I’m pretty excited to put down the GM screen and talk a little bit about player perspective. I recently joined a game where I’m not actually the GM and we are playing some good old fashioned Dnd 5e. My new GM has been playing for a few years and he uses his history degree combined with storytelling to make some fun and awesome sessions. This is actually a milestone for me though, and a great opportunity to talk about realism in RPGs from my first hand experience.
I started off making my character normally as usual. Our Gm has decided to open up a few extra playable races and class choices which was fun. After picking through all of my options, for what could’ve be no less than an hour, I decided to go with a kenku blood hunter. I had this awesome idea for a speechless being with overwhelming communication skills. That idea combined with the setting made me really excited to start roleplaying. What really changed things up was when we started picking out our starting items and my new GM said “Okay, your weight limit is…” For the first time in my life I had to actually think about my character’s weight capacity. Then to top it all off he says ,“You’ll need to make sure you can carry and drink one gallon a day.” With those words, everything came crashing down.
I had to plan out all of the things I was buying and tie that into what I needed. I hadn’t realized all of the things that I needed to survive in the wild or all of the things I needed to be combat effective. Can you believe that a tent is twenty pounds!? Then my character actually had alchemy skills so I had to get an alchemy kit. Plus we can’t forget about that gallon of water. That being said, I’m looking at thirty eight pounds out of sixty and I don’t even have weapons. I didn’t know what to do and I’ve never had such a hard time picking out starting gear. I’ve also had never had that much fun making a character.
Usually when I’m making my characters I think about my narrative direction or how to make them pack the biggest punch, but now I was dealing with an aspect of the game that I previously thought was more of a burden. While it was a huge burden on my gameplay plans it was also more than that. After reading Narb’s article about realism in RPGs I was very excited to put realism into practice. Even though character creation is the only thing I have done, I am more excited for this playthrough than I have been in a while.
There’s only one problem with adding realism to RPGs and that is how to add all of this realism into your game. “Nick!” you say “How can I get my players to think about my game in terms of survival?” Well there are a few problems with adding realism to a game. Any rules change can pull the rug out from under your players and that’s not cool. Even though adding weight restrictions or making sure your players are taking care of themselves can happen with a few rules, the problem is that you’re still changing rules. The best point in time to add more realism in your game is in the beginning. Let your players know about your rule changes and set their expectations so that they can plan ahead. If you’re a beginner GM, do not get intimidated by the added rules. Just check your books, make a reference sheet, and things should be go according to plan.
If you have a party already made then you may want to think about letting your players change some aspects of their character a little. Your players will most likely end up with the wrong gear for extended survival and a lot of stuff that they can’t carry. Try letting your players pick new spells or give them something to carry their gear. A cheap horse or even a trailer might be in order to keep your players from being blindsided. Allowing them to change a learned spell for making water or food can be a big deal too. For example (from a Dnd perspective) the spell “make water” can make five gallons which is enough for a party. Small changes like this can help players better prepare without feeling ripped off. Don’t let your players change too much though because the change is meant to be a challenge.
I’m excited to play through my realistic campaign and see what the experience turns out like but if it’s anything like the character creation it’s going to be both challenging and fun.
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