The OSR in Vivid Colour - an Actual Play

edited February 10 in Story Games
I know some people here are curious about the "OSR", which is about a lot of different things. One of those things is returning to older versions of games and trying to play them "by the book".

Here's a wonderful Actual Play account of such a game over on RPG.net: a group has decided to take on this challenge of playing an old version of D&D rules as "by the book" as possible. They eventually start naming all their characters using names from the Lord of the Rings, which adds to the fun.

Not only a great transcript of play (concise and focusing on the important bits), but also a good discussion as well as a really entertaining read.

It's fun to see this group discovering and re-discovering certain elements on old-school D&D play. (Although some of their solutions, like what they do with prime requisite XP bonuses, are downright brilliant.)

If you're curious about this sort of thing, take a look:

(EDIT: If you want a "guided tour", instead of going through the whole thing, skip ahead to HERE.)

B-X-Misadventures-in-randomly-generated-dungeons

The best part starts around page 8:
The Fellowship met at Rivendell to discuss the cursed One Ring.

Elrond, "It must be taken to Mt. Doom and destroyed, but unfortunately, you are all first level and have no hope. You will have to first delve dungeon after dungeon, accumulating gold, because as we all know, hoarding treasure somehow makes us more powerful."

"Yes," said Gandalf, "This is known to be true."

And so the Fellowship of the Bling was formed with one goal--Grab the loot so someday, maybe they could think about making a plan to destroy the one ring. Many, many years from now.

And so the Fellowship of the Bling descends the stone steps into a dark and damp corridor. Gandalf holds his lantern aloft, and they soon come upon a door and a south easterly bend in the passage.

Comments

  • Thank you! This is quite an interesting read, especially coming from the background I come from.
  • edited April 2013
    Ah, now see, I thought the OSR was about games with D&D tropes and themes, but with a more modern, 'indy' flavour, which is how I've often heard DCC described, and as such I've been intrigued to play them. I was actually thinking of buying the DCC core book for that very reason. However, Paul, from what you say it seems the diametrical opposite is true. :confused::

    @Rafu
    This is quite an interesting read, especially coming from the background I come from.
    If it's not too personal, care to enlarge on how your background makes this game of particular interest to you? I've only been active on this forum comparatively recently so I may have missed some threads in which you talk about yourself in this regard. Apologies if that's the case.


  • That's a pretty fun series of actual play reports, I enjoyed reading them. Because I'm such a purist for game design, I grow annoyed by the "reroll 1-2 on hitpoints" and "the GM is responsible for giving out balanced treasure" ideas in that thread. I'd also love to see the GM provide more strategic context for the players so they could have a bit more to work with when preparing for their expeditions. Details all, of course; the fundamental procedures are all solid to my mind.
    Ah, now see, I thought the OSR was about games with D&D tropes and themes, but with a more modern, 'indy' flavour, which is how I've often heard DCC described, and as such I've been intrigued to play them. I was actually thinking of buying the DCC core book for that very reason. However, Paul, from what you say it seems the diametrical opposite is true. :confused::
    OSR is a pretty simple concept, once you discard the Internet noise: at one point a few years back the roleplaying blogosphere brought together a critical mass of people who were still playing old-school pre-3rd edition D&D. Armed with a few decades of experience and new game culture knowledge, they have been able to rephrase, philosophize and in general open the game in a way that appeals to many newcomers (such as myself) as well. The phenomenon has spilled over from D&D to other "old" games from the '70s, and games that involve similar game design principles.

    This interest in old D&D has in turn inspired various new game design projects that revolve around fine-tuning D&D towards whatever direction the given designer finds expedient. Some of those game texts are what I would consider "OSR", being rooted in the old school D&D tradition. I understand that the DCC game is such, as are all the retroclones you see floating around. Then there are games that are simply "about D&D", but are not OSR themselves. Dungeon World is an example - I read that game early this month, and it's basically a post-Forge drama game with a fetish for dungeon adventure, but no OSR fundamentals.

    All told, however, I would not recommend OSR gaming to anybody who is looking for "indy flavour". I know it's difficult to believe, but old school D&D is pretty much its own thing that stands powerfully apart from other schools and traditions of roleplaying. The OSR is all about that type of play, so it's probably not going to be satisfying for anybody who's not interested in pre-3rd edition D&D. The output of the OSR scene is not exactly the same kind of stuff that was published in the '70s, but the differences are mostly in presentation (including publishing technique - a lot of free stuff out there nowadays, thanks to the Internet) and aesthetics. The game design and play procedures have remained astoundingly intact.

    On the other hand, if you want a game that has the indie flavour and goes for the throat with D&D tropes and themes, I would definitely recommend the aforementioned Dungeon World. It's all about D&D fantasy as it developed through the '80s and '90s, and it has a sleek system suitable for dramatic adventures. (It's no good for the earlier/alternative pulp aesthetic that was also featured by early D&D, but I would expect most people to mean that later style when they talk about "D&D style".)
  • (It's no good for the earlier/alternative pulp aesthetic that was also featured by early D&D, but I would expect most people to mean that later style when they talk about "D&D style".)
    What games are good for the alternative pulp aesthetic? Also, any suggestions for good sources of the aesthetic itself in other media?
  • RyRy
    edited April 2013

    What games are good for the alternative pulp aesthetic? Also, any suggestions for good sources of the aesthetic itself in other media?
    Ron Edwards' Sorcerer and Sword (an expansion for Sorcerer), Vincent Baker's In a Wicked Age, and for references, look at their bibliographies.  
  • edited April 2013
    What games are good for the alternative pulp aesthetic? Also, any suggestions for good sources of the aesthetic itself in other media?
    For OSR games, I think that Swords & Wizardry (S&S fantasy) and LotFP (horror fantasy) have a particularly clear vision on how early D&D might have been stylistically if it wasn't so mired in Tolkien-emulation in its historical commercial context. Backswords and Bucklers (historical fantasy), too. All those are also top-tier D&D texts in my opinion. Of course, I haven't read nearly all OSR game texts, so I'm sure there are others out there as well.

    (I'm thinking here of how Gygax's earliest fantasy had that pulp/historical vibe, and how he's on record stating that he only added demi-humans to the game to capitalize on the Tolkien craze. What D&D "should" or "could" be like artistically if it didn't become D&D fantasy early on is a big topic, of course, so don't bite my head off if I simplify it a bit for now.)

    If you meant drama games that do the pulp fantasy aesthetic well, that's slightly trickier: for just the pulp fantasy without caring about D&D, I'd go for something like TSoY, or other robust pulp fantasy drama games. If the D&D connection is important - that is, we want a game that is drama instead of gritty challenge, and that also evokes that D&D feel while toeing the line about pulp fantasy as well... I'd say Dying Earth might be closest there: it has a strong pulp aesthetic, being based on Jack Vance's work, and it wants to be a modern drama game (think drama design around the early '00s - Heroquest period), and it has close ties to D&D thanks to the shared literary heritage and the general vision of the designers.

    Also, Sorcerer - really nails the aesthetic, as does In a Wicked Age. Doesn't have anything to do with D&D in terms of storytelling, though.

    Finally, there are multiple "smaller" indie projects out there dealing with pulp fantasy. Some of them are in active development, while others have been dropped years ago. I can't remember any names except Of Mighty Thews, but that's old as fuck, and never finished as far as I know. I remember reading the playtest text for one pretty interesting game just this winter that had a strong pulp vibe - it was maybe by Epidiah Ravachol? Somebody else is surely more tuned into the current state of the art in pulp fantasy games.

    As for good literary sources, there's been this OSR cliche flying around about the "appendix N" of the 1st Edition AD&D DMG (I think - I'm not very good on the minutiae of AD&D). It's written by Gygax, and he provides a pretty robust bibliography for the game there. Modern gamers might find it very interesting (I sure did) that a vast majority of these literary inspirations are pulp fantasy, often pretty old considering the date of publication, and almost invariably pretty different from the high fantasy stylings of later D&D. Checking out the stories and novels from that list is a pretty good way to get onto the subject straight from the horse's mouth.

    Speaking for myself, when I think of pulp fantasy, and specifically the sort of pulp fantasy that I admire as a model for how to stylize D&D... Howard, Lovecraft, C.A. Smith, Moorcock, Leiber, Thieves' World, Burroughs... basically, the canons of pulp fantasy. As I've said on these forums multiple times, I did not play D&D in my youth, but I sure did grow up reading the classics of fantasy literature. It was quite eye-opening for me when the OSR writers pointed out that the very earliest D&D was "supposed" to be based on these very same authors instead of being like Dragonlance (which was also well-known in my youth in Finland as a novel series). If you're well-versed in this literature, and know the picaresque style in general, then just saying that "D&D is supposed to be like that, not this magical tac-squad game" is quite eye-opening. It immediately clicked for me in a way that the actual game texts (e.g. 2nd edition AD&D and Mentzer, which were the prominent ones in Finland in the '90s) never did.
  • Wonderful. Thank you for the detailed answer.
  • Here's the link to the much spoken about Appendix N
  • Wonderful. Thank you for the detailed answer.
    Yes, thanks Eero- that's pretty comprehensively explained the OSR. Looks like DCC might not be my cup of tea after all. How about Lamentations of The Flame Princess, which is another game I've been told is D&D tropes + indy vibe? Correct in that case, or same story as DCC?

  • How about Lamentations of The Flame Princess, which is another game I've been told is D&D tropes + indy vibe? Correct in that case, or same story as DCC?
    Nope, same as DCC. It's old school D&D + horror vibe. Independently published, but no indie/Forge/storygame type stuff in the rules.
  • I remember reading the playtest text for one pretty interesting game just this winter that had a strong pulp vibe - it was maybe by Epidiah Ravachol?
    Swords Without Master. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories as a game, basically.
  • Swords Without Master is the Eppy game. It is rad. Find the download for City of Fire and Coin if it's still up. It can be played in 2 hours flat.
  • Maybe the confusion resides in the fact that these new OSR game texts are often pretty radically cleaned up and streamlined in comparison to old TSR game texts. LotFP, for example, is a notably elegant version of Mentzer: less fiddly historical exception clauses, more logical subsystems, more clear focus on the purpose of the game, stronger aesthetics, and so on. The core gameplay is identical, however, and there are no story game elements. I could see somebody describing these cleaned-up versions of old school D&D as "modern" (which they are) and "indie" (which most of them are), which might then make a second observer think that they're "Forge-influenced" (which they're not) or "story-game" (which they're not, either) simply because those descriptions have often gone hand-in-hand in a scene where much constructive innovation has been associated with the Forge for years.

    The easiest way to figure out if these games are for you, though, is to take a look. LotFP is available for free from Jim's website, for example.
  • Maybe the confusion resides in the fact that these new OSR game texts are often pretty radically cleaned up and streamlined in comparison to old TSR game texts.
    I'm sure that's true for OD&D (ie pre 1977) but I'm not so convinced for Moldvay (1981). It is still pretty tight. I say this as someone who started (very briefly) on Mentzer and did a lot of formative play under AD&D 1st ed. but basically left dungeon crawling c1987. I returned last year with my son using my old AD&D but moved to Dungeon World when it came available. I recently purchased Moldvay and ran it based on the threads here and elsewhere. Since then I've bought Lab Lord, mainly for the advanced classes as I was too lazy to convert them myself. I was pretty underwhelmed by most of the rest of the rules as a bare bones re-statement of Moldvay.
    LotFP, for example, is a notably elegant version of Mentzer: less fiddly historical exception clauses, more logical subsystems, more clear focus on the purpose of the game, stronger aesthetics, and so on. ... LotFP is available for free from Jim's website, for example.
    I only recently discovered this (the free download) as I was put off by the relatively high price of the printed collectors, LotFP seems to be more evolved than LL. Certainly Raggis scenarios are excellent (I purchased a couple on your recommendation.

    One other place to get an insight into what is the OSR is www.tenfootpole.org the reviews there show what (one person) thinks is good in OSR modules/play (and are often entertaining to read :-)

    rgds
    rob

  • Then there are games that are simply "about D&D", but are not OSR themselves. Dungeon World is an example - I read that game early this month, and it's basically a post-Forge drama game with a fetish for dungeon adventure, but no OSR fundamentals.
    the aforementioned Dungeon World. It's all about D&D fantasy as it developed through the '80s and '90s, and it has a sleek system suitable for dramatic adventures.
    Marvellously put, Eero.

    In fact, that whole post was great.



  • The way I usually say it is:

    Old school D&D is a game about exploration.

    Dungeon World is a game about adventure.
  • I can't remember any names except Of Mighty Thews, but that's old as fuck, and never finished as far as I know.
    It's not everyday that I get to correct you, Eero! On Mighty Thews, by Simon Carryer, was released as a finished work a couple years ago, and I think of it highly:
    http://onmightythews.com/

    Additionally, I recommend S/lay w/Me by Ron Edwards.
  • If it's not too personal, care to enlarge on how your background makes this game of particular interest to you? I've only been active on this forum comparatively recently so I may have missed some threads in which you talk about yourself in this regard.
    Nope, I don't think I've been writing extensively about it. Expect nothing remarkable, though.

    My introduction to role-playing games happened circa 1989, by reading through the Italian-translated, red-boxed Basic set — which was, AFAIK, the first edition of D&D to be released in my native language. I was a 10-yrs old kid. Although gamer-communities already existed in Italy, both of adults and children, I had no contact with other gamers of any age, not until a few years later. My previous gaming experience was limited to coin-op videogames. But my fascination with that set of booklets was strong and motivated me.
    I was a completely self-taught DM, and if I wished to play it was on me to instruct my playmates. This may be why I developed a quirky obsession for, and love-hate relationship wish, RPG texts — it's only as an adult that I "got" such things as learn-by-example and individualized "styles" of play.
    Soon enough I grew dissatisfied with Basic D&D. My rationalization those days was that it was too "difficult" for me, but in just a couple years I learned that, in hindsight, mine was a dissatisfaction over details of the design. In fact, right after giving up on Basic D&D, I got into toying obsessively with the Hero Quest board game (which I interpreted as an RPG as well), Fighting Fantasy CYOA books, and soon enough into designing rule-sets of my own, while picking up some other RPG texts such as Italian D&D-competitor Kata Kumbas and, circa 14-yrs old, MERP.

    With 20/20 hindsight, I now realize that my dissatisfaction with Basic D&D was fueled by a huge disconnect between the expectations I had (partially nurtured by the flavor text, pictures, etc., as well as by external sources such as fantasy fiction - I started reading Tolkien a few months after picking up D&D - and videogames) and the reality of gameplay. 10-yrs old me wanted a wish-fulfilling fantasy of unblemished, monster-defeating heroes, and would probably have been happy with the Dragonlance modules or the dice-fudging style some DMs adopted — but that's not what I had access to. I only had tools for the bean-counting, inch-by-inch-grinding, high-letality dungeon crawl that only now, as a grownup and (thanks to other schools of design) satisfied role-player, I'm learning to admire - from a distance. The Fellowship of the Bling thus qualifies as the paragon of everything I couldn't put up with as a child and, simultaneously, the recipe to the relaxed state of mind necessary to enjoy those things.
    I'm not sure whether the above made any sense.
    Anyway, reading these reports sure made some things "click" for me, including perhaps furthering my understanding of this "challenge based gaming" Eero's been talking about around here, what might be fun about it, and why it's probably not for me even.
  • It's not everyday that I get to correct you, Eero! On Mighty Thews, by Simon Carryer, was released as a finished work a couple years ago, and I think of it highly:
    http://onmightythews.com/
    Huh, I'd missed that one completely. Hazards of publishing solely in pdf, it's much lower in profile. I guess I'll need to get the finished version, I remember the early draft to have been quite promising.
    Additionally, I recommend S/lay w/Me by Ron Edwards.
    Oh, definitely. Good call.
  • Maybe the confusion resides in the fact that these new OSR game texts are often pretty radically cleaned up and streamlined in comparison to old TSR game texts.
    I'm sure that's true for OD&D (ie pre 1977) but I'm not so convinced for Moldvay (1981). It is still pretty tight.
    I also think that there is something more to it than this "better editing" meme. I consider several OSR products that I otherwise like a lot to be desperately in need of an aggressive edit. I find myself pulling bits out of LotFP on a regular basis because they are great ideas but I end up rewriting them completely if I want to present them to players because the language is insane in that book.

    Even in terms of game focus, LotFP is obviously a product built for a purpose which is a way that it is "cleaned up" maybe, compared to late D&D. But Raggi still does a pretty bad job explaining that purpose unless you read the whole thing and figure it out for yourself. I think that is related to the misconception in this thread.

    There are some great parts where the text starts to eat itself and its own messiness becomes important, like in some of the disastrous results of the amazing summoning spell. But I still rewrote most of it.
  • Lots of great responses and discussion, thanks everyone.

    And especially to Eero! Lots of great information, and explained with great clarity.

    Actually, I have some follow-up questions for you, Eero:
    That's a pretty fun series of actual play reports, I enjoyed reading them. Because I'm such a purist for game design, I grow annoyed by the "reroll 1-2 on hitpoints" and "the GM is responsible for giving out balanced treasure" ideas in that thread. I'd also love to see the GM provide more strategic context for the players so they could have a bit more to work with when preparing for their expeditions.
    So, there are three points in there, from very specific to less specific:

    1. "Reroll 1-2 on hit points." Why does this bother you? Is it just a general aesthetic thing? I agree that the "anti-fudging", play-the-dice-the-way-they-roll approach to playing is a very important of this playstyle. However, in this case it seems to me that the group decided to go with the "reroll hit points" rule not out of some need for "character plot immunity" or some other misguided principle, but simply because, after some trial and error, they had more fun without the characters who would simply drop the first time they got hit by anything (and thus would rarely last). So is this a general, philosophical gripe based on aesthetic grounds, or an actual rule critique? (By which I mean that you would consider the default rule a better choice.)

    2. GM giving out "balanced" treasure: this seems more clearly to be a philosophical difference. I agree that "balancing" treasure in some respects removes the strategic choices the players have to make (since it means that effectively no matter what they choose they will have a chance of a "balanced" reward). Still, it's notable that the DM of the game in question is resisting the temptation to "balance" the treasure payout him/herself.

    3. "I'd also love to see the GM provide more strategic context for the players so they could have a bit more to work with when preparing for their expeditions."

    This is the most interesting point, I think, and it's the strategic layer which I find particularly lacking in this game. How would you go about injecting those strategic decisions into this game? Could you do it with an absolutely minimum in terms of changes to the game and how it's run, or would it require some major modifications? If this DM/group came to you and said, "What's the easiest and fastest way we could take the game further in this direction [i.e. according to Eero's preferences for "challenge-based adventure"]?", what would you tell them to do?
  • One relevant point of wisdom with respect to the "strategic game" that I found buried in the thread was:

    "When you-the-DM design a bunch of dungeons, you can give out clues as to the degree of danger and the potential payoff in each one. Players making decisions of where to go based on such information is part of the game!"

    FWIW (not much!) I disagree with Eero on the re-rolling 1-2 HP, in the thread they played enough to show that over time the only characters that survived were the high HP characters (however low stat characters are perfectly viable so 3d6 in order is fine) so it is just accelerating the game a bit. A lot of characters will still die. Recall that Gygax's own house rules were to start at level 3!
  • We can discuss these things in theory, but hopefully you won't take this as me criticizing the campaign of a group completely unknown to me; I'm sure that there's nothing wrong with the way these guys play the game for their own purposes. Also, they're attempting to play by the book (a sentiment I don't share), so obviously their chosen rules hacks are different than what I'd pick. So take the following as incidental philosophizing on D&D as inspired by another group's play.

    1)
    Rerolling low hit points bothers me for a simple design aesthetic reason: I like elegant game design, so something like that annoys me. Specifically, my first question when seeing a rule like that is not to wonder how high 1st level HPs should be for fun play, but rather to question how come a character with a single hit point can't be fun and viable to play in the game - what is wrong with the procedures of the game if it's fun at 3 HP but not at 2? It seems inelegant to me that we have this abstract attribute score called hit points, and it can range all over an arbitrary range of integers, except that apparently '1' and '2' are off-limits. That's magic number game design, something I'm suspicious of out of principle.

    (Yes, I'm sure that sounds neurotic, but this is a big part of how I do game design. I promise that when I encounter situations where a magic number is genuinely the only way to make something work, I bite my tongue and put that number up on the rules reference sheets with a big font so everybody can remember it.)

    I've solved the lethality problems in low-level D&D with two principles that I like more than setting an arbitrary "this is enough hit points to have" rule. One is the notion that you don't immediately die at 0 hit points, you're just out of the fight, and we'll figure out whether you died or just got injured afterwards. The other is that hit points are not a permanent attribute, but rather hit dice are, and the points can be rerolled every so often - at the beginning of each individual delve, basically. Also, in practice I allow conscious characters that fall down due to lack of hit points to e.g. crawl around, fumble for potions and do similar "I'm a grievously wounded hero" shit with appropriate rolls, although they risk aggravating their condition.

    The above array of hp-related rules is a better solution to low-level frailty for several reasons: it's more realistic and varied to have combats produce grievous injuries instead of either nothing (hp loss) or complete death (hp at zero), it's better if a character's single most important resource (hit points) is a variable instead of a permanent statistic, and giving low-level characters a bit of resilience beyond their hit points allows us to genuinely play characters with low hit points as a reasonable piece of game design instead of a sadistic corner case. The HP-centric D&D philosophy where you're just waiting to get to second level so you can finally have enough HP to survive a single sword-blow (that's really the breaking point in the HP system: once you have 5+ hit points you can be pretty hopeful about surviving a single bad break) makes 1st level too hilariously lethal and arbitrary; the majority of the people in the world is at 0th level, we need to make the basic system of the game such that it's reasonable to play at even their low level of capability.

    All that being said, if I had to choose between simple hacks (my preferred solution above is not quite simple, it consists of multiple changes to the basic dynamics of the game), I would give max HP on first level, and then reroll all hit dice on level-up, keeping the better result. That maintains almost all of the rules while getting rid of the most annoying corner cases, such as rolling '1' on your first two hit dice. Also, I'd probably change "dead at 0" to "down at 0, with 50% chance of dead" just because that particular rule is so obviously not as good as it could be.

    2)
    Yeah, the GM here seems to grog what he's doing quite well. Some of the commentators, though - ugh.

    Commentators in that thread have been treating the long period of 1st level adventures as some sort of problem or flaw in the game. I've no idea what they're talking about; it took our group about 20 sessions to get a single character to 2nd level in our campaign last year, and that was with adventure modules instead of random dungeons. As far as I'm concerned, it's up to the game of D&D to be enjoyable without the level-up mechanics, so that the GM can discard any and all responsibility they might be imagined to have for character leveling.

    3)
    You're basically asking how a lightweight game like this would be best transformed into a lite-sandbox without changing its light-hearted nature. I suppose the two main things to do would be to give the players a choice of dungeon destinations, and give them background lore on the dungeons. For example, a simple system would be one where the players can pay money in the form of scout and informant fees to get rumours and sage history on the destinations, and to discover new destination dungeons. Then it would be up to the players to choose where they're going, and how they'd prepare for it. I would also suggest a random event downtime table: for every week that goes by at Rivendell the GM could roll for various random stuff that could end up with things like treasure maps (more exact data on a particular dungeon), refugees (again, dungeon data and possible allies), quests (extra reward for a particular delve), keys (alternate access points to dungeons) and so on.

    This relates to practical things like downtime expenses, equipping the adventurers and having primary and secondary goals on the delve. For example, I noticed in the write-ups that the group has been equipping themselves with silver weapons just in case they'll encounter were-creatures. This "one kit fits all" approach is not atypical of how D&D is played, but to my mind it's not ideal if the smart and strategic way to equip yourself is to basically just randomly gear up for stuff that might or might not be coming up. I think it's much more satisfying if the party can e.g. scout a dungeon, find out for themselves that there are werecreatures there, and then come back with the appropriate armament. It gives depth to the game when players have data, goals and approach vectors to work with, instead of just optimizing their characters (gear load-up in the case of old school D&D - not much you can do to your character build) and hoping for the best.

    Of course this is a bit more work for the GM, although I'd personally be fine improvising all but the random strategic events table. Also, it's certainly the case that the nature of the game changes when you start adding sandbox elements; I think that it's a natural and pleasurable process as setting is discovered, but I could see a GM resist it to keep things simple. From what I see in the write-ups, it seems that their campaign is proceeding towards a direction like this on its own - they already have strategic concerns on the board, such as the big loan they had to take.
  • edited April 2013
    Wonderful, Eero. That's just what I was hoping to hear from you.

    My vision of low-level D&D (really the only kind of D&D I'm interested in playing, I think) matches yours very closely. I was working on my own OSR-type game for a while as a tribute to Gygax and Arneson passing away, but never quite completed it. Still, the idea was similar to how you handle hit points: I was using Sorcerer's dice mechanics, with characters being incapacitated or knocked down at a certain success range (but still being likely to survive, unless they need to do something active) and killed outright when that range is exceeded. Same idea, if I'm not mistaken.

    One thing that strikes me about hit points is that they *make sense* in an abstract sense for 1st-level characters. In early editions of D&D, everyone had 1d6 hit points, and all weapon attacks dealt 1d6 damage. This makes sense to me: it's just a randomizer which tells you whether a certain character survives a given attack or not. (On the other hand, when weapon damage is variable but hit points range in the 40+ range, it becomes very difficult to say what this mechanic represents, exactly, except as just an abstract resource for the players to worry about.)

    I like your sandbox-facilitating tools, as well: not only do the give the players all sorts of decisions to make but they also will tend to produce more NPCs and other secondary characters or features for the players to interact with and mine for information. Great food for thought.
  • My players and I came to the OSR in a different way. Our "old school" was informed as much by the Newberry Medal committee as anything else. Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain -- stories of friends (old and new) facing dangers together.

    That means our old school wasn't a lesson in dungeon-crawls, although we loved those, too. It was a chance to become characters in a shared coming of age tale. We watched our little heroes become responsible adults. Responsible adults in a world of fairies, orcs, dragons, dark magic, and boundless danger. (Our favorite adventures, therefore, took us from level 1 to levels 4 or 5.)

    What most older games didn't do for us was help us establish our stories and build our adventuring groups. Sometimes, we got it right on the first take; sometimes it took a couple adventures to become a real group. These days, we don't have the same time to devote to games that we used to, so we got excited and made our own OSR game (also spelled "fantasy heartbreaker") to fix this problem.

    Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is on DriveThru RPG -- the preview document is the whole of the core rules -- and is reviewed here -- http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?679324-OSR-Beyond-the-Wall-and-Other-Stories-looks-brilliant .

    Essentially, we use OSR rules for familiarity, simpler magic that lets level 1 mages play for the whole evening, and playbooks for characters and gamemaster to get everyone going and done in a single evening, with hooks to continue the adventure.

    (I hope I haven't intruded.)
  • My players and I came to the OSR in a different way. Our "old school" was informed as much by the Newberry Medal committee as anything else. Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain -- stories of friends (old and new) facing dangers together.

    That means our old school wasn't a lesson in dungeon-crawls, although we loved those, too. It was a chance to become characters in a shared coming of age tale. We watched our little heroes become responsible adults. Responsible adults in a world of fairies, orcs, dragons, dark magic, and boundless danger...

    Essentially, we use OSR rules for familiarity, simpler magic that lets level 1 mages play for the whole evening, and playbooks for characters and gamemaster to get everyone going and done in a single evening, with hooks to continue the adventure.
    Oh YES! John! That was us too. With a fair dollop of the Belgariad thrown in for good measure. We did enjoy driving our adventurers to the heady heights of the 'Turquoise Companion Box' and highish level play too. Dungeons were set piece 'scenes' at this level of story play.

  • My players and I came to the OSR in a different way. Our "old school" was informed as much by the Newberry Medal committee as anything else. Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain -- stories of friends (old and new) facing dangers together.

    That means our old school wasn't a lesson in dungeon-crawls, although we loved those, too. It was a chance to become characters in a shared coming of age tale. We watched our little heroes become responsible adults. Responsible adults in a world of fairies, orcs, dragons, dark magic, and boundless danger. (Our favorite adventures, therefore, took us from level 1 to levels 4 or 5.)

    What most older games didn't do for us was help us establish our stories and build our adventuring groups. Sometimes, we got it right on the first take; sometimes it took a couple adventures to become a real group. These days, we don't have the same time to devote to games that we used to, so we got excited and made our own OSR game (also spelled "fantasy heartbreaker") to fix this problem.

    Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is on DriveThru RPG -- the preview document is the whole of the core rules -- and is reviewed here -- http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?679324-OSR-Beyond-the-Wall-and-Other-Stories-looks-brilliant .

    Essentially, we use OSR rules for familiarity, simpler magic that lets level 1 mages play for the whole evening, and playbooks for characters and gamemaster to get everyone going and done in a single evening, with hooks to continue the adventure.

    (I hope I haven't intruded.)
    I purchased Beyond the Wall! Haven't had time to read it yet but I skimmed it and it looks amazing. Definitely a neat take on the retro-clone idea, focusing it more on the YA fiction stuff. Will run it and add it to my list ASAP! :-)

    Matt
  • Matt,

    Please let us know how it works for you. We're certainly not shy about refining things. We're about to share our Nobility Playbooks as well, which includes maybe my favorite trope from YA fiction -- The Nobleman's Wild Daughter.

    (Why do I capitalize everything?)

    John C
  • I'm really into YA adventure fiction type stuff! I'll take a look as well.

    However, I think it deserves its own thread: I bet a lot of people will dig this!

    (And it's very different from the sort of OSR stuff being discussed here, I think.)
  • Just for fun, I'm adding a little capsule description to the first post, up above...
  • One comment in this thread (and reading about the Fellowship in general) inspired me to release a half-baked idea I've had around for a while:

    Grievous Wound cards
  • That's pretty cool, Rafu. I don't know how I feel about the ability score damage, but I could see trying it!

    I *love* the Joker. That's my favourite part!
  • Love it. My comment was:
    Great! I'm looking for something like this at the moment.
    One suggestion: It would be good to quantify how healing spells interact with this. A suggestion would be:
    Cure light wounds: draw an extra card, when you reveal you can choose which one to keep.
    Cure serious wounds: draw 2 extra cards, otherwise as above.
  • (Adding a post to this thread to bring it back - all those people reading/writing about the OSR right now should check this out!)
  • There's been a lot of chatter about OSR-style play lately, and I've linked to this thread a couple of times.

    I was inspired to reread a good portion of the linked play reports yesterday while on a bus, and they're still hilarious and entertaining.

    To someone curious but short on time, here's a "Reader's Guide":

    Introduction

    (From page 1; otherwise nothing important there.)
    Finally got to run some B/X DnD--playing pretty much btb--3d6 roll and keep, rolled HP, wandering monsters, death at zero HP, etc. Not so much a series campaign as straight dungeon crawls using a few of the really cool random adventure generators at Wizardawn and Dunjon.

    [...]

    I lightly chronicled some of the misadventures and will post them here for your analysis on how B/X plays straight by the book. It is pretty brutal--had a bad streak of low HP rolls at character gen. Plus some of the traps in the random generators are really deadly.
    1. Page 4 has a brief "rules" overview and discussion:

    https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?676099-B-X-Misadventures-in-randomly-generated-dungeons/page4

    2. Page 8 is where the Fellowship is formed, and the magic begins!

    https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?676099-B-X-Misadventures-in-randomly-generated-dungeons/page8

    3. It gets particularly interesting around here, with an overview of how play has felt so far, and some high and low moments:
    And I guarantee that player will remember the day Frodo died in the Secret Tomb of Darkness for decades.
    https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?676099-B-X-Misadventures-in-randomly-generated-dungeons/page36

    An interesting moment after Strider's death, a few pages later:

    [...] to move the game along I cut them a deal--sell off all the surplus, the silver daggers, the holy water, and spend all the coin, and the clerics of Gygax will resurrect Strider.

    This sparked an all new debate. Spend the money to raise Strider or save it in case Merry or Gandalf should fall?

    Merry because he is the single greatest hope to hit level 2 soon. He has also been a stalwart and brave adventurer--the keystone of the Fellowship's front line. And for a longtime, he has carried the heavy burden of everyone's hopes and dreams for level 2 (both at our table and for the readers of this thread. No one, and I mean no one, wants to lose Merry).

    Gandalf because he is the only character with a charisma bonus and the party's only reasonable shot at a level 2 wizard any time soon. Also the Gandalf character is beloved at our table because of the way his very capable player handles him.

    But Strider is also a table favorite--great character in the book, great actor in the movies, and beautifully played at our table. This poor guy faces the worst the dungeon has to offer day after day without complaint. On top of that he's halfway to level 2--so Strider is all that and a bag of lamprey pies.

    So ask yourself--given the choice to resurrect Strider or save the money in case Merry or Gandalf should fall--What would you do?

    Enjoy part 4 of the Unholy Shrine of the Gorgons tomorrow.
    4. The group struggles to achieve second level:
    B/X DnD is a journey rather than a destination. Though the players have been on level 1 for a long time--look at the variety! There is so much content you could almost just play te game permanently on level 1. If you read back over all the old adventures--even pre-fellowship--you'll notice a whole world of varied events and even now its still surprising and delighting.

    The lycanthropy was yet another unexpected turn of events that had yet to occur in all these weeks of gaming--so to some degree, the lower levels should be savored.

    And all of it with essentially ZERO prep.

    I went back and looked and Fellowship started on 2-24: which would put us at about a month of weekly gaming long sessions. Of course, if Merry, Strider, and Gandalf get killed--time to reach level 2 will go WAY up. But we all really, really hope this doesn't happen.
    By page 57, the tension for someone managing to make 2nd level without dying is going through the roof, for players and readers alike.
    With new, beast-man companion coming along, the Fellowship returns to the octagonal entry chamber.

    Gathered in the entry chamber, Gandalf reconsiders the marching order and battle formation.

    "I would like to put your Morlock on the front line," Gandalf says to Saruman, "and move Merry to the back flank for the time being."

    "Why should we have to risk our sausages on the front line while Merry plays it safe in the rear?" Archade demands.

    "He's a short timer," Strider cuts in. "That's why."

    "I understand," Archade says. "I had a brother in my homeland who was a mere 20 coin from reaching level 2. Then that damned yellow mold--" Archade breaks down for a moment, reflecting on the tragic loss of his brother to the deadly yellow spores.



  • 5. Mailer reflects on the campaign so far on page 62:
    [...] on the gonzoness of the random generators: This has been a net positive actually. As I get more skilled at it, I am able to take the results and narrate and improvise in such a way that they seem pretty logical--but it's main feature:

    The stories! Because its so random, it forces the story in unexpected directions that I just wouldn't have written otherwise. The tragic turn of events with the wererats turned the story 360 degrees and ended up being a poignant moment at the table. Or the rogue Hobbit hideout, and even the piercers. Lots of animals end up in non-ideal environments, and these guys have actually provided a bit of comic relief.

    Beyond all that though, from the "game" point of view, the unpredictability provides a tough but fun, brain-blistering challenge that prevents the party from settling into rote tactics that they are able to use over and over again like an efficient machine. They have to work with the 3d6 characters fate gives them, while entering a fully, unknown, unguessable dungeon. There are no "best" tactics when facing that it keeps things dynamic with a lot of juicy variety.

    You have to admit, these random dungeons really keep a Hobbit on the edge of his seat--I get excited to see what's next and I'm the dungeon master!
    For instance, another poster says:
    I've been playing with the generators for a couple of days. The biggest potential treasure I have run across yet was a trap: a room that turned characters (with a save) into gold statues. If one didn't mind melting down one's erstwhile colleagues, they would be worth 26,000gp each. Due to the nature of the geomorphology, though, it ended up as a sealed chamber with no entrances, so you'd have to dig to get there...
    6. It is finally on page 84 that one of the adventurers achieves second level. It's a hard-fought victory!

    "Show us!" Saruman orders. Urk reaches into the chest and removes the contents, turning and holding it up for everyone to see.

    "Oh my," says Fatty Bolger.

    "I believe this is the part, " Archade says, "where Strider would say, 'Jackpot'."

    The Hobgoblin holds a magnificent golden necklace--set with gems--in its filthy fingers.

    "Give!" Saruman orders, holding out his palm. The Hobgoblin obeys, placing the ornate piece of jewelry in the eager wizards hand.

    "It is enough," Gandalf says. The old wizards eyes well up with tears, "It is enough."
    Gandalf wipes eyes on sleeve and collects himself, "Everyone! Surround Merry! Allow no harm to affect a single, curly hair on his head! We depart immediately!"

    The Fellowship forms a protective shell around Merry.

    "Guys," Merry says, "no need for all this fuss. I am perfectly capa--"

    "Quiet, hobbit!" Thorin growls. "You are walking out of this dungeon today if it costs everyone of us our lives!"

    The Fellowship moves rapidly through the domed chamber, past the shallow pool and the dust covered room. They emerge into the sunlight, where Strider rests against a tree.

    "Did you find any treasure," Strider asks.

    Saruman presents the ornate, jeweled necklace. Upon seeing the valuable item, tears race down Strider's face.

    "It is accomplished," The ranger weeps, "By Gygax, it is accomplished!"

    [...]

    And there is much feasting and much drinking. Elrond--drunk as a Dwarf on Gygaxmas--staggers over to Merry.

    "So Merry," the elf lord slurs, "How does it feel to finally become a man?"
    This last quote from:

    https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?676099-B-X-Misadventures-in-randomly-generated-dungeons/page84

    You can sense the incredible sense of accomplishment when this milestone is reached, even from the readers.

    There's also lots of interesting business later, including a Charmed Ogre, but I will leave that up to those of you with the time and interest to discover yourselves.
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