Still, my love of verisimilitude can only take so much, and the “silly” dungeons (like Castle Amber by Moldvay) often grated on me. However, strict historical recreation and verisimilitude are not the same thing. Before I’d ever heard the word verisimilitude, I thought my goal was, in fact, historical accuracy. I banished tomatoes and tobacco from my fantasy worlds, converted gold to silver, and decreed all precious gems were polished and not cut, in order to better reflect the realities of medieval
Which, when you step back and look at it, was silly, since none of my games actually took place in medieval
That said, words carry more meaning than is encompassed by mere dictionary definitions. If your starship captain speaks in furlongs and pounds instead of metric measurements, that says something subtle but important to your audience. At the dawn of the 21st century, pipes and tobacco seem archaic and quaint, but they were standard equipment for the engineers that worked on the Apollo program for NASA. A good analogy is coffee. A lot of people get annoyed when authors and gamers come up with replacement words for things like coffee and tobacco. But coffee is a thing strongly associated with the modern and mundane world. Yes, coffee has been drunk for centuries, yes it’s of ancient and foreign pedigree. But if you say the word to a modern audience, they think Seattle and Starbucks and Styrofoam cups of bitter caffeine that barely keep one awake through interminable board meetings. With every sip of coffee your elven warrior drinks, a bit of his fey glamour dies.
It isn’t anachronism that is fatal to verisimilitude, but association, and association is all about perception and not truth or accuracy. Where you need to draw the line is going to be an individual matter, for each player and each group. As we continue to push the boundaries of fantasy to encompass different cultures (like the recent embrace of oriental fantasy with games like Exalted) and different time periods (such as the pseudo-Victorian fantasies of steampunk), the load that verisimilitude can bear without breaking grows. Internal consistency, more than any one feature, no matter how anachronistic, is far more important to preserving the suspension of disbelief that is the first step towards wonder and empathy.