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Forums > RP Discussion > Personal Opinion on Realism RP

I see the term used often and I use it. But I don’t think there is a well defined meaning behind it. Sometimes I see it interchanged with “slice of Life” but that to me was never what realism RP is about.

How I define realism RP:
Taking account of technological development, physics, chemistry, biology and the basic fundamentals of how things work in the environment around your character and in your character’s actions.

This is more to say that my characters do not pull moves out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where they leap unrealistically into the air 40 feet and can land on the tip of a spear with perfect balance. While the effect is rather cool in cinema it is not based in any form of realism.

This can be take in terms of magic too, I prefer the realism such as Full Metal Alchemist where whatever you produce in terms of “magic” must come from somewhere. This was displayed in old shows like Carnival where the primary character could heal others, but in turn it would kill the surrounding farm crops. What must go in, must come out as matter cannot be created nor destroyed, only moved.

Realism can also be heavy historical/lore accuracy.
Lore is an iffy one because over time and depending on origin lore can change dramatically. So, it is a bit of a grey area where a player may have to define exactly which lore they are being accurate to.
Historical accuracy on the other hand is very easy to get across the internet and can dramatically change the environment surrounding characters beyond technology and fashion. For instance in older times women didn’t have rights, slavery was acceptable, racism was normal, life expectancy was at a lower age (such as 50s), teenagers were expected to be as adults, arrange marriages were normal, mental illness was overlooked and diseases we can cure today were plagues. But there is more to it then that, such how people socially interacted.
Some of these elements can REALLY bog down RP if you get too into them as some social elements were designed to keep people of opposite genders separated (and same sex couples were heavily frowned upon – so nothing in public) – and depending on location around the world you get a different verity of these elements. This can create some struggles to get characters to even be able to interact 1x1 without a larger group if they are plagued by these social dynamics. So even realism players have to take a step back and decide what to use and what not to use for the sake of RP


This of course, is not everyone’s cup of tea and prefer a much more relaxed atmosphere to roleplay in. That is why we define our styles with such labels, so we better understand our partners.

While this is just an opinion of mine… please, feel free to share some experiences with Realism RP, maybe why Realism RP isn’t your cup of tea? Or why you love it? Moments were too much accuracy bogged things down? Or maybe you have differing definitions?

What you're talking about are two different things. One is strict realism in terms of possibility space, mimicking the real world, devoid of either fantastical elements or rule-of-cool events. The other is what's called a "hard magic system" (whether it's technically "magic" or not, it's still called a "magic system"). You also take it a step further by requiring the preservation of mater and energy.

These are fine things to include in a story. It helps balance powerful elements and preserve a great deal of drama. In fact, the only thing holding back modern comic books from embracing realistic and consistent science into their stories and such is the fact that most writers are not scientists and most scientists are not writers. A lot of science fiction either takes the leap into science fantasy because they're diving too deep into laws they know nothing about or are so dry and dull that none of their scientific accuracy will engage any but the most hardcore of jaded readers. Pushing the bounds of believability is at the heart of storytelling, and how far is too far or too unrealistic will always vary. That's why action movies have pushed that envelope more and more until things have just become ridiculous (and for many people, that's half the fun).

For me, the most important thing to keep "realistic" is human response and behavior. If a human is used to X, how will they react when they see Y? So long as that remains believable, the rest can have a generous amount of wiggle room as far as I'm concerned.

ConnanBell wrote:
What you're talking about are two different things. One is strict realism in terms of possibility space, mimicking the real world, devoid of either fantastical elements or rule-of-cool events. The other is what's called a "hard magic system" (whether it's technically "magic" or not, it's still called a "magic system"). You also take it a step further by requiring the preservation of mater and energy.

These are fine things to include in a story. It helps balance powerful elements and preserve a great deal of drama. In fact, the only thing holding back modern comic books from embracing realistic and consistent science into their stories and such is the fact that most writers are not scientists and most scientists are not writers. A lot of science fiction either takes the leap into science fantasy because they're diving too deep into laws they know nothing about or are so dry and dull that none of their scientific accuracy will engage any but the most hardcore of jaded readers. Pushing the bounds of believability is at the heart of storytelling, and how far is too far or too unrealistic will always vary. That's why action movies have pushed that envelope more and more until things have just become ridiculous (and for many people, that's half the fun).

For me, the most important thing to keep "realistic" is human response and behavior. If a human is used to X, how will they react when they see Y? So long as that remains believable, the rest can have a generous amount of wiggle room as far as I'm concerned.


I agree with you, you summed it well. Realism isn't commonly tied to fiction, since it's more commonly known with nonfiction.

For me realism is spice like salt or pepper, which could either enhance roleplay or take out all fun of it.

I don't know much about the meanings of the genre labels, but I do know what you mean about how peoples' preferences can vary a lot in this area. Which makes it a good, fertile conversation topic for a thread like this.

For me, when there are rules like what you mention (gifts having a cost, and things like that), it makes the world feel a bit more grounded, tangible, and believable. Without many rules, things seem looser and more up in the air -- like anything could happen. It feels like there's less coherent, maybe, is a good word.

Buuut, for SURE, too many rules and too much lore can weigh an RP down before it even gets off the ground. That's happened to me before. Especially with me, because I already struggle with moving a plot forward, because I get bogged down in the moment to moment details of a reaction. So add very much complicated lore and it's pretty much dead on arrival.

HOWEVER, if there are not enough rules and the feeling of cause-and-effect and consequences, it doesn't hold my attention either.

What's really interesting is the fact that knowing the amount of realism or...rigidness, that I like sometimes doesn't enable me to write it satisfyingly. Sometimes there's not enough, or there's too much, and it's like learning to shoot a basket in basketball--you know the goal, but you can't always get it in the hoop. Sometimes you overshoot, and sometimes you fall short. That's what it's like for me!

For me it's like Star Wars vs Star Trek. The Force was too vaguely explained for me, but Warp Drive (even though dilithium crystals are total fiction), had enough..."truthiness" (to borrow a word from the old Steven Colbert)...to satisfy me. Lol

I understand the desire for realism, and to a point I do strive for it.

But at the same time... I want to have fun. And if realism stands in the way of a good time, I'd rather toss it out the window.

The tip of the iceberg is the uniform some of my characters wear

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  • Blue dye is historically extremely expensive and these characters are from a poor environment.
  • Fabric is historically very expensive and as I said above - they wouldn't splurge on the excess.
  • The environment is also very hot and humid and they'd be actually dripping with sweat


And yeah - that is just the the start. I'm willing to let all that slide because I want a neat design? And honestly if a RP partner decided to make an issue out of it, I'd be more willing to drop the player than the design. And likewise, I'd be willing to give my partners some breathing room. Sometimes it's just more fun to say "It is what it is."

But I try to have my characters react realistically to the world around them. But nitpicking every single detail is stressful the writer and and actually prohibitive to the world / ideas / designs you can explore.

I think everyone here has some good impute served to the discussion of realism RP.
My meaning of course was not to say that realism is more superior to non-realism based RP or even to say to do realism RP that you must include all of those points. In the end everyone has their preferences on how they want to write and interact in their worlds.

I think Realism RP has a bad reputation because there are some cases where realism is taken too far and the RP is no longer fun.

Claine wrote:
But at the same time... I want to have fun. And if realism stands in the way of a good time, I'd rather toss it out the window.

^I 100% agree. There isn’t much point in getting so details that the outfit due to dye has to be accurate for the sake of realism. The realism I strive for is… if you are in the 1600 time period, mentioning 2019 literature or technology is unfitting,.
Medical practice in the Victorian era was far more barbaric compared to modern times. And Thus, were more likely to die of infections.

Gravity applies to worlds unless you are in a sci-fi setting or a fantasy setting that has reason to defy such physics.

I think this comes from my characters being rather ‘serious’ and don’t fit in what I would call campy universe. I am not fond of anime physics because I feel they disregard so much that helps me feel grounded in a written universe. But I also enjoy the mechanics of explaining how things work as one of my idols in literature is Michael Crichton. Michael Crichton wrote in meticulous detail of how things work or came to be such that the most fanciful things were believable to our current modern world which immersed his readers that such fictional things were possible.

Even for my love for such details I have neither expected my partners to write in such a manner, nor do I expect a world to be in absolute realism to the point you cannot have awesome blue uniform. Those details don’t matter to me so much as the general physics, biology and chemistry of how things work.

CannanBell wrote:
What you're talking about are two different things. One is strict realism in terms of possibility space, mimicking the real world, devoid of either fantastical elements or rule-of-cool events. The other is what's called a "hard magic system" (whether it's technically "magic" or not, it's still called a "magic system"). You also take it a step further by requiring the preservation of mater and energy.

You are right, they are in a sense two different things. I was merely projecting on how realism could be applied to magic systems to make them more grounded and how that is a preference for realism RP’ers like me in fantasy settings.

Abigail Austin wrote:
Buuut, for SURE, too many rules and too much lore can weigh an RP down before it even gets off the ground. That's happened to me before. Especially with me, because I already struggle with moving a plot forward, because I get bogged down in the moment to moment details of a reaction. So add very much complicated lore and it's pretty much dead on arrival.

Yeeaa I have experienced this too. There is a point when too much is too much. And I have found myself being the person who pushed it too. Its almost to be expected in home-brew universes. Which from what I understand is why a lot of players enjoy fandom RP, because the universe is already made for them.
On your other thought, I don’t think a lot of people know how to write those aspects of realism. As said by CannanBell, not all roleplayers are scientists ect – I don’t think that should prevent people from writing it. honestly you can get away with a lot in a fictional setting. For instance, how does gravity work on a starship? You COULD just say “don’t worry about it” OR you could say there is a “dark matter reactor” that produces it on the ship which could at times break and the ship loses gravity for the fun of it. sometimes realism adds extra elements that help enhance the experience (and it might not be played on untill 20 replies in)

Personally, I love researching the internet for things to help enrich my roleplays. Like I said I know its not everyone’s cup of tea, but Fictional-realism is definitely mine (so long as it doesn’t go too far). But I am also a GM for most of my games, where I provide a lot of the world building for people to have fun in. its never to overwhelm any of my partners (and non seem to be) but to give them material to work with that they can manipulate an use for their own replies.

At the end of the day though, the most important part is that everyone is having -fun-.

I'll be honest, I don't play 'realism' in RP so I can't weigh in on my experiences there. What I really care about is continuity. Sure, a world can be played in that has magic, but magic isn't real so it can never be playing with realism, however if it adheres to it's own rules and those rules don't change the continuity stays in tact. In this I don't care if my character or another player's character wants to do something completely crazy, as long as it has an effect on the world, if only in a small way. And the biggest thing that bugs me is forgetting about what happened in past RP. For me, if a character picks up a cup and makes a cup of coffee, they better still have that coffee in the next few posts, or else get rid of it. Something. But if they make another cup of coffee after just making one without acknowledging it may be odd I am driven up the wall and out the window.

I tend not to play realistic, or historical RP because there are too many details people get wrong, often thinking the human body is stronger or weaker than it really is (IE violence doesn't work the way a lot of people think. I could elaborate with real world examples of UFC vs WWE but let me tell you if bite someone who has you in an arm lock, they will break your arm, that's not a smart move... ) And the misinformation of history really gets under my skin because, and I am not ashamed to admit it, I LOVE history. From 800 C. to the Victorian era to WW2 I love it, and I will do the hours and hours of research needed to play a doctor struggling with the first experimental treatments of TB. Most players I have found myself RPing with either don't understand, or don't want to do the work, to look into the complexities of the past, the human body, corporate espionage, the ramifications of blackmail or anything that involves not simply going with the flow, and that's perfectly fine by me, I just don't look at the RP as a representation of the real world in any way shape of form and stay in my Continuity Corner.

I really strive to uphold some level of realism - magic or no magic. For me, realism is really important, because I otherwise tend to be really bothered by the lack of realism. Like it's just glaring at me, or something. I think you can add magic to realism, but for it to be successful there need to be some kind of rule set for the world and story to make sense. Generally, I tend to want to limit magic (restrictive practices, as we say at work) because I otherwise feel like everyone and their aunt tend to be overpowered. Especially if every problem can be solved by using magic, that just kills it for me.

I also like to use realism as a way to toss problems at my characters, because it makes for some interesting/funny hiccups in the story. I can sort of waive the realism, as long as not too far out, kind of like bending the reality a little. Like, bending the "rule" for how many times two characters would statistically run into each other, or something. Things like being an atheist in Renaissance Europe needs a really good reason, in my opinion, because, well... Renaissance Europe. Otherwise, it's simply not convincing to me, and it needs to be convincing to be engaging. At least to me, anyway.

So, please. No microwaves in Medieval Europe.
(Unless it's satiric, of course. Then, by all means, go nuts)

I'm definitely a fan of realism on a per setting basis. In a totally modern world setting with no magic what so ever, I expect realistic conflicts and cause and effect. The same for a setting with any level of magic. I prefer magic to be limited or at least have rules that it stays by.

Now, I am also a huge fan of dramatics, which sometimes mean more conflicts than might coincidentally happen to someone, might happen. It also means that the realism in the RP falls more in line with the characters backstory. A secret agents daughter being kidnapped by a rival agency and strung up by a helicopter is realistic for that - but of course not for someone who isn't a secret agent.

I definitely prefer realism in a cause and effect manner, but as long as someone can explain why the most realistic effect didn't happen, in a way that is also realistic, I'm okay with it.

I'm more strict on realism in modern settings than historical because I am not super well versed in historical settings. In historical settings magic or other wise, I'm a little more concerned with continuity than anything else. In historical settings, getting the general engineering, medicine, and Government right is kay with me.

(Though one reason I adore the dieselpunk genre is having modern technology but with 1930-1950 aesthetics.)

But in general, realism in a cause-effect manner, and continuity are what matter the most to me. If your character is usually afraid of the dark, I expect them to express some kind of uncomfortability via body language at least, if your character has never met a supernatural being before and isn't generally cold and unfeeling, and uncaring, I expect them to have some kind of reaction to suddenly seeing a flying man with wings.

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