4E's Rejection of Gygaxian Naturalism


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Sovereign Court

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I wish to share James Maliszewski's outstanding article from Grognardia (see below) with the 3.5/d20/OGL/PRPG community because it eloquently defines the Gygaxian Naturalism that has been present during much of the history and tradition of D&D. The 4E forum has recently made me feel very unwelcome, and this article belongs to the forum most concerned about preserving the history and traditions of the hobby of role-playing. James honors our Paizonian leader, Erik Mona, by quoting him on the front page of his blog.

IMHO, among the many different facets of the "feel" of the game formerly solely known as Dungeons and Dragons (now affectionately played as Pathfinder Role-playing Game, Castles & Crusades, and many, many others....) Gygaxian "Naturalism" as James describes it has been central to much of the campaigning I've done over the past 25 years. Gygaxian "Naturalism" is still strongly present in the games I DM today, and the games I play in. I also perceive a lot of what James describes in his description of Gygaxian "Naturalism" to be found in the monthly Pathfinder Chronicles I receive from PAIZO.

After reading the article, feel free to discuss your concept of Gygaxian Naturalism as you see it, or in what ways it captures part of the essence of what the "feel" of the game is all about, along with any related discussions.

The Article, Gygaxian "Naturalism" by James Maliszewski:
"I refer, from time to time, to a concept called "Gygaxian Naturalism." I realize that I've never actually explained what I mean by this phrase. As I use it, it refers to a tendency, present in the OD&D rules and reaching its fullest flower in AD&D, to go beyond describing monsters purely as opponents/obstacles for the player characters by giving game mechanics that serve little purpose other than to ground those monsters in the campaign world.

This naturalism can take many forms. For example, OD&D often tells us that for every X number of monster Y, there's a chance that monster Z might also be found in their lair. In the case of the djinn and efreet, as another example, we find that they both can create nourishing food and potable beverages, as well as many other kinds of materials through the use of their innate powers. In AD&D, these sorts of things get expanded upon greatly, with the Monster Manual telling us how many females and children can be found in a monster lair and giving many creatures powers and abilities that don't serve a specifically combat-oriented purpose, such as a pixie's ability to know alignment, for instance.

The intention behind Gygaxian Naturalism is to paint a picture of a "real" world, which is to say, a world that exists for reasons other than purely gaming ones. The implication is that monsters have lives of their own and thus go about their business doing various things until they encounter the player characters. Exactly what they do is described by reference to game mechanics, whether it be the numbers of non-combatants in a lair or spell-like abilities that help the monster do whatever it naturally does when it's not facing off against an adventuring party.

A consequence of Gygaxian Naturalism is that it grounds D&D a bit more in a pseudo-reality. I don't mean to imply that it's realistic in any meaningful sense, only that its fantasy follows "natural" laws of a sort, much in the way that, for example, I know that there are squirrels and raccoons and rabbits in my neighborhood who go about their business when I'm not seeing them in my yard or chasing them away from my recycling bins. That's one reason why AD&D has stats for so many kinds of "ordinary" animals: you can't build a "real" world without stats for sheep and cows and horses and such, because you never know when the PCs might need to kill one.

The end result of this is that Gygaxian fantasy is a simulation -- a fantastical one, to be sure, but a simulation nonetheless. The downside is that it's a very specific kind of simulation and it carries with it a lot of assumptions and expectations that not everyone shares. I know many OD&Ders, for example, who don't like "naturalistic" orcs, preferring them instead to be spawned from black ooze that bubbles up from the mythic underworld that is the dungeon. Likewise, the tendency to provide stats for everything is a self-perpetuating one, reaching its zenith in 3e, in which the game almost literally did stat out every conceivable thing with which your character might interact. Needless to say, some find this to be too much, myself included.

Gygaxian Naturalism survived Gygax's involvement in the development of Dungeons & Dragons and formed one the most important, if often only sub-consciously, creative foundations of the game through its second and third editions. My read of the latest edition is that it largely rejects Gygaxian Naturalism without embracing the alternative offered by some interpretations of OD&D, instead opting for a different model altogether. I myself have drunk deeply from the wells of Gygaxian Naturalism, so it's second nature to me now. I won't go so far as to say that Gary's approach is inseparable from D&D, because that's certainly not the case, but I will say that it's so deeply ingrained -- even in OD&D, particularly if you add the supplements -- that, to remove it, is very likely to have the effect of creating a different game entirely -- certainly a different one that what has been called D&D for most of the game's existence."

James Maliszewski's blog (excellent blog by the way) can be found at: grognardia.blogspot.com


Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Thanks for sharing this, Pax. I'm going to chew on it a bit, but basically it resonates with me.


Very interesting. Thank you for sharing. I must say that, even though I'm a youngster by the standards of all you geezers (kidding!), and have never played anything but 3e, I find that I agree with this concept. I have glanced at 2e monster sources before, and was intrigued by the ecological information. I know that 2e was the apex of non-combat information for just about everything, particularly cultures and customs of races and nations throughout the various settings, and I am sorely disappointed that I never got to experience those things as they were ported into 3e (because, well... they mostly weren't). But though 3e seems to have toned down its Gygaxian Naturalism in some cases, it isn't without it completely.

For example, I remember looking through the 3.5 MM when I first got it and thinking to myself, "Why in the world does the pit fiend have so many spell-like abilities? There's no way even a dozen of these things together would ever have a chance to use them all in a combat! Most of them wouldn't do anything at that level, anyway." Similar thoughts crossed my mind in regards to the beholder's charm ray. But then I realized that it was important for these creatures to have those abilities to add depth and possibilities outside of combat. It gave an idea of how they conducted themselves; how they would fortify their lairs, what creatures they might have serving them, etc. In some cases, it was just an indication of the lifestyle creature X leads.

And I also noticed that those types of little details were lacking in other monster supplements that came out over the years; each iteration of the MM seemed to bring less and less information (except perhaps the MM IV, which I do not own but heard had a lot of guides regarding lairs and such, though I'm not so sure about the ecology). The monsters were just new combinations of numbers to challenge PCs, with a pretty picture slapped on top.

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me for now. Thank you for sharing the article, and a new term that I can sling around so as to fain intelligence and swell my ego.

Scarab Sages

Thanks for the article - an interesting summary of part of D&D. It's basically the "It's not D&D" or "It doesn't feel like D&D" argument explained, and explained well.


As a Basic/1e Advanced grognard, all I have to say is, "Yes."
Good, insightful article.


This was really insightful, though the title of the thread might bring some heat that will drag this off topic. It really cuts to the heart of things, though.

Dark Archive

'Gygaxian Naturalism' seems to lend itself to world-building and designing adventure hooks with bits of fluff that 'hook' the creatures into the setting.

A more stripped down set of monster stats with less 'fluff' powers or non-combat options seems to lend itself more to ease of use and more intuitive (if not necessarily *quicker*) combat use.

The systems seem to be built for different things, and I'm not sure it's fair to blame 4E for not being a fish, when it's clearly been constructed as a fowl.

One small consolation. It's far easier to add this sort of stuff back in (by giving genies the power to create food, water, 'soft goods,' etc.) than to back this stuff out for the novice who got confused trying to figure out how the ability to create wine was going to be useful in an encounter, and didn't realize that not every word in the monster description was meant to be a combat option or mechanic. 4E seems to have been built to be friendlier to inexperienced DMs, and the 'fluff' can always be added again later.

I prefer the naturalism, myself, and get annoyed unreasonably when an encounter or creature 'doesn't make sense.' (Don't get me started on Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth! What did those creatures eat? How could entire tribes of monsters live in caves barely big enough to hold them for decades, and not realize that entire other tribes of monsters lived just meters away down the hall?) But I've been playing RPGs for 25 years now, and I'm hardly one to get all confused or flustered when a monster has some abilities that aren't immediately useful in combat or has some flavor text about it's preferred habitat and likely allies.

I'm very much not the target audience for the 'more than five attacks just confuses DMs' assumption.


This summarizes quite well my feelings about the difference of 4E with previous editions when it comes to world and campaign setting building. Of course, with some work, a good GM will always be able to bring back naturalism with any set of rule, but the post adresses the issue quite clearly I think. Thanks Pax.


I use the word "verisimilitude" to describe my campaign world to my players and it is very much grounded in the concepts identified by the blogger. To elaborate, yes, the campaign is about the players. But the campaign is a lens on the campaign world, and the world continues beyond the bounds and scope of the lens. The people that populate the world are, basically, real people, motivated by the same emotions which motivate us--love, hate, fear, lust, greed.

Personally, I've enjoyed many of the changes that 3E brought to the table, though I think it came with its share of warts as well. However, because my campaign world is grounded in almost 30 years of gaming history, it comes with a lot of baggage, baggage that's there because Gary Gygax inspired me to create it and then place it in the world. One of the things that I love about 3E is that it essentially leveled the playing field. The bad guys played by the same rules as the PCs and anything the villains could do (almost) could eventually be emulated by the Players.

For me, this is one of the turn offs of 4E. In my eyes, the monsters have become more hollow, something less than they were before. They feel like a bunch of Lego-like blocks which are snapped together to create an array of abilities and effects (roles) and skinned with a name instead of being driven by an interesting motivation and back story and using their abilities to achieve their ends. Sometimes half the fun is figuring what a monster could do with their abilities and then seeing how it plays out in the campaign. With 4E, it seems to me like the meta-game elements are too heavy-handed (frex., in the enforced balance of the classes).

Scarab Sages

Thanks for an interesting read.


Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

I'll add that I found James M's blog a week or two ago through Paizo, and it is worth returning to...so a leafy bow and a "keep it up" to James.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This nicely points out the fundamental flaw to 4th. I've been thinking along the lines of doing a review to my 4e expernice. While there is a lot of good things 4e falls apart not because the monsters have combat only stats and far less complet infromation as compaired to a class, many games have done this, look at the old World of Darkness line, that game was stat light in so many ways it almost hurt the system, but the old WoD had such a rich setting that it did not matter. 4e gives a vary bare bones setting and stats, only race and class is given any depth, and only in terms of dice and damage, which sadly all end up being so equel that it simply does not matter.

By this I mean that who cares if a do 6d6 damage with a cool spell, the Fighter does the same damge in the same situation with a sword, the Rogue does the same, and for some reason the cleric can do so too. If there was cool fluff to explain this great, but there isn't. The setting infomation is hollow, which leads players to feel something like the heros in the Increadibles "if everyone is specaial then no ones special".

Gygazian naturalism, which is a new concept for me I'll admit, could easily have been placed into 4e, and I actually think it will be put in via 3pp as the only other option seems to be "The Great Big Super Tome of Rule Exceptions", but Wizards has failed in this, which is very bad for the type of game system the seemed to want to push.

TTFN Dre

The Exchange

I agree with this, but I would be very reluctant to personally use the term "Gygaxian Naturalism" because it sounds too much like the name of a religion. Use it all you want, I'm just weird that way

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I haven't been following 4th Edition too much, but I've played D&D from Basic (where dwarf, elf, and halfling were CLASSES), to 1st & 2nd Edition (often interchangeably), to the much superior 3.0 and 3.5. One thing I noticed in 1st & 2nd Editions was a reluctance to change the flavor text of monsters because everybody knew their backgrounds, histories, ecologies, etc. from the Monstrous Manual. If a DM tried to do something differently (like imply tieflings were related to undead instead of fiends [they were immune to cold and had bonuses against charm and sleep--just like undead!]), the players got all confused and resisted the idea.

3.5 gives the DM more leeway on the ecologies of the beasties he uses. Maybe 4th edition is trying to give the DM even more leeway. I don't know because I don't play it. But I know in my current 3.5 campaign, the ecologies of all sorts of monsters are different. Gnolls consider themselves cursed werehyenas stuck in hybrid form, and are primarily pirates or priestesses. Yuan-ti are infiltrators into humanoid societies, working in conjunction with mercantile vampires for their secret masters. The vampires charge a bloodtoll for sailing from their ports, so they don't have to go around killing people to get fed (though some hobbyist vamps do, I'm sure!) Most of the traditionally evil monster races (orcs, goblins, trolls, giants, ogres, etc.) died in a cataclysm 100 years ago....brought upon by an insane genius derro working for a nation of aasimar and other celestially-touched races. Drow live deep in the jungles, not under the ground. There is no underdark, and there is no Lolth. Actually, because none of the PCs are clerics, religion hasn't been that important in this campaign.

If the MM and DMG and PH strait-jacket creature concepts, it can really affect the creativity of the DMs. Also, I think it's pretty clear in 4th Edition that the monsters don't follow the same rules as the PCs, so it should be pretty easy to add no combat abilities to them without having to make rules compatible with PCs and worrying too much about game balance.

Sovereign Court

I largely agree with the blog, though to be fair, the moving away has begun before 4e.

The last few 3.5 adventures were already using the delve format, much to my chagrin. I was very displeased with "expedition to ravenloft" for instance, as I expected a horror adventure, and all I got was a giant battlemap...

not to mention the "Shattered game of slaughtergate" ...

long live Gygaxian naturalism !

EDIT : there are some pretty strong hints of this with some of Gary's books from TLG, titles such as "World builder ..."


Set wrote:
The systems seem to be built for different things, and I'm not sure it's fair to blame 4E for not being a fish, when it's clearly been constructed as a fowl.

I'm going to have to disagree with you again, on the basis that we didn't ask for a foul; WotC simply told us we were getting one. They also told us that their foul was far better than the fish we've always misguidedly assumed we loved so much. Some people agree, many others don't. But regardless, they are the ones who decided to create a foul rather than fish, and those who still desire fish and had no say in the matter have a perfectly valid reason to criticize said foul for not being said fish.


Hordes of unrelated species of monsters huddled in their lairs mere meters from one another adds a sense of realism to a game?

Dark Archive

CourtFool wrote:
Hordes of unrelated species of monsters huddled in their lairs mere meters from one another adds a sense of realism to a game?

A request;

Come up with your own opinions, instead of distorting mine to score a point.

The point, that Gygax himself had a lot of silly and suspension-of-disbelief-breaking stuff (such as the layout of Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth), was already made, without anyone feeling the need to be an ass to previous posters.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

CourtFool wrote:
Hordes of unrelated species of monsters huddled in their lairs mere meters from one another adds a sense of realism to a game?

Hehehe. I've been looking at Keep in the Borderlands (adapting it for the 'Keep in the Cinderland' PbP). How did he get away with that stuff? A lair of goblins, a lair of hobgoblins, a lair of orcs, a lair of gnolls, ... all living 50' or 60' from each other. First thing my guys will encounter is ...

Spoiler:

... a bunch of heads on pikes, one tribe triumphant. None of this happy harmonious dungeon.

EDIT: I haven't read the entire thread and have no idea who has said what or who I might be being an ass to. ;-)


I apologize for offending you such, Set.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Tarren Dei wrote:


Hehehe. I've been looking at Keep in the Borderlands (adapting it for the 'Keep in the Cinderland' PbP). How did he get away with that stuff? A lair of goblins, a lair of hobgoblins, a lair of orcs, a lair of gnolls, ... all living 50' or 60' from each other. First thing my guys will encounter is ...

** spoiler omitted **

You might want to look at the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands that TSR put out. It reinvented the caves to make them a more dynamic system. My players had a lot of fun investigating them. It made a pretty neat contrast to the original B2.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Set wrote:


One small consolation. It's far easier to add this sort of stuff back in (by giving genies the power to create food, water, 'soft goods,' etc.) than to back this stuff out for the novice who got confused trying to figure out how the ability to create wine was going to be useful in an encounter, and didn't realize that not every word in the monster description was meant to be a combat option or mechanic. 4E seems to have been built to be friendlier to inexperienced DMs, and the 'fluff' can always be added again later.

I disagree that it's easier to be creative and add stuff back in than it is to ignore it. If I'm building a combat encounter in 3.5 (or any earlier edition), I can just ignore a bunch of powers for certain kinds of critters. They won't come into play.

But when they aren't there, I have to sit down and spend a bit more time figuring out what they can or should be able to do. Now, I realize, that in most cases I can just handwave that away too. But, with my work and family schedule, I find it a lot easier to summarize from a larger set of information than to create things anew.
Quite frankly, having someone else do the bulk of the work is why I buy game supplements and adventures. If I have to add a lot more of my own value, why am I laying out my money in the first place?

And more on the topic of Gygaxian naturalism, one thing I missed in the 3e monster books was a rating of how common the monsters generally were. I understand that that was probably one of the first things a world-building DM would adjust for their own campaigns, but I really liked it when it came time to build encounter tables. Plus, info like that would have been the bases of a much better system of monster knowledge checks than using a creatures hit dice or CR.


Hunterofthedusk wrote:
I agree with this, but I would be very reluctant to personally use the term "Gygaxian Naturalism" because it sounds too much like the name of a religion. Use it all you want, I'm just weird that way

It *IS* a religion, Hunterofdusk, and we would like just a few moments of your time...


Hey, I am the only cult leader allowed to use that avatar! I'm guessing you wish to merge your cult with ours? ;)


Ah, boy! We'z gonna have ourselvz a schism tonite! Yee-ha!


Elder Elemental Eye wrote:
Hey, I am the only cult leader allowed to use that avatar! I'm guessing you wish to merge your cult with ours? ;)

Hail Brother, I give the counter-sign.

Spoiler:
There are many names, but one true cult: for what is the Eye of Tharizdun, if not the eye of Gygax?


We welcome you. Please take your pick of coloured robes.


My thanks for your welcome. If it does not offend the local temple, I will retain my robes of dark crimson: a symbol of gygaxian naturalism, showing forth the bloody purposefulness of our will.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

"Working feverishly to keep ahead of the eager players, I created levels of the Greyhawk Castle dungeons at a rate of one a week. ... I populated levels hastily, generally without regard for 'ecology,' with an aim toward challenge, surprise, and diversity. ... The key was to make the encounter fun." (Gary Gygax, in Dragon #287, p. 26)

The Exchange

Hierarch of Gygaxian Naturalism wrote:
Hunterofthedusk wrote:
I agree with this, but I would be very reluctant to personally use the term "Gygaxian Naturalism" because it sounds too much like the name of a religion. Use it all you want, I'm just weird that way
It *IS* a religion, Hunterofdusk, and we would like just a few moments of your time...

Stay back! I took care of the last Jehovah's Witness that tried that on me, and I'll do it again!


Hunterofthedusk wrote:
Hierarch of Gygaxian Naturalism wrote:
Hunterofthedusk wrote:
I agree with this, but I would be very reluctant to personally use the term "Gygaxian Naturalism" because it sounds too much like the name of a religion. Use it all you want, I'm just weird that way
It *IS* a religion, Hunterofdusk, and we would like just a few moments of your time...
Stay back! I took care of the last Jehovah's Witness that tried that on me, and I'll do it again!

Funny, that happened to me too just last week...let me show you *OUR* way of taking care of such door-to-door tract-jockeys!


Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber
Tarren Dei wrote:
"Working feverishly to keep ahead of the eager players, I created levels of the Greyhawk Castle dungeons at a rate of one a week. ... I populated levels hastily, generally without regard for 'ecology,' with an aim toward challenge, surprise, and diversity. ... The key was to make the encounter fun." (Gary Gygax, in Dragon #287, p. 26)

Nice legwork...but do the workings of Gygax under the gun negate the contributions he made towards creating a sense of world through monster ecologies? Or is there an argument to be made by historians of the game that this "naturalism" is not actually Gygaxian, but to be attributed elsewhere?

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

Mairkurion {tm} wrote:
Tarren Dei wrote:
"Working feverishly to keep ahead of the eager players, I created levels of the Greyhawk Castle dungeons at a rate of one a week. ... I populated levels hastily, generally without regard for 'ecology,' with an aim toward challenge, surprise, and diversity. ... The key was to make the encounter fun." (Gary Gygax, in Dragon #287, p. 26)
Nice legwork...but do the workings of Gygax under the gun negate the contributions he made towards creating a sense of world through monster ecologies? Or is there an argument to be made by historians of the game that this "naturalism" is not actually Gygaxian, but to be attributed elsewhere?

I'd say that this 'naturalism' has evolved as part of the game itself. The medium is the message. The game works through the sense of engagement that comes from the game seeming plausible while being fantastical.

The column actually continues with Mr. Gygax discussing how a fairly random element in an encounter become central to the game and evolved into an ongoing plothook due to the emotional involvement of the players. It emerged from the game itself, not fully formed from the head of any one of the people sitting at the table but through the interaction of all of them.

I guess, I'd say that this 'naturalism' is, for me, a major part of D&D. If that makes it Gygaxian, I'm cool with that. There are other aspects of the game though, such as "challenge, surprise, and diversity" that are equally important and equally 'Gygaxian'.


Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber
Tarren Dei wrote:

'Gygaxian'.

That makes sense to me. In my own brewing, completely (as they seemed to me) arbitrary elements have been given an ecological explanation, and turned something that was "unrealistic" into a part of the world-fabric. If it lost those other elements, it would be a simulation, but not a fantasy simulation.

Sovereign Court

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All well and good, but aren't random dungeon-room tables, random monster tables, and random treasure tables also "Gygaxian"? Back in 1E, you and a d100 could create an adventure in 10 minutes.

Sovereign Court

CourtFool wrote:
Hordes of unrelated species of monsters huddled in their lairs mere meters from one another adds a sense of realism to a game?

Sure that happened. though not in every adventure. oh it does still happen today ...

And there were some nice surprises sometimes, such as after battling the monster, you find no gold, no magic ... but a fine bottle of Furyondian wine ...

Grand Lodge

Stereofm wrote:
a fine bottle of Furyondian wine ...

And a bottle dated CY 254 would fetch a VERY high price (if any of that vintage survive)...

Question is, does anybody know why (easy grognard question)?


The nice thing is that so much of the good old D&D stuff can be found fairly low priced over at DrivethruRPG.com.

Gygax wasn't perfect but he was a creative genius. Sometimes he got lazy and made a simple hack 'n slash dungeon. But he also gave us Greyhawk (the city), the Temple of Elemental Evil, Against the Giants, etc.


Digitalelf wrote:
Stereofm wrote:
a fine bottle of Furyondian wine ...

And a bottle dated CY 254 would fetch a VERY high price (if any of that vintage survive)...

Question is, does anybody know why (easy grognard question)?

Because that's the first year you could possibly get Furyondian wine. Before that, Furyondy didn't officially exist.

Grand Lodge

rockfall22 wrote:
Because that's the first year you could possibly get Furyondian wine. Before that, Furyondy didn't officially exist.

That would indeed be why...


Gygaxian Naturalist, I bid you gygaxian greetings.


Set wrote:
CourtFool wrote:
Hordes of unrelated species of monsters huddled in their lairs mere meters from one another adds a sense of realism to a game?

A request;

Come up with your own opinions, instead of distorting mine to score a point.

The point, that Gygax himself had a lot of silly and suspension-of-disbelief-breaking stuff (such as the layout of Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth), was already made, without anyone feeling the need to be an ass to previous posters.

I think you'd have a good point with almost any other poster but I feel you should give Courtfool some extra slack since he makes a point of bursting everyones bubble - well unless your a Hero System convert,..


Bill Dunn wrote:
Tarren Dei wrote:


Hehehe. I've been looking at Keep in the Borderlands (adapting it for the 'Keep in the Cinderland' PbP). How did he get away with that stuff? A lair of goblins, a lair of hobgoblins, a lair of orcs, a lair of gnolls, ... all living 50' or 60' from each other. First thing my guys will encounter is ...

** spoiler omitted **

You might want to look at the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands that TSR put out. It reinvented the caves to make them a more dynamic system. My players had a lot of fun investigating them. It made a pretty neat contrast to the original B2.

Yeah - good stuff and makes it clear that there is constant dynamism and warfare among the various tribes.


Very interesting. I believe you could extend the analogy to contrast it with 4E, which I see as "epic" gaming, in the Brechtian sense of the word. This would certainly tally with my experience of playing 4E, which I feel lends itself to a more self-aware, self-referential form of gaming than the 3.5 naturalism, that promotes suspension of disbelief and story-immersion.

I think that understanding the different approaches of the two systems in this way will help inform my choice of which one to use, based on the type of campaign I want to run.


Hierarch of Gygaxian Naturalism wrote:
Gygaxian Naturalist, I bid you gygaxian greetings.

I'm just hoping a Gygaxian naturist doesn't turn up to say hi. :0

Getting back to the blog, there's a lot there that agrees with my own tastes in D&D. All that non-combat information and Ecology for monsters just helps make the game seam "realer" to me.


Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber
Toby Rogers wrote:

Very interesting. I believe you could extend the analogy to contrast it with 4E, which I see as "epic" gaming, in the Brechtian sense of the word. This would certainly tally with my experience of playing 4E, which I feel lends itself to a more self-aware, self-referential form of gaming than the 3.5 naturalism, that promotes suspension of disbelief and story-immersion.

I think that understanding the different approaches of the two systems in this way will help inform my choice of which one to use, based on the type of campaign I want to run.

I guess my response to this is that, for me, it is precisely this "G.N.", verisimilitude, or inner-worldly logic which allows suspension of disbelief and story-immersion in the kind of fantasy gaming that I enjoy--most of which is high fantasy and I would think would correspond to what you are calling "epic" gaming, though I do not know if Brecht does something with "epic" that I am unfamiliar with. A lack of it for me makes for a more arbitrary, "fairy-tale" (for lack of a better word) gaming enviroment in which you have to accept premises without interacting with them in any significant way. What would make this more or less "self-aware" and "self-referential" eludes me.

@JRM: Let's all say No to Gygaxian naturists...


So what about Gygaxian supernaturalism? Or Gygaxian moralism?

Hey, Gygax had a can of worms for every genre! :)


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Isn´t that another take on the "gamist vs. simulationist" discussion? As we all know, D&D had its base in wargaming. Wargaming aims at simulating the world as it relates to the fights played. So, trying to make the game world as pseudo-realistic (meaning making suspense of disbelief easy) as possible just comes naturally from that start. This is called AFAIK the simulationist approach. The other approach has the focus on the game itself, and does not aim at portraying a realistic world, rather at making the game fun and entertaining, if need be, by putting metagaming considerations above the inner logic of the game world. Taken to the extreme, you get something like the old Dungeonquest board game or something similar.
These two approaches are not mutually exclusive, it is rather a design decision to set the focus on one or the other. IMO, the high art of this is to combine a pseudo-realistic game world which is also fun to play in.

I prefer the simulationist approach. AFAIK, 4e sets its focus on the gamist approach, so it holds no big appeal for me.

Stefan


I don't see that it's a gamist/simulationist question. Even a gamist can appreciate the idea of a logical ecology, though he might never bother with it.

A growing, living world is the basis for a solid campaign. After all, if the DM knows his gameworld and its denizens well, he can expand it and bring about changes based on the actions of the PCs.

If a tribe of kobolds has to pay tribute to the hobgoblins over the next ridge to survive, and the hobgoblins are wiped out by the PCs, the little lizards are going to not only have extra space to move into, but extra resources, as well (because they no longer pay tribute). The PCs could go away and come back to find a strong, well-fortified kobold encampment where the hobgoblins used to be, and the resulting battle could be worse than the first one.

That's an example of the application of Gygaxian Naturalism that even a gamist could appreciate. :)


Mairkurion {tm} wrote:


I do not know if Brecht does something with "epic" that I am unfamiliar with. A lack of [verisimilitude] for me makes for a more arbitrary, "fairy-tale" (for lack of a better word) gaming environment in which you have to accept premises without interacting with them in any significant way. What would make this more or less "self-aware" and "self-referential" eludes me.

I've never really understood why the term "epic" was used - maybe it has other connotations in German - but it describes the collection of techniques that Brecht advocated in his style of theatre - techniques that present actors as playing believable characters whilst maintaining a separation between actor and character(s) - hence "self-aware" and "self-referential". "Breaking the fourth wall" is one such common technique

I agree that for the usual meaning of epic, verisimilitude is an essential requirement of a game, and this is my general preference for the campaigns I run, but I also want to play games where the Heroes can do things that stretch the "natural order" of the game world, where they can "get away" with things that they can only do because they are characters in a game.

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