Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I think I started out trying to make a point…

Out of curiosity, I picked up the sampler of "Beasts, Men and Gods" by Bill Underwood. It read like a pretty solid D&D variant, the kind that seems to have been pumped out in the late seventies, early eighties. Anyone interested in the current Old School Revival movement should really check it out.
If my google search is correct, the objective in this game is to try and escape the purges of revolutionary Russia and into Mongolia... sounds pretty awesome.

What struck me funny was the introduction where "realism" was stressed. This has been argued to death and I'm really NOT out to refight any old battles … but we are talking about a hobby where we sit around and pretend to battle dragons and aliens and zombies, right? Actually, the intro talks more about "plausibility" than "realism" and that is fair, though I would argue for internal consistency over plausibility.

Okay, and the paragraph where it says to watch old Errol Flynn movies to learn about swordplay was also good. Not that watching Errol Flynn movies to learn about a certain STYLE of swordplay isn't a good idea, but it does have its limitations.

En Garde!

For the record, there was no such thing as "historical recreationists" or a "Society for Creative Anachronism" back in the 1930s, so when the movie needed someone to teach the actors how to use a sword, they usually turned to the only thing available … fencers; which is a hell of a cool sport, but a long, long way from the days when you were actually trying to kill someone.

This is a very good book on the subject

Is "realism' even possible in a roleplaying game? Is it even wanted? I would imagine that most players are drawn to the hobby for its very unreality. Do we really want to play a game where our hero goes down to the first gunshot wound, spends three weeks in hospital and then three years in rehab to regain partial use of their shoulder with a forty-eight percent chance of becoming addicted to the painkillers ? Or would they rather be Luke, Neo, Frodo, John McLane or…


Thinking about this a little more, the very rules of most games do not permit 'reality'. Given the inherent discordance in most systems (by that I mean, roll a certain set of dice for combat, roll a different set of dice for saving throws etc) there would be no way to accurately reflect the probabilities needed for real life. This would mean you would have to switch to a completely d100 system, and given the subtle complexities of human existence … you'd spend most of the session rolling to see that your character gets dressed in the morning without tripping down the stairs, slipping in the shower or getting anything snagged in their fly.

I've already tumbled down this rabbit hole much farther than I had intended, so I'm going to cut myself off before I start talking in circles. Sufficed to say, whether you want to play a system that requires an advanced degree in probability mathematics or only a single d10, there is going to be something out there for you. The best thing about this hobby is its diversity.

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