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OSR OSR Gripes

I think that’s just arguing semantics. Sure, I enjoyed the paladin trying to pull something like that off. To me, that’s the sort of sacrifice that a classic paladin would make, when hope is nearly lost. I adjudicated an opposed role and the villain failed their check.
Which is what you are supposed to do when the rules are silent on something. I'm not criticizing your on the fly ruling or the outcome. I do want to draw attention to the fact that it happened only because you allowed it to happen, and that is not a semantic difference.

On things where the rules are silent, neither you nor the player really have an understanding of whether something is possible and if possible how likely it is. And the difference between a ruling and a rule is that they are situationally applied according to what the DM wants to have happen - in this case the sort of sacrifice a classic paladin would make.

You adjudicated an opposed roll as the resolution method of grabbing a villain and tackling him out of the window. Great. It makes sense and it makes for a great scene. But there is more than semantics going on here.

If a group of zombies or goblins are in the same room, and they now attempt to throw the party out of the window, do they get the same ruling as the Paladin? One opposed roll and out the window you go? Would that have made a good scene? Do you similarly play opponents as clever and devious against the PC's? Or take it up a notch. Suppose a party caster sees this opposed roll ruling and thinks, "That's a real bargain.", and the next time you have a scene like this they use some sort of summoning spell to conjure creatures that grab things and defenestrate them without the need for a PC to die. Does that make a good scene? Do you still make the same ruling or do you adapt by never again putting NPCs in situations where they can be tossed down shafts in throne rooms by Paladins (fallen or otherwise) in acts of sacrifice?

Most of all, do you think this ruling is going to change the way your game is played? Is this ruling now a house rule, or are you going to walk it back in situations where it doesn't make a great scene?

As a 1e AD&D DM, I was well aware that per the official rules, low HD mooks were better off attacking the PC's with grapples and punches than they were with swords. Unarmed combat was far deadlier than armed combat for all but the most effective armed combatants. This made me both reluctant to employ it and reluctant to validate it as a player tactic. What I wanted was rules that made it situationally great - like when you needed to defenestrate the bad guy when all hope was lost - but which didn't make it the go to tactic by everyone in every combat. And, figuring out how to do that took some heavy lifting. Like, for example, I realized I needed to define what 3.0e later defined as an 'attack of opportunity' - I called it at the time somewhat confusingly a 'parry' and it had almost the exact same rules 3e would later come up with (only you didn't need to take a Combat Reflexes feat, it was built in, because I didn't have feats) - so that those goblins would hesitate in their swarming and defenestrating or simply just tackling the player to the floor. Then, both the players and myself could decide to make these propositions when the situation suited it, and not just when we thought that it should be validated as a great scene, and I wouldn't be stuck trying to decide in the middle of a game if I was being fair to the player by allowing or disallowing something or playing the monster fairly by allowing or disallowing something or exactly what ruling I should make.

One take on this you might have is none of this really matters. You can just make rulings situationally - Paladins get opposed roles on BBEG's because they are big dang heroes, and goblins who are not just don't do that sort of thing. And that is fine, but then I think you still have to admit that even if that is your preference, it's not just a semantic difference.
 
I generally prefer 5e, but running OSR helped me be a better 5e GM.
How you think about and prepare to play is at least as important to what happens at the table as the rules you use to play. I still run my games as if I was playing 1e AD&D. I just now have rules that don't sputter and fail on me as often as they used to do.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
This is bad advice if you want to level up.
I would think that if the context is that the character is uninteresting to play, all 9 to 12s without even a penalty score to have a fun flaw, leveling up is not the goal. They will remain uninteresting.
 
I would think that if the context is that the character is uninteresting to play, all 9 to 12s without even a penalty score to have a fun flaw, leveling up is not the goal. They will remain uninteresting.
Even more so because the nature of OSR rules if they are anything like 1E AD&D is that ability scores are generally more important than level. Without ability scores you can neither achieve the level nor the class you may want to play. And the effectiveness of a character with higher ability scores increases exponentially. A character with 1 18 is generally about twice as effective as a character without an ability modifier.

We eventually learned that a character was only going to be playable in the long run if:

1) They had at least a 16 in either INT or WIS (and obviously no 5 or less that interfered with class selection), and so could be at least a reasonably effective M-U or Cleric. Even so an 18 was hugely important even in this case for the M-U because without it you were relying on luck of the die roll to learn the spells you needed. Below 16 and it really wasn't viable unless you ignored rules on chance of spell failure or chance to learn a spell.
2) They had at least a 17 in STR and one other 17 other than Charisma. This suggested multi-classing or dual classing could be viable, or in the event of the STR and CON combination you'd be a reasonably effective fighter.
3) They had an 18 in STR opening up the all important % strength ranks for a fighter.
4) They had an 18 in CON and the DM allowed higher than RAW advancement as a fighter for Dwarves (for the 19 CON bonuses), or you had an 18 in CON and qualified as a Barbarian (for the double CON bonuses). In either case, this was viable only if you weren't planning to continue the character into high level play.
5) They qualified as a Paladin or Cavalier.
6) They qualified as a Ranger.
7) They qualified as a Bard.

The problem among other things is that if a goodly portion of the party had the above qualities, and you didn't then you'd be entirely outstripped in spotlight. There is only so long that is fun. Even if you are the sort of good sport and creative player that can make it work, the second time it happens its just not fun anymore.

Honestly, if I knew then what I knew now I'd have adopted Method III for ability score generation in a heart beat. And I wanted to run a grittier game, then I could scaled back the number of rolls for each attribute to 4 or 5. It's slower but vastly better than 4d6 drop the lowest (Method I) for ensuring everyone has something they'd enjoy playing and no one is completely out classed and feels unnecessary. And I think if I did go that route there would have been less metagaming and less impetus for players to cheat.
 
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Retreater

Explorer
I get the appeal of Dark Soul type video games, but it's far different to restart a video game level than to roll a new character, try to make it interesting and unique, fit into a party of other players, and to contribute to an adverture in a meaningful way, when that character is no better than a kobold on paper.
I understand the fun of games like Call of Cthulhu, but that's because the game is set up to uncover mysteries and fight as a last resort. OSR games seem to champion the Dungeon crawl and hack and slash style. But they don't seem to do it especially well.
 
I get the appeal of Dark Soul type video games, but it's far different to restart a video game level than to roll a new character
This is a very good point. For all the talk about how challenging Dark Soul is when you die you basically just lose a few minutes of work. Indeed, most of the challenge is stealing yourself against the grind of the game so that you suffer the inevitable setbacks gladly. But the loss of a character is more comparable to playing in a game's Hardcore mode all the time, and can mean losing 100's of hours of emotional investment.

Losing a starting character isn't as big of a deal, but it still can be highly disruptive even if you play in a sort of game where you have mounds of dead bards because the DM lets your replacement character show up almost immediately.

OSR games seem to champion the Dungeon crawl and hack and slash style. But they don't seem to do it especially well.
Well, the old school style is there... some of the time. A lot of the time the dungeon crawls are a lot more hard core and a lot more horror themed than was typical of the era, and more resemble (as I've said) the Grimdark school of the 1990's that gave us Kult, Deadlands, VtM, etc. They often strike me more as 'dungeon porn' than any sort of recreation of D&D as I typically played it, as if 1st level characters were repeatedly thrown into the Tomb of Horrors and everyone liked it and masochistically demanded more of the same.

The truth is, if you go back and read Dragon magazine through the 1980's, everyone was aware that there were some problems of various sorts with class balance and the game in general and a lot of people were putting forward ideas on how to fix the game or stream line the game or solve common problems. A lot of fantasy heartbreakers ripped the engine out of the game and then I think discovered that the D20 engine with its sacred cows was overall pretty sound and that throwing it out resulted in a different equally frustrating set of problems.

But what gets me about so much of the OSR writing I've seen is not that it's trying to do something understandable like recapture nostalgia or the old school magic of Gygaxian play (which I'll still champion), but that so much of it seems to be faithful to things for no really good reason and completely ignores all that discussion in Dragon magazine and everything we've learned since 1982 purely to faithfully recreate orthodox BECMI or AD&D for no apparent reason but that's the way it always was. That, and the 'dungeon porn' of trying to make 'Tomb of Horrors' schtick of 'if you touch it, you'll die' the overall and ubiquitous feel of the game.

Oh and that and OSR people seem to always mistake an idea for an implementation as if the idea was the hard part.

I'm sure that there are some OSR rule sets out there that are really super thoughtful about this and are trying to keep the best of the old game while suggesting enhancements or replacements for what never did work, but there are so many OSR rule sets I have no way of knowing which to recommend.

But I can recommend you drop 4d6 drop the lowest like a hot potato.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Saying it’s only because of nostalgia infers that we never really had fun with them
I don't think it implies that - you could be nostalgic for something you had oodles of fun with when you were younger, and that nostalgia could make up for not having so much fun with it, now, for instance.
But, neither does it contradict the idea: never getting to have as much fun with something back in the day, can contribute to feeling nostalgic for it, and wanting to 'do it right this time.'

And even setting that aside, they act like nostalgia is a bad word. If something makes you feel good when playing it, that’s what’s important.
Exactly. Nostalgia is a /good/ reason to get back to something and enjoy it!

I do want to draw attention to the fact that it happened only because you allowed it to happen, and that is not a semantic difference.

On things where the rules are silent, neither you nor the player really have an understanding of whether something is possible and if possible how likely it is.
Well, if you've gamed together for a decade or decades, you might each have a very good idea how likely it is.

As a 1e AD&D DM, I was well aware that per the official rules, low HD mooks were better off attacking the PC's with grapples and punches than they were with swords. Unarmed combat was far deadlier than armed combat for all but the most effective armed combatants.
That's a rules quirk I don't often hear brought up. Greatly ignored, I think. The rules in question were quite different and unintuitive from the rest of the combat system.

Like, for example, I realized I needed to define what 3.0e later defined as an 'attack of opportunity' - I called it at the time somewhat confusingly a 'parry' and it had almost the exact same rules 3e would later come up with (only you didn't need to take a Combat Reflexes feat, it was built in, because I didn't have feats) - so that those goblins would hesitate in their swarming and defenestrating or simply just tackling the player to the floor.
IIRC, there was a free attack that spoiled an unarmed attack, even in 1e. Or maybe that was just if you squinted and held the book up to the light at the right angle. It was a long time ago. I expanded it out to shifting the turn cycle from rounds to segments when unarmed combat came into it, which had... consequences.


The truth is, if you go back and read Dragon magazine through the 1980's, everyone was aware that there were some problems of various sorts with class balance and the game in general and a lot of people were putting forward ideas on how to fix the game or stream line the game or solve common problems.
Yet, 2e came out in '89 and it was hardly different at all.
::shrug::
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
I get the appeal of Dark Soul type video games, but it's far different to restart a video game level than to roll a new character, try to make it interesting and unique, fit into a party of other players, and to contribute to an adverture in a meaningful way, when that character is no better than a kobold on paper.
I understand the fun of games like Call of Cthulhu, but that's because the game is set up to uncover mysteries and fight as a last resort. OSR games seem to champion the Dungeon crawl and hack and slash style. But they don't seem to do it especially well.
So, the bolded part is what interests me.

One of the big differences, IMO, between classic OSR/1e style play and today's play (basically from 2.5e on, but especially with 3e on) is the emphasis on Chargen.

I often think that a character isn't made interesting and unique in OSR in creation; it's only through play that the character becomes interesting and unique.

I can create a 1e or B/X character, rolling included, in under 3 minutes easily. This includes equipment, etc. I don't agonize over backgrounds, or anything really, because the flavor of the character reveals itself to me in play .

5e, even with the simplified processes, is still heavy on the Chragen front; again, OSR may just not be the fun you are looking for.
 
Can’t argue there. Even if, after the umpteenth time of getting slaughtered by Oceiros, the Consumed King or Ornstein and Smough, it might feel like it!

But I think there’s also a context that’s changed over time. These days, I think most of us are used to (trying) to take a single character from the beginning to the end of the campaign). In the old days people had multiple characters they were levelling up in a single campaign. If you lost one character, whether to death or just being stuck waiting to heal up from the last adventure (no long rests, just 1-2 HP per day spent doing nothing), you had multiple choices for other folks to bring into the fray, right then and there. And you probably would then attempt to get the lost character raised or resurrected.

I get the appeal of Dark Soul type video games, but it's far different to restart a video game level than to roll a new character, try to make it interesting and unique, fit into a party of other players, and to contribute to an adverture in a meaningful way, when that character is no better than a kobold on paper.
 

Monayuris

Explorer
I get the appeal of Dark Soul type video games, but it's far different to restart a video game level than to roll a new character, try to make it interesting and unique, fit into a party of other players, and to contribute to an adverture in a meaningful way, when that character is no better than a kobold on paper.
I understand the fun of games like Call of Cthulhu, but that's because the game is set up to uncover mysteries and fight as a last resort. OSR games seem to champion the Dungeon crawl and hack and slash style. But they don't seem to do it especially well.
OSR games can definitely do the dungeon crawl, but yeah not so much hack and slash. In OSR games you don't want to hack and slash, you want to carefully plan your combats and use clever play to stack the deck in your favor.

To support this, most OSR games feature rules for Reactions and Morale which tend to reduce the amount of combat that occurs in the game.

The key to dungeon crawls is that the character is the avatar for the player. There isn't a connection between player capability and character capability. Coming up with a clever plan, making a prudent decision, solving a puzzle are all things the player does, not the character.

It doesn't matter if a player's character is no better than a kobold... it doesn't change the fact that the player is a person sitting at the table who can contribute meaningfully to the game.
 
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Yet, 2e came out in '89 and it was hardly different at all. ::shrug::
Which made a lot of people at the time really upset. Very little that people had been complaining about was addressed. Dragons for example had been a hot topic of contention for a long time, and at least an attempt was made at that. I think it says something that we never officially adopted 2e and continued play in 1e, but that most of the DMs in the group did adopt 2e dragons and did start using something very close to 2e's simplified initiative system. But at the same time, many things that most of weren't upset about were changed.

To me there is a strong parallel between 2e and 4e, and between 3e and 5e, in that in both cases by the time the even numbered edition came out a majority of the community was chaffing about weaknesses in the rule set and was ready for a revision. But, in both the cases of 2e and 4e, the actual revision we got mostly addressed issues that we didn't have and reflected instead a very strong internal vision by the company as to how the game should be played and in addition to rules changes there were wholesale lore changes that really no one had demanded and felt more like some DMs house setting imposed on the whole community.

And in both the cases of 3e and 5e, the edition that we then got was much closer to what the core community had expected the even numbered edition to actually look like.

Of course the parallel isn't perfect. 2e can be faulted for not killing enough sacred cows and 4e faulted for perhaps killing too many of them, but at least at the time the 2e books came out I remember our group looking at the rules and mostly going, "Why did they do THAT?" and "Why do we still not have good rules for THIS?".

The only good thing we liked about 2e was that it was backwards compatible enough that we could pick and choose which good ideas (or things we thought were good ideas) to import into our games, and that ended up being a decent amount so we probably ended up liking 2e far more than we did at first glance.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I don't think it implies that - you could be nostalgic for something you had oodles of fun with when you were younger, and that nostalgia could make up for not having so much fun with it, now, for instance.
:
With the way some people are using it, it does. That is, "You didn't really have fun back then. You only thought you did now looking at it through nostalgia. But you couldn't have had fun back then because the game sucks."
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
So, the bolded part is what interests me.

One of the big differences, IMO, between classic OSR/1e style play and today's play (basically from 2.5e on, but especially with 3e on) is the emphasis on Chargen.

I often think that a character isn't made interesting and unique in OSR in creation; it's only through play that the character becomes interesting and unique.

I can create a 1e or B/X character, rolling included, in under 3 minutes easily. This includes equipment, etc. I don't agonize over backgrounds, or anything really, because the flavor of the character reveals itself to me in play .

5e, even with the simplified processes, is still heavy on the Chragen front; again, OSR may just not be the fun you are looking for.
To add on to this, I saw a definite shift in how players viewed PCs from OSR to post OSR. Back then, your characters were defined by what they did in the adventure. Zero to hero. From 2.5 on, it shifted to "before we even start playing, here's all the awesome powers your PC has." Your character is just as defined by char gen as they were by anything that followed.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
With the way some people are using it, it does. That is, "You didn't really have fun back then. You only thought you did now looking at it through nostalgia. But you couldn't have had fun back then because the game sucks."
What nonsense: I can have all kinds of fun with a game that sucks, especially when I don't hesitate to ignore, override, re-interpret, or re-write - or lampshade, don't underestimate the fun of that! - whichever bits of it I find in any way sucky.
 
What nonsense: I can have all kinds of fun with a game that sucks, especially when I don't hesitate to ignore, override, re-interpret, or re-write - or lampshade, don't underestimate the fun of that! - whichever bits of it I find in any way sucky.
The rules don't suck because we don't ever use them!

More seriously, you seem to be having a side discussion about me with someone that either has me blocked or I have blocked. (I don't remember which, but there are certainly more of the former than the later.) The gist of this side discussion I think you've covered well, as I at no time said we didn't have fun back in the day and have repeatedly said I understand the nostalgia. We don't have nostalgia for things we hated. Nor for that matter am I saying no one is having fun with OSR now, as surely they are.

What I am saying is that along with the fun I remember over the 10-15 years of steady play a grow sense that we could and ought to do better. And I'm also saying that a lot of the defenses of OSR are really obviously and pointedly light on defenses of the rules, and are instead defenses of attitudes, play styles, encounter design and so forth that is fairly or unfairly perceived as being harmed by changes to the rules.

And for example, as a subtle case of me perhaps agreeing that a change harmed a play style, linear XP requirements compared to exponential XP requirements made the whole 'all new characters start at 1st level' pretty much something you couldn't do because new characters never caught up enough under a linear scale.

But much of the analysis from both the crowd I can hear and the crowd I can't, has nothing to do with rules and their effects and everything to do with the attitude of the participants - for which you don't need OSR. And no one so far has stepped on up and even offered as much of analysis as I just did talking about the change in XP to level and how it impacts how you can play the game.
 
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the Jester

Legend
We eventually learned that a character was only going to be playable in the long run if:

>snip<
Wow, I couldn't disagree more.

You certainly had a different experience in play than I did with old-skool games. Nothing wrong with that; but you seem to be insisting that your experiences somehow qualify as universal truths, while those of others don't. For example, you assert:

The problem among other things is that if a goodly portion of the party had the above qualities, and you didn't then you'd be entirely outstripped in spotlight. There is only so long that is fun. Even if you are the sort of good sport and creative player that can make it work, the second time it happens its just not fun anymore.
Again, that was not my experience at all.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Wow, I couldn't disagree more.

You certainly had a different experience in play than I did with old-skool games. Nothing wrong with that; but you seem to be insisting that your experiences somehow qualify as universal truths, while those of others don't. For example, you assert:



Again, that was not my experience at all.
This all may be true, but have you ever considered the other side?

You know, that the other person is a brain in a jar, and we are all nothing but shadows on a wall and therefore have no authentic experiences?

I mean ... have you ever been to the dark side of the moon?

Do you even lift, brah?
 

the Jester

Legend
This all may be true, but have you ever considered the other side?

You know, that the other person is a brain in a jar, and we are all nothing but shadows on a wall and therefore have no authentic experiences?

I mean ... have you ever been to the dark side of the moon?

Do you even lift, brah?
There's no dark side of the moon, really.

As a matter of fact, it's all dark.
 
You certainly had a different experience in play than I did with old-skool games.
The problem with the phrase "old-skool games" is that if you were actually back in the old-skool you know that the actual rules in force at a particular table, and the actual styles of the DM varied so much from table to table that I honestly have very little idea what is meant by the term. But, to the extent that the term has any meaning at all, I would assume it means games played as the rules and guidelines of the original books (and then, which ones?) provided for and outlined.

The truths I'm asserting assume that by and large you played a game based on the books and on published modules, or at least with homebrew content that was something like published modules.

If you didn't play by the rules or your DM used processes of play radically different than the books, of course all my assertions about what your game was like are meaningless.

The problem I have generating any meaningful discussion thus far is everyone is happy to provide a flat denial, but no one is actually analyzing why the game they played was like what they asserted or what impact the actual rules had on the game. If you'll go through the thread, I'm literally the only one talking about the impact of rules and or published examples of play and what it is and was like to run them.

So by all means, explain how on the basis of the rules I'm wrong about the viability of characters. Or if I'm not wrong, explain what rules exemptions or modifications you used (M-U's could learn all spells regardless of intelligence, priest spells always worked regardless of Wisdom score, you could play any class despite having a 5 in a score, you could achieve any level as a demi-human, you could play any class regardless of stat prerequisites, your table tolerated cheating, you never played past 5th level on any regular basis, your DM used generous magic item placement to boost weak characters up to relevance, your DM used high illusionism techniques to ensure spot light distribution, etc. etc. etc.) that explain how you had such a vastly different experience that what you would have had, had you used the rules.

Nothing wrong with that; but you seem to be insisting that your experiences somehow qualify as universal truths...
I'm trying to explain why fidelity to "old skool" rule sets is a misguided sort of fidelity. Remember, it is the OSR people that insist the rules create the experience of play, otherwise there would be no need to adopt "old skool" rules. Yet, it is equally the OSR people avoiding a discussion of why that is so that has any specifics in it. Instead, we get generic applies to any edition of D&D assertions like, "You really need to prepare for combat instead of blindly charging in if you want to succeed." or some other weak sauce statements that remind me of every small town in America's claim to have "world famous BBQ".

"You'll find its really different here from other places. People around here really like to eat food. We're different that way."

Again, that was not my experience at all.
Great. What was your experience and how was it achieved?
 
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