Meta Monday: Selective Realism

MetaMondays5This Wednesday, I’m running an adventure for my RPG table-top group that should take us through our next three games. I’ve already confessed here that I’m a lousy Dungeon Master—but that doesn’t stop me from inflicting my games on the group now and then.

I dedicated this past weekend to world building. Always fun stuff, regardless of whether you’re working on a game or a novel. But I stumbled onto a problem that seems applicable to both.

This is how it happened: the game is D&D 5e. The setting is tropical, there will be a lot of combat and, therefore, characters who want to wear armor. I started wondering how someone could bear walking around in, say, plate mail in a city-state with weather like Miami and a wilderness like the Everglades.

Other gamers must have put some thought into this. And sure enough, I found a Reddit thread on this subject. One person called worrying about issues like this “selective realism.” Perfect term!

With all the unrealistic aspects of D&D, why fixate on this one issue? (Yup. Magic, monsters and fiends—all fine. But heavy armor in hot, humid weather? How could anyone manage that?) And yet, if I didn’t come up with a solution, I knew it would spoil the game for me.

There are plenty of solutions, of course—I like the one in the thread about the beetle carapace!—but the whole thing got me thinking about when in fantasy I can suspend my disbelief, and when I need things to seem accurate.

How about you? When you’re writing (or reading or playing) fantasy and the impossible, what little details have to seem realistic for you?

About Jenn Moss

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6 Responses to Meta Monday: Selective Realism

  1. I suppose the Crusaders, for example, managed somehow with their heavy armour? There are also lighter forms such as chain mail or leather. Presumably, it can be done.

    Inconsistencies and illogicalities do jar with me a little when I notice them – I like internal consistency in a world however fantastic. On the other hand, I’m sure that in most fantasy worlds loads of subtle inconsistencies go unnoticed by reader or writer – otherwise novels would just never get written if every conceivable detail had to be perfect! Real life isn’t always that logical…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      Good points, Sarah!

      I don’t think the Crusaders had to live in their armor the same way Player Characters do on an adventure, but I’ll take advisement on that. As for light and medium armor–D&D has those as well as heavy armor, but for some character classes the ability to wear heavy armor is a big part of the class. (So dropping down to medium or light armor isn’t helpful, because then they might as well play a different character class.)

      You’re right, though–paying attention to details is good to an extent. But after a point, it makes it impossible to write!


  2. Lots and lots of water? Have the mage cast a cool cantrip on the armor and move on. Or, if they’re high enough level to already have magical armor, there’s another good answer.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. J.R. Handley says:

    Have them specifically HAVE to take their armor off at night. Then be evil, and attack while they’re not wearing it!


  4. Mark Palmer says:

    “Specific realism” is what you want. You’re already in an unrealistic world populated with mythical beasts. Yeah, you could enforce penalties for heat exhaustion or force players to periodically remove the armor, but that detracts from the game. The game should always be the story and that story is already so fantastical that the ability to survive in your own personal fitted sauna should be neither here nor there. On a smaller scale this suspension of belief is why I don’t generally count expended arrows (unless scarcity of resources is a key part of the story).

    Liked by 1 person

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