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Old 07-11-2018, 12:01 PM   #11
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Join Date: Sep 2004
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

I see different types of realistic. It can mean 'close to reality' or 'different from reality in believable ways.' In other words, a setting with unrealistic elements can still be called realistic if those elements are believably incorporated. Many fantasy settings don't make much effort to incorporate their magic believably, preferring instead to give many monsters and some citizens abilities that could transform the world, but still have all the visual trappings of Medieval Europe (castles, when wizards can fling the equivalent of artillery and dragons can fly, for instance).
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Old 07-11-2018, 01:21 PM   #12
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

IIRC there's a sidebar bit in GURPS Space about this. The context related it specifically to science fiction, but I think it's generalizable to campaigns in general. The idea is that there are two different types of realism: social realism and scientific (or, as I'm going to call it, "technical") realism. You can have rock-hard science fiction with no "miracles" whatsoever, not even superluminal or significant-percentage-of-c subluminal flight, but have larger-than-life personalities, simplistic morality, and melodramatic turns of events. Likewise, you can have butter-soft TL^_^ superscience fantasy where actions have consequences, people's motives are complex, their dispositions are nuanced. The two axes are largely independent.

Technical realism in a fantasy setting can come in the form of historically accurate weapons and military tactics, but also possibly in the form of richly verisimilar metaphysics: magic has rules and it follows those rules. Additionally, you can have scientific explanations for fantastic phenomena; in the manga Dungeon Meshi you have anatomical diagrams of slimes, taxonomy of man-eating plants, multiple techniques for safely harvesting mandrake, and explanations of the mechanisms behind dragon fire (it's fueled by indigestible parts of the dragon's food and ignited by friction from the dragon clicking its tongue).

I could also add a third dimension to this system with economic realism: how does magic or advanced science change economics and society? Settings like Eberron, for example, explore industrialized magic would change society. Our own Alchemical Baroque treats magic as protoscientifically understood: scientifically understood as scientific understanding worked in late TL4. TL consistency can be another big part of economic realism -- no full plate or reliable locks before TL4, and no limiting gunpowder until TL4! If you want divergent TLs, explore their implications.

And of course, there's a big difference between realism and granularity. Dwarf Fortress is granular in the extreme, but, although this depends on the release version, it has lots of goofy edge cases where a legendary dwarven thrower can decapitate a nigh-invincible bronze colossus with a well-aimed small grassland mammal, which survives unscathed; or where a legendary dwarven martial artist can punch a goblin hard enough to send it flying several dozen meters. Meanwhile, GURPS gets a lot of realism out of some pretty simple mechanics like the bell curve of 3d6. Adding lots of the granular rules can make it further realistic, but it already has a lot going for it when it comes to realism even if you stick to the very basics.
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Old 07-11-2018, 02:12 PM   #13
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

I tend to prefer social realism and economic realism over scientific realism, as I am running games for people and not for robots. It is so satisfying when I see the faces of my players when they realize that they understand, sympathize, and even agree with the villains yet oppose the villains because they do not condone their methods, even if they agree with the goals of the villains. There is a moment of the highest drama when a PC must decide whether to stop the villains, even if it will prevent the events that the PC desires from occurring for years or decades, or to join the villains, even if it will betray everything that the PC believes in.
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Old 07-11-2018, 02:36 PM   #14
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

To me, when a Player says "I prefer more realism in my games", what they mean most of the time is 'consistency'.

By this I mean: If gobbos always break and run when they stop outnumbering the PCs and one time they don't, this means something must be affecting them, there must be a reason they've hardened their resolve to die on the PC's blades. If every third loot stash the PCs find contains a cursed item, and they go 7 loot stashes in a row without finding one, something is afoot! If every tomb/dungeon has at least one trap and the PCs have fully searched a tomb and not 'found' any traps, they must have missed something!

Now those are a bit ludicrous and perhaps a bit extreme ('always'), but you get my drift. The Player means "I want a world that makes sense, despite being a Fantasy, regardless of fidelity or verisimilitude, I want things to make sense".

Of course I'm now half expecting one of my Player to pop and complain "But you don't care if things make sense!" Which is true. I sometimes don't give reasons to things, they just happen and most often I don't even bother with backstorys for NPCs or locations or whatever*. I'm a 'quirky, seat-of-the-pants' GM that way.

* If the Players are never going to discover it, why am I wasting my time developing it in advance?
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Old 07-11-2018, 03:16 PM   #15
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

The advantage of being a GM is you can later connect seemingly unimportant events (the wench you slept with in the first tavern was actually a witch in disguise and, by using your seed, has bred an army of human-rabbit hybrid warriors that threaten the kingdom!). I have found that players enjoy the illusion of consistency more than any real consistency (they almost delight in destroying any plans made by the GM).

Heck, I once had an entire campaign derailed within half an hour when a player decided his PC would get drunk at a royal party and attempt to seduce the queen. After a very successful reaction roll, the entire party ends up fleeing the capital in the middle of the night with the estranged queen and a goodly portion of th king's treasury (by the way, two TL4 coachs in GURPS can easily carry 1,000 pounds of silver and 200 pounds of gold, around $5 million in treasure, as well as five adventures, three maids, one queen, and fair amount of luggage). To this day, my former players think that I had everything planned out.
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Old 07-11-2018, 04:04 PM   #16
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

Thanks for the responses, I posted this because from time to time I've seen people ask if something is realistic as if it was a universal constant in gaming when it isn't. I think we, as gamers need to focus on what WE are doing within the confines of our game and instead of asking is "such and such realistic" we should be asking, "Here is a basic premise X, here are some of the consequences of X, am I forgetting something important about X?" and when answered we need to figure out if the input is necessary for what we envision X to mean to our game.
I'm a fan of flexibility as a GM and as a player and I don't want some nebulous concept or my adherence to said nebulous concept, to undermine the point of my have a good time and to tell a fun, collective story.
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Old 07-11-2018, 04:57 PM   #17
Jack Sawyer
Join Date: Jul 2018
Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

I tend to think of 'realism' along a spectrum from 'possible' to 'likely'. Closer to the end of 'possible is' 'it can occur by our understanding of science however unlikely or theoretical' - this can often be just a hair under 'pseudoscience' but many people will often believe it is real all the same (see: cold fusion, the EM Drive.) 'Likely' is what we often think of for the hardest of the Hard sci fi, where you are trying to apply science as rigorously and extensively as you can and it may be largely 'near future' stuff and little else. Somewhere in between those extremes you could have 'plausible' which is a bit more rigorous than 'possible' but it doesn't go to the extreme that 'likely' does, although the precise point along the aforementioned spectrum will vary according to perception.
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Old 07-11-2018, 09:38 PM   #18
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

I was once in a game where the GM's idea of realism clashed with mine a lot. They were a member of the Cult of Stat Normalization and for them it was unrealistic for people to have skills and attributes above 12. The campaign collapsed because the PCs were unable to get onto the private plane that was supposed to take us to the mission.

But for that GM, realistic meant...not particularly competent in adventuresome situations...which was what were supposed to be engaging in regularly.

For me...I note that Dolph Lundgren exists in the real world. He is smart: Got a Masters in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney and got accepted into MIT. He has a killer body, lots of strength, he's a 3rd Degree black belt in Karate--European Champ in 1980. He is also rich and famous. He is a real person in the real world. So, I wouldn't think of a PC modeled off of him as being unrealistic.

The world if full of wondrous and heroic people, and competent people, and lucky people...and they are real people. So my realism has no problem with the existence Dolph Lundgrens and Danica Patricks and so on and so forth. I find a world that is too miserable to feel...not realistic. So, my sense of plausible and realistic allows for higher point totals and higher skills and attributes than I think a lot of others do.

My realism is not so much about points totals, skill levels, or attribute levels...but more about what other sorts of rules switches are being switched on.
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Old 07-11-2018, 11:55 PM   #19
mr beer
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

Originally Posted by trooper6 View Post
For me...I note that Dolph Lundgren exists in the real world. He is smart: Got a Masters in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney and got accepted into MIT. He has a killer body, lots of strength, he's a 3rd Degree black belt in Karate--European Champ in 1980. He is also rich and famous. He is a real person in the real world. So, I wouldn't think of a PC modeled off of him as being unrealistic.
Yes exactly. Exceptional people with 100s of points in GURPS terms exist in the real world. Somewhere there is an ex-Special Forces guy who is a multi-millionaire and has positive Appearance and/or Charisma and has valuable Contacts.

It's fine to play a low-powered campaign and have characters who are unexceptional and only modestly competent at a couple of things. It's ironically unrealistic to pretend that accurately models the reality of all plausible human beings.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:42 AM   #20
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: What do we mean by "Realistic"?

I mainly oppose "realistic" to "cinematic," and distinguish that from "mundane," which I oppose to "fantastic." I suppose the first has to do with how you approach the action and the characterization, while the second has more to do with how you approach the worldbuilding and the premise.
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