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Old 07-11-2018, 02:21 AM   #1
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Default What do we mean by "Realistic"?

The Thread on "Balance" got me thinking about another aspect of role playing games in general and Gurps specifically. What does it mean to have a "Realistic" campaign? Gurps allows some pretty detailed options to have communicable diseases in your fantasy world, or crazy logistical issues with a science fiction setting using Gurps Space Ships if you want them. I've seen a lot of people asking if "such and such" is realistic or is this character concept realistic and from my perspective the question these people should be asking is "In this game I'm putting together where do I want "realistic" to be?

I personally like Gurps High Tech and tactical shooting because I run a Twilight 2000 game for a bunch of gun enthusiasts with hundreds of rifles each.

They want that detail, and to be honest, while it is "pretty good for a game" there are some decidedly unrealistic things we've encountered during play.
Fortunately we're all over 40 and we aren't trying to "one up" one another, but after a session we'll talk about the game and what seemed "off". We like the level of detail as where we have so we just laugh at some of the silly things we find happen in our game that are very unrealistic.

I think an obsession with this as opposed to running a fun game can make Gurps (or any game for that matter) very unfun and more of a chore.

What is your personal level of reality when you run a Gurps game?
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Old 07-11-2018, 02:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

For me personally I set the bar for realism at different heights for different genres.
I might run one game at a Bernard Cornwall level of grittiness with the occasional plague thrown in, while the next one might be closer to a Simon R Green book where minutiae of all sorts is just glossed over.

Every so often I run a game where the implausible happens just because it follows the conventions of the genre (a dungeon crawl world)
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Old 07-11-2018, 03:33 AM   #3
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

Originally Posted by pestigor View Post
What is your personal level of reality when you run a Gurps game?
As a rule I set the knob between "Die Hard" and "Conan The Destroyer" and just leave it there.
Feel free to steal, borrow, fold, spindle, mutilate any rule, advantage, etc I come up with it.
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Old 07-11-2018, 04:44 AM   #4
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

We probably need to differentiate between "congruent" and "realistic" - "congruent" being how we account for specific changes in reality based on setting. For example, FTL travel probably isn't "realistic" given what we know about general relativity but, given its presence in a setting, consequences must ensue ... and if those consequences are absent or non-credible, congruence has left the building. Congruence is the basis on which we slap people who claim "a wizard did it because dragons" and may include genre conventions if necessary.

Of course, setting a game in the real world is going to have a greater demand for realism - but even then you will have standards for things like stringency (how hard does the world respond to PCs actions?). As in all things, looking at what you are taking for granted can be enlightening ... and difficult.
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Old 07-11-2018, 05:30 AM   #5
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

We should be aiming for verisimilitude, not realism, and then discarding everything that isn't fun.
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Old 07-11-2018, 05:44 AM   #6
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

Originally Posted by DanHoward View Post
We should be aiming for verisimilitude, not realism, and then discarding everything that isn't fun.
I prefer to aim for "realism/congruency" in a thread about realism XD
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Old 07-11-2018, 05:57 AM   #7
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

For me, there is a difference between “detailed” and “realistic”.

Some games are not as detailed as GURPS, for instance, but are still “realistic”. Call of Cthulhu, for instance – especially the 7th edition. Pathfinder, to the contrary, can be very detailed, but is not realistic for all that.

I believe that a game is “realistic” as soon as it gives you the feeling that things could have happened like that in reality. And a game is unrealistic if you consider that things couldn’t happen like that in reality …

GURPS (as long as you try to play a realistic campaign) really gives me the feeling that things could happen like that: the strongest most often wins, a bullet in the head can kill even the most experienced warrior … While D&D-like games give the opposite feeling: a warrior can withstand dozens of battle axe wounds or a hundred-yard fall without the least penalty to his fighting abilities …

Note that I don’t discredit Pathfinder and D&D-like games, here. They are not designed to be realistic. They authors wanted them to be heroic.

Of course, no game is totally realistic, unless being overly complex. A game is not a reality simulator; it is just a game, that is, something designed to be fun.

And another problem is that we don’t all have the same point of view about reality. Are superpowers real? No. Nobody won’t debate it. But what about intuition, empathy … and luck? We all have our own beliefs about those things.

Likewise, how many bullets in the chest can withstand a man without dying? During the war of Algeria, a friend of mines’ father was hit by 17 MAT 49 PM bullets (9mm parabellum). And he still survived. Players of a roleplaying game would surely have found that totally unrealistic.

That is what I love, with GURPS rules. Things are usually very “realistic” (things will happen as you can expect them to happen) but, sometimes, something totally surprising occurs. Thanks to the critical success and failure system, and thanks to the damage system.

To me, GURPS is more than realistic (contrary to Call of Cthulhu). It is like life: predictable but still very surprising.
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Last edited by Gollum; 07-11-2018 at 06:02 AM.
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Old 07-11-2018, 07:27 AM   #8
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

To me, "realistic" means "doesn't shatter willing suspension of disbelief for these gamers in this genre."

When I'm GMing a modern-day technothriller for people who've never shot or even seen a real gun, I can be as insistent as I want regarding "realistic" firearms handling and tactics, but my group will just find that annoying; they will expect guns to work like they do in Die Hard and Shoot 'Em Up. For them, "realistic" is that guns shoot and people fall down. When I have a bunch of ex-military gamers . . . well, I'll include the effects of noise, flash, stoppages, and the 101 other details, and reward clever plans involving cover, areas of responsibility, lanes of fire, etc.

When I'm GMing low-tech fantasy for gamers who want the game to be about kicking down doors and collecting loot – like a video game but face to face – I have armor and weapons behave like semi-permanent extensions of the characters, and let warriors launch into whirlwind attacks vs. dozens of foes. When my audience is a bunch of reenactors, martial artists, and history nuts, armor coverage matters, armor can degrade, people get tired, and so on.

So for me it's all about how much reasonably accurate detail gets "switched on" to produce outcomes that those at the table will find plausible given their biases and experiences. A "realistic" game at least offers me those details to switch on when I need them.

How "reasonably accurate" is defined is a whole other question!

Good games are perforce playable abstractions. The less abstract they are, the less playable they become. In that sense, "realistic" means simply that somewhere along the line, the designers at least looked at the real-world precedents and slanted their rules and stats to give outcomes seen in reality. However, I prefer this to be at the black-box level: If plausible inputs give believable outputs, the game is "realistic," even if the individual rolls and mechanics that lead from input to output don't correspond to something in reality every step of the way.

And yes, that's how I design rules.
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Old 07-11-2018, 07:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

In many ways, the randomness of GURPS adds to its realism because it produces results beyond what people expect. In general though, I define realism by my beliefs and my life experiences, and I suspect that other people do the same. Since I have had a rather...interesting life, let us say, I consider certain forms of supernatural powers to be realistic (or at least plausible) enough to allow in my games. I am sure that there are people who allow angels and demons, faeries and spirits, or gods and monsters in their games because these things are realistic (or at least plausible) according to their beliefs and their life experiences. In essence, realism (and by extension plausibility) is subjective to the individual GM or player, as definitions of reality are biased by individual perception.
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Old 07-11-2018, 09:57 AM   #10
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

Mark me as another 'Realism doesn't break my personal suspension of disbelief' opinion. With the emphasis on 'personal'. Any fictional entertainment (whether a game, a story, etc.) will be imperfectly realistic 'realistic' because that level of detail is time/resource intensive. So it becomes a matter of degree - how much 'realism' is needed to suspend disbelief for an audience. Which depends on the audience and the people in it.

There's nothing wrong with world-building either, especially for that kind of audience. But IMHO it frequently happens because the creator LIKES that kind of detailed world building to start with. Again if they enjoy it, more power to them, but it's not necessary for every kind of audience and if it isn't needed it can be detrimental too.
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