"Simplicity" of Simulation


As complexity is removed from a simulation, its verisimilitude improves.

Comparing two Different Levels of Complexity

In DnD combat, players and GM take turns rolling dice to knock “hit points” off each other’s pieces, and nobody really thinks about what hit points are; at the end of the combat they magically get restored (maybe the GM talks about “down time” or a “long rest”). If an archer shoots into a melee, there’s a small chance they’ll hit a friend and maybe do some bit of injury, but it’s kinda not a big deal.

DnD often is thought as attempting to “simulate” combat with detailed rules. But the outcome of the simulation fails verisimilitude and requires suspension of disbelief. We all know that someone stuck with an arrow is gonna be hurt - not just “down 6 hit points.”

In 2400, Jimmy the grifter’s android buddy was behind him when Jimmy tried to taze a thug and missed. Android Piece tried to shoot the thug with his wrist cannon, but got a bad roll and hit Jimmy instead. Instead of being “down 6 hit points,” Jimmy was immediately out of action and we went into a whole subplot about getting him to a trauma care center.

I generally thought of 2400 as a “narrativist” game, focused more on story than on simulating reality. But the outcome of action in 2400 made more sense than the result we would have gotten from a traditional roll-to-hit-and-damage game.

Is the Hypothesis Proven?


2400 does not remove complexity from a simulation of reality. Instead, 2400 offloads the complexity from explicit rules (which are very difficult to get right, as they’re basically attempts at stochastic dynamics calculations) onto common sense (which has been trained for decades on a vast set of data to make very accurate predictions). In other words, “narrativist” games like 2400 more efficiently allocate the task of assessing damage from dice to minds, while privileging the dice to generate randomness.

2400 provides more believable outcomes not because it has simpler rules, but because it leverages the incredibly more complex rule sets that we carry in our heads.


My two cents.

I don’t know this 2400 game you talk about. And I try to stay as far away as I can from labelling anything with BM Creative Agenda terminology, as I find it more obscuring and problematic than using more verbose but also more accurate and understandable descriptions.


Yeah, absolutely :slight_smile:
That’s pretty much the core of most “modern” designs stemming from The Forge and the design culture it put into motion since the early 2000s.
RPG Rules are poor models for the simulation of reality, so it makes more sense to use them to model the narrative of the game, which is to say to manage what really happens at the table: who can say what, when and how, handling the conversation that is the act of roleplaying.
Everything else are useful bits and bolts to be used to further shape the game experience in specific ways, to get specific results.

To me, the whole OSR and FKR cultures actually do exactly this, but because of their Classic and Trad. heritage instead of leveraging functional rules that will do the work for the Players, helping and guiding and teaching how to play each X specific game, they fixate on Trad-like rules that obviously get in their way… so they call rules “evil” and make a show of using less and less of them. This offloads the work on the GM, which then needs to internalise a thousand invisible skills and rules and wisdoms. But hey, at least they have less rules working against them!
(it’s an objective improvement, I’m not making fun of it :heart: )

From a game design perspective, it’s really a shame. So much potential and amazing ideas, just wasted.

The NSR is interesting to me because it feels a lot like a step in the right direction… that is, a more self-aware and mature approach to design, whatever their goals and means might be. Let’s try to craft rules and procedures that actually support the GM and Player activity.

Of course from a user/play perspective, anyone that manages to have fun with their friends is “playing right” and doesn’t need to concern themselves with reinventing the wheel. More power to them :slight_smile:
Unless, of course, the way they play makes problems for them (like @tibbius looking for higher verisimilitude at a lower cost). Then they could and should try something different.

An intrinsic problem with this, though, is that a lot of people don’t know how to formulate what they actually mean when describing their own play experience and desires. What I mean is, many of those that think that games like GURPS are “more realistic than X-Y-Z” really mean that they enjoy the level of crunch that that game offers, they enjoy the mini-game of resource management and power optimisation that complements the roleplay conversation.
Saying buzz-words like “realistic” or “immersive” is just simpler than engaging with design theory (a thing the end user, be they a Player or a GM, should not need to do).
Most people just want to play and have a good time, and I totally don’t blame them :stuck_out_tongue: