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MukkTB
2011-11-09, 01:34 PM
Realistic Idealized Landscape
I havenít yet thought of a better name for it. I like the acronym RIL though. It sounds like Ďreal.í

A world that feels real is a better world than one that feels manufactured. It promotes PC roleplaying. It rewards logical thinking about the world around them. It leaves the roleplayers feeling more immersed. The following is a set of guidelines for how to achieve a world with more weight to it. Hereís whatís going on:

#1 All characters have access to the same rules. PCs, and NPCs.

#2 RAI is in effect.

#3 The DM acts impartially at all times. He never hides his rolls and if he uses his own material he pregenerates it before the play session.

#4 The players only effect the world by their actions within it. The future encounter doesnít change because the wizard selected fly like some quantumly entangled Schrodingerís cat. Magic items are chosen using the random charts or based on what would make sense to find rather than what the PCs could use or need.

#5 NPCs act in their best interest based on their int, wis, perception, sense motive, and knowledge skills. NPCs only Ďknowí they could be expected to without special DM insight.

#6 NPCs choose their class and features like PCs do. However while a player can determine a PCís background, an NPCĎs background is set in stone. So for example a high INT commoner could not class into a wizard if he did not have a background of magical training. Over the course of play he could seek that training though.

If we lay aside the question of whether a player can know they are really in a RIL world there are a couple major impacts that this has on gameplay. Metagaming becomes less important. No PC that believes they are in a RIL world will think ĎThe DM doesnít kill player characters. Iím safe to do whatever.í #3 prohibits the DM from acting on a chain of thought that says, ĎI donít want the PC to die, letís have the monster miss next turn.í The DM canít act on that chain of thought and he canít roll the dice where the players canít see them to produce a miss. This leads to the character acting more reasonably in the world. Cautious PCs donít make for a ton of fun, but PCs that believe they can do whatever bat**** crazy things they want to are probably worse. This also leads to characters being more forgiving of character deaths as long as they see a clear way that the death could have been avoided, even if that way was just rolling a better number on the dice. Of course those rolls should have a reasonable chance of success. In fact if the player believes #4 is in effect then the player will say, ĎThe DM didnít kill me. The world did.í Rule #4 prevents the DM from altering the way the world is in response to the partyís existence.

The downside of this is that the PCís also know that the DM wonít discipline them for misbehavior in game. PCs will only be accountable to other characters for their actions in game. A DM under #3 cannot think ĎThis is unacceptable. How do I get the PC to toe the line?í and then act on it, but they can and should think, ĎHow do all the individual NPCís that are aware of this action react to it?í Generally an action that would piss off a DM will probably piss off some NPCs. Whether the NPCs can react with any potency against the PC is another question that just gets to lie there. When a character starts screwing with the other characters #3 forces the DM to sit back and let them work it out in game amongst themselves. Out of the game he can chide them that they should be working together, and thatís it. In a RIL world the PCs are responsible for behaving as a group. The only impartial action a DM can take against a characterís actions is to shift his alignment.

The next unfortunate implication of a RIL world has to do with player motivations. In a non RIL world players would expect the DM to tailor encounters to their power level and possibly single out an overpowered PC to screw with or leave an underpowered one alone. #3 prevents the DM from messing with individual characters. #4 prevents the DM from tailoring encounters to the partyís power level. When a player realizes this he is strongly motivated to build the strongest character that he can. He knows that by building a suboptimal character that he is increasing his chance of dying or failing. If the party does not realize this as a collective group, this can lead to some of the members building heavily optimized characters while others donít. Those that didnít will have difficulty contributing and possibly even die. In any case optimization at the expense of characterization is probably not good.

But #5 mitigates the problem. Sure NPCs wonít be able to deal with the wizard having fly if they donít know about it. But if they do know about it they will either find a way within their power to deal with the flying, or they wonít fight if they think the flying will cause them to lose. If an evil organization knows that an area where the party is has a reputation for strong heroes theyíll send their A team to that area. If the area is known for wussy heroes the B team can go there and the A team can go whereís itís more needed. Itís kind of a case of the villain ball. This time however its justified. Unless there really is nowhere else the A team is needed. Then the suboptimized PCs are just screwed.

Is this good DMing? No. Good DMs give players magic items they can use because finding them is more satisfying than buying them. Good DMís tailor encounters so that the players can have fun. Good DMs are careful about PC deaths. They donít save PCs every time but theyíre careful. On the other hand I remember a number of times when I was DMing that I know I could have done better acting impartially. An impartial DM also isnít going to be a railroading DM because ĎHow can I get the PCs to do what I want?í isnít an impartial thought and therefore the DM canít act on it. Overall a truly impartial DM is better than a Bad DM but not as good as a Good DM.

Thereís another question. Is a RIL world superior to a non RIL world? The answer is yes. When players feel that the world has a solid quality to it its plainly better. When players think of the world as a real place instead of a bubble that wraps around their adventure and changes to reflect them itís a good thing. When players feel that things that donít directly relate to them are happening around them itís a good thing. Letís say a PC is interacting with a merchant. He knows a RIL merchant isnít just there so he can have access to a storefront. The merchant is there because he fits into the world right there. The merchant is going to have a supplier. The merchant is going to have regular demand for his goods. The player can make a number of guesses about the merchant that he could act on.
We like the RIL world but not necessarily the RIL DM.

How do we know if a DM is RIL anyway? You canít ever know. Not unless you declare a 2cd player to be a reality auditor that just stands behind the DM and makes sure he stays impartial and follows the pregenerated material. But you can get a feel for it. Itís not hard to spot when things seem to be happening just because the DM wants them that way. Itís like obscenity ďI know it when I see it.Ē However a DM using and sticking to a pregenerated 3rd party campaign is one way to easily show your players the DM is playing RIL.

This leads me to my final point. Iím not a good DM so I donít know. I just suspect. A good DM is going to follow RIL principles for the most part. Very rarely when it is important, he will act for the betterment of the game. That way the players perceive they are in a mostly RIL world while in fact they have a non RIL DM.

Ravens_cry
2011-11-09, 01:46 PM
Consistency is more important than realism per se. A world can have weird rules, but as long as they are kept consistent once established, its OK.
At the same time, things can change beyond ones control, so changing things, but not the rules of the world, can also be a good thing. Also, look at things logically. Players sometimes get the urge to steal from NPC. Making every bartender a retired badass is pretty ridiculous, but having someone with potentially hundreds of thousands of gold in magic items to not have significant protection and connections enough to make the PC life a living hell is also ridiculous. A king who has remained king for sometime in a world with more than Lord of the Rings level magic is going to have more than just a few low level body guards, but arcane protections as well.
So no Enchanter, you can not go up to the king and try and make him your lapdog with a single spell and expect to survive.

kieza
2011-11-09, 04:31 PM
Setting-wise, there should either be gradual change (in the setting's history, not necessarily during the campaign), or a stated reason why there isn't. I like LOTR, but the fact that Middle-Earth is stuck in Medieval Stasis irks me.

NichG
2011-11-09, 05:28 PM
I wouldn't use the word 'Realistic' to describe this, as it has a lot of other connotations, and I don't think you're really talking about realism so much as the idea that the PCs are the same as everyone else in the world and stand out by their choices rather than the vagaries of plot, DM guardian angelship, and other meta concerns.

When I saw the title 'Adding Realism to a World' I thought this was going to be about setting design and behavioral things to the world (and you do have a few of these on your list) as opposed to playstyle things and the meta-issue of how game is run. Things like 'Avoid obvious tropes and cliches, make NPCs that are actually competent, and if there's magic/etc apply the consequences of it everywhere in the setting that it appears at all levels'

Maybe 'Symmetric' is a better word for this, or 'Equality'? You could call it 'N/P Equivalence' to mess with computer science people.

LibraryOgre
2011-11-09, 11:31 PM
Setting-wise, there should either be gradual change (in the setting's history, not necessarily during the campaign), or a stated reason why there isn't. I like LOTR, but the fact that Middle-Earth is stuck in Medieval Stasis irks me.

I've actually put a bit of thought into this, though it works less well for Middle Earth than for 3.x.

Basically, people use technology to solve problems, and they usually use the easiest possible technology to solve their problems. In our world, that's been a variety of physical hacks... three-field farming increased productivity, but so did the horsecollar and steel plows and so on. In D&D-world, many of these things would come down to their main technology... magic. As people who are intelligent get funneled into magical pursuits, you tend to get magical solutions where we'd develop a technological solution. The result is a retarded growth of "traditional" technologies, as magic replaces the need for them. Some things are pretty straightforward... like an iron plow v. a wooden one. Other things... like the method for making steel... might take a long time, since people don't NEED steel as much when you can relatively easily make +1 bronze weapons.

Lord Tyger
2011-11-09, 11:40 PM
#1 All characters have access to the same rules. PCs, and NPCs.

#2 RAI is in effect.

This makes sense.


#3 The DM acts impartially at all times. He never hides his rolls and if he uses his own material he pregenerates it before the play session.


I'd debate that seeing all of the rolls adds realism- a lot of the time, hiding the roll is necessary for the players to know what their characters would know in that context. If I roll a Nat 20 on a character's sense motive check, but he wants the party to believe that he believes them, for example.


#4 The players only effect the world by their actions within it. The future encounter doesnít change because the wizard selected fly like some quantumly entangled Schrodingerís cat. Magic items are chosen using the random charts or based on what would make sense to find rather than what the PCs could use or need.

This seems like a poor idea, even if it is realistic. I'd argue that a fulfilling gaming experience is more important than the realism of the world, especially if that realism is manifest in a way the players can't really perceive. If you need to adjust the world to balance better to the players, do it, just do it subtly.


#5 NPCs act in their best interest based on their int, wis, perception, sense motive, and knowledge skills. NPCs only Ďknowí they could be expected to without special DM insight.


Not all people always act in their own best interest. NPCs act according to their background, motivation, and psychology, which sometimes leads to even very intelligent NPCs doing very stupid things.


#6 NPCs choose their class and features like PCs do. However while a player can determine a PCís background, an NPCĎs background is set in stone. So for example a high INT commoner could not class into a wizard if he did not have a background of magical training. Over the course of play he could seek that training though.


No real comment on this one way or another.

Ravens_cry
2011-11-10, 03:40 AM
Setting-wise, there should either be gradual change (in the setting's history, not necessarily during the campaign), or a stated reason why there isn't. I like LOTR, but the fact that Middle-Earth is stuck in Medieval Stasis irks me.
Not necessarily true, there is a lot of change in Middle Earths backstory, it's just more of a regression rather than a progression. Other settings are less innocent of this crime however.

Conners
2011-11-10, 06:09 AM
I'd agree that all this is preferable... but I wouldn't agree that it's very doable :-/.... We'd need a super DnD Do-All program to reliably pull this off. Otherwise, it's a gamble based on your own time, skill, and struggle.

Earthwalker
2011-11-10, 06:51 AM
Thereís another question. Is a RIL world superior to a non RIL world? The answer is yes. When players feel that the world has a solid quality to it its plainly better. When players think of the world as a real place instead of a bubble that wraps around their adventure and changes to reflect them itís a good thing. When players feel that things that donít directly relate to them are happening around them itís a good thing. Letís say a PC is interacting with a merchant. He knows a RIL merchant isnít just there so he can have access to a storefront. The merchant is there because he fits into the world right there. The merchant is going to have a supplier. The merchant is going to have regular demand for his goods. The player can make a number of guesses about the merchant that he could act on.
We like the RIL world but not necessarily the RIL DM.


Is a RIL world better ? The answer is of course a matter of opinion and what you are wanting to achieve from your role playing experiance.

Sometimes I would appretiate this level of experiance other times I just wouldn't care.

Kolonel
2011-11-10, 07:03 AM
A world that feels real is a better world than one that feels manufactured. It promotes PC roleplaying. It rewards logical thinking about the world around them. It leaves the roleplayers feeling more immersed. The following is a set of guidelines for how to achieve a world with more weight to it.

Great description! :)
This is exactly the reason why I prefer running the games in a realistic setting.

Too strict realism, however, can work against fun (like here: http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/94.html ), so I don't necessarily agree with all of your rules.

My experience is this:
Techniques that help making the in-game world more realistic:

No collective knowledge - what one NPC knows, others might not and they will require explanation from the PCs, or they might act based upon false/inaccurate information or prejudices. The latter should be especially frequent in medieval settings.

Internal consistency of magic - http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagicAIsMagicA

Internal consistency of politics - no fanatic followers except in cults, a secretive figure is not respected (no one trusts a shadow), etc.
(and NPCs with different motives, not just ally/neutral/enemy, but I think this goes without saying)

Environment through the PC's eyes - a fighter in a foreign country will most likely spot the strange weapons the habitants use first, while the ranger will focus on the flora and fauna.

No quick recover - make every injury count. It's not just "19 hours until you recover to full HP".
Instant magical healing is limited at best, and unavailable at worst. And healers will always ask for some kind of compesation.

Stuff that just makes the game frustrating:

PCs not involved in main plot - while it may be realistic for the army general not to give the task of that dangerous reconnaisance mission (which is the most interesting part of the story) to the adventuring party of quasi-strangers (who are the PCs), but if he sends his own men, the players will feel left out of the fun.

No hidden throws or re-rolled dice - this rule assumes that the game mechanics perfectly describe what should happen in a RIL, but we all know this is not the case. If a throw has 20% success rate according to the rulebook, but based on the circumstances and common sense we know it should be around 80%, then we definitely should bend the rules.

Characters die realistically quickly - no character (be they PC or NPC) should die JUST because of one or two bad throws. People like long, memorable battles, a fight that consist of a thrust to the stomach and waiting for the opponent to bleed out is not very interesting.

Arbane
2011-11-10, 07:55 PM
Internal consistency of politics - no fanatic followers except in cults, a secretive figure is not respected (no one trusts a shadow), etc.
(and NPCs with different motives, not just ally/neutral/enemy, but I think this goes without saying)

I can't remember who said it, but in fiction, people can put up with unbelievable physics MUCH more easily than unbelievable people. Characterization is important.




No quick recover - make every injury count. It's not just "19 hours until you recover to full HP".
Instant magical healing is limited at best, and unavailable at worst. And healers will always ask for some kind of compesation.


In D&D and similar games, this is a BAD idea, unless you also make getting around combat VERY possible.



Characters die realistically quickly - no character (be they PC or NPC) should die JUST because of one or two bad throws. People like long, memorable battles, a fight that consist of a thrust to the stomach and waiting for the opponent to bleed out is not very interesting.

See above.

Thinker
2011-11-11, 02:47 AM
I agree with most of what you had to say, but also disagree with some of it.


Internal consistency of magic - http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagicAIsMagicA
You don't have to have internal consistency of magic. Magic doesn't necessarily mean science and does not have to be completely repeatable and testable. It doesn't take away from the fun if the group encounters unexpected results.


Internal consistency of politics - no fanatic followers except in cults, a secretive figure is not respected (no one trusts a shadow), etc.
(and NPCs with different motives, not just ally/neutral/enemy, but I think this goes without saying)
Fanatical devotion is not restricted to religion or cults. Indoctrination into a set of values or ideals can be completely lacking any religious context. I would say that fanatics should be irrational in their devotion to whatever ideals or cause they are supporting, but that cause or those ideals don't have to be irrational. For example, a rebel might be fanatical in the pursuit of overthrowing the cruel Empress, unwilling to see any good that the Empress or any of her soldiers has done or any of the progress made under her rule. That doesn't make the rebellion irrational or less just.

I like the rest of what you said though. Secretive figures are untrustworthy and NPCs should act based on their own motivations (and self preservation should be high on that list!).


PCs not involved in main plot - while it may be realistic for the army general not to give the task of that dangerous reconnaisance mission (which is the most interesting part of the story) to the adventuring party of quasi-strangers (who are the PCs), but if he sends his own men, the players will feel left out of the fun.

You can have more than one interesting thing going on at once. The PCs might not be picked for the recon mission, but that might be because they're sent to take out some ancillary target while the recon mission is going on. That also leaves open the opportunity for the PCs to rescue the recon team or to provide other intel that the recon team simply wouldn't know. The players still feel useful, even if they weren't the most important for a portion of the story.

Coidzor
2011-11-11, 05:44 AM
if he uses his own material he pregenerates it before the play session.

What do you mean here? It seems like you're just saying that if the DM uses material he's made himself he has to make it before the game, but that feels like it would be a given barring extremely long game sessions with not much happening in them or being overly generous in giving DM fiat powers standing of the same nature as homebrew. :smallconfused:

Edit: Though, I must say, abdicating one's personal responsibility as a person at the table to not be asses to one another or to condone such behavior explicitly or implicitly is probably not a very good rule or spirit of the rules.

Kolonel
2011-11-11, 07:13 AM
I can't remember who said it, but in fiction, people can put up with unbelievable physics MUCH more easily than unbelievable people. Characterization is important.
True.

In D&D and similar games, this is a BAD idea, unless you also make getting around combat VERY possible.
Only if that injury puts a PC out of action. But almost every injury can be turned into a plot point.

I think you misunderstood the "characters die reallistically quickly" part. It's on the "don't do it" part of the list.


You can have more than one interesting thing going on at once. The PCs might not be picked for the recon mission, but that might be because they're sent to take out some ancillary target while the recon mission is going on. That also leaves open the opportunity for the PCs to rescue the recon team or to provide other intel that the recon team simply wouldn't know. The players still feel useful, even if they weren't the most important for a portion of the story.
You are right, of course.
I was trying to criticize the "I planned out what will happen, and you do what you want" DM style here. The game where the DM works a lot on the background plot, but never brings almost anything to the foreground (into a scene with the players). He/she never gives any plot hooks, because it would be unrealistic, but tells the players to blame themselves for missing out on any sidequests or plot details.

DM: 'You should have asked the barbarians to help you, then you could have won the battle.'
Player: 'But you said that my people's war with the tribes only ended a year ago and all of them was very suspicious of me. I thought if we stayed an hour more, they would have attacked us. Hell, I didn't even get to meet their leader to explain our goal!'
DM: 'Oh, that was just their normal behavior. You should have been more persistent.'

Thinker
2011-11-11, 07:42 AM
You are right, of course.
I was trying to criticize the "I planned out what will happen, and you do what you want" DM style here. The game where the DM works a lot on the background plot, but never brings almost anything to the foreground (into a scene with the players). He/she never gives any plot hooks, because it would be unrealistic, but tells the players to blame themselves for missing out on any sidequests or plot details.

DM: 'You should have asked the barbarians to help you, then you could have won the battle.'
Player: 'But you said that my people's war with the tribes only ended a year ago and all of them was very suspicious of me. I thought if we stayed an hour more, they would have attacked us. Hell, I didn't even get to meet their leader to explain our goal!'
DM: 'Oh, that was just their normal behavior. You should have been more persistent.'

I agree. That is annoying and doesn't really make the game any more "real".