Exception-Based Design?

The funny thing is, I can almost envision what that game would look like. It would be something like a streamlined 5e where tactical positioning mattered (but cutting out confusing action elements like Bonus Actions, can't trade actions for "lesser" actions), a player could perform maneuvers like trip/grapple but it would be easy for the GM to adjudicate (without needing "action cards"), characters aren't pushovers at 1st level but don't become superheroes.
Maybe then Dragonbane is something that could interest you. I personally was not such a big fan because it felt too reminiscent of 5e for me, but it mostly would fit what you describe (it is roll-under instead of roll-over, though, due to having a BRP part in its DNA).
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
To spring-board off my "RPG Exhaustion" and "Character Creation App Dependency" threads, I'm thinking about something that adds to my frustration. The exception-based design present in games like D&D 4e, 13th Age, and Pathfinder 2e. Consider the following 1st-level fighter abilities - which are not limited usage (like a daily or encounter power). This is something the player (and GM) must keep up with constantly, along with likely 4+ other abilities ... all for a beginning character.

Tide of Iron Fighter Attack 1​

After each swing, you use your shield to shove your foe backward, and then you surge ahead.
At-WillMartial, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Requirement: You must be using a shield.
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and you can push the target 1 square if it is no larger than one size category larger than you. You can then shift 1 square into the space that the target left.
Level 21: 2[W] + Strength modifier damage.

Skilled Intercept​

Once per round as a free action, roll a normal save (11+) to intercept an enemy who is moving to attack one of your nearby allies. You can pop free from one enemy to move and intercept the attack. If you are engaged with more than one enemy, the others can take opportunity attacks against you.

The moving enemy makes its attack with you as a target instead. If you’re wearing heavy armor and the attack hits, you only take half damage.

Double Slice[two-actions]Feat 1​

Fighter
Source Player Core pg. 140
Requirements You are wielding two melee weapons, each in a different hand


You lash out at your foe with both weapons. Make two Strikes, one with each of your two melee weapons, each using your current multiple attack penalty. Both Strikes must have the same target. If the second Strike is made with a weapon that doesn’t have the agile trait, it takes a –2 penalty.

If both attacks hit, combine their damage, and then add any other applicable effects from both weapons. You add any precision damage only once, to the attack of your choice. Combine the damage from both Strikes and apply resistances and weaknesses only once. This counts as two attacks when calculating your multiple attack penalty.

It just seems a lot to keep up with, needing to constantly reference rules books or printed character cards.

While I've been doing this for years, I feel like my brain just "snapped."
The DCC RPG warrior is, I think, the single best version of the “do cool stuff” fighter in the fantasy RPG space. You can, of course, skip the funnel.

The warrior’s main feature is Mighty Deeds of Arms. You roll a die based on your level and if it’s 3+ and your attack hits, you get to perform a maneuver. What kind of maneuver? Anything you can think of that’s physically possible and fits the situation. That’s it. That one short rule replaces every 4E fighter power, every 5E maneuver, and dozens of pages of feats and rules exceptions.

If that’s not your bag, check out the OSR and/or rules light games. They’re a dream to run compared to heavier games. Shadowdark is good and there’s a Mork Borg for everyone. Cairn. Knave. Black Hack. Black Sword Hack. Old-School Essentials. Dolmenwood. So many wonderful choices.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Since you seem to be most comfortable with D&D like fantasy, why not switch to something in the OSR area? Something modern and clean, like Shadowdark or Knave?
Shadowdark works really well for cognitively overloaded 5E DMs. Any time you "slip" and include a 5Eism, it's almost certainly compatible and won't screw anything up, while your brain adjusts to ideas like not needing to track AoOs or reactions, etc.
 


Laurefindel

Legend
I love exception-based design when the base system is very simple. In theory, the basics should be easy to grasp and to remember, and players and monsters gain abilities allowing them to either a) add to the general rules in certain conditions or b) ignore the general rules in certain conditions. WFRP 1e and 2e remain my favourite exception-based systems.

The more complex the base system, the least I like exceptions to it. A good workaround is when exceptions are "planned" in the base system. For example, i like the concept of bonus action in D&D because the base system acknowledges that characters will have extra abilities. Bonus action helps to codify them in a broad category.
 

Retreater

Legend
In general, I think people complaining about "exception-based design" are mostly complaining about how heavy the rules are more than anything else. It's a complaint about preference while feigning being merely descriptive. You can tell that to be the case because people only seem to use it to describe systems they wish to criticize.
I used it because that's what the 4e designers used to describe 4e at the time. Perhaps the usage has changed in the 15-ish years since.
 


billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
I used it because that's what the 4e designers used to describe 4e at the time. Perhaps the usage has changed in the 15-ish years since.
I don't think it's a wrong term - there's a difference between games that have some exceptions (like chess and Monopoly) and ones that are heavily based on it. And 4e is definitely heavily based on it. Exactly how much it really differentiates 4e from earlier editions of D&D may be subject to debate and discussion on whether "exception-based design" is really that useful or a buzz word pulled out of somebody's tuchus.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
That my experience the first time I ran Pirate Borg. We blasted through the adventure (Buried in the Bahamas), but my face literally ached from laughing so much.
It's a fantastic game. But that's generally my experience with the OSR and lighter, more focused games. They run at light speed compared to heavier games and you're too busy being in character, staying in the fiction, and enjoying yourself playing to notice it's suddenly four-hours later and your face hurts from smiling or laughing.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
To spring-board off my "RPG Exhaustion" and "Character Creation App Dependency" threads, I'm thinking about something that adds to my frustration. The exception-based design present in games like D&D 4e, 13th Age, and Pathfinder 2e. Consider the following 1st-level fighter abilities - which are not limited usage (like a daily or encounter power). This is something the player (and GM) must keep up with constantly, along with likely 4+ other abilities ... all for a beginning character.

Unfortunately, its got such a strong heritage in the D&D sphere that you're pretty unlikely to get away from it there. About the only place you tend to see effect based design is some superhero games and some universal games (though there are games that aren't fully into that which are still less prone to going completely down the exception-based rabbithole; RQ3 spells tended to be built to a quasi-common metric so even though they weren't effect based, they were still easier to keep track of).
 

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