Heroic Fantasy vs Epic Fantasy vs Super Heroic Fantasy ???

K without getting into an edition war (as to which is superior and which is inferior) I was wondering if anybody could help me differentiate between “Epic Fantasy” “High Fantasy” Heroic Fantasy” and “Super Heroic” Fantasy and how these might relate to the design of a traditional RPG like dungeons and dragons.

Heroic Fantasy has common characteristics such as setting being otherworldly, etc. and other charistics such as (from wiki) “Frequently, the protagonist is reluctant to be a champion, is of low or humble origin, and has royal ancestors or parents but does not know it. Though events are usually beyond their control, they are thrust into positions of great responsibility where their mettle is tested in a number of spiritual and physical challenges. Although it shares many of the basic themes of Sword and Sorcery the term 'Heroic fantasy' is often used to avoid the garish overtones of the former.[



Epic and High Fantasy seem to have the same charistics but possibly more focused on defeating or ending a great evil.


Super-Heroic Fantasy- is much harder to define… the definition of a super hero (especially considering a human character like Batman or the Punisher) is very hard to nail down. I guess I would say a Super Heroic fantasy is more of a feeling I get… or when every one of the main characters has some set of rare powers vastly superior to normal humans. I guess for me the power level is what makes the difference between Heroic Fantasy and Super Hero fantasy….


Would you have a better way of defining these terms?


I really didn’t play 3.5, I am playing in a PF campaign and it does seem extremely super-heroic to me in that most superheroes from marvel could reach a close approximation by around 10th level with a properly optimized character, some (like Captain America, Hawkeye etc) in a slightly weakened form at 1st level.


4.0 also seemed more super-hero than high fantasy because of the power level of the characters even as first level adventurers. It wasn’t just that they had the capability to use magic, it was that the magic they used was more typical of much higher levels of play than in previous editions , such as fey step (similar to d-door gained as a racial ability)  


Arguably in all editions characters progress from gritty fantasy, to heroic fantasy, to wuxa to superherodom (though to me, 4e leapt right into superherodom at first level.) However, the mechanics of say a fighter in AD&D remained the same to the mechanics a mundane NPC would use when trying to attack an opponent, where as later editions relied more on improved class features, paragon, specialization, advanced feats or powers to greatly improve on how a melee character might attack.


The power level and availability of magic items also seemed to increase with each edition especially once characters were given the ability to craft their own permanent magic items.


Your thoughts?

"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
Well, even in 1st ed AD&D magic users, clerics, druids, and illusionist were, at their highest points of power, MUCH more powerful then 4th edition or what's shaping up in Next. The disconnect between the disbelief over a fighter knocking an enemy prone, doing 3d8 damage, and shifting once a day vs allowing a magic-user to summon a pit-fiend and engage in mental combat with enemies while sitting in a prismatic sphere is hard to reconcile in my mind. So 1st edition, aside from the first 2 levels, ended up with even more of the super power feel. Until 3rd with it's multi-classing brokenness.  Any game that has front loaded classes that lets you got 1/3/4/1/1/1/4/3/1/4/2.6/π/4  is going to feel unbalanced and will lead to some very over the top combos.

All 4th did was trim off the early weak tail and make things a bit more "rational" with the approach to wearing armor, using weapons, and having options for the players in each turn.

So power level analysis seems a bit off.

Additionally, terminology like what you are using will only lead to a constant debate. Because, on the internet or even face to face with D&D people... well lets just say D&D people can't even agree water is wet.

Ultimately it comes down to this:  do you want to fight kobolds and rats (with the occassional boss sewer rat) in a "gritty" low power game or fight dragons, titans, and demon princes in a fantastical game? 
I liked 4e's 3-tier approach.

1-10: Farmer to olypians.  (save the city).
11-20: Olypians to super-human.  (save the country).
21-30: Super-humans to super-saiyans gods.  (save the muli-verse).


Though 21-30 got beyond the general populace, as many people had trouble solving or creating plot's on the level of gods.

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F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

Epic Fantasy: The main characters are exceptional, their adventures and actions can change the fate or History of full kingdoms. Most of times is in a fictional world or universe.

High Fantasy: Magic and Supernatural forces have got a great influence over civiliations and society. In the HF the dragon doesn´t live in the far mountain but he is the king, or he controll the kingdom. 

Super Hero Fantasy: The main characters, heros or villains have got paranormal powes and they are more powerful that rest of people, too much. Only a exceptional group have got that level of power. Some examples could be some mangas/animes like Dragon Quest, or the Mattel franchise He-Man and the Master of Universe..

Usually the superhero fiction happens in the current real world. 

* Wikipedia says Epic Fantasy and High Fantasy are the same subgenre.  

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Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

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I liked 4e's 3-tier approach.

1-10: Farmer to olypians.  (save the city).
11-20: Olypians to super-human.  (save the country).
21-30: Super-humans to super-saiyans gods.  (save the muli-verse).


Though 21-30 got beyond the general populace, as many people had trouble solving or creating plot's on the level of gods.



Yes, that's that's how it works in 4E. The difference in 4E as you progress is how you affect the world.
In reality 4e characters are quite mundane mechanically, even the magic ones. They hardly wield any power to bend reality to their will, even at the higher levels. What they get with progression is a wider array of options (tools) and the capabilty to shift bigger numbers, but that's about it.

I'm not sure if a 'super-heroic fantasy' actually exists. But if we think about power levels, translating to rpg games, perhaps we can look at things this way:

- Gritty fantasy: Warhammer, Games of Thrones

- High fantasy: D&D, Pathfinder

- Cosmic fantasy: Exalted, Mythender

Mal- I think your being pretty selective with that completely unoptimized vanilla fighter, with all the racial/background choices available in 4e I suspect a character like that may not actually exist.


Further, theres no reason that a 6th level party could not take on all those fantasticall creatures your talking about, it would just take more planning, forethought, and yes roll playing over rocket tag dice rolling a better question might be would I rather have my 1st level character be able solo a titan or not? (not saying thats what 4e is doing, just saying thats not a game style I enjoy)

also heres a pretty good arguement for all the characters in Lord of the Rings being below 6th level, (sort of the reason why theres a 6e in the first place...) thealexandrian.net


Usk- thats a pretty good aproximation but it kind of fails when the progression of the characters is vastly different from system to system... for example, in AD&D I dont think I ever got a character legally above 14-15th level and that character I played for 6yrs gaming 8 hrs every week, yes the character went from relitive farmboy to uber "new monk" of doom... but it took   six    long      years.... very different than my PF character thats gone from 1st to 8th with sessions lasting around half as long in less than 6 months.  

"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
To me there are two different aspects talked about here.

One is of scope, how many people and how much of the world are you affecting.

The other is of reality warping, how flexible is your world is and how high the power level is.

Heroic is Low-Medium scope and and Low-Medium power. You can affect cities and a single kingdom but you rarely do things that are unbelievable or miraculous.

Superheroic and Paragon are both Fantasies where one is high and one is low or medium. They are differentiated by which ones are which. Superheroes is high power with a lower scope (Superman save Metropolis). Paragon is high scope with a lower power (Frodo saves Middle Earth).

Epic is High on scope and unbelievability. You are affecting the world with big effects.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!


Usk- thats a pretty good aproximation but it kind of fails when the progression of the characters is vastly different from system to system... for example, in AD&D I dont think I ever got a character legally above 14-15th level and that character I played for 6yrs gaming 8 hrs every week, yes the character went from relitive farmboy to uber "new monk" of doom... but it took   six    long      years.... very different than my PF character thats gone from 1st to 8th with sessions lasting around half as long in less than 6 months.  




I don't know about progression tbh. It's been years since I've used actual xp. Normally I decide what kind of progression rate I'm happy in a given game and work from there. In our 4e campaign it took us 3 years to get from lv 1 to lv 16 playing once every 2-3 weeks. Our personal sweetspot is 3-4 sessions per level as it feels about right to get familiar with the new 'toys' and enjoy them in play before itching for something new.

Also now that we are experienced with the sytem I wouldn't have a problem starting a campaign at Paragon or even Epic tier if that fits the theme and the mood. 
To me there are two different aspects talked about here. One is of scope, how many people and how much of the world are you affecting. The other is of reality warping, how flexible is your world is and how high the power level is. Heroic is Low-Medium scope and and Low-Medium power. You can affect cities and a single kingdom but you rarely do things that are unbelievable or miraculous. Superheroic and Paragon are both Fantasies where one is high and one is low or medium. They are differentiated by which ones are which. Superheroes is high power with a lower scope (Superman save Metropolis). Paragon is high scope with a lower power (Frodo saves Middle Earth). Epic is High on scope and unbelievability. You are affecting the world with big effects.



humm... I think that actually is a much better way to put it, I guess I was discussing more about power level in general. very high powerlevel being superheroic... but yeah I think using those discriptors would be better.

"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax

Mal- I think your being pretty selective with that completely unoptimized vanilla fighter, with all the racial/background choices available in 4e I suspect a character like that may not actually exist.


Further, theres no reason that a 6th level party could not take on all those fantasticall creatures your talking about, it would just take more planning, forethought, and yes roll playing over rocket tag dice rolling a better question might be would I rather have my 1st level character be able solo a titan or not? (not saying thats what 4e is doing, just saying thats not a game style I enjoy)

also heres a pretty good arguement for all the characters in Lord of the Rings being below 6th level, (sort of the reason why theres a 6e in the first place...) thealexandrian.net


Usk- thats a pretty good aproximation but it kind of fails when the progression of the characters is vastly different from system to system... for example, in AD&D I dont think I ever got a character legally above 14-15th level and that character I played for 6yrs gaming 8 hrs every week, yes the character went from relitive farmboy to uber "new monk" of doom... but it took   six    long      years.... very different than my PF character thats gone from 1st to 8th with sessions lasting around half as long in less than 6 months.  




If you don't like high level play then don't play with the high level rules. If you want characters to have the option of defeating powerful critters without using combat or combat stats nothing stops you from doiong so. However, tactical cannot be removed from the essence of D&D as that it's root. And whereas you can handwave roleplaying encounters to your heart's content when it comes to a challenging combat numbers and rules are important.

Anyways BECMI and AD&D sort of set the precedent that D&D was meant to be high fantasy. Presence of Wish, Alter Reality, the various planes, Deities and Demigods book etc.  are all evidence of that.

4th had a higher power at the start (admittedly characters were much more robust) but much lower at the tail. I mean the numbers were higher sure.. but what you could actually do to the world around you was much lower. The robustness of the characters wasn't strictly numbers on the sheet however. It was also the removal of MANY one shot abilities and other drastically powered monster abilities that changed the whole environment. 
again mal in the time it takes to get to 15th level in 4e I dont think youd be making it past 4th or 5th in our AD&D game and that seems pretty standard from people I'ved talked to, also heck no it was not meant to be high fantasy... it was meant to be high fantasy when and if you ever made it to those high levels which was beyond a huge time commitment taking years of play, it was also extremely difficult with so many save or die effects, and one beholder could wipe a party in a single round of bad saves (it was also a good reason for resurection, wish, and other extremely powerful spells as they were often the only thing that could push open the revolving door of splody character death)

I absolutely do not think the presence of those spells or books means that you would be expected to be playing at that level, there were rules for it but then again there were rules for most everything... its like saying because their are rules for underwater adventures all your games were expected to be taking place undewater when in truth an underwater adventure much less campagin was an extremely rare thing.
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
I was wondering if anybody could help me differentiate between “Epic Fantasy” “High Fantasy” Heroic Fantasy” and “Super Heroic” Fantasy

Nobody can because those things aren't different. There's never been any formal distinction between any of them as far as I know. Any answer you get, including the ones that you just gave, will be invented right on the spot, so there will be little if any consensus. You'll have much better luck trying to get a conversation going about differentiating high- and low-magic settings, or having a conversation about what "gritty" really means if those are the things that you actually want to discuss.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
The 4th edition was the first one that allowed everyone to play a full concept from the 1st level vs. the incompetent people from previous editions.

4th edition was like starting at 3rd level in previous editions, with a far slower progression in power by level. Starting at 3rd level was common in my groups, so I didn't saw any power level change at the start of 4th edition.

4th edition was a trade. Less game breaking abilities for a few against more staying power for everyone.
again mal in the time it takes to get to 15th level in 4e I dont think youd be making it past 4th or 5th in our AD&D game and that seems pretty standard from people I'ved talked to, also heck no it was not meant to be high fantasy... it was meant to be high fantasy when and if you ever made it to those high levels which was beyond a huge time commitment taking years of play, it was also extremely difficult with so many save or die effects, and one beholder could wipe a party in a single round of bad saves (it was also a good reason for resurection, wish, and other extremely powerful spells as they were often the only thing that could push open the revolving door of splody character death)

I absolutely do not think the presence of those spells or books means that you would be expected to be playing at that level, there were rules for it but then again there were rules for most everything... its like saying because their are rules for underwater adventures all your games were expected to be taking place undewater when in truth an underwater adventure much less campagin was an extremely rare thing.



If you played with slow advancement that is you and your group. Explain to me if you get XP from gold value of treasure AND monsters slayed how it was you weren't leveling fast. Look at any published module from that era, most of which were above level 4, and do a quick estimate on how long (in terms of sessions unless of course all you did was talk in the inn..) it would take to level.  It wasn't long. Now why would TSR publish the vast majority of their pages for stuff that was never meant to be played?  My guess is someone is confusing game time with real time.

Add in psionics and even a level 2-3 character has quite a bit of power.

Ignoring 80+% of the rules and all the supplements which were intended for play to try to prove a point is not proper. Your houseruled version of the game is unique to you.
The 4th edition was the first one that allowed everyone to play a full concept from the 1st level vs. the incompetent people from previous editions.



Yep, pretty much this. If I have a concept of say, a blood-thirsty vampiric Blackguard it's easily do-able from 1st level (Human with the Vampiric Bloodline feat + Blackguard class OR Vyrloka Blackguard) instead of v3.5's way using the Unearthed Arcana's Bloodline traits, spending 3 levels on some abilities and playing until 10th level where I finally get into the Blackguard Prestige Class or taking the Half-Vampire template and sacrificing 2 levels (due to the +2 LA). When the game-system allows for interesting and non-standard concepts AND they work in balance with other options, it's an amazing thing. I can only hope D&D:Next provides this as well.  

As for the question: I too think 4E's tier system was a decent attempt at making the levels of play different within the scope of complexity (both story and character abilities). “Epic Fantasy” and "Super-Heroic Fantasy" (to me) feels very much the same. In this, players have more capability of dealing with events that affect a much larger region (City, Nation, Globe) vs. a small village or 50 mile region. I tend to think of Epic characters willy-nilly Teleporting to the bad-guys, flying is the norm, flashy spells galore, weaponmasters cleaving through ranks upon ranks of enemies. 

“High Fantasy” is normally (to me) the area where the heroes are already established as "heroes" and people are requesting their aid to solve bigger problems. This is ususally where I see most D&D-based novels occur such as the Forgotten Realms. Characters could be classified as mid-level between 8th and 15th level. Super hard magic (8th and 9th level spells) are possible but usually at great expense and difficulty. Also, the scope is a bit bigger as they deal with greater threats such as Adult Dragons, Abyssal monsters, creatures of the Far Realm, and Liches. They also should be attracting attention from notable powers from the setting and organizations as well.  

"Heroic Fantasy” (to me) is the starting point of every adventure. Whether or not your 1st level or 3rd level or 5th level, most of the time the monsters are goig to be the same: Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Drow, Kobolds, a young Dragon, Yuan-ti, Lizardfolk, undead (zombies, ghouls, skeletons). These often take place at the center of a small village or town and often start with the removal of a pest that's attacking the roads or taking peasants or causing local problems that the guard/militia is too busy to bother with.

As to whether 4E's characters were considered more "powerful" when it comes to the scopes, I really don't think it's a fair judgement when you compare them across the boards of all editions. Sure, a 4E Fighter could use Brutal Strike with a maul and deald 6d6 damage but keep in mind that Goblins had approx 50 HP, Kobolds 29 HP, Orc Scout 46 HP. So with ALL the numbers inflated, that 6d6 might kill a 1st level monster that wasn't a minion. Further, special abilities such as the Eladrin's Fey Step could only be used 1/encounter AND you needed line of sight. Take away their vision and it's not possible to use.   

 
 

Heroic Fantasy has common characteristics such as setting being otherworldly, etc. and other charistics such as (from wiki) “Frequently, the protagonist is reluctant to be a champion, is of low or humble origin, and has royal ancestors or parents but does not know it. Though events are usually beyond their control, they are thrust into positions of great responsibility where their mettle is tested in a number of spiritual and physical challenges. Although it shares many of the basic themes of Sword and Sorcery the term 'Heroic fantasy' is often used to avoid the garish overtones of the former.[







Careful when trying to use popular nomenclatures like that because they sometimes have different meanings in different medias. 
I wouldn't go outside the D&D scope here to seek an answer to your question.

If you reach out to literature for example, Epic Fantasy means something more on the lines of George RR Martin's Game of Thrones: with world-changing events, big wars and such. But has nothing to do with "power level" of characters.
Tolkien would also be considered Epic Fantasy, and yet he has a totally different approach on the fantastic elements in the setting, the ammount of magic, what his heros are capable of, etc.

So it's easier to stick only to concepts as they're normally used in games.
And even then it's all very vague, because it's only a matter how people like to name things.
Fantasy when it comes to power, scope, and weirdness are totally different toggle switches.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

it was simple mal, we did more actual roleplaying than anything else, maybe 20% of an 8hr session involved combat, as for treasure we played low magic so there wasnt much, and yes after about humm... 4 yrs the DM did come up with his own xp system wich basically kept our progression the same with less record keeping.  BTW our DM went by the old "rogue's gallery" for what say a 10th level paladin should posess... IE a +2 sword and a +1 suit of platemail.


again I think the vast majority of the stuff TSR produced was made for games centering around 6-12th level, then add everything from dragon and you'd be pretty convinced a non-epic fantasy game was what they created where adventures over 15th level were few and far between. people did have different ways of playing but generally you had the main D&D players, and the weird subcultures where the monty hall DM's ran around giving out epic items and offered an "anything you want" game.


PS Psionics lol, yeah and you had about a 2% chance of having psi assuming you had at least one high mental stat, and even then you'd be pathetic compared to the things who would hunt you any time you actually tried to use a psi ability (that second level character wouldent have fun with the random demon prince...)        


as to 4e allowing you to play a full concept from first.... I absolutely agree and its one of the things I hated, it was like walking into a game where everyone was starting not as a trainee, or young apprentice but as a fully seasoned Conan, there was almost no room for character development unless that development was "how do I get moar uber?" 
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
That wasn't really the ideal way of playing 1st IF you wanted to make it through any of the published adventures which is what we used. That said every table has the right to play as they wish. It doesn't mean that's how the game is RAW though.


Relative to the monsters, 4th wasn't that powerful. The monsters got scaled up as well. What it did was take out the proverbial house cat crits wizard scenario. So I would argue relative to the 1st the power scale was a bit more linear and less exponential. And hunting someone for using psionics is as punitive as hunting someone for using magic or a sword. If the DM wants you dead you are dead.

Now I have no issue with a lower magic world. It's just easier to have the assumption and balance around a game structure that has an idea of how many and how powerful the  magic items ought to be in a default setting. And remember not only will every table have a different idea of what should be default but over time that table's vision of what ought to be default will change as well.

I think D&D ought to stay high magic, relatively epic fantasy as the default with guidelines to houserule or optional rules even on a lower magic world.  4th was lower level in terms of high end character power because of the removal of the power spells. So the ability to impact the world directly with character channelled power, even with the 4th ed rituals was gone. I would prefer a higher top end power structure similar to 1st-3rd but that is the one area where I think it's impossible to balance and I don't know how well that flies with the modern gamer.
Everything is locked to the most ridiculous spell any given spellcaster can do at that level.
Whether or not you demand the "mundane" guys never transcend the approximate scope of "epic plumber" is your own mental block.
Additionally, terminology like what you are using will only lead to a constant debate. Because, on the internet or even face to face with D&D people... well lets just say D&D people can't even agree water is wet.



This is the most truthfully post I have seen in my life about the people on the D&D forum. 

I think high level D&D equal Dragon Ball Z. 

5e might feel different, but in 3.5e this was so true. All I can say is lance, *something charge(3 times the damage with lance while charging on mount*, and power attack. At 10lv, you doing 60 damage with power attack alone if you take the full penalty. 

Fantasy has several variables.

How powerful/unusual are the heroes and how powerful do they become? (Farmer's boy? Local Hero? Legend?)
How fantasic is the setting? (Is there magic? Floating islands? Is there an end to the world?)
How fantasic are the people/creatures in the setting? (Are there supernatural monsters? Supernatural races? Only normal things you could find in the real world?)
How many people does the arc of the story affect? (The local town? The kingdom? The world? Several universes of reality?)

If each of these has only three settings "high/med/low" then you have 81 different types of fantasy.

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

I think people tend to overestimate the extent to which small mechanical changes change the scope and feel of the game. I've heard no end of other PF players say things like, "I'm using a relatively conservative point buy because this is going to be a gritty, hardscrabble game", as though having a few +1s here and there is the difference between staving off rats while you sleep and leaping from dragonback to dragonback.

In my experience in the wide world of RPGs, the one constant that really feels like it's tied closely to where a game really feels like it falls on the continuum is how the healing rules work. D&D games universally have extremely generous healing rules, and thus are all the way on the not-so-gritty end. Even if you're only familiar with D&D, you can still see the effects of this. They include things like people believing that you need monsters with abilities like level drain or save-or-die attacks because those are "scary". The reason that those are scary is because D&D doesn't really make getting hurt all that scary, and hence the "scary" things are the ones that circumvent the basic combat system. In systems with less liberal healing rules, taking normal damage is actually scary, so you don't need monsters that operate outside that paradigm to do that.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
hardscrabble

I learned a new word today!

>> says he doesn't want a edition war
>> keeps focusing on 4E while offering praise to other editions for their contrast to 4E

Also allow me to contribute "Super Heroic Fantasy" is a term for "edition I don't like" and is in fact quite a useless term.


as to 4e allowing you to play a full concept from first.... I absolutely agree and its one of the things I hated, it was like walking into a game where everyone was starting not as a trainee, or young apprentice but as a fully seasoned Conan, there was almost no room for character development unless that development was "how do I get moar uber?" 



You're mistaking concept for competence here:

Let's say my concept is Fire Mage.

In edition X I spend 7 levels casting magic missile for paltry damage then at level 7 I get the spell Fireball which let's me fry dozens of enemies at a time.

In edition Y I spend 7 levels casting fire arow for paltry damage then at level 7 I get the spell Fireball which let's me fry dozens of enemies at a time.

In the case of X I start of without competence yet gain it as I level and I can play my concept at level 7.

In the case of Y I start of without competence yet gain it as I level and I can play my concept at level 1.
I was about to enter the discussion quoting exactly those last words from Baalbamoth, but Bronze_Hero stepped in and made the argument I would have made in a much more concise post... Bravo, my friend .

Anyway, I think our friend's dislike for the ability to portray one's concept from level 1 will maintain. If I know anything about points of view such as these, even the "Fire Mage" of edition Y "hurts" his sense of what D&D should be. It doesn't matter that the character is feeble, he should have "earned" the right to create his concept.

If I'm not mistaken, there is a particular perspective from some D&D players that level 1 characters should be common people who just managed to find a rusty sword (or spellbook). No only must they be as competent as a peasant, they must even be conceptually close to a peasant.

To this trend of thought, it would go something like this: "Where's the fun in being able to portray the character I want from level 1? I want to earn the right to become such character!"

To them, the fun is being able to "become" the character you envisioned in the end of the game. The "reward" for playing such character.

I see nothing wrong with such playstyle... Respectfully, I prefer to be able to portray a character concept as early as possible, preferrably, from the get go.

It seems it would be very hard to reconcile our view with points of view such as Baalbamoth's. Just one more dichotomy the designers must solve for the "one edition to rule them all"...

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Also, while I do not agree with everyhing Lesp said, our fellow poster raises some very interesting points to the discussion on this thread. Recommended reading! ^^
Are you threatening me master jedi? Dungeons & Dragons 4e Classic - The Dark Edition

as to 4e allowing you to play a full concept from first.... I absolutely agree and its one of the things I hated, it was like walking into a game where everyone was starting not as a trainee, or young apprentice but as a fully seasoned Conan, there was almost no room for character development unless that development was "how do I get moar uber?" 



To me, it really depends on the concept sought after and knowing the limits any specific concept has when looking at the rules of the game. If your concept is a Captain America-style (ie. NOT PLAYING STEVE RODGERS CAPTAIN AMERICA) character where your base weapon is a shield and you use more fists, kicks, and throwing your shield at people, that should be a concept that can be achieved at 1st level (your shield would need an enchantment later down the road that allow it to fly back however) instead of waiting for Level X for such-and-such Feat chain to play itself out + Specialized Paragon/Prestige class entry. But if your concept is similiar to Superman in that your faster than a speeding bullet, bend steel beams, fly at-will, x-ray vision, shoot lazer rays out of your eyes.....yeah that's not gonna (or ever should) be a 1st level concept unless the effects are so minimal to be questioned if it's worth it. Simply put Achieved Character Concept =/= MOAR DAMAGE.

Now, there are some concepts that aren't game-breaking but definity outside the Realms of normalicy. For example, I really enjoyed my Werebear Berserker character who was from Rasheman and couldn't control his primal side. So he left his homeland in search of adventure outside his nation's walls. He had the Pack Outcast theme to which I just re-flavored the Wolf Lycanthropy to Bear Lycanthropy element and it seemed to work fine. When he went into "Berserker" mode, the Bear would come out and he could bite people (as per the rules of the theme) and he looked like a bear. Like this


And the character was a LOT of fun to play. I wasn't looking for AWESOME-GAME BREAKING MECHANICS that allowed me to rule over the battlemat or as some mythic legend akin to Conan in terms of power. The character had an interesting quirk that came out from time to time and it was represented a bit within the ruleset. This, I see nothing wrong with.
Actually, to read about or to play in, I prefer very mundane heroic, as in "I just joined the army and no amount of plot armor will save me from a well aimed arrow" which is more of a sword and sorcery feel.
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Thank_Dog wrote:

2Chlorobutanal wrote:
I think that if you have to argue to convince others about the clarity of something, it's probably not as objectively clear as you think.

No, what it means is that some people just like to be obtuse.

Like I said in the first page, there seems to be two aspects in this conversation Fantastic Power (so powerful the fantasy elements are) and Fantastic Frequency (How common the fantasy elements are)

There are high power low frequency worlds, low power high frequency worlds, high high world, low low (gritty) worlds and everything in between.

Then you can add scope into play

For example, 4e Default Paragon is high frequency, low power, moderate scope Fantasy. 4e's paragon PCs have a ton of "weak" fantastic effects to save the kingdom/realm with.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I liked 4e's 3-tier approach.

1-10: Farmer to olypians.  (save the city).
11-20: Olypians to super-human.  (save the country).
21-30: Super-humans to super-saiyans gods.  (save the muli-verse).


Though 21-30 got beyond the general populace, as many people had trouble solving or creating plot's on the level of gods.


I never saw the Heroic Tier as that, as even level 1 characters were far above farmers and able to kill grown dragons. Level 1 characters in 4e felt very much like level 3 or 4 characters in earlier editions. 

It's been said that 3e has 4 teirs:
1-5: Gritty fantasy
6-10: Heroic fantasy
11-15: Wuxia
16-20: Superheroes
(5 if you add "21+:Epic") 
This can change based on the tone of the game an availability of magic (as well as the starting point buy). 

K without getting into an edition war (as to which is superior and which is inferior) I was wondering if anybody could help me differentiate between “Epic Fantasy” “High Fantasy” Heroic Fantasy” and “Super Heroic” Fantasy and how these might relate to the design of a traditional RPG like dungeons and dragons.


D&D is actually better descibed as a mixture of Sword & Sorcery and High Fantasy. It draws equally from the pulp Conan fantays and the Lord of the Rings fantasy.

The other terms (epic, high, heroic, super-heroic) are all pretty much synonums compared to Sword & Sorcery; they're a matter of scale and degree. The stakes. The potency of the heroes. Etc. 

Would you have a better way of defining these terms?


It's pretty nitpicky, so no, not better than the above. 


Arguably in all editions characters progress from gritty fantasy, to heroic fantasy, to wuxa to superherodom (though to me, 4e leapt right into superherodom at first level.) However, the mechanics of say a fighter in AD&D remained the same to the mechanics a mundane NPC would use when trying to attack an opponent, where as later editions relied more on improved class features, paragon, specialization, advanced feats or powers to greatly improve on how a melee character might attack.

The power level and availability of magic items also seemed to increase with each edition especially once characters were given the ability to craft their own permanent magic items.


Your thoughts?



I think magic items took a power hit in 4e, while PCs got a boost. The necessity of magic in 3e and 4e made it less potent. 

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

Fantasy has several variables.

How powerful/unusual are the heroes and how powerful do they become? (Farmer's boy? Local Hero? Legend?)
How fantasic is the setting? (Is there magic? Floating islands? Is there an end to the world?)
How fantasic are the people/creatures in the setting? (Are there supernatural monsters? Supernatural races? Only normal things you could find in the real world?)
How many people does the arc of the story affect? (The local town? The kingdom? The world? Several universes of reality?)

If each of these has only three settings "high/med/low" then you have 81 different types of fantasy.


I tend to have 3 variables: 
1) How powerful are the heroes?
2) How fantastic is the world? This is setting and monsters. 
3) How much magic is there?

Your last point - what is the scope of the story - can vary from campaign to campaign while the other variables remain constant in the setting. The Forgotten Realms is high power and medium-high magic but medium fantasy, but how many people the tale affects can vary from a personal tale of the heroes to Realms-shaking events.

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.


It's been said that 3e has 4 teirs:
1-5: Gritty fantasy
6-10: Heroic fantasy
11-15: Wuxia
16-20: Superheroes
(5 if you add "21+:Epic") 
This can change based on the tone of the game an availability of magic (as well as the starting point buy).

Those tiers themselves strike me as high fantasy. It's certainly possible to design a game like that, but I don't think that 3.5 was it. By level 10 (some) PCs had access to abilities that actual superhero games about actual superheroes (like HERO) caution against letting PCs have access to at all because they're so potently adventure-altering. (And in the case of divination, even earlier.) 3.5 with magic very severely restricted might look like that, I guess. Similarly, I don't think starting point buy has any effect on game tone whatsoever that can actually be noticed by humans. I'm not convinced that without carefully reverse-engineering a character's stats and calculating the point buy from that that somebody watching a game, even if they watched it for hundreds of hours, would ever be able to determine which point by was used. A number of d20 products (though not, to the best of my knowledge, D&D itself) have contributed to the idea that altering point buy has a meaningful effect on tone with little tables that suggest just that, but the effect just isn't very strong at all.

Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
It's been said that 3e has 4 teirs:
1-5: Gritty fantasy
6-10: Heroic fantasy
11-15: Wuxia
16-20: Superheroes
(5 if you add "21+:Epic") 
This can change based on the tone of the game an availability of magic (as well as the starting point buy).

Those tiers themselves strike me as high fantasy. It's certainly possible to design a game like that, but I don't think that 3.5 was it. By level 10 (some) PCs had access to abilities that actual superhero games about actual superheroes (like HERO) caution against letting PCs have access to at all because they're so potently adventure-altering. (And in the case of divination, even earlier.) 3.5 with magic very severely restricted might look like that, I guess. Similarly, I don't think starting point buy has any effect on game tone whatsoever that can actually be noticed by humans. I'm not convinced that without carefully reverse-engineering a character's stats and calculating the point buy from that that somebody watching a game, even if they watched it for hundreds of hours, would ever be able to determine which point by was used. A number of d20 products (though not, to the best of my knowledge, D&D itself) have contributed to the idea that altering point buy has a meaningful effect on tone with little tables that suggest just that, but the effect just isn't very strong at all.



In many ways, the difference between heroic fantasy / swords & sorcery and high fantasy is the scope of the menace and motives of the heroes. D&D can effortlessly move between the two, even in the same campaign or even in the same adventure. The DM might be telling an epic story akin to LotR but the players might be motivated by loot and ony seeking personal goals. 

3.5 doesn't need restricted magic to be gritty until level 6+, you just need to play by the rules. Using the expected wealth guidelines, characters shouldn't see a magic sword until level 4 or so.  

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

In many ways, the difference between heroic fantasy / swords & sorcery and high fantasy is the scope of the menace and motives of the heroes. D&D can effortlessly move between the two, even in the same campaign or even in the same adventure. The DM might be telling an epic story akin to LotR but the players might be motivated by loot and ony seeking personal goals. 

3.5 doesn't need restricted magic to be gritty until level 6+, you just need to play by the rules. Using the expected wealth guidelines, characters shouldn't see a magic sword until level 4 or so.  

That's the thing, though. Magic Swords - except for extraordinarily powerful ones, swords with world-changing power or perhaps intelligent swords - don't change the sort of story that occurs or what kind of action can or does take place. A game where someone gets a +1 sword ten minutes into the adventure and a game where someone doesn't get one until level eight are essentially identical adventures, unless the sword's magic is played up far more than I feel is at all typical. On the other hand, an adventure where somebody can reverse significant injuries with little trouble is wildly different in tone and plays out very differently than one where that capability doesn't exist.

Quantitative math adjustments like higher point buys or getting (simple) magic items have to be fairly extreme in order to nudge the tone meter even a tiny bit, but qualitative differences like the presence of healing and divination magic that heavily influence the way things play out have dramatically stronger effects.

-----------------

I should note that when I place D&D on one end of the scale, I don't mean that as an insult. I like how things work in D&D. I think that a lot of people want to seem like they're hard to the core more gritty = more better I ain't no pansy hard to the core old-schoolin' gangster style with the grittiness or whatever, but I've played a lot of games where the mechanics do lend themselves better to that sort of thing, and I prefer D&D. I don't like games that feel like they're about the characters getting messed up worse and worse until they're essentially disabled. The words "permanent injury table" once sounded sweet and gritty to me; now when I see them in a TTRPG sourcebook I just think of campaigns that sputter out in intensity with time.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Fantasy has several variables.

How powerful/unusual are the heroes and how powerful do they become? (Farmer's boy? Local Hero? Legend?)
How fantasic is the setting? (Is there magic? Floating islands? Is there an end to the world?)
How fantasic are the people/creatures in the setting? (Are there supernatural monsters? Supernatural races? Only normal things you could find in the real world?)
How many people does the arc of the story affect? (The local town? The kingdom? The world? Several universes of reality?)

If each of these has only three settings "high/med/low" then you have 81 different types of fantasy.


I tend to have 3 variables: 
1) How powerful are the heroes?
2) How fantastic is the world? This is setting and monsters. 
3) How much magic is there?

Your last point - what is the scope of the story - can vary from campaign to campaign while the other variables remain constant in the setting. The Forgotten Realms is high power and medium-high magic but medium fantasy, but how many people the tale affects can vary from a personal tale of the heroes to Realms-shaking events.



I'd combine player level and setting level (in both power and frequency). D&D has never been good at handling settings, monsters, and players at variosly different levels.

To me it is really a convestions f Power and Frequency with Scope being an aspect of how Power and Frequency can affect multiple characters.

Nethir Vale's expanding scope was due to the Underdark and other planes being MUCH stronger than the material plane. Paragon and Epic PCs are high scope because the setting's Surface Material Plane would mostly be curbstomped by the other planes. Giants, Devils, and Drow would curbstomp Nethir Vale's human knights and dwarf soldiers at default. Whereas FR's scope is low because there are so many strong stuff, one guy can't shake things up without being at least a demigod.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Like I said in the first page, there seems to be two aspects in this conversation Fantastic Power (so powerful the fantasy elements are) and Fantastic Frequency (How common the fantasy elements are)

There are high power low frequency worlds, low power high frequency worlds, high high world, low low (gritty) worlds and everything in between.

Then you can add scope into play

For example, 4e Default Paragon is high frequency, low power, moderate scope Fantasy. 4e's paragon PCs have a ton of "weak" fantastic effects to save the kingdom/realm with.




My personal favourites are high frequency worlds whether it be low power or high power, I can live with a low frequency low power world, but I absolutely hate low frequency high power worlds.
Like I said in the first page, there seems to be two aspects in this conversation Fantastic Power (so powerful the fantasy elements are) and Fantastic Frequency (How common the fantasy elements are)

There are high power low frequency worlds, low power high frequency worlds, high high world, low low (gritty) worlds and everything in between.

Then you can add scope into play

For example, 4e Default Paragon is high frequency, low power, moderate scope Fantasy. 4e's paragon PCs have a ton of "weak" fantastic effects to save the kingdom/realm with.




My personal favourites are high frequency worlds whether it be low power or high power, I can live with a low frequency low power world, but I absolutely hate low frequency high power worlds.



Low frequency high power fantasy is the most common in books and most most media. Many books have only a few mages, magic items, and magical creatures. This is because the author can control believability easier while doing whatever he or she wants with it. You can have a kingdom nor repel or be destroyed if there are only one or three dragons or demons.

But it is harder with real players as controlling the few shifts of massive power is a lot more difficult. So you get a lot of Heroes vs Super Wizard/Dragon/Demon.

But on the other hand, high high fantasy is harder to making a working game with due to balance and creating believable obstacles..

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

In many ways, the difference between heroic fantasy / swords & sorcery and high fantasy is the scope of the menace and motives of the heroes. D&D can effortlessly move between the two, even in the same campaign or even in the same adventure. The DM might be telling an epic story akin to LotR but the players might be motivated by loot and ony seeking personal goals. 

3.5 doesn't need restricted magic to be gritty until level 6+, you just need to play by the rules. Using the expected wealth guidelines, characters shouldn't see a magic sword until level 4 or so.  


I should note that when I place D&D on one end of the scale, I don't mean that as an insult. I like how things work in D&D. I think that a lot of people want to seem like they're hard to the core more gritty = more better I ain't no pansy hard to the core old-schoolin' gangster style with the grittiness or whatever, but I've played a lot of games where the mechanics do lend themselves better to that sort of thing, and I prefer D&D. I don't like games that feel like they're about the characters getting messed up worse and worse until they're essentially disabled. The words "permanent injury table" once sounded sweet and gritty to me; now when I see them in a TTRPG sourcebook I just think of campaigns that sputter out in intensity with time.



I think the problem here is what you expect out of gritty, I dont think gritty adventures are ones where the characters get more and more messed up over time... for me its it bit more of whats in the realm of possiblity, what risks are associated with what actions. In a game where a single PC can wipe the floor with twenty normal humans, or can hit a button and be wisked away from combat or any fear of consequence for their actions, the game takes on a completely different tone. Likewise, in a game where no PC ever really has much chance of death, there is not much risk to playing, and thus not much reward for survival or sense of achievement to actually reach the higher levels. for me thats the key to gritty, risk vs reward. 

can a theif of equal level to the PCs have a good chance of killing a PC should he strike with complete suprise? can a group of towns people create any real threat? 

as a side note, people talk about how mages are awesome in comparison to fighters... that fighters and melee classes serve little purpose... I think thats because the DM's are not including enough risk in their games. in our AD&D games clerics had the most survivability unfortunately you had to become the party's heal bot... not a lot of fun, second to that was the fighters. mages and theives were the first to die, low hp, cant cast in combat, very poor AC, that was the balance to being able to do so much more, and advance in so many more ways than the admittedly simplistic and limited fighter.
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
I think the problem here is what you expect out of gritty, I dont think gritty adventures are ones where the characters get more and more messed up over time... for me its it bit more of whats in the realm of possiblity, what risks are associated with what actions. In a game where a single PC can wipe the floor with twenty normal humans, or can hit a button and be wisked away from combat or any fear of consequence for their actions, the game takes on a completely different tone. Likewise, in a game where no PC ever really has much chance of death, there is not much risk to playing, and thus not much reward for survival or sense of achievement to actually reach the higher levels. for me thats the key to gritty, risk vs reward.



I won't exactly argue semantics, but I can tell you what I'm pretty sure most people will agree on as far as what "gritty" means.

"Gritty" means low-power, hardscrabble resources, high lethality games. This really is a combination of 3 "dials" in how you arrange your campaigns, but the term is a common one.

Thusly, when you ask for a "gritty" game, you're wanting to be Joe Schmuck-meister the middle-aged rat-catcher, with a rusty family heirloom sword and a limp to begin with, that sets out with other guys to kill the drake that stole the local nobles daughter. He'll probably die along the way, but not before he maybe kills a few gnolls for some petty silvers he can use to buy a "watered-down healing potion".

What you are talking about - the threat level of the campaign - is not something hard-coded into the game; in fact, it's variable based upon the PCs, because what is hard for some groups will be cakewalks for other groups based only around how optimized some players like to play (not min-maxed, optimized - as in a fighter that likes to be good at fighting so he doesn't die).

Overall, a gamn should support variable threat levels. Some people like needing two back-up characters for whe (not if) their current character dies; some people like having one character get deep into the story and if they were to die, for it to be a dramatic and interesting death - staving off the army of skeletons just long enough for his compatriots to make it out alive, or sacrificing himself to finally kill the evil lich.

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

I'm ok with you getting yours as long as I get mine, thats why I keep saying the success of D&D next will almost totally depend on the modularity of the rules, and too much "this is standard everything else is optional" language and that modularity becomes less and less worthwhile as now you have to battle stronger and stronger player expectations.


I would agree gritty means low power, hard scramble resources, high lethality (to me high lethality is about one PC death every 6-10 sessions) I would also add low magic, and slow leveling. A gritty game is just a game slightly more on the realism scale. I could see how a middle aged, disabled, rat cather could be very gritty but that wouldent be any kind of standard as far as I've played... players still get to be bad ass. 

as far as heroic deaths... yeah thats what a PC should want 2nd to not dieing, but IMHO it shouldent be guarenteed, a seemingly near pointless death or deaths caused by stupidity should happen. matter of fact I'd say death by stupidity was the most common way PCs would die in our campaigns...

"your trying to lure the giant nigh-invulnerable bog monster out of the swamp by dressing in a cow suit and hanging out on the edge of the water.... um... yeah you get your wish..."

"your climbing up the narow peak where the dragons are... while they are flying in circles around it and you dont have a fly or feather fall... um...ok I guess start making a lot of rolls..."

not heroic at all and yet these were some of the most memorable moments in our game, filled with suspense, often death, and occasional great success the likes of which we can still rave for hours about. take that away, force every death to have great meaning, make it so a PC can only die in extreme circumstances and almost all of what makes an adventure great goes away.        
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax