[Runequest] Game balance in different editions

Gary Sturgess gazza666 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 5 10:50:41 EST 2012

On 5 September 2012 04:44, Styopa <styopa1 at gmail.com> wrote:
> 'Simulationist' as I'm using it here, refers specifically to a person
> pursuing a system in which the goal is to simulate reality as closely as
> possible.  It didn't really even occur to me that it could have any other
> meaning?  My meaning (and as far as I know, the only meaning) has nothing to
> do with internal consistency of the rules - only really external consistency
> of results to real-world results.
> For example a system could be horribly internally INconsistent - it could
> resolve gunshots with coinflips, magic with drawing tiles from a jar, sword
> attacks in which you have to roll high on a d20, and fist attacks by rolling
> low on a d6 - but if the RESULTS resolved closely to real-world results for
> the various systems, it would be nevertheless a good simulation.

Fair enough, I did not express that particularly clearly. What I meant
was that - to me - simulationism has nothing to do with real world
results; fundamentally, it strives for accuracy with response to the
question "assuming that these rules applied to the world, what would
the resulting world look like?"

For example - D&D3e has crafting rules that make the creation of, say,
plate armour take months. It also has (by the city generation rules)
lots of 9th level wizards, who can cast Fabricate that can create
anything instantly, given the raw materials. Simulationism would
explore the impact of this, either there are no (or few) traditional
craftsmen anymore, or else there is a very good in world reason why
wizards, despite the ability to do this, in fact do not do it. (None
of the traditional D&D campaigns address this at all, but D&D as
traditionally played is not simulationist).

In a similar vein, most traditional superhero RPGs fail this test for
various reasons. It isn't that, for example, a small mask wouldn't
really conceal your identity, it is that it only does so if the wearer
is a superhero (or supervillain); in most of these settings, police
can still track normal criminals by forensic methods. And even if a
setting has virtually all superbeings flying around with jetboots
wearing belt powered force fields, this technology rarely filters down
to the general public (or even military/paramilitary).

It isn't so much "real life" as it is "science". If the internal
physics of the world permits magic, what would that logically result
in, and do we see the outcome of those results reflected in the
biology, economics, and so forth of the resulting campaign?

> Thus my point - chess is balanced, and is only in the vaguest sense a
> simulation.

Here is where our definitions give different results. Chess is about
as simulationist as it is possible to get. There are libraries worth
of books exploring the consequences of various openings, end games,
and overall strategy - all of which are devoted to exploring "what
happens if I do this?" which is a fundamentally simulationist
question. Now, if you regard chess as simulating, say, a battle, then
you might retort that it's a battle that is completely "unrealistic",
but again - that's not a criticism that bars it from being
simulationist (in my book). If you accept up front that the rules of
the world in which this battle takes place restrict movement of
pieces, the game board, and the victory conditions as per the rules of
chess, then everything that happens is exactly what would happen if
some world actually had those rules (assuming, of course, that there
isn't some move sequence fundamentally different from what centuries
of study had missed, but that is nonetheless optimal in some fashion -
but that seems unlikely).

Simulations need not be interesting. They need not be simulating
anything that could actually happen. And their rules need not be
remotely possible in reality. As long as the result of running the
simulation is a plausible outcome if what they are simulating WAS
possible, then simulationism is what we're looking at.

To bring it back on topic - I would argue that, say, Strangers in Prax
was simulationist not because of any real life considerations, but
because a world where sorcery ran by RQ3 rules would plausibly produce
such characters and they may well fight in the manner that the module
suggests. It is a subtle distinction perhaps, but as per the chess
example it is not one without meaning.

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