Tuesday, February 15, 2011
OK, I’ll admit that although I was always an excellent reader, “Verisimilitude” is a word I was fairly unfamiliar with until my return to gaming the other year. I’m pretty sure I read James at Grognardia using the word first in relation to gaming, and I’ve been using it ever since. A big word I have used for a long time in relation to gaming is “Gravitas.” I’ve known that big word for at least a decade (but my source was dubious; I think Howard Stern and his crew were goofing on a sound bite of Keiffer Sutherland saying that was his favorite word. I then looked it up). I’ll say something that sounds profound such as “I like my game world to have a certain amount of gravitas.”
But verisimilitude is what I say now. Me like that big world. The big “V” word is sort of philosophical in nature, so it can be expressed to mean a variety of related things. Officially, it is a philosophical concept that denotes amounts of truth or degrees of error. Articulating what it takes for one false theory to be closer to the truth than another false theory.
In games terms, it’s about doing what you can for your game world to feel real in terms of it’s own qualities. Back in the day all you could say (unless you were an encyclopedia of big brain words like Gary Gygax seemed to be) was “I want my game to be realistic” followed by boos and jeers from your gaming fellows who chided sarcastically (in the Comic Book Guys voice) “It’s a fantasy game man. Fantasy isn’t supposed to be realistic.”
Bullshit. If you just want to have your world be no more than a tavern, a supply shop, and a dungeon, or you are just playing the original Chainmail wargame, then fine. That is sort of how I approach my White Box games. But even then, I cannot help but want things to feel as real as possible, even in a dungeon as mythic underworld. Just go all wacky baccy like Arduin Grimoire or The City State of The Invincible Overlord, then you are getting closer to a fantasy world like Alice’s Wonderland, or The Beatles Pepperland. Cool fantasy worlds, but not one’s I want to seriously run a character in.
I know it is all ultimately silly fantasy. But to make my world feel like it has a little weight to it for a non-existent thing, I like to have a little versimilitude-itude. See that? I took a big word and the word “attitude” and made my own cool word. You can use it if ye like.