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- Legend & Lore: The Many Faces of D&D
Mearls is of the belief that D&D is at its best when it manages to cater to as many styles of play as possible. While trying to please as many players as possible is a noble design goal, I find that games that try to be many things at once often fail to adequately represent most (if not all) of the play styles that they are trying to support. In other words, I think that good games set out with a goal in mind and run with it. For example, I felt that Brutal Legend tried too hard to be both an action game and a real-time strategy, and consequently felt underwhelming on both fronts.
Personally, I like abstraction because it helps avoid the tedium of tracking often trivial things, as well as provide a result without bogging down the game. I don't want to roll to hit a creature, determine hit location, determine ht severity, and with both results (hopefully) determine a conclusion. I'm not even a big critical-hit-chart type of guy, because ultimately it is just going to hose over players even in the short run. I guess placing myself on the chart I'd fall about in the middle of the story-tactics axis (because I prefer my games to have plenty of both), favoring the abstraction end of the spectrum.
Now that I mention it, I disagree with the story-tactics axis for the simple reason that I do no understand why a game cannot effectively deliver both. Immersion and abstraction I get, but Mass Effect 2 both had a compelling story and highly tactical combat that required the use of cover and your entire squad's abilities in order to survive. I think using a radar chart would be better suited to mapping out an edition's strengths and weaknesses, because it could both allow for more than four categories and inform us of how well it catered to other categories; I agree that 4th Edition does well for tactics and abstraction, but also think that it handles the story part superbly.
Ultimately I do not think it is a good idea to try and shoehorn a game into too many play styles, and instead focus your efforts on making sure that the game is fun for what it is supposed to do. Maybe creating alternate rules ala Unearthed Arcana could be used to add "realism" to the game (as well as other rules)? Honestly, I think I'd prefer if WotC would make another game that uses D&D mechanics that work, while modifying it as necessary like they did with Gamma World.