So, yet one more “I posted something on WOTC and I’m posting it here, too” post.
Read it? Good. Here’s my reply:
Mike, I completely agree with your philosophy of rules design and its role WRT the DM, but the current iteration of 5e, and the stated design goals, go in exactly the opposite direction. Forcing the DM to make up rules on the fly for every trivial action doesn’t make things easier, and it leads to inconsistencies and circumstance modifiers that come and go randomly, based on if the DM or the players remember if he took thus-and-such into account the last time this situation came up. (“Hey, last week, you didn’t care if the dwarf was wearing plate armor, and this week, you’re saying the same thing is harder because I’m wearing chainmail. What’s up with that?”) You are absolutely 100% correct that a DM must be there to rule in edge cases and odd situations, and that the rules should be clear enough that it’s obvious and easy to extend them to cover those conditions. Hell, I’ve written that exact same rant myself a dozen or more times. The current design philosophy, though, doesn’t lead towards a solid foundation of rules the DM may occasionally need to extend or build upon; it’s more like “Here’s a basic game mechanic, just fill in the rest of the game.”
I also agree with the second part of your post, and again, what you need to consider is that the more tools one class has over another, the more an equally clever player will exploit them. Sure, a clever fighter with a pliable DM can do a lot of “creative” tricks, but that same clever player, running a wizard, has far more tools to be creative WITH. The idea that fighters are balanced by “player skill” is bogus, because there’s nothing that keeps wizards from being played by creative players who like to think outside the box, too. (Likewise, dumping all the work of deciding how Spell X interacts with Effect Y, or how hard it is for a fighter to push over a statue, or what the effect of that will be, onto the DM, to make up on the fly, violates your first point.)
Oh, I am actually hard at work on Part II of the Hackmaster piece. I’ve just found out how many siblings I have. With luck, I’ll be posting that later today, but for now, I’m going to work. (Yeah, I work on Labor Day. Part of what I sacrifice to work at home is paid vacation time.)