Fantasy gaming rests on a fiction: that you could have a society like England in 1200 AD which also has supernatural beings, magic, and active deities. That fiction, in turn, rests on the understanding that nobody thinks about it too hard.Talysman countered:
it's not the attempt to inject realism into a game that is absurd, but the fetishism of realism and application of a scientific world-view to a fantasy game.To a certain extent, both are correct. Fantasy worlds are just fantasy and applying our scientific world view upon a world where magic exists can be absurd. I would argue, however, that they both miss a greater point and a magnificent opportunity.
To me the fun of it all isn’t trying to explain how radically different AD 1200 England would look if dragons went around eating cattle by adjusting historic cattle/people ratios or cultural norms. For me, the fun is trying to explain how AD 1200 England and dragons can coexist without having to do all that obsessive number crunching.
Herein, our scientific world view can actually be a boon rather than a bane. What if, for example, dragons were an silicon based alien life form trapped here on earth when an ancient space ship crash landed? Their diet would not consist of carbon based life forms. They would rather be interested in crystals, minerals, gems and precious metals (thus the need for giant treasure hordes). It would also explain the whole breath weapon thing. The byproduct of breathing oxygen would be silicon dioxide — a solid. In order to easily expunge this byproduct, the dragon simply heats it up and expels it in liquid form as a breath weapon.
There, now you have an entirely plausible, entertaining and geektastic explanation for how dragons could exist in context of an otherwise historically accurate AD 1200 England without having to crunch one number. All you have to do is dash on a little science to get your fantasy even farther out of the box.