Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gygaxian "Naturalism"

I refer, from time to time, to a concept called "Gygaxian Naturalism." I realize that I've never actually explained what I mean by this phrase. As I use it, it refers to a tendency, present in the OD&D rules and reaching its fullest flower in AD&D, to go beyond describing monsters purely as opponents/obstacles for the player characters by giving game mechanics that serve little purpose other than to ground those monsters in the campaign world.

This naturalism can take many forms. For example, OD&D often tells us that for every X number of monster Y, there's a chance that monster Z might also be found in their lair. In the case of the djinn and efreet, as another example, we find that they both can create nourishing food and potable beverages, as well as many other kinds of materials through the use of their innate powers. In AD&D, these sorts of things get expanded upon greatly, with the Monster Manual telling us how many females and children can be found in a monster lair and giving many creatures powers and abilities that don't serve a specifically combat-oriented purpose, such as a pixie's ability to know alignment, for instance.

The intention behind Gygaxian Naturalism is to paint a picture of a "real" world, which is to say, a world that exists for reasons other than purely gaming ones. The implication is that monsters have lives of their own and thus go about their business doing various things until they encounter the player characters. Exactly what they do is described by reference to game mechanics, whether it be the numbers of non-combatants in a lair or spell-like abilities that help the monster do whatever it naturally does when it's not facing off against an adventuring party.

A consequence of Gygaxian Naturalism is that it grounds D&D a bit more in a pseudo-reality. I don't mean to imply that it's realistic in any meaningful sense, only that its fantasy follows "natural" laws of a sort, much in the way that, for example, I know that there are squirrels and raccoons and rabbits in my neighborhood who go about their business when I'm not seeing them in my yard or chasing them away from my recycling bins. That's one reason why AD&D has stats for so many kinds of "ordinary" animals: you can't build a "real" world without stats for sheep and cows and horses and such, because you never know when the PCs might need to kill one.

The end result of this is that Gygaxian fantasy is a simulation -- a fantastical one, to be sure, but a simulation nonetheless. The downside is that it's a very specific kind of simulation and it carries with it a lot of assumptions and expectations that not everyone shares. I know many OD&Ders, for example, who don't like "naturalistic" orcs, preferring them instead to be spawned from black ooze that bubbles up from the mythic underworld that is the dungeon. Likewise, the tendency to provide stats for everything is a self-perpetuating one, reaching its zenith in 3e, in which the game almost literally did stat out every conceivable thing with which your character might interact. Needless to say, some find this to be too much, myself included.

Gygaxian Naturalism survived Gygax's involvement in the development of Dungeons & Dragons and formed one the most important, if often only sub-consciously, creative foundations of the game through its second and third editions. My read of the latest edition is that it largely rejects Gygaxian Naturalism without embracing the alternative offered by some interpretations of OD&D, instead opting for a different model altogether. I myself have drunk deeply from the wells of Gygaxian Naturalism, so it's second nature to me now. I won't go so far as to say that Gary's approach is inseparable from D&D, because that's certainly not the case, but I will say that it's so deeply ingrained -- even in OD&D, particularly if you add the supplements -- that, to remove it, is very likely to have the effect of creating a different game entirely -- certainly a different one that what has been called D&D for most of the game's existence.

40 comments:

  1. In the defense of "Gygaxian Naturalism" I found including certain details generates conflicts, conflicts means adventure which is the point of the D&D game.

    The problem is that not all details are equal. As the editions progressed people lost sight of that until the climax in 3rd edition where everything has a stat block.

    As a DM you need to exercise judgment as to what details you include in your campaign. More than that you have to develop a system to teach the players the details you have.

    In my own Majestic Wilderlands I developed over the years several techniques to ease players into the rich tapestry.

    My Majestic Wilderlands has a lot of "realistic" details. I also use standard D&D fantasy trope incessantly relying characterization, plot and situation to provide variety.

    But that not the only approach. The only rule is to be consistent so player can build their knowledge of your campaign. Good players will use their knowledge to seek out adventure in your campaign.

    All of this is to provide conflicts that generate adventure. Why there is a thieves guild and a beggar's guild. Why three different tribes of orcs. And so on.

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  2. In the defense of "Gygaxian Naturalism" I found including certain details generates conflicts, conflicts means adventure which is the point of the D&D game.

    Oh, absolutely: I agree. I think that Gygaxian Naturalism is a logical companion to sandbox play. It's certainly my preferred approach, but it isn't the only approach, even if I think most others are going to run into problems with the way D&D is structured. I certainly have no problems with Gygaxian Naturalism.

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  3. One of my complaints about fourth edition is that it does away with noncombatants. They are never mentioned in the monster manual at all. All orcs are one of the five varieties of orcs listed. There are no women and children.

    I like having background things. I like that the party has to deal with civilians if they slaughter the warriors in an goblin tribe. I think it's important that villages have livestock. The 'Gygaxian Naturalism' you mention here is an important part of the verisimilitude of the world, and I miss it in the new version(s).

    Still, that being said, if the players are looking more for straight combat without the moral problems inherent in having noncombatants around, I suppose having an all-male, all-warrior tribe of orcs doesn't hurt anything. Certainly my players look for that sort of thing sometimes. I think both forms of design have their place.

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  4. Another great article.

    I think I’d say it this way:

    Gary added these things because he was creating a role-playing game, not making minor extensions to a wargame. When people complain that there’s nothing in the rules to support role-playing, they completely miss these things.

    Gary didn’t see role-playing as needing mechanics in the same way that combat and magic do. He didn’t see the need for a general skill system to support role-playing.

    He didn’t see a need to try to explain role-playing.

    But he did see the need for the DM to have an idea of the monsters and NPCs beyond being combatants or targets of spells. Because, when the role-playing starts, these things become important. This stuff is the support for role-playing.

    It’s also why the non-combatant monsters and NPCs don’t get stats. People criticize the older editions for giving deities stats because it turned them into targets. Yet they then criticize the rules for being “incomplete” because you can’t build every NPC in the milieu through the PC rules.

    (FWIW, I like the “spontaneous generation” from a more pseudo-naturalist point-of-view. I like making the game world follow the laws of nature as the ancients or medieval folk viewed them.)

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  5. I've found the 4e MM completely lacking in what you term "Gygaxian naturalism." I find myself constantly referring to previous edition rule books for monster flavor.

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  6. I don't like these later (to OD&D) specifications of every living creature and what it doing while is "behind scene". For me, more important thing is Unknown.

    I find "Small Insect or Animals", "Large Insects And Animal" section of M&T (page 20) as a tool box, but not finished furniture. I don't want to kown how looks back wall of furniture. It's not important.

    If I'll need to know it, I'll make it - different each time - depends on situation, module needs etc. I never looks for artificial monster description - if I know what I need, I'll do it. It's base element of D&D identity.

    And the Unknown. Gygaxian Naturalism, as you interestingly called it, is not necessary integral part of D&D identity. I mean OD&D, not later versions/editions. It rather kills unpredictable and standarizing Unknown.

    OD&D is rather unpredictable "reality" we drop in, act, play and get some thrill from it's weirdness - even when we see intelligent rabbit eating caviar or coming out of nowhere Cat-Goddess. Later appears only in short moment - nobody (even she) don't know what she's doing "behind scene". Illogical? Sure! But it's fantastic! Look at Other Worlds section (Volume III, p.24). Less logic, genre attributes or rules, better "unknowness" in it.

    For me - evolutionary standarization and covering in rules everything is regression. I like AD&D 1e and Supplemets to OD&D as source of inspiration, but in all other cases avoid it. Too boring and mechanical.

    Greets
    J

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  7. I don't want to defend 4e too much, as the new MM is one of the worst game books I've read in a long time, but I think the argument is that you don't need details, in the book, for the non-combatants, because the players are never going to fight them. Kill them, possibly, but that would just be a case of one hit, one kill, the modern equivalent of a 0-level npc. If one of the non-combatants puts up a fight, they are then by definition a combatant, and so use the stats in the book.

    Much as I dislike it, it's certainly a compelling argument.

    Of course, this assumes a level of maturity and innovation in the GM that contradicts the oft-stated "new players" approach. Is the average kid going to think in these terms, or is every monster going to be a hostile combatant simply because that's all he's got stats for?

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  8. I see what you're saying, Kelvin, but I don't agree entirely. The entries are bereft of flavor text in the first place. That's the trick. The orcs or gnolls or demons are just so many stats in the 4e MM. There's no reality behind them, no reason for being, they just exist so the PCs have something to put their swords in.

    I also see your point, James, that not everything that can have stats should, but I for one feel sort of comfortable knowing that if I ever need stats for something, no matter how unusual, it's there somewhere or other. I think the perfect RPG would be one where everything is described, but rules are as informal as possible.

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  9. Gygaxian naturalism, if I understand it correctly, isn’t going to give you stats just to be mechanically orthogonal. It gives you combat stats for the creatures you’re most likely to fight. But it also gives you some information about the creature beyond combat, because just because you might fight it, that doesn’t mean you will. Likewise, it mentions non-combatants because they’re important too, even if it doesn’t give you combat stats for them. Being Gygaxian, though, these little additions are often expressed by an ad hoc mechanic rather than pure “flavor”.

    Which, perhaps, is what separates it from the ecologies of 2e.

    Rach: “I also see your point, James, that not everything that can have stats should, but I for one feel sort of comfortable knowing that if I ever need stats for something, no matter how unusual, it's there somewhere or other.”

    Isn’t it trivial to improvise combat stats for non-combatants when you have the stats for combatants? Isn’t a game that gives you stats for things that are trivially improvised going to result in information overload?

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  10. ...just because you might fight it, that doesn’t mean you will...

    Hear hear. What's really disappeared is the idea of a non-combat encounter involving monsters.

    The orcs will always fight! The townsfolk never will! Else, how are you supposed to ensure proper intake of experience and treasure parcels per session?

    How are you supposed to ensure that the party will be in the correct shape for the next heavily invested, prepackaged combat?

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  11. Thanks for linking to that article on the dungeon as mythic underworld - it's wonderful and revealing: it resolves a whole series of issues I've always had with the 10' cube corridor and learning chest.
    I don't recall this line in AD&D 1e:
    Monsters are assumed to have permanent infravision as long as they are not serving some character
    but it makes perfect sense in this context, as does the lack of (a word you carefully avoided) ecology.

    I wonder about Gygaxian Naturalism, though: it hints at an ecology without describing it. That doesn't let it off the hook of such description, it just adds a puzzle for the assiduous reader. Do you think there's a definite intention here, in not being more explicit?

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  12. @richard
    I don't recall this line in AD&D 1e:
    Monsters are assumed to have permanent infravision as long as they are not serving some character


    It's from The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures (page 9). It's OD&D, mate. Sorry, but 1e gives you ecology by description and in a lot of details. You thought about wrong system.

    Fine example of anti-naturalism in OD&D. It's rather Gygax-Arneson expressionism vs Gygaxian naturalism - if we using scientific/art termonology.

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  13. It's OD&D, mate.
    Yes, I know: the article's quite clear about that. My point was that it seems to have been removed from 1e, and the dungeon environment is therefore less coherent in that edition (I could be wrong about this: I'm writing without the rulebooks at my side).
    1e gives you ecology by description
    I don't recall that at all, but I'll take your word for it. I remember lack of ecology being a perceived problem in the 80s, but I guess that's no guarantee it wasn't in the rulebooks.

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  14. My mistake, sorry. Details in 1e, as James wrote, it was the beginning. 2e bestiary have "Ecology" as separate section. Back to 1e - example of Ant Lion from 1e MM II:

    Giant ant lions are huge insects inhabiting areas of sand and gravel where giant ants and similar large insects are common. Typical habitats are desert fringes, badlands, and areas of rocky terrain. There the ant
    lionsdig tapering pitsof about 60 feet indiameter. The pitswill looklike a cave or lair entrance 50% of the time. Any creature entering these funnel-shaped traps will be 50% likelyeach round to slip and slide down the loose sidesand land at the bottom. Lurking there is the ant lion. It will burst out of the covering of loose sand, gravel, and stones beneath which it has buried itself and attack the victim with its huge mandibles. A hit indicates the ant lion has closed its jaws and will not release its prey until it or the prey isdead. Thus, each round after the initial hit, the ant lion will inflict 5-20 points of damage automatically. Although ant lions do not collecttreasure, there is a 30% chance that there will be 1-4 of the following items in the monster's lair from previous kills


    [table for treasure]

    Ant lions devour 1 or more giant insects each day, carrying the remains away and concealing them. Thus it is possible to encounter one outside its pit.

    Awful and not inspiring (and painful to read and to throw all these percentages). ;)

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  15. I agree, that's not a very inspiring example. By ecology I was thinking more specifically of fantasy dungeon ecology: an answer to the question "what are all these monsters doing in adjacent rooms, do they know each other and how did they wind up electing to live here?" I have some sympathy for the view expressed above that "what's off stage doesn't require explication in rulebooks," especially if the dungeon is understood as a kind of Classicist psychodrama (very much like Theseus' labyrinth), but I also thought there was something useful in the discussion among pro-ecology folks. Once the dungeon inhabitants become collectively aware they're under attack, might they not organise some sort of collaborative defence?

    I know this is somewhat OT. I'll shut up about it now.

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  16. Gary added these things because he was creating a role-playing game, not making minor extensions to a wargame. When people complain that there’s nothing in the rules to support role-playing, they completely miss these things.

    Very much agreed, but then you knew I'd say that :)

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  17. Much as I dislike it, it's certainly a compelling argument.

    It's certainly a sound argument, although I don't find it particularly compelling. That is, it's an approach I can understand, even if I don't share it. And I think the fact that the 4e MM adopts a different approach in this regard is evidence of my consistent point: this is a new game, not a continuation of an old one. Even 3e, which is in so many ways a repudiation of key elements of the Gygaxian patrimony, is still a Gygaxian naturalist game, albeit one that ramped up naturalism to unnatural extremes.

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  18. I think the perfect RPG would be one where everything is described, but rules are as informal as possible.

    I certainly think that a game like that would be more in keeping with the Gygaxian patrimony of the game than would 4e's approach. I'm not sure I'd be happy with it myself, but I'm an eccentric.

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  19. Fair enough! I'm not fond of the design decisions behind 4e myself (particularly the cold and characterless MM), and I was just being Orcus' Advocate. ;)

    And yes, I meant "sound" rather than "compelling". :)

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  20. Fair enough! I'm not fond of the design decisions behind 4e myself (particularly the cold and characterless MM), and I was just being Orcus' Advocate. ;)

    Nothing wrong with that! I do agree that the 4e MM is by far and away the worst of the three new books; it reads like a technical manual rather than a gateway to wonder and terror that the 1e MM was for me.

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  21. This sort of 'creatures in the world among us' detailing by Gygax and his D&D decendents has been entirely left out of the new 4E version of D&D. Sure, they do include some fluff in the descriptions of 4E monsters - but the Terrain/Climate data has been completely stripped. When I opened the 4E monsters manual, I took this as a subtle message from the developers to indicate "There will be no _Random_ encounters in 4E". Well, suffice to say that I was unhappy about this enough that I charted out all 600+ monsters in 4E and included their Terrain/Climate information as far as I could from all the previousl editions of the game. Where a monster was truely new and unique to 4E (a minority) I just used my best guess. You can check out the lasted updated version of this list over at Core Lists (an offshoot site from my main blog).

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  22. OH! just when I was going to reply to donny's post... he removed it. =/

    anyway, he stated "If it doesn't advance the plot, or enrich the gaming experience in some way, it is a useless piece of erroneous crud."

    and I just wanted to comment - at least as far as my Extension of Gygaxian Naturalism post is concerned - that I agree with him; although monster ecology to me is more about "what else is there besides the orcs?" or "if the dragon has minions, what are the minions this type, or that type, of dragon are likely to be found with?"

    As far as noncombatents and other roadbloacks-to-fun creatures: I usually overlook them unless the players ask or want to make something of them...

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  23. Fantasy dungeon ecology is what it is. 4E finally realized that people can role play just fine without an elaborate framework of mechanics, skills, proficiencies, whatever.

    As to dungeon ecology. It's great and all, but why bother? Doesn't nearly everyone houserule the crud out of the RAW anyway? Better to spend the time working on something more useful to the population at large, than TELLING people that a lair will always have between X and Y noncomatants, and they like to eat spam.

    My opinion, is that 4E has liberated us from Gygaxian Naturalism. We now HAVE to make the stuff up. Is that such a bad thing? Why does there have to be a random table for everything?

    In all fairness to "Uncle Gary" he gave us HIS houserules. Why are Orcs green and evil? Because he said they were. Why do trolls regenerate? Because he said they do. Why was there a ghoul in the boathouse? Because he said there was...seeing a pattern here?

    As to the new MM, It's not bad. Really. Being the first of several, and the first of a new edition, it does it's job. I disliked the #E MMIV and V a lot more. They were nothing but afterthoughts from the first three anyway.

    So I guess my question is, Why is returning to "make our own fluff" such a bad thing?

    Difference of opinion notwithstanding, thanks for another thought provoking post :)

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  24. Sorry Jonathan, in retrospect, it seemed a bit - combative. Decided to parse it a little better.

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  25. So I guess my question is, Why is returning to "make our own fluff" such a bad thing?

    It's not. What I call Gygaxian Naturalism isn't about the specifics of anything Gygax wrote so much as the general tenor of it, namely that the game rules describe a coherent world in which (to cite one example) monsters exist for reasons other than simply to be slain by the PCs. That's not to say that every time you place a monster in a dungeon there needs to be a deep reason for that placement (or indeed any reason). However, what Gygax offered us was a model of world building that has, in my opinion, been rejected in 4e. Whether that's a good or a bad thing depends, I guess, on how much of a pillar of D&D you consider Gygaxian Naturalism to be.

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  26. True that James, true that. I don't think there is a community on earth that can pick up one book and see it so many different ways...outside of a church that is :)

    Good thing is, we can all eat cake!

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  27. ahhh.. THERE you are...

    nice rewrite! I'll keep the original in my secrete "things people almost said" file!

    As to "Why does there have to be a random table for everything?" Two answers come to mind -

    1) becuase not everyone is as smart as you; and often times the results of a random set of results can spark new imaginative creations.

    2) it saves time. If you are building a sandbox campaign, and your players decide to walk this way, instead of that way - its nice to have a quick answer that 'makes sense' given the setting.

    Of course, you can always wing it - and I like your comment about Gary's house Rules. I dunno, maybe I'm the type with little to no imagination - I actually LIKE the tables and random crap. Its silliness to some, but could be a big resource to others.

    Also... remember that game (D&D) was originally marketed to Adults 12 and up. Not every "12 year old adult" DM is going to be able to make the right choices for a balanced encounter, adventure, or even campaign. Although I'm a big supporter of 4E - I'm also a bit remiss that they have removed all the random table goodness for creature, treasure, loot, etc.

    To wit - why did they remove all the creature/treasure random tables but decide to keep the random dungeon generation tables? Historical legacy?

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  28. You called me smart...Just wait, I've got some idiocy hidden around here somewhere...lol.

    Again a difference of opinion/style. I never liked randomness. To me, the dice do a perfectly good job at it without being encouraged :)

    Too many party wipes due to random encounters over the years. I prefer the "not so random" encounter design. Creating coherent little one-shots to throw in whenever attention starts to lag.

    My favorite, an upturned wagon on the side of the road. An arrow riddled corpse next to it. A group of scared farmers milling around, looking concerned.

    A scripted encounter, good for lower level adventurers. It has gone 5 different ways throughout the years. I admit though, they are/arent bandits depending solely on the PC's interaction :)

    Call me control freak, it fits, but as long as it is fun, who cares!?

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  29. "Why are orcs green and evil"

    Actually, orcs are not green. Neither are kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, or gnolls. Trolls are, however.

    Also, fluff is something you find in navels; background is what you find in Monster Manuals.

    There's really no difference between saying "Trolls have 6+6 Hit Dice" and "Trolls are tall, green, regenerate and know no fear". Saying that Hit Dice is in some way more desirable than the no-fear detail betrays the writer's prejudices rather than being a statement of objective fact.

    If one is really enamoured of making things up, then and edition of the Monster Manual is a waste of money.

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  30. This post and the ensuing comment stream is, IMHO, a shining example of RPG blogging at its best. So, I've submitted this post to the upcoming OPEN GAME TABLE RPG Anthology for consideration. Of course, nothing would be published in Open Game Table until the author releases the material for inclusion in the Anthology. This post was simply submitted for consideration; which is the first step towards identifying the best in RPG blogging. Let me know if you have any questions over at the The Core Mechanic or in the OPEN GAME TABLE google group. In meantime, keep up the excellent work! Your blog rocks!

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  31. Jonathan,

    I'm glad you and others have enjoyed this entry and found it a touchstone for some interesting discussions.

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  32. Hello James.

    I'm a D&D Player in South Korea.
    and I've impressed your insightful post "Gygaxian Naturalism"
    So I wanna translate this post to Korean for my blogsite and our team.

    thank you for your great postings~

    bye~

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  33. While I completely agree with Mr. Maliszewski's description of 4th Edition as non-Naturalistic (in the way he defines Naturalism), I find it utterly ironic that he attributes Gygax to Naturalism.

    In fact, since D&D's release in the mid-1970s, Gygax' vision of fantasy roleplaying has always been decidedly of the NON-Naturalistic variety. From the beginning, Gygax's D&D was decried for its lack of "realism", its insipidness, where monsters do, indeed, exist only for their slaying by the PCs.

    Games such Chivalry and Sorcery and HarnWorld (both truely Nautralistic in the way Maliszewski defines it) were created in the early days as a direct result of the reaction AGAINST the more vapid Gygaxian "hack and slash" flavor.

    Thus, 4th edition D&D isn't a repudiation of Gygax's vision of naturalism; 4th edition is, on the contrary, the very clear culmination of a path that has always take D&D (in all its editions) further and further away from naturalism.

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  34. How can the MM be so terrible for 4e, it has Demogorgon on the cover looking all badass.

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  35. James, I agree with your comments on naturalism as an approach found in OD&D but I'm curios why you refer to this concept as "Gygaxian Naturalism"? What I mean specifically is what seperates Gygax's approach to Naturalism from the nautralistic approach of Arneson as found in FFC (the 1972 Creatures in Blackmoor section for ex) or that of other early game designers such as Hugh Walkers Magira or Dave Weseley's Braunsteins? I get it that D&D's naturalism is a quite different approach to that found in some early games like Hammacks Crypt of the Sorceror or even chess or whatever, but I'm not seeing in what you have written why Gygax's approach in particular differs or is specialized from that of Dave Wesely or Arneson or a dozen other designers from the late '60 and '70's. Are you crediting Gygax for something that was in no way unique to him or are is there more to your concept of "Gygaxian" naturalism not mentioned here?

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  36. Are you crediting Gygax for something that was in no way unique to him or are is there more to your concept of "Gygaxian" naturalism not mentioned here?

    Gygaxian naturalism isn't just about a persistent world. I agree that that kind of simulation predates Gygax and can be found in other early hobbyists. Gygaxian naturalism is naturalism specifically about the (super)natural world: the social dynamics of humanoid creatures, the economy of the Outer Planes, the metaphysics of magic, etc. It's an extension of the persistent world model to cover fantastical things. What I think makes Gygax unusual is that he treats even stuff like how monsters relate to one another among their own kind from an almost "scientific" perspective, as if the Monster Manual, for example, were almost a zoology text rather than purely a game artifact. I don't detect this perspective in Arneson, who seemed to have a much more whimsical view of fantasy than did Gygax.

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  37.  

    Gygax called it "verisimilitude"...



    Early Dungeon magazine had an incredible article that taught how to
    stock a dungeon in such away.  You decide what each room is/was used for
    (library, bedroom, temple, storeroom,  etc)-  its "backstory",
    basically, and fill it appropriately- in a ruined state for abandoned
    areas.  The players may or may not be able to tell the purpose of a
    room, but the technique allowed the GM to fill it logically, and was
    actually easier than filling it with random, unrelated items.  
    There was even a cool illustration of a room progressing from a
    lived-in to a "dungeony" state (flags tattered, furniture rotted, etc).  

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  38. >I don't detect this perspective in Arneson, who seemed to have a much more whimsical view of fantasy than did Gygax. That's a thought worth considering. If one looks at the pre-D&D monster write-ups in Arneson's First Fantasy campaign, one finds orcs describes as living in villages, engaged in wagon train expeditions, and divided into tribes varying by habitat. Similarly, the rest of the given creatures are described with information regarding thier preference for solitary or family groups, preferred habitat and so forth. For example, " Rocs: Since their nests are only on the very highest peaks, thus only in mountaneous squares, ....there is a 40% chance the 1-3 eggs are hatched...." Another place to look would be Arneson's Temple of the Frog scenario published in Supplement II (1975), Here we see a well developed water swamp ecology in the temple dungeon wherein dwell the killer frogs and frog folk with access to the exterior moat surrounding the temple. Also in the dungeon are giant lizards, and trolls who feed on snakes rats and on the frogs, and giant snakes who feed on the trolls and the giant rats. In fact, the dungeon is clearly designed to make ecological sense and even more to provide a reasonable explanation as to why a given creatures was in a given place. If one compares this material to what Gygax was writing at the same time (CHAINMAIL, Tsojconth) Arneson's sense of environmental verissimilitude seems pretty dang sharp to me.

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