Abstract or Concrete? From 1e to 4e to Next.

Perhaps it always was this way, but it seems to me I can remember differently.  (And I'm not saying better.)

I simply hear a lot of discussion going on, and the differing sides seem to want two different things: concrete rules or abstract rules.  I can sincerely say, the abstract rules were what 4e was all about.

Take HP's.  Yes, they've always been abstract (although I wasn't smart enough to realize it till second edition), but with the advent of healing surges they became definitively abstract.  (Are those two words allowed together like that? Laughing)  Attributes have became much less concrete.  I mean, there was a time when a higher intelligence simply meant you learned more than the players with low intelligence.  Now there are arguments in favor of having the fighter learn just as much and as quickly as the wizard with an 20 intelligence.  Then there are the words within the game; whether it be effects or powers: fireballs being allowed to work underwater; a 4,000 pound dragon being able to be knocked prone by a two pound club.

So I guess my question is: How abstract should the ruleset be?  Mind you, I'm not talking about being flexible or adaptive.  I have seen plenty of rulesets that are concrete that allot for tremendous ranges.    

And if it is abstract, how does that affect the DM-player relationship?

   
If I understand the 4ed crowd correctly, then they don't want abstraction for the sake of abstraction, but they like healing  surges because the healing surges provide intesting gameplay for the fighter. I haven't seen anybody asking for abstraction for the sake of abstraction, but some people want abstraction for the sake of gameplay.

I personally like concrete rules because I have a fragile verisimilitude, but opinions differ. We all have different wishes for 5ed.
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Abstract.

Soulless bureaucrat rules lawyers can go play Pathfinder.
Abstract.



I agree with you on wanting the Abstract.


Soulless bureaucrat rules lawyers can go play Pathfinder.



Funny, I feel the exact oppiste. 
See, we've had some pretty abstract stuff in our PF games. 
And yet when we played 4e?  We always felt constrained in that "board gamey" type of way.  If that's the feeling I want?  Then I'll just pull out an actual board game....  
And abstraction is a simple thing that represents a complicated thing.

The abstract of a scholarly paper is a simple layout of the much more complicated whole.

1E combat is abstract. It abstractly represents the numerous complex actions of 1 minute of combat with, quite often, 5 to 10 rolls for the entire party.
4E combat is not abstract. It concretely and in detail represents the numerous complex actions of 1 minute of combat with, quite often, a hundred or more rolls. It details each action, each movement.

It's part of why you can play a 5 minute combat in 1E in 5 minutes. Playing a 1 minute combat in 4E takes an hour. (You probably shouldn't do it, this is just an example to illustrate what abstract means)

edit: The word you might be looking for is 'Disassociated'. Maybe. I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at. But a 2 lb. club knocking down something because that's better for the game, rather than not knocking it down for whatever emulatory reason, is a disassociated mechanic. I think.
So I guess my question is: How abstract should the ruleset be?  Mind you, I'm not talking about being flexible or adaptive.  I have seen plenty of rulesets that are concrete that allot for tremendous ranges.


Pretty darn abstract, please.

We all know different stuff to different degrees, but we tend to think we know more stuff better than we actually do. One man's gritty realism is another's affront to science. I don't think RPG writers need to be physicians or historians or physicists or theologians or philosophers, although they should make a reasonable effort to make sense, at least until they find themselves researching the elasticity of arteries or the tensile strength of steel or whatever other arcane topic.

I'd rather see a game that is respectful of the how and what of fantasy than one that tries to be a primer on real science. Those of us who want to quibble over what we think we know about cause and effect are going to do so no matter what, and the more the game attempts to say how the real world works, the more it will likely be wrong. Abstraction lets us fill in the blanks as much as we are capable of and interested in doing so.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Should also note that abstract doesn't necessarily mean vague. Not detailing the precise placement of every organ is being vague. Using hitpoints is an abstraction.
Should also note that abstract doesn't necessarily mean vague. Not detailing the precise placement of every organ is being vague. Using hitpoints is an abstraction.


Sure, I can see how hit point rules are abstract (hit points don't mean any one thing) but specific (something happens when you reach a certain number). I take abstraction to mean omission of mechanism but specificity of results - is that something like what you mean?

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

And abstraction is a simple thing that represents a complicated thing.


Or multiple things... 

 But a 2 lb. club knocking down something because that's better for the game, rather than not knocking it down for whatever emulatory reason, is a disassociated mechanic. I think.



When I knock down the dragon with my knock down assault its independent of weapon
It might be... 


  • because I hook a vulnerable spot on its wing and the flap of its other wing throws itself to the ground 

  • because I do a last second dodge and its own attack drives it to the ground

  • because I hit a spot that causes a momentary knock out.

  • because I break the shale on which the huge beast tries to step.



Clue its player associated - you know using imagination... just like you can supposedly describe "I hit it with my sword" in vivid distinct ways... except I get effects that are interesting in tactical ways.



  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."

 

Should also note that abstract doesn't necessarily mean vague. Not detailing the precise placement of every organ is being vague. Using hitpoints is an abstraction.



True hit points arent just 1 thing.

In 3e you do a trip and it has a series of subrules to make sure it acts just like a trip with all the limits of one in 4e a move might be a trip but really its not just one thing. 
  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."

 

There is nothing wrong with abstraction but 4th edition took it to a level where it broke the suspension of disbelief in my opinion and thats hard to do in a high fantasy setting.  Things like daily and encounter melee and ranged powers didn't make any sense at all to me, even as an abstraction.  Healing surges were rationilized abstraction to create personal heals help with the balance, it never made much sense to me either.


Certain abstraction I could kind of get into like the skill system, but I always felt the skill categories where too broad and created a game of word play and rationilization between the player and GM, I had quite a few doozies in my time with 4th edition, it was annoying arguing about it all the time as I was required as the GM to basically say no to often clever if not grossly inacurate and unrealistic abstracted rationalization.  One of my favorite was a a player trying to convince me that he could use his superior knowledge and intelect to figuire out the aero dynamics of a jump and that he should be able to use his knowledge rather than his acrobatics to clear a difficult jump over a cliff.  Thats 20 minutes of my life I would like to have back.  


The big problem with too much abstraction is that in most cases the players are trying to garner mechanical results from these abstracted skills and abilities that have few rules governing them, so ultimatly you are creating the mechanics anyway but rather than the book providing them you have to make them up on the fly.  This results in a lot of inconsistancy and need to create house rules about certain types of actions that players take.


For all its effort I found 4th edition was one of the most difficult games to GM as the lack of solid definitions and in many places rules left the game to GM whims, something I experianced both as a GM and as a player.     

My Blog (The Gamers Think Tank)

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

Sigh. I have a feeling this thread is about to not be about abstraction anymore.

I wish threads could be on distinct topics, instead of "abstract = 4E = bad" leading into a general debate about powers, healing surges, etc.

Not trying to hassle you, X - just tired of every thread being the same. 

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Sigh. I have a feeling this thread is about to not be about abstraction anymore.

I wish threads could be on distinct topics, instead of "abstract = 4E = bad" leading into a general debate about powers, healing surges, etc.

Not trying to hassle you, X - just tired of every thread being the same. 

Yeah, when people confuse player issues with system issues, that can happen. This is an example of a problematic player, not problematic rules: 
One of my favorite was a a player trying to convince me that he could use his superior knowledge and intelect to figuire out the aero dynamics of a jump and that he should be able to use his knowledge rather than his acrobatics to clear a difficult jump over a cliff.  Thats 20 minutes of my life I would like to have back.

 
 

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.
Yeah, when people confuse player issues with system issues, that can happen. This is an example of a problematic player, not problematic rules:




I agree with you, but I don't really blame the player for trying.  After all when the entire skill system is nothing more than a total abstraction, rationalizing your actions as you describe what and how you are going to do it, is a pretty natural thing for someone to do.  I mean I resolved it by simply making a GM call, but it was a GM whim.  I could have simply let him do it, as it was quite a clever rationalization.  The point I was making is that, it simply didnt make sense even as an abstraction.  The bottom line was that you don't jump over cliff using your superior knowledge of physics.

EDIT

Just wanted to add that Im not really against this sort of thing.  I just thing the system should be a little tighter is all.

My Blog (The Gamers Think Tank)

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

I agree with you, but I don't really blame the player for trying.  After all when the entire skill system is nothing more than a total abstraction, rationalizing your actions as you describe what and how you are going to do it, is a pretty natural thing for someone to do.  I mean I resolved it by simply making a GM call, but it was a GM whim.  I could have simply let him do it, as it was quite a clever rationalization.  The point I was making is that, it simply didnt make sense even as an abstraction.  The bottom line was that you don't jump over cliff using your superior knowledge of physics.

EDIT

Just wanted to add that Im not really against this sort of thing.  I just thing the system should be a little tighter is all.


This goes back to Kaldric's distinction between abstract and vague. If 4E had simply furnished you with a list of skills and a kind wish for good luck, then I'd understand this a little more. But there is a description for each skill. Athletics is for jumping - there are even formulas that tell you how far you can go based on your check results. If someone wants to argue that Intelligence = knowledge of physics = jumping ability in that context, it's his issue. It's not a whim or a flight of fancy to say that he's wrong to ask for this. Heck, as another player at the table I'd have asked him to stop being absurd.

Again, can we please treat threads as somewhat distinct and not as opportunities to air any tangential grievance that comes to mind?

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Yeah, when people confuse player issues with system issues, that can happen. This is an example of a problematic player, not problematic rules:




I agree with you, but I don't really blame the player for trying.  After all when the entire skill system is nothing more than a total abstraction, rationalizing your actions as you describe what and how you are going to do it, is a pretty natural thing for someone to do.  I mean I resolved it by simply making a GM call, but it was a GM whim.  I could have simply let him do it, as it was quite a clever rationalization.  The point I was making is that, it simply didnt make sense even as an abstraction.  The bottom line was that you don't jump over cliff using your superior knowledge of physics.

EDIT

Just wanted to add that Im not really against this sort of thing.  I just thing the system should be a little tighter is all.

I can agree with that, but we just never encounter these types of issues at our table.  The general understanding that we all have is that the DM makes his decision and that decision is accepted during the session so as to not interrupt game play.  Any discrepancies are discussed and debated after the session.

In my eyes, the line between being clever and trying to manipulate the rules is rather vivid, even when dealing with abstraction.  Your example seems rather extreme, but could actually occur with just about any rule system, particularly D&D (any edition).
Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.
In my eyes, the line between being clever and trying to manipulate the rules is rather vivid, even when dealing with abstraction.  Your example seems rather extreme, but could actually occur with just about any rule system, particularly D&D (any edition).




Your definitly right, it could and in fact does happen all the time across any system.  I've seen it handled in a lot of different ways by different systems, but I think the point is that its usually addressed to a greater degree than was in 4th edition.  Even in older versions of D&D, but I agree the line between clever and manipulative is a thin one.


What I would like to see in the future edition would be more attention to the definition of things like skills in particular even if not handled by hard fast rules, but perhaps more elaboration on what the skill or ability is, what its used for with more attention to detail.  Sometimes it really does boil down to the writing and attention of what it means to have a 5 in Acrobatics as opposed to simply defining acrobatics in a two word sentence and giving it its combat application.  I also really like how some rule systems create more generic rules for more common actions and activities players often narrate that create these kind of problems.  I'm in love with WFRP's "Perform Stunt" action card which so simply but so eliquently created a very well defined rule system for an extremly broad range of physical actions. There is a social version as well as a few other in and out of combat things like alternative and narrated uses of mages that create and manipulate fire for example. 


The devil is in the details and I guess what Im saying is, Im fine with abstraction, go nuts, but define the scope of it, give me as a GM a way to read the skill and derive its proper use and application.  Its not a deal breaker for me, of course i can come to these conlcusions as a GM, but really why aren't we doing it?  Are we trying to save some trees or something?  I mean how would it hurt the game to have a better definition of how a skill can be used?  

My Blog (The Gamers Think Tank)

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

  Are we trying to save some trees or something?  I mean how would it hurt the game to have a better definition of how a skill can be used?  



I think over tight definitions is more of an excuse to define how an ability cant be used.... 
  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."

 

It depends on what level of abstraction you use.

Rules are abstract. They can try to come more or less close to particular events, but rules are abstract.

At what level is it abstract? It also depends. How much can your fantasy stand before your suspention of desbilive and your immersion break and you start thinking "what the **** is happening here?"

Knocking a huge dragon prone. It could happend. It just should be so hard to be almost impossible. He is bigger than you are, he is stronger, he i clever, he often stands on four legs, so have better balance than you. if luky or in particular situations you can knock it prone. Mostly not. If, playing, I see the fighter makeing a dragon prone twice or more I'll just start laughting and thinking "that dragon is surely terribly drunk!"

So yes, rules are abstrac, but for me they should keep closer to what seems realistic.
In my eyes, the line between being clever and trying to manipulate the rules is rather vivid, even when dealing with abstraction.  Your example seems rather extreme, but could actually occur with just about any rule system, particularly D&D (any edition).




Your definitly right, it could and in fact does happen all the time across any system.  I've seen it handled in a lot of different ways by different systems, but I think the point is that its usually addressed to a greater degree than was in 4th edition.  Even in older versions of D&D, but I agree the line between clever and manipulative is a thin one.


What I would like to see in the future edition would be more attention to the definition of things like skills in particular even if not handled by hard fast rules, but perhaps more elaboration on what the skill or ability is, what its used for with more attention to detail.  Sometimes it really does boil down to the writing and attention of what it means to have a 5 in Acrobatics as opposed to simply defining acrobatics in a two word sentence and giving it its combat application.  I also really like how some rule systems create more generic rules for more common actions and activities players often narrate that create these kind of problems.  I'm in love with WFRP's "Perform Stunt" action card which so simply but so eliquently created a very well defined rule system for an extremly broad range of physical actions. There is a social version as well as a few other in and out of combat things like alternative and narrated uses of mages that create and manipulate fire for example. 


The devil is in the details and I guess what Im saying is, Im fine with abstraction, go nuts, but define the scope of it, give me as a GM a way to read the skill and derive its proper use and application.  Its not a deal breaker for me, of course i can come to these conlcusions as a GM, but really why aren't we doing it?  Are we trying to save some trees or something?  I mean how would it hurt the game to have a better definition of how a skill can be used?  


The Compendium entry for acrobatics has a brief definition, details on balancing, damage taken when balancing, escaping a grab, escaping restraints, hopping down, and reducing falling damage. At the end of the entry are examples of improvised uses ranging from combat stunts to tumbling to impress an audience.

It seems like you're determined to go on about what isn't in the game no matter what though - should I give up on posting facts? And why do you insist on obliterating the distinction between "abstract" and "vague," even disregarding that you are talking about this fictional game system with no rules?

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

 
Knocking a huge dragon prone. It could happend. It just should be so hard to be almost impossible. 



As impossible as casting all those spells which warp reality left right and center?
  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."

 

It depends on what level of abstraction you use.

Rules are abstract. They can try to come more or less close to particular events, but rules are abstract.

At what level is it abstract? It also depends. How much can your fantasy stand before your suspention of desbilive and your immersion break and you start thinking "what the **** is happening here?"

Knocking a huge dragon prone. It could happend. It just should be so hard to be almost impossible. He is bigger than you are, he is stronger, he i clever, he often stands on four legs, so have better balance than you. if luky or in particular situations you can knock it prone. Mostly not. If, playing, I see the fighter makeing a dragon prone twice or more I'll just start laughting and thinking "that dragon is surely terribly drunk!"

So yes, rules are abstrac, but for me they should keep closer to what seems realistic.


I think a big problem people have with 4E's abstract rules isn't actually with the abstract rules, but with the fact that powers have names and sample descriptions.

I, too, would have trouble believing a dragon could be knocked prone in the same manner by the same character repeatedly in combat. This is where player imagination comes in, though: because the game rules don't actually do all the descriptive work, the player is free to say that the first time the fighter manages to surprise the dragon and actually knock it over with the strength of an attack; the next time, the dragon going prone is the end result of several rounds of the fighter weaving and dodging between its legs, setting up allies for crucial unbalancing strikes, angering the dragon so that it doesn't think clearly, etc.
I, too, would have trouble believing a dragon could be knocked prone in the same manner by the same character repeatedly in combat. This is where player imagination comes in, though: because the game rules don't actually do all the descriptive work, the player is free to say that the first time the fighter manages to surprise the dragon and actually knock it over with the strength of an attack; the next time, the dragon going prone is the end result of several rounds of the fighter weaving and dodging between its legs, setting up allies for crucial unbalancing strikes, angering the dragon so that it doesn't think clearly, etc.



It still becomes more 3 Stooges than action adventure at that point. A 5-ton creature standing on all fours being repeatedly somehow knocked prone by a 4-foot Dwarf is just a bad situation, unless you are going for comedy.

There are levels of suspension of disbelief. Some things, like a massive explosion from a spell throwing a dragon around, fit well into the fantasy idiom. Other things, like a Dwarf sticking out his leg and tripping said dragon, are a bit silly.

As impossible as casting all those spells which warp reality left right and center?



That's just a cop-out. Just because wizards can summon fire doesn't mean a fighter can also pick up two shields, start flapping them, and take to the air. There are limits to what is sensible, even within the fantasy trope.
It still becomes more 3 Stooges than action adventure at that point. A 5-ton creature standing on all fours being repeatedly somehow knocked prone by a 4-foot Dwarf is just a bad situation, unless you are going for comedy.

There are levels of suspension of disbelief. Some things, like a massive explosion from a spell throwing a dragon around, fit well into the fantasy idiom. Other things, like a Dwarf sticking out his leg and tripping said dragon, are a bit silly.


Then the simple answer is: don't roleplay the Prone game mechanic as a dwarf tripping a dragon with his leg. This is a game of imagination, it shouldn't be too hard to imagine an alternative.
Then the simple answer is: don't roleplay the Prone game mechanic as a dwarf tripping a dragon with his leg. This is a game of imagination, it shouldn't be too hard to imagine an alternative.



That is the answer if you don't mind silly in your game. And that's a perfectly legitimate style of play. I've been in a few comedy-based games myself.

It's also not always up to your imagination. For example: The Disrupting Advance power is described in detail. "With an attack followed by a violent shove, your enemy flies backward. As it flails for balance, it loses its footing and stumbles into the creatures around it." Using Disrupting Shove, you can simply run at a dragon and, by the rules of the game, the dragon (or colossus, or god) will "flail for balance" and loose its footing.

All this from a Heroic tier ability.

No room for creative interpretation there unless you decide to ignore what is written in the rules. And if you're doing that, the rules had problems.

 
Rules that force abstraction on everyone, much like healing surges do,  should be optional rules in 5e.  

I say don't force abstraction or simulationist rules on anyone.       For example, some people might use Weapon Type rules and others might want more abstraction, but there is no need to force those rules on anyone.  

Personaly, I plan to modify the AC system to incorporate armor absoption, deflection, avoidance, and make use of armor damage points.      I also don't want to use healing surges.

My hope is that 5e supports both types of rules equally.






 


Then the simple answer is: don't roleplay the Prone game mechanic as a dwarf tripping a dragon with his leg. This is a game of imagination, it shouldn't be too hard to imagine an alternative.



That is the answer if you don't mind silly in your game. And that's a perfectly legitimate style of play. I've been in a few comedy-based games myself.
 



Did you reverse your intent? The answer if DO mind silly is to present and describe one of the alternatives.. (like I mentioned up thread). 
  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."

 

It depends on what level of abstraction you use.

Rules are abstract. They can try to come more or less close to particular events, but rules are abstract.

At what level is it abstract? It also depends. How much can your fantasy stand before your suspention of desbilive and your immersion break and you start thinking "what the **** is happening here?"

Knocking a huge dragon prone. It could happend. It just should be so hard to be almost impossible. He is bigger than you are, he is stronger, he i clever, he often stands on four legs, so have better balance than you. if luky or in particular situations you can knock it prone. Mostly not. If, playing, I see the fighter makeing a dragon prone twice or more I'll just start laughting and thinking "that dragon is surely terribly drunk!"

So yes, rules are abstrac, but for me they should keep closer to what seems realistic.


I think a big problem people have with 4E's abstract rules isn't actually with the abstract rules, but with the fact that powers have names and sample descriptions.

I, too, would have trouble believing a dragon could be knocked prone in the same manner by the same character repeatedly in combat. This is where player imagination comes in, though: because the game rules don't actually do all the descriptive work, the player is free to say that the first time the fighter manages to surprise the dragon and actually knock it over with the strength of an attack; the next time, the dragon going prone is the end result of several rounds of the fighter weaving and dodging between its legs, setting up allies for crucial unbalancing strikes, angering the dragon so that it doesn't think clearly, etc.



This is a typical example of what happens far too often with poorly designed abstract rules.   Everyone is forced to pause and re-imagine the situation.   And if there is not a master re-imaginist at the table (like Gargathos), the game is interupted and/or someone rolls their eyes at the rules.  

Abstract rules shouldn't create implausible sitiations.  That defeats the purpose of using abstract rules in the first place.   Does that mean that abstract rules are bad?  No, it just means that the person who designed the abstract rule failed.   

The simple explanation for the event should be plausible by default.   



Then the simple answer is: don't roleplay the Prone game mechanic as a dwarf tripping a dragon with his leg. This is a game of imagination, it shouldn't be too hard to imagine an alternative.


Which gets back to the problem of excessive abstraction.  At its essence, the prone condition is simply (move at half-speed (i.e., crawl), and gain a penalty to AC for melee attacks and a bonus for ranged attacks; end the effect with a move action).  There's plenty of ways to describe that that don't involve falling over.  The dragon rears up and roaring in anger.  The dragon is disoriented at snakes around to get his bearings.  The dragon is surprised by the dwarf's audacity and hesitates as it assesses whether this is an ambush or a bluff.

But that all requires you to abstract the prone condition into something that isn't "prone" and for a lot of people, I've learned, this is a huge psychological barrier to the game.  It removes you from the game as you try to justify the mechanics. 

And it can slow the game down.  Often, a character will invoke a power that does something that is counterintuitive.  And someone says, "Wait.  What just happened?"  So we try to justify how the rogue shifted six squares, stabbed two people, pulled somoeone towards him, shuifted again, and then walked away.  It can be done, but it's a chore.

Personally, it's a chore I relish.  I enjoy that part of 4e combat.  but a lot of my players roll their eyes at it.  They don't enjoy it, it breaks immersion for them.  It's a matter of taste.  Neither of us is wrong.
Rules are abstract in their very nature. The question is, should they try to represent reality? I think not. Rules should try to produce an interesting and fun gameplay. The story being narrated is adjudicated by the rules, rather than described by them. You use rules to determinate the result when there are two possible outcomes in a situation.

That's not the cup of tea for everyone, of course, but it is mine.
Are you interested in an online 4E game on Sunday? Contact me with a PM!
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
No room for creative interpretation there unless you decide to ignore what is written in the rules. And if you're doing that, the rules had problems.



Actually, there is still a whole lot of interpretation going on. The fluff is fluff and not rules - you can refluff the ability however you see fit, and however it might fit the situation. That's why we play this game, actually, weaving a good story together. If every time you use a power you monotonously rumble down the fluff text without any thought that's your fault, not that of the game.

Exactly.
Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.
If every time you use a power you monotonously rumble down the fluff text without any thought that's your fault, not that of the game.


I'm tired of this canard.

If the game does not meet someone's needs, it is the fault of the game.  Maybe it's an intentional fault.  Maybe the game is not intended to be used by him, but it's on the game for being designed in a way that is more difficult for that person.  Too many people have had this problem.  It is clearly a common complaint abotu 4e.  So, yes, it's a fualt of the game, because I don't think 4e intended to turn off so many consumers with this aspect of it.

Stop blaming players for not being good enough to play 4e.  The game was clearly not designed for people who don't enjoy refluffing on the spot.  It's not a game for people who want less abstraction.  The game may have had good reasons for choosing to be more abstract, but that was the game designers' choice, so if that choice alienates a potential customer, it is indeed the game's fault.

This is as pernicious as the "any good DM" fallacy used by 4e detrators.  "It's your fault, not the game's" is a fallacy.  The game is designed to allow for reflavoring, but that game design choice came at a cost.  Maybe it was an unanticipated cost.  Maybe it was a cost you think well worth it.  But it is a cost and the fault lies with the game designers.
And I am tired of the scapegoat.

No one is saying that people are not good enough to play.  People tend (and frequently choose) to ignore the fact that the fluff is meant to be retextured, then they turn around and use it as an excuse when they don't.  They also ignore the suggestions that people trying to help them make, and frequently get offended by it.

"Refluffing on the spot?"  How about refluffing beforehand?  When you create your character and choose your powers?  About preparing situational fluff for your spells?  Sorry, but your argument is not a good argument at all.  People certainly have time to prepare before their sessions.

If you want to place equal blame on the game and players, then I can agree.  But it's certainly not all the fault of the game and its rules, otherwise no one would be playing the game.   D&D has always been about the improvisation and imagination of its players and the DM.  To suddenly turn a blind eye to the very nature of the game is a travesty; the players who choose to do so are as much to blame, if not more, for not recognizing what WotC was attempting to provide: some basic flavor and guidance for those that may need some help along that path or for those that don't have time to do it on their own.

As a default for those that struggle with improv and imagination, the flavor is most welcome.  It's certainly far better hearing the default flavor at the table than "I hit it with my sword."
Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.
No room for creative interpretation there unless you decide to ignore what is written in the rules. And if you're doing that, the rules had problems.



Actually, there is still a whole lot of interpretation going on. The fluff is fluff and not rules - you can refluff the ability however you see fit, and however it might fit the situation. That's why we play this game, actually, weaving a good story together. If every time you use a power you monotonously rumble down the fluff text without any thought that's your fault, not that of the game.



If it's in the rules, it's rules. Wizards bothered to print it and didn't bother to print, "Really...ignore the description text." This is especially true for new gamers (people for whomI DM regularly). They count on reading the book and trusting what is written there. If the book says, "your enemy flails about", then this is what happens.

This text is one of the reasons that 4th edition is less abstract. It often not only describes the power, but even the reaction of the target of the power. It also discourages the very interpretative approach you advocate by providing an interpretation of its own.
People tend (and frequently choose) to ignore the fact that the fluff is meant to be retextured, then they turn around and use it as an excuse when they don't.  They also ignore the suggestions that people trying to help them make, and frequently get offended by it.


Because this thread, and most of the threads where it's discussed aren't threads intended to convert people to enjoying a game they didn't like.  It's a thread for people to explain what they didn't like.

It's not wrong for people to say they don't think about reflavoring and find it more trouble than it's worth.  Saying "We;ll, you're ignoring the toolls the game gives you" is nonresponsive.  Yes!  They are ignoring the tools because they don't find that it's fun!

And it's not their fault they find the tools unfun.  It's the game's fault.

I woudl be with you if this were a one-time problem, with one guy who misread a rule, or has a quirky aesthetic.  but this is not an unusual phenomenon.  Lots of people have complained about this exact problem.  That pulls it out of the "You didn't understand the game" and into "The game is not for you".  And if enough people find the game is not for you, what you have is an underperforming game.  And whose fault is that?  The game's.

your argument is not a good argument at all.


I don't think you understand the argument.  The argument is not that people don't know how to reflavor.  or that people haven't read the rules.  It's that they find your suggestiosn unenjoyable.  They don't solve the real problem: this level of abstraction isn't fun for them.  And that's the game's fault as the game sets the level of abstraction.

It's clearly fun for you, as it is for me, and that's to the game's credit, not mine.  But I cannot in good conscience credit a game for things I like and not also fault the game when it has qualities that other people don't enjoy.

People certainly have time to prepare before their sessions.


Some people find homework not fun.  I can't say I blame them.

If you want to place equal blame on the game and players, then I can agree.  But it's certainly not all the fault of the game and its rules, otherwise no one would be playing the game.


Nope.  i don't blame people for their own aesthetics.  I blame the game for not catering to their aesthetics.  As I said, if that would mean that the game can't cater to theirs and mine, then the game has to choose.  If I don't like a game, that's the game's problem.  If someone else doesn't liek the game, that's the game's problem.  It's almost always the game's problem, unless someone simply and innocently misunderstood the game, but that's not what's being discussed.

As a default for those that struggle with improv and imagination, the flavor is most welcome.  It's certainly far better hearing the default flavor at the table than "I hit it with my sword."


That's contradictory as we were discussing scenarios specifically where the default flavor doesn't make sense with what's happening at the table

No game, as of yet, has been opened by me and provided me with my personal paradise. God, how awfully flawed all those games are, wrecan, you are soooo right!


I didn't say it was "awfully flawed".  I said it was the game's fault for not meeting your needs.  And it is.  Maybe it's because of perfectly legitimate choices the designers make, but in the end, those are the designer's choices and not yours.

You are not at fault for your aesthetic preferences. 

More seriously, how is it the fault of the game? The fault lies, in this case, with the one playing.


It lies with the designers, who chose a level of abstraction that exceeds prior editions, thus makign the game less palatable to those who don't like that level of abstraction (and making it more palatable for those who prefer that level of abstraction).  It is not the fault of the person with a set aesthetic preference.

Rumbling down the provided flavor-text without any thought about the situation at all, then, is a flaw of the player.


No, it's a preference of the player.  Telling them to engage in behaior they don't enjoy is a flaw of your argument.
No room for creative interpretation there unless you decide to ignore what is written in the rules. And if you're doing that, the rules had problems.



Actually, there is still a whole lot of interpretation going on. The fluff is fluff and not rules - you can refluff the ability however you see fit, and however it might fit the situation. That's why we play this game, actually, weaving a good story together. If every time you use a power you monotonously rumble down the fluff text without any thought that's your fault, not that of the game.



If it's in the rules, it's rules.

 

You understand NOW how things were INTENDED.  
Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.
I prefer a more concrete rule system.  I like to be able to look at the rules, and have it explain the world and how it works.  Reading through a handbook I can see that the world has druids, wizards, paladins, etc.  And looking through the spells/rituals (depending on edition) I can see what sorts of things magic users could bring to society, which sort of shapes how societies in the game would would or could be.  I prefer the concreteness of 3.5s abilities, and spells that can't be simply reflavored but are in fact concrete things with concrete effects.  

In 3.5 you specifically know what a smite evil is, what turning undead is, what a power attack is, what wild shape is, what spells are.  In 4e there is a great deal of abstraction, and it's assumed that you can and will reflavor to explain weird situations.  Obviously some people really like that, but I really don't.  It's like in 4e what the power does mechanically takes precedence, and you'll refluff to make it fit a narrative.  I much prefer there to be the fluff (which is actually the thing going on, what it looks like, what is really happening in the universe, since the mechanics don't actually exist in the universe) and have the mechanics fit the fluff in an attempt to explain it and where it fits in with other things.  

Lets take an example of tripping and making a prone a large Dragon.  If you had a power that makes any creature prone with a trip, you'll have to explain how that was possible fluff-wise.  On the other hand, in 3.x the difficulty of tripping was based on how much larger the creature was than you, and whether it was bipedal or quadrupedal.  In the latter example, what is actually happening in the universe (the fluff?) determines the difficulty.  So, in conclusion, while I realize that there must a certain amount of abstractness (I'd never want to attempt total realism) I prefer concreteness over abstraction as a general rule.
That's contradictory as we were discussing scenarios specifically where the default flavor doesn't make sense with what's happening at the table.

No flavor and inconsistent flavor both require improv, so it's rather irrelevant if it's there or not.  Pointing out the distinction is equally irrelevant.

Other than that...  it's neither's fault if a player's tastes do not coincide with a game's flavor.  If people are hellbent on placing blame, then it's equally placed on the consumer and the product.  But quite simply, there is no fault.  It is no different than it's not the "fault" of an author of science fiction if someone doesn't like science-fiction novels.  He wrote the novel for science-fiction fans, not non-science-fiction fans.
Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.
it's neither's fault if a player's tastes do not coincide with a game's flavor.


It's the game's fault because th egame isthe product of conscious choice, while aesthetics is not.  I didn't choose to enjoy the Avengers.  I didn't choose to loathe Avatar.  I didn't choose to like chocolate and hate peanut brittle.

If people are hellbent on placing blame


"People"?!  It was you and Leichenreiter who decided to allocate blame.  I only responded to your decision to place the blame on the player and to completely exonerate the game (and its designers).  So don't try to suddenly forget who it was that decided the blame game was appropriate in this thread. 

there is no fault.


Then I assume you'll apologize to autolycus for agreeing with Leichenriter that it's his fault.  because, clearly, there is no fault, right?

It is no different than it's not the "fault" of an author of science fiction if someone doesn't like science-fiction novels.


Sure it's his fault.  But that's a fault he shoudl happily own up to because in return for alienating people who don't like science fiction, he has pleased those he does.  That's the price of making an aesthetic choice.  When you're the artist, the choices are yours and the fault is yours as well, but so is the credit!
It was you and Leichenreiter who decided to allocate blame.

Incorrect.  The blame was placed on the game rules by autolycus, Leich responded.  You know how I know?  I went back and actually looked.

No room for creative interpretation there unless you decide to ignore what is written in the rules. And if you're doing that, the rules had problems.

As I mentioned, if blame is to be placed, it is equal blame.  Disagree all you want.

I won't take the bait on the rest of your posts.
Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.
If one of the major goals for DDN is bringing in new players (a goal stated by Wizards on multiple occasions) then they need to take this into account.

A new player who makes a character and has his set of powers printed out by Wizards tools is going to trust these things. If he picks up a card and (in the spirit of trusting Wizards to know what they are doing) reads "I rush toward the dragon, which flails about and falls over as I ram my shoulder into him". I wouldn't blame him for feeling a bit silly.

If the card had said nothing except, "through an amazing feat of martial prowess, you render your foe prone" or - better yet - had simply had the damage listed (xd6 + y) and the conditions appllied (prone) then we would have been much better off.

It's the lack of abstraction in the Rules As Written that caused the problem.

I'm not particularly worried about how 20-year veterans of D&D are going to handle themselves around the table. They likely found their groove more than a decade ago. But rules for any game should be written without the assumption that the reader has any pre-existing game knowledge. That's Game Design 101.