The Problem With Realism Is…

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0730


I remember a monster I built to guard a 5 Room Dungeon. It was a bit of a platypus. It spun webs and spit poison. It could climb. It could magically blink. It turned out quite effective and my players got snarky about it. They thought the monster was from a book and they complained about it.

They didn’t know I had lovingly home-brewed the critter. The backstory was Lloth built the creature to guard this specific dungeon.

I was pretty mad at my group for picking on my monster and for breaking immersion to do it because they were losing. I mean, just think about driders — half-man, half-spider? C’mon guys.

I shouldn’t have taken their barbs personally. But I think a core problem we face is adults getting so stuck in one train of thought or worldview they lose their sense of fantasy, wonder, and imagination.

Players fail to be open to ideas or give our designs latitude. What they consider possible and realistic becomes a smaller and smaller pool of ideas. (We GMs do the same to our players, by the way.)

It’s our job to expand that pool when it dwindles. It dwindles in ourselves over time, so the first thing we need to do is broaden our ideas of possibility. Read outside your normal genres. Read some history or latest happenings in astronomy, natural studies, and science. Reality is weird and unexpected.

Maybe GM a one-shot freak session. Dig out Cthulhu or Paranoia. Or try a collaboration Story Game to get players involved.

Once sure we are open to new ideas and what’s “possible” we can then lead that notion at the game table for our players. We need big imaginations. Nurture yours and all kinds of reality becomes possible.