Sunday, November 27, 2011

From the Pipeweed Gnome: Realism vs. Rationale

AS I get older (not necessarily more mature) my tastes in gaming have changed.  At one point D&D was enough, but there were gaps I wanted filled.  Then TFT fixed some issues but left out some of the fantastic in favor of realism.  Experimenting with game systems went to and fro: from Gamma World to Aftermath or the Morrow Project, Conan to Palladium Fantasy, Chill to Cthulhu, Dinky Dungeons to Chivalry & Sorcery, Marvel Heroes to V&V and DC Heroes...and on and on.  If I sat and tried to recall all the various game systems I have owned and played I am pretty sure its well over 120 at this point.  From the simple to uber-complex each offered something I liked...and things I did not.

Now I know I am firmly on the side of simple game engine, and players ability to add their own complexity. In the end though, one of the greatest issues in adventure games for me is the conflict of realism versus rationale. I think I have finally resolved this issue (for myself) as well.

So let's define both before proceeding further:

Realism: concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary, the theory or practice of fidelity in art and literature to nature or to real life and to accurate representation without idealization 

Rationale: an explanation of controlling principles of opinion, belief, practice, or phenomena,
an underlying reason or basis.

At this point I have steadfastly learned to limit the need for realism in fantasy games of any stripe, at the same time I have replaced and increased my need for rationale in my gaming.  Orcs that breathe fire and fart poison gas clouds-okay cool, but why? I am all for weird fantasy and the oddities of some of the more creative minded, but I can't simply go there with you just because you say so.  
Many decry the fun-house nature of some dungeon crawls, wanting a logical ecology or reason for things operating the way they do.  I agree with a rationale for the setting, but not with a need to create an ecology to turn the fantastic realistic. An old dungeon becomes the lair for a lich and his legions of undead? That is a rationale for the undead dungeon crawl.  An old king or wizard kept a menagerie of beasts in dungeons under his castle from foreign lands-okay there is your fun house rationale, I am good to go.

I am no longer looking for accurate damage models based upon the unicorn horn piercing strength while charging at 33.7 MPH versus the tinsel strength of adamantium armor blessed by King Gruffenwald. At one time I was, but having given up on most realism in my games, all I need to know is: what the rationale is in your world for this happening.  
Oh to be clear, I don't desire a frustrated fantasy novelist exposition.  Given a couple sentence of description regarding your rationale, maybe 3 at most, I am happy to play right a long and enjoy the ride.  

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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