... now with 35% more arrogance!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Follow-Up: I Hate Simulation

In my rant about simulation, I very carefully avoided giving my own definition of “simulation”, partly because it would have spoiled the rantiness to have a serious discussion about what simulation means to me, and partly because I wanted people to consider the annoyance of the simulation debate without the distraction of the correct definition. And yes, my definition is the correct one, because other definitions are needlessly complex or broad. Or drift to the other extreme, becoming too specific.

I made this comment on the forum dicsussion:
…within the many kinds of simulation, there’s a specific idea of “rules to make interesting situations”, and within the many kinds of balance, there’s a specific idea of “rules to keep all players on a par with each other and the challenges they face”.
It’s an idea I’ve floated before: the interesting rules, to me, are those that make stuff happen in the fiction. These are clearly distinct from rules that tell players what they can and cannot do.

Morale rules, in general, makes stuff happen. Exempting player characters from morale rolls, though necessary in my opinion, is just good ettiquette.

Random encounter rolls make stuff happen. Balancing encounter challenge ratings against expected party size just makes certain players feel the encounter is “fair”.

Random character ability scores make stuff happen (unexpected disparities, for one.) Point buy to guarantee character equality is another concession to “fairness”.

Adding laser pistol effects to turn the game into a sci-fi action game makes stuff happen (the special laser effect.) Telling some players that they can’t use the laser pistol they found because it’s not in-genre for their character is a social rule, not simulation.

Although I concede the need for some social-level rules, such as genre expectation agreements or limits on the number of extra abilities you can beg the GM to let you have, my ideal is to make as many of the rules as possible deal with making stuff happen. It’s not because of realism or even genre emulation: so many things we use, such as magic potion miscibility tables or the description of the gelatinous cube’s powers, are pure fantasy and not even all that common in fiction, We add rules like this because we think they are fun. We enjoy the variety they introduce. We like the unexpected, and the chance to find a way to avoid ill-effects or turn the situation to our advantage.

And the fact that I like to keep the interpersonal rules to a minimum and very informal, unique to each group, and focus much more on the rules that make fictional stuff happen, means that I prioritize simulation over balance. So sue me.

I think I’ll have even more to say about this in a future post.


  1. Excellent post! Agreed pretty much 100%, though I have to point out (as a former 3tard) that ECL/CRs were greatly misused by many groups. The original idea wasn't too different from what we see even in the original game: areas differ in general difficulty and tougher challenges generally bring greater rewards. One was meant to use ECLs and CRs when keying a dungeon level or wilderness region, and it should be noted they weren't all the same either. An example table in my DMG has ECLs from 5 to 23 and CRs as low as 1/4! The ref only compared these values to the average party level when deciding how much XP to award

    I've been thinking about social rules alot lately, specifically level limits and race-class combinations. I'm wondering if the rules shouldn't flat out state them, but assume some when constructing tables and such (so the monster entry for dwarves might only have fighters up to 4th level) and also mentioning them as tools players can expect referees to utilize. I still like my idea for racial hit die caps, though

  2. Thought of something stupid at work: you like "stimulation"; not simulation :p