Sharing Thoughts on Neo-Trad (OC) Play

User The-Magic-Sword on EN World published a fantastic post about neo-traditional (OC) role-playing games and the role that mechanics play in facilitating this play-style, as well as the relationship between forum role-play and this new kind of tabletop role-play. Here’s the link, and below is a selection:

I never had the problem a lot of people had with 4e not being conducive to roleplaying, my games in 4e were absolutely lush with roleplaying. We just did it, and whenever we needed to play out a fight, or even pick a lock or whatever, we turned to the ruleset—we reverse engineered powers to figure out what our characters could do in the fictional space (my swordmage, could in fact, teleport every six seconds, and did so frequently).

The key I think, was that my background had primed me to not use mechanics to anchor my roleplay, and instead the system fit neatly to emulate physical space and conflict and answer the question of “should my character be able to do the thing.” But it also needs to be said that despite a lack of mechanics that explicitly support roleplaying, my games were very much about roleplaying.

I’m not sure they were necessarily worse for that reality either which I know is one of the canonical answers to statement, instead it feels like it taught me a key lesson, that mechanics don’t always need to provide a game with focus, but instead they need to step in to support the areas of the game that need the most support, when doing them without support creates friction.

It makes me really happy that they spelled this out! Now I have something to refer to :) Of course, this recalls 'rules elide'.


  1. A little bit later in the forum thread they say, "While you can build for it, Neo-Trad historically tends to happen where it isn't forbidden, rather than where it's deliberately produced." I thought this was very cogent; I'd never really framed it in my mind as such, but it makes gut-level sense to me.

    1. that is seriously so insightful! it's like something that emerges from a player's identification with their character. finally a more cohesive culture developed around it!

  2. A slight counter to your assumption of Rules Elide is when the OP mentioned that systems like Vampires The Requiem where there is 'counterplay' to narrative mechanics and ways to push and mold what the story the system itself wants.

    "a lot of the elements are tempting but not involuntary (e.g. most of your dramatic failures('No, and's) are likely going to be via intentionally invoking them for beats, willpower can be used to make feeding in Vampire safer in terms of humanity so if you're conservative with willpower you have better odds of retaining humanity, and there are processes for simply shoring it up, you can avoid picking up too much Blood Potency(Levels) and can have safer feeding overall)"

    Essentially this feels to me like an anti-thesis of that 'Against Incentives' blog. Where there is a sort of pleasure in being pushed by the mechanics. The players themselves are in a constant negotiation with the mechanics through a mix of narrative enforcement and player empowerment.


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