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Exception-Based Design?

I think it here is referring to 4e D&D?

My sense of the game is as follows:

* Player-authored Quests + Goal & Stakes-driven noncombat conflict resolution w/ table-facing resolution governed by fail forward/change the situation-state upon resolution + the the deep theme & premise loading of the cosmology/PoL setting/and all the various build components (Background, Class, Theme, Paragon Path, Epic Destiny) + the default transparency and player control of the game engine = either Story Now design and priorities or NeoTrad design and priorities. The pivot points here are the difficulty dial and stakes. If encounters are difficult and stakes/consequences/fallout can dynamically change the course of play, then its a Story Now meets Gamist hybrid. If the difficulty and stakes are muted (with similarly muted dynamism of situation-state and gamestate), then its NeoTrad.

* Alternatively, a GM can "say no" (which you're specifcally told to "say yes") and control the Quest system, forgo Skill Challenges, and try to work against all of the other aspects of system and ethos that really make Traditional play rather difficult with 4e. Good luck (but why would you when there are plenty of better alternatives?)!

* Alternatively alternatively, the group can basically play and prep a Pawn Stance action-adventure, Gamist crawl. It won't work like Classic D&D crawling, but it absolutely works swimmingly in its own way.

But 4e trivially works best (and was clearly intentfully design) as a Story Now meets Gamist hybrid or a NeoTrad experience.
My 'it' was referring more to my game, HoML, but in terms of GOALS there's little light between the two. 4e's power system, AEDU and the long list of specific powers per class, however serves a more Narrativist design well, IMHO, especially in the sense of getting rid of a lot of spamming. My game, for reasons of sheer unwillingness to author thousands of powers, does more of a condensed approach where almost any feat (power in 4e parlance) can be used by anybody, if they select it, and you drive your "what can I use now?" decisions based on power point usage (actually, what will make a big splash NOW). So, there's a lot more 'sameness' in terms of what people use in my game and its a lot more a choice that is up to the players as to what they mix and match together, so it probably supports more of a "I'm defining what my character is in a fictional sense" kind of thing than 4e does, where you sort of 'follow a path' to a greater degree and each character has all these weird little unique bits.

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Thomas Shey

I agree, there was EDITORIAL 'rule of thumb' on what WotC published (and they definitely gave those guidelines to the freelancers that did most of the actual design) but there wasn't a 'point system' or something behind the scenes. And there are some powers that break the rules in 4e, that just are not like other ones. Often one would appear like that and it would then become a sort of template for others, but it was quite possible to do different stuff. This is quite different from a game like Champions where basically all the powers end up being reflavoring of 4 or 5 effects, and the point system strongly encourages almost identical designs because there is high synergy between certain things. It is also an easy system to 'game', and thus the GM is required to play police, not a situation that would work within 4e's paradigm.

I will again note that after some capping and a couple of special cases I dealt with, the last two Hero campaigns I ran did not have any meaningful "gaming" of the mechanics. It certainly possible to game them, but easy overstates it, and I'm pretty firm that if there's one game out there I know better than any but a handful of people alive, its that one.

The usual method with Fantasy Hero was to have the spells and special traits predesigned. They were still easier that with exception based design because the core elements were all in common, and the mechanical descriptions told you how they were configured just by what was there.


Nearly every edition of D&D is an exception based game? 4e is the odd one out.
I'd call AD&D (and BECMI) an ad-hoc-based game. There's little to no overarching mechanic: combat works one way, reaction rolls another, thief skills in a third, surprise a fourth, and so on. So there's really nothing to be an exception from.

3e is the first with an overall task resolution mechanic (except Turn Undead for some reason), but I'd still call it exception-based because of all the feats and spells. A Trip works in a certain way, except if you have Improved Trip in which case it works differently.

4e leaned hard into being exception-based, with the basic mechanics mainly being a scaffolding on which the powers/exceptions hangs. You rarely make a "basic attack" in 4e unless triggered by something, in which case that something is generally the exception.

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