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OSR OSR ... Feel the Love! Why People Like The Old School

GameOgre

Explorer
1-B/X is cheap. Really, you can buy a hardcopy of Basic Fantasy for $5. So my B/X game cost $5 while my 5E game is up in the hundreds.

2-Less complicated. Rules lite rpg's are just so much easier to run. All that brain space you free up not having to remember 10,000 rules and 20,000 ways those rules are designed to break can instead be used to role play and make awesome adventures.

3-Adventures. Modern rpg adventures are trash. They look pretty. They are all in hardback and take a year to finish but are as imaginative as dried grapefruit. ALL the best work on adventure creation and design is being done by the OSR. I mean I can take all the fun I had running Storm King Thunder and place it beside one of the better One Page Dungeons and I think the one page might actually win.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
3-Adventures. Modern rpg adventures are trash. They look pretty. They are all in hardback and take a year to finish but are as imaginative as dried grapefruit. ALL the best work on adventure creation and design is being done by the OSR. I mean I can take all the fun I had running Storm King Thunder and place it beside one of the better One Page Dungeons and I think the one page might actually win.
I wouldn't say that the modern APs are trash; but I would say that the period from 1979 - 1984 is about as rich as can be, where you have everything from X2 (Amber) to S3 (Barrier Peaks) to the EX series (Wonderland) to Ravenloft and the Desert of Desolation (the I Series) to DL1 (which, regardless of how you felt about the rest of the series, was groundbreaking).
 

Warpiglet

Explorer
There's more mystery in an imperfect system like 1e. There is more variability in power. Rolling hit points and abilities was exciting! I had a barbarian with 6 12s for hit point rolls...lottery odds! And it became part of his character...

i think as as an adult (not a kid) the danger of missed saving throws and the game's deadliness are high stakes excitement.

but I must say subjectively things were more mysterious and alien. The art was trippy and the Gygaxian imagination lent an air of swords and sorcery as really taking place somewhere not fully knowable.

the newness and lack of symmetry was and is as important as nostalgia.

that said we play 5e now but one day who knows...before I die...it would be cool to get the old books out and play it with the kids!
 

Salamandyr

Adventurer
OSR games tend to fit the expected playstyle better than more modern games: fighters fight, clerics back them up, and keep the team going, thieves are sneaky, and magic-users drop fireballs. A plethora of tiny changes, seemingly unconnected, eventually built up a system where fighters no longer value strength, the highest damage dealers were the former thieves, clerics could do everything better than everyone else, and the mark of a badly played magic-user was throwing a fireball (5e excepted, which made fireball OP for its level just to make it popular again--and it still kind of blows compared to the old days).

The art's better in the old books. Somewhere along the way, they decided that the optimal art style for Dungeons & Dragons was a bunch of people standing around like they were in a fashion show in attire that was the LOTR films crossed with a Disney Princess movie instead of anything anyone had ever actually worn. Oh...and the "realistic" armor which wasn't any more realistic than the loin cloths and fighting straps (which one could at least move in) of the old days had been. OSR has vibrant pencils, charcoal and ink drawings instead of mediocre computer color, and Illustrator brush effects. And OSR art generally has balls out action--OSR illustrations are of people doing things. And those things are usually violent or at least interesting (and sometimes even sexy). Give 5e credit...the monster art is generally top notch. The same cannot be said for any illustration involving someone who might be a protagonist.


The numbers are smaller, and there is far less focus on creating a uniform experience. What I mean from that is...a dragon might have 28 hit points, and it's possible that the party will get lucky and slay the dragon in the first round before anyone is hurt (or get unlucky and be wiped out in 1 round by the aforesaid dragon). By contrast, a modern dragon will have hundreds of hit points, the better to make sure it lasts the expected number of rounds, and does the expected number of tactically interesting things, so as to generate the expected amount of fun from fighting and defeating a dragon of that size and power, so that the players get the requisite amount of experience that allows them to progress in power by an expected amount to allow themselves to be challenged enough to be interested but not overly endangered by the next series of encounters. It's all very studied, and all very clean, and it's even fun...for a while.

OSR isn't perfect; much of the fun of being involved has been to be engaged in a form of historical recreation...how to create a game using these imperfect tools, but it's oh so worthwhile.
 
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dave2008

Adventurer
So, what do y'all think?
Interesting, thank you for sharing!

I still really like 5e- I mostly run it in an OSR fashion, using 1e modules, but there are a few things I just can't replicate.
I do feel like it would be fairly easily to replicate most of what you like in 5e (not that you need to too). Here are my thoughts:

1. Chargen: No sure about this one, but I guess you could only reveal the class features in 5 level increments. That would at least prevent the planning out of the whole character.

2. Magic Itmes: I agree with you here, but if you take care of some of these other ones (see #8) it comes back naturally.

3. Rules, lack thereof: I feel the same about 5e rules as 1e rules, you can use them if you want them, but you don't have to. I actually think this is a D&D thing and doesn't really change from edition to edition, so I don't get this one personally.

4. Class Niche Protection: Restrict classes to one archtype and don't allow multi-classing as needed. I think that pretty much solves that issue. If needed, remove feats too.

5. Spells: I agree with you here as well. I would suggest restricting archtypes / classes and possibly removing cantrips. That gets you most of what you want I think.

6. Big Bad / Combats / Whack-a-mole: Most 5e combats are already fast, even with the extra HP (damage increased to keep pace) so I don't know what to do for you here (heck I see more effort put in making fights last longer). However, the fear of combat and death can be easily brought back with a few tweaks to the rest and healing rules (either official in the DMG or house rules). If you restore class protection as noted, it will make it even more deadly (less magic).

7. Leveling Man: I would still keep prof., but if you get rid of feats & ASI, then adding a bit back with half proficiency bonus for non trained skills, saves, attacks, etc. would pretty much balance things out. I don't see any real downside.

8. Stats: Remove or seriously limit ASIs. It won't break the game. You don't need an 18 or 20 to be effective in 5e. The benefit of this, especially if you don't allow feats and multi-classing (they are optional systems after all). It will make magic items more prized and special. I don't care about stat generation and 5e already allows multiple methods, so no issue there really.
 

Monayuris

Explorer
Interesting, thank you for sharing!

I do feel like it would be fairly easily to replicate most of what you like in 5e (not that you need to too). Here are my thoughts:

1. Chargen: No sure about this one, but I guess you could only reveal the class features in 5 level increments. That would at least prevent the planning out of the whole character.

2. Magic Itmes: I agree with you here, but if you take care of some of these other ones (see #8) it comes back naturally.

3. Rules, lack thereof: I feel the same about 5e rules as 1e rules, you can use them if you want them, but you don't have to. I actually think this is a D&D thing and doesn't really change from edition to edition, so I don't get this one personally.

4. Class Niche Protection: Restrict classes to one archtype and don't allow multi-classing as needed. I think that pretty much solves that issue. If needed, remove feats too.

5. Spells: I agree with you here as well. I would suggest restricting archtypes / classes and possibly removing cantrips. That gets you most of what you want I think.

6. Big Bad / Combats / Whack-a-mole: Most 5e combats are already fast, even with the extra HP (damage increased to keep pace) so I don't know what to do for you here (heck I see more effort put in making fights last longer). However, the fear of combat and death can be easily brought back with a few tweaks to the rest and healing rules (either official in the DMG or house rules). If you restore class protection as noted, it will make it even more deadly (less magic).

7. Leveling Man: I would still keep prof., but if you get rid of feats & ASI, then adding a bit back with half proficiency bonus for non trained skills, saves, attacks, etc. would pretty much balance things out. I don't see any real downside.

8. Stats: Remove or seriously limit ASIs. It won't break the game. You don't need an 18 or 20 to be effective in 5e. The benefit of this, especially if you don't allow feats and multi-classing (they are optional systems after all). It will make magic items more prized and special. I don't care about stat generation and 5e already allows multiple methods, so no issue there really.
You can get *close* with 5e. I've been doing so for several years now. These are all excellent tweaks in that direction, you're not going to get a true old school game out of 5e, but you can get is a 5e game with an old school feel. Which is good enough.

They are two different games. I'm a fan of both. I run old school games for that true classic D&D experience, and I run 5e for when I want a little more of a modern style.

I'm quite happy that old school games are thriving, now.
 
I was reading an OSR book last night and it reminded me of something I loved but had forgotten about: all those +1 swords that would be +3 or so vs. a specific type of foe. I loved that sort of weird granularity, and how the plainest of magic blades could become powerful when used against the right monsters.

In an old campaign, I had a hobgoblin chieftain come with a longsword+1, +2 vs dwarves. The party defeated him, but the ranger claimed the sword (named Dwarfsbane or something predictable). It glowed in the presence of dwarves, so he was often teasing the party dwarf with it.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
I was reading an OSR book last night and it reminded me of something I loved but had forgotten about: all those +1 swords that would be +3 or so vs. a specific type of foe. I loved that sort of weird granularity, and how the plainest of magic blades could become powerful when used against the right monsters.

In an old campaign, I had a hobgoblin chieftain come with a longsword+1, +2 vs dwarves. The party defeated him, but the ranger claimed the sword (named Dwarfsbane or something predictable). It glowed in the presence of dwarves, so he was often teasing the party dwarf with it.
I'll take your dagger +2, +3 vs. creatures larger than man-sized and RAISE YOU a Sword +1, +4 vs. Reptiles.
 
Exactly! It was so weird and arbitrary...and glorious! If someone told me that there was a military pick +1, +3 vs. green monsters, I'd believe that was a thing.

All that strangeness, that unpredictability, was one of the things that made magic feel all the more magical.

I'll take your dagger +2, +3 vs. creatures larger than man-sized and RAISE YOU a Sword +1, +4 vs. Reptiles.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
My current group is mostly Old-Schoolers....we're (supposedly) playing OSRIC right now (but players keeps crossing the streams with 1e).

My experience has been that nostalgia keeps drawing us back in...then we remember all the gaps and frustrations...then we modify the rules heavily...then we play a modern game or two for a while....rinse, repeat.

Which is not to say that there are not good features in the Old-School, compared with modern versions of D&D, many of which are noted by the posters above and the OP. However, as a system tourist, I have found that nearly all of those have been duplicated or improved-upon by other less-nostalgic systems. Unfortunately, I haven't found a game that puts all the best(IMO) of them in one place. ::shrug::
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I was reading an OSR book last night and it reminded me of something I loved but had forgotten about: all those +1 swords that would be +3 or so vs. a specific type of foe. I loved that sort of weird granularity, ... It was so weird and arbitrary...and glorious!
I always figured it was inspired by Sting, Orcrist and Glamdring in The Hobbit.

I mean...
In an old campaign, I had a hobgoblin chieftain come with a longsword+1, +2 vs dwarves. The party defeated him, but the ranger claimed the sword (named Dwarfsbane or something predictable). It glowed in the presence of dwarves, so he was often teasing the party dwarf with it.
...that fits the MO of Orcrist the Goblin-Cleaver, in reverse, right?
 

Yardiff

Explorer
What I liked about old school games was that my 14th fighter could have bracers of ac2, ring of protection +1 saves,+6 ac, boots of dex 18, ring of flight (GM item), bastard sword of sharpness, girdle of stone giant strength, and cloak of protection +3 and be able to use all of them, not being limited to 3 cool items.

That's -8 AC without heavy armor for those who care.


The GM was nice and allowed the cloak to work for saves and the ring to work ac.
 
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FaerieGodfather

Registered User
You know, these threads always make me feel like something of an outsider in the OSR community, like I don't know what the OSR is or maybe I'm just really bad at it, because I'm not interested in Fantasy ****ing Vietnam and my "old school" is 2e AD&D after TSR's wheels fell off. I love the OSR, but it seems like everything the OSR community loves about the OSR are the things I think modern D&D actually did better.

Using the standard terminology, my preferred playstyle is Galactic Dragons & Godwars with a focus on high magic, high level, high energy play.

In a lot of ways, it feels like that's what Modern D&D is trying to do... but it's really bad at it. TSR D&D did it better... but much of the OSR community dimisses this playstyle-- which was prevalent in the early 80s-- with references to short attention spans, misplaced senses of entitlement, and "kids these days" playing too many video games.

I like the fact that the OSR (mostly) embraces the idea that character restrictions are as important as character abilities in differentiating between characters-- whether it's racial class restrictions or outright racial classes, TSR D&D and many OSR games have firmly established that the various PC races are different sorts of beings rather than funny-shaped humans. One OSR game even gave each nonhuman race its own short class list, an example I'm trying to follow in my 2e house rules.

A lot of the little things I like about the OSR aren't even conscious, deliberate choices... but simply rules that worked to serve their intended purpose before Wizards of the Coast broke them for no good reason. Combat movement, saving throws, spellcasting in melee.



1. Chargen. I understand that there are many people who enjoy chargen as its own mini-game. That love to plot out their characters and their choices from level 1 to 20. That enjoy the session 0 / day of creating the characters as much, if not more, than the adventuring. That can't wait for every new ability you get with each level.

I am not that person. I mean, sure, it was fun for a little while. But you know what's even more fun? Creating a character in under 3 minutes. Not worrying about leveling a character. That's fun- more time playing, less time working on the character.
See... I'm not a real big fan of the charop minigame, but I love the fact that Modern D&D keeps giving you choices every time you level up. This is great, and I don't understand why so many people are so hostile to it.

The "character build" mentality doesn't come from having options. It comes from that mutant multiclassing system and especially Prestige Classes that force players to earn their options by planning their whole character in advance. This is also why iconic class features are delayed beyond 1st level.
4. Class Niche Protection. This seems like a small thing, but it isn't to me. 5e tries to straddle the line between having classes (like traditional D&D) and having the classes not really matter (by having archetypes that bleed into each other, easy MC'ing, and feats), so you can end up with multiple ways to "build" the same concept.
See this? Perfect example. Starting with my second character, ever, every single character I have played in D&D has been multiclassed-- even when it wasn't legal, and in some cases when multiclassing itself wasn't part of the rules.

Another thing I love about the OSR? Kits allowed you to modify your class archetype, and multiclassing allowed you to blend your archetypes, without turning classes into fungible building blocks or allowing characters to "dip" into classes that were not, in any way, a part of your character's identity.

I'm not trying to pick on you here-- it's just strange to me how much of the stuff OSR fans hate about Modern D&D... is the exact stuff I love about the OSR.

Of course... there are a number of items people have raised in this thread that I'd argue were the best things about Modern D&D, and I wish OSR games incorporated. From your own list... ASIs and at-will magics. Another big one for me is "unusual" non-Tolkien races. Frequent acquisition of new class features.

I just want them in a ruleset that lets you put together a character in the time between failing your last saving throw and getting hired again back in town, where you can wrap up a boss fight in a single session with time left over to divvy the loot, BMX Bandit is actually as useful as Angel Summoner, and your party wizard hasn't been "the only dwarven wizard ever" for four wizards in a row.

Bonus points if it doesn't take levels in three separate classes and five feats to qualify for the Peasant Conscript PrC whose 10th level capstone ability lets them march and complain at the same time.
 
While I love 1e and BECMI and OD&D, I do think 2e deserves a place at the OSR table. If we date the OSR as beginning with Hackmaster in 2001 (though I'm sure that's a debatable point), by now 2e has been out of print longer than 1e had been out of print at the point when the OSR began.

You know, these threads always make me feel like something of an outsider in the OSR community, like I don't know what the OSR is or maybe I'm just really bad at it, because I'm not interested in Fantasy ****ing Vietnam and my "old school" is 2e AD&D after TSR's wheels fell off. I love the OSR, but it seems like everything the OSR community loves about the OSR are the things I think modern D&D actually did better.
 

FaerieGodfather

Registered User
While I love 1e and BECMI and OD&D, I do think 2e deserves a place at the OSR table. If we date the OSR as beginning with Hackmaster in 2001 (though I'm sure that's a debatable point), by now 2e has been out of print longer than 1e had been out of print at the point when the OSR began.
Hell, if we're going to mark the OSR by the publication of Hackmaster, the means that the very first retroclone was based on 2e.

I'll take it.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
You know, these threads always make me feel like something of an outsider in the OSR community, like I don't know what the OSR is or maybe I'm just really bad at it, because I'm not interested in Fantasy ****ing Vietnam and my "old school" is 2e AD&D after TSR's wheels fell off.
Heck, that's when I gave up on D&D for about 5 years.

2e may be /T/SR, but IDK if it qualifies as /O/SR? It doesn't seem Old to me.

Hell, if we're going to mark the OSR by the publication of Hackmaster, the means that the very first retroclone was based on 2e.
I'll take it.
Hackmaster? /2/e A&DD?
 

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