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Sunday 5 April 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: More On Realism

I think some of you might be missing the fact that the "discussion of firearms and martial arts" in RPGs at all automatically qualifies you for the "armchair commando" club. Talking about the "realism" of firearms or martial arts in RPGs is like talking about the "realism" of Real Estate brokering in Monopoly, and talking about how big an "expert" you are in real estate brokering within the context of the game of Monopoly just makes you look like looney, because if you really were an expert on real estate brokering you wouldn't be bothering to even ATTEMPT to criticize Monopoly because the game so blatantly has nothing to do with the real market. Its only a game.

Likewise, it is an armchair commando, not someone who has had real war experience, who will usually jump out and criticize something like Rambo. Because the guy who's really been there will know that Rambo is so completely out of the scale of reality that it isn't worth criticizing. He might, if he were say a vet of the Somalia operation, criticize the blatant jingoism and historical falsehood of something like Blackhawk Down, because the latter claims to be a "true" account of the events. But Rambo is just plain fantasy, and ONLY an armchair commando could confuse it with the real.

Likewise, in RPGs there is no realism, nothing even resembling the real in anything but a fictional context of escapism. So calling on so-called "expertise" to criticize guns or martial arts rules would be just as silly as having an "expert on the occult" criticizing the magic system of a game. Real just don't factor into it, and if you think it does its probably because you haven't actually seen the real.


My point is that no RPG realistically mimics combat situations, because real combat is a fucking mess. There is nothing about real combat that would be entertaining for an RPG even IF you could realistically mimic it.

And honestly, to realistically mimic real combat you would have to be making decisions and rolling dice in real time; forget initiative, forget about thinking about what you're gonna do. You have to shout out what you're doing while the DM shouts out what your attackers are doing and rolling dice as quick as possible while the other PCs who aren't in the scene pelt you with loose D6s and scream into your ears to simulate the "fog of war". For ideal realism, you should inject yourself with a few ccs of adrenaline at the start of the fight scene and have a few buckets of pig's blood handy to throw on the table and your clothes, and possibly your eyes, to make it as hard as possible to roll and make out what number you got.

That would be realism.

Nothing in any published RPG would be.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Gawith's Balkan Flake

July 22 2005


  1. And again I'll point out: Expertise, real or imagined, in how "real" things work is relatively irrelevant to a game. Good knowledge of the genre, its tropes and general "feel", is far more important. A well-designed game caters to the players' expectations about the genre and builds around them, regardless of "reality". The best games emulate a genre to the hilt; poorly-designed games fail to emulate their respective genres (and by the way, "D&D" is its own genre).

  2. I like the guys who watch Rambo-type movies and try to defend them as "possible" and "realistic" if you know the right martial arts and weapons skills. Those guys are hilarious. And usually out of shape, never been in the armed forces or law enforcement, never been in a fight, but know everything from reading comic books, RPGs, and video games.