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D&D - how much simulationist intent?

Discussion in 'The Gazebo' started by gurugeorge, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. gurugeorge Magister

    gurugeorge
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    It's always felt to me that an appreciable amount of the intent behind the D&D system was simulationist. But I've seen comments that say the authors were weighted towards gameplay (being a development of tabletop wargaming, etc.).

    Any people out there well versed in the history of the genre got a run-down? What was the balance (obviously some of each, but which way were they weighting it?)?
     
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  2. Stormcrowfleet Arcane

    Stormcrowfleet
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    The initial input was clearly simulationist (adding all the Braunstein "be a character within a medieval fantasy and interact with the locals) in its scope since in itself Chainmail was a wargame in the long tradition of miniature wargaming which aim at creating simulationist perspective on famous battles and yet Blackmoor was more about participating in a "hero's journey" so to speak. That being said, Gygax was always fund of some aspect of simulation (just take a look at the DMG 1st with all the tables with regards to population, habitats, animals, etc.), so was Anderson (just take a look at all the body part targetting in combat, air combat, the importance of lords and domains, etc.). I think the game since it's inception has been pretty much influenced by both aspects. But maybe some people with more knowledge will be able to chime in.
     
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  3. TheDiceMustRoll Game Analist

    TheDiceMustRoll
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    Arneson barely gave a shit about his own system and did almost everything on the seat of his pants with very few notes, which is why nobody's ever been able to replicate what he was playing before DnD's publication, especially not arneson. (He did release a Blackmoor rpg at one point but it contradicts the game he played earlier a fair bit)

    Sim stuff usually popped out of nowhere, David for example had a priest get fired/defrocked for being an asshole and not actually running his church. The characters actually neglected the domain game so hard their whole castle was destroyed by enemy forces and they STILL wouldnt stop dungeon crawling.
     
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  4. Deuce Traveler Prestigious Gentleman 2012 Newfag Patron

    Deuce Traveler
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Stormcrowfleet and TheDiceMustRoll are spot on. Arneson was an ideas guy but had little organization, so he really needed Gygax's experience and skills to make D&D work. Tim Kask (first editor of Dragon magazine) told me that Gygax and Blume once dumped a couple of fruit baskets filled with Areson's notes onto Tim Kask's desk one day and told him something like, "Good news... Dave Arneson just dropped off his manuscript for the new Blackmoor supplement of Chainmail. Go ahead and edit this so we can go to print." So Kask was really the one that took all these jumbled ideas for Blackmoor and put them into its drafts and final form.

    Anyway... to understand D&D and it's history you have to follow the following:

    Braunstein's gaming sessions where each player played one character instead of a unit of men (Arneson participated) -> Chainmail is created by Gygax where you move units in a fantasy setting -> Arneson bringing this idea of a player controlling one character to Gygax who was already known in wargaming circles-> Chainmail starts being developed into more dungeon delving instead of outdoor tactical wargaming -> Original Dungeons and Dragons is created.
     
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  5. Zed Duke of Banville Zo Kath Ra Patron

    Zed Duke of Banville
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    Tabletop wargaming itself can be highly simulationist, so the conflict is really between simulated systems aimed at realistic verisimilitude, even in the context of a pseudo-medieval fantasy setting, and making concessions for greater ease and fun of playing the actual game. For example, combat in original Dungeons & Dragons was fairly abstract, leading to attempts at creating a more simulationist ruleset, such as the Perrin Conventions. Also consider that the published rules for OD&D were not identical to the game played by either Gygax or Arneson, even if you combined the three booklets with the corresponding supplement.

    Also, the extent to which Dave Arneson contributed to the development of the Braunstein idea into the first RPG tends to be greatly underestimated.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2020
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  6. Nathaniel3W Rockwell Studios Developer

    Nathaniel3W
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    It looks like we already have a few posts about the history and personalities behind original D&D. I don't have any connections to the decision-makers at TSR, Wizards of the Coast, or Hasbro, but I would like to just add my observations as a player that the D&D's design principles have shifted over the years and editions. Early on, D&D was strongly simulationist, but became more abstract and gamified, reaching that peak in 4e, which was essentially World of Warcraft the Boardgame. Since then, the guiding principle through 5e has been inclusivity and wokeness.

    Off the top of my head, without digging into any old resources, these are a few of the simulationist systems and mechanics from older editions which have since been abandoned:
    • Tables and percentages for everything. Want to climb a wall? Look up the thief's climbing table, find the thief's level, and there's the percent chance of success.
    • Wounds take forever to heal. You get beaten half to death in an afternoon, then you spend the next two months healing, just like in real life.
    • Assumption that an adventurer-based economy could not work, and that adventurers--if they're not literally nobles supported by peasantry--would be part of an elite supported by a large proletariat. Fighters would build strongholds, thieves would advance in their guilds, druids would actually spend an entire level as a pencil-pushing druidic bureaucrat.
    4e abstraction and gamification:
    • Clearly defined party roles, where a tank, damage dealer, and healer form the party's core.
    • Combat marks, whereby a fighter or paladin takes an enemy's "aggro" (to use the WoW term), becoming the enemy's primary target, and protecting the party's squishies.
    • Quick healing and abilities with cooldowns, giving you limited resources in any single encounter, but still letting you fight several encounters in a day without having to take an 8-hour rest or longer to heal and recover spells.
    5e wokeness:
    • Gender-changing elves that establish in canon a character representative of non-gender-binary players.
    • Non-evil orcs, because the stereotypical evil orc supposedly reflected our stereotypes of Africans and people of African descent.
    I guess two examples isn't really proof of wokeness as a "guiding principle" and honestly I have very limited knowledge of 5e. But I still have a sense that WotC/Hasbro is trying and succeeding to push D&D more into the mainstream, and that means making the game more accessible and inclusive. Maybe someone with more experience in the most recent edition could comment.
     
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  7. gurugeorge Magister

    gurugeorge
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    Interesting answers all, thanks!
     
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  8. TheDiceMustRoll Game Analist

    TheDiceMustRoll
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    Careful with picking a "side" re: DnD's creation. It gets fucking ugly, I've seen people who lived through that piece of dumbfuck RPG industry drama comment on it and it gets weird and personal fast. Suddenly it's shit like "WELL, UH, DAVE NEVER INVITED US OVER TO SUPPER AND WE INVITED HIM AND SERVED STEAK AND HE NEVER SAID THANK YOU ONCE AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH" which is not relevant to the facts. People are still just seething over it 40+ years later. Best to not. Jon Peterson's Playing at the world book's take is the correct one: Gary was not great at innovating systems and Dave was not good at refining them. DnD wouldn't have happened without Dave's sparks of creativity but it wouldn't be the product that released in 1974 without gary's refinement of said sparks.
    Gary's side basically thinks that Dave was a workshy asshole who always cashed a check and not much else, and Dave's side thinks that they sort of missed the point and took his original ideas into somewhat boring places. Stick with Jon Peterson..

    (Tim Kask is permanently salty as FUCK over having to write Blackmoor Supplement by himself)
     
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  9. Stella_Brando Arcane

    Stella_Brando
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    Tell us more.
     
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  10. TheDiceMustRoll Game Analist

    TheDiceMustRoll
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    About what
     
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  11. Stella_Brando Arcane

    Stella_Brando
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    Of dice and men.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2020
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  12. Shitty Kitty Learned

    Shitty Kitty
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    I really like more simulationist stuff in combat. Stuff like being able to hamstring someone without taking a fucking feat for it, or modeling things like half-swording and granularizing things like weapon reach. Even a first-level fighter-type should have most of the important shit involved with HEMA-type combat more or less down, the developments as they increase in level/whatever should just reflect them getting a LOT better at it. Also tired of the whole "rApIeRs ArE fInEsSe WeApOnS" idiocy. A weakling with a rapier was fucked against someone with a strong sword-arm.
     
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  13. TheDiceMustRoll Game Analist

    TheDiceMustRoll
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    Read playing at the world, look up gary's, Tim's and Mike's posts on Dragonsfoot.
     
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  14. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
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    I grew up playing D&D in the 80s and 90s with my best friends. Having fun was all that mattered to us. Anything that detracted from fun was discouraged or disregarded.

    The only value realism ever had was to further immerse us into the setting, but that always took a back seat to having fun with friends.
     
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  15. Spectacle Arcane Patron

    Spectacle
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    The woke stuff isn't in the 5E PHB, it's been added in more recent years. The initial release of 5E was targeted at old fans, they only started pushing "inclusivity" after streamed games and other media coverage made D&D explode in popularity among young adults who like that sort of thing.
     
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