I have heard on this site over and over again that D&D is just a game and that reality should not factor into game mechanics. I agree with the first part, but it is the second that pisses me off. Without an element of reality, any table top gaming system is in the dark with a bunch of confused people staring around at each other.
Fact 1- Reality is the Base Line
Like it or not, reality is the only life experience anyone has anything to base anything else on. Take the following sample:
As you splortch afog the egenquack, you skik a brogen wiggersnat on the floberous guggle itchilating your zatch. What do you do?
No really, what do you do? Anyone? I will be very surprised if anyone without some form of mental disease would have any fucking idea whatsoever what to do. In the poem "the Jabberwocky" we find that nonsense can make some sense if given meaning. In fact, we gamers have this very poem to thank for our various vorpal weapons. But we still need a hint of meaning, and reality is the most convenient and costs less than drugs.
Fact 2- Reality is the Best Secondary to Rules
Question- how much damage does a character take in the vacuum of space? Is it once or per round? What type? What is the Heal DC? Is there a save?
I have never found a rule, cannon or otherwise, that answers any of these questions. And these aren't exceptional circumstances. And unless you are playing FATAL, there is always going to be a hole in the rules. And where the rules don't go, you need something as a backup. Reality suits this perfectly, because everyone has experienced or can find someone who has experienced some aspect of reality. You could easily divine the answers of the above questions with a google search. And if you reverse engineer the rules using reality as a starting point, the rules can make sense.
That said, there will always be someone disappointed. Professional climbers are never happy with D&D climbing rules. In a group I'm running I have a guy who was a corrections officer and has lived and breathed conflict for a solid 25 years or so, and he hates the combat system to death. And his background in physics often results in arguments about how much damage things do. But if a perfect gaming system existed, we would all hate it.
Fact 3- Reality Prevents Absolute Ridiculousness
There is a skit from Seth Green's Robot Chicken that demonstrates this point well:
A terrified man is walking through the woods at night. When a werewolf jumps out, the man screams and shoots the WW with a pistol. "Ha HA! Only a silver bullet can kill me!" the wolf boasts. The man then pulls out a minigun. All the wolf can say is "oh" before he is shot repetitively. The wolf tries to take cover in the trees but is soon reduced to a bloody pulp, which the the man scoops into a bucket and sets on fire. The man goes home and snorts the ash. Then he takes a dump. Then we get to see our lovely waste purification system at work. And then we see a bunch of little nerds sitting around playing D&D, the GM explaining to one of the players, "I'm sorry, the rules say it has to be a silver bullet." In frustration the player screams, "WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!"
And I doubt that anyone here would agree with the GM. I would leave the table and find a new group at that point. As I had to before. Mostly this is a problem I see with munchkin groups that formed because they can't handle reality, and I note that these games are often composed to prepubescent to preteen players. In the groups I play with now I am often accused of being the rules lawyer that can't tear his nose away from gaming books. I regret how I got into gaming (*cough* KODT *cough*) and strive to be a better gamer as well as a better person in all life's aspects. And part of that maturity is understanding that rules by themselves can cause true and absolute stupidity.
Here is the gaming maturity test that I failed the first time I took it:
1- Do you need rules to have fun?
2- Who are the rules in place to keep in line: the player or the GM?
Fact 4- Reality is Fucking Insane
Reality is awesome. Reality has real adventure sites with disturbing histories, standard adventuring equipment for sale, real monsters (including dire animals), and ancient conspiracies that have spanned generations! Seriously, anytime you get bored with the standard dungeon crawl, try throwing something from real life in and it will scare the shit out of everyone!