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Was this question closed because it was about realism/verisimiltude? Or some other reason(s)?

Is it possible to wield a 'greatsword'?

Not that it's a great question, or isn't easily answerable by searching the web for the many articles and videos that discuss the general subject.

It's marked closed as "off-topic".

A comment from one of the people voting to close said in part, "It's about being "realistic" where a lot of systems just do not care about realism."

Are realism questions really off-topic here? It doesn't seem like it.

It's actually a pretty common question, it seems to me, on other RPG sites, especially those for games that ARE somewhat interested in realism/verisimilitude. TFT, GURPS, Harnmaster, Ars Magica, Mythras, Runequest, Aftermath, Traveller, yes, even some D&D players, have at least some interest in what a greatsword is supposed to be, how big and heavy and practical it would be, what a realistic one would look like and how it'd be used, and not only whether various fantasy images could be practical weapons, but which historical swords were practical versus parade swords, which were developed in which period and why, etc etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking whether it were or whether it should? Those are two quite different discussions, which should garner different (or at least differently angled) answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 22 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I'm interested in both, but ultimately I'm mainly interested in what realism questions would be considered off-topic... so if I have to pick only one, I'm asking should. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jan 22 at 18:43
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This question is what we call a real-world research question. This is mentioned in our on-topic help article:

Generic real-world topics

Questions about a general real-world topic such as history, geography or economics, whilst relevant to RPGs, may be off topic if they are not RPG-centric (or better belong on another Stack Exchange site, such as History). A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself:

Would an RPG expert give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than a Historian, Geographer, etc?

If yes, then feel free to ask it here.

“Can a [real life] human realistically wield and attack effectively using this kind of sword?” is a question that isn't RPG-centric and doesn't require any RPG expertise to answer. Although it may be a topic of interest to RPG players it's simply not within our domain to handle and answer this question. It's a question for people like HEMA experts, martial arts experts, or so on.

We decided to rule these off topic in 2012 with Are campaign research questions on topic, part two?. We were being asked a lot of questions that were only tangentially related to RPGs but ultimately had nothing whatsoever to do with our subject matter expertise. We were fielding questions about medieval boat speeds, historic exchange rates, depression-era trade, real-world animals, and so on. But we're not a site for expertise in those topics—nobody here was an expert in those questions, nobody knew what the right answer was, and nobody knew how to judge the right answer, except if it was due to some coincidental expertise completely unrelated to anything in our site's subject matter. It wasn't an ideal situation, and we're not the people to ask this stuff.


Now, if the question was instead “Can a human in this specific RPG realistically wield and attack effectively with this kind of sword?” we could begin answering. That question would be about the RPG's mechanics and would get specific, detailed answers drawing on actual RPG expertise, with the substance of the answer even varying significantly depending on the RPG you're asking about.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Better said and supported than mine, +1 :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 22 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. Because, questions about medieval boat speeds, historic exchange rates, and real-world animals all seem extremely interesting to me in very on-topic ways, and have been enthusiastically discussed on other forums for TFT, GURPS, and other (even heavily-D&D-oriented) RPG sites I have visited. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jan 22 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz We are not forum, though. We are an RPG Q&A website and this question is not actually about any RPG or related to an RPG other than RPGs use swords and this question is about swords. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 22 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz Yeah, we acknowledge they're interesting topics. They're just completely out of our ballpark. It's like this: almost anything at all in existence can show up in an RPG, and therefore be of interest to RPG players and be something that RPG players will have questions about. But we're not and can't be Anything At All Stack Exchange. We're just RPG Stack Exchange. That means a question isn't on topic here just by being of interest to RPG players. It's on topic here if it's fundamentally about the RPGs we play, the books, the gameplay, closely related media, connected social issues, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 22 at 18:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ For example if you do need to know exactly how fast a 500 BC Malaysian catamaran could travel on a windy day for your pre-colonial GURPS RPG campaign, that's a valid thing to inquire about! But it's not a question for this site. It's a question for naval or cultural historians, maybe on History. Once you know the real-world facts about the boat you could ask us how to translate that into GURPS mechanics and we'd be the place for that, but you gotta find those facts elsewhere. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 22 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Um... So, what about, "In a historical GURPS Middle Ages 1 campaign that is using GURPS Martial Arts' Gritty Realism campaign style (p.237), how big long and heavy would a Greatsword be at the start or end of the High Medieval Period? Which of these example character illustrations would be accurate? Is ST 12 really a realistic minimum Strength to use these weapons without penalty?" ... And is not that essentially the same question as the one that was closed, except that the actual question is from someone not referencing a specific system and just starting to get into realism? \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jan 22 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess my question is "where is the line?" \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jan 22 at 18:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz If a historian, doctor, physicist, or other expert with no RPG experience can answer your question, then it does not belong on this site. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jan 22 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz You might consider the general Stack Exchange policy against “boat questions,” as this kind of question suffers from exactly the same kind of problems as the boat question did. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 23 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage I'm not sure I agree with that 100%. A mathematician can answer stats questions on our site with zero knowledge or experience of RPGs. But if the question is relevant to RPGs, then it still does belong here. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 24 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I suppose I would carve out exceptions for dice-based statistics and for group-related interpersonal conflict resolution, but in general, if an expert in some other field with no RPG knowledge can answer your question, then at the very least you'll need to explicitly link the question to RPGs, and, "I want to use the answer in my game," won't cut it. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jan 24 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Stats are so critically central to game design that we have specifically carved out a tentative acceptance of the topic so long as it remains RPG-related. RPG experts will also give you different & more specific answers. Not unfamiliar: “Q: I've devised this super convoluted rolling process with obscure dice for the main resolution mechanic. I think it gives me this exact bell curve, am I right?” An RPG player: “Yes, but it's unplayable and confusing. Instead I suggest using this other resolution mechanic from {successful RPG}, it works similarly and plays well.” \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 25 at 0:00
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I think another reason that realism questions should be off-topic, in addition to those stated by doppelgreener, is that allowing realism questions will leave us open to many unanswerable questions. Imagine a realism question comes up in a system like GURPS. GURPS has a strong focus on realism. The question is about a specific rule that seems to be unrealistic. Is it unrealistic because the developers made a mistake, or because it was a conscious choice to protect playability or balance? Nobody here, that I'm aware of, is a mind reader. This question could easily be unresolvable. Now imagine the same situation in D&D. D&D generally doesn't care about realism. If a question comes up about a rule, arguing from a realism angle, in D&D, we can just consult the rulebook and decide how it works.

Allowing realism questions would be like having two clocks. If they don't agree, how do you decide which, if either, is correct?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Well a FEW of us here, are GURPS players, and some of us are naturally quite interested in realism, and some of us hang out on places such as the GURPS forums or GURPS Discord, and may very well know how to answer such questions well, in ways that non-GURPS players may have no idea about, but are still roleplaying games. Such questions are often at least as objective and answerable as many questions about roleplaying that don't get closed here. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Jan 27 at 0:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ What you're describing there (“did the developers do this deliberately or was it a mistake?”) may be a designer intent question, and those are usually off topic as well. Mostly a case of “this is why we can't have nice things”: people were speculating all the time even when told not to, so we'd have people presenting 5 different “this is what they intended” answers, all mutually exclusive, without citations, and actually just a guess based on rules text (so they had no idea about the intent). \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 27 at 9:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ The debate on whether or not to ban them specifically occurred here, with a longer history before that where they mostly started to show problems in late 2017. They mostly demonstrated a problem in D&D where designers simply barely ever write about their reasoning; personally I maintain there's other systems where they could work fine—those where the authors do write extensively about their reasoning. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 27 at 9:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I'm curious, are you advocating for re-opening the matter of designer-intent questions on a system-by-system basis, or merely lamenting that some perfectly reasonably questions have been caught in a ban targeting other, largely-unanswerable questions? \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Feb 2 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage This is personal, but I don't accept the ban as valid on a global basis in the first place and never did. Designer Reasons didn't work for D&D & that's good reason to ban it in the scope of D&D. I believe that category may be able to work just fine for some other games, e.g. Fate whose authors blog extensively about their reasoning. If some game sees its designer reasons questions closed but its users here feel they should be viable and left open, I'd support giving the game a chance to see if they work for it. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 2 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I agree. Some games very much include realism and reasons for rules, and the designers and line editors will mention reasoning sometimes in those games, and it's certainly a topic of interest for players of those games, which often do have answers, certainly as much as other questions here have answers, or even moreso in some cases. D&D meanwhile seems to me much more of a "yup this is just how it is" throughout its design. Banning realism/reasoning in questions in reason-based games just because D&D isn't that way seems to me... like it'd be a mistake, to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Feb 17 at 7:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz Questions about real-world research and questions investigating the authors' reasons for things are very separate topics. I fully support the former being banned on this site. It absolutely was not working, and that's not a thing that varies from game to game. Even when games like GURPS care about realism, investigating reality is the domain of other sites. RPG.SE cannot be all things. It's just a Q&A for tabletop RPGs. Nor should it be a site for all things; if we have a question about physics or history we should be asking it on a history or physics Q&A. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 17 at 10:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage: Rather than rehashing that debate here, I'd direct people to this meta: Why is there a blanket ban on designer intent questions when the issue is only with a subset of rpg systems? (Personally, I disagree that designer-intent questions for D&D are uniquely hard to answer, and think that D&D simply illustrated the problem because we get the most questions about it; I've seen similar rampant speculation about intent occur elsewhere for other games even when someone does eventually point out that a designer has stated the intent.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 18 at 0:32

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