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RPG» Forums » General Discussion » General Role-Playing

Subject: QOTD FEB 7: What makes a role playing game "old school"? rss

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Emperors Grace
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enduran wrote:
cosine wrote:
The old school says that if you didn't get the approval from the GM when you said you shopped for and bought the rope, then you don't have rope.

Surely there's a line. I'm almost certain I remember reading advice in early books about the limits to the kinds of things GMs need to approve. Without such limits, games would utterly bog down with questions, even more than many already do.

cosine wrote:
Simulation means playing out the details.

Okay, sure, you have to do the shopping, because the characters have to do the shopping. But the characters don't have to ask if they can see rope, they just see rope. So, the more assuming and establishing the players can do, and the more they can reduce back-and-forth with the GM, the more the game can focus only in the in-game details.

cosine wrote:
Old school says players control thee decisions of characters only. They cannot cause their characters to miraculously create a rope where there was none before anymore than you could create a rope in the real world by assuming it.

Every time. Every time, it's assumed I'm talking about unrealism when what it's about is more realism.

It's not "creating a rope where there was none before," it's "a rope that obviously would have existed the whole time, but no one felt the need to mention yet." The rope's not "not there," it just hasn't been part of the game yet, even though in the given case, it would obviously have been there. The characters are on a sailing ship, and they need to tie up a mutineer. If they ask if there's rope on a ship, they're impeding the overall goal of simulation.

Okay, yes, some tables actually did bother with encumbrance of mundane equipment, and sometimes, at some of those tables, the presence or not of a few pounds of rope, or whatever, would have made a difference. That's fine. But in any case, talking to the GM for information or permission simulates nothing, because that's not what the characters are doing. Just doing something the character would and plausibly could do, is simulation, so the more players are allowed to do that, the more simulationist the game can be. I'm not saying that this was generally how old school was played out (though there were limits to what the GM needed to be consulted on), but I want to make clear that simulation and a degree of player control are not mutually exclusive.


I always went for the middle ground in 1st and 2nd ed.

You had to have the equipment on your sheet when push came to shove in the dungeon but you didn't have to roleplay buying common items.

I had a list that was put on the table when a town was encountered that listed common items that could be bought in the town and the "best price". If you wanted something not on the list or at a different price, then roleplaying was needed.
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Emperors Grace wrote:
The 1st ed and 2nd Ed were close to each other around 2 IIRC.

From 3.0 onward the curve shot way up. maybe 8 for 3rd? and like 20 for 3.5 or 4th?

An interesting experiment, but a tricky one to draw conclusions from, as it typical for such artificial mashups.

Whereas in Basic D&D and perhaps in 1st and 2nd Edition "kobold" had a fairly specific meaning, in 3rd Edition I'd expect "kobolds" to vary, i.e. some with ranged weapons, some with class levels, or even spells. In 4th Edition, without allowing modifications per the DMG, there are three types level 1 kobolds, just in the original Monster Manual.

A first level 4th Edition fighter might be able to buzzsaw through a lot of Kobold Minions (who are also "minion"-type creatures), especially if they approached one at a time, and didn't use their javelins. They might also do pretty well against Kobold Skirmishers, who don't have ranged weapons and are designed to benefit from the presence of allies. If a Kobold Slinger manages to immobilize and do several rounds of ongoing fire damage to the fighter, well, it might only take one of them.
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enduran wrote:
Emperors Grace wrote:
The 1st ed and 2nd Ed were close to each other around 2 IIRC.

From 3.0 onward the curve shot way up. maybe 8 for 3rd? and like 20 for 3.5 or 4th?

An interesting experiment, but a tricky one to draw conclusions from, as it typical for such artificial mashups.

Whereas in Basic D&D and perhaps in 1st and 2nd Edition "kobold" had a fairly specific meaning, in 3rd Edition I'd expect "kobolds" to vary, i.e. some with ranged weapons, some with class levels, or even spells. In 4th Edition, without allowing modifications per the DMG, there are three types level 1 kobolds, just in the original Monster Manual.

A first level 4th Edition fighter might be able to buzzsaw through a lot of Kobold Minions (who are also "minion"-type creatures), especially if they approached one at a time, and didn't use their javelins. They might also do pretty well against Kobold Skirmishers, who don't have ranged weapons and are designed to benefit from the presence of allies. If a Kobold Slinger manages to immobilize and do several rounds of ongoing fire damage to the fighter, well, it might only take one of them.


I don't remember as much as I'd like but I think part of the strictures might have been sword vs sword and one at a time.

And yes, the set-up will never be entirely equal across editions, but it did illustrate the feel that I got from the new rules. The combo-combo feel particularly. It's definitely there, in fact it's played for laughs in DG's Dorkness Rising with the "and that's why you play a dexterity based fighter!" scene where she combos her way through almost all the opposition.
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Eric Jome
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enduran wrote:
It's not "creating a rope where there was none before," it's "a rope that obviously would have existed the whole time, but no one felt the need to mention yet."


Can we just agree I have a flask of oil? Holy water? The key to the locked door? A canoe? That my character speaks the language? That we talked to that guy who knew the password? I mean clearly we meant to do it, no?

Where do we draw a line?

Narrative games were born out of "Wouldn't it be cool if we DID find a canoe stowed in the shrubs by a local fisherman?" And the GM says... "Yes!" thinking even though he hadn't thought of that it does sound cool and the dungeon is across the river, so if we're gonna get to the GOOD stuff...

People skipped encumbrance, weapon speed factor, AC versus weapon type, and many more. For any number of reasons. All resulting in less old school and more the school of their choice. Which is just fine.
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Good discussion, all.

To me, old school means (1) a strong GM role with (2) light mechanics, and (3) a high degree of freedom (and consequences) for the players.

That delineates a few ways that games don't meet the old school test for me:

Games can lack a strong GM role. This is where a lot of indie/Forge style RPGs fall for me. The game could be actually GMless, or have a GM but the role is more of a leader of group-consensus.

Games can be really crunchy. GURPS and Hero are old games but don't feel old-school to me.

Games can have a strong metaplot, where the game largely consists of the players moving from one set piece to another. Vampire and Dragonlance are the poster children here.

There's probably plenty of counterexamples, but that's how it shakes out in my brain.
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dysjunct wrote:
(3) a high degree of freedom (and consequences) for the players.


This is key for me as regards the old school philosophy vs. the new(er) school. It permeates multiple levels of design, obviously the "adventure path system" et al but even to character design.

I think there is an over emphasis on the importance of aesthetics in the old school (and OSR) which I imagine are more reflective of the culture at large than a particular design ethos. Savage Sword of Conan starts in 74 and Warrior at the Edge of time is 75, for example. Cyberpunk takes a big uptick in the 80s as that genre became popular.
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cosine wrote:
Can we just agree I have a flask of oil? Holy water? The key to the locked door? A canoe? That my character speaks the language? That we talked to that guy who knew the password? I mean clearly we meant to do it, no?

Where do we draw a line?

Wherever we want, table by table, but generally where we go from "playing in good faith" to "trying to wreck the game." Where that line is, exactly, depends on how much people trust each other at a given table.

cosine wrote:
Narrative games were born out of "Wouldn't it be cool if we DID find a canoe stowed in the shrubs by a local fisherman?" And the GM says... "Yes!" thinking even though he hadn't thought of that it does sound cool and the dungeon is across the river, so if we're gonna get to the GOOD stuff...

Yes, narrative games are powered by stuff like this, but a game doesn't have to have a "narrative" per se, in order to benefit from it. The "good stuff" might be just a more interesting aspect of the simulation or the game.
 
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Birmy wrote:
aramis wrote:
I agree about the identity. Some of the biggest proponents of the "OSR Movement" I've encountered are some of the most toxic folk I've encountered on the internet. And I say this running a BBS which gets around 500-1000 unique hits per month... and the OSR crowd who bother with it tend to very quickly wind up with edition warring infractions. A few don't.

Not to say all the fans of old school on the boards (mine or this one) are jerks, but the preachy OSR-as-idenity crowd.


I'm glad other people have perceived this and not just me; I was going to bring it up, but didn't want to be accused of stirring the pot. There's a latent... mean-spiritedness?... to a considerable portion of the OSR community, particularly online, that I've never been quite able to define. I don't want to paint with too broad a brush on this--I do enjoy DCC and am on record as being an admirer of Castles & Crusades--but there's a common vibe that's set off my Spider-sense that you and skalchemist have put more eloquently than I have.

To the actual question: As the answers here attest, any definition of "old school" is amorphous at best. If it has a short and direct line to OD&D, that's probably a good place to start.

I'm learning a lot about some of that mean-spiritedness and toxicity today from stories involving a particular member of the OSR community. But, at the same time, I'm also seeing that there are many who dislike such behavior.
 
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