Now that my fun adventures in the land of potato genetics are done, let's get another batch of responses done
General comment on balance: I don't think that getting balance without an acceptable band is THAT hard, the main problem with 3ed balance was that if one party had a cleric and a fighter and another party had two clerics the second party would be better if they had one fight a day (could Nova) and would be better if they had ten fights a day (better at staving off attrition). A lot of the non-nova classes sucking in 3ed was just due to those specific classes sucking, not to some intractable problem with nova/non-nova balance. For example look at Rules Cyclopedia D&D, thanks to the Weapon Mastery rules the Fighters compete just fine with the Magic-Users until the rules start breaking down at very high levels (tying Fighters to specific weapons is probably my least favorite way of powering them up, but as a balancing tool it works). If you get rid of the 15 minute adventuring day and make sure that the mundanes can be awesome, they'd be able to compete with the casters just fine (as in Rules Cyclopedia).
Response to Fanaelialae:
In general I'm not really disagreeing with you because 4ed isn't an edge case, characters can use up Dailies and Healing Surges so if things go wrong in a fight there are consequences besides death (lost Dailies and Healing Surges). However, if 4ed nixed dailies and had Healing Surges be encounter-based instead of daily then that'd be a problem for me since what happens in one fight doesn't really impact what happens in another. There's still attrition in 4ed.
"However, things become far less predictable, so it's a pretty heavy trade-off."
Indeed, exactly the point I was making in my OP. For me this trade-off is well worth it.
"(low combat campaigns, where attrition is not a factor because you'll almost never see more than one combat per day)."
Unless characters don't refresh all of their resources at the start of the day but at the start of each story arc/longer time frame.
"Just to point out an alternative (though one that would be highly unpopular), you could completely eliminate the 15 MWD by eliminating all daily resources."
Including HP/healing surges? That goes back to the sliding scale of meaning/balance problem that I discussed earlier.
"Tactical play will always take longer than non-tactical play, IMO."
To some extent yes, but I think this can be helped by having more things for each character to worry about rather than having lots of modifiers. There's different ways to make combat more tactical and some eat up more time than others (modifier bloat is the worst IMO).
response to pemerten:
"These posts give one illustration of how encounters can be balanced yet tactically meaningful within PC death being on the line to any significant extent: the abilities of the participants in a fight - both antagonists and protagonists - can be configured so that death is not a serious threat provided that the players play their PCs with mechanical and tactical cleverness."
But those examples were predicated on making the PCs use up their resources and how many resources get used in previous fights can throw off the balance of later fights.
Response to Tony Vargas:
"I think 'based design' is out of place, then. "
I think you're misreading me/I'm not being clear, I don't mean that 4ed as a whole is "based" on Encounters, just that certain elements are.
"The alternative of simply balancing class resources so class balance isn't impacted by different pacing just seems a more elegant, more complete solution."
The problem is that is puts a constraint on class design. For me the 15 Minute Adventuring Day is bad in EVERY edition so you've got to get rid of it no matter what to make D&D fun (for me). If the 15 Minute Adventuring Day is dead then the issue of dealing with nova vs. non-nova classes mostly goes away (at least for me).
"Considering the sheer number (and power) of spells that could be recovered in one rest, I think they did bounce back pretty hard. But, sure, at low levels in early eds, that 1 hp/day was pretty pathetic..."
Right but note that a TSR-D&D cleric at most levels can heal a far smaller number of HPs than a 3ed cleric due to many spell levels not having any healing spells.
"Suggestion, IIRC, required the victim hear you, while Charm Person did not (but if he didn't, it'd be harder to persuade him to help you using gestures than just talking, which I don't think any ed needs to spell out)."
Right, which is what I'm talking about.
Response to Mokona:
Indeed. I've always hated the "dumb no skill fighter."
Response to steenan:
"What fun is fighting if nothing is at stake? It's just a waste of time. One may as well narrate victory in a few sentences and move forward. We engage the system when there is something important to be decided."
This exactly. Attrition is one way to do this.
I'd agree with you that CaS is easier for newbie DMs, but I think that CaW is often easier for newbie players since you can rock at CaW without knowing any rules at all but you can't do that in CaS, CaS relies on the players knowing the rules well enough to take advantage of how they interact.