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BRC
2015-02-19, 06:09 PM
In OOTS, and other similar fiction, the setting follows the rules of the game system. In OOTS that's part of the joke, as characters go around talking about gaining levels and taking feats.
In other stuff, the game mechanics are seen as an abstraction. There is no such thing as a "Sixth level fighter", just a fighter who has attained a certain level of skill.

So, my question is, are the rules of the game the rules of the world, or are they simply an abstraction that allows us to interact with the world? Do you think that a GM should be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting?

For example. Making a magic weapon requires the "Craft magic arms and armor" feat, which requires at least 5 caster levels. A play who wishes to craft magic weapons must therefore have those caster levels and take that feat. By RAW, that is the only way to make magic weapons. If the DM wants to introduce a character capable of making magic weapons, must they be a 5th level caster?
If a master dwarven blacksmith stokes his forge with a Dragon's burning heart to make magic weapons, is that enough, or should the NPC be held to the same standards as a PC, and be required to have the feat and requisite caster levels.

Now, obviously, it's the GM's setting. They could say that this dwarf has special spit and can make weapons magical by spitting on them as they cool, But should they? Or, should a DM make everything an NPC does something a PC could theoretically recreate given enough time and resources? If a Dungeon contains a door that will only open for Elves, should the DM have worked out mechanically what sort of enchantments could cause a Door to be locked unless an Elf is trying to open it, or is it enough to say "A wizard did it!" and leave it at that.


From the other side, if the DM establishes something as possible within a setting, are they obligated to at least consider letting the Players re-create it?

Lets say the BBEG is doing a ritual that will give him ultimate arcane power. The PC's stop him and capture the ritual site, with the associated components intact. If the PC's want to do the ritual themselves, granting one of them Ultimate Arcane Power, is the DM obligated to come up with some good reason why they can't? If the PC's encounter a flying ship, therefore confirming that flying ships are possible in this setting, is it okay for the DM to prohibit them from building their own?

NichG
2015-02-19, 06:30 PM
The rules of the game don't have to be the rules of the world, but the world should have rules - or at least, it should have self-consistency.

In the real world, if someone were to try to write down a set of rules to capture the extremes of human accomplishment in the year 1400, it wouldn't include the ideas of computers, the internet, the steam engine, etc. Instead, it'd be an approximation of what was known to the actors that the rules are attempting to encompass. It wouldn't even be perfectly accurate, just a heuristic to explain common outcomes (like 'you need a factor of 3 advantage in numbers to siege a fortress'). You could run a game off of those rules, but of course they're not the underlying rules of reality.

It'd also be okay to take those rules and then have a steam engine show up. But once you do then it should be possible for the characters to investigate what makes it work. That doesn't mean the DM has to come out and just say exactly what the 'steam engine' rules are, but there should be some internal self-consistency that characters can exploit (e.g. 'the last time we closed the escape valve, the engine exploded; we need to make this engine explode, so lets try closing the escape valve'). That is to say, recognizing that the rules are an abstraction or approximation means that if someone pushes them outside their regime of validity, you should be prepared for something else to step in rather than just saying 'you can't take that action'.

Mr Beer
2015-02-19, 06:43 PM
I consider the rules to be an abstraction rather than fact.

Morty
2015-02-19, 07:09 PM
I think conflating the rules of the game and the rules of the world leads to headaches more often than not. Sometimes it makes sense, and that's when you should do it. But most of the time, I don't think it's worth the trouble.

However, D&D 3e isn't a good example, since its rules are obsessively focused on telling everyone what they can't do unless they have this or that. Most other systems aren't as restrictive.

TheCountAlucard
2015-02-19, 07:49 PM
Gods above and below, no!!!

Extrapolating Rules As Physics leads to nonsense like being able to cross a thousand miles in one turn via a line of horses and enough ranks in Ride (D&D 3.5), or concluding that the only "rational" response to someone trying to convince you of anything is to stab them (Exalted 2e).

Ugh, the rules are there to make a game fun. That's all.

Mike_G
2015-02-19, 08:02 PM
The rules of the game are simply the way we resolve in game actions by the players. If Bob wants to climb a wall, or cast a Sleep spell, or hit the Orc with a sword, that's why we look at the rules.

If I want the King's Royal adviser to know stuff about ancient legends, I do not feel any need to make him a high enough level NCP to justify his Knowledge ranks. I just make the NPC who can do what I want. That way, the old, frail, asthmatic Royal Librarian with 20 ranks in Knowledge: History doesn't have 20 hit dice and a better BAB and saves than the 5th level fighter.

The rules are there to help you resolve success and failure of things the PCs want to try. They are not there to shackle your world building.

neonchameleon
2015-02-19, 09:26 PM
In OOTS, and other similar fiction, the setting follows the rules of the game system. In OOTS that's part of the joke, as characters go around talking about gaining levels and taking feats.
In other stuff, the game mechanics are seen as an abstraction. There is no such thing as a "Sixth level fighter", just a fighter who has attained a certain level of skill.

So, my question is, are the rules of the game the rules of the world, or are they simply an abstraction that allows us to interact with the world? Do you think that a GM should be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting?

OOTS is funny, but 99% of the time that's not the sort of world I want to run or play. I'd rather a more organic setting, and no game rules anywhere (not even GURPS or HERO) does that. If I'm playing a comedy OOTS/Erfworld style game I'm happy to have rules as physics, but the rest of the time no.

Darth Ultron
2015-02-19, 11:28 PM
So, my question is, are the rules of the game the rules of the world, or are they simply an abstraction that allows us to interact with the world? Do you think that a GM should be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting?

No, the rules of the game just cover the game. At best, most RPG's only cover combat and a bit of adventure in the rules. There simply are not very many rules, if any, for any other aspects of the world.

No, not everything can or should be explained with mechanics. This is the Role Playing part of the game. The king rallies the troops as he gives a good speech, not because he got a +21 on his rally roll.



From the other side, if the DM establishes something as possible within a setting, are they obligated to at least consider letting the Players re-create it?

No.

Though lots of players will complain that ''theoretically'' they must be able to re-create everything. But it's easy to thwart: just make the rule ''a seventh son of a seventh son who has no magical abilities and has never, ever killed an intelligent creature and owns nothing, must cast this spell when the moon is in the seventh house''. So see, ''theoretically'' a player could make that character....but chances are they won't. It's exactly like saying ''No''......



Lets say the BBEG is doing a ritual that will give him ultimate arcane power. The PC's stop him and capture the ritual site, with the associated components intact. If the PC's want to do the ritual themselves, granting one of them Ultimate Arcane Power, is the DM obligated to come up with some good reason why they can't? If the PC's encounter a flying ship, therefore confirming that flying ships are possible in this setting, is it okay for the DM to prohibit them from building their own?

Yes. But again the DM can just add in bits they know no player would do. So ''theoretically'' they could, but they never would.

I trick I use a lot for ''weird magic'' is that it's time and place and item specific. You can't just open a gate to the Abyss if you cross the path of a black cat and eat an apple. That ritual was set for December 21st at midnight when being cast by a human necromancer...and only him. So if the PC's want to open thier own gate to the Abyss, they will need to craft thier own custom ritual.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-20, 10:21 AM
the issue with declaring the rules of the world are not the rules of the game at all is that from time to time game mechanics can be "discovered" by examining the world.

Prime example off the top of my head are from the kind of "level gags" the comic does from time to time:
Levels exist in 3rd ed - they may be intended as an abstraction, but this falls apart on examination - please note I don't run games this way, but...
- certain monsters drain fixed numbers of character levels in 3rd ed, so level can be measured in game - how many hits to kill Jim while keeping him fully hit point healed - it takes 10, Jim is/was level 10.
- spell slot advancement and "spell levels" are reasonably transparent to single class full casters, even if you don't codify character levels spell levels are evident (wizards in most of my settings where wizards are organized have at least nailed this one down)
- Gold piece value requirements on various soul trap spells based on Hit Dice (so you CAN put a price on souls!)

If we can measure levels we can, over time and trail, measure EXP awards (and build, in game, an approximation of the the DMG exp for challenge charts) and once this happens we start to get very, very meta...

"I figure I'm about 50 XP short... time to go act out my motivations for a bit for roleplay EXP so I can start to cast fireball tomorrow".

This sort of reverse engineering is possible in many games, and players don't generally do it - but if the DM is game, you to could game in the OOTS-like setting and discuss feats and spell levels in character!

Darth Ultron
2015-02-20, 10:56 AM
the issue with declaring the rules of the world are not the rules of the game at all is that from time to time game mechanics can be "discovered" by examining the world.



Though this also works this way: The players think they see something by-the-rules and make an assumption...and the assumption is wrong.

For example they fight a wizard, and the wizard only casts spells of 3rd level and lower. So they assume he is 5th or 6th level. And boy are they shocked when he casts teleport.

Mastikator
2015-02-20, 01:20 PM
The rules are an abstraction for convenience and fairness. I don't think you can or should extrapolate anything from them, and in cases where they break the understood in game physics, be disregarded. People don't actually have hitpoints, they are made out of meat and bone, cats can't kill grown adults.

obryn
2015-02-20, 01:35 PM
Goodness, no. The rules are there for an interface between the players and the fictional world.

If you're playing Fate Core, the universe doesn't hand you fate points. :smallsmile:

SirKazum
2015-02-20, 01:47 PM
No, they are not one and the same. Game rules IMO are just an abstraction, and should not be viewed as more than that. They exist to make the game playable (i.e. to make different character options balanced, to give characters a good array of choices in any given situation, to make the game appropriately challenging, and so on). If something does not affect gameplay (i.e. something going on between NPCs that does not have direct consequences for the PCs) then it doesn't necessarily have to play by the rules of the game.

Of course, this doesn't mean that "anything goes"; there still are the Rules of the World, of course. Things like your imaginary world's physics, cosmology and whatnot (which don't have to be the same as the real world's, especially in fantasy, but should still be sensible and self-consistent). What this means in practice is that, if something is possible in a given world... it simply is possible. I think it makes no sense to say something works only for a given NPC. If the evil wizard can get Ultimate Arcane Power by completing a given ritual, any PC who fulfills the same requirements (if there are any) should as well. If it's absurdly unbalancing... you should've thought of that before introducing that element into your campaign.

Think about it - if any random Joe Schmoe could theoretically open a portal to the Abyss by following a specified set of steps (nothing complicated enough to require, say, having X levels in Y class) in specified (but feasible) conditions and using relatively affordable components, then why isn't every two-bit villain, criminal, warlord, whatever doing it left and right? If you're inclined to disallow PCs to do something an NPC does because it accomplishes something too drastic for relatively little work, then IMO that's a problem of crappy design behind that NPC ability in the first place. It makes the world look inconsistent.

Especially when you talk about doing magic stuff in a fantasy setting, the means used to accomplish something should be more or less proportional to the effect obtained, even if you're stepping outside the game rules. Sure, that dwarven blacksmith may not have 5 spellcaster levels - but the badass sword he made was forged from iron pulled out of an enormous demon's blackened heart that a hero bravely defeated, on a fire fueled by trees meticulously grown just for that purposed and watered exclusively with the tears of elven virgins, and stoked with embers the dwarf personally procured from the Citadel of Everburning Doom on the bottom of the Nine Hells. If a player without the necessary requirements can muster similarly awesomely epic deeds just to make a sword, by all means I'd make it magical. Fantasy is ultimately powered by meaning and belief; if a character does the sort of thing that will be sung about for centuries to come, something should come out of it. But back to the point - if something is possible, it's possible regardless of whether or not PCs are involved (as long as the necessary conditions are in place). Though, of course, once you step outside what's in the game rules, DM fiat determines what's possible and what's not.

As for the "conducting experiments to see how rules things work" - that really makes sense only if you assume things work accordingly to game rules 100% of the time, which again (and IMO), they shouldn't. Consider an RPG session to be not an exact simulation of what living in a fantasy world would be like, but an imperfect model, subject to artifacts from the medium you're using as a window into that world. Things like hit points, levels, experience points etc. are the pixels of the fantasy world, so to speak - they're an imperfection inherent to the medium, but do not reflect the underlying reality of what's being portrayed. In practical terms, sure, you need to earn a certain amount of XP to attain a certain class level to be able to cast a specified number of spells of a given level... because it's a game. In the "rules of the world", the types of things each wizard can do should theoretically be much more fluid than that. You should be able to pick up a new spell here and there, have the power of your spells increase ever so slightly each day rather than in "bursts" when you gain a level, train really hard to get Teleport before you're able to cast Fly... but you don't see that in a game session, simply because it would be impossible to properly simulate in a gaming context. And so on, for all other aspects of the rules that "bleed out" into in-character concerns. If characters conducted experiments, they would not find out that the world works according to character levels and HP and whatnot... because it doesn't. Those things are there just to make the gaming experience manageable.

As an aside, I'm not against messing around with character rules and abilities for NPCs in order to make them make sense. As someone said, an elderly advisor with no combat skills to speak of but the equivalent of 20 ranks in a Knowledge skill should be perfectly okay, as would, say, an artificer who trained really hard under the best masters and can craft magic arms and armor, but has no caster levels. Character construction rules are there to make the game balanced and fun; if it's not affecting that (i.e. I'm not giving an NPC crazy abilities and then pitting him against the PCs), I don't see the problem. Just be consistent with what exists or not in your world - being extremely knowledgeable in a skill and/or crafting magic weapons are certainly things PCs can do, if they work for that. Having an NPC know a spell that PCs could never use, though, that's a no-no for me.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-20, 02:39 PM
So, my question is, are the rules of the game the rules of the world, or are they simply an abstraction that allows us to interact with the world? Do you think that a GM should be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting? They're an abstraction, and GMs shouldn't have to be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting, but not everyone sees it that way, and those who do don't necessarily always follow it to it's logical conclusion.

For instance, I play 4e, where the rules are very definitely not the rules of the world (which, please note, bothered some people to the point of hatred). Monsters do what they need to do, not what they can be made to do. If I want to make an actual githyanki gish, good with both magic and swordplay, wearing armor and leaping around, I can just make one that has both arcane and martial attacks, is described as wearing armor (with a corresponding AC), and has a power that allows it to leap around. I'm not sure quite how I'd do that in other editions, since I'd have to give it fighter and mage classes and its armor would interfere, and it might not have an innate ability to leap.

For that matter, in 4e, a player with a githyanki character might not find it easy to make a gish, in terms of an actual fighter/magic user. There's no penalty for spellcasters in armor, but it takes a fair number of feats and levels to make a martial character that can cast spells at-will (using a sword as an implement), or an arcane character who can wear armro and last in melee. One could be a bard, swordmage, hexblade, or maybe a few other classes I'm forgetting, and just reflavor, but that's still not the same thing.

Point being, a player who wanted to make such a character could get partway there, but not necessarily all the way, and I could see how that would be frustrating. In my game, I'd probably just make some allowances to make it possible.

I'm finding that I prefer to work within the rules as much as possible. If the enemies are trying to create an effect that a specific listed ritual or item could produce, then I tend to stick to the rules on that. It's only when there's nothing listed, such as a ritual for a dragon to ascend to godhood, that I would handwave it. But, again, if a player said they wanted to do the same thing, I'd find a way to make it possible and non-game-breaking.


For example. Making a magic weapon requires the "Craft magic arms and armor" feat, which requires at least 5 caster levels. A play who wishes to craft magic weapons must therefore have those caster levels and take that feat. By RAW, that is the only way to make magic weapons. If the DM wants to introduce a character capable of making magic weapons, must they be a 5th level caster?
If a master dwarven blacksmith stokes his forge with a Dragon's burning heart to make magic weapons, is that enough, or should the NPC be held to the same standards as a PC, and be required to have the feat and requisite caster levels.

Now, obviously, it's the GM's setting. They could say that this dwarf has special spit and can make weapons magical by spitting on them as they cool, But should they? Or, should a DM make everything an NPC does something a PC could theoretically recreate given enough time and resources? If a Dungeon contains a door that will only open for Elves, should the DM have worked out mechanically what sort of enchantments could cause a Door to be locked unless an Elf is trying to open it, or is it enough to say "A wizard did it!" and leave it at that. I think these are all fair and understandable situations in which the mechanical underpinnings are not required, and where the "rules as the laws of physics" idea stops being in anyone's favor. Requiring all crafters to be of a certain level and have certain feats is rather limiting, and will probably result in odd outcomes and inconsistencies. So-and-so the wizard make this holy weapon - wait, he'd have to have X cleric levels in order to do that, which doesn't add up.

Some things just are the way they are, to let us have the games and situations we want. Once people realize this, they start to notice it as being true about other forms of entertainment. It helped me really relax about watching Star Trek: hey, that's inconsistent!... but it lets them make a cool story. Basically I said "For some reason, they have to do this risky thing to get what they want. What they said doesn't make sense, so I'll just assume they said something else that did."


From the other side, if the DM establishes something as possible within a setting, are they obligated to at least consider letting the Players re-create it? Not obligated, but it's cool to be able to say "Yes, and..." I'll do that with anything, rule or not, but not everyone is comfortable with that.

As I said above, I'd find a way for a player who wanted it to ascend to godhood using the dragon's ritual. The player and I would work together to figure out how to make it or incorporate it into a fun adventure for everyone. Since there are no rules for it, we can do whatever we want. The point is to have cool adventures, so if the players want something and it can drive a cool adventure, I'm all for it.

I do not, however, use this as an excuse to have the opposition use the same tactics as the PCs. They might, but probably won't.

123456789blaaa
2015-02-20, 03:18 PM
It depends on the game. Some games work better with each approach.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-20, 04:22 PM
It depends on the game. Some games work better with each approach. What's a game that works better when the rules of the game are the rules of the world?

NichG
2015-02-20, 04:27 PM
the issue with declaring the rules of the world are not the rules of the game at all is that from time to time game mechanics can be "discovered" by examining the world.

Prime example off the top of my head are from the kind of "level gags" the comic does from time to time:
Levels exist in 3rd ed - they may be intended as an abstraction, but this falls apart on examination - please note I don't run games this way, but...
- certain monsters drain fixed numbers of character levels in 3rd ed, so level can be measured in game - how many hits to kill Jim while keeping him fully hit point healed - it takes 10, Jim is/was level 10.
- spell slot advancement and "spell levels" are reasonably transparent to single class full casters, even if you don't codify character levels spell levels are evident (wizards in most of my settings where wizards are organized have at least nailed this one down)
- Gold piece value requirements on various soul trap spells based on Hit Dice (so you CAN put a price on souls!)

If we can measure levels we can, over time and trail, measure EXP awards (and build, in game, an approximation of the the DMG exp for challenge charts) and once this happens we start to get very, very meta...

If the rules of the world are not the rules of the game, then when characters go to carefully do these experiments they simply get different results than what you would conclude only from reading the rules of the game.

For example, with levels, maybe you find that when you run your tests on a pool of commoners there's evidence that that guy is level 1.2 and the other guy is level 1.7. E.g. sometimes the level-draining bad guy kills him in one hit and sometimes in two, for the same (true-rezzed) character under what appear to be the same conditions. Maybe you find that the first three times it takes 2 hits, and then after that it takes 1 hit, indicating that actually True Resurrection isn't as perfect as the rules say and there is some buildup of very small amounts of soul damage. Or that the level-draining creature actually gets better at draining the life energy from his targets the more he practices it. Or maybe it just matters if the creature manages to sustain its grasp on the target for 1 second versus 1.5 seconds.

But in combat, all of these things become random factors and the rules exist to abstract those random factors into the most likely outcomes for simplicity in resolution. Its only when you very carefully perform experiments to tease apart those random factors that you can get a glimpse at the 'underlying' rules. And then, of course, if the knowledge is useful you'd be free to exploit it in the future.

Satinavian
2015-02-20, 04:27 PM
In OOTS, and other similar fiction, the setting follows the rules of the game system. In OOTS that's part of the joke, as characters go around talking about gaining levels and taking feats.
In other stuff, the game mechanics are seen as an abstraction. There is no such thing as a "Sixth level fighter", just a fighter who has attained a certain level of skill.

So, my question is, are the rules of the game the rules of the world, or are they simply an abstraction that allows us to interact with the world? Do you think that a GM should be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting?They are both at the same time : An abstract and simplified model of the rules of the world.

The world is more complicated than a series of rulebooks with a focus on a small group of people hunting monsters and taking their treasures. That is the reason, why there is a difference between gamerules and rules of the world. But considering the degree of detail, the game rules provide, they should be the best approximation possible to the rules of the world.




For example. Making a magic weapon requires the "Craft magic arms and armor" feat, which requires at least 5 caster levels. A play who wishes to craft magic weapons must therefore have those caster levels and take that feat. By RAW, that is the only way to make magic weapons. If the DM wants to introduce a character capable of making magic weapons, must they be a 5th level caster?
If a master dwarven blacksmith stokes his forge with a Dragon's burning heart to make magic weapons, is that enough, or should the NPC be held to the same standards as a PC, and be required to have the feat and requisite caster levels. Yes, the GM should follow the rules here.


If a Dungeon contains a door that will only open for Elves, should the DM have worked out mechanically what sort of enchantments could cause a Door to be locked unless an Elf is trying to open it, or is it enough to say "A wizard did it!" and leave it at that. No, because such an enchantment is clearly within the bounds of normal D&D magic. Similar things would be available per usual spell research and/or custom magic items. PCs can do such things too.

From the other side, if the DM establishes something as possible within a setting, are they obligated to at least consider letting the Players re-create it?

Lets say the BBEG is doing a ritual that will give him ultimate arcane power. The PC's stop him and capture the ritual site, with the associated components intact. If the PC's want to do the ritual themselves, granting one of them Ultimate Arcane Power, is the DM obligated to come up with some good reason why they can't? If the PC's encounter a flying ship, therefore confirming that flying ships are possible in this setting, is it okay for the DM to prohibit them from building their own?yes, if things are explicit possible in the setting, the PCs are free to try it themself. There should be a compelling ingame reason, why they can't. That is, what unobtanium is for.

BootStrapTommy
2015-02-20, 06:15 PM
Related thought: 5e D&D PC with Hermit background. Discovery is that the universe is just a 5e D&D campaign. Trade in herbal kit proficiency for a gaming set proficiency: 5e D&D. Your "scroll case stuffed full of notes of you studies"? The PHB, DMG, and MM.

valadil
2015-02-20, 09:53 PM
I'll take it a step further. They're not just an abstraction but also an approximation.

Different parts of the game have different complexities in their rules. Combat and magic have highly detailed rules systems in D&D. The expectation is that the game will spend time in these areas and so it's important to have more rules. Things that don't happen quite so often - falling damage, holding your breath underwater, chopping down trees - don't need their rules to be very involved. You can hand wave them away with simple approximations because these events happen so infrequently. It's better to have a quick and dirty rule than a complicated one for events that happen once per campaign.

But if those things are happening more frequently, I'm of the opinion that it's worth coming up with deeper rules. If the party were all griffin riding sky knights, I'd expect falling damage to be a major part of the game. I'd want it to have more interesting rules than a one size fits all d10 per 10 feet approximation.

TheCountAlucard
2015-02-20, 10:53 PM
d6, actually. :smallwink:

Angel Bob
2015-02-21, 05:24 PM
Related thought: 5e D&D PC with Hermit background. Discovery is that the universe is just a 5e D&D campaign. Trade in herbal kit proficiency for a gaming set proficiency: 5e D&D. Your "scroll case stuffed full of notes of you studies"? The PHB, DMG, and MM.

May I sig this?

Kami2awa
2015-02-21, 05:48 PM
I'd say, and this may be a controversial view, that D&D doesn't simulate a world, it simulates a party of adventurers and their encounters with that world.

Using it to simulate other situations leads to bizarre results like ordinary workers failing at the most mundane tasks exactly 5% of the time, being replaced in their jobs by wizards casting Fabricate, and then all being killed by housecats. That's because the rules aren't intended to cover the day-to-day running of the world - that isn't really part of the story of the PCs. Any simulation has its limits and a universal simulation of reality - even an invented reality - is probably beyond the reach of designers of games (or anyone else, for that matter).

So yes, I'd say you can run the world outside the PCs without following the exact rules.

BootStrapTommy
2015-02-21, 06:48 PM
May I sig this?
:smallwink: You have no idea how much joy that would bring me. :smallbiggrin:


I'd say, and this may be a controversial view, that D&D doesn't simulate a world, it simulates a party of adventurers and their encounters with that world.

Using it to simulate other situations leads to bizarre results like ordinary workers failing at the most mundane tasks exactly 5% of the time, being replaced in their jobs by wizards casting Fabricate, and then all being killed by housecats. That's because the rules aren't intended to cover the day-to-day running of the world - that isn't really part of the story of the PCs. Any simulation has its limits and a universal simulation of reality - even an invented reality - is probably beyond the reach of designers of games (or anyone else, for that matter).

So yes, I'd say you can run the world outside the PCs without following the exact rules.
Not controversial, just brilliant.

BrokenChord
2015-02-21, 10:20 PM
You're asking two different questions.

Your first question is whether the mechanics are themselves part of the setting, or at least if they should be. The answer in most (not all, but most) systems is that the rules attempt to emulate the world as closely as possible within the constraints of the game image (obviously, most rulebooks have better things to do with their pages than go the FATAL distance in describing every little thing) but at the end of the day, the mechanics are just that: an emulation. The parts of the world that don't have a legitimate reason to not adhere to mechanics ought to in most cases, but that doesn't change the fact that the mechanics aren't the thing affecting and building the setting, it's what they represent.

The second question you're asking is whether it's okay for the GM to use things the player would never be allowed to. This depends on the game and game style.

In a game like D&D, it's usually, though not always, better to err on the side of "yeah, sure, this guy's PrC could hypothetically be available to a character you could hypothetically build (but doing so might not be appropriate for this campaign, because the Guardians of Allodyle or whatever can only use their class features within their sacred forest so you wouldn't be able to effectively travel with the party)." Not always, especially in cases players won't care about; for example, for characters who are simply supposed to have legendary skill in something, usually a Craft, building them exactly to the rules diminishes their otherwise normal nature by giving them the stats of a high-level character, so making him as weak as a level one in all other respects wouldn't be a problem. Playing an oppositional race/class may also be banned in order to avoid shattering verisimilitude, but in those cases it's better for the thing to have usable mechanics, just not ones the players can access in the particular campaign.

The above applies at least partially to games like Ars Magica and Exalted as well, except pushed further, because Hermetic magi and Solar Exalted respectively are, upon getting old/powerful enough, the strongest and most versatile forces in the setting with the exception of truly omnipotent beings (and in Exalted's case, "you're not 'truly omnipotent' enough" is going to be a valid retort to beings most people would have considered omnipotent at a glance). In games like those, emulating the abilities of lesser beings should usually, though not always, be within range of accomplishment, and often easily. (And in Ars Magica's case, magi aren't even your only characters, so abilities a magus can't emulate might still be covered by a companion or grog character.)

In games like Little Terrors, Don't Rest Your Head, or the Mage games, enemies should always have stats rendered according to the game's set of mechanics, but it's intentional that these aren't things that any kind of PC could ever access themselves, because the PCs are one thing (children, sleep-deprived madmen, and mages, respectively) while the things they encounter are of a qualitatively different sort (for the most part, horrifying monstrosities beyond the capacity of most non-PC people to even comprehend) but are still able to be actively opposed as part of the game.

In games like Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, or most straight horror games, for many enemies of the PCs, stats are a waste of time, everybody knows it, and the only stat needed is how many PCs meet their untimely demise per second.

It just all depends on the game.

Milodiah
2015-02-22, 09:41 AM
Honestly, there are some things in the D&D system (and several others, who can no doubt trace their lineage in this topic back to D&D) that cause me to suspect such a thing.

Sure, you can explain away HP/BAB/skill progression as "getting better", and that it's a gradual thing that only comes off as choppy because it's abstracted into increments known as "levels".

But what about magic? The Vancian nonsense one lives with in 3.5, for example...suddenly a wizard realizes out of the blue, "Hey, I just got more spell slots, and x-level spells just started making sense!" Other than exercising some level of munchkinry, it's apparently an accepted fact that no matter how hard he works at it, an apprentice mage could never learn a 9th-level spell from his master's spellbook. I don't think any DM would be willing to claim the guy levels up high enough to cast it just by sitting at a desk and constantly rolling Spellcraft, Knowledge (Arcana), and all sorts of other checks to "comprehend" it. It's also not an issue of mana points or something in this system, which is something that can be more-or-less explained in-setting. It's a clear-cut expression of "level"; Level 3 Wizards have this many spells they can know at once, and can execute spells of this level or lower, with an explicit structuring of spell levels and quantities known at once; in addition, these numbers change in a predictable and consistent manner as he hits seemingly arbitrary levels of advancement. Even the DMG has rules for the players finding NPC casters of a certain level to cast a certain-level spell, complete with scaling price tags. So the world realizes that casters have caster levels, and charge for them based on an algorithm that implies understanding of the system.

Knaight
2015-02-22, 01:22 PM
What's a game that works better when the rules of the game are the rules of the world?

It's rarely something that would work across an entire game, but there are a few instances. For instance, take economic systems with explicit prices that vary by location (e.g. in ACKS, which has a pretty intricate economic system). The end result of the rules is an actual price, and that price is a price in setting.

Beyond that though, I'd generally say that the setting exists as some sort of independent construct, and then the rules are overlaid as a set of imperfect model equations and algorithms. As an analogy, take Newtonian Physics - it's a set of equations which describes the world, and which breaks down horribly in a lot of different extreme conditions (very low temperatures, very high speeds, very small things). The equations are still all sorts of useful though. The mechanical modeling is the same thing. Sure, one skill with one number in it represents a number of different sub-skills which reflect differences in approach, and the system is quantized to a greater degree in the setting, but having something that can be rolled is helpful, and having skills broad enough that you don't have character sheets the length of phone books (at minimum) is also good.

Telok
2015-02-22, 04:56 PM
I would say that there need to be good parallels between the outcomes of the world rules and the game rules. If you have pearl divers who leap from high cliffs and hold their breath for five minutes then you shouldn't have that same activity be automatic death for player characters, risky without training and experience perhaps, but not automatic death. If the rules of the game and the rules of the world diverge too much it can cause problems. If the rules of the world let all mages teleport and the rules of the game don't let player character mages teleport then people get unhappy. When the physics of out of combat/npcs is obviouly different, with different effects and outcomes then the in combat/pc rules then you get weird and disruptive results.

Say the in combat rules require fire to overcome a damage threshold of 8 to set wood on fire and a strength check to climb a rope. Then while you are in combat a torch that does 2d4-1 fire damage can never be used to light a camp fire. If your out of combat rules say that climbing a rope is a skill check minus your weight and encumberance then the players will start fights when they want to climb ropes because climbing is easier during combat.

The rules of the world and the rules of the game need to give consistant and similar results.

NichG
2015-02-22, 06:09 PM
Say the in combat rules require fire to overcome a damage threshold of 8 to set wood on fire and a strength check to climb a rope. Then while you are in combat a torch that does 2d4-1 fire damage can never be used to light a camp fire.

I agree with your post for the most part, but I want to use this as an example of how to easily resolve the disconnect, and also an example of where the specific rules of the game give way. If you understand that the combat rules are assuming a 'standard piece of wood', then it makes sense. When lighting a campfire, you aren't lighting a 'standard piece of wood', you're lighting a 'standard campfire'.

And making that kind of assumption makes sense, because otherwise it would require the DM to describe the thickness and construction style of every piece of wood in the scene just in case a PC might want to set one on fire. So the abstract rule is basically giving permission to the PCs to assume 'if you don't hear otherwise, this is what it takes'. That's not to say that, e.g., if the PCs encountered a cubic kilometer of solid oak that they could set it on fire with 8 fire damage, or that it would take 8 fire damage to set a twig on fire; those cases are very far from the standard approximation.

Milodiah
2015-02-22, 06:20 PM
Note to self: confuse the hell out of players by having the party encounter an inexplicable cubic kilometer of solid oak.

Knaight
2015-02-22, 06:32 PM
I agree with your post for the most part, but I want to use this as an example of how to easily resolve the disconnect, and also an example of where the specific rules of the game give way. If you understand that the combat rules are assuming a 'standard piece of wood', then it makes sense. When lighting a campfire, you aren't lighting a 'standard piece of wood', you're lighting a 'standard campfire'.

This isn't even the big part - yeah, you're lighting up kindling first which makes life easier, but you're also using a torch very differently than you might in combat. Bashing a lit torch into an unlit camp fire every so often isn't a particularly effective way to light it, and as far as combat maneuvers go holding a torch next to the most flammable part of a target for a while is also generally not going to happen.

Telok
2015-02-22, 06:40 PM
When lighting a campfire, you aren't lighting a 'standard piece of wood', you're lighting a 'standard campfire'.

In doing this you are accepting that the rules of the game diverge from the rules of the world and are adjusting the game to fit the world. Which is fine when you assume that the game rules aren't fine grained enough or accurate enough to represent the world rules in at least that situation. But then you realize that the wood/fire rule applies to anything made of wood. You face a choice, ditch the game rule and make spot rulings to fit the world or else change the world rules to fit the game rule. Because that game rule also means that a torch can't be used to set wooden buildings, ships, or plants on fire during combat regardless of how long the torch is in contact with the wood.

If you're talking about just one rule or a few rules it's ok to keep making spot rulings. But when too many game rules diverge from the world rules the discontinuity between game and world is so big that you now play two games in one. One game is the world game where pcs and npcs are people and things happen like you would expect them to in an actual environment, the pearl divers can dive and hold their breath long enough to get pearls. The other game is when you use the game rules and anyone who dives off a cliff is knocked unconsious and drowns in seconds.

I feel that the more parallel the outcomes of game rules and world rules for a given situation the better the game is to play.

Knaight
2015-02-22, 06:48 PM
In doing this you are accepting that the rules of the game diverge from the rules of the world and are adjusting the game to fit the world. Which is fine when you assume that the game rules aren't fine grained enough or accurate enough to represent the world rules in at least that situation. But then you realize that the wood/fire rule applies to anything made of wood. You face a choice, ditch the game rule and make spot rulings to fit the world or else change the world rules to fit the game rule. Because that game rule also means that a torch can't be used to set wooden buildings, ships, or plants on fire during combat regardless of how long the torch is in contact with the wood.

That game rule doesn't necessarily mean anything of the sort, unless you're really distorting the definition of attack. Plus, setting straight up wood on fire with a torch is generally not particularly functional - you need that kindling. The wooden building is probably best burnt if it has thatch somewhere, the ship best burnt with whatever made it water tight (frequently pitch), and a lot of plants aren't even what you would call wood - plus, what you're lighting up is probably something like dried sap most of the time.

This isn't a conflict between the game rule and the setting. This is the attempt to apply a model to somewhere it doesn't belong, and means no more than doing so in any other context. If I use the ideal gas law on a gas at 50 atm, it's not a problem with the ideal gas law when every number derived is substantially wrong.

NichG
2015-02-22, 06:53 PM
In doing this you are accepting that the rules of the game diverge from the rules of the world and are adjusting the game to fit the world. Which is fine when you assume that the game rules aren't fine grained enough or accurate enough to represent the world rules in at least that situation. But then you realize that the wood/fire rule applies to anything made of wood. You face a choice, ditch the game rule and make spot rulings to fit the world or else change the world rules to fit the game rule. Because that game rule also means that a torch can't be used to set wooden buildings, ships, or plants on fire during combat regardless of how long the torch is in contact with the wood.

Its not quite so extreme. You don't have to ditch the game rule and just decide from then on everything is a spot ruling. You use the game rule in the 99% of cases where it's a good rule of thumb, and only ditch it when something is being done to specifically probe the non-sensicality of the rule.

Another way to think about it is, 'why is the rule this way?'. Why is 8 damage the threshold? That was chosen to model something or induce a certain kind of behavior, either at a game level or at the level of the underlying simulation. It could be that it was chosen specifically to make a point about how people's intuition about flammability of objects is often wrong (e.g. you'd think that by putting a torch against the solid hull of a ship it should eventually catch fire, but the rule is telling you 'no, actually, it won't - the fire needs to be hotter for that to happen, so you need kindling/etc'). Alternately, it may be that when the developers playtested the game they realized that a character with a torch could just set fire to everything and burn it down faster than people could protect it, and that somehow that was inconsistent with the style of play they wished to evoke.



If you're talking about just one rule or a few rules it's ok to keep making spot rulings. But when too many game rules diverge from the world rules the discontinuity between game and world is so big that you now play two games in one. One game is the world game where pcs and npcs are people and things happen like you would expect them to in an actual environment, the pearl divers can dive and hold their breath long enough to get pearls. The other game is when you use the game rules and anyone who dives off a cliff is knocked unconsious and drowns in seconds.

I feel that the more parallel the outcomes of game rules and world rules for a given situation the better the game is to play.

While a player can certainly choose to take actions to try to force inconsistency, there's no need to get out in front of that behavior until it actually becomes a problem. Making it a problem ahead of time is what causes the complexity to compound on itself - e.g. deciding before the situation comes up in game 'I can come up with exceptions to this rule, so I had better write them down'.

If on the other hand, you limit those edits until people specifically try to poke at the boundaries, the actual number of such edits you'll ever need to do will be fairly small. Or, something discovered during one of those boundary-pokes will be taken up by a player and re-used, but they'll continually reuse the same one and so it doesn't require a new rule.

Urpriest
2015-02-22, 07:34 PM
I think things are a little different for magic systems. Because we don't have a good real-life idea of how they work, the game mechanics are the only thing telling us their rules.

That said, the extent to which the magic system is an approximation varies depending on the game. In Mage, it's pretty clear that the system is supposed to be a general depiction of what sorts of capabilities you have, while in D&D spells are often named after specific people, to the point that it really seems like that's how it's intended to work. Then there are games like Exalted, where Motes of Essence are both a game mechanic and literally something people in-setting talk about when they're sufficiently knowledgeable about the nature of magic.

Telok
2015-02-23, 02:13 AM
My goodness but people seized on the fire example and ran away with it. Seriously it's not about your ability to explain away or compensate for a rule or example (I almost accidentally burned down a house with an enclosed candle sitting on a wood shelf once, no flammables involved beyond wood shelf and wall) it's about having your world rules and your game rules not give the same results. Saying the world uses siege weapons to breach castle walls while the game rules don't let them even damage a brick wall. Having your world require two month sea voyages while the rules require so many sailing checks that 95% of voyages have been sunk after three weeks. Or sure, go with the fire example. A torch causes x fire damage a round, not as a weapon, not with a quick wave, not "when used like this but not like that", just x damage. If your rules then say that for wood to catch on fire it must take x+1 or more damage a round then you cannot use a torch to light things made of wood on fire. It's when your game says that magic is used to do something in the world and your game rules say that you can't do that. Saying there is a ritual that turns someone into a lich but having rules say the rirual can't be used by anyone causes a disconnect between what you say goes on and what actually happens.

There comes a point where the world rules as written and the game rules as implemented have diverged so much in their outcomes that they are describing two different environments. Once it gets to the point of people writing paragraphs of excuses for most of the rules I start to lose interest because I'm not interested in trying to play two different rule sets at once and I'm not interested in making excuses for writers who can't be bothered to be consistent or rational when writing the game.

goto124
2015-02-23, 02:22 AM
DMs have dealt with players who're so well-versed with the rules that those players say 'The enemy can cast X and Y, therefore she has 5 levels in Sorceror and 2 in Wizard and has blah and blah, I'll wait for her to cast X 2 more times then I'll cast Z'. Said DMs wish to avoid such situations, and invoke PC/NPC asymmetry, a form of game rules and world rules not coinciding.

And there's also the 'not enough time/not worth the effort to figure out how to make it fit the rules exactly' argument.

Coidzor
2015-02-23, 03:11 AM
So, my question is, are the rules of the game the rules of the world, or are they simply an abstraction that allows us to interact with the world? Do you think that a GM should be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting?

Not necessarily, but I prefer everything that's not going to be window dressing to be explicable to some extent or another. And even if they don't have a full stat block or whatever, they can at least sum up what's going on in an intelligible manner without embarrassing themselves and those around them.

I generally prefer being able to know how a given thing is going to interact with other mechanics, though, and where possible I like to keep things where there's a clear way for the players to interact with them if there's a chance that the players will encounter it and try to interact with it.


Now, obviously, it's the GM's setting. They could say that this dwarf has special spit and can make weapons magical by spitting on them as they cool, But should they?

Probably not. Even if they don't want to have the dwarf be a magical crafter themselves or have a magic set of tools or workshop or forge or whatever, something like magical weapon crafting spit is probably going to hurt the consistency of the game in most cases if the explanation ever comes up.


Or, should a DM make everything an NPC does something a PC could theoretically recreate given enough time and resources?

I do prefer as much accessibility to the toolkit as possible given what sort of game is intended.


If a Dungeon contains a door that will only open for Elves, should the DM have worked out mechanically what sort of enchantments could cause a Door to be locked unless an Elf is trying to open it, or is it enough to say "A wizard did it!" and leave it at that.

That sort of secret is something that many PCs would want to investigate, and unless I have something to justify a no, I'd prefer to hash up a rough idea of a framework for how they might be able to do so at some point if they inquire rather than just having a flat no.


From the other side, if the DM establishes something as possible within a setting, are they obligated to at least consider letting the Players re-create it?

Not necessarily, but I think they need to have a good reason both OOC and IC for why it's the way that it is.


Lets say the BBEG is doing a ritual that will give him ultimate arcane power. The PC's stop him and capture the ritual site, with the associated components intact. If the PC's want to do the ritual themselves, granting one of them Ultimate Arcane Power, is the DM obligated to come up with some good reason why they can't?

I'd say they are just for story flow. Either it needs to be something the PCs would never consider in the first place or it needs to be a one-time opportunity or it needs to be something where the PCs interrupting automatically ruins it so they can't try it for themselves anyway or so on.


If the PC's encounter a flying ship, therefore confirming that flying ships are possible in this setting, is it okay for the DM to prohibit them from building their own?

It does seem like a losing proposition to tempt players with flying ships and then say they can't have one no matter what, even with a good reason. Without one, though...:smalleek:

SiuiS
2015-02-23, 03:21 AM
In OOTS, and other similar fiction, the setting follows the rules of the game system. In OOTS that's part of the joke, as characters go around talking about gaining levels and taking feats.
In other stuff, the game mechanics are seen as an abstraction. There is no such thing as a "Sixth level fighter", just a fighter who has attained a certain level of skill.

So, my question is, are the rules of the game the rules of the world, or are they simply an abstraction that allows us to interact with the world? Do you think that a GM should be able to mechanically explain all aspects of their setting?

For example. Making a magic weapon requires the "Craft magic arms and armor" feat, which requires at least 5 caster levels. A play who wishes to craft magic weapons must therefore have those caster levels and take that feat. By RAW, that is the only way to make magic weapons. If the DM wants to introduce a character capable of making magic weapons, must they be a 5th level caster?
If a master dwarven blacksmith stokes his forge with a Dragon's burning heart to make magic weapons, is that enough, or should the NPC be held to the same standards as a PC, and be required to have the feat and requisite caster levels.

Now, obviously, it's the GM's setting. They could say that this dwarf has special spit and can make weapons magical by spitting on them as they cool, But should they? Or, should a DM make everything an NPC does something a PC could theoretically recreate given enough time and resources? If a Dungeon contains a door that will only open for Elves, should the DM have worked out mechanically what sort of enchantments could cause a Door to be locked unless an Elf is trying to open it, or is it enough to say "A wizard did it!" and leave it at that.


From the other side, if the DM establishes something as possible within a setting, are they obligated to at least consider letting the Players re-create it?

Lets say the BBEG is doing a ritual that will give him ultimate arcane power. The PC's stop him and capture the ritual site, with the associated components intact. If the PC's want to do the ritual themselves, granting one of them Ultimate Arcane Power, is the DM obligated to come up with some good reason why they can't? If the PC's encounter a flying ship, therefore confirming that flying ships are possible in this setting, is it okay for the DM to prohibit them from building their own?

Dungeons and dragons 3.5 is an exceptions based rules system. That blacksmith stoking his forge with a deagon's heart may in fact be using a custom ritual (UA) which has a very specific use to allow forging magic items from a very small list, for example.

Stuff like that is fine As long as a player could feasibly learn it not easily, mind! If it requires devoting yourself to things the character just wouldn't do then sucks for them. If anyone who truly believes in some demon king can do a thing, the character would have to actively convert. If it requires oaths of peace or a sturdy lodging you've occupied for ten years, most adventurers won't do it. But they could.

Knaight
2015-02-23, 04:10 AM
There comes a point where the world rules as written and the game rules as implemented have diverged so much in their outcomes that they are describing two different environments. Once it gets to the point of people writing paragraphs of excuses for most of the rules I start to lose interest because I'm not interested in trying to play two different rule sets at once and I'm not interested in making excuses for writers who can't be bothered to be consistent or rational when writing the game.

This can happen, yes. It's particularly a risk with more rules heavy systems which specifically define a lot of things, as it requires rules defined specifically enough to cause these contradictions - the irony is that comparatively rules light games which generally don't try to be the rules of the world but instead try to be usable models are pretty close to immune to this flaw.

Urpriest
2015-02-23, 07:02 AM
In terms of the "blacksmith making magic weapons without magic" thing, here's a useful heuristic:

Imagine that you are running a very flexible, very generic system. Maybe you're running GURPS, maybe something even more generic. Then, picture a PC asking for the ability you want to give your NPC. If it would be totally reasonable to give a PC that ability in that system, then the only reason PCs can't get it in the system you're actually using (D&D, for example) is because the designers consciously decided that in that world this isn't something people can do. But if it's a trait of the world, not of game balance, then NPCs shouldn't be able to do it either.

Non-casters making magic items in D&D is an example of this. There's nothing actually unbalanced about giving PCs access to the ability to make magic items without being casters, heck in Pathfinder it's totally an option. The only reason they can't in 3.5 is not because of balance, but because it's not how the fluff of magic items works. And if it's against the fluff for PCs, it's still against the fluff for NPCs.

By contrast, in D&D 3.5 players can't raise massive undead armies. Suppose you want a necromancer to have a vast undead army. Using this logic, you ask whether you'd allow a PC to have a vast undead army in a generic system. Most of the time, you wouldn't: it would be very unbalanced, and lead to a playstyle that's very different from the one you're focusing the game on. So since the reasons for not allowing PCs to have vast undead armies are balance and gameplay-based, it should be fine to give that ability to an NPC, for which those concerns don't apply.

(Incidentally, "I don't want to make the sage extremely high level" is a red herring. Even without knowing everything about skill optimization and cute NPC-only stuff like Prodigy, in 3.5 it's still pretty easy to give a very high skill bonus to a low level, specialized character. Anyone actually trying to build an NPC who has extremely good knowledge would find they don't need an implausibly leveled character for it.)

neonchameleon
2015-02-23, 07:09 AM
Dungeons and dragons 3.5 is an exceptions based rules system. That blacksmith stoking his forge with a deagon's heart may in fact be using a custom ritual (UA) which has a very specific use to allow forging magic items from a very small list, for example.

Stuff like that is fine As long as a player could feasibly learn it not easily, mind! If it requires devoting yourself to things the character just wouldn't do then sucks for them. If anyone who truly believes in some demon king can do a thing, the character would have to actively convert. If it requires oaths of peace or a sturdy lodging you've occupied for ten years, most adventurers won't do it. But they could.

I just don't understand why you see a significant difference between "They could if they were born a seventh son of a seventh son and had their soul sold to Tiamat when they were born - and never ever acted like an adventurer" and "It's not happening". They could if they weren't doing PC things.

SirKazum
2015-02-23, 08:46 AM
If you're talking about just one rule or a few rules it's ok to keep making spot rulings. But when too many game rules diverge from the world rules the discontinuity between game and world is so big that you now play two games in one. One game is the world game where pcs and npcs are people and things happen like you would expect them to in an actual environment, the pearl divers can dive and hold their breath long enough to get pearls. The other game is when you use the game rules and anyone who dives off a cliff is knocked unconsious and drowns in seconds.

The thing is, it doesn't necessarily have to be two sets of "rules" if the exceptions are for things that rarely come up. Someone mentioned the fact that Newtonian physics is now known to be wrong, and I think it's a wonderful parallel. Yes, Newtonian physics breaks down when the speeds are too fast, or the distances too short, or the weights too heavy... but it still works fine for most day-to-day situations, which is why you learn it in high school as if it were true, and even the most advanced physicists still use it in situations that don't call for more advanced theories. Similarly, D&D's rules are designed to handle a given range of situations (mostly combat between creatures), and, allowing for some imperfection borne out of approximation, they handle those situations just fine. If you take them outside what they were designed to handle, they might not work so well, and ad-hoc rulings might be necessary... but that's not necessarily a problem if those situations don't come up too frequently in actual gameplay. Sure, people in a D&D world are lighting fires, diving, and doing all sorts of things poorly covered by the rules all the time... just like, in real life, subatomic particles are breaking Newton's physical laws constantly all around us. It's still not a problem if it's not relevant for the observer's purposes. If, say, PCs decide to take up pearl-diving on the regular, then you might want to craft a better set of drowning rules and use them instead of what the rulebooks give you... but otherwise, as others have said, you don't have to worry about that problem if it's not bothering anyone at the table.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-23, 09:28 AM
In games like Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, or most straight horror games, for many enemies of the PCs, stats are a waste of time, everybody knows it, and the only stat needed is how many PCs meet their untimely demise per second.

It just all depends on the game.

I wouldn't say a "Waste of time" - they are often good for a laugh.

An investigator struck by the attack makes a luck roll to determine if there is enough left of their remains to bury... always makes me smile.

Psyren
2015-02-23, 10:01 AM
Abstraction, definitely. To refer to two OotS examples - no, you cannot just decide to take a level of wizard whenever you feel like it without studying any magical theory at all. You also cannot just choose to advance certain skills without practicing them ("I never even saw a lock the entire trip!")

Though to be completely fair, even OotS itself is moving away from the latter. (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0970.html)

Mr.Moron
2015-02-23, 10:42 AM
The rules are a framework. They're a set of suggest abstractions on ways to resolve to common situations, under circumstances the game designers foresaw. They're there to provide a common ground so everyone in game can wrap their heads around the in-universe happenings in the same

Fiery Diamond
2015-02-23, 10:18 PM
In terms of the "blacksmith making magic weapons without magic" thing, here's a useful heuristic:

Imagine that you are running a very flexible, very generic system. Maybe you're running GURPS, maybe something even more generic. Then, picture a PC asking for the ability you want to give your NPC. If it would be totally reasonable to give a PC that ability in that system, then the only reason PCs can't get it in the system you're actually using (D&D, for example) is because the designers consciously decided that in that world this isn't something people can do. But if it's a trait of the world, not of game balance, then NPCs shouldn't be able to do it either.

Non-casters making magic items in D&D is an example of this. There's nothing actually unbalanced about giving PCs access to the ability to make magic items without being casters, heck in Pathfinder it's totally an option. The only reason they can't in 3.5 is not because of balance, but because it's not how the fluff of magic items works. And if it's against the fluff for PCs, it's still against the fluff for NPCs.

By contrast, in D&D 3.5 players can't raise massive undead armies. Suppose you want a necromancer to have a vast undead army. Using this logic, you ask whether you'd allow a PC to have a vast undead army in a generic system. Most of the time, you wouldn't: it would be very unbalanced, and lead to a playstyle that's very different from the one you're focusing the game on. So since the reasons for not allowing PCs to have vast undead armies are balance and gameplay-based, it should be fine to give that ability to an NPC, for which those concerns don't apply.

(Incidentally, "I don't want to make the sage extremely high level" is a red herring. Even without knowing everything about skill optimization and cute NPC-only stuff like Prodigy, in 3.5 it's still pretty easy to give a very high skill bonus to a low level, specialized character. Anyone actually trying to build an NPC who has extremely good knowledge would find they don't need an implausibly leveled character for it.)

I actually disagree with this. There is an important distinction to be made between "the designers decided that X was how their rules would handle a situation" and "the designers consciously decided not to have Y be the case" when all you know is that there are rules for X and no rules for Y. It's usually pretty obvious when Case 2 (consciously decided against) is the reality because they usually come out and SAY it in some fashion. D&D only magic people make magic items is Case 1, and there's really no evidence that it's Case 2. Just because I decide to wear blue doesn't mean it's because I considered the possibility of red and decided against it; all it means is that I considered the possibility of blue and went with it.

Urpriest
2015-02-24, 01:33 PM
I actually disagree with this. There is an important distinction to be made between "the designers decided that X was how their rules would handle a situation" and "the designers consciously decided not to have Y be the case" when all you know is that there are rules for X and no rules for Y. It's usually pretty obvious when Case 2 (consciously decided against) is the reality because they usually come out and SAY it in some fashion. D&D only magic people make magic items is Case 1, and there's really no evidence that it's Case 2. Just because I decide to wear blue doesn't mean it's because I considered the possibility of red and decided against it; all it means is that I considered the possibility of blue and went with it.

That's why you do the "would it be reasonable in a generic system" test. If it would be, the designers almost certainly thought of it.

Segev
2015-02-24, 05:27 PM
I tend to treat game rules as the laws of physics of a world in the sense that I expect that I face no particular restrictions in the world's physics just because I am using the game mechanics. That is, if it is possible for a master blacksmith with no caster levels to forge magical armor, then I would want the DM to allow me to play such a master blacksmith, and if needs be craft rules to build him.

If an NPC is able to do something that seems to violate the rules of the game, I expect to be able to discover what he's done and possibly to replicate it. If I can perform the exact same behaviors and not get the same result because I am bound by RPG rules and he isn't, that's...not cool.

Game rules should emulate the rules of the setting. It's okay if they're abstractions and the underlying "real" laws of reality are different, but they should be close enough that no character - PC or NPC - is stymied by the emulation.

It is also acceptable for the DM to stipulate that, no, that combination of game mechanics that leads to that broken effect doesn't work. He should probably outline clearly where the limiting factor is, if possible. Even better if he can explain what is different in the "real" rules of the setting than in the emulation provided by the game mechanics, so that it's clear in what range the game mechanics "work" in the setting and where they break down.

But the emulation should be good enough that it takes corner cases to break down, and it should be possible to use the emulation to achieve the same results as a PC that an NPC could.