How "real" do you make it?


Advice


Hello all. I have been playing this game and its famous predecessor for over twenty years now and there is a theme that comes up periodically for my players. How realistic do we want to get?

Typically the concept gets tabled because any standard practice of adding levels of realism to the game typically ends up in creating additional rules to a system that is already rules heavy. That being said there are a couple of things that pop into my head as a game master that I would prefer not to ignore if I can find a reasonable way of managing them.

1 - Spell component pouches. These handy little items can be found in most spell casters' inventories. They cost 5 gold pieces and once acquired that particular spell caster is set for life assuming they aren't robbed blind, dipped in lava, or otherwise left bereft of all of their earthly belongings.

Part of me has always thought about applying some kind of rule in the vein of 1 spell component pouch = x castings of spells. The problem is that not all spells require material spell components and tracking could become cumbersome.

Another idea that I had is that spell component pouches have an expiration date, and after a certain amount of time has passed that fresh components would need to be acquired.

2 - Gear wear and tear. This is similar thematically to the spell component pouch situation but with a twist. Adventurers are out in some of the most dangerous places in the world fighting hard and putting their gear through just as much stress as they are putting their bodies' through. How frequently should I as a game master make the players aware that their gear is not invincible?

A big portion of this question applies to weapons and armor which of course take the largest brunt of the characters' punishment. Do I make the player roll saves on all of his gear whenever they are victim of an area of effect saving throw? How about potential of a weapon breaking from repeated use? Should their armor take damage whenever the character takes enough damage to bypass the hardness of the armor?

The same questions could be applied to clothing, backpacks or other containers, as well as some other gear.

What do you guys think? Is there anything you do in your games to handle the types of situations I've mentioned above, or am I just putting too much thought into this little game of fantastical heroes, magic, and monsters?


I've never bothered with that stuff as a GM because I have not had a play group which would find that level of minutiae to be entertaining.

Also, even if your group finds this entertaining, be mindful of the added time commitment involved with that level of record keeping.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm pretty sure that the DEVs have said that wizards are always getting new components as they travel, it's just all hand waved as it's not supposed to be important.

Similar with gear, that part of the downtime of a day is taking care of it and that you're fixing it up all the time.

Yes you're putting too much thought into things that are background. If it's not something worth putting into a book and reading it then it's not worth putting into the game.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

For me, when it comes to the more survival minutia of stuff, I try to keep it very simple and make it a meaningful part of the campaign.

For example, I do have my own little ruleset for item degradation. I keep it very simple and it only comes up after combat. But I also make sure that it is a relevant complication that the players have to think about when out adventuring. IF they are doing more social stuff or urban adventuring, it's not really going to come up, so I won't really use it. But, if they are going to be out in the wilderness, away from civilization and a blacksmith, it'll be an issue that they will have to consider. I do the same with encumbrance. I go with a simple method that comes up when appropriate (outside in the wilderness more often than not).


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The game is an abstraction, and I really dont like bookkeeping so I wont ever add on extra bookkeeping or trying to figure out when I need a new sword or shield.

I want be the hero and kill things. If the game was based around surviving out in the wild, that would be different, but in that case it would have different rules.

If you try to make the game into a simulation you have to deal with the economy of the game, which doesnt really work. Monsters that struggle to support their own weight. Another one is that one hit from a large or bigger creatures is likely going to break your arm and the shield that was holding it.

There are a lot of things that fail in the game if you try to make it realistic.


7 people marked this as a favorite.

So, for me, it's less "How realistic does this make it?" and "Will adding these details to the game make it more fun/interesting/engaging?"

For a typical fantasy game, I find that kind of bookkeeping tedious. For a Superhero game? I find that sort of worrying about mundane gear utterly inconsequential. For a survival horror/zombie apocalypse game? You bet I would make the players keep track of everything they owned.

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Whenever realism comes up I find that each person has a focus on one or two things. Each person has their own one or two things. Some that I have seen are how gravity work, fighting under water, how long you can hold your breath, time in combat, volume of gear vs carrying capacity. In very few cases do these ideas make the game more fun for players.

Where I find GMs can improve on reality, without taking away from fun, is character behaviour. Do your NPCs wait in each room for a fight or do they more cautiously toward the sounds of combat? Does every NPC fight to the death? Do lied to or intimidated NPCs turn on the party and show up again in the plot? What are the motivations of these characters and how do they fill your world? Do your cities have functional laws and city guards? How do the storylines of NPCs progress while the PCs quest?

Until your NPCs are acting like fully realized people and reacting to adventurers as real people would I would not worry about introducing sub systems that increase the number of rules the players have to know.

If you want you can increase wealth by level by 100 gold and add in a lodging fees, and a smithy retainer equal to that amount that may work it will change nothing but make the world feel a touch more real.

Shadow Lodge

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Real? If I wanted it to be real I'd go outside.


dot


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hi Porkchop.

AaronUnicorn and Grandlounge both make good points. Any change must be balanced against what it adds vs the extra complexity, and different players will like different things.

A few ideas that work at my table:

Spell component pouches are just the pouch. The pouch will have a series of pockets arranged in a grid for quick reference (4th row is 4th level spells, 5th one over is the onyx for that animate dead I prepared). Maybe 30 pockets and a larger area for miscellany. Part of spell preparation, then, is loading those pockets.
For the most part, components are nearly free (charcoal, sand, live cricket) and can add a bit of flavor. I usually have my familiar gather these things while my wizard is in town. Keeps them busy and adds flavor to the class feature.
One of my players found additional fun in tracking specific components and did so voluntarily, but I wouldn't force this on a player.

Weapons, if oiled, honed, and otherwise maintained will break suddenly, rather than wear out. The wear and tear can be saved for fumbles, then. Add the fragile quality if they're not properly maintained.

Armor is easy, borrowing from earlier editions. Each time a hit deals damage, the armor takes one point of damage. 5 points of damage lowers the AC by 1 until the players spend the gold and time to repair it. This is consistent with the hit points on the object hardness and hitpoints page, and not too difficult to track. Mage armor looks better now, right? Mending also becomes a godsend. Damaged armor takes a huge penalty on resale value.

At the start of each new campaign, I ask my players what they would like to include, and if it turns out to be more cumbersome than it's worth, I'll remove it.

Experiment. Sure there are other games that might do things better, but that doesn't mean the ideas can't work in Pathfinder. Trial and error.


Seriously check with your players how they feel. You might find you have players like Entymal, but I suspect otherwise looking at the rest of this thread.
For me, this level of micro management would drive me bats. There is absolutely no real reason for either of your proposals and they just detract from the actual game. They are both things that you can assume characters are doing during the course of the day. The wizard sees a bit of cobweb as he searches a room and pockets it, the fighter sits around the campfire oiling his armour and knocking out the dents while eating and chatting. It's quite simply dull if I have to do that every single session.

Liberty's Edge

I remember twice a day PC have to poo and piss, if they don't do so I give them malus or maybe they are not feeling good during a fight.
I describe quite often the conditions of clothes and garments, specially when they travel through the bush or when they are hit by swords and similar.
I describe even the conditions of hairs and beard and the dirty with the passing of the days.
I try to imagin all the little things. Without exaggerating (many things in a PC day are done without describing explictely, unless you want to play every single second).
I love realism.
Personally I'll suggest you to be as more realistic as you can.
With descriptions and suggesting for things PC has to do.
Remember them they stink, their beard is growing, their shoes are consumed. Do it if you can.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Luca Eugenio Barlassina wrote:
I remember twice a day PC have to poo and piss, if they don't do so I give them malus or maybe they are not feeling good during a fight.

I am making a ring of sustenance my top priority if I ever play at your table.


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

The rule of fun applies. If you think too hard on things, parts of the game unravels. The system of leveling is pretty unrealistic, yet it is an important stick and carrot reward. If wealth by level is a strict thing, spell components can be "refreshed" with extremely wealthy adventurer pocket change - as can normal ammunition and food. Make whole and mend can fix equipment wear and tear issues.

RP is like a movie, we aren't shown every moment of a character in realtime. Seriously, adventurers will more likely have crazy things to detect invisible foes (marbles, flour, vials of paint) than they are to possess soap or a hygiene kit.

As spoken by MST3K, "if you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts. Then repeat to yourself its just a show, I should really just relax."

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

11 people marked this as a favorite.

There's a great video from some game design experts on the concept of "Depth" versus "Complexity". It's really important to understand both the difference between the two things, and how they interact.

"Complexity" refers to all the rules, mechanics, expertise, and work that are required in order to play the game. Anything that requires either mental real estate or player action is complexity. For example, the fact that a shortsword and a longsword have different stats is a form of complexity.

"Depth" refers to how many meaningfully different gameplay experiences a game (or aspect of a game) provides to the player(s). If making a different decision makes the experience feel different, that's depth. For example, critting 25% of the time with your keen scimitar feels like a different play experience than critting 5% of the time with your club.

Here's the relationship:
Complexity is like a currency with which the game purchases depth.

Every attempt to add some depth to a game (that is, to add the possibility of additional distinct experiences) has a "cost" in the form of increased complexity (because you had to add a mechanism by which that depth would be created, and that mechanism has to be learned and executed by the players). This is important to understand because any given player has a limited "budget" of how much complexity they're willing to deal with at the top end, as well as a minimum requirement of depth they demand at the bottom end.

Therefore, it's important that when designing (or houseruling) a game, you try to "get the most bang for your buck" by finding things with a good depth to complexity ratio. (Either that, or find players with ludicrously high "budgets".) Generally, a mechanic that adds very little complexity while adding a good deal of depth is likely to be worth keeping in, but a mechanic that adds more complexity than depth is a good candidate for cutting.

For example, consider all the weapon stats in Pathfinder: size, weight, handedness, damage dice, threat range, crit multiplier, etc. Consider also the number of weapons with unique combinations of these stats. That's the complexity. The depth is when using one weapon actually feels different from using another: when the 2d6 of a greatsword feels different than the 1d4 of a dagger, or when the few massive hits of a two-hander feel different than the endless rolling of a TWF routine; that's the depth. The complexity of the weapon stat tables purchased the depth of those different gameplay experiences. (And in this case, I'd call it price gouging.)

So!

To bring it back to your question of realism and spell component pouches and whatnot, you can apply this same principal to each houserule you're considering: how much complexity does your wear-and-tear system add (both in learning and in execution)? How much depth does it get you? Are you and your players happy with the answers to those two questions?

I think if you approach it like this, you'll come to a decision you can be satisfied with. :)


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have participated in games that tracked spell components, including needing specific materials for certain spells. Not every spell required the same materials.

That same game had deterioration of armor and other equipment. Once again, lots of bookkeeping for little value. The NPCs didn't have nearly broken equipment, but we had to put up with it twice because of dice luck.

It was more bookkeeping that I want in a game. Although there were other things that were good about that game, I'm not sure I would be willing to track things to that detail again.

I would much rather play in a game with bottomless ammo than one where you count every bullet.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm more about cinematic realism.

If the rules as written make things look stupid, or strict rules consequences of the rules make it uninteresting, the rule does not prevail. Clever stupid exploits that are perfect for the moment often succeed. Builds based on such cheese fail, humiliatingly.

What gets treated as important depends on what is happening in the story at the time. If the party is dumped unprepared into a bad situation, resources suddenly become important, and become more closely tracked.

I have yet to run a game where potty breaks are tracked, though the Gardy Loo spell did actually get us past some guards in Talismonde.


Entymal wrote:
A few ideas that work at my table:

Much appreciated! These are some great ideas. Thanks so much for your feedback!

Sovereign Court

6 people marked this as a favorite.

@theporkchopxpress:

I think you may be conflating several different but important concepts here.

Realism - could this happen in the real world. Almost nothing in Pathfinder could happen in the real world; no dragons, no worrying about how many calories a wizard burns when casting a fireball, no worrying about how the NPC economy works or why there's equilibrium prices for mundane objects across the entire cosmos.

Internal Consistency and Immersion - does what's happening in the current scene feel like it makes sense, like it's consistent, with what we already know about the game world? A wizard casting fireball doesn't bother us, but if a wizard suddenly casts remove disease, we're scratching our heads saying "hey, that's not right, wizards can't do that". Realistically wizards don't even exist. But what we saw here was not a breach of realism, but of internal consistency of the game world. Maintaining immersion by being consistent is quite important.

Zoom - In a movie, not everything ends up on screen. We don't say Avengers was unrealistic because we never saw people go to the toilet. In some stone-cold Scandinavian psychological thriller, we're not put off because someone eats a breakfast that we never saw him purchase.

In an RPG, just because we didn't spend any game time on refilling a spell component pouch, polishing armor or sharpening swords, doesn't mean the PCs weren't doing those things off-screen.

However, it becomes a different story if the PCs couldn't do those things. If the PCs are imprisoned and break out with scavenged gear and then wander the desert, it does make sense to ask "how are you restocking spell components?".

We're changing what the camera zooms in on because suddenly it turned from something everyday to something not so trivial.


Luca Eugenio Barlassina wrote:

I try to imagin all the little things. Without exaggerating (many things in a PC day are done without describing explictely, unless you want to play every single second).

I love realism.
Personally I'll suggest you to be as more realistic as you can.

Great advice! Using descriptive commentary to imply realism could be the compromise I've been looking for. You've given me some things to think about! I appreciate your help!

Grand Lodge

RPGs are basically fiction, and as such trying to make them "real" is equal to point godwin.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I am serving five concurrent life sentences due to a TPK.


Jiggy wrote:

There's a great video from some game design experts on the concept of "Depth" versus "Complexity". It's really important to understand both the difference between the two things, and how they interact.

"Complexity" refers to all the rules, mechanics, expertise, and work that are required in order to play the game. Anything that requires either mental real estate or player action is complexity. For example, the fact that a shortsword and a longsword have different stats is a form of complexity.

"Depth" refers to how many meaningfully different gameplay experiences a game (or aspect of a game) provides to the player(s). If making a different decision makes the experience feel different, that's depth. For example, critting 25% of the time with your keen scimitar feels like a different play experience than critting 5% of the time with your club.

Here's the relationship:
Complexity is like a currency with which the game purchases depth.

Every attempt to add some depth to a game (that is, to add the possibility of additional distinct experiences) has a "cost" in the form of increased complexity (because you had to add a mechanism by which that depth would be created, and that mechanism has to be learned and executed by the players). This is important to understand because any given player has a limited "budget" of how much complexity they're willing to deal with at the top end, as well as a minimum requirement of depth they demand at the bottom end.

Therefore, it's important that when designing (or houseruling) a game, you try to "get the most bang for your buck" by finding things with a good depth to complexity ratio. (Either that, or find players with ludicrously high "budgets".) Generally, a mechanic that adds very little complexity while adding a good deal of depth is likely to be worth keeping in, but a mechanic that adds more complexity than depth is a good candidate for cutting.

For example, consider all...

I really appreciate all of the feedback, Jiggy! Thanks for the advice and for the link to the video!


A Mite Excessive wrote:
I am serving five concurrent life sentences due to a TPK.

*debeverages*


Ascalaphus wrote:

@theporkchopxpress:

I think you may be conflating several different but important concepts here.

Realism - could this happen in the real world. Almost nothing in Pathfinder could happen in the real world; no dragons, no worrying about how many calories a wizard burns when casting a fireball, no worrying about how the NPC economy works or why there's equilibrium prices for mundane objects across the entire cosmos.

Internal Consistency and Immersion - does what's happening in the current scene feel like it makes sense, like it's consistent, with what we already know about the game world? A wizard casting fireball doesn't bother us, but if a wizard suddenly casts remove disease, we're scratching our heads saying "hey, that's not right, wizards can't do that". Realistically wizards don't even exist. But what we saw here was not a breach of realism, but of internal consistency of the game world. Maintaining immersion by being consistent is quite important.

Zoom - In a movie, not everything ends up on screen. We don't say Avengers was unrealistic because we never saw people go to the toilet. In some stone-cold Scandinavian psychological thriller, we're not put off because someone eats a breakfast that we never saw him purchase.

In an RPG, just because we didn't spend any game time on refilling a spell component pouch, polishing armor or sharpening swords, doesn't mean the PCs weren't doing those things off-screen.

However, it becomes a different story if the PCs couldn't do those things. If the PCs are imprisoned and break out with scavenged gear and then wander the desert, it does make sense to ask "how are you restocking spell components?".

We're changing what the camera zooms in on because suddenly it turned from something everyday to something not so trivial.

Indeed. More great points to consider. I think I'm being guilty of what some of my players have lovingly referred to as "inserting too much physics into the Land of Fireballs". I really appreciate all of the feedback and I will definitely take Realism vs. Internal Consistency and Immersion into account going forward!


Ascalaphus wrote:

@theporkchopxpress:

I think you may be conflating several different but important concepts here.

Realism - could this happen in the real world. Almost nothing in Pathfinder could happen in the real world; no dragons, no worrying about how many calories a wizard burns when casting a fireball, no worrying about how the NPC economy works or why there's equilibrium prices for mundane objects across the entire cosmos.

Internal Consistency and Immersion - does what's happening in the current scene feel like it makes sense, like it's consistent, with what we already know about the game world? A wizard casting fireball doesn't bother us, but if a wizard suddenly casts remove disease, we're scratching our heads saying "hey, that's not right, wizards can't do that". Realistically wizards don't even exist. But what we saw here was not a breach of realism, but of internal consistency of the game world. Maintaining immersion by being consistent is quite important.

Zoom - In a movie, not everything ends up on screen. We don't say Avengers was unrealistic because we never saw people go to the toilet. In some stone-cold Scandinavian psychological thriller, we're not put off because someone eats a breakfast that we never saw him purchase.

In an RPG, just because we didn't spend any game time on refilling a spell component pouch, polishing armor or sharpening swords, doesn't mean the PCs weren't doing those things off-screen.

However, it becomes a different story if the PCs couldn't do those things. If the PCs are imprisoned and break out with scavenged gear and then wander the desert, it does make sense to ask "how are you restocking spell components?".

We're changing what the camera zooms in on because suddenly it turned from something everyday to something not so trivial.

This is a really good explanation. I dig it.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
theporkchopxpress wrote:
I think I'm being guilty of what some of my players have lovingly referred to as "inserting too much physics into the Land of Fireballs".

If the goal is to make the world feel richer / grittier / more real, maybe you could ask the players to pick at least one 'realistic' thing to pay attention to.

For example:

Hygiene: Most characters are going to get covered in blood and monster goo on a regular basis. What would a fastidious person do about that?

Food: What do you eat out in the wilderness? How do you cook it?

Item placement: Where exactly on your body do you keep all the bits and pieces of adventuring gear you use? Your greatsword and longbow and ten foot pole and hundred feet of rope and twenty-eight potions?

Leisure: What do you do to avoid getting bored when walking long distances or sitting around the campfire? Do the characters play card games, sing songs, what?

Psychological impact: Does it bother you to be sprayed with acid or set fire to on a regular basis? How do you cope?

Equipment maintenance: What do you do to fix wear and tear?

Religious observation: What exactly does a Cleric/worshipper of (insert god here) do as acts of worship?

Spell components: Pick a component you've been using a lot of and tell us what you're doing to get hold of some more.

Party chat: A lot of PCs never seem to talk to one another. Think of a conversation starter from time to time and see what happens.

If you tell your players to deal with all these things they'll resent you for it, and nothing will ever get done. But voluntarily and in moderation, these things can be fun.


Obligatory


theporkchopxpress wrote:

Part of me has always thought about applying some kind of rule in the vein of 1 spell component pouch = x castings of spells. The problem is that not all spells require material spell components and tracking could become cumbersome.

Another idea that I had is that spell component pouches have an expiration date, and after a certain amount of time has passed that fresh components would need to be acquired.

If the point of a specific game is to have a massive wilderness adventure with no resupply or shopping, then tracking material components could be an interesting thing to do. Of course, that would be the sort of game where everything is tracked down to the last arrow and copper piece of encumbrance. But it could be fun for some people, because it could affect spell selection and usage, adding an extra factor to tactics.

However, most games involve shopping relatively frequently. In a game where shopping happens more frequently than individual pouches would run out, this would just be meaningless make-work, requiring players to track something without adding any meaning or choice to the game.

theporkchopxpress wrote:
2 - Gear wear and tear. This is similar thematically to the spell component pouch situation but with a twist. Adventurers are out in some of the most dangerous places in the world fighting hard and putting their gear through just as much stress as they are putting their bodies' through. How frequently should I as a game master make the players aware that their gear is not invincible?

My first thought was:

"I have mending in my spell book. How many entirely notional hours or days do we have to record as being spent notionally repairing things before we can get on with the actual fun bits of the game?"

My second though is:
The question of "what are you carrying and where is it, how is it held on, how can it be accessed" and so on is a good one for the sort of detail-orientated far-from-resupply game you seem to be thinking of and in that context having stuff break on fumbles or whatever to give appropriate penalties could be interesting. I personally might quite like it.
But, it's a long way from being the default for a PF game. And I'm not actually convinced that PF is the best game engine for that sort of play.

Shadow Lodge

I play a lot of pathfinder and highly recommend it if you want a fantasy RPG. Pathfinder is not the only rules available. If you want a simulation RPG, I suggest looking at other game systems. Pathfinder rules are written to do heroic fantasy with, and they do a great job at it. This genre of fantasy require heroes to be able to do highly unrealistic things, like fight gigantic monsters. The rules exist to support doing these things.
While you can invent new rules to try adding complex simulation stuff, you might be better served by looking for a different game that is already designed to do what you're looking for.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Really? Pathfinder, love it or leave it?

It is a game, the rules are not divinely inspired. Many are quite good, some are, well, hard to grapple with. Having a whole lot of rules can be useful, especially for the neophytes. The rules can also stifle creativity if they are allowed to interfere with the human agency part of the game, you know, the living, breathing, thinking GMs and players.

I totally understand that some people are more comfortable with a franchise style set-up, much like a McDonalds hamburger, each and every table providing the same experience. This is the Society model, and is well enough supported. Pushing for that model outside of Society play seems to be a touch narrow minded.


Adding book-keeping to the game is not introducing realism.

theporkchopxpress wrote:
1 - Spell component pouches. They cost 5 gold pieces

5gp isn't too little, when you think about the cost of mundane items.

If you want to invoke "realism" to a spell component pouch, have the spelcasters regularly visit the market to restock for a negligible (free) amount of money, when ever they can. The initial 5gp is an investment, not a never-ending kit of bat s+!&.

Shadow Lodge

Daw wrote:

Really? Pathfinder, love it or leave it?

No, that's not at all what I meant. I use many house rules when running my own home games, but there is a difference between a sailboat and adding a mast to a motorboat. If pathfinder is almost what you want, then definitely take it and tweak it. If what you want is a large difference, then starting with a different base will give you a better result. There so many options available these days that trying to force one to fit when there's another available that already does is silly.

The Exchange

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
gnoams wrote:
If what you want is a large difference, then starting with a different base will give you a better result.

Maybe, maybe not. For example, using the slow xp progression and using the game inherent possibilities to advance the low-level critters would already allow you to omit a lot of the "heroic fantasy" stuff that's the standard in Pathfinder. Now you add simulationist aspects to it that you like and suddenly you have a totally different game experience, albeit with the same base.

Might not be fun for everyone, but for me, those possibilities totally beat having to learn a new system. Worse, I already know a system that simulates my preferences better than Pathfinder, but as it is heavily connected to its own setting, it would be more work to hack it for use with my preferred settings than I'm willing to invest. So I'd rather hack Pathfinder into a form that's more to my liking, especially as I'm playing 3.X/PF for a very long time now and am much more comfortable with modifying it than I would be with another system I have to learn first to even know what I'm doing when changing rules. (and I have yet to see any system that would be so perfect that I wouldn't have to change anything).

On topic: I try to be very flexible with such rule additions and I've probably never played the exact same ruleset with a group more than once. I've had players that wanted to hunt and collect their food during extensive travels through the wilderness so I made up some rules that allowed them to do that. I've totally ignored that topic with other groups so they basically never ate anything before the campaign ended. I've had players that made a habit out of going to the market or more exotic locations to find the spell components for their spells. Other players simply took Eschew materials to make sure that wouldn't become an issue.

So my suggestion would be to try and find out where those spots are where your players would appreciate a bit more realism. But don't try to enforce "realistic" rules in areas the players are not interested in.

And if you do, try to make it interesting. If your spellcasters simply need to go to the market every week to get their replacement components, that might be boring like hell. So try to make their dealer relevant to the game. Maybe he also deals in information, maybe he has connections to a game-relevant organization, maybe he's connected to the plot of the game in any way. Basically give the players a reason to visit that merchant even when they have no need for spell components, as that adds motivation even for the non-casters.


Daw wrote:

Really? Pathfinder, love it or leave it?

Thats not how I read his statement. It was more along the lines of different systems do different things well so if you want ____ you may be better off with option B.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm sure there's a game somewhere that is improved by item degradation, but I've never played one or met someone that has.

Your sword just falling apart after a while doesn't make life more interesting, it just means you have to repeatedly mention that you're maintaining your sword and move a couple GP around to that effect rather than the GM making the reasonable assumption that the players, who often have access to a basic repair spell that can be cast an infinite number of times, maintain their gear.

Assuming the gear even needs to be maintained, given that nearly everything worth writing down a 6th level PC owns is at least somewhat magical.

It's like eating food. There are probably some people out there that really want to keep track of that stuff but for most players it's a pointless addition of annoying minutiae that just bog the gameplay down in distracting nonsense that in no way enhances the fun.

Players can be reminded their weapons aren't invincible by running into something that sunders or damages their weapons, but beyond that I assume my master swordsman does basic maintenance on his sword and keeps it in fine condition as he adventures, and given that his sword is magical I assume it's not particularly hard to keep it in perfect shape. I similarly assume the wizard is gathering components for his pouches, and since he spent 20 GP for a pouch, a backup pouch, a backup backup pouch, and a backup backup backup pouch I'm not going to give him grief about how much he can cast with one.

I assume my players are eating food without them having to go "I now take a break from the adventure we're on to eat," particularly because after the first couple levels it is basically impossible to fail the survival check to forage for food if anyone in the party is any good at survival. I also assume they're going to the bathroom and procuring clean water.

If the element is "realistic" but isn't adding anything fun or interesting to the game, I leave it in a bin. Pathfinder is already an insanely unrealistic game, trying to make it gritty is like as not to be a frustrating exercise in futility.


I just want to give a big thank you to everyone who came out and tossed in their two coppers. Even though it's obvious that the modifications that I referred to in my opening post do not appeal to everyone, I feel that you all took it for what it was and offered some great advice.

I feel like I have a good basis for what I want to do to add in these "realistic" elements but not deterring from the aspects of the game that are fun. The community is one of the reasons why I enjoy playing Pathfinder so much!

I failed to mention this earlier, but one of the reasons why my mind returned to this quandary was because I have been running the Reign of Winter Adventure Path for one of my gaming groups which features a lot of trudging through a snow covered wilderness with only occasional opportunities to restock and resupply at a settlement. That may change as the group has finally reached Baba Yaga's hut and will be moving on to book 3 of the AP soon. Regardless this all gives me some great pointers for the future.

Thanks again!

Sovereign Court

Matthew Downie wrote:
theporkchopxpress wrote:
I think I'm being guilty of what some of my players have lovingly referred to as "inserting too much physics into the Land of Fireballs".

If the goal is to make the world feel richer / grittier / more real, maybe you could ask the players to pick at least one 'realistic' thing to pay attention to.

For example:

Hygiene: Most characters are going to get covered in blood and monster goo on a regular basis. What would a fastidious person do about that?

Food: What do you eat out in the wilderness? How do you cook it?

Item placement: Where exactly on your body do you keep all the bits and pieces of adventuring gear you use? Your greatsword and longbow and ten foot pole and hundred feet of rope and twenty-eight potions?

Leisure: What do you do to avoid getting bored when walking long distances or sitting around the campfire? Do the characters play card games, sing songs, what?

Psychological impact: Does it bother you to be sprayed with acid or set fire to on a regular basis? How do you cope?

Equipment maintenance: What do you do to fix wear and tear?

Religious observation: What exactly does a Cleric/worshipper of (insert god here) do as acts of worship?

Spell components: Pick a component you've been using a lot of and tell us what you're doing to get hold of some more.

Party chat: A lot of PCs never seem to talk to one another. Think of a conversation starter from time to time and see what happens.

If you tell your players to deal with all these things they'll resent you for it, and nothing will ever get done. But voluntarily and in moderation, these things can be fun.

I think this is a very nice idea; it promotes immersion and helps making characters more than just numbers, without dragging the game to a halt.


My hypothesis is that everything in a game has a tedium-to-enjoyment ratio. If the tedium is greater than the enjoyment, then one should seriously consider if you want it to use it.

I consider non-cost spell components and gear wear-and-tear to be two things that add tedium without adding any enjoyment. I houserule out costless material components, and assume the PCs are smart enough to take care of their gear without having to expressly tell me they're doing so.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / How "real" do you make it? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.