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How important is realism in fantasy settings?

abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,282
edited March 21 in Off-Topic
I'm interested to see what people's opinions are on realism in fantasy settings.

How important is realism to you?

Do you get irritated by the physics bending antics of movie Legolas?

Are you an acolyte of the Rule of Cool?

Personally, whilst I'm happy to let my mind wander in a world of dragons and chromatic orbs, I still like to think about mundane factors like:
-How are my characters feeding themselves?
-How much do 20,000 gold coins weigh?
-Could he really swing a longsword in either hand?
-If I'm sneaking up to quietly despatch a sentry, is a 6 foot long piece of wood really my best option?
-Do the Hogwarts kids really not learn basic maths or grammar?

This discussion applies to literature, video games, pnp, movie/tv and any other media.
The only proviso being that magic exists within the internal universe... whether that be the wand-waving ubiquitous magic of the Potterverse or something more subtle or structured.

How important is realism in fantasy settings? 49 votes

Realism is essential to immersion. Magic doesn't mean that anything goes.
8%
BelgarathMTHbob_vengVallmyrSkatan 4 votes
Realism is important, but exceptions can be made if there's good internal logic/explanation.
26%
SethDavistypo_tillyTheElfNeverusedabacusGreenWarlockAerakarQuickbladekanisathaXeroshiSvar10Bazza11Papa_Lou 13 votes
I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
26%
MathsorcererAnduinTroodon80JuliusBorisovButtercheeseAstroBryGuyiKrivetkoThacoBellCrevsDaakkaguanaSmilingSwordNimranBelleSorciere 13 votes
Realism isn't very important, but some internal logic would be good.
20%
elminsterDJKajuruBalrog99FardragonGirewanNotabarbiegirlSaber83JoenSoArctodusthemazingness 10 votes
It's a magical world. It happens by magic and I'm cool with that.
4%
TeflonCaliggyJack 2 votes
Other.
14%
KamigoroshiFinneousPJAyiekiesemiticgodArtonatbone1Wesboi 7 votes
Show me results.
0%
Post edited by abacus on
TeflonThacoBelltypo_tillyCrevsDaak10Bazza11ButtercheeseSkatanTroodon80JuliusBorisov
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Comments

  • KamigoroshiKamigoroshi Member Posts: 3,990
    Other.
    Depends what kind of "fantasy" we're talking here.

    I personally am of the opinion that realism is an important element within Science Fantasy, Hard Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, as well as Low Fantasy. On the contrary, it would probably be nigh impossible to expect even a shred of realism in High Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy. There are of course also subgenres which can be either. Fables for example can also play in the Modern era filled with rationality and realism. Not just in the Middle Ages.

    As a rule of thumb, I like fantasy settings where magic is not an omnipotent force that can ressurect the dead, heal any ailments and create new life with just using an aria, or the likes. Nor do I like things where middle school protagonists get summoned in another world with cheat-like skills by random gods, enabling them to punch down even the mightiest of titans. So I'm more of a Low and Hard Fantasy fan where the people are believeable characters.
    abacusTeflontypo_tillyGreenWarlock
  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,282
    Realism is important, but exceptions can be made if there's good internal logic/explanation.


    As long as the reader doesn't notice, fantasy can be as unrealistic as the author wants.

    That's valid.

    One of the better examples of my preferred level of realism would be Martin's Song of Ice & Fire... it's a world with dragons, walking dead and an apparently active lord of fire, and yet the way people fight and the way they live is very authentic.

    A different example would be Pratchett. The Disk is as unreal as it gets... even the fundamental particles are different (bloody quantum), but the interactions between people are absolutely real and utterly convincing.

    I guess I'm saying that I prefer a few hooks of realism to hang the rest of the world on.
    semiticgodThacoBellBelgarathMTH
  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,282
    Realism is important, but exceptions can be made if there's good internal logic/explanation.

    In a traditional "fantasy" setting, realism doesn't necessarily apply--once we accept that a person can throw lightning bolts from their hands by using some material components and/or speaking a simple phrase it no longer matters whether or not that lightning bolt follows known physical laws about energy (lightning bolts shouldn't reflect off solid surfaces) or matter in a plasma state.

    Agreed, but does the fact that we accept this mean that we also have to accept the presence of the (non-magical) woman stood next to him who thinks that a chainmail bikini is sensible battle-attire?
    TeflonsemiticgodBalrog99
  • TeflonTeflon Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 517
    It's a magical world. It happens by magic and I'm cool with that.
    It is called fantasy for a reason.
    If it follows exact laws of physics we are subjected to right now then can we call it a fantasy? No, in that case it could be called realty.
    Anyway, magic can do anything! (In a fantasy world)
    Weight of coins can be nullfied or raise dead, levitate you name it.
    However balance needed. If magic can solve everything then fun will goes away.
    In short, I do not bothered at all, if I wanted exact physics o' law then i'd watch national geographic or discovery channel instead. :) (lile, how it is made or cosmos...)
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 3,023
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
    As long as the world in question is internally consistent, I'm pretty okay with it. It is free to set its own rules and reality, but it must conform to its own rules.
    JoenSosemiticgodKuronaBalrog99
  • typo_tillytypo_tilly Member Posts: 4,944
    Realism is important, but exceptions can be made if there's good internal logic/explanation.
    I'd like to see a touch more realism in games because I think it could be fun. If your party needs to buy food and water every so often, you may run into situations where the well has been poisoned (from a siege maybe or a cult). If it has, you need to make a detour to a nearby lake and possibly return to investigate the poisoners. Or maybe you may want to skip a town to travel faster, but that leads to a less effective party because the party has to ration their food. More realism could lead to more adventure.

    I wouldn't want great realism. I just think a little more realism would be refreshing right now. :)
    KamigoroshiArctodus
  • FardragonFardragon Member Posts: 3,817
    Realism isn't very important, but some internal logic would be good.
    Don't forget to type "breathe" every couple of seconds....
    typo_tillyThacoBellBalrog99
  • 10Bazza1110Bazza11 Member Posts: 100
    Realism is important, but exceptions can be made if there's good internal logic/explanation.
    When I was a dm playing pnp I always made my characters buy a waterskin iron rations and a back pack and when I was really mean I would make them run out so they had to spend their hard earned gp on more. So I guess I am in the mold of more realism. I really get turned off when fantasy films go totally ott with an unrealistic fight scene.
    BelgarathMTH
  • BelleSorciereBelleSorciere Member Posts: 1,034
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
    It varies. Sometimes I'm down for GURPS Fantasy, sometimes I'm down for Exalted. A lot of the time it's somewhere in-between, D&D, Pathfinder, etc.
  • MathsorcererMathsorcerer Member Posts: 1,699
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
    abacus said:

    In a traditional "fantasy" setting, realism doesn't necessarily apply--once we accept that a person can throw lightning bolts from their hands by using some material components and/or speaking a simple phrase it no longer matters whether or not that lightning bolt follows known physical laws about energy (lightning bolts shouldn't reflect off solid surfaces) or matter in a plasma state.

    Agreed, but does the fact that we accept this mean that we also have to accept the presence of the (non-magical) woman stood next to him who thinks that a chainmail bikini is sensible battle-attire?
    Chain-mail bikinis are *never* appropriate attire. I blame all that nonsense on Boris Vallejo--yes, I a acknowledge that he was a groundbreaking figure in fantasy art but even for fantasy I cannot suspend disbelief that much.

    I am glad @BelleSorciere mentioned GURPS--now there is a game system where you can let realism bog you down if you delve too deeply. If your character has a ST of 12 and you are at your max for being in the "moderate" encumbered state and you pick up one more small item you are now in the "heavy" state, which will lower your move by 1 and increase your fatigue penalty by 1 during combat, as well. Good luck. Also, your opponent swings at your leg with an axe and does 5 cutting damage, reduced by 2 for the leather armor you are wearing, so actual damage is now 5 (because cutting does 1.5x damage after DR); your HT is 10 so you have to roll versus HT--you rolled an 11 so now your leg is crippled until you can get a healer to fix it, reduce your move by 3. Oh, and since that 5 dmg >= half your HT roll versus HT again to see if you are stunned for a combat round. *yeesh*
  • BelleSorciereBelleSorciere Member Posts: 1,034
    edited March 21
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
    GURPS ain't that bad, and should be child's play for a math sorcerer. :P
    Post edited by BelleSorciere on
    Mathsorcerer
  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,477
    edited March 20
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
    Neither is inherently better or worse than the other. Different stories benefit from different things.
    I mean, the term "realism" is already debatable. For a lot of people realism refers to the lack of magical elements. For others it means having the characters and elements in the story react to one another in a realistic way. And more.

    Wether or not the world the story takes place in follows rules that are obvious or even comprehensible to the observer has little to do with realism.

    Things only annoy me when the world does present certain rules it follows and then it breaks them in a seemingly unintentional way (aka bad writing).
    Post edited by Buttercheese on
    CrevsDaaksemiticgodThacoBellTroodon80
  • VallmyrVallmyr Member Posts: 2,194
    Realism is essential to immersion. Magic doesn't mean that anything goes.
    While I accept fantasy writing of all types for my own personal writing I think that it being fantasy means it needs to be *more* realistic as to not break suspension of disbelief. I'm fine with consuming over the top fantasy that has no basis in reality at all but that's not my personal writing style.
  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,477
    edited March 21
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
    Because I suspect most people here to be #TeamRealism, here is my counter argument:

    Michael Ende - Neverending Story

    Thank you.
    abacustbone1ThacoBellArctodus
  • KamigoroshiKamigoroshi Member Posts: 3,990
    Other.
    I see yor counter argument and counter it with an counter argument of my own:

    Guellermo Del Toro - Pan's Labyrinth

    Yes, magical realism is indeed a real thing. :p
    Skatanabacus
  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,477
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.

    I see yor counter argument and counter it with an counter argument of my own:

    Guellermo Del Toro - Pan's Labyrinth

    Yes, magical realism is indeed a real thing. :p

    When I speak of realism it's about having clear cut, visible rules that mirror those of the real world.
    Pan's Labyrinth doesn't have that in it's fantasy aspects. If there are clear cut rules to the fantasy aspects they are deliberately kept a mystery, ergo not realism.

    What you are refering to is low vs. high fantasy.
    Low fantasy: Fantastical elements implemented in a real world setting. (Harry Potter, Pan's Labyrinth, etc.)
    High fantasy: The entire world is fictional. (Lord of the Rings, Forgotten Realms, etc.)
    (To go by the literary understanding of the genres. I also want to appologize in advance if I misphrased that.)
  • KamigoroshiKamigoroshi Member Posts: 3,990
    edited March 21
    Other.

    I see yor counter argument and counter it with an counter argument of my own:

    Guellermo Del Toro - Pan's Labyrinth

    Yes, magical realism is indeed a real thing. :p

    When I speak of realism it's about having clear cut, visible rules that mirror those of the real world.
    Pan's Labyrinth doesn't have that in it's fantasy aspects. If there are clear cut rules to the fantasy aspects they are deliberately kept a mystery, ergo not realism.

    What you are refering to is low vs. high fantasy.
    Low fantasy: Fantastical elements implemented in a real world setting. (Harry Potter, Pan's Labyrinth, etc.)
    High fantasy: The entire world is fictional. (Lord of the Rings, Forgotten Realms, etc.)
    (To go by the literary understanding of the genres. I also want to appologize in advance if I misphrased that.)
    @Buttercheese
    No. When I spoke of magical realism, I actually meant magical realism. This kind of narrative fiction can both be used in real world settings, as well as purely fictional mundane worlds. There is no set limitation (that I know of, at least) in that regard of how to use this story writing tool. In other words, magical realism (just like hard fantasy), has visible rules that indeed mirror those of the real world. (And then some which deal with imaginary physic laws that covern over magic.)

    The main difference between low and high fantasy is the level of magic implemented. Meaning a low fantasy world is, first and foremost, a rational and familiar fictional world. It may be based on the real world's middle ages or modern era, or whatever other time flows the author in the boat. Or it may as well be fictional without being based on Earth.
    Post edited by Kamigoroshi on
  • OlvynChuruOlvynChuru Member Posts: 1,440
    Skatan said:

    As I have spoke about in other threads, a halfling with a natural 18:00 STR is just to ridiculous to me using the canon size tables for the race.

    Halflings can't get 18:00 Strength. They can only get 17 at most.
    semiticgodSkatanCrevsDaak
  • SkatanSkatan Member Posts: 2,384
    Realism is essential to immersion. Magic doesn't mean that anything goes.

    Skatan said:

    As I have spoke about in other threads, a halfling with a natural 18:00 STR is just to ridiculous to me using the canon size tables for the race.

    Halflings can't get 18:00 Strength. They can only get 17 at most.
    You are absolutely correct. The almost equally small gnomes can though. A halfling barbarian can still scream herself into titanic strength though. Without magic.
    KamigoroshisemiticgodCrevsDaak
  • abacusabacus Member Posts: 1,282
    edited March 21
    Realism is important, but exceptions can be made if there's good internal logic/explanation.
    I'm a little surprised by the shape of the results here... a definite lean towards realism which I did not expect.

    Possibly biased by wonky option choices. (Trump101 - always blame the pollsters... unless they agree with you of course)

    Need more data...
  • BelleSorciereBelleSorciere Member Posts: 1,034
    I'm happy for each setting to play by its own rules.
    I think people tend to exalt the idea of realism in gaming, even if the realism interferes with the genre or the gameplay.

    Which I mean doesn't mean it's wrong or anything, just that it tends to complicate things.
  • TheElfTheElf Member Posts: 735
    Realism is important, but exceptions can be made if there's good internal logic/explanation.
    I do get peeved by silly details and really want an internal consistency in any kind of fictional setting. The already mentioned strong Halflings for instance distract me sometimes. Not cus they're short, but they only weigh like 40 lbs. or something iirc, so they'd need to be made of different stuff than other races to still be competent fighters.
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