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Shown Their Work / Tabletop Games

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  • GURPS is famous for this. Writers' efforts to provide accurate stats for the real world lead to pages worth of citations and examples in many 4th Edition books. They also have been known to hire people that know what they're talking about as advisers, altering and scrapping sections of the rules in order to allow better simulation of reality. Notes that appear alongside the official rules often include notes on how to make the game even more realistic, though notes to the effect that using more realistic rules might bog down the game typically accompany them.
    • This got them in legal jeopardy in 1990, when an over-zealous warrant led to every computer at the firm being confiscated by the Secret Service due to ongoing research at the company for a Cyber Punk genre book. The author had consulted with a few real life hackers, but the book was hardly a 'handbook for computer crime' as one misinformed agent said. It led directly to the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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    • Some of the historical source books (GURPS Egypt, GURPS Imperial Rome, etc.) of the 3rd Edition were frequently noted for being excellent introductions to the periods and locations in question. Some of them were listed as recommended reading for college level history courses.
  • Ars Magica from Atlas Games has several supplements whose entire purpose is to Show Their Work, most notable for this being Art et Academe. Most of the authors have some qualification in Medieval History or a similar topic.
  • Warhammer 40,000 goes into this at points when they can justify it. For example, Lasguns are only nonrealisticly displayed in art and video games because they would otherwise be really boring. That they make noise and light is generally explained by psychic influences. On the other hand, it might be that 40k really does have Frickin' Laser Beams, and the Mechanicum just doesn't know what they're doing.
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  • d20 Modern's economic system is extremely abstract due to the sheer complexity of the economic world but interviews and statements by the designers indicate the level of thought and detail that went into its creation. Why does it hurt your Wealth Bonus less to buy a house than other, similarly expensive things? Because the boost in your credit score received by being a homeowner with a mortgage would help you if you needed to take out a loan or apply for a credit card and you could borrow against equity in that house.
  • Phil Eklund is an actual rocket scientist. His High Frontier features 12 pages of designer notes explaining how every one of the technologies in the game would work, most of them with citations to the relevant papers. Half a page is also dedicated to documenting the scale used for all the attributes used in the game. An actual excerpt from the appendix:
    To avoid the evaporation losses suffered by radiations that use liquid droplets in space, dust radiators use solid dust particles instead. If the particles are electrostatically charged, as in an electrostatic thermal radiator (ETHER), they are confined by the field lines between a charged generator and its collector. If the spacecraft is charged opposite to the charge on the particles, they execute an elliptical orbit, radiating at 1200 K with a specific area of 71 kg/m^2 and 213 kW_th/m^2. The dust particles are charged to 10^-14 coulombs to inhibit neutralization from the solar wind. Prenger 1982.
  • Game Designers Workshop was infamous for this.
    • Space 1889 as an example, where the Soliders Companion offered information on every regiment in the British Empire, as well as information on real nations of the world at the time, including Hawaii.
    • Twilight: 2000: The first edition was clearly made by people who knew not only a lot about army operations and military gear, but also the then-recent political situation and cultural quirks, with meticulous details put into everything. And while the quality of the Polish is just cringe-worthy, the game had extremely detailed tactical maps of different parts of Poland, even including the layout of real streets.
  • You wouldn't expect a game with technology and statistics as soft as BattleTech to have shown their work, except in some places, they have.
    • For instance, in defiance of the rule that 'ammunition bins explode when hit', Gauss rifle rounds do not detonate... because they are inert pieces of ferrous metal that are fired from a large coilgun. However, the Gauss rifle itself will explode on a critical hit, because a major component of the weapon is its capacitors. Real-life capacitors can release energy in a rather aggressively uncontrolled fashion if other words, an explosion. Subsequent critical hits to a Gauss rifle will not cause another explosion, because the capacitor is already ruined after the first hit and can't store enough energy for another explosive release if damaged.
    • In another one of the game's few nods to realism, the use of Inferno missiles allows a player to set any terrain tile on fire, including water. This seems like an oversight, except that the fluff notes that Inferno payloads are at heart a variation on petroleum jelly, which floats. This is also why a single warhead is able to burn for over a minute after striking a target. Contrary to expectations, straight petroleum jelly doesn't burn...until it vaporizes. What does burn is the outer layer of petroleum jelly, constantly boiling off for a long period of time and catching fire as it does so, much to the dismay of the target. It is also why the target can't simply wipe off the burning Inferno fuel to end the effect early—you try wiping petroleum jelly off a surface with your bare hand without smearing it.


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