

Edited by Whipstitch
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To be snarky, most people use 'realistic' to mean 'things I like' and 'unrealistic' to mean 'things that I don't like'.

 

To actually address your point, there's a certain suspension of disbelief that's important. We're willing to suspend disbelief more when the foreign thing is more alien and mysterious. That is to say, we don't actually know what a Wizard can do. If you present in a internally consistent way, most people will give it a pass. It's magic, it's part of the agreement we made when we picked up a book with an orc riding a unicorn on the cover. If you violate something that we know how it works, suddenly that snaps us out of it. We'll accept that a wizard can levitate a pillar with his mind, but the thought that some dude who is not magical can just go pick up a 2 ton block of stone offends our sense of logic.

 

But there's another layer going on here: crpg players have, in general, learned to tolerate a fair amount of unrealistic things in the name of Fun Game Time. And this is where the real trouble starts, because everyone has a different line where on one side, it's just a game, and on the other side, you ruined the game because you made it seem just ridiculous.

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To be snarky, most people use 'realistic' to mean 'things I like' and 'unrealistic' to mean 'things that I don't like'.

 

 

That's rarely if ever been the case in my experience. More often it seems that there's simply a natural and altogether predictable dissonance that occurs when people describe things that are fantastical IRL as being commonplace within a fictional setting. That generally works out fine in non-interactive fiction because in such instances the audience knows going in that they lack any real autonomy and thus aren't particularly put out to find that their understanding of the world is not true. However in tabletop games you can often quickly find yourself trying people's patience with such things given that they are making a good faith effort to interact with their surroundings in what they perceive to be a reasonable manner. For example, I once spent the better part of a session stuck in front of a chasm. It turned out that the DM was trying to teach us that as long as we didn't look down we could walk across like Wile E. Coyote. He thought it was clever, but I don't think it's entirely unreasonable that we felt trolled. You sometimes see the same "We are not amused" reaction when stories that are ostensibly mysteries turn out to have an "impossible" explanation.

Edited by Whipstitch
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To me realism or realistic actions in an RPG are about being internally consistent and coherent. If the developers regularly introduce deus ex machina items and events to dig them selves out of a plot hole they've created then sorry that's not realistic (within the setting). The exception to this being if the setting never makes sense and every item, plot and event is completely insane and violates all the previous rules.

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People have no problem to accept, that a game has elves, magic, resurrection, . . .

 

On the other hand, many poeple would complain if:

- Your characters walk through walls.

If I was a ghost I would EXPECT to walk through walls.

 

- "Rotten zombie bones" are the favourite meal of humans in the game world

When the only food available is zombies, zombies will become the staple meal. I could see a post-apocalyptic fantasy going there.

 

- In PoE a char pulls a lightsabre out of his pocket and cuts a dragon in two pieces with a single strike

I'd be more worried about Lucasfilm/Disney suing over the use of a lightsaber in this scenario. People do have issues with guns and stuff, but honestly if the lore supports a weapon (like some of the fantasy or science-fantasy hybrids I've seen), there really isn't a problem.

Edited by Amentep
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Its great to see what I started.

And the video is great as well.

 

So it looks like realism has several meanings.

 

- There is violence, sex and dirt. ( OK, Thats definitely NOT what I mean)

 

- Things are like in the real world, except some things that are introduced by the setting.

PST has one of the most bizarre settings ever, but there are humanoid people and they have to eat, drink and sleep. They walk on the ground and live in houses with chairs, tables and beds inside.

The things that are different than the real world are given by the setting and cannot be changed at will. If the setting says that only mages can cast magic, it makes no sense if a farmers dog throws a fireball at you.

 

- The people act according to their role in the world. Like in the example of unrealism were you become king and then the cook orders you to kill some rats.

 

- The game is realistic in the sense of the video. It means the opposite of a story like "You are the one and only hero and you save the world alone from everything"

 

 

Of course, all these things belong together somehow.

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I just remember a game I consider being "realistic", but it is not like the things I have written above: Realms of Arcadia 1

 

- You create 6 chars and they are only charecter sheets with stats, skills and a portrait. There is no personality.

- There only a few people you can interact with. Towns are almost empty.

- Your group alone saves the world from an orc invasion.

 

 

But the game is realistic in a sense that it is the best "middle age adventure simulator" I know.

- You have to eat, drink and rest often.

- you can get ill.

- You can lose or damage your equipment on your journey.

- When a char dies, the only way to bring him back is to pray at the temple of the god of life and hope for a miracle (OK, the chance of success is low but you can pray as often as you want. But there are only a few temples in the huge game world.)

- You need the right equipment for each situation (traveling without sleeping bag and cooking equipment, traveling without shoes, climbing without rope, no warm cloth in the mountains, no torch in a cave and tons of other things can give you serious problems)

- To make things worse, every time you save the game outside of a temple each party member loses 1 exp (and you gain exp very slowly)

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Realism is contextual.

This.

 

Thirded.

 

To clarify, yes one can argue the semantics, and people can mean it different ways (so it's really best to just state clearly what you mean when you comment on something in a game needing to be "realistic."), but a video game has its own imagined reality. It's not actual, real-life reality. But, in the story, the character could say to some other character who is dreaming about something impossible in that imagined world, "Wake up, man! This isn't a dream! It's reality!". That word doesn't suddenly apply to the actual, real world. It is understood that the context is that of the imagined game/book's own reality, fake or not. It's kine of like a pretend alternate dimension.

 

Annnnnywho, the biggest problem with the tossing around of the word "realism" is pretty much the ambiguity with which it is used. That, coupled with the "You can't use that word 'cause it's a fantasy world," etc. misconceptions (I get that "verisimilitude" is specifically designed for that purpose, but MAN that's a mouthful for a concept we can all comprehend with a sprinkle of context and specificity).

 

Also, the biggest problematic argument I've seen regarding realism isn't that some amount of realism (or verisimilitudinositousness) is better than zero realism. It's that more inherently = better. But, even then, you've got the mix-up between "realism" and "simulation." Realism can be represented in the world and story without the mechanics necessarily simulating the player's interaction with said realism. So, "Omg, people should die from their sword wounds 'cause of infection and stuff!" might be a valid point, depending on the contextual design of a game world, but that doesn't mean that making the player have to manually play Operation every time someone gets hit and roll a d20 for every stitch to close up a wound = better game.

 

Whether something should be a mechanic or not is completely dependent upon the context of the game's design concept. As has been pointed out in the recent Merchant Gold thread, for example, simply limiting merchants' gold supplies in a game in which you can still always just go to another merchant and finish selling everything doesn't accomplish much, beyond the subjective "Yay! It wasn't immersive enough for me, personally, when I could sell everything I ever pick up, ever, to that one merchant, conveniently! I needed the slightly-more-realistic-but-still-not-at-all-realistic-in-many-other-ways inconvenience of still being able to sell even randomly procured pebbles to any merchant, so long as he has not run out of gold."

 

But, more realism no more makes a game inherently better than more mystery makes a mystery novel better. Obviously, some amount of mystery is in order, but infinite mystery would simply result in the genre being renamed "Contemplative Inquiry Novels," since that's all you'd do the whole time you read them, never finding out anything at all.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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"Realism" and "suspension of disbelief" also have an added layer in video games, compared to literary or movie fiction.

 

In literary works, the question "does money have weight" never even crosses anyone's mind. It's not a question that is relevant to the genre, and even if it gets mentioned (because dragon treasure or crates full of Unobtainium), it can safely assume that it just works as everyone expects it to - "like in the real world".

 

In video games, you have game mechanics and conventions on top of that. Often these steer away from pure world simulation but to which extent, may be different.

 

There is a very popular mod for Skyrim introducing frost survival aspects into the game (run around insufficiently protected, and you'll freeze to death). While it certainly isn't everybody's cup of tea, it generally fits into the mood and gameplay of that game very well.

Now a similar mod for the Icewind Dales would be much more strange and, I believe, much less popular. These games simply don't work on that level of simulation. They use different conventions about how to deviate from reality in the name of gameplay - and that's a good thing.

 

So clamouring for "realism" often takes the conventions and compromises of one kind of game and applies them to others where they may not be applicable. "Gold weight" can be a thing to simulate - if you're having a very realistic inventory system in the first place, and managing that is part of the gameplay. If you don't, it's a level of simulation that doesn't fit.

 

Or, in other words: "Realism is contextual." :D

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Therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium. -W.B. Yeats

 

Χριστός ἀνέστη!

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First, I'd like to answer the OP question with; Oh yes it does. Definitely does.

 

But then, no, a more realistic game is not automatically the better game. Definitely not.

For example, a game where you hop around from one floating platform to another and jump on turtles to make them poop diamonds...

.. is not realistic. But can be a great game.

 

Third. Realism is not binary, on or off. There are levels, and levels within levels.

Unreal setting can be accepted in a realistic game, if people in game behave realistically... as one imagines they'd behave in a setting like that.

 

It's not like you either accept fighting banana monsters and hopping laser-toasters, 

or just go directly to a farmers life simulation with toilet cleaning quests.

 

A middle ground exists. Some just prefer a bit more to one side.

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Summing up what I learned from this thread:

  • Realism is contextual x5 (c-c-c-combo!)
  • Regarding specifically RPGs things need to get balanced out between gameplay and verisimilitudesness (thanks, Lephys!) in immersion's sake. Features like "yeah, it's tedious to do, but so realistic!" should be no go (unless their absence hurt verisimilitudesness far more than gameplay).
What did I miss? Apart from contemplations on what people usually mean arguing about realism.
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Fantasy elements do not invalidate the realism and internal consistency of a setting, they enhance it ideally. I have never seen a setting that strays too far from realism, simply because we cannot concieve of anything that is too unimaginable. You of course have Bioware like worlds where it is a modern setting with a thin veneer of renaissance fayre flavour, works like the Witcher which are drawn from and inspired by real life sources but tackle timeless conundrums or JRPG's which sometimes stray the furthest from reality that we ever see.

 

So long as they are internally consistent, I find them enjoyable whatever the amount of realism applied, but then again I do not regard a little simple preparation and logical groundwork to be needless busywork. In fact i'm fairly tired of having nothing to do but walk forward, talk and kill then rinse and repeat.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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What I find strange is that the internal consistency and realism of a setting is not valued in and of itself, it seems simply logical that the more detail and consistency in a setting is a good thing, these little things bring a world to life. Yet they are seen as trivial and busywork when in reality they show the care and depth that has gone into creating a setting, without them you get dull, lifeless and unbelievable worlds where there is no internal consistency and the game mechanics show through far too frequently, thus personally I am jolted out of the game from seeing the fourth wall shattered.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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