OSR A Pathfinder Group Tries Old-School Essentials

One of my reasons for switching is that I don’t want to put with more complexity when it’s more of an aesthetic thing than something that contributes something to the game.
It's valid on your part but some people are REALLY married to aesthetics, and to pointless complexity that they don't use. I've seen it happen. It's a pity though.
 

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kenada

Legend
Supporter
Ghouls are absolutely the toughest monster among the low level stuff (Carrion Crawlers honorable mention) in B/X. They're super nasty and punch well above their weight class with three attacks causing paralysis. I usually only require a given victim to have to save a maximum once per round against the paralysis, even if hit multiple times, to make them a little less absurd.
Fortunately, everyone who got paralyzed failed their first saves, so that was not an issue. 🙃

My players have a knack for getting into bad situations. This campaign started in 5e before converting to PF2 then OSE. We had TPKs in both 5e and PF2. In 5e, the PCs got into a bad situation with flying snakes and would not try to flee (believing it to be impossible) or try to use Defend and retreat (because disadvantage is just a reroll 😒). In PF2, it was self-inflicted. There was an ooze minding its own business, dissolving a giant gecko. The monk goes up and attacks it, and the fighter starts hacking away at it (making more oozes). They’d fought this kind of ooze before, so they knew they could outrun it and attack it from a distance, but they decided to slug it out. In OSE, they botched their attack on the ghouls, but no PC died (just a retainer). I get losing like that feels bad, but that’s a huge improvement.

If I ever run 5e or PF2 again, I’d obviously incorporate an evasion and pursuit procedure. Being able to get into a bad situation without its necessarily resulting in a TPK and without my having to fudge rolls (which I don’t do generally) means things can be dangerous and you’re not guaranteed victory, but you also won’t lose the party (probably).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
It's valid on your part but some people are REALLY married to aesthetics, and to pointless complexity that they don't use. I've seen it happen. It's a pity though.
I have one player for whom 3e is the definitive edition of D&D. He does not like the way skills work in 4e or 5e. The group as a whole say they like certain things (like character options and tactical combat), but they just don’t do anything with them. I add a skill system, and people just continue doing the default thing. We switch to PF2, but no one really gets into builds or tactics.

We hit a point where I was burning out. We talked it over, and everyone agreed it was better to play something that wouldn’t burn me out than to continue doing a system just because I thought that’s what they wanted. There are some growing pains, but I think we will get past those. The place where OSE shines is supporting just getting into the moment and roleplaying it out.

For example, we had a session in PF2 where the party encountered a hallucination powder trap and failed to find it. It went off and did some mechanics, but I ended up ignoring that. What we did end up doing is spending the rest of the session roleplaying how the affected characters were tripping out. When they looked at each other, they saw Robocop and Doctor Who. The players hammed it up as they variously thought they were in Detroit or on a space station surrounded by Daleks.

Yeah, it was silly, but everyone had a ton of fun doing it. All we need are the barest of mechanics, and OSE provides that. When it doesn’t, I can make a ruling. I don’t want to waste time picking out the right DC on a chart. I’d rather spend time focusing on the fun stuff. (Also, it makes conversions of Grimtooth’s Traps easier. 😈)

That’s not to say it’s just designing traps (or monsters, which is also tedious in PF2) is why I burnt out. I just feel like our sessions are at their best when the players are getting into playing the PCs, and the mechanics take a background. We had a session in OSE where all they did was plan for the ghoul attack and go to town to recruit retainers (as recounted in the GM notes thread), and it was fun because the focus was on getting into the characters and meeting these new people. I think the only time dice were rolled was for the retainers’ reaction rolls.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Fortunately, everyone who got paralyzed failed their first saves, so that was not an issue. 🙃

My players have a knack for getting into bad situations. This campaign started in 5e before converting to PF2 then OSE. We had TPKs in both 5e and PF2. In 5e, the PCs got into a bad situation with flying snakes and would not try to flee (believing it to be impossible) or try to use Defend and retreat (because disadvantage is just a reroll 😒). In PF2, it was self-inflicted. There was an ooze minding its own business, dissolving a giant gecko. The monk goes up and attacks it, and the fighter starts hacking away at it (making more oozes). They’d fought this kind of ooze before, so they knew they could outrun it and attack it from a distance, but they decided to slug it out. In OSE, they botched their attack on the ghouls, but no PC died (just a retainer). I get losing like that feels bad, but that’s a huge improvement.

If I ever run 5e or PF2 again, I’d obviously incorporate an evasion and pursuit procedure. Being able to get into a bad situation without its necessarily resulting in a TPK and without my having to fudge rolls (which I don’t do generally) means things can be dangerous and you’re not guaranteed victory, but you also won’t lose the party (probably).
Sounds like you need to keep letting them TPK until they get the hint. Have you told them running away is an option? Sounds like they think it's a video game.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Sounds like you need to keep letting them TPK until they get the hint. Have you told them running away is an option? Sounds like they think it's a video game.
I don’t think letting them TPK repeatedly will do anything other than create a desire to play something else.

Let’s consider the context. We played Pathfinder since 2010. Prior to that, our main game was 3e, so we’ve been playing something in that family for about twenty years. Most of the group has AD&D experience, but I don’t think any of them have done B/X (or any of the other basic set revisions). What they remember from AD&D is how lethal it was. In contrast, 3e adventures (as typified by Paizo) are designed with the assumption the PCs should win. It may not be an easy fight, but there’s no procedure for fleeing (in the edition that tries to have rules for everything as a form of player empowerment).

In a discussion over the weekend, one of the players mentioned feeling like the ghouls weren’t something they should have to flee. We don’t have this problem in other RPGs, which is why I say we have assumptions to unlearn. I think people are falling into familiar habits when we play D&D even when those habits class with the game we’re actually playing (which is probably why the tactical combat in PF2 didn’t work for us either). Habits take time to change, and we’re doing that while learning a new game. I plan to bring up our prior TPKs at the start of next session because I think it’s illustrative of how OSE helps keep PCs alive (though not abandoning a good plan also helps).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Ah, well. The experiment came to an end. Sort of. I mentioned over in the heartbreaker thread that OSE could end up being that, and it was. I should thank @Ruin Explorer for prompting me to take another look at Worlds Without Number. The pitch went more smoothly than I thought, which suggests my players had been going along with OSE to keep the GM happy.

Even though it’s still OSR-adjacent, WWN went over much better. I rebuilt their OSE characters in WWN, more or less. I ended up going much more fantastic with the acrobat (expert/partial mage, so I could give him Velocitous Imbuement to let him run on the wall and ceiling), but I tried kept the concepts generally the same.

We ran a do-over of the prior session (the one with the rout). Characters in WWN are much more mechanically supported than they are in OSE, so I wanted to see if things went any better. I think there was some hindsight (though an early wandering encounter check brought a patrol into play that hadn’t been there previously), but they also got a lot of mileage out of their class abilities.

For next session, we’re going to be continuing on with WWN. The group has a new goal, and the XP mechanics (we’re using a hybrid of individual and group goals) reinforce that. I want to go through the setting creation procedures in WWN (which I probably would have done regardless) since I didn’t get a chance to do them prior to the one-shot.

While it’s a little disappointing that OSE didn’t work out, I’m happy we were able to find something that seems to satisfy the priorities of everyone.
 


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