D&D General Why is "OSR style" D&D Fun For You?

DarkCrisis

Reeks of Jedi
Stats weren't like they are now-a-days. You didn't get a -1 until like a 7 or a +1 until like a 15. Something like that.

Rolling 3D6 was fine. More or less
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Stats weren't like they are now-a-days. You didn't get a -1 until like a 7 or a +1 until like a 15. Something like that.

Rolling 3D6 was fine. More or less
Are you talking about OD&D? In which most stats didn't give bonuses at all (until Greyhawk), so yeah, 3d6 was generally fine because the stats didn't do much?

Or AD&D? In which case most stats did need a 15 or better (though a couple only needed a 13), but you were expected by Gygax to have at least two 15s or better to make a more viable character? So no, 3d6 didn't really work for that, as he indicates in the DMG.

Or B/X? In which almost all stats give a penalty at an 8 or less and a bonus at a 13 or higher, and you can point-swap on a 2-for-1 basis to increase your Prime Requisite, so even with 3d6 down the line you can usually get at least a +1 on your PR even with an average set?
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Agreed. I think the amount of players who were introduced to the game via AD&D, and assumed (from the text) that OD&D was earlier, purely vestigial material, was not a small contingent.
Yeah, I'd pretty much fall into that cohort.
Purely anecdotally, I remember a few players over the years suggesting the "trade 2 stats for 1" rule, and I simply assumed it was a house rule that their previous groups had been using. And now I found out 30+ years later that it was actually sourced from B/X directly!
I encountered the two-for-one bit a few times back then and knew it came from somewhere official, but for a long time thought it was an obscurity buried somewhere in the 1e DMG just like everything else - including Captain Kidd's treasure and a nuclear submarine.
 

Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
To be clear, you mean just using the points virtually for XP bonus, not actually transferring them to, say, get your new Fighter's Strength up to a 13 to qualify for a +1 to hit and damage as well as the 5% xp bump?

Correct.

Depending on the game and setting, I either don't use stat-derived bonuses like "+1 to hit and damage" at all, or I drastically scale them back so that they're limited to no more than ±1 in magnitude and only modify qualities that aren't directly involved in combat. I do this because (1) in Basic/Expert/Classic D&D, Dexterity has no direct effect on thieving skills, Intelligence has no direct effect on magic-user spells, and Wisdom has no direct effect on turning undead or clerical spells, so it strikes me as particularly odd that fighters should have their overall competence so thoroughly dictated by their ability score modifiers; and (2) when you decouple the scores from character competence, it functionally frees up the player to consider more classes in spite of the scores that they've rolled.

Original and classic D&D, after all, don't gate the four basic classes behind ability score requirements the way AD&D does. If you want to play, say, a fighter with low Strength, you're free to do that, provided you're willing to put up with a −10% or −20% XP penalty . . . which, IMO, is less an actual hindrance and more of a gentle nudge away from picking the fighter class.

The hinderance comes from the −2 or −3 Str penalty to hit and damage in melee imposed by Moldvay; or the Dex penalty to missile-fire; or the Con penalty to hp; all of which are either absent from Men & Magic and Holmes, or no worse than −1. But I don't want ability score penalties to be even as onerous as −1 to attack rolls or hp per hit die at my table.

That really gets to the heart of my philosophy on the ability scores: I don't want them to be totalizing descriptors of a PC's capabilities, I want them to represent general inclinations and maybe the soft nature/nurture effects of upbringing. My feeling is that Str 3 ought not to represent an invalid weakling, and Str 18 ought not to represent an Olympic-level peak power-lifter; rather, Str 3 means a grave distaste for fighting, while Str 18 means a Son Goku-level adoration for the fighting arts; and maybe, if I'm also using derived modifiers, Str 3–7 represents slightly below-average physique for a healthy, able-bodied adventurer, while Str 14–18 represents slightly above-average physique for a healthy, able-bodied adventurer.

This way, rolling 3d6 in order doesn't dictate the class that you play, it just offers suggestions. Those suggestions become the whole point of not just prime requisites, but all the scores. They're the raison d'être for having ability scores in the game at all. Gentle nudges toward one class over another, never hard mandates.

So, given this philosophy and this gameplay environment, now consider what the virtual prime requisite rules do. For starters, they make it so that a decent set of scores make a −20% XP penalty an extremely unlikely result, even for a very low prime requisite ability score. It lets you play that Int 5 magic-user if you really want to and make up for the poor Intelligence with a high Wisdom, so that your XP penalty is only −10% after all.

Moreover, it allows a DM to ever-so-slightly tweak the population of classes in a campaign. Again, consider the context of an open-table Grand Campaign with lots of players rotating in and out of the game, and each player creating lots of characters over time. All things being equal, if fighters benefit from Wis 3-for-1, while clerics benefit from Str 3-for-1, the number of potential player characters who might otherwise consider the fighter class but wind up becoming clerics instead, or vice versa (and I'm talking about out-of-game players making that decision after seeing the stats they've rolled here), is apt to be equal. Put in even nerdier terms, if there were differential equations describing the "flow" of potential fighters into the cleric pool and vice versa, ±df/dt = ±dc/dt. Each class might only be drawing away a tiny fraction of potential "applicants" from the other, but in the end it evens out.

Now consider that both fighters and clerics benefit from Int 2-for-1 in OD&D, whereas magic-users benefit from Wis 2-for-1 but from Str not at all. Now our differentials aren't equal. There are some tiny number of possible magic-users "flowing" into the fighter and cleric classes, but while the "flows" between potential clerics and magic-users is the same, fewer potential fighters are peeling away and "flowing" back toward the magic-user class. Again, it's a tiny effect, the kind of tiny effect that people who don't understand Darwinian evolution by natural selection are apt to imagine can't exist in the first place to add up to something noticeable in the long run, but it's there.

Then, when you add in the thief and note that Greyhawk thieves use Int 2-for-1 and Wis 1-for-1(!), you can really start to see how a fair number of potential clerics might opt for the thief class instead. The effect becomes noticeably less tiny and invisible.

(I don't share Gary Gygax's reputed distaste for magic-users, and so in my own campaigns, I tweak the numbers such that, all things being equal, the prime requisites of fighters, clerics, and magic-users are a wash between the three classes. But I also use more classes, and all six ability scores are potential prime requisites; I use a variation on this rule chiefly to pull potential monks away and nudge them in the direction of the thief class.)

Finally, I like that not actually altering the ability scores preserves the beauty and simplicity of the 3d6 bell curve. You roll your stats, you get what you get, and there's no opportunity to min-max. You don't wind up in a campaign where every fighter has at least Str 16, and they got that way by sacking their Int and Wis down to 9 or 10.
 
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Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
Your analysis is quite intriguing. Even if it is marginal in your post, I was surprised by the statement that Gary despised MUs. He played Mordenkainen for a very long time and, I was always under the impression that he liked the class quite a bit.
 

Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
Your analysis is quite intriguing. Even if it is marginal in your post, I was surprised by the statement that Gary despised MUs. He played Mordenkainen for a very long time and, I was always under the impression that he liked the class quite a bit.

Not "despised," just "disliked relative to fighters." I don't have the timestamp to find the exact quote, but Tim Kask (does he still post here to ask?) mentions at one point in this interview how, at least up through the time when the DMG was being written, Gary thought it was weird that players enjoyed playing MUs when they could have been heroic warriors like Conan instead.

EDIT: Found a clip.
 
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Not "despised," just "disliked relative to fighters." I don't have the timestamp to find the exact quote, but Tim Kask (does he still post here to ask?) mentions at one point in this interview how, at least up through the time when the DMG was being written, Gary thought it was weird that players enjoyed playing MUs when they could have been heroic warriors like Conan instead.

EDIT: Found a clip.
Makes a lot of sense to me. I liked the Tim Kask video clip.

Apropos of nothing, I watched the Tim Kask Steam Tunnel video too. And in college, circa 1989, were really did play in an old, closed off, dirt-floored sub-basement under a dorm built around 1830. It was kinda fun. They hid the entrance better after I graduated, when I guess they figured students were getting it.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
An additional schism, I think, might be with those like me who started with Moldvay Basic. You rolled 3d6 in order, but, then you could swap points 2 for 1, raising or lowering Str, Int and/or Wis, raising Dex and Con and Cha couldn't be changed. So, fighters almost universally would have 9 or 10 Int and Wis (9 was the lowest you could reduce a score to) in order to gain 2 or 3 points to add to Str and Dex (up to a max of 18). Or wizards would bump points into Int, that sort of thing.

We kept this rolling method all the way through AD&D and I believe we might have kept it up for 2e as well.

So, for me, something like standard array or point buy, isn't all that much of a change from AD&D. I get character stats that look pretty close between editions.

We used that as well via the RC.

3d6 wasn't to bad for B/X sucked for AD&D. Think my first fighter in BECMI had 16 strength, and 13-15 con and dex.
 

mehighlow

Explorer
It's the thrill of that first time I played a tabletop RPG for me, chasing to rekindle that flame of wonder I felt back then. I guess most of us play RPGs to recapture the feeling of excitement we first had when we discovered there was a game where you simultaneously decide and discover what is going to happen. And it has magic and dragons!

Although, it does not have much to do with the system itself - I started with Warhammer, AD&D, Rolemaster and CP 2020 more or less equally, but an OSR game (for me) needs to evoke the sense of not really knowing what to expect, even though you may be familiar with the rules. This in practice means randomness, aleatory, stochastic, things that will surprise the GM as much as the players. And ofc, respect the dice, let them tell the story. This means there is real danger in play, and that is the second component of the thrill. Having stakes means having something to lose.

This leads to my preference for low-level (or "flat" advancement) play - I love playing 0 level characters like Dungeon Crawl Classics has with their funnel adventures, where you create four zero levels, and of those that survive, one can level up into a proper level 1 hero! And low-level characters get killed easily, which makes the "win" (survival, advancement, treasure, discovery) more sweeter and appreciated in my book.

Playing low level characters also plays into the thrill I am chasing, in the sense that rolling up characters is tied to the of beginning a new adventure or a campaign, and I love that feeling, like opening a book you know is going to be good. Also, playing 0 level peasants also lends itself to, well, roleplaying the amazement and wonder of yokels-gone-heroes, which kind of makes it easier to truly feel it again.
 

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