What are your acceptable breaks from reality?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Aside from magic, of course. Some things that would be realistic just don't work in Pathfinder or take away from the fun. In my case, language. I do not have a common tongue in my campaign setting. I just can't get with that, and I have too much interest in deciding who speaks what language. On the other hand, language differences are problematic to RPGs. So, everyone is just sort of assumed to understand everyone else, even though that often wouldn't be realistic. Oh, and nobody ever runs out of food, water, or basic ammunition, because I don't want to track that stuff. What about you guys?


The economy of magic items


Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
What are your acceptable breaks from reality?

Pretty much anything goes.

I get reality all the time, and usually it is meh. So when I game, I want the fantastic and the gritty, but not the tedium of normal life.

Grand Lodge

The one thing that gets me is how there are so many barkeepers and farming villages and store owners when the only way to get a magic horse that poops diamonds and can fly is to be what is in my mind equivalent to a P.I. or Bounty Hunter.

In real life Dogg the Bounty Hunter and Gene Parmesan are not living the life of luxury, because so few people have those jobs because it's very hard to make a decent living. No one in reality is all "man I don't make nearly enough money owning a restaurant, time to buy a gun and start hunting criminals." because it doesn't make any sense.

But in Pathfinder it makes all the sense and is glorious.


Magic Item Crafting Economics is mindbending if you actually think about it, so it's best to just accept that it does function RAW, and has forever.

The logistics of the Celestial/Infernal Cold War. The Devil/Demon feud is the only part of it that makes sense, but even then, you have to wonder how it all balances out to the Prime material not dying horribly.

They're playing stereotypical high-level rocket tag all the time. Both sides have access to Divination magic out the wazoo and the generals of these armies are the sort of beings you get your Commune answers from, making the mindgames even more convoluted. Asmodeus' forethought is staggering if he's as in-control a puppet master as he says he is.


I banned anything that lets you tell the future or commune with dieties, plants, animals, or corpses, so there :)


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Kelsey Arwen MacAilbert wrote:
I do not have a common tongue in my campaign setting.

One word: English.

Sovereign Court

leveling. Some people want it to take a lifetime to get from level 1 to 20. Also, they want to make a big deal about finding a trainer to teach them or allow multi-classing. These things dont interest me and I file leveling squarely under the game portion of TTRPGs.


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Some of the things that I see DMs decry as 'unrealistic' is often simply a misunderstanding of real world analogues. Another problem is looking at 2015, instead of 1000, for your analogues. This is a game about a medieval/post medieval society. This is not a game about Earth 2015. Set your perspective. Some modern analogues help, but most do not.

Magic Item Economy? Look at guns, or yachts. The average person can either feed their family for a month or will never see the inside of one, respectively.

Common? Many times over, the world has come close to speaking a single language. Greek was widespread, Latin, English, and now Spanish and Chinese are massively widespread in places that to which they are not indigenous.

Bounty Hunters Are Poor: In real life 2015, yes. In real life, before it was easy to track stolen possessions, probably not. If you could loot the home and stash of every bounty you came upon, you could end up with a hoard of your very own. The problem today is that the profession of bail bondsman is so heavily regulated that you cannot afford to jack the stash.

Pan: That is more of your gripes with level-based games. This thread is about portions of the game that don't seem realistic, but are accepted.


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My general rule when it comes to acceptable breaks from reality is to ask a single question: What makes the game more fun?

For example, bookkeeping on ammunition and food/water supplies is usually something that ought to be handwaved unless those limits are going to be relevant to your game. If the party is going to be visiting towns between every adventuring day, you probably won't gain much from tracking mundane ammo and food. If you're in hostile environments with civilization and resupply out of reach, then those resources matter.

Of course, fun is largely subjective. Some people get a kick out of having a nice, in-depth explanation for how the magic item economy works, and some people just wanna know if they can find a +1 sword before they go on the next adventure.

Sovereign Court

Arturus Caeldhon wrote:


Pan: That is more of your gripes with level-based games. This thread is about portions of the game that don't seem realistic, but are accepted.

On the contrary, I love level based games. However, there are many complaints that it is unrealistic for someone to level too quickly. As in going from 1-20 in say a matter of months in game. Also, people have an issue leveling inside a dungeon and suddenly gaining new abilities. I can understand this issue from a reality perspective argument, but really I am not hung up about it. Thus an acceptable break from reality.


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As long as it doesn't destabilize play significantly or provide a substantial impediment to one of the participants at the table (which includes the GM), I'm inclined to say realism just doesn't matter. This is a fantasy world, where wizards and dragons, demigods and demons are part of the campaign setting. Screw 'reality', let the characters and NPCs do awesome stuff that's fun, regardless of how grounded in physics it is.


Unacceptable to me personally, but most groups accept.

murderhobboes are good heroes

a monster with a good diplomacy roll can talk to anyone and get information

drunken master


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BigHatLogar wrote:
the only way to get a magic horse that poops diamonds and can fly is to be what is in my mind equivalent to a P.I. or Bounty Hunter.

Butt Stallion! Say Hello!


I would probably say the whole armor class and hitpoint system is probably my limit. It obviously doesn't make much sense or match with reality. But it is a playable abstraction.

I've tried a few other systems that made an effort to be more realistic/logical, but they all bogged down into bunches of rolls and tables for location and effect. The games would just grind to a halt.

So while I don't really like the system, it works.

Sovereign Court

ElterAgo wrote:
I would probably say the whole armor class and hitpoint system is probably my limit. It obviously doesn't make much sense or match with reality. But it is a playable abstraction.

Just remember that taking HP damage doesn't mean actually getting hit hard - it's a series of near misses and shallow cuts which slowly exhaust you and eat away at your heroic awesomeness.

I remember in the Star Wars Revised d20 FAQ they had a question about how a middling high level character could have as much HP as a tank. Basically for the tank taking HP damage it's always getting hit, for the character it's near misses etc, and for a bantha of the same HP, it's a combination thereof.


I don't like OOC chatter, especially if it is tactical or in game relevant and really hate when people try to get away with saying but not really saying something or other, i.e. "Don't cast fireball I'm invisible and in the AoE", "so your character shouts that while invisible?" "oh no, I was just telling Dave" yuck.

I understand the temptation or at times necessity of stating certain mechanical things like "I have 5 hit points left" or "my ac is only 15" but i always like when people make the effort to speak and describe the world as their characters would.

Don't know what to call it, plausible or logical fantasy, magical realism? But I like treating all the outlandish magical stuff as axiomatic and then try to work out how the world functions from there.

retroactively becoming an expert in knowledge: history and learning how to speak a new language because you just hit level 8 and put that second point into int can be a bit jarring at times but can sort of be hand-waved away with "you've been studying at night", but anyone that puts that extra RP effort of saying "I read some history before I fall asleep" is much appreciated.

Characters going from level 1 mook to level 20 god in 3 months tends to play havoc on any concept of world stability, I try my best to stretch that out by encouraging crafting and whatnot, and playing once a week does help by making it feel like it's taken a long time even if in-game time is substantially less sometimes.

It can be disappointing when people don't engage if there isn't a relevant mechanic involved, so it is always nice when crunch and fluff go hand-in-hand.


I find that leveling time is entirely in my hands as GM. Finish one dungeon, cool. "Three months later, you hear rumours of another treasure laden ruin". Or a year or whatever. I think it's covered under downtime in the Under Campaign book.

Reality breaks for me are things that I just can't imagine happening. Like being able to evade a dragons breath weapon while in it's mouth. If you can explain it in a way that I can picture it happening, then I'm usually ok with it regardless of how ridiculous it seems on paper.


HP, Magic System in general, Levels. I can cope with this stuff because it is fun and it doesn't stop you from doing the obvious thing.

Unacceptable breaks include Demographics and Economy. I know better and it just bugs the hell out of me that doing obvious things makes the game fall apart.

When I GM a home game the demographics and economy work much more realistically. This sometimes frustrates and sometimes delights the players, but they get their presumptions challenged either way.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I like "old" school fantasy, so it's a little zany plus tossing some inspirations from media. So reality usually isn't my biggest concern, as long as there is some kind of a story.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This seems more about suspension of disbelief.

I've crafted many of my own game worlds, and dabbled with many RPG systems. Most RPG games reward entertaining action oriented themes. The language issue was addressed in the default Pathfinder setting - "common" as a legacy language of Taldan. I think of it as English was in the last half of the 20th century. It's not universal, yet you can find people that speak it if you know the right inns and businesses. I have made fantasy settings with no common language. It works if you only have a handful of unifying languages (six - ten major governments / cultures).

What threatens to break my suspension of disbelief? Large, costly wooden ships. It seems more feasible to pay high level mages to teleport items. I have yet to make a hand wave explanation that can make sense of having them.

Castles as written do as well, yet I placed the hand wave explanation that anyone with the resources to build a castle already paid for certain magical protections (such as forbiddance spells) that makes them somewhat relevant fortresses again.

The alpha predator thing bugs me a bit. In a world with large numbers and varieties of nasty monsters, it is hard to imagine there being a civilization rather than a bunch of high level survivors barely making their existence. Even mid-level CR monsters seem numerous enough to be found anywhere, yet they don't wipe out whole towns? This could be a perception issue of course.


Anything that lets martials have nice things is, obviously, grounds for complete suspension of disbelief.

The idea that a character can move supernaturally fast or otherwise beyond the limits of "normal humanity" without magical assistance in a world pretty much all rooted from a set of novels where one elf can take out dozens of guys and a giant elephant with nothing but a bow and some arrows is right out.

Also, everything must obey literal physics, even if it means taking perfectly functional rules, such as guns attacking touch AC, and looking for dozens of homebrew rehashes for something "more realistic"...again, in a world where a multi-ton dragon can take flight using comparatively flimsy wings with zero magical assistance.

Yessir, I am just outright anal retentive when it comes to realism in my game where after a couple of weeks adventuring a well trained soldier can suddenly fight literally twice as well as previously and take literally twice rhe damage.

I'm also a vehement fan of sarcasm, in case I didn't make it obvious enough.


Trimalchio wrote:

retroactively... ...learning how to speak a new language because you just hit level 8 and put that second point into int can be a bit jarring at times

I don't think you can retroactively gain languages by increasing your intelligence. It says your intelligence bonus is added to how many languages you have at the start of the game. Unless, of course, there was some faq/errata changing the rules?

@thegreenteagamer
Are you referring to the monk with the speed thing? They're pretty magical. Barbarian speed isn't really that outlandish and they're a little magical.


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Barathos wrote:


@thegreenteagamer
Are you referring to the monk with the speed thing? They're pretty magical. Barbarian speed isn't really that outlandish and they're a little magical.

Strictly speaking, fast movement is an ex, not su or sp action, not supressed by antimagic field or the like. Even the quite non-magical martial artist archetype gets it, IIRC.

But no, I was referring to people who believe the gun twirling, rapid reload, alchemical cartridge combo is ridiculous because it means you're firing, holstering, reloading and redrawing two guns four times in under six seconds...again, in a world where a giant fire-breathing (which ALONE is cause for pause) lizard that weighs multiple tons can fly (in an anti-magic zone, I might add) using wings that wouldn't support his body mass even if he were completely hollow, at a speed roughly four times that of an eagle.

Frankly, in a world where THAT exists, banning ANYTHING because "it's just not realistic" is comparatively silly.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Thegreatgamer wrote:
Anything that lets martials have nice things is, obviously, grounds for complete suspension of disbelief.

Perhaps it was part of the sarcasm, or lack of sleep, or actual confusion. If it is confusion, let me clarify - When someone can suspend disbelief, it actually means that you are buying it in the context of the story world. It's not real, yet you aren't shaking your fist since you can't buy into it.

Example of suspension of disbelief -
The premise of the show Gilligan's Island, most can look past it as a comedy TV show and suspend their disbelief on most things that occur.

Example of when something destroys suspension of disbelief -
When somehow in an episode, the newly stranded Harlem Globetrotters are playing a basketball game against a robot, one of the trotters are injured and they call Gilligan to replace the injured player - leaving most to think, in what strange world would ANYONE pick a clutz like that to stand in for an exhibition athlete?

In other words, suspension of disbelief is what we would buy into and makes sense in the premise of a story, even if it has rules very different from our reality. Braking that suspension is when a story writer reaches too far and makes the audience / reader think the writer is being foolish (to put it mildly).


thegreenteagamer wrote:
The idea that a character can move supernaturally fast or otherwise beyond the limits of "normal humanity" without magical assistance in a world pretty much all rooted from a set of novels where one elf can take out dozens of guys and a giant elephant with nothing but a bow and some arrows is right out.

Just for the record, the elephant is strictly from the movies not the books and thus not a direct influence on the game. The war elephants existed in the books, but Legolas didn't kill one singlehanded.

He did kill dozens with his bow at Helm's Deep, but that was mostly firing from the wall into an attacking army, not in close combat. Gimli beat his number with an axe, entirely in close combat, which is more impressive.

None of which is to say I don't think martials shouldn't be able to do amazing things.


KestrelZ wrote:
Thegreatgamer wrote:
Anything that lets martials have nice things is, obviously, grounds for complete suspension of disbelief.

Perhaps it was part of the sarcasm, or lack of sleep, or actual confusion. If it is confusion, let me clarify - When someone can suspend disbelief, it actually means that you are buying it in the context of the story world. It's not real, yet you aren't shaking your fist since you can't buy into it.

Example of suspension of disbelief -
The premise of the show Gilligan's Island, most can look past it as a comedy TV show and suspend their disbelief on most things that occur.

Example of when something destroys suspension of disbelief -
When somehow in an episode, the newly stranded Harlem Globetrotters are playing a basketball game against a robot, one of the trotters are injured and they call Gilligan to replace the injured player - leaving most to think, in what strange world would ANYONE pick a clutz like that to stand in for an exhibition athlete?

In other words, suspension of disbelief is what we would buy into and makes sense in the premise of a story, even if it has rules very different from our reality. Braking that suspension is when a story writer reaches too far and makes the audience / reader think the writer is being foolish (to put it mildly).

Or as I've heard it put: "My disbelief is not merely suspended, but hung by the neck until dead."

What reaches that point is different for everyone.


BigHatLogar wrote:

The one thing that gets me is how there are so many barkeepers and farming villages and store owners when the only way to get a magic horse that poops diamonds and can fly is to be what is in my mind equivalent to a P.I. or Bounty Hunter.

In real life Dogg the Bounty Hunter and Gene Parmesan are not living the life of luxury, because so few people have those jobs because it's very hard to make a decent living. No one in reality is all "man I don't make nearly enough money owning a restaurant, time to buy a gun and start hunting criminals." because it doesn't make any sense.

But in Pathfinder it makes all the sense and is glorious.

I prefer not to go full blown adventurer economy. Sure for the party it works like that, because they're the protagonists, but there really isn't much of an "adventurer" profession. Nor is what the PCs do really much like PI or Bounty hunter.

In games I prefer, they're heroes (or anti-heroes or maybe even villains) on a quest. How they get caught up in it varies. What the antagonists are up to varies, but there's some large scale thing driving the campaign.
Not just one of many groups of adventurers doing it to make a living. The PCs are rare, if not actually unique.

The barkeeps or farmers or shopkeepers could try to go on "an adventure", but the world isn't looking out for them and promising them CR-appropriate encounters (or even sandbox mode warning flags for non CR appropriate ones) and anything approaching WBL.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
ElterAgo wrote:
I would probably say the whole armor class and hitpoint system is probably my limit. It obviously doesn't make much sense or match with reality. But it is a playable abstraction.

Just remember that taking HP damage doesn't mean actually getting hit hard - it's a series of near misses and shallow cuts which slowly exhaust you and eat away at your heroic awesomeness.

I remember in the Star Wars Revised d20 FAQ they had a question about how a middling high level character could have as much HP as a tank. Basically for the tank taking HP damage it's always getting hit, for the character it's near misses etc, and for a bantha of the same HP, it's a combination thereof.

Yeah, but it still really doesn't hold up.

Shocking grasp (CL 5) is an electrical discharge into the body. Totally fries the first level guy, but the 10th level guy with the same body and the same electrical discharge barely notices.
Cure light wounds will completely heal the first level wizard from a nearly mortal gut shot. The same spell will barely ease the pain of small bruise on the 10th level barbarian.
Wearing 45 pounds of steel doesn't make you harder to hit, it makes you harder to hurt. So the optional DR system would be a bit better. But you still shouldn't be able to ignore a blizzard of darts being thrown at you just be cause you are wearing chainmail. Some will get through the links or hit your face, hands, feet.
Any 6th level martial character has a pretty decent chance of taking on a rhino with a pocket knife or even his bare hands. Yeah right...


ElterAgo wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
ElterAgo wrote:
I would probably say the whole armor class and hitpoint system is probably my limit. It obviously doesn't make much sense or match with reality. But it is a playable abstraction.

Just remember that taking HP damage doesn't mean actually getting hit hard - it's a series of near misses and shallow cuts which slowly exhaust you and eat away at your heroic awesomeness.

I remember in the Star Wars Revised d20 FAQ they had a question about how a middling high level character could have as much HP as a tank. Basically for the tank taking HP damage it's always getting hit, for the character it's near misses etc, and for a bantha of the same HP, it's a combination thereof.

Yeah, but it still really doesn't hold up.

Shocking grasp (CL 5) is an electrical discharge into the body. Totally fries the first level guy, but the 10th level guy with the same body and the same electrical discharge barely notices.
Wearing 45 pounds of steel doesn't make you harder to hit, it makes you harder to hurt. So the optional DR system would be a bit better. But you still shouldn't be able to ignore a blizzard of darts being thrown at you just be cause you are wearing chainmail. Some will get through the links or hit your face, hands, feet.
Any 6th level martial character has a pretty decent chance of taking on a rhino with a pocket knife or even his bare hands. Yeah right...

Yup. Punching out a rhino is my go-to example for "Martials are already superhuman, deal with it and don't deny them cool abilities on the grounds of they're not magic and it wouldn't be realistic."

It might have been better to take something like Earthdawn's approach where all the Adept classes (PC classes, essentially) are using magic, it's just that the martial ones are channeling it into physical abilities instead of casting spells.

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