Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 21, 2017, 01:47:34 AM
Home Help Search Calendar Login Register
News: Upcoming Events
(click event for calendar & details)

+  G.A.S.P. Forum
|-+  GASP Forum
| |-+  Role Playing Games (RPGs) (Moderators: Baron Von Harper, Evernevermore, SirJustinSane, Fire Elemental)
| | |-+  What is Old School Gaming?
« previous next »
Pages: 1 ... 3 4 [5] 6 Print
Author Topic: What is Old School Gaming?  (Read 8861 times)
jason
Regular

Posts: 607


Storyjammer


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #60 on: December 28, 2010, 04:25:11 PM »

Guess I better chime in and say why I liked the article.  Basically, the point I got was that old school gaming lends itself to something random (in this case, stumbling upon a ring) turning into a very memorable and perhaps key part of a character's history.  I'm not really sure what kind of games everyone else is talking about here, but I'm guessing that the author was comparing this with later editions of D&D that place a big emphasis on mapping out your character's development as opposed to just having it develop from the randomness of a campaign.

I can see that. If we're just comparing original D&D with AD&D or later editions, then that certainly makes sense. I can certainly see how later editions of D&D fail to deliver that as well as the original did.

But of course, there's more than just D&D, so I'm not sure how much that comparison helps.

One point that I've taken from Zak's blog post is that modern D&D, in a sense, suffers from it's epic-level. From level one, your character is a force to be reckoned with...you are expected to have a some sort of back story, a mission, some goal in life.

Absolutely. Judd Karlman called these "99 percenters," because they've played through 99% of their character's story by the time they sit down at the table. I agree with Judd that this seems like a reaction to the GM'ing environment. Once you sit down, you no longer have any real say in what happens to your character. It all lays in the hands of the GM. Maybe you have a benevolent GM, but maybe you don't. I belong to the school that teaches that you can't have such a thing as a benevolent dictator, because even if he happens to act kindly, the very fact that he doesn't have to poisons every interaction you have. The same basic thing, writ small, plays out in a GM'ed game. Yearning for some kind of say in what happens, players look for what avenues they have. I think the increasing length of back-story comes from this, because players can control their characters until they reach the table. So, you put your creativity there. Likewise, I think this explains the "problem" or rules lawyers.

I think old school games placed so much power in the hands of the GM, that players wanted some kind of way to effect the game. So, they got more powers from the start to complement their longer back-stories, and they got access to the rules, which some players latched onto with the fervor of a drowning man for a life preserver. I think in both cases, they've caused big problems for modern games, but ultimately, the problem lies in the concentration of power at the gaming table more than the problematic remedies that the modern "traditional" game has tried.

Zak is specifically comparing modern D&D to older editions. Maybe that isn't clear to those who aren't regulars to his blog, though. If anyone is curious, his home game is a heavily house-ruled mix of OD&D and 3rd edition.

I'm quite familiar with Zak's blog, but I don't think it's a good argument. Sure, it might make a good argument for why he prefers old school games to the editions of D&D released over the past 20 years, but as I said before, we have more games than just D&D.

Because everyone else voted to play bug-hunting marines? If you wanted to play generals you need to get the group to want to play, pick a system that does what you want, as Im guessing you want to command grand troop movements and give orders.

Well put. I totally agree.

Because you are using the logical fallacy of an argument from ignorance, you are making an assumption rather than getting facts. So because you cant see a possible way to do it.

Well, each step along the way, I've asked for elaboration on this. I'm not making assumptions, I'm working from the facts that I'm familiar with. I've also been quite open that I may not have all the facts. I've explained the way I see it only in order for those who know facts that I do not might correct me with those facts. I'm asking a question here. I don't think it's really fair to condemn someone for "an argument from ignorance" when he's asking a question.

Pedantic aside: An argument from ignorance is not a logical fallacy. A logical fallacy means that an argument is not valid, whereas ignorance means that an argument is not sound. I only mention it because the misuse of the term "logical fallacy" is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

the GM is improvising what encounters will be like based on a rough idea of what the world should be like, like a Tolkien world or a city inspiried by 12th century Venice but inhabited by elves or whatever. They dont have hard and fast rules, just a general over arching idea of what kind of stuff will be in there

This sounds like precisely what I was thinking of when I said that, in most practical situations, you'd use some combination of detailed plans and illusionism. A rough idea is just a more nuanced version of detailed plans, no? And improvising would be illusionism, wouldn't it? I know I want a chase through the elven carnivale on gondolas, perhaps. On the one hand, my plans constrain me so that I have to find some way to keep the players in the city. On the other hand, because I'm improvising, if the players go right, then the carnivale is on the right. If they go left, the carnivale is on the left. Their choice doesn't matter; either way, they're going to wind up in the carnivale.

the GM does not need to EVER have a specific scene in mind. If you want to tell a specific scene make it a cut scene of exposition or background or go write a short story, either way your not creating a roleplaying scene

This could well be because of my dearth of experience with old school games, but is this really an option? Is it really feasible to make up everything on the fly? If there's anything that you have to prepare, then isn't that having a specific scene in mind?

I totally agree with #3 & #4. Those are both excellent ways to avoid the frustration of preparing something, and then seeing it go unused, without forcing the players to go do it. From a Gamist point of view, the chance for the players to just dick around in a dungeon and not really accomplish anything seems like a great idea. It really ups the challenge. But I can't shake the feeling that feeling like you've cleaned out everything but you can't seem to find the point of the dungeon wouldn't be very fun. I remember doing that in old adventure games, where you had to go back, room by room, and click on every pixel to figure out where you missed something. I remember it as a very tedious and boring process. That seems like sticking to the first option of a highly detailed plan, though. You planned out the dungeon, and you're not going to change it, even if the players totally miss everything that was cool about it.

why on earth does the GM need to negate any player choices? Thats a recipe for a sucky game at best if not ruining that gaming group, and if thats what youve experienced with some other GM then Im sorry you had a bad experience but stop saddling every GM with that issue. I never intentionally negate a players choice that doesnt break the game setting (i.e. lightsabers in a modern day, realistic zombie survival horror game or Gundams in fantasy or whatever), I merely present them with the consequences of thier actions. They dont save the princess from the dragon then guess what, she got ate. I'm completely willing to roll with in game decisions.

Actually, I think I'm in the rare position of actually having played with a few GM's who genuinely did not do this. I don't want to make any accusations about your GM'ing style, especially since I haven't yet gotten to play in any of your games, but I've read you advising people to do this on more than one occasion. If you face the situation where the thing you want them to face is on the left, and they decide to go right, so you change your notes so now it's on the left, then you're negating player choices. Fudging rolls or saving the princess by fiat are ways to negate player choices, but so is illusionism.

(Ive heard infamous stories about goblins and kobolds that were spared by first level characters and become more long lasting members of the adventuring party than the PCs)

Bruck! Sorry. In my D&D game, a goblin surrendered, so the PC's made him carry their stuff. They started to befriend him, and he became one of the most beloved NPC's in the game. He was abducted and taken to the Feywild, where a fomorian sorcerer turned him into a gremlin. The PC's mounted a rescue, but he was never the same after that experience. He retired to become an acolyte of Corellon at the Elven Court. Though, that was in 4E.

So next time you dont get something, ask Jason. Dont go making statements that it has to be X or Y. Just ask...

I thought I was. The question doesn't make much sense without the context of how I understand it, so I took the time to explain how I understand it first. But I was asking!
Logged

Jason Godesky
thefifthworld.com
Baron Von Harper
Moderator

Posts: 5021


"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #61 on: December 29, 2010, 04:21:16 PM »

It's very possible to do everything or nearly everything on the fly.  I do it all the time with rules-lite games. 

I know we are geeks and all, and we like to dissect things, but sometimes we just look like a bunch of squabbling kids throwing rocks at each other. 

I also think this thread has wandered away from the original topic and turned into another trench warfare debate.  I don't really enjoy debating about RPGs, and that is why I haven't posted more in this thread.  I normally tune out debates in general.

You are all cool people, but sometimes we get a little too carried away with RPG discussions in my opinion, hehe.




 
Logged

jason
Regular

Posts: 607


Storyjammer


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #62 on: December 29, 2010, 05:21:13 PM »

It's very possible to do everything or nearly everything on the fly.  I do it all the time with rules-lite games. 

It's possible to do everything on the fly in a game that's designed to do everything on the fly (or, at the very least, is sufficiently simple that it does it by accident). I know old school games do tend to be rules light, but I've been told by old school advocates that old school is more about a style of play, and that key to that style of play is the verisimilitude of a GM planning a dungeon, and sticking to that plan.

I also think this thread has wandered away from the original topic and turned into another trench warfare debate.  I don't really enjoy debating about RPGs, and that is why I haven't posted more in this thread.  I normally tune out debates in general.

I'm not really here in this thread to promote my favorite games or my favorite style of play. I frequent two forums: this, and Story Games. And on both, there's a lot of people talking about how much they love old school games. In fact, it seems to drown out any discussion of anything else sometimes. I have a hard time understanding this, because it seems to me that, while old school games may be important to the history of the hobby, I can't find many ways in which subsequent games haven't improved upon them greatly. I feel like I must be missing something. I do fear that a lot of people take serious questions as criticism, but I'm really trying to leave that out of it and really find out what old school gaming is all about. A thread titled "What is Old School Gaming?" seemed like the right place to do that.
Logged

Jason Godesky
thefifthworld.com
Baron Von Harper
Moderator

Posts: 5021


"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #63 on: December 29, 2010, 08:45:06 PM »

Well, here are my insights then for why I like rules-lite old school games.  These are all my opinions of course, so take them with a grain of salt.

A lot of the appeal for me is the lack of the miniatures rules.  Sure, you can use miniatures, but there isn't a guy (the rules) over your shoulder the whole time telling you what the rules say.  Your players aren't also discussing how miniatures work either, which I always thought was rather meta-gamey.  You can ignore miniatures in newer versions of D&D, but it is a whole lot easier to add in miniatures if you like them, than to remove them (and attacks of opportunity) from the game.  Some D20 incarnations have done just that, and those are interesting too, but in different ways. 

I have about 30 or more pounds of old Ral Partha and Reaper metal miniatures, but I only use them when things get crazy with lots of people doing lots of things.  It's also fun to have a miniature that isn't a miniature (like using Monopoly peices)... hehe.  But I digress.  It is nice to not have to worry about lugging around all of my metal to GASP.   

There isn't as much talk about what your character will be at 20th level, and what prestige classes they are going to take on the way.  I had a lot of games interrupted because people would discuss things that would only happen if the campaign actually lasted that long, if they put ranks in such and such skill, and if they did some other random thing to be allowed for it.  I understand why people did this, but it was annoying from where I sat.  I think I also had a higher proportion of players that did this than the standard game, so I might be biased.  Okay, I'm biased.  Smiley  I like that the main things that affect your character, are the deeds they perform, the NPCs they interact with, and the items and special abilities they acquire through play.

I like that the power level is more in line with Swords & Sorcery, than high fantasy.  It is possible to have a more gritty game especially if magic items are rare.  There isn't also a methodology for how much GP a high level character is worth, because who can say at what rate you will acquire such things?  It depends on the individual game, the setting, etc.  I like the whole zero to hero thing, and it is refreshing to be able to whip up a character pretty quickly, and get them into the game.

I like old school games, because they have a different feel, and are a different gaming experience than most of the games I've played in the last 10 years or so.  Sure, I might get tired of Labyrinth Lord eventually, and want to run something else, but for now it is a lot of fun with low stress.  The warning signs of GM Burnout that I've had in the past have been nonexistent, and that's awesome.  GMs burn out for many reasons, and some may burnout because the rules-lite nature of the games makes them rule on the fly a lot, but I'm that kind of GM, and the random tables that littler the Old School Blogosphere make these sorts of things fun, and interesting.

Here is an example of a fun little random table that I'm talking about:
http://beyondtheblackgate.blogspot.com/2010/12/random-table-weird-things-in-rooms.html

Low prep time is another big deal for me, and I can even do it randomly (which is fun, because I am surprised too with what comes up).  Random wandering monsters are fun, because I don't know what will be around the next bend, and I didn't have to plan for it either.  I have the monster stats, and I can wing things depending on what the players do.

I like that monsters aren't always flesh to be killed.  If you roll for a reaction (on a table) a monster can be friendly, or not chase them when they run away, or not attack.  I was surprised to see that, and I think it's awesome, because again, I'm not sure what the monster will do if I use that little table.  Smiley  I like that I'm just as surprised with what is around the next bend, or what the monster will do, as they players are.  Not everyone uses these rules, but they are in there, and I think they are a gem.

Roleplaying vs. rollplaying is another area where I think old school RPGs shine.  You can barter with the GM, and come up with a reason why you would be good at something.  It's give and take, and it is awesome to see players come up with awesome ideas on the fly themselves.  A GM can even leave this up to chance, and let the players roll it if he wants to leave it up to fate.  Sure, you can role-play in every game, but it is in my experience that when you have less on your character sheet that you have to roleplaying through things, because you don't have X skill that you can roll instead.

That being said, I generally let people role-play first, and if it makes sense to the NPC, I won't even require a roll, it just happens.  I only really require a roll, when it is a situation that hasn't been explained well by the player role-playing the PC.  Again, these are just the ways I do things, and other people do them differently.  I like that every game has a unique feel, I like house rules, and I like games that let GMs make rulings vs. having lots of rules to memorize and keep track of.

This is getting long winded.  I often say I'm an old school convert, because I never played them back when they were popular.  The nature of how the games play was something that I stumbled across, and unexpectedly really enjoyed (I was super burned out on traditional fantasy for awhile).

These above are some reasons why I'm having a lot of fun playing these types of games.  They aren't for everyone, but I really don't care about that.  I play and run them, because I like them.  As long as I can get players, and they are having fun, I'll keep running them.  I'll see what the future holds, and hopefully have a crapload of fun along the way.  Even if I can't find face to face games, I can go to the game forums and play games there.

I think it all boils down to preference, and if you don't get why someone likes a game, maybe that game isn't for you.  I don't think games are one size fits all, especially when there are so many of them out there.  Play a lot of games, in a lot of settings, and see what you think rules, and what you never want to play again.  Jason, I don't think you will ever like old school games with a GM, and that's cool (you don't have to like them).  You may be coming from a place, that I will never understand, because many of your complaints about these types of games, I think are strengths. 

It's late, I don't know what else to type, so this will have to do...  hehe.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2010, 08:52:53 PM by Baron Von Harper » Logged

jason
Regular

Posts: 607


Storyjammer


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #64 on: December 29, 2010, 09:12:13 PM »

Well, here are my insights then for why I like rules-lite old school games.

It's probably important to separate those two. My own favorite games are rules light, but quite new.

I can totally understand what you're saying here, but I'm noticing in your post and in most of the others in this thread, we're talking about original D&D vs. AD&D and later. But of course, there's a wider world of games out there than just D&D.

Just to illustrate this point, let's look at something that strikes the same tone: In a Wicked Age. No miniatures, of course (I can't really think of any indie RPG that does use them, frankly). Not only don't you spend any time speculating about your prestige class, you've got to put your character on the line just to see him appear in the next session. It's quite explicitly the sword & sandals tone (at least in the original version) rather than high fantasy, and the most interesting part of the game lies in its random tables, called oracles. In fact, I think it's really perfected that art. Random tables got a bad wrap because of how they came up in old school games, where they created completely ridiculous situations more often than not. The oracles in In a Wicked Age are really elegant. They always produce something really striking and interesting. There's not just low prep time, but zero prep time. Because the situation and characters are created from the oracles, it's simply not possible to prepare for this game ahead of time.

I'd really like to hear someone who could explain to me what old school games are supposed to do well, in their own terms, without reference to any other games. But if we must define old school games only by reference to other games, I think it might help to reach beyond D&D. What does Labyrinth Lord provide that you don't see in In a Wicked Age?
Logged

Jason Godesky
thefifthworld.com
Baron Von Harper
Moderator

Posts: 5021


"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #65 on: December 29, 2010, 09:37:53 PM »

I've only played In A Wicked Age once, and that was awhile ago.  The main thing I remember about the game was that Chris (Monkius) was a flying head.  Smiley

I don't know if you could do a dungeon crawl with In A Wicked Age, but maybe you can.  I'm sure you could houserule in some fantasy races, or just describe them (I really don't remember much of the game).

If you understand liking rules-lite games, then that is a start, because LL is much simpler than later incarnations of D&D (it is a retro-clone of Basic and Expert Classic D&D).  It's simple, and it can do traditional fantasy games.  Those are two big selling points.

Running a megadungeon, also seems to be something that is pretty big in old school games.  It isn't the only way to play it, but it is more popular than more modern games I would think.  My game is a megadungeon game, and I'm having fun running it, especially with some random tables like I said.

Describing the game without referencing other games...  That's actually hard, because they are a clone of a game system.  Smiley  hehe. 

Can other games do similar things?  Sure.  You can run a megadungeon in any version of D&D, or any fantasy game, or even other genres (though the megadungeon would be called an old military base or something). 

The use of henchmen/retainers/torchbearers and the like is something I haven't seen really in play before, so that was new for me.  I've always frowned on them in other games, but when the rules are so simple, it's easy to stat them up, and watch them die in horrible ways as they normally get asked to do risky things.  There are rules so that if you have lots of henchmen die, that others won't line up to help you, hehe.  It is just another element that is different.

So yeah, there are games that do similar things, but all I can say is that an old school game seems to have a feel all it's own, and I like that feel while others may not.  Maybe it's even hard to express in words.  I'm not sure.  I'm trying. 
« Last Edit: December 29, 2010, 09:40:12 PM by Baron Von Harper » Logged

jason
Regular

Posts: 607


Storyjammer


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #66 on: December 30, 2010, 04:56:38 AM »

I don't know if you could do a dungeon crawl with In A Wicked Age, but maybe you can.

You could, but you'd really be stretching it for that. It's good for playing through something like a Robert E. Howard story or something like that. And you'll notice, those stories are really nothing like a dungeon crawl.

OK, maybe that gets us somewhere. So, the dungeon crawl experience is a crucial part of this thing that old school games deliver. But it's not the Gamist type of dungeon crawl that you get from the more recent versions of D&D. Hmmm.

One thing that's always aggravated me in D&D is the really paranoid play that you sometimes see. Players are checking for traps every three feet, poking at everything with their ten foot poles and so on. We'll spend minutes and minutes with nothing more than, "OK, I poke the stones in front of me. Anything?" "No." "OK, I move up a few feet, and poke the stones in front of me. Anything?" "No." Et cetera ad nauseum. I understand how this can pay off when you eventually do find a trap in a clever way like this, like the example that Matthew Finch uses in the Quick Primer, but in general, I think the later innovation of simply having a skill for this is a vast improvement. But I still see this behavior, with people stopping to make perception checks every few feet instead of asking about every individual flagstone in the floor. It can take so long just to walk down the hallway that it drives me nuts. And of course, it's all precisely because we know that the GM will spring a "gotcha" on us as soon as we don't do it.

I bring this up, because when I think of the combination of the dungeon crawl, but all of this talk of taking the rules away from players and putting all the power in the GM's hands, this is what it sounds like. Even the examples that Mattthew Finch uses to show what he appreciates in old school play made me pound my head on my desk. Of course, a "good" GM won't go for the "gotcha," and if you start doing that he'll throw in a trap for you to discover so it isn't a big waste of time. But it also sounds like you're putting yourself into a dictatorship, and hoping it's a benevolent one. And wise, because it takes more than benevolence to make this work, it takes skill. If it does turn out OK, I can't see thinking anything but how we got lucky.

So ... what am I missing? It doesn't seem like that's an experience that old school games can deliver consistently, or am I wrong about that? What is it that old school games do deliver consistently? I have to say, right now, all I can really come up with is, "Letting one of my friends slap me around for a few hours," and that just doesn't seem healthy. I'm hoping one of you can show me why I'm wrong on that.

Describing the game without referencing other games...  That's actually hard, because they are a clone of a game system.  Smiley  hehe. 

Well, OD&D would count as old school (wouldn't it?), and we can certainly look at old school games as a group including the original games and the current crop of retro-clones.

For example, Dogs in the Vineyard is about making moral judgments. There's no "moral judgment" mechanic. Instead, it has what Vincent Baker calls a "fruitful void." All the rules in the game--town creation, escalation, traits, etc.--funnel you towards that. So, once we know the point of the game (making moral judgments), we can look at the game in its own terms, in terms of how well it fulfills that purpose.

In my own game, I found out that the purpose is to juggle relationships. So, I designed all of the mechanics to focus on that. Setup creates situation by creating problems with relationships, the dice mechanics rely on relationships, and the epilogues all center on relationships. Playtesters have described it as feeling very much like a soap opera, which is exactly what I wanted to get from it.

It's kind of a pointless argument to talk about whether or not a game, or even a set of games, fulfills one's own purposes, since we all get different things from different games at different times. Who knows? There might be times when whatever it is that old school games deliver is exactly what I'm looking for, too. But I don't even know what it is that old school games are supposed to deliver.

Maybe it's even hard to express in words.  I'm not sure.  I'm trying. 

I appreciate that, thank you. And I've heard this a lot. John told me before that old school games are something you have to experience, like the Matrix. I've asked him to run a one-shot, then (since it seems unreasonable to sign up for a full campaign for a game nobody seems to be able to explain, and which doesn't seem like anything I'd actually enjoy), but it hasn't really worked out schedule-wise so far.

I retain my faith that surely, surely, the words must exist to describe this experience. We can describe most any other game out there. And I have faith that with some open, honest, and rigorous discussion, we'll find it yet!
Logged

Jason Godesky
thefifthworld.com
Frost
Regular

Posts: 80


Roll initiative, bitch.


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #67 on: December 30, 2010, 06:33:03 AM »

Ok, so the megadungeon is one key element of old-school gaming.  I'll take it a bit further and say that the "sand box" campaign is also a key element.  The sandbox might be the megadungeon or the the sandbox might be a larger area and the campaign might be a "hex crawl" more than a dungeon crawl.

Quote
"Letting one of my friends slap me around for a few hours," and that just doesn't seem healthy. I'm hoping one of you can show me why I'm wrong on that.

This is coming from the assumption that the GM is out to get the players and their characters.  I disagree.  I am an adversarial DM in that I run the monsters as if I was a player running an opposing force.  However, I am a fair GM and I isolate any knowledge that I, as the GM know, that the monsters do not.  That is really just a long way of saying, "I role play the monsters." A good old-school GM tries to be a referee.  Yes, it's a bit odd because he is also running the enemies, but then again, he often is running allies as well.

This might come back to your "benevolent dictator" issue.  My answer to that is that a key part of the old-school gaming experience is trust between the players and the DM.  The players trust that the DM will run a challenging but fair game. If a DM abuses this trust, he'll find himself without players before long.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2010, 06:34:55 AM by Frost » Logged

friarzen
Regular

Posts: 39



Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #68 on: December 30, 2010, 07:24:02 AM »

I guess I feel I can chime in here a bit, seeing as this is one of the few active topics on the boards.

Keep in mind that Old School Games were not "designed" so much as "experiments that grew into games", these rule systems were not balanced nor targeted to any particular type of gaming experience.  Compared to today's games they were very Rules Lite, but at the time, they were very "rules and options heavy" games.  Part of the GM's job was to Pick and Choose what rules/tables/charts/etc were going to actually be used by the group, based on what those players enjoyed.

This means that every "Old School" game WILL have different rules than every other old school game, making the play experience unique to that group.  This makes if VERY HARD to compare and contrast the experience from an objective perspective like Jason seems to be trying to do.

Objectively, the "Old School" experience is usually a blend of random table events, player decisions, GM NPC storytelling and some dice rolls.  Subjectively, I'd say it is mostly about "what will be fun tonight?", often without worrying about the consequences to long-term-plot/character development/etc.  Much like Zen Meditation, much of the experience is to "Go with the Flow" and see where it ends up.

--friarzen
Logged
jason
Regular

Posts: 607


Storyjammer


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #69 on: December 30, 2010, 10:03:06 AM »

This is coming from the assumption that the GM is out to get the players and their characters.  I disagree.  I am an adversarial DM in that I run the monsters as if I was a player running an opposing force.  However, I am a fair GM and I isolate any knowledge that I, as the GM know, that the monsters do not.  That is really just a long way of saying, "I role play the monsters." A good old-school GM tries to be a referee.  Yes, it's a bit odd because he is also running the enemies, but then again, he often is running allies as well.

Therein lies the rub. I don't know too many GM's who don't try to be fair, and some of them even succeed more often than not. But when it comes right down to it, when you ask the same person to both arbitrate fairly, and run one of the sides involved, you're asking for the impossible. This is why we don't just ask a judge who knows the defendant to try to judge fairly, we expect him to recuse himself.

This might come back to your "benevolent dictator" issue.  My answer to that is that a key part of the old-school gaming experience is trust between the players and the DM.  The players trust that the DM will run a challenging but fair game. If a DM abuses this trust, he'll find himself without players before long.

Yeah, this is precisely the benevolent dictator issue. A GM who abuses his power is one extreme, and it's not a big problem, since, like you say, we'll just abandon that game. More problematic, actually, is a good GM. There are no perfect GM's, so this does become a problem every so often. It's a cause of friction. The GM tries hard to be fair, so we put up with it, but it's a huge burden on the GM, and it's still a cause of friction nonetheless. That seems like a lot of frustration for a game.

When I GM my D&D game, for instance, I try very hard to be fair. But players still get mad at me for decisions I make from time to time. Obviously, I can't be too horrendous; they keep coming back to play. But I end up feeling like this is a dysfunctional relationship, going both ways. Their expectations put a big burden on me, and in return, any time that I make a decision that I think is fair and they don't, they feel cheated or abused, even if only a little bit. At one time, I accepted this as a necessary evil. How could you have a roleplaying game otherwise? Then I discovered GM-less games, and found out that this isn't necessary at all, so now I always have to ask what purpose it serves in any game. Now, some games, it does serve a purpose. In Steal Away Jordan the relationship between player and GM mimics the relationship between slave and slave-owner. In Misspent Youth, the Authority gives the Youthful Offenders someone to unite against and overthrow. What purpose does it serve in an old school game? There's a price, it causes some problems. What does it give us in return that makes that price worthwhile?

Keep in mind that Old School Games were not "designed" so much as "experiments that grew into games", these rule systems were not balanced nor targeted to any particular type of gaming experience.  Compared to today's games they were very Rules Lite, but at the time, they were very "rules and options heavy" games.  Part of the GM's job was to Pick and Choose what rules/tables/charts/etc were going to actually be used by the group, based on what those players enjoyed.

True, but that doesn't answer the question of why people still play them. If I want a particular experience, and game A is laser focused on providing me with the experience I want, and game B kinda sorta wanders in that direction, why would I ever play game B? I see three possibilities:
  • I don't know that game A exists, so I'll continue to play game B, not knowing what I'm missing.
  • I have a lot of nostalgia for game B, so I'll continue playing it. I'll tell people that I enjoy playing game B, because it's not about the game for me; the game has become a symbol for a whole mass of feelings and memories, including time spent with my friends and my feelings towards them. I probably proceed to attach some identity politics to it, as well. I identify myself as a player of game B. As a result, someone who tells me about game A is attacking my identity, my friends, and my cherished memories, rather than pointing out the mechanical weaknesses in a rule set.
  • Though not designed consciously for it, the rules thus assembled shape a unique experience all its own. I play game B because game A doesn't actually deliver the same experience I want.
At times, the OSR has seemed to me to be largely driven by #1 or #2. But that's the perspective of an outsider looking in, and I've been told on many occasions that I fundamentally do not understand old school games. I hope it's #3. Or, perhaps there's a #4 that just hasn't occurred to me.

Objectively, the "Old School" experience is usually a blend of random table events, player decisions, GM NPC storytelling and some dice rolls.  Subjectively, I'd say it is mostly about "what will be fun tonight?", often without worrying about the consequences to long-term-plot/character development/etc.  Much like Zen Meditation, much of the experience is to "Go with the Flow" and see where it ends up.

I very much like that kind of experience. That really lies at the heart of a playing style that Willem Larsen dubbed "storyjamming," something I like a great deal. But don't old school games also have a very strong delineation that puts the GM in charge of the world and the other characters, and the other players in charge of their player characters, all with a very strong emphasis that no one should cross those lines, ever? If players aren't allowed to contribute, except in those narrowly defined ways, doesn't that undermine the idea of going with the flow and seeing where it ends up?
Logged

Jason Godesky
thefifthworld.com
Frost
Regular

Posts: 80


Roll initiative, bitch.


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #70 on: December 30, 2010, 10:11:15 AM »

Quote
True, but that doesn't answer the question of why people still play them.

If this is the heart of your question, then it's been answered a few times by Tim.  Wink  We play these games because we enjoy them, both as players and as gamemasters.

What I'm really failing to see here is the point of this thread or this discussion.

I thought it was to define what is old school gaming.  However, it seems to have turned into old school fans justifying why we play this style of game as opposed to other games.  If that is the case, the answer is really simple.  We like these games.  We enjoy them.  We don't have problems with their structure.  Ours players don't.  That really is about the end of it.

Jason, bless you, but I don't understand what you're getting it.  When someone posts something about what an old school game is, you respond by explaining why that thing is bad.  You are entitled to that opinion, but us old-school fans don't agree.  It's just a matter of taste.
Logged

Baron Von Harper
Moderator

Posts: 5021


"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #71 on: December 30, 2010, 10:30:47 AM »

Old school games are very flexible, and the rules themselves can be tweaked to give the experience that the group wants.  Not only are their options in the rules normally to help you tweak the system, but the whole OSR loves the do it yourself work ethic, and house rules seem to be more rampant.  As a constant tinkerer of rules, I feel at home here, hehe.

Because these games have a weaker power base, you can rule a low fantasy game, or run higher fantasy games by adding in more xp, or special abilities given by interacting with NPCs (instead of just getting them at a certain level).  Items also seem to have longer durations of special abilities, or more powers, etc.  Elven Boots don't just give you a bonus to moving quietly, you do move quietly at all times without a roll.  So, if you want to run a game that is low fantasy, everyone MIGHT have a +1 weapon at higher levels, but no other magic item really.  Conan himself that I can think of in one story, had a belt he took off a corpse of a magic user that helped protect him against magic, but at the time, he didn't have any other magic item.  Also, if they don't find any spell scrolls, or spell books, they can't learn magic as fast (like in the Midnight setting for instance, even though it is new school).  So that flexibility is there to really run most fantasy and sword & sorcery games.  Story games are more focused, and I think because of this, they loose flexibility.  Not all of them are as focused as others, but I think you know what I mean.

Quote
So, the dungeon crawl experience is a crucial part of this thing that old school games deliver. But it's not the Gamist type of dungeon crawl that you get from the more recent versions of D&D. Hmmm.

It's very popular, but again, you aren't limited to that kind of campaign if you don't want to.  I like the term Hex Crawl, and you can run high political games as well, but instead of lots of dice rolls, it would be nearly all actual role-playing of the player.  Some find flaws with this though, if the player isn't really great at role-playing, but I love this.  I really like role-playing, so actual player skill is more important as well.  The players that have longer living characters, play smart, and don't always just run into combat... because death can be the result any time combat rolls are made.

Danger is another element, and even fear, but those are immersive qualities for me.  If you were really going into a structure that has existed since the dawn of time (or dare I say even earlier) where there are horrible nightmare creatures in the dark, smelly, and damp recesses of the earth, I would hope you would feel the danger and fear.  By taking off the kiddie gloves, fudging dice rolls, and making ways that characters don't die off, you loose something, and I think those that played those early versions of the games want to actual role-play through being afraid.  It is like a football game that is a neck and neck tie the whole game (and not just a blowout game where one team destroys the other one).  You are on the edge of your seat, because every combat could be your last.  By playing it safe, you loose something.  The parade of bodies littering the floors behind your adventuring group, of foes and friends, makes you either consciously or unconsciously see the results of such dangerous work.  Only desparate people become adventurers, because they don't have a long lifespan on average.

Of course, if you wanted to run a more Conan-like game, you would probably add in houserules to make the characters able to shrug off damage that other games wouldn't.  It all depends on what you are going for.  Dungeon crawls are the only thing out there, and that's why flexibility is cool.  You don't have to learn different rules for different types of fantasy games, except for the house rules here and there to help attempt to tweak the experience for the type of game you want.

The checking for traps thing is valid, and that style isn't for everyone.  What I like is that everyone can search for traps, and it isn't a niche skill.  Some of the older games don't have Thieves or Rogues.  LL does though, and it does have that check for traps skill.  So even in old school games there variations, but most of them are now free, so that's awesome.

Free is important.  Because of the OGL, these games can be modified and put out for free in most cases.  When you compare free to a $49.95 book, it is mighty tempting.  Sure, the new books sometimes blow the old ones out as far as art goes (Pathfinder I'm looking at you) but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.  I love black and white ink drawings.  My favorite art is probably the AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual, because of the B&W ink drawings.

I generally have the traps already set on the map with a big old "T."  I don't think I've ever put one of those in as a gotcha moment.  Could you?  Yeah sure, it depends on the GM.  I think what is bugging you is that every game can be different, and it isn't consistent.  It's the nature of the beast.  I will agree that GMs that are jerks will be without players, and that is how it should be.  The players vote by their presence, if they can't change his bad habits through dialogue at the table.  "Dude, if you keep running this in this manner, I'm bailing."  You might be pounding your fist on the table a lot in an old school game, because you really just don't seem to like the model for how they work.  Again, it's not that big a deal, because there are other fish in the sea.

Quote
Letting one of my friends slap me around for a few hours," and that just doesn't seem healthy. I'm hoping one of you can show me why I'm wrong on that.

For me (and I think John too) statements like these make us want to bang our heads and fists on the walls, hehe.  I think you are looking too far into the "violence inherent in the system" or "help I'm being repressed" structure that I think is only a real problem in like 5% of GMs.  I'm not sure if we can help you with this one, but we try of course.

When I ran Dogs in the Vineyard at the Con, there was only one dice roll (and that was combat).  Sure, I probably ran it differently than others would, but it was very role-playing heavy and I didn't want to slow things down with dice rolls.  In hindsight, I could run a similar game with any rules from an old school game, because the system can take a back seat to player skill and role-playing at the table.  They convinced the NPCs of certain things without resorting to violence, and because their arguments really made sense to the NPCs (if they didn't role-play them out so well, then dice would have clattered away).  I think everyone had fun too, so it wasn't like it was a travesty of a game or anything.  hehe.

Maybe you will get burned out on Story Games for whatever reason Jason.  I was so burned out on fantasy games, that I thought I might not ever return to them.  Old school games brought me back into the fantasy fold.  Different strokes for different folks, but of course our likes and dislikes can change over time.

Probably my biggest gripe with old school games is the humanocentric standard implied fantasy setting (where humans are always the most flexible intelligent beings).  There are house rules to avoid this but it is the implied setting.  I have humanocentric rants from time to time...

I would also like to point out that megadungeons are sandboxy, because they are SO FREAKIN' HUGE!  You can't tell which way they are going to go, because there are tunnels and hallways in every direction.  I tend to map some things out, and leave the rest for running on the fly.  My GM notes might say. "Room 156 - combination skeleton thing, magic items, evil bugs under the floor that attack when people talk to much."  Sometimes it is even less than that, and I just come up with the rest, for what I think would be the most fun.  You can really mold the game to the players likes and dislikes, which is fun, and you can't get that kind of game playing a video game.  The choices are endless.
Logged

Baron Von Harper
Moderator

Posts: 5021


"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #72 on: December 30, 2010, 10:43:49 AM »

Quote
Then I discovered GM-less games, and found out that this isn't necessary at all, so now I always have to ask what purpose it serves in any game ... What purpose does it serve in an old school game? There's a price, it causes some problems. What does it give us in return that makes that price worthwhile?

Some people don't like GM-less games.  Some people like to be players that really don't have to prepare or come up with good stories.  These are the players that never want to be GMs normally.  I can think of many players that want to show up with zero prep work, and not have to be all that creative.  If you put these players into a game without a GM, I think it would tank.  Some people aren't as good at being creative, and some people really don't like being creative.  I'm not that kind of person, but I've seen it in play.  Is this a bad thing?  It might depend on your point of view.  They enjoy being just a player with less input in a game than a GM, but they do enjoy making all the decisions for their character, and that is there contribution (which sometimes is indeed more creative than the GM). 

Quote
I very much like that kind of experience. That really lies at the heart of a playing style that Willem Larsen dubbed "storyjamming," something I like a great deal. But don't old school games also have a very strong delineation that puts the GM in charge of the world and the other characters, and the other players in charge of their player characters, all with a very strong emphasis that no one should cross those lines, ever? If players aren't allowed to contribute, except in those narrowly defined ways, doesn't that undermine the idea of going with the flow and seeing where it ends up?

Because old school games aren't easily classified, and can't be put neatly into boxes with labels, big sweeping statements about them generally don't work, or rub us the wrong way.  Smiley  Just because GM X's game is like this, doesn't mean my game is.  Smiley  Just because one game doesn't allow player choice, doesn't mean I couldn't have a player describe what a room looks like, IF they enjoy having that much freedom.  Again, it depends.  There would be nothing wrong with you Jason (who is running a D&D game) to run another D&D game, with old school rules, and then house ruling the crap out of them with Story Game ideas.  Frankly, I'd like to see a game like that, just to see what you would add to them.

I've brought in Story Game ideas (such as more player input) into many of my games, I even did a YouTube video about it, trying to figure out a way to bolt ideas like that onto them.  Some players didn't like those ideas, while others did.  It depends on your group, and what you want to do to mold the game to the players.  Because the games are that flexible, you can created a do it yourself game with optional and house rules that fits your group like a glove.
Logged

jason
Regular

Posts: 607


Storyjammer


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #73 on: December 30, 2010, 11:01:49 AM »

Thanks for your patience, everyone. I guess I'm either just not going to get what "old school" means, or it's because I'm looking for a solid definition where there just isn't one. It seems like each person who talks about old school gaming has their own idea of what it is, and what counts and what doesn't. Thank you all for your patience in reading my questions and trying to answer them.

Some people don't like GM-less games.  Some people like to be players that really don't have to prepare or come up with good stories.  These are the players that never want to be GMs normally.  I can think of many players that want to show up with zero prep work, and not have to be all that creative.

I think that's a fundamental misunderstanding of what a GM-less game entails. You can't prepare for a GM-less game, and the easiest way to screw one up is to try to be creative, so those players would be perfect for a GM-less game. It's when people prep and bring stuff to the table already in mind so they're not willing to react to others, and when people hold up the game so that they can try to be creative instead of going with what seems obvious, that GM-less games go off the tracks.

Just because one game doesn't allow player choice, doesn't mean I couldn't have a player describe what a room looks like, IF they enjoy having that much freedom.

Oh, interesting. I've read other OSR advocates who have told me that allowing players to say anything about anything other than their own characters is absolutely inimical to old school gaming, and if you're doing that, then it can't be old school. But I've also noticed the definitions of what is and isn't old school seem to change with each person I try to talk to about it.
Logged

Jason Godesky
thefifthworld.com
Frost
Regular

Posts: 80


Roll initiative, bitch.


WWW
Re: What is Old School Gaming?
« Reply #74 on: December 30, 2010, 12:29:26 PM »

But I've also noticed the definitions of what is and isn't old school seem to change with each person I try to talk to about it.

This is very true.  For example, some might limit "old school" to certain rule systems, while others might say it applies to a play style.  I tend to think of it more of a play style.  I currently DM a D&D 3.5 campaign that I consider more old school than any AD&D campaigns I ran back in the day.

In my current campaign:
  • I have a mega-dungeon (Rappan Athuk)
  • I let the dice fall where they may
  • PC death is not uncommon
  • player skill often supersedes PC statistics

In my opinion, if there is any unifying element to "old school", I think it's the acceptance of the DM as a referee and adversary rather than the GM as a story teller.  
« Last Edit: December 30, 2010, 01:46:53 PM by Frost » Logged

Pages: 1 ... 3 4 [5] 6 Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  


Login with username, password and session length

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP G.A.S.P. Forum | Powered by SMF 1.0.9.
© 2001-2005, Lewis Media. All Rights Reserved.
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!