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OSR Is there room in modern gaming for the OSR to bring in new gamers?

Retreater

Legend
So, assuming you folks do OSR AD&D, why? What’s your path and POV?
I GM Swords and Wizardry. It's sort of a combination of AD&D and white box D&D. (There are assassins but no half orcs.) The rules PDF is free if you'd like to have a look. There's a lot of support material if you like that sort of thing (adventures, setting books, etc.)
So I started running it for a few reasons. The group I was GMing (in 5e) would regularly let the rules get in the way of their fun. We also started playing on a VTT, which was slowing down the gameplay. Then also, I wanted to start writing a big OSR adventure for publication, and they were interested in playtesting.
What initially interested me in OSR was Pathfinder. It just became too rules heavy for my taste. I tried in vain to get my group (back then) into Castles & Crusades, but they were "Pathfinder for Life" (in fact some of them are only now considering 5e).
But where am I with the OSR now? I'm running two 5e games, one PF2 game, and playing in an Old School Essentials game. I'll go back to OSR when everyone is ready.
There's not a "best system" to me. It depends on what the group wants at the time.
 

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kenada

Legend
Supporter
So, assuming you folks do OSR AD&D, why? What’s your path and POV?
I came about things kind of backwards. I can’t say I’ve ever been particularly interested in story arc play. My first D&D was 3e, but the group occasionally confused things with 2e, and the campaign was a more old-school style where we’d roll up characters in an establish homebrew setting rather than go play through some particular story. Consequently, I more or less missed the shift to story arc play (à la Dragonlance). However, I’d say my conscious shift to embracing OSR-style play got going when started reading Grognardia. I found the stories of Dwimmermount fascinating, and I was intrigued by the discussions of various old-school editions of D&D.

That influenced how I GM a game, but we didn’t switch to an actual OSR system until very recently — last winter. We gave Old-School Essentials a shot. We used the advanced fantasy genre rules because I wanted the extra options for my players, but what I really wanted was separate race and class (because my setting is not humanocentric). Alas, it didn’t work out. OSE went too far in direction my players weren’t as interested in going. However, we pivoted to Worlds Without Number, which I’d describe as OSR-adjacent if not OSR. WWN uses B/X as a chassis, but it does its own thing in many places.

As for why, I think that comes down to the style of play one prefers. Like I said earlier, I never got into story arc play. It’s just not something that resonates with me. I prefer Story Now or the Right to Dream. Let’s make characters and see what happens (whether that’s telling their stories through play or doing things and seeing what the consequences are). I can do what I want in newer systems, but they tend to make a lot of assumptions about what you intend to do, which can get in the way. There are also issues of system aesthetics.

I don’t see value in having unified mechanics for the sake of having unified mechanics. I don’t think it simplifies the game. Instead of having a player-known chance of succeeding, you go through a bunch of steps to derive a value (3e), or the GM decides on one that’s appropriate for the challenge (post-3e, but also 3e). You either communicate that to the players, or they get to roll and wait on the answer. It slows down the game, and the progression treadmill functionally negates any growth the characters have experienced. I also don’t like the extra burden of having to design around difficulty classes and skills. I’d rather just write down what something is and let a solution emerge during play.

DCs aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker. WWN does feature roll against difficulty for skill checks, but the way it treats skills is very different from the way that non-OSR games tend to treat them. Skills are just for exceptional circumstances (you should never have a PC roll where it could make them look incompetent at their role in life), and most ad hoc DCs should be 8. Assuming that PCs are competent strikes me as a very OSR approach to skills. One of the complaints you frequently see is that a skill system reduces the options PCs have for solving a problem because now they are constrained by mechanics, but WWN tries to keep that from getting in the way. There’s more of my thought son WWN over in the thread in the general forum here.
 

Retreater

Legend
My first D&D was 3e, but the group occasionally confused things with 2e, and the campaign was a more old-school style where we’d roll up characters in an establish homebrew setting rather than go play through some particular story. Consequently, I more or less missed the shift to story arc play (à la Dragonlance).
That's different than how I started with 2e. My 2e was extremely story-driven. I'd either re-write books as D&D adventures or structure my campaign like novels.
I think the reason for this was my education system. In school we learned how to write stories, but not really cooperative storytelling (and certainly not adventure design).
For me, it was the transition to 3rd edition that got us playing more "typical" D&D. The rules codification presented a standard of play. I started getting more published adventures (because the time spent with the rules increased greatly). It began to feel more like a simulation and game than a story. I continue to feel that to this day with WotC D&D. (Though it's better today than 20 years ago.)
 

transmission89

Adventurer
I came about things kind of backwards. I can’t say I’ve ever been particularly interested in story arc play. My first D&D was 3e, but the group occasionally confused things with 2e, and the campaign was a more old-school style where we’d roll up characters in an establish homebrew setting rather than go play through some particular story. Consequently, I more or less missed the shift to story arc play (à la Dragonlance). However, I’d say my conscious shift to embracing OSR-style play got going when started reading Grognardia. I found the stories of Dwimmermount fascinating, and I was intrigued by the discussions of various old-school editions of D&D.

That influenced how I GM a game, but we didn’t switch to an actual OSR system until very recently — last winter. We gave Old-School Essentials a shot. We used the advanced fantasy genre rules because I wanted the extra options for my players, but what I really wanted was separate race and class (because my setting is not humanocentric). Alas, it didn’t work out. OSE went too far in direction my players weren’t as interested in going. However, we pivoted to Worlds Without Number, which I’d describe as OSR-adjacent if not OSR. WWN uses B/X as a chassis, but it does its own thing in many places.

As for why, I think that comes down to the style of play one prefers. Like I said earlier, I never got into story arc play. It’s just not something that resonates with me. I prefer Story Now or the Right to Dream. Let’s make characters and see what happens (whether that’s telling their stories through play or doing things and seeing what the consequences are). I can do what I want in newer systems, but they tend to make a lot of assumptions about what you intend to do, which can get in the way. There are also issues of system aesthetics.

I don’t see value in having unified mechanics for the sake of having unified mechanics. I don’t think it simplifies the game. Instead of having a player-known chance of succeeding, you go through a bunch of steps to derive a value (3e), or the GM decides on one that’s appropriate for the challenge (post-3e, but also 3e). You either communicate that to the players, or they get to roll and wait on the answer. It slows down the game, and the progression treadmill functionally negates any growth the characters have experienced. I also don’t like the extra burden of having to design around difficulty classes and skills. I’d rather just write down what something is and let a solution emerge during play.

DCs aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker. WWN does feature roll against difficulty for skill checks, but the way it treats skills is very different from the way that non-OSR games tend to treat them. Skills are just for exceptional circumstances (you should never have a PC roll where it could make them look incompetent at their role in life), and most ad hoc DCs should be 8. Assuming that PCs are competent strikes me as a very OSR approach to skills. One of the complaints you frequently see is that a skill system reduces the options PCs have for solving a problem because now they are constrained by mechanics, but WWN tries to keep that from getting in the way. There’s more of my thought son WWN over in the thread in the general forum here.
Ohh. What didn’t work out OSE wise for your group?!
 

haakon1

Adventurer
For me, I love the optional content. It clicked for me that I don’t have to use books x,y and z, I can just use certain elements from them. They aren’t to be eaten whole, they are a buffet of ideas you pick and choose from.
That’s a key concept, treating Non-Core books as optional and picking only specific rules from the rest.

My 3.5e is “pure Core”, except I use one Unearthed Arcana optional rule (Divine or Arcane Classes stack for Caster Level), support both PHB Ranger & a heavily modified Ranger with Favored Terrain (from PF1) and no spellcasting but extra feats, and allow players to pick Feats from the Netbook of Feats with approval. Oh, and the monsters as PC’s rules for combining class levels and monsters (I forget the name of the book) is “in”, but obscure & rarely used (1 NPC out of 18 party members in two active campaign).
 

haakon1

Adventurer
I also don’t like the extra burden of having to design around difficulty classes and skills. I’d rather just write down what something is and let a solution emerge during play.
For what it’s worth, I don’t “design around” Player skills or capabilities in running 3.5e. Yesterday, a party of 7 PC’s level 4-5, with their Minotaur friend, fought 6 Gargoyles. I knew it penciled out to “Very Difficult“, and I also knew there are only two magic weapons in the party. It was a tough fight, but my still fledgling players learned that the spell “Magic Weapon”, the Feat “Create Magic Arms & Armor”, etc. are important. And they won, barely.

Most of the time, I run old school style modules as written, converting rules from B/X, 1e, 2e, PF1, or 5e as needed. In this case, I added the encounter because it fit the place, I thought, and my players had asked for a tough fight. :)
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
That's different than how I started with 2e. My 2e was extremely story-driven. I'd either re-write books as D&D adventures or structure my campaign like novels.
I think the reason for this was my education system. In school we learned how to write stories, but not really cooperative storytelling (and certainly not adventure design).
For me, it was the transition to 3rd edition that got us playing more "typical" D&D. The rules codification presented a standard of play. I started getting more published adventures (because the time spent with the rules increased greatly). It began to feel more like a simulation and game than a story. I continue to feel that to this day with WotC D&D. (Though it's better today than 20 years ago.)
Thinking back on it, I think it was their homebrew setting that kept them in that “old-school” mode of play. Many of the people in that group had been playing since the ’80s (if not the beginning). They also did fantasy miniatures battles in that setting (called Falmurth) with other people, which had also been happening for a while. From what I understand, well after I left, they eventually started doing more adventure paths and stuff like that. What I remember from my time is that most of our play was setting up for the fights in the dungeon, we’d kick in the door, and then smash the monsters. It was a fairly large group (8~12 players), so anything else wasn’t really feasible. Any kind of narrative development was driven by one of the players, which in retrospect was functionally similar to a caller.

When I started doing my own thing, I decided I didn’t want just to have kick-in-the-door play. I was lazy, so the very first campaign I ran was almost entirely improvised. A story manifested out of it, which I built riffing off of things players would say. I also liked subverting things like alignment because my first group had a policy of only good characters, which they “enforced” by having the paladin checking for evil and killing any who were evil. That group also regarded CN as crazy (e.g., you have a random chance of jumping off any bridge you cross). A lot of my first campaign was rejecting that particular style. I took a break for a while after that campaign, and my particular group did a lot of different things (nWoD, Dogs in the Vineyard, Unknown Armies, Exalted). I think I started running again in ’05 or ’06. It was just before the release of 4e, and the player culture was way different.

I ran some adventures and did an aborted adventure path in 4e, but Pathfinder is really got into those. However, that’s also when I started reading Grognardia, which was very influential on how I approached things. At the time, I described my campaign as quasi-old-school. That Kingmaker game was the only AP we finished. I was down on it at the time, but it was definitely the best AP we played. We tried others after that, but eventually I decided I wanted to do my own thing. That began a sequence of various shorter campaigns and finally arriving at a true sandbox because my players kept saying they wanted an exploration-based game.

By that point, I’d been stealing ideas from B/X and OSE because of the Alexandrian’s articles on dungeon crawls. I’d been operating under a belief that my group wouldn’t like OSE, which is why I never pitched it. I was right in a way. My players did bounce of OSE, though it was not for the reasons I thought. I expected it would be system aesthetics, but I think it was more about how weak characters felt and how comparatively lacking their abilities were. However, that failure did open the door to trying WWN, which practically seems designed for my group. It has awesome GM tools and is easy to run, but it also has 3e-style character customization and action economy. There is a tactical element, but it’s really only concerned about using your actions smartly (e.g., taking advantage of snap attacks or swarm attacks) rather than shifting your position around the board and taking advantage of synergies (like 4e of PF2).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Ohh. What didn’t work out OSE wise for your group?!
I posted a bit about it in April in my OSE thread, but I don’t think that’s entirely it. They definitely didn’t like having to retreat, or how the combat went down, but I suspect they just weren’t all that interested in the system, and they were going along with it to keep their GM happy. I had dismissed it as an aesthetic preference, but I think my players like having customization and tactics, but not too much. Pathfinder 2e was a step too far. They just couldn’t keep up with its tactical expectations. You can shift those around a bit, but I burnt out on the system and didn’t want to bother with it anymore.

It was a random conversation here that prompted me to take a closer look into WWN, which I had initially dismissed because it added modifiers to skill checks and rolled against target difficulties. My reaction on our Slack when I started reading it: “Motherf——! World Without Number uses an XP system that’s basically the goals thing I used to use. 😬” The goals-based XP system I used in previous campaigns is something my players really liked. As I read through the way it handled customization and its action economy, WWN struck me as a game almost designed for my group. It would give them what they wanted (but not be too harsh in its expectations), and it would be easy on the GM to run while also giving me great tools for running a sandbox.

I pitched a one-shot later that day for early May, which I did with trepidation. I had assumed that trying a new system so soon after switching would not go over well, but I got an almost immediate and positive response. No one had even read WWN yet! People were just taking it on faith that it would be more to their tastes when I said it would be. After they did start reading it, they liked what they saw. We’ll see how that enthusiasm holds once I finish setting creation. It’s technically a retcon rather than a reboot, but things are ending up being fairly different (both geographically and politically). However, I did try to retain the things they’d said they liked, and I think this will result in a much more robust sandbox (while being easier on me).
 

transmission89

Adventurer
Thinking back on it, I think it was their homebrew setting that kept them in that “old-school” mode of play. Many of the people in that group had been playing since the ’80s (if not the beginning). They also did fantasy miniatures battles in that setting (called Falmurth) with other people, which had also been happening for a while. From what I understand, well after I left, they eventually started doing more adventure paths and stuff like that. What I remember from my time is that most of our play was setting up for the fights in the dungeon, we’d kick in the door, and then smash the monsters. It was a fairly large group (8~12 players), so anything else wasn’t really feasible. Any kind of narrative development was driven by one of the players, which in retrospect was functionally similar to a caller.

When I started doing my own thing, I decided I didn’t want just to have kick-in-the-door play. I was lazy, so the very first campaign I ran was almost entirely improvised. A story manifested out of it, which I built riffing off of things players would say. I also liked subverting things like alignment because my first group had a policy of only good characters, which they “enforced” by having the paladin checking for evil and killing any who were evil. That group also regarded CN as crazy (e.g., you have a random chance of jumping off any bridge you cross). A lot of my first campaign was rejecting that particular style. I took a break for a while after that campaign, and my particular group did a lot of different things (nWoD, Dogs in the Vineyard, Unknown Armies, Exalted). I think I started running again in ’05 or ’06. It was just before the release of 4e, and the player culture was way different.

I ran some adventures and did an aborted adventure path in 4e, but Pathfinder is really got into those. However, that’s also when I started reading Grognardia, which was very influential on how I approached things. At the time, I described my campaign as quasi-old-school. That Kingmaker game was the only AP we finished. I was down on it at the time, but it was definitely the best AP we played. We tried others after that, but eventually I decided I wanted to do my own thing. That began a sequence of various shorter campaigns and finally arriving at a true sandbox because my players kept saying they wanted an exploration-based game.

By that point, I’d been stealing ideas from B/X and OSE because of the Alexandrian’s articles on dungeon crawls. I’d been operating under a belief that my group wouldn’t like OSE, which is why I never pitched it. I was right in a way. My players did bounce of OSE, though it was not for the reasons I thought. I expected it would be system aesthetics, but I think it was more about how weak characters felt and how comparatively lacking their abilities were. However, that failure did open the door to trying WWN, which practically seems designed for my group. It has awesome GM tools and is easy to run, but it also has 3e-style character customization and action economy. There is a tactical element, but it’s really only concerned about using your actions smartly (e.g., taking advantage of snap attacks or swarm attacks) rather than shifting your position around the board and taking advantage of synergies (like 4e of PF2).
Why did the feel their abilities were lacking? You’ve always advocated well around the principles of old school improv over prescribed abilities. We’re your group not able to get into that mindset?

EDIT, nvm, you answered whilst I was posting. 😂
 
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transmission89

Adventurer
I posted a bit about it in April in my OSE thread, but I don’t think that’s entirely it. They definitely didn’t like having to retreat, or how the combat went down, but I suspect they just weren’t all that interested in the system, and they were going along with it to keep their GM happy. I had dismissed it as an aesthetic preference, but I think my players like having customization and tactics, but not too much. Pathfinder 2e was a step too far. They just couldn’t keep up with its tactical expectations. You can shift those around a bit, but I burnt out on the system and didn’t want to bother with it anymore.

It was a random conversation here that prompted me to take a closer look into WWN, which I had initially dismissed because it added modifiers to skill checks and rolled against target difficulties. My reaction on our Slack when I started reading it: “Motherf——! World Without Number uses an XP system that’s basically the goals thing I used to use. 😬” The goals-based XP system I used in previous campaigns is something my players really liked. As I read through the way it handled customization and its action economy, WWN struck me as a game almost designed for my group. It would give them what they wanted (but not be too harsh in its expectations), and it would be easy on the GM to run while also giving me great tools for running a sandbox.

I pitched a one-shot later that day for early May, which I did with trepidation. I had assumed that trying a new system so soon after switching would not go over well, but I got an almost immediate and positive response. No one had even read WWN yet! People were just taking it on faith that it would be more to their tastes when I said it would be. After they did start reading it, they liked what they saw. We’ll see how that enthusiasm holds once I finish setting creation. It’s technically a retcon rather than a reboot, but things are ending up being fairly different (both geographically and politically). However, I did try to retain the things they’d said they liked, and I think this will result in a much more robust sandbox (while being easier on me).
Yeah, that’s fair, not every edition is for everyone.

Im a bit harsher with my group in that I’ll only run what I want to play. They are free not to play or step up and DM themselves. As a whole, they’ve been pretty cool, I’ve lost a few players that couldn’t let go of 5e, but picked up a few more anyway, so it’s not really a loss for me. Those players aren’t playing at all at the moment whereas myself and my group are enjoying our game.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
For what it’s worth, I don’t “design around” Player skills or capabilities in running 3.5e. Yesterday, a party of 7 PC’s level 4-5, with their Minotaur friend, fought 6 Gargoyles. I knew it penciled out to “Very Difficult“, and I also knew there are only two magic weapons in the party. It was a tough fight, but my still fledgling players learned that the spell “Magic Weapon”, the Feat “Create Magic Arms & Armor”, etc. are important. And they won, barely.

Most of the time, I run old school style modules as written, converting rules from B/X, 1e, 2e, PF1, or 5e as needed. In this case, I added the encounter because it fit the place, I thought, and my players had asked for a tough fight. :)
Combat is a different beast. I didn’t necessarily tune things to the PCs, though the fact that it was such a strong assumption in the community is one of the things that helped put me off Pathfinder 2e.

What I’m talking about is that regardless of whether things are put in the world “because they made sense”, challenges just naturally get harder. A warehouse in town may have a standard lock, but a door in an ancient dwarven stronghold should have an appropriately ancient dwarven lock. None of those are tuned to the PCs per se, but it just so happens that the latter will be found by PCs who are more advanced and suitably equipped to open it.

I don’t want to worry about keeping the math in the “sweet spot”, even if indirectly via the euphemism treadmill. I’d rather have real progression against a flat DC. I also prefer focusing just on the description of traps and hazards in my notes. I don’t want to have to engage mechanics just to make sure they have appropriate DCs or whatever. I found that really irritating when converting Winter’s Daughter over to PF2.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Why did the feel their abilities were lacking? You’ve always advocated well around the principles of old school improv over prescribed abilities. We’re your group not able to get into that mindset?
I think it comes down to perception.

For example, one player played an acrobat in OSE, and he complained about not being able to do anything. He liked the idea of doing parkour stuff, but the acrobat doesn’t give you extraordinary parkour benefits. It’s more like you get some extra benefits when you do parkour stuff, but it’s on the player to set up those situations. When I converted that character to WWN, I made it a partial mage and gave him Velocitous Imbuement, a spell which lets you move quickly and walk on walls and the ceiling. Even though the PC didn’t cast any spells, it felt much better to the player (who described it as the awesomest character he’s played).

WWN by default tries to be an OSR game. PCs are assumed to be competent at what they do, and shouldn’t be relying on your character sheet to solve problems (because not all problems will cleaning map to it). However, when you do, the things on your sheet have a profound impact. Warriors are killing machines. Magic is powerful, being designed around the idea that magic changes how you solve problems. Combined with a 3e-ish approach to character customization (foci are basically feats), I can see how that would feel a lot better to someone who is used to the “modern” way of doing things.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Im a bit harsher with my group in that I’ll only run what I want to play. They are free not to play or step up and DM themselves. As a whole, they’ve been pretty cool, I’ve lost a few players that couldn’t let go of 5e, but picked up a few more anyway, so it’s not really a loss for me. Those players aren’t playing at all at the moment whereas myself and my group are enjoying our game.
We’re a long-running group, so it would be weird to alienate someone from the group just based on which game we played. However, I didn’t appreciate how willing my players would be to go along with what I wanted to run until we tried OSE. I’d been focusing foremost on what I thought they wanted, making the best of it on the GM side. Fortunately, we all have a compatible play culture (no one is trad or OC/neo-trad or has to do that). They just have different system preferences.

It’s actually a little ironic because I’m also the charop person in the group. If we were doing PF2, I would be pushing character customization and tactics hard. One of the other guys is running Scum and Villainy, and I do that there too. The GM said you should play your character like driving a stolen car*, and that is exactly what I do. At least they made me the captain, so it makes sense in the story that I’m the one making the decisions. 😅

--
* This is a particularly funny metaphor for our group because I have done this in a game before. I was playing a dipsomancer in Unknown Armies. I was on my way home one night, totally drunk of course, and decided to check cars for unlocked doors because I needed a ride home. I found one, and then our entropomancer and I went for a drive. I was speeding down the freeway with the entropomancer on top of the car when we got to a portion that was under construction and not completed yet. I think the GM expected me to stop, but I kept on going right over the edge and into the river. 🤣
 

Retreater

Legend
What I remember from my time is that most of our play was setting up for the fights in the dungeon, we’d kick in the door, and then smash the monsters. It was a fairly large group (8~12 players), so anything else wasn’t really feasible.
Dungeon hacks were never a part of the old school experience for us. Even when we had largish groups (6 players), we didn't really do it. [What really brought me to tabletop games was Hero Quest, and that's how I did dungeons. Really wish I could find an old school RPG that modeled that style.]
My players did bounce of OSE, though it was not for the reasons I thought. I expected it would be system aesthetics, but I think it was more about how weak characters felt and how comparatively lacking their abilities were
That's part of the disconnect my groups are having with OSE right now. The characters are just so weak and incompetent that its just an exercise in futility. At the end of a work week, with real world stress involving careers, families, ailing parents, etc., the last thing any of us want to do is tiptoe through a dungeon and retreat from a pack of 5 kobolds, any one of whom could kill us with a sling stone.
And when that kobold does kill you, you really don't have any connection to your character. You rolled him up in 5 minutes. He's essentially the same as the last character you played. Trying to bring characterization and unique qualities to the characters ended two sets of characters ago.

For me, OSE/Basic is just too little: too little customization, too little tactics, too little power.

I've yet to find my sweet spot. The double-edged sword is that my groups aren't the system experimenting type: I had better be pretty convinced a system is awesome before we try it. But then I can't suggest a system until we've tested it. (This is why most of them haven't really moved on from d20/PF1.)
 


haakon1

Adventurer
Combat is a different beast. I didn’t necessarily tune things to the PCs, though the fact that it was such a strong assumption in the community is one of the things that helped put me off Pathfinder 2e.

What I’m talking about is that regardless of whether things are put in the world “because they made sense”, challenges just naturally get harder. A warehouse in town may have a standard lock, but a door in an ancient dwarven stronghold should have an appropriately ancient dwarven lock. None of those are tuned to the PCs per se, but it just so happens that the latter will be found by PCs who are more advanced and suitably equipped to open it.

I don’t want to worry about keeping the math in the “sweet spot”, even if indirectly via the euphemism treadmill. I’d rather have real progression against a flat DC. I also prefer focusing just on the description of traps and hazards in my notes. I don’t want to have to engage mechanics just to make sure they have appropriate DCs or whatever. I found that really irritating when converting Winter’s Daughter over to PF2.
Mechanically, I guess we’re talking a difference between WWN and 3.5e. But stylistically, I suspect we do the same thing in not scaling the world to the PC level. For example,in my campaign, there are plenty of wolves in the forest, the bartender at the Keep on the Borderlands is 7th level Druid (retired PC), the gatekeeper is a 2nd level Paladin (retired PC), and the soldiers of the Keep are Warrior 1. That’s all the same regardless of whether the party is level. The universe is what it is, not a reflection of the party.

Partially, that’s because it’s easier on me as DM. And because there have been at least two parties active in my setting for 15 years. And because I like the feel - yup, another wolf wandering monster, but feels very different at 9th level then at 1st.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Mechanically, I guess we’re talking a difference between WWN and 3.5e. But stylistically, I suspect we do the same thing in not scaling the world to the PC level. For example,in my campaign, there are plenty of wolves in the forest, the bartender at the Keep on the Borderlands is 7th level Druid (retired PC), the gatekeeper is a 2nd level Paladin (retired PC), and the soldiers of the Keep are Warrior 1. That’s all the same regardless of whether the party is level. The universe is what it is, not a reflection of the party.

Partially, that’s because it’s easier on me as DM. And because there have been at least two parties active in my setting for 15 years. And because I like the feel - yup, another wolf wandering monster, but feels very different at 9th level then at 1st.
To clarify, I’m not talking about monsters. My issue is with skill checks (particularly DCs).
 

Background: I learned to play AD&D 1e, and learned to DM AD&D 1e Oriental Adventures. In all, I played or DM’d 1e for about 13 years, but I only was a player in 2e, and only for a year or so. I never played Basic, though I DM’d many modules and materials in B/X rules. I never played computer D&D prior to Temple of Elemental Evil (2003, 3e).

In recent years, my exposure to 2e has been reading Dungeon Magazine - I’m trying to read the whole thing. My impression of 2e issues is the rules can be overly complex compared to 1e. E.g., non-weapon proficiency, specialist MU’s, specialty clerics, spells not appearing in the other editions, references to books for underwater combat and ship-to-ship rules.

But the main reasons I didn’t get into 2e:
(1) I happened to be playing a half orc assassin in 1e, in 1988, when 2e came out. I was so excited to see the new rule book, until I realized my character was written out of the rules. That soured me on all the “Moms against D&D” inspired changes like Tanarii and all that.
(2) I’m a huge fan of Gary Gygax and Greyhawk, and the roots of the game. 2e is the era when TSR ran off Gary, made Forgotten Realms the default setting, published the joke version of Castle Greyhawk, published a revision of the setting I didn’t like (From the Ashes) that destroyed my favorite country (Bissel) and contradicted what had happened in “actual play” in my campaigns/what happened if the PC’s won in the biggest adventure path of AD&D 1e (G123/D123/Q1), and finally cancelled Greyhawk.

So, I stopped playing at all for a while, disillusioned by 2e, until I decided to start a 1e homebrew campaign … got on the Greyhawk home version kick … 3e … 3.5e … and even went to the 4e launch event in Seattle and got a signed book.

Before getting that feeling of 2e launch (where’s my half orc assassin?) again with 4e (played for a few years, but never converted what I DM’d), and deciding to stick with 3.5e and home brewed Greyhawk thereafter. Nothing against 5e, but I just haven’t invested the time to learn it.

So, assuming you folks do OSR AD&D, why? What’s your path and POV?

I started as I said mostly with B/X with very little 1e, then 2e for a few years, then I played in a 1e campaign group. I was mostly a player then.

Currently I run and play 5e. It's partially because of the support for it (including digital tools), partially because I find it easy to run, partially because it's the version my group really prefers, but mostly it's because I have a visceral loathing for the 20th century attack roll and descending armor class; I simply refuse to play any edition of the rules that makes the most common roll in the game needlessly complicated. 5e gameplay suits my table's style well, which is pretty well split between OSR style players (who mainly want to run dungeons and find loot) and mechanical optimizers (who want to build characters that solve a lot of problems off the character sheet).

I developed an interest in OSR after becoming unsatisfied with late 3e and 4e and dissatisfied with the 5e adventure paths. I couldn't really grasp what I felt was missing, but I knew I was missing something. I found two things that clicked with me. One was the Principia Apocrypha, which reminded me of the older campaign styles, and YouTube DMs like Matt Colville who were able to express ways to think about the game that I'd forgotten or discarded. I realized the thing that I miss most about D&D is going out on an adventure, finding a bunch of cool-as-heck magic items that gave you a bunch of abilities unique to your character and your campaign, and then solving problems and making memorable stories doing that.

I'm not interested in everything OSR. In fact, I'm not interested in many of the OSR elements. I'm not interested in reusing old mechanics; I think most of them are poorly implemented. I'm not going to roll in the open; I have no trouble fudging dice when I deem it appropriate. I'm not interested in only letting the PCs tell a story; I've tried and my players do nothing without a hook except complain that they don't know what to do. I'm not running a hex crawl; I think those are miserable as a DM, and my table likes the structure of adventure paths. I'm not interested running the game with random event tables, either. I don't care about wandering monsters. I'm not going to try to force my players not to solve problems using their character sheet; it would alienate them. I'm certainly not interested in making combat super deadly but avoidable. Everyone at my table loves combat. It's a major draw. We like it to be Hard, Deadly, or Deadly+ because we don't like throwaway encounters, but I'm not going to design an area that requires my table to avoid combat. They don't want that. A lot of OSR comes from the adversarial DM vs PC play style. Even if people claim that that isn't true, that's exactly where parts of this style came from and I'm not having it.

What I pull from OSR into 5e is:
  • Throwing out attunement on many items (often based on the party level) because it's not an interesting choice if most of your player rewards are loot.
  • Letting the loot define the characters as much as race, class, ability scores, and feats. Base 5e is totally constructed around preventing that.
  • Letting the structure of the story fade into the background. It's not why anyone is really at our table. We want a series of dungeons and encounters loosely tied together with a story.
  • Ignore the rules if they don't serve the game as we actually play it. It doesn't matter what happens as long as everyone has fun and what you do makes sense.
OSR gives me the sense of freedom that I need as a DM to ignore the parts of the books that irritate me -- even when they seem quite important like attunement -- and just play the way we want without feeling like I'm breaking something.

As you can imagine, “revision churn” and ”rules bloat” annoy me. Part of the reason is perhaps that I’m more into Fluff (story) than Crunch (rules, CharOp), and part is I think the publishers audience is people playing 50 times a year. Whereas the game I DM’d today had its 21 session, and 3rd anniversary this weekend. That rate of play and attitude just doesn’t need or want “the game physics“ to keep changing with more rules, or changed rules.

Yeah, I definitely think they aim at the weekly or biweekly group. I wouldn't be interested in play less frequently than that, but you have to play when you can. For your needs I'd probably go with B/X rules or B/X rules with AD&D classes. I mean, I wouldn't ever play with THAC0 to to-hit charts or descending armor class ever again. They're miserable mechanics. You'd have to pay me. If I personally were in your position I'd go with strict 5e Basic D&D and then cut out classes that didn't fit. But going with whatever you already know is perfectly understandable.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
The group I was GMing (in 5e) would regularly let the rules get in the way of their fun.
Not letting rules get in the way of fun - well said. I suspect that’s the reason why most people run an edition other than “official current” (for now, 5e).

What initially interested me in OSR was Pathfinder. It just became too rules heavy for my taste. I tried in vain to get my group (back then) into Castles & Crusades, but they were "Pathfinder for Life" (in fact some of them are only now considering 5e).
But where am I with the OSR now? I'm running two 5e games, one PF2 game, and playing in an Old School Essentials game. I'll go back to OSR when everyone is ready.
There's not a "best system" to me. It depends on what the group wants at the time.
Very cool. I’m 3.5e, core rules, for life. Which is effectively PF1 only lighter.

But I would like to learn 5e. Two friends who were players in one of my 3.5e campaigns became 5e DM’s, but one stopped after 2-3 sessions (he took on too much trying to build his own world) and the other never quite got it together for the old group (he DM’s for his kids and has work issues).

I actually know nothing about PF2. I don’t even have the basic book.

So speculation on what’s good and bad a mostly dark continent and a wholly undiscovered one, I’d be interested in.
 

Retreater

Legend
Not letting rules get in the way of fun - well said. I suspect that’s the reason why most people run an edition other than “official current” (for now, 5e).


Very cool. I’m 3.5e, core rules, for life. Which is effectively PF1 only lighter.

But I would like to learn 5e. Two friends who were players in one of my 3.5e campaigns became 5e DM’s, but one stopped after 2-3 sessions (he took on too much trying to build his own world) and the other never quite got it together for the old group (he DM’s for his kids and has work issues).

I actually know nothing about PF2. I don’t even have the basic book.

So speculation on what’s good and bad a mostly dark continent and a wholly undiscovered one, I’d be interested in.
To me PF1 initially seemed a streamlined version of 3.5, which was why I bought in. For my group, it completely replaced 3.5. We never looked back.
There's been some wanting to go back to B/X recently in that group, until the OSE campaign fell apart. I don't think the nostalgia will be able to bring them back for a second attempt.
This is why I've been saying I'd love to see a streamlined, nostalgia-inspired ruleset that doesn't have the low power levels of OSR. Because when we were gaming back in the olden days, it never felt that deadly. Maybe it was a different mindset, maybe we used house rules, maybe we weren't playing it "right" - but it didn't feel like tripping over your own feet would kill you; it didn't feel like a single kobold with a sling would kill you.
The games back then felt heroic, awesome, exciting. OSR doesn't capture that to me. I love the idea of it, but it's just not there.
 

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