D&D 5E How Old-School is 5th Edition? Can it even do Old-School?

darjr

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bloodtide

Adventurer
The Rules of the game don't really matter at all. It's the oldschool methods and techniques. Really few people ever played a "pure" 0E or 1E D&D, if that was even possible. Nearly EVERY Old School D&D game was unique, as nearly every book said something like "make up your own stuff and make the game your own."

I find the big things:

*The modern mind set player is just so used to the Safe Space Game (that is the game will be a fun easy romp ). So when the character is deep underground and finds a room with a floating skull crackling with dark energy, the player will just stumble around the table and say "whatever DM, my character touches the skull." Then when the room seals and starts to fill with dark water.....the player just freaks out.

And

*Play by-the-book: That modern mind set player, with a character trapped in a deep room filling with water.....will look on their character sheet for some spam that says something like Daily Power: Watery Escape. When they don't find something like that, they just get mad or crazy or just give up....or worse. The player can't grasp the concept of trying "anything" to escape. If they don't have an offical printed power, they are lost.
 

*Play by-the-book: That modern mind set player, with a character trapped in a deep room filling with water.....will look on their character sheet for some spam that says something like Daily Power: Watery Escape. When they don't find something like that, they just get mad or crazy or just give up....or worse. The player can't grasp the concept of trying "anything" to escape. If they don't have an offical printed power, they are lost.
I have a player like this at times who just gives up. Recently during a roleplaying/exploration situation they said "I don't know whats going on, theres nothing I can do". This really annoyed me because I asked what the problem was they didnt have an answer. I almost feel when I DM that younger/newer players want the answer given to them so I think there is something to be said about old school methods.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I have a player like this at times who just gives up. Recently during a roleplaying/exploration situation they said "I don't know whats going on, theres nothing I can do". This really annoyed me because I asked what the problem was they didnt have an answer. I almost feel when I DM that younger/newer players want the answer given to them so I think there is something to be said about old school methods.
It’s like the part of the epiphany was lost along the way. When most people learn about RPGs they have a moment when they realize they can try anything and manipulate the environment as if their character were a real person living in that world. Now people coming to RPGs mostly seem to think the breakable stuff should be different colors or the quest giver should have a question mark over their head or the map should have an arrow pointing the way. They don’t interact with the world, they interface with the rules.
 



The rules can have a dramatic effect on play. See the difference between how D&D 4E and DCC play as an example.
When talking about D&D I think this is a direct result of 3.x quantifying a rule for most situations. Even though the rules for 5E dont reflect this the mentality still remains.
 

teitan

Legend
The only issues I have with modern players are two fold:

1. Skyrimming: just plowing to the next quest. That each NPC is just a quest giver providing an assignment and then run off to that assignment rather than any actual interaction or trying to get more detail. Oh you need me to find the Sword of Nine Foxes in the Temple of Thulsa Doom? Ok, off we go, when there is actually a lot more and it's fine except it's every interaction with an NPC be it published module, homebrew etc. It's very video gamey.

2. Like others said, not thinking outside the box to solve the issues, every encounter is a fight to the last and every encounter must be perfectly balanced. How DARE you throw the PCs into an encounter at 3rd level with a Night Hag, CR 11 because she would kill them! Not every encounter is a combat encounter and if you treat every monster encounter as a combat encounter... maybe you deserve to die? Just saying. And before anyone comes in with a "but but but" kinda comment about that kind of encounter... never had a complaint and never underestimate your players. QUit looking at monsters as bags of HP to be whittled down to get XP and as challenging encounters of all types to experience, including roleplaying encounters, as XP. And IF you are doing milestone... why are you even worrying about it? Just play and calibrate.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
When talking about D&D I think this is a direct result of 3.x quantifying a rule for most situations. Even though the rules for 5E dont reflect this the mentality still remains.
Sure. But you can also see it in the older TSR games. The difference between player behavior in regards to combat and monsters is wildly different based on something as simple as XP for gold vs XP for killing monsters. The former elicits cleverness and thinking play while the latter elicits charging ahead and five-minute workdays.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
I've had both of these pop up in my 5E West Marches game.
The only issues I have with modern players are two fold:

1. Skyrimming: just plowing to the next quest. That each NPC is just a quest giver providing an assignment and then run off to that assignment rather than any actual interaction or trying to get more detail. Oh you need me to find the Sword of Nine Foxes in the Temple of Thulsa Doom? Ok, off we go, when there is actually a lot more and it's fine except it's every interaction with an NPC be it published module, homebrew etc. It's very video gamey.
The players got the rumor, asked which way to go, and headed off. Didn't ask a single question of a single NPC beyond, "Which way?" It wasn't until a few days later in game when the PCs were about to die in a swamp surrounded by zombies that the players said, and I quote, "Maybe we should have asked more questions back in town."
2. Like others said, not thinking outside the box to solve the issues, every encounter is a fight to the last and every encounter must be perfectly balanced. How DARE you throw the PCs into an encounter at 3rd level with a Night Hag, CR 11 because she would kill them! Not every encounter is a combat encounter and if you treat every monster encounter as a combat encounter... maybe you deserve to die? Just saying.
The players stumbled across a demigod and I sign-posted that the thing was wildly, wildly beyond their ability to handle, what with them being 1st level and all...but the second there was something to swing at, the PCs started swinging.
 


teitan

Legend
I don't mind the five minute work day, I don't play that way. I don't build combat encounters. I design encounters that are more roleplay and maybe 1 or two combat encounters, not the suggested amount. It feels forced otherwise and occasionally I will throw in a combat encounter to shake things up, something I picked up from Mike Mignola, when he was stuck for ideas, Hellboy fought something or fell through the floor. I did this very thing Friday for one of our most entertaining Starfinder sessions after my medication brain fogged me...

The players time travelled to the past to find an ancient artifact to restore a blue dragon's power. They came across a small town and I was fogging up mentally so when they decided to go into a tavern in this small town, late cyberpunky era, there was a Goblin biker gang watching them. They left the bar and I did the typical street fight but the goblins came to life for them because I gave them personalities and quirks as part of the fight. What kicked off the fight was that my wife plays a Skittermander and they thought she was a dog and they wanted to eat her so they ambushed the party in superior numbers and a fight ensued, the session ended when they killed all but three and the local sheriff stepping out of the shadows with his deputy, true western style, and zapping two of them and the last scurried away with the sheriff commenting "vermin". Everyone was really happy and it helped me set up the next step.
 

S'mon

Legend
It’s like the part of the epiphany was lost along the way. When most people learn about RPGs they have a moment when they realize they can try anything and manipulate the environment as if their character were a real person living in that world. Now people coming to RPGs mostly seem to think the breakable stuff should be different colors or the quest giver should have a question mark over their head or the map should have an arrow pointing the way. They don’t interact with the world, they interface with the rules.

This is a major reason I introduced my son to RPGs (ca 2012) via Mentzer Classic D&D. He grew up used to the idea that he could try anything.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't mind the five minute work day, I don't play that way. I don't build combat encounters. I design encounters that are more roleplay and maybe 1 or two combat encounters, not the suggested amount. It feels forced otherwise and occasionally I will throw in a combat encounter to shake things up, something I picked up from Mike Mignola, when he was stuck for ideas, Hellboy fought something or fell through the floor. I did this very thing Friday for one of our most entertaining Starfinder sessions after my medication brain fogged me...

The players time travelled to the past to find an ancient artifact to restore a blue dragon's power. They came across a small town and I was fogging up mentally so when they decided to go into a tavern in this small town, late cyberpunky era, there was a Goblin biker gang watching them. They left the bar and I did the typical street fight but the goblins came to life for them because I gave them personalities and quirks as part of the fight. What kicked off the fight was that my wife plays a Skittermander and they thought she was a dog and they wanted to eat her so they ambushed the party in superior numbers and a fight ensued, the session ended when they killed all but three and the local sheriff stepping out of the shadows with his deputy, true western style, and zapping two of them and the last scurried away with the sheriff commenting "vermin". Everyone was really happy and it helped me set up the next step.
It's an old pulp writer trick. If you don't know what to do next, send in a goon with a gun.
 



Nebulous

Legend
Ok, given the concepts you include below, how would you (anyone, not just @Voadam) use them to "improve 5th edition"?
How would you implement them?

I know how I might, but I am curious what others would do.


  • Use in-depth descriptions from both the DM and player to increase character immersion.
  • Handle interactions more free-form and less with dice rolling mechanics.
  • Focus more on player decisions than mechanics.
  • Go with the player presented concept of their character more than the stats written on their sheet.


  • sandboxing and random encounters
  • higher lethality in tone
  • more of a gold acquisition orientation
  • resource management importance
  • mega-dungeoneering
I think given all the ideas/ suggestions, it would be interesting to create a document with ways to incorporate ideas for giving 5E and old school feel, offering dozens of variants (like those in the DMG for a grittier feel) which would bring these concepts into the game.
I would personally love to see a publisher put out a pseudo-DMG 2 that has all of these ideas incorporated, as well as optional initiative rules and resting rules and things like that. That was the kind of modular 5e I originally thought they were going for. Plug and play D&D.
 

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