Legends and Lore - The Many Faces of D&D

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Legends and Lore
The Many Faces of D&D

by Mike Mearls

D&D is at its best when it successfully caters to as many of the styles that its players enjoy as possible.

Talk about this column here.
I think this was one of the best L&L posts that Mike has written yet. I have long felt that there exists these kind of basic axes in the D&D game, and I'm surprised to admit that aligning each of the four quadrants to one version of D&D has never occurred to me until now.

I am excited by this proposition, since at times I have groups with players split all along various preferences. More commonly I have players who from week-to-week vary in their preference for style of game.

It'd be nice to make DUNGEONS and DRAGONS my go-to game for every possible gaming taste and preference.
The charts weren't showing up when I read this today.  I think I got the jist of things without them, though.  Tongue out


Aside from that minor complaint, I thought this was a good column and I'm glad that Mr. Mearls is thinking about this. 

The only thing that seems a tad strange about it is the timing.  This seems like something to be thinking about and discussing at the beginning of an edition, not 3 years in. 


I'm very happy to hear that WOTC is thinking about the game and the fans.  It would be nice to have a version of D&D that is attractive to 4E players and friendly to "old school" gamers as well.  One that caters to more than one play style.     


I'd like to be part of the D&D community again.      


   


     
Yeah have fun appealing to codzilla fans and those who think you arent roleplaying unless you sacrefice character competance and 4th edition fans.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Garthonas, I'm not sure what you mean.  Mr Mearls didin't say anything like what you wrote in his column and neither did I or the poster before me.

I didn't see anyone talking about roleplaying meaning sacrificing character competence. 

I also didn't see anyone talking about "sacrificing" 4E fans. 
  
Mr Mearls didin't say anything like what you wrote in his column and neither did I or the poster before me.

I didn't see anyone talking about roleplaying meaning sacrificing character competence. 

 
 
Gonna have to be more friendly to those types now arent we ? ... arent Dominators and Lime Light hogs features of old school gaming?
And there submissives that go with them arent they included in "every possible taste and preference"


I also didn't see anyone talking about "sacrificing" 4E fans. 
  


Heh that last bit could be read that way...guess a comma was in order ;p  

A defocused game is gonna be defocused and that in itself will cause certain people to not like it.

For instance if you dont reward system mastery you will exclude one group but if you do reward it you will exclude another group and it really cant be avoided.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Here is the quote in response to the article I thought most appropriate 


Implying that people who enjoy playing the puzzle game that is building characters are different, distinct, and opposed to those that enjoy story (with all the meaning that word entails) is downright harmful to this amazing game.


 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Garthanos,

"Dominators, Lime Light Hogs and submissives?"  I think you have a different understanding of the term old school than I do.  Based upon those terms I get the feeling you think of old school in a perjorative sense. 





I think the idea here is that 4e can appeal to all different types of players, depending on the adventure. Maybe we'll be getting more varied types of modules in the future - ones that are more aligned with a certain axis of D&D gaming.

This might also be a pre-emptive explanation for the new organized play series...think it's called "Lair Assault," supposedly a series of meat grinder adventures. Obviously meant for the 'dominators,' I think they were called.
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
 I associate Old School emphasizing DMs being adversaries of the players... and players and there characters being non-heroic and both having extremely little influence on the story except by dm fiat....  modern incarnations include -- >"what you think picking an epic destiny for your character means you actually have influence on MY games direction?"  mixed with the ...  "oh my god wish lists are demand lists they suck."
 
Hmmmm immersive does that sound like submissive or what ;p 

I am in a kantankerous mood...  

I dont hear anyone explaining how you think you can simultaneously reward and not reward system mastery. 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I'll say only this: someone really needs to get Mike Mearls to read the parable of the miller, his son and their donkey.

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

They are so working on 5th edition.

100% tactics- however, I'm not an optimizer.

Hate Immersion and Story.

I find myselt oddly in agreement with Garthanos for the first time, I think ever.

Much of what Mike Mearls is proposing is in theory a wonderful but in practice quite impossible, in particular if we are talking about creating a mechanic that supports this. 


Garthanos and I are definitively different type of players and I promise you that their is no way you can create a mechanic that pleases both of us.  I will lead with an example.

I for one am by nature a simultationist role-player.  I believe firmly that a game mechanic must support role-playing.  Skills for example define characters and as such they must be story specific.  Diplomacy?  too general, lacks too much detail, too abstract.  I want to see specializaton.  Your a diplomat?  What kind of diplomat?  I want to know when that diplomacy skill applies mechanically and when it does not and I want that skill to reflect my character stories and I want that choice to say something about that characters background and I want it forced through a mechanic so that the choices players make for their story have meaning in the game.  I want to see perk and flaw systems.  I want magic to be powerful, I want mages to be powerful.  A mage and warrior cannot be equals in my view and as characters it should simply be accepted that warriors are a dime a dozen, mages are special.  I think mechanical balance should take a back see to bringing fantasy characters to life.


Im quite certain that Garthanos believes quite the oppossite, but how about giving us a taste of how you think role-playing should be Garthanos, just so we can make a point of showing the differences.


I really don't see how you can mechanically create one game with such grossly polar philosophy.  I can't imagine how Mike Mearls can even think that this is possible let alone good idea to attempt.


Its a nice gesture, and its appriciated that he might consider including players like me as his target for the next rendition of D&D and while I enjoy 4th edition and its vision of role-playing as well, it certainly does not meet my vision of a the type of D&D i would like to see.  You can't take GURPS and D&D and merge it into the same game and please both camps.  I hate to be negative but I don't believe it for a second.  

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"


I find myselt oddly in agreement with Garthanos for the first time, I think ever.

Much of what Mike Mearls is proposing is in theory a wonderful but in practice quite impossible, in particular if we are talking about creating a mechanic that supports this. 


Garthanos and I are definitively different type of players and I promise you that their is no way you can create a mechanic that pleases both of us.  I will lead with an example.

I for one am by nature a simultationist role-player.  I believe firmly that a game mechanic must support role-playing.  Skills for example define characters and as such they must be story specific.  Diplomacy?  too general, lacks too much detail, too abstract.  I want to see specializaton.  Your a diplomat?  What kind of diplomat?  I want to know when that diplomacy skill applies mechanically and when it does not and I want that skill to reflect my character stories and I want that choice to say something about that characters background and I want it forced through a mechanic so that the choices players make for their story have meaning in the game.  I want to see perk and flaw systems.  I want magic to be powerful, I want mages to be powerful.  A mage and warrior cannot be equals in my view and as characters it should simply be accepted that warriors are a dime a dozen, mages are special.  I think mechanical balance should take a back see to bringing fantasy characters to life. 


Im quite certain that Garthanos believes quite the oppossite, but how about giving us a taste of how you think role-playing should be Garthanos, just so we can make a point of showing the differences.


I really don't see how you can mechanically create one game with such grossly polar philosophy.  I can't imagine how Mike Mearls can even think that this is possible let alone good idea to attempt.


You are doing a fair job, I beleive there is always going to be a limit on degree of detail which is manageable to the people who use the game mechanics and by allowing the player to create its final focus is empowering and desireable the players of the game become its best simulation managers by exploiting the abstraction bringing there own flair and imagination to it... one persons nature skill is about his being a sailor and fisherman and his athletics are about climbing the riggin and swimming amongst the reefs anothers is about knowing farming and hunting quail and you will never get mechanics that give this to you  in a way that doesnt gimp or over promote - by accepting the abstraction you empower yourself beyond what is practical in the game. I feel player agency needs to be equal ... so the luck bending of heroic Frodo (Warlord/Rogue) must be able to bring down the tower full of orcs the same/similar result as Aragorn could have done so by Martial Prowess the same as any spell caster... the empowerment is player and story centered. I want those who have less interest in backgrounds to taste of its benefit and be seduced into creating the details that a system cant I beleive do in a satisfying way.A system with character flaws handled like fate points might be acceptable to me (so that when the flaw has actual impact on the story it can be compensated perhaps with heroic luck) . Spells easily aquired with few design resources (like rituals or old era vancian huge number of spells) cannot be allowed to overwhelm in ease of use other high design resource costing elements of character design and so on. I wish to simulate the narrative of movies and fiction.


Its a nice gesture, and its appriciated that he might consider including players like me as his target for the next rendition of D&D and while I enjoy 4th edition and its vision of role-playing as well, it certainly does not meet my vision of a the type of D&D i would like to see.  You can't take GURPS and D&D and merge it into the same game and please both camps.  I hate to be negative but I don't believe it for a second.  


I agree
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

You guys raise some good points.  If Mearls is thinking about this stuff now that does seem to indicate they are thinking about 5th. 


In terms of designing to please the widest fan base, it does seem that if you cast the net too wide, so to speak, and try to please everyone than you run the risk of not pleasing anyone and then the fish get away.  Horrible metaphor, I'm sorry.  Embarassed

So yeah, maybe trying to design an addition that pleases everyone is setting oneself up for failure. 

The thing about that is, other RPGs, other editions of this same game even, have to varying degrees of success given mechanically-inclined players and story-driven players something to work with.  Depending on the game (or the edition) it wasn't always an even 50-50 split in terms of design focus but other games have tried.  


Maybe we shouldn't think about things in terms of sharp divides, where story-driven role-play and more game mechanically-inclined players are on opposite sides of a spectrum.   


Thinking back to my old gaming group we have a mix of player types, three really.  Story and RP leaning guys, combat and game mechanic interested folks and then people who like a mix.  It seems like the players of RPGs can be broken into these three rough categories.  Different games and different versions of D&D (and different gaming groups) would break down in different ways.  My old group had 6 people normally, 2 of each category.  Interestingly enough, it seems like as we get older some of us have moved towards preferring a mix rather than one or the other.     This makes sense, interests and personalities change over time.  Others are still just as focused on say combat and min-maxing or story and rp as before. 


I'm not sure my last example adds a great deal to the discussion other than to say that I'm not entirely sure that designing for the middle is necessarily a lost cause. 

If D&D remains focused so much on the tactical game and character optimization, especially if it goes even further in that direction in the future then I think you have to wonder wether it should really be called an RPG anymore.    
I have poked WotC about the images problem.
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Quote: "There are two axes, one that ranges from tactics on one end and story on the other. The other covers immersion and abstraction."

I find it hard to believe that either of these two axes are actually opposites of one another. Abstraction helps with immersion, but just because I like an immersive game does not mean I achieve that through abstract rules or fairly complicated similutionalist ones. It depends on the type of player. For some rules achieve immersion, for others it is quiet the opposite. Similarly, just because I love story, does not mean I don't pay attention to tactics. TA game without story might be a boardgame, and a storytell game without tactics litterally telling a story, but when it comes to playing a RPG the two are unrelated parts that you can vary independendly of one another. Maybe it is the scientist in me, but I really dislike it when people place things on the same axes that are not opposites even if I agree with the point they are trying to make.  
You guys raise some good points.  If Mearls is thinking about this stuff now that does seem to indicate they are thinking about 5th. 

They might be thinking about 5E, but that does not mean whether or not there are any concrete plans. Professional game designers always think about these things to improve their skill. It after all also applies to new 4E products ;) (In fact, good DMs always do as well since it helps them improve their own games ;))
I actually think he makes a useful distinction between tactics and story here, tactics being about the mechanics and story being about things outside the mechanics.

Speaking more generally, I don't think story and mechanics are exclusive, but he is focusing on a very specific definition of story here.

I do find it interesting that he's talking about trying to appeal to the most people here, as 4E has made some very specific decisions on these types that aren't really towards the center. Those being 4E as Tactics/Combat, Story/Non-Combat, and very abstract.
...whatever
Quote: "There are two axes, one that ranges from tactics on one end and story on the other. The other covers immersion and abstraction."

I find it hard to believe that either of these two axes are actually opposites of one another. Abstraction helps with immersion, but just because I like an immersive game does not mean I achieve that through abstract rules or fairly complicated similutionalist ones. It depends on the type of player. For some rules achieve immersion, for others it is quiet the opposite. Similarly, just because I love story, does not mean I don't pay attention to tactics. TA game without story might be a boardgame, and a storytell game without tactics litterally telling a story, but when it comes to playing a RPG the two are unrelated parts that you can vary independendly of one another. Maybe it is the scientist in me, but I really dislike it when people place things on the same axes that are not opposites even if I agree with the point they are trying to make.  



I think he fails to be as specific on this axis as he was on story/tactics. I'd say the difference is the focus on the system being the process(immersion) or the system being the end result(abstraction). Immersion and abstraction(as well as story/tactics) aren't mutually exclusive, but they are being used to represent to more specific concepts.
...whatever
I'm sorry for triple posting here, but my iPhone hates this forum...

To add to what I just said, what Mearls defines as Immersion would be better described as game mechanics that prioritize the illustration of what happens, while what Mearls refers to as Abstraction prioritizes the efficient resolution of what happens.

Illustration and resolution don't completely conflict, but when they do align it isn't by design.
...whatever
I'm sorry for triple posting here, but my iPhone hates this forum... To add to what I just said, what Mearls defines as Immersion would be better described as game mechanics that prioritize the illustration of what happens, while what Mearls refers to as Abstraction prioritizes the efficient resolution of what happens. Illustration and resolution don't completely conflict, but when they do align it isn't by design.



Kind of like how I think XGuild and I have more overlap than he thinks for instance I want the game to to simulate cinematic climax in fighting more than it does and would like the mechanics to reward it 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Another Mearls article I like a lot.

I think the "immersion-abstraction" axis is essentially describing what I first wrote about in The World is Not Made of Numbers.  What he calls "immersion" I call "numerocentrism" and what he calls "abstraction" I call "protagonocentrism".  In that immersion is a game where the mechanics represent the physical laws of the world and everything fits into that rubric.  Abstraction is where the numbers only define how things interact with the game in the moment they so interact, and are therefore malleable form encounter to encounter.

I think Mearls' terms are imprecise (after all, one can get immersed in a game of abstractions, and even immersive games require some level of abstraction), but there are no terms that will work perfectly, so I'll give it a pass.

The "story-tactics" axis is something else I've been thinking about -- and this is about problem-solving.  He's not saying tactical players don't like stories.  This isn't a Stormwind Fallacy.  He's talking about how the player expects to overcome a problem.  The players on the "tactics" side of the axis expect to overcome a problem using the mechanics at their disposal -- their characters will beat the NPCs in game using the dice and the mechanics.  The players on the "story" side of the axis expect to outwit the DM by coming up with a clever out that the DM didn't consider, or by figuring out the solution that the DM has cleverly hidden in the encounter.  Now, again, the terms are imprecise.  "Story"-oriented players can and do think tactically.  "Tactical" players can and do promote rich and deep stories.  Again, any terms will be imprecise here.  We need to be careful not to get caught up in the semantics.

I've taken Mearls' chart and placed each edition of D&D (as wellas my own preference) where I think it would fall:

Mearls seems to be most comfortable with 2e, though he would like the tactical aspect of 3e and 4e.  Apparently, I am closest to Basic.  Still, I love 4e.  While I did appreciate the Basic ruleset, there are other things I wasn't crazy with about Basic (mostly the balance issues). 

Balance doesn't appear on this chart anywhere, and in many ways, a third axis for design could be drawn with "balanced" on one side and "freeform" on another.  Balance requires you to restrict your options in order to preserve balance.  Freeform design allows you to write things like "Wish" spells and give them to players, placing the onus on the DM to ensure things don't get out of hand.  Since balance is one of the most important parts of D&D for me, and since 4e is the most balanced version to date, I actually prefer 4e to Basic, even though this chart would suggest otherwise.
Balance might be in there...
I find immersion to be used as an excuse to disempower players who are not spell casters and specifically magic then becomes a work around since nothing can break immersion when its  thing of pure fantasy...
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I'm not sure balance is an axis to itself, as I don't see anything being gained by less balance, and I can't think of anything balance necessarily conflicts with. There might be a balanced by system vs balanced by DM axis, but I have a feeling that distinction is a load of crap.

Two axis I think could be added to the discussion are modular vs class/archetypes and level vs point buy.
...whatever
Balance might be in there...
I find immersion to be used as an excuse to disempower players who are not spell casters and specifically magic then becomes a work around since nothing can break immersion when its  thing of pure fantasy...


I think that's your peculiar fixation, Garthanos.  There's nothing inherent in immersion that requires linear fighters and quadratic wizards (LFQW).  You're correlating that simply because 4e was the first D&D that emphasize abstraction over immersion as well as balance over freeform.

But I can envision a fine balanced game that is also immersive and does not suffer LFQW.
I There might be a balanced by system vs balanced by DM axis, but I have a feeling that distinction is a load of crap.



GURPS has as part of its paradigm the idea that anything a player puts on his character sheet is a request and a responsibility of the DM to incorporate... there disadvantages are largely almost entirely balanced by DM.  HERO is less so since there are mechanical guidelines about how often a disad must show its ugly head. (Note I dont know the absolute latest of these games and they may be somewhat different right now)

It feels different than its broken fix it... style balanced by the DM.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Two axis I think could be added to the discussion are modular vs class/archetypes and level vs point buy.



Sure.  There are probably dozens of axes we could make-up.  But I think those are smaller axes on the basis of whether one is going to enjoy a game.
Two axis I think could be added to the discussion are modular vs class/archetypes and level vs point buy.



Sure.  There are probably dozens of axes we could make-up.  But I think those are smaller axes on the basis of whether one is going to enjoy a game.





I'm not so sure. How many people arguing on forums seem to put forward that the most important thing to them is their ability to customize their character exactly how they want?
...whatever
Considering Mearlsy started with 2nd edition, I'm wouldnt be surprised if he's still hot for it. Nothing worse than living in the past.
  You're correlating that simply because 4e was the first D&D that emphasize abstraction over immersion as well as balance over freeform.



Its a long time D&D issue and one likely to occur because magic doesnt hold up to any limit based on immersion....in fact limits are trotted out as anti-immersive by those whose fantasy insists because its magic it must be more powerful....   where as other aspects do get held down

I can design a magic system that would be more immersive for me because it draws on elements from myth and legend say emphasizing thrice fold returns and similar... it might be weaker than what is accomplished by martial types ... so I guess your point stands... its the D&D context that causes the issue.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I Always like to think of 4E like this:

Tampering with supernatural forces has a cost. You can remake reality, but in turn the supernatural forces will remake you. That sort of power is something you have to sell your soul for.

4Es PCs have a more modest amount of power that doesn't require you to sell your soul for. You can't sell your soul as a PC for a shortcut to power, as when you do you stop being a PC at that moment.
...whatever

The article was thoughtful, but i think the axis described are imprecise and without special definitions present false dichotomies.

I agree with Wrecan that the Story-Tactical axis probably more precisely represents the preferred method of conflict resolution.  I think a more precise horizonal would range from Narrative (conflicts resolved through shared storytellign without mechanical consideration) to Mechanical (there are rules and mechanics to support every type of mechanical adjucation).

I think the Immersion-Abstraction axis is even more imprecise.  WEG Star Wars games (original rules) were a very abstract and for me at least a highly immersive rules set.

I think the heart of what is being touched on is whether the rules set is a physics engine explaining how the game world works, or the rules set is a story engine, driving the tropes of the campaign.  I think recongnizing where the rules lie on this Objective (rules-as-physics) to Subjective (rules-driving-story) provides more insight.


I Always like to think of 4E like this: Tampering with supernatural forces has a cost. You can remake reality, but in turn the supernatural forces will remake you. That sort of power is something you have to sell your soul for. 4Es PCs have a more modest amount of power that doesn't require you to sell your soul for. You can't sell your soul as a PC for a shortcut to power, as when you do you stop being a PC at that moment.



Thrice fold returns is about the nasty you do gets back on you.. the Bloodmage path can be reflavored as a reflection of it.. instead of being ahem "cutting" you are spending your luck as presented in hit points to empower your agressive magic. Its a system with its own concept of balance built in.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Abstract rules put the immersion in the players hands and so can be the most immersive because they intertwine witht the players understanding instead of the game designers.

The opposite of Abstract is Concrete...

Concrete rules can be destructive to immersion.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Its a long time D&D issue and one likely to occur because magic doesnt hold up to any limit based on immersion....


I disagree 100% with that statement.  Immersion is simply whether the rules of the world are consistent regardless of whether pCs are in it.

A low-magic game can be just as immersive as a high-magic game.  Immersivity has little to do with how powerful magic is and everything to do with the justification for the magic.

in fact limits are trotted out as anti-immersive by those whose fantasy insists because its magic it must be more powerful....   where as other aspects do get held down


That's because those people are choosing high-fantasy as the touchstone for their world.  They are choosing a milieu and then judging other systems against that milieu.

Which gets me back to my initial point.  Your correlation of immersivity and freeform comes from your fears of what others think, not anything to do with the actual terms.

its the D&D context that causes the issue.


Yeah.  more precisely, it's a specific subset of D&D fans who push your buttons that's the issue.
I would probably be classified as an immersion/story DM, based mostly on the 13 year AD&D campaign I ran circa 1984 to 1997.  So why am I running a 4th edition campaign?

Interestingly enough, what attracted me to the 4e mechanics was the very abstract nature of the powers, some even to the point of seeming totally arbitrary as to what they do and how they do it (teleportation, in particular).  I decided this was an ideal vehicle for a fey-centric campaign where everything works the way it does because of the capricious whim of powerful entities who have molded a bit of the dreamstuff to their own personal liking (with "current reality" based on the twisted history of such whims).  In a sense, I've taken the abstraction and turned it into immersion.
The funny thing is, when I started the campaign, informing all the players of the fey-centered theme and encouraging appropriate choices for the setting, absolutely nobody in the initial group chose a race of fey origin.  And, perhaps predictably, the native fey creatures of the environment are generally considered to be adversaries by the character group.  I try to keep combats short which is difficult without tinkering with the rules a bit because none of my players have optimized and they tend to split up quite a bit in pursuit of their own goals.  Though the group's adventures "seem" unfocussed, there are underlying currents which are steering them.  Eventually there will be an "epic" battle whose outcome will change the course of local history and the PCs will be the determining factor (will they side with the elves, gnomes, and eladrin, or will they cheer their misfortune?).
My campaign is very choice-centered, and so I have to adapt to whatever the characters do.  It's challenging, but rewarding.

It would appear from the edition classifications according to Mearls, that the editions have been travelling clockwise around the 2-axis grid.  Will things continue to cycle in this direction (back to AD&D style)?  Apparently I am using 4e in a way opposite to its strengths, but I don't care.  It works for me.  But then, I also let players bring 2nd edition D&D characters into my AD&D campaign!  Nobody complained or seemed to care.  Maybe I'm an aberrant?Laughing

-DS

Concrete rules can be destructive to immersion.


You're getting hung up on the semantics.  Numerocentric (my term for what Mearls calls "immersive") rules need not be "concrete".  3e was very numerocentric, but still used very non-concrete idea like hit points.

In this way, Mearls use of "abstract" is also imprecise.  He's not talking about limiting rules to things that have real-world analogs, like "wounds" instead of "hit points".  He's simply talking about the objectivity of the rules.  (Though using "objective" and "subjective" is also problematic as terms go.)

There are no perfect words for what Mearls is describing.  We have to be careful that we're accurately discussing the concepts and not getting hung-up on the specific words.
Balance might be in there...
I find immersion to be used as an excuse to disempower players who are not spell casters and specifically magic then becomes a work around since nothing can break immersion when its  thing of pure fantasy...



Agreed. Why is it always "realistic" that magic is awesome? Why not have it suck? Provide incredibly weak mechanical benefits? That its so obscure and hard to produce, that the only reason people pursue it is because its rare?

Of course, that wont do for the camp that really just wants to play Mage the Awakening while forcing their pals to play chump mundanes.


There are no perfect words for what Mearls is describing. 


Making it purely of questionable usefulness.

Semantics are meaning not something you can just hand wave away thats the core of communication.... hell yes I am hung up on it... concrete rules that pretend they simulate something but do it badly are far less immersive than abstract ones

  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 


The article was thoughtful, but i think the axis described are imprecise and without special definitions present false dichotomies




QFT
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."