Realists Always Lose – a roleplay rant

First, let me just say that this blog post is probably going to make no sense to non-roleplayers. So be warned!

Oh, and this turned into a terribly long rant. Sorry about that. If you don’t want to read it all, might I suggest skipping to the last three.four paragraphs?

Realists Always Lose

See that? I say that even though I count myself as being in the realist’s corner. Allow me to explain.

What I mean with a realist in this context, is a roleplayer who strives for realism in the way he or she portrays a character, accepts IC consequences, etc etc. While the player on the non-realistic scale is more likely to let characters survive would-be lethal wounds, get out of jail after two days despite being convicted of murder, etc etc. The realist strives to make a character that’s… well, realistic. The non-realist doesn’t care about what is realistic, as long as it’s fun. More or less. Of course there is not a clear limit between one and the other, and in truth it is a sliding scale between the two extremes, but to make this a bit easier to talk about, let’s generalize just a bit.

One of the fundamental “rules” of RP is this, that we all know (or should know): You only have power over your own RP. If someone else doesn’t agree to your RP they have no right to force you to change. 

What I have come to ponder several times lately, is how this sadly tends to have the consequence that RPers over on the realistic end of the spectrum get the worse deal. One would hope that such a tolerant principle should lead to an environment where everyone has equal rights of doing what they want, but what it tends to instead mean is that those in the unrealistic corner get to do what they want, while those on the realistic side constantly need to back down or compromise.

To look at an example….

We have the characters Anna, Ben and Ceasar who are all played according to realistic principles. If someone shoots Anna in the head, she will die, because it is highly unlikely that you survive that IRL. If Ben gets taken by the police for murdering someone, he won’t be walking out with a fine two weeks later because the player has grown tired of having his character in jail. I Ceasar threatens a dangerous thug, he might actually get seriously hurt as a consequence, or even get killed.

Then we have the characters David, Emma and Fiona, who are played more creatively. David might defy the laws of physics to dodge a shot to the head, or conjure up a magical shield within that fraction of a second it takes for the bullet to travel two feet from the gun to his head, or just simply have the amazing luck of actually surviving a bullet to the head. Emma will never go to jail for more than a few days no matter what she has been found guilty of, because Emma’s player doesn’t want the character to be in jail. Fiona will threaten a dangerous thug safely, for the player won’t let the character get seriously hurt anyway.

Now think of these characters getting into a conflict. They exist under two completely different rule sets, and when Anna makes a potentially killing blow to David no one can argue that he doesn’t have the right to simply dodge, because as already stated, no one has the right to change his way of RPing. When Ben puts Emma in jail he has no choice of letting her go again the next day if the player demands it. But when Fiona shoots Ceasar in the head, Ceasar will die.

Fair? On the surface, yes. It is after all the realists’ own choice to play by those rules. Ceasar didn’t have do die, those in the unrealists corner would argue. He just died because the player made it so, it was the player’s choice. What they often have trouble seeing is that for the realist, that’s not how it works. For the realist, a lethal wound is a lethal wound. It has nothing to do with if you want the character to die or not, it’s just how it is. It’s a fact of life.

This is pretty much why I am against killable characters fighting unkillable ones. Because when push comes to shove, the killable one will be at a terrible disadvantage.

It’s not just a matter of fights though. It also is a constant underlying issue in less lethal RP. Those in the realistic corner will need to back off and accept that others will do just about anything, regardless of if it makes sense or not, because one can’t enforce logic onto others’ RP. And this means that those wanting to play realistically end up having to adjust how their characters act (by for example NOT making that killing blow, since they aren’t allowed to by the other player, or by releasing a character from captivity even though they by no IC logic should, etc etc) while those who play unrealistically can go on without having to adjust how their characters act.

And that is what’s behind that statement of mine, that the Realists Always Lose. It’s not actually because we are the ones whose character bite the dust in a fight. It’s because we are the ones who are forced to adjust our RP to suit the needs of those that want more creative and unrealistic fun, while those on the unrealistic side can just keep doing what they do.

The unrealistically played character will keep getting into fights and expecting no real consequence beyond a slap on the wrist. But the realistic character will need to either constantly get into conflicts with immortal and unstoppable foes, or adjust their behaviour so that they don’t get into the fight in the first place.

Now, when a realistic player does this, and adjusts a character’s behaviour in order to not end up in bothersome situations with characters that play by a completely different set of rules, he or she oftentimes will get accused of letting OOC influence IC. Surely he/she must be a hypocrite, claiming to just want to let IC be IC, when letting OOC knowledge of the other player affect how the character acts?

Hell yes. It is OOC knowledge affecting IC decisions. And it might be hard to understand for those whose characters always can dodge the bullet or get out of jail free, they can afford to never let OOC influence IC. Because for them,  nothing can go seriously wrong. They can always get back up the next day no matter what. For us in the realistic corner however, if we don’t want our characters slaughtered by hordes of immortal characters who will literally do anything no matter if it makes sense or not, we need to pick and choose what we get involved in.

There are some in the extreme realistic corner who won’t pick and choose either. Some who will accept conflict and lethal fights with immortals too. I couldn’t do that. Which is why I’ve chosen to avoid conflict alltogether with immortal characters. Even if the conflict isn’t expected to turn lethal. Because when shit hits the fan, I know that will be the one having to adapt and adjust to suit the needs of the other one. Either that, or I’ll just have to accept that my characters will all die, pretty much.

So what is my point here?

Those in the unrealistic corner have every right to do their thing. No one can enforce a certain standard of RP onto others. But what would be really, really good, is if those in the unrealistic corner could just realize that they do have the advantage. And maybe be a bit more understanding when those on the realistic side don’t want to get into another conflict with an immortal foe, or doesn’t want to chase the criminal that won’t stay in jail anyway. Just as we on the realistic side constantly are forced to accept that you do it your way, those on the unrealistic side need to accept us too. Please don’t force us into fantastical unrealistic RP just because you can.

Oh, and as always, let me just say that of course I am generalizing. There are those in the realistic corner who are really bad at accepting other ways. And there are those in the unrealistic corner who handle the realists beautifully. The problem here is that the very nature of the problem means that the two sides don’t stand on equal ground. The unrealistic side always has the advantage.

So please. Don’t throw your immortal character into a fight with a character who might die from infection if the dice just lands badly. Don’t try to provoke killable characters into chasing a criminal that can never get caught. Let conflict RP mainly be with those who share your ideas. If your criminal can’t be stopped, don’t try to force realistically played law enforcement into chasing you. Go to the law enforcement that are played unrealistically, there are such too out there after all, and then you can chase each other in circles for all eternity!

Damn… This turned into a much more massive wall of text than I had planned. Sorry about that. >.>

4 thoughts on “Realists Always Lose – a roleplay rant

  1. It’s been a long time since I RP’ed, but surely those kinds of conflicts ought to be controlled by the GM? And can’t realists only play with realists and vice versa? And how can people just get away with saying they dodge the bullet, don’t you guys use dice any more? This sounds very different to the RP I have done in the past.


    1. I sounds very different from what you have done in the past, because the type of RP I’m talking about isn’t the kind that has GMs! More specifically I’m talking about RP taking place online, most often using games as platforms (I’ve mostly used Guild Wars 2 or Elder Scrolls Online but there are big RP communities elsewhere too). In this kind of RP the characters all run around in an open world, your character is set loose in an IC reality with hundreds and hundreds of other characters, where there is no GM controlling things! It’s a very different type of RP from the tabletop kind. While some use dice to determine how fights go for example, far from everyone do, and there is not one rule set that all abide by, which of course both opens up for loads of possibilities, but also cause trouble now and then!


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